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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Late Shang (1200 BCE - 1046 BCE) bronze casting technology and technological behaviour Sacharuk, Jasmine


This project examines the bronze casting technology of the late Shang Dynasty (1200-1046 BCE). Despite extensive scholarship on the bronzes themselves, the details of the casting process have remained unclear. Considering the relevance of the bronzes in terms of ritual and burial practices, class hierarchy, and royal affiliation, understanding the production behind the bronzes can reveal a great deal about the lives of everyday Shang craftspeople and Shang society as a whole. This project examines bronze foundry remains from Yinxu, the ruins of the last capital of the Shang Dynasty, in an attempt to uncover more information about the late Shang bronze casting process. Emphasizing the behavioural nature of technology, and the information embedded within technological action, this project undertakes replication experiments to explore how the physical properties of the materials directly influenced the behavioural nature of the bronze casting process. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) suggests that the loess used to create bronze molds was processed differently than in other ceramics, with a notably reduced amount of clay. This information is integrated with an experimental program, which concludes that the removal of clay fundamentally facilitates the bronze casting process by minimizing shrinkage, providing structural stability and enabling long-term decoration. This has implications on the labour of the bronze-casting industry, emphasizing an initial process (the removal of clay) in order to facilitate mold construction, decoration and casting at later stages. Examining the ways in which technologies are developed and used, and for what purposes, is a way in which archaeologists can examine past behaviour on both a personal and societal scale. The integration of petrographic analyses with an experimental program highlights how specific behaviours in the late Shang, such as materials processing and labour organization, are reflected in the technological remains of bronze casting. This project concludes that further examination into late Shang bronze casting technology is necessary in order to understand such a politically, socially and spiritually significant industry of the time, offering insight into the daily perspectives of the Shang people due to the inherently behavioural nature of technology.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada