ChinaThe 30-35 year old woman had her right foot amputated as a punishment in ancient China, indicating that this person had committed a serious crime.
A team at Peking University found the oldest example of an ancient Chinese punishment of foot amputation after analyzing the remains of a woman found in a tomb near Baoji, Shaanxi province. SCMP reported on May 1. This is the birthplace of the Zhou Dynasty, known as “the homeland of bronze” due to the large number of vases and jars, in addition to armor and graves.
Amputating one or both feet was one of five ancient Chinese punishments – a draconian punishment system that lasted for nearly 1,000 years and ended around 200 BC. Punishments varied over time, but generally included tattooing (mo), nose cutting (yi), amputation (yue), purification of the body (gong), and execution (dapi).
The remains of the amputee woman were found during excavations in 1999 but were not well studied because archaeologists were more interested in finding artifacts.
Postdoctoral researcher Li Nan at Peking University, said recent scientific and technological advances have made it worthwhile to closely study the remains. Li Nan is the lead author of the new study published in the journal Acta Anthropologica Sinica.
X-ray analysis revealed that the remains belonged to a 30- to 35-year-old woman who had her right foot amputated. Sometimes people with diseases such as diabetes, leprosy, cancer, and people with hot or cold burns have to have their limbs amputated.
However, analysis of bone density and structure of other parts of the remains ruled out the possibility of disease. Leg amputation also causes severe deformities of the tibia and fibula. This shows that this is not a medical surgery.
“Based on the biomedical analysis of the remains and the images of yue victims etched on copper jars excavated from nearby tombs, it can be determined that this is an example of a yue, as well as a oldest example ever recorded,” Li said.
“There is an important rule in yue punishment, that is, the light offender will have his left foot cut off and the heavy offender’s right foot will be cut off. It seems that the owner of the grave in Shaanxi committed a felony.” Li added.
Many of the victims who were punished died. Survivors also experience miserable lives, shunned and despised by others, and often struggle to make ends meet. Many are employed as janitors for bird and animal enclosures – a tacit insult that they are only fit to live with animals.
The team found that the victim in Shaanxi did not die immediately, but lived for at least five years before dying of unknown causes. It is likely that this person was not abandoned by his family and should have received better care. This is the first case of amputation at a well-researched archaeological site, providing valuable material for the study of the punishment system and social customs in ancient China.
Thu Thao (According to SCMP)
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