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Brass Articles in Chinese Neolithic Age and the Beginning of Metallurgy in China

Su Rongyu (Institute for History of Natural Science, CAS, Beijing)

There are 4 brass articles with more than 25% zinc which have been excavated at the sites of the Chinese Neolithic Age, and two of them are the earliest metallurgical remains. The discoveries are a puzzle have been quarried a long time, because they are made of brass, an alloy that appeared in the 17th century according to general knowledge, and also they are related the origin of Chinese metallurgy. This paper discusses the authenticity of the remains based on the excavations both in China and in Near East, analyzes their nature according to the examinations, and explores their smelting process by reproduced tests.

Based on reproduced tests and according to specific documents, this paper refutes the opinion that the alloy was smelted with the copper-zinc ores, rather the author believes it was smelted with copper and zinc ore several times. These discoveries indicate the metallurgy was occurring in China in the fifth millennium B.C. occasionally, but it could not be continued, and about 1000 years later, the Chinese re-discovered metallurgy again in a distinct pattern, which is based on advanced pottery making and jade processing. The hypothesis of the author is that Chinese metallurgy might have originated from the jade-test in fire in the Neolithic Age.


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