The archaeology team at Tsing Hua University announced in early February the discovery, which they’ve deemed significant, of a small clay object in the shape of a snake dating back approximately 4000 years, according to initial dating, thus corresponding to the Neolithic period.

The piece was found during an excavation in late 2023 in a sand dune on the northwest coast of Taiwan, at the Baisa Tun archaeological site in Taoyuan City (Taiwan).

The figure is characterized by its raised head with an open mouth and swollen folds on the neck, which are important features of a cobra snake.

The object may serve as a kind of handle belonging to a larger item such as a vessel or ceremonial jar.

According to archaeologist Zhang Guangzhi, in the earthly world, or among ancestral spirits and other gods and humans, communication relies on shamans; and ceremonial instruments and animal sacrifices are necessary elements in the rituals of communication between heaven and earth.

Snakes are common animals with strong symbolic significance in religion, mythology, and literature, considered as animal companions serving as a bridge between humans and heaven.

In ancient societies, snake shedding was observed to symbolize transitions between life and death, reproduction, or change.

This clay piece in the form of a snake could be seen as a ceremonial instrument used by ancient tribe shamans to perform rituals, reflecting how in ancient societies, animal imagery was incorporated into ceremonial instruments, shaping their belief systems and knowledge.


National Tsing Hua University

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