China, Shang dynasty, ca. 1300-ca. 1050 BCE
Acquired under the guidance of the
Carl Whiting Bishop expedition
At first glance this fragment looks convincing, with what appears to be genuinely aged tortoise plastron (the abdominal shell), chiseled ovoid cavities, cracks, and engraved characters. According to specialists of oracle-bone script, some of the graphs on this piece are juxtaposed with no real sense of the context or customs of the Shang dynasty (circa 1600-circa 1046 BCE). Most likely, the graphs are simply random imitations that a forger added on an ancient piece of tortoise shell in the early twentieth century.
The museum will stay open until 7 pm on February 18 and 19. We are excited to reopen the Freer in October 2017, following a renovation
to allow us to better present our art and serve our visitors. The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions
both in the museum and around DC. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes