Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (05): 826-836.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2022.0005

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A suspected case of the Yue penalty in the Western Zhou period

LI Nan1,2,3(), LI Chengwei4, HE Jianing2,3()   

  1. 1. National Centre for Archaeology, Beijing 100013
    2. School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    3. Center for the Study of Chinese Archaeology, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    4. Division of Medical and Biological Metrology, National Institute of Metrology, Beijing 100029
  • Received:2021-01-11 Revised:2021-07-22 Online:2022-10-15 Published:2022-10-13
  • Contact: HE Jianing;


Yue penalty, in other words, foot amputation, is one of the five corporal punishments in the judicial system during the pre-Qin period. Previous studies mainly focused on historical documents and bronze vessels related to the Yue penalty, lacking paleopathological observation and diagnosis of human remains. In this paper, we conducted a multidisciplinary analysis of the tomb M24, which was excavated from the Qijia East cemetery at the Zhouyuan site. The tomb owner is a female aged 30-35, whose right foot is lost due to the punitive amputation. Her right distal areas of tibia and fibula are fractured and fusion together. Therefore, the right lower leg is 5 cm shorter. According to the written records and archaeological finds, the speculated tools used for the Yue penalty are bronze knives, saws, drills as well as stones. The mortality of the Yue penalty at that time is extremely high. Survivors have to walk with a stick and to serve as a gatekeeper. Their lives are miserable because of low social status, poor nutrition, and discrimination from others. This is the first well-studied foot amputation case in ancient China, providing valuable materials to look into the penalty system, medical conditions, and social customs in the Western Zhou dynasty.

Key words: Yue penalty, Western Zhou period, Zhouyuan Site, Bioarchaeology

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