Example of the Jiahu symbols
Jiahu symbols (Chinese: 賈湖契刻符號; pinyin: Jiǎhú qìkè fúhào) refer to the 16 distinct markings on prehistoric artifacts found in Jiahu, a neolithic Peiligang culture site found in Henan, China, and excavated in 1999. The Jiahu site dates to 6600 BC. The archaeologists who made the original finds believed the markings to be similar in form to some characters used in the much later oracle bone script (e.g. similar markings of 目 "eye", 日 "sun; day"), but most doubt that the markings represent systematic writing. A 2003 report in Antiquity interpreted them "not as writing itself, but as features of a lengthy period of sign-use which led eventually to a fully-fledged system of writing." The earliest known body of writing in the oracle bone script dates much later to the reign of the late Shang dynasty king Wu Ding (c. 1200 BC).