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A Study of the Earlier Metallic Artifacts Unearthed from Zhukaigou Site of Inner Mongolia

Li Xiuhui, Han Rubin, Guo Suxin, Tian Guangjin (China)

Zhukaigou, a late prehistoric site in Inner Mongolia stands in an important zone, the region where the steppe cultures meet the settled farming civilization of China.

The Zhukaigou site discovered in 1974 in Eijin Horo Banner, Inner Mongolia, was excavated four times from 1977 to 1984, yielding cultural remains of five stages from the late Longshan Culture through Xia Dynasty (including early, middle and late periods) up to the early Shang Dynasty (dated from the late 3rd to the mid 2nd millennium BC). Metallic artifacts ornaments (bangle, earrings, finger rings), small tools (needle, awl, chisel), weapons (knives, ge, arrowheads short-sword, helmet), fragments of vessels (ding, jue) and one stone mould for axe were excavated from the Phase III to Phase V (after 1600 BC). 33 samples of them are examined for composition and microstructure by SEM and metallograph analyses with the following results:

1. 5 artifacts were excavated from Phase III, among them, three were made from pure copper, 1 Cu-Sn alloy, 1 Cu-Sn-Pb alloy, they were mainly cast.

2. 8 artifacts including 2 pure copper, 4 Cu-Sn alloys, 2 Cu-Sn-Pb alloys, were excavated from Phase IV. The techniques of them were simple cast, hot hammering, cold worked, cold worked after casting. The worked artifacts were more than castings. The inclusions of copper-iron-sulphide were observed in the microstructure of some artifacts from Phase III and Phase IV.

3. 20 artifacts, including 5 Cu-Sn alloys, 14 Cu-Sn-Pb alloys, 1 Cu-Sn-As alloy, were excavated from Phase V, they were mainly cast.

Analyses of these results show that the artifacts from different Phases were made from different metallic materials and made out by different techniques.

In the study of ancient China and Asia, analysis of metallurgy has figured centrally, for its development was thought to signal the advent of historic civilization. Zhukaigou has yielded an important evidence for the use of metal and alloy.

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