New observations on antlers from Chu tombs

Author(s): Yunbing Luo

Year: 2017


Lacquered artifacts unearthed from Chu state tombs represent the highest achievements of the lacquer industry in the Eastern-Zhou period (770BC-221BC). Antlers form an important part of several typical Lacquered wood-wares unearthed from large and medium-sized Chu Tombs. Antler-wares mainly belong to three categories: (1) tomb-protecting beast (with two or four antlers inserted on the head), (2) lacquered wooden flying birds with tiger-shaped bases (with two antlers inserted on the bird waist), and (3) lacquered wooden crouching deer (with two antlers inserted). The antlers are identified mainly as sika deer, followed by David's deer. Tombs with sika deer antlers were medium-sized tombs. David's deer antlers were only found in large-sized tombs. The presence of David's deer antler artifacts, especially adult antlers with many branches, may be related to the high social status of the tomb owners. The lacquered wooden-wares may have used real antlers because the Chu people esteemed deer. They thought antler was a symbol of strength and could be used to protect the tomb and keep evil out. Antlers may have also been a symbol of the wind that could guide the soul. I think these meanings may be connected with the natural phenomena of antlers annually shedding and regenerating.

Cite this Record

New observations on antlers from Chu tombs. Yunbing Luo. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 432043)


Geographic Keywords
East/Southeast Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15776