Important light has been thrown on ancient Chinese bronze casting by the discovery of copper ingots, molds and tools in a 3,000-year-old casting workshop excavated in east China’s Zhejiang Province.
The workshop ruins dating back to the late Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) were recently found by archaeologists near Tiaotou Village in Hangzhou, the provincial capital of Zhejiang.
Researchers from the institute of archaeology of Hangzhou started unearthing the site in July 2020, with an excavation area of 3,000 square meters.
Several well-preserved remains of molds, bronzeware, bronze ingots and charcoal, which are all related to the bronze making process, have been unearthed, said Lin Sen from the institute.
Lin said there is no clue to the source of the copper ingots, though they may have come from copper mines in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River.
Archaeologists also found bronze axes, spears and arrows at the ruins.
The discovery can fuel future research of the cultural exchanges between central China, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and other regions in the Shang Dynasty.
The Tiaotou ruins have been listed among Zhejiang’s top 10 archaeological discoveries for 2021.
In the West, the appearance of a city, written characters and metallurgy have been commonly considered as three basic elements to judge whether a culture had become a “civilization”.
In Liangzhu Culture, some 600 drawings were found on black pottery, which were thought to be prototypical written characters, but no evidence of metallurgy, such as bronzeware, was found.
However, Liu said those criteria cannot “fit all civilizations”.
“Metallurgy was used as a benchmark because it indicated developed craftsmanship and a society with well-organized labor cooperation,” he said. “Jade also proves these points.”
Studies of Liangzhu have led to Western scholars forming new views.
British archaeologist Colin Renfrew, a fellow of the British Academy, said after his research in Liangzhu: “The importance of findings from the Neolithic Age in China has been greatly underestimated. Cong and bi unearthed from the Liangzhu historical site represent a unity of values in the region. The complexity of society in Liangzhu was on par with that of a country. This is the origin of Chinese civilization.
“Viewed from a global perspective, Liangzhu has brought the origin of the state and society in China to a level equal to that of civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia and India.
“The historical site at the Liangzhu dam might be the earliest one in the world,” Renfrew added.