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Materials Processing in the Production of Ceramic Bronze-Casting Molds from the Zhouyuan area, China, c. 1100-771 BCE

Author(s): Matthew Chastain ; Jianli Chen ; Xingshan Lei

Year: 2017

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Summary

The extraordinary bronze ritual vessels of Shang- and Zhou-period China were cast in multi-part ceramic molds, constructed from many individually formed mold sections. This piece-mold casting method was unique to ancient China, and an essential component of the technology appears to have been the use of a specialized type of ceramic paste to form the casting molds. This ceramic material was soft, porous, and rich in silica, making it quite unlike pottery clays in terms of composition, properties, and apparent techniques of production.

This presentation outlines a reconstructed operational sequence for the selection and processing of materials used to make ceramic bronze-casting molds. Western Zhou-period casting molds from three foundry sites in the Zhouyuan area of Shaanxi province were analyzed using petrographic microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray and infrared spectroscopy. Replication experiments were conducted using soils collected from nearby the foundry sites. By identifying several activities fundamental to the piece-mold casting process, this research demonstrates the potential for the laboratory analysis of ceramic foundry debris to further our understanding of early Chinese metal-making practices.


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Materials Processing in the Production of Ceramic Bronze-Casting Molds from the Zhouyuan area, China, c. 1100-771 BCE. Matthew Chastain, Jianli Chen, Xingshan Lei. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430963)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14340

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America