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A Precursor box, also known as Isu Data Cache,[1] is a type of device created by the Isu capable of interacting with other Pieces of Eden to accomplish a variety of functions,[2] principally, to store vast contents of knowledge on any single given subject.[1]

Normally powered by the Piece of Eden it is paired with, in the absence of such a device, electricity can be used in its place. However, the amount of electricity required is on the magnitude of a lightning strike and can damage the box.[2] One such box was indeed powered in this way, and when activated, it was able to decipher the Isu language written in the Voynich manuscript, giving the location of the Seismic Temples.[3] Using the Koh-i-Noor to power another box, the Templars used the artifact to translate the writings in the Amritsar Temple to locate the emplacement of other Temples.[4]

Combined with Staves of Eden, the boxes also demonstrated to have the ability to imprint the memories of someone into another individual, like in 1918 when Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia ended up with the memories of Shao Jun.[5]


Move to China

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Ezio handing the box to Shao Jun

By November 1524, one Precursor box was in the possession of the retired Italian Assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze, in his villa in Tuscany. The Chinese Assassin, Shao Jun, who had traveled there seeking Ezio's advice on resolving the problems in her homeland, was given the box and told that it would aid her. Ezio stated that she should only open it if she were to lose her way.[6]

Upon returning to China, Shao Jun used the box as bait to lure Gao Feng, one of the Eight Tigers to her. She assassinated him but the box itself was taken by Yu Dayong. Eventually Shao reclaimed the box, assassinating Yu. Shao Jun entrusted the box to her shifu, Wang Yangming who took it to have someone help them study the box. However before he could do that Zhang Yong murdered him and took the box for the Templars, finally sending it out of China to other Templars.[7]

West Indies

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Adéwalé handing the box to Bastienne

By 1735, the Precursor box had wound up in the possession of the French Templars, who were transporting it on aboard a galleon to Port-au-Prince, to be given to Bastienne Josèphe. However, the fleet transporting the artifact was attacked by the Assassin Adéwalé, who retrieved the parcel that contained the box from the Templar admiral. In July 1737, after two years of working alongside her, Adéwalé eventually handed the artifact to Bastienne.[8]

By November 1751, both the Precursor box and the Voynich manuscript were in the possession of François Mackandal, Mentor of the Assassin Brotherhood in Saint-Domingue. Using the artifacts, Mackandal discovered the existence of a First Civilization Temple near Port-au-Prince and sent his subordinate, Vendredi, to investigate it. Unbeknownst to Mackandal, the Temple was part of a system that held the Earth together.[3]

Vendredi activated the Temple's machinery, causing a massive earthquake which destroyed Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region. After the disaster, Master Templar Lawrence Washington stole the Precursor box and manuscript from Mackandal's camp and took the artifacts with him to Virginia, where the Templars studied the artifacts in an attempt to learn how to use them.[3]

Struggle in the colonies

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Shay holding the Precursor box

Shay Cormac, a member of the Colonial Assassins, assassinated Washington in search of the box in 1752. However, the box was already in possession of the Templar Samuel Smith, while the manuscript had been entrusted to James Wardrop, another noted Templar. In 1754, Shay had managed to track Smith down and assassinate him, with the help of a fellow Assassin, Chevalier de la Vérendrye. Shay recovered the Precursor box from Smith and delivered it to Benjamin Franklin, who was confident conducting electricity through the box would activate it.[3]

With Shay and Hope Jensen's assistance, Franklin succeeded in powering the box, which projected a view of the Earth and displayed locations of several First Civilization sites, one of them being Lisbon, Portugal. The box was subsequently given to Achilles Davenport, Mentor of the Colonial Assassins, who kept it secure at the Davenport Homestead, the Assassins' primary base of operations in the British colonies.[3]

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Shay stealing the box from Dorian

In 1759, Hope managed to replicate Franklin's experiment and discovered another First Civilization Temple hidden in the Arctic. After the ordeal, Chevalier de la Vérendrye was tasked with hiding the box, and decided to ship it away from the colonies.[3]

Exchanging hands

By December 1776, the box was in the possession of the French Assassins. Having switched sides to the Templars twenty years before, Shay learned of this and traveled to Paris. Rescuing Franklin from a group of criminals, Shay enlisted his aid in entering the Palace of Versailles, claiming to have a business meeting there. After a meeting in the palace, the Assassins entrusted the box to Charles Dorian. Having made his way inside, Shay assassinated Charles and took the box from him, reclaiming it for the Templars.[3]

Eventually, the box ended up into the hands of British Templar Francis Cotton. After Cotton's death, his appointed successor, William Sleeman, took possession of the box and launched in 1841 a campaign to find Precursor Temples in India by using the box. In order to power it, he stole the Koh-i-Noor from the Assassins. However, his efforts were countered by Assassin Arbaaz Mir who recovered the stolen artifact and despite discovering a new Temple, in Herat, William had to flee with the box.[4]

After Ulysses S. Grant's election as President of the United States in 1868, Grant's inner circle was infiltrated by members of the Templar Order, who subsequently corrupted his administration. They helped him to master the powers of the prong the Assassins gave him during the American Civil War, by giving him access to the Precursor box and pages of the Voynich manuscript. The former presidential election candidate Horace Greeley discovered this and tasked one of his associates in Grant's office to steal the box from the Templars. His associate managed to bring the box to him and inform him of several pages of the manuscript which had been housed at the British Museum before being murdered. In 1872, the Templars discovered the location of the Precursor box which had been housed in Horace Greeley's house and sent one of their agents to recover it. The agent attempted to assassinate the near-death Horace though she was stopped by the Pinkerton agent Tommy Greyling. However, she succeeded in recovering the box, bringing it back to her superiors.[9]

