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Copper and bloomery iron smelting in Central China: Technological traditions in the Daye County (Hubei)

Larreina Garcia, D; (2017) Copper and bloomery iron smelting in Central China: Technological traditions in the Daye County (Hubei). Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This project investigates the copper and iron producing industries of Daye County, a substantial mining and smelting area in the Hubei Province (China) with activities well documented from the early 1st millennium BC. In particular, this study aims to characterise the engineering parameters of the primary smelting of copper and bloomery iron at eight metal production sites located in the proximity of the prominent ancient mine of Tonglushan, in an area of ~1300 km2 . The thesis is focused on the materials science analyses of surface collected technicalmaterial such as slags, furnace remains, and ores of eight archaeological sites located in close proximity of each other in the Daye County. The methods include optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence (WD-XRF), to characterise their microstructure, mineralogy and chemical composition. The copper-smelting technologies reconstructed here – broadly framed in the Western Zhou period by ceramic typology – seemingly correspond to modest size workshops, thus different from the large scale production centres involving numerous workers, resources and infrastructures typically described in the literature. Moreover, and exceptionally for most of Eurasia, extensive evidence of large-scale production of bloomery iron at the core of the Chinese Empire is documented, with radiocarbon dates placing the activity in the 18th century AD, thus in the Qing Dynasty and over 2000 years after the production of copper. This finding challenges traditional generalisations whereby bloomery iron smelting is widely deemed to be a rarity in China, due to the early development of the blast furnaces; when identified, bloomeries are usually presented as isolated examples of limited scale, mostly in marginal areas to the Central Plains. The reconstruction of the various smelting processes in a relatively small region illustrates different technological adaptations to natural resources and socio- technological contexts, which are discussed using conceptual frameworks of technological choices and regionalism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Copper and bloomery iron smelting in Central China: Technological traditions in the Daye County (Hubei)
Event: University College London, London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Copper, Bloomery iron, primary smelting, Central China (Hubei Province), Regionalism, technological choices
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1547193
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