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8 December 2009
China had bronze early on

ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) research has shown that an area of desert in north-western China was once a thriving Bronze Age manufacturing and agricultural site. The new findings may help shed light on the origins and development of the earliest applications of Bronze Age technology. Dating was used to identify the age of seeds, slag, copper ore and charcoal at two sites. The findings show the material is up to 3700 years old, but that smelting was still being carried out as recently as 1300 years ago. The research indicates bronze production may have begun as early as 2135 BCE and that the modern mine location - Baishantang at Dingxin - was possibly the historical source of copper ore for manufacturing.
     ANSTO's Professor John Dodson conducted the research in conjunction with scientists from the State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology in China. "This research takes us a step closer to discovering the origins and development of bronze manufacturing in China," said Professor Dodson. "Further research will look at whether bronze technology was invented in several places around the world independently, or whether the technology was transferred from a single centre of origin."
     The research used lead and strontium isotopic analysis to identify and age ornaments, knives, rings, hemispherical objects and spearheads. The team discovered substantial areas of woody vegetation around the sites which is now dominated by sand dunes. The Bronze Age people of the Gansu area were farmers who planted cereals such as wheat and practiced animal husbandry. Horse and sheep bones are common. It is believed they may have abandoned the region when wood was exhausted and desertification took over.

Sources: Physorg.com (2 December 2009), Science Alert (3 December 2009)

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