Bow-Shaped Fitting

Date: 13th–10th century B.C.

Culture: Northwest China

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: W. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm); L. 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm)

Classification: Metalwork

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, 1926

Accession Number: 26.203.2


Often described as "bow-shaped," and thought to have been associated with chariotry, this fitting has a hollow central section with curved arms ending in rattles. Fittings of this type first appear in China with the introduction of wheeled vehicles in the thirteenth century B.C., and are not found there after the tenth century B.C. Comparable pieces, which have arched arms but lack rattles, are also found at early Karasuk-period sites (?12th–?10th century B.C.) in southern Siberia.

In Chinese burials, they are generally found in pairs near the chariot box in front of the charioteer. In southern Siberia, on the other hand, the fittings cover the deceased's pelvis. Their function remains unclear: they have been identified as bow-guards, crossbow fittings, and banner ornaments. It has also been suggested that they were either rein-holders, worn by a charioteer at his waist to free his hands, or rein-guards attached in some fashion to the front of the chariot.