Event National Museum of Scotland

Spotlight On: Oracle Bones

28 Nov 2019


Free, Ticketed

Book now

Join curator Dr Qin Cao for a talk on our exhibition Chinese Oracle Bones that will further explore the objects in our collection.


Auditorium, Level 1, entry via Chambers Street.

Booking information

Age 14+

Book in person at our museums, call 0300 123 6789 or book online.

Thought to be ‘dragon bones’ when they were dug up by famers in the 19th century, these animal bones were believed to have healing properties and were ground down as an ingredient for Chinese herbal medicines.

Their true nature was revealed by scholars in China in about 1899. They were used by people in the late Shang dynasty (c.1200–1050 BC) for divination to seek guidance and support. Many were inscribed as records and these inscriptions were the earliest known Chinese writing, the root of the Chinese script in use today.

Acquired in 1909, National Museums Scotland’s collection of oracle bones is the largest in Europe, including a number of significant pieces. Dr Cao’s talk will explore the history of the collection and its display in this exhibition, as well as linking to the latest archaeological finds in China.   

Getting here

National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street


Map and directions


We want everyone who comes to our museums to enjoy their time with us and make the most of their visit. 


  • The Lothian Street entrance and Auditorium are wheelchair accessible, and there is access to an accessible toilet.
  • There is level access to the Museum via the main doors to the Entrance Hall on Chambers Street and the Tower entrance at the corner of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge. 
  • Lifts are available to all floors.
  • Accessible toilets are available on most floors, as well as a Changing Places (U) toilet in the Entrance Hall on Level 0.
  • There is also an induction loop in the Auditorium.
  • Guide dogs, hearing dogs and other recognised assistance dogs are admitted.

Find out more about our access information.


If you have any access requirements, please contact info@nms.ac.uk


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Header image: Oracle bone of tortoise plastron or ox scapula, with incised script recording divination: China, Henan Province, near Anyang, Yinxu, late Shang dynasty, c. 1200-1050 BC.

Explore more

Chinese Oracle Bones

Discover some of the treasures within the National Museum Scotland's significant collection of oracle bones, the second largest in the world outside of China.
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