Period: Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–1046 B.C.) Date: 11th century B.C. Culture: China Medium: Bronze inlaid with turquoise Dimensions: H. 10 15/16 in. (27.8 cm); W. 1 9/16 (4 cm) Classification: Metalwork Credit Line: Gift of Ernest Erickson Foundation, 1985 Accession Number: 1985.214.26
A combination of animal pommels, geometric design, and inlay characterizes knives found in non-Chinese contexts in Inner Mongolia and in such northern provinces as Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Hebei. Somewhat similar knives are also known from southern Siberia; however, a greater variety of forms and a higher degree of workmanship distinguish the Inner Mongolian and Chinese examples.
Knives with elaborate handles, such as this piece, are thought to signify rank or tribal affiliation and were most likely prized possessions.