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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The beginning of Bronze technology in East Asia Stark, Mary Verna


The purpose of this thesis is to review the English language material concerning the beginning of bronze technology in East Asia in order to evaluate the evidence for the birth of bronze metallurgy in East Asia. The method of investigation was first to study published and unpublished material on North, Central and South East Asia. This study included the history of research under the categories of method, theory, and chronology of archaeological investigations, and hypotheses on origins and routes of bronze technology in East Asia. The examination of bronze metallurgy followed. This comprised the ramifications of the occurrence of copper-working, the production and analysis of the alloy bronze, the method of production of bronze objects, the dating of bronze artifacts and the social context of bronze production. The next step in the study was to explore the Neolithic stages of culture in the diverse areas in order to examine the precursors of bronze-producing societies and to determine the earliest bronze assemblages. The earliest bronze assemblages were in turn investigated. The metal objects, both copper and bronze, in these assemblages were tabulated and compared chronologically. The categories of metal objects were used to illustrate the relative sociocultural integration of each bronze producing group. Evidence of casting of the metal in the assemblages was compared to ascertain the similarities, if any, among production procedures. Chemical analyses of the bronze in the assemblages were tabulated for comparison and examination of relationships. Finally, similar types of artifacts in the assemblages were tabulated for stylistic comparison. The general conclusions from these investigations are that the four assemblages of earliest bronze technology in East Asia are from Minusinsk in southern Siberia, Erh-li-t'ou in North China, Ta-p'o-na in southwest China and Non Nok Tha in northeastern Thailand. Of these assemblages, neither Minusinsk nor Ta-p'o-na demonstrated the beginning of bronze production. The archaeological evidence does not establish the beginning of bronze metallurgy as being shown at either Erh-li-t'ou or at Non Nok Tha but the possibility exists for either indigenous development from external stimulus or separate invention with no outside stimulus of any kind for either area. This study has demonstrated the existence of different technologies, different levels of social integration and different social contexts for bronze in all four early assemblages. Thus it has also demonstrated that the beginning of bronze production did not have to occur in urban or state environments.

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