Revolutionary Russia


The box and the Staff shard interacting

Decades later the box had come into the possession of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, who in 1918 and along with his family was prisoner of the Bolcheviks in Yekaterinburg. Sent by the Brotherhood to recover the artifact, Nikolai Orelov was confronted by the Templars who had infiltrated the ranks of the Red Army and also coveted the box. Infiltrating the house where the Romanovs were kept, Nikolai witnessed their murder but reached Grand Duchess Anastasia, who was holding the box, in time to secure the artifact.[5]

However, as Nikolai was taking the Precursor box from Anastasia's hands, the shard of the Staff around his neck and the box interacted, and the girl was somehow imprinted with the genetic memories of Chinese Assassin Shao Jun. Suffering from a kind of Bleeding Effect, Anastasia became overwhelmed by Jun's skills and memories and the older man decided to take both her and the box to the Brotherhood in Moscow.[5]

Once in Moscow, the pair reached to the Assassin Sergei, who took the box and promised Nikolai that they would keep her safe while discovering what the box had done to her. Nikolai then found out by eavesdropping on some Assassins' conversation that they didn't care about Anastasia's safety and that Sergei only wanted to uncover the box's secrets, and also that the procedure that they were planning to do on Anastasia was most likely going to kill her. Nikolai ultimately managed to rescue Anastasia, but left the box behind.[5]

Abstergo's involvement

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Álvaro Gramática holding the box

In February 2014, the Assassins Harlan Cunningham and Arend Schut stole this box from an Abstergo Industries facility in Rotterdam. Abstergo's Sigma Team led by Juhani Otso Berg engaged the Assassins in combat, forcing them to leave the artifact behind.[3]

In 2015, Laetitia England assigned Juhani Otso Berg to deliver the box to Álvaro Gramática’s top secret lab, so he could use it for the Phoenix Project.[5]


One box or two boxes?
  • There is inconsistency over the identity of the Precursor boxes across the Assassin's Creed series. In the war letters of Assassin's Creed: Rogue, the Templar John Harrison writes to Grand Master Reginald Birch that the Chinese Assassins had sent Shao Jun's box to Acapulco, and from there, to the West Indies, about a century after Jun's death. Since the box in Rogue seems to be identical to the one held by the Haitian Assassin Adéwalé, this heavily suggests a clear continuity from Jun's box in Assassin's Creed: Embers to Adéwalé's box in Freedom Cry and to Shay Cormac's box in Rogue, that they are all the same box.[3]
  • However, Richard Farrese, the lead writer to Assassin's Creed: Rogue, discounted in a podcast with the YouTuber Loomer that Jun's box is identical to that of Shay.[10] With the release of Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India and Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia, Jun's box is implied to have passed from the Chinese Templars to the British Templar William Sleeman operating in India and thence to the Russian Tsar Nicholas II.[4][5] If this were true, it would be peculiar that Harrison reports that the Chinese Assassins retained Jun's box for a hundred years and more given that the box would be assumed to have remained in Templar hands from the end of Chronicles: China though it is not impossible that Jun had recaptured the box before it eventually fell into the hands of Sleeman.
In fact, the box's presence in Chronicles: India and Chronicles: Russia does not necessarily contradict the war letter in Rogue, as the events of Freedom Cry and Rogue are set in between that of Chronicles: China and Chronicles: India. This allows for the possibility that the Chinese Brotherhood really did send the box to the West Indies, and after Shay took it back from Charles Dorian, it would eventually fall into the hands of William Sleeman. Indeed, the fact that the box handed to Álvaro Gramática at the end of Chronicles: Russia is labeled "SHAY'S PRECURSOR BOX" heavily suggests that Ezio's box seen throughout the spin-off series is Shay's box. This is because it would be peculiar narrative choice for the game to end with Gramática receiving a different item of no relevance to the game's story, i.e. Shay's box if it is distinct, rather than Ezio's box.
On 21 March 2017, Aymar Azaïzia, the Head of Content for Assassin's Creed, answered in an AMA on Reddit that Ezio's box and Shay's box are the same in response to a question concerning this matter,[11] thereby clearly contradicting not only Richard Farrese, but seemingly the reference book Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide as well. Aside from consistently describing Precursor boxes in the plural, The Essential Guide states that "Two confirmed Precursor Boxes exist; one is currently in possession of Álvaro Gramática, while the location of the other is unknown". The reference to two Precursor boxes rather than one highly suggests that Shay's box, the one given to Gramática, and Ezio's box are distinct. However, it stops short of explicitly describing the second box, meaning that it technically does not contradict Aymar's claim because it could be that Ezio's box and Shay's box should still be taken as an identical box in Gramática's hands while the second box is merely one that has never appeared in the series. It would be odd, however, for the book to mention two boxes while intending one to be one that has been absent from the entire series.
To add to all this confusion, while Farrese also clarified that Adéwalé's box in Freedom Cry is the one that ends up in Shay's hands in Rogue,[10] they are distinct in design. While the latter bears a rectangular lid which splits in half and slides open, with even the sides of the box unraveling to expose the mechanisms within,[3] the former has a round lid that seems to open on hinges like a typical box. Ironically, this means that the box in Freedom Cry is actually more similar in design and appearance to the one in Embers.[6][8]




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