Bronze Age Bone Ice Skates Found in China
An ancient interaction between east and west of Eurasia is suggested by the discovery of bone ice skates in a Bronze Age tomb in western China
In China's western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a hilly region where some archaeologists believe skiing originated, scientists discovered 3,500-year-old ice skates made of animal bone. According to a statement, these ice skates, the earliest ever discovered in China, were constructed from oxen and horse bones (opens in new tab).
Archaeologists from the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous regional government announced their discovery at a press conference last month. They were discovered in a tomb in the Gaotai Ruins, around 240 miles (385 kilometers) west of the regional capital Ürümqi. It is unknown if the skates were utilized for daily transportation or for hunting. They are made of a straight piece of bone with holes drilled into it at either end, allowing them to be fastened to shoes. In contrast to modern skates, the resulting "blade" is incredibly flat, but it served as a cutting edge that made it possible for the wearer to glide across the ice.
The freshly discovered skates, according to archaeologist Ruan Qiurong, are almost exactly the same as ice skates from prehistoric Europe. This is new proof of a postulated knowledge flow between the ancient west and east in the Bronze Age. According to him, they are also a unique physical resource for researching the history of ice skating in China.
The 2015 discovery of the Jirentai Goukou (Jartai Pass) archeological site includes the Goaotai Ruins, where the ice skates were unearthed. The location consists of an old town and a close-by tomb complex enclosed in a high platform and encircled by stone walls. The site, according to archaeologists, was created around 3,600 years ago (opens in new tab), during the late Bronze Age, when the area was inhabited by cattle-herders of the Andronovo culture, who also lived in regions of Central Asia and the far east of Europe. According to the scientists, the tomb platform is one of the best-preserved Bronze Age tomb structures in Xinjiang and maybe on the Eurasian steppe.
According to Qiurong, the graves are believed to have belonged to a distinguished family among the early cattle-herding inhabitants of the region, and excavations there have uncovered significant details about their burial customs, religious beliefs, and social structures. Additional characteristics of the graves, such as a structure resembling a ray constructed of 17 lines of stones, point to a potential belief in sun worship.
Hundreds of wooden wagons or carts that appeared to have been used to construct the tomb platform's platform were also discovered by the archaeologists. More than 30 wooden components, including rims and shafts, are included, along with 11 solid wooden wheels. During the press conference, Qiurong said:
We initially believed that the carts had been intentionally buried after being used to construct the elevated platform surrounding the tombs.
The bone skates discovered at the Goaotai Ruins are not the oldest ever discovered, but they are strikingly similar to skates discovered in Finland that are 5,000 years older, and other archaeological sites in northern Europe have also discovered comparable ice skates. The majority-flat southern parts of Finland, which are dotted with tens of thousands of small lakes that freeze over in the winter, are believed by scientists to be the origin of the Finnish skates.
Skiing may have originated in the mountainous Xinjiang region of China. Some archaeologists estimate that the prehistoric Altai Mountains cave paintings, which portray hunters on what look to be skis, may be 10,000 years old. However, other archaeologists question the assertion, stating that it is impossible to date the cave paintings with accuracy.