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Journal Article

Lead isotopic analyses of copper ores in the early Bronze Age Central Hexi Corridor, northwest China


Cui,  Yifu
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Chen, G., Cui, Y., Liu, R., Wang, H., Yang, Y., Pollard, A. M., et al. (2020). Lead isotopic analyses of copper ores in the early Bronze Age Central Hexi Corridor, northwest China. Archaeometry, 62(5): 12566, pp. 952-964. doi:10.1111/arcm.12566.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-0FF7-4
This article explores the possible provenance of ores employed for metallurgical production during the early Bronze Age in the central Hexi Corridor. In total, 78 pieces of copper ore samples were collected from five early Bronze Age sites and one copper deposit site (the Beishantang Cu deposit) in the Heihe River region of the central Hexi Corridor, northwest China. These sites are dated to the late Machang Culture (4100-4000 BP), the Xichengyi Culture (4000-3700 BP), the Qijia Culture (4000-3600 BP) and the Siba Culture (3700-3400 BP). After comparing with published lead isotopic data from other possible copper deposits in northwest China, our results show that the copper ores collected from early Bronze Age sites were most likely derived from the adjacent Beishan copper deposit. More intriguingly, for the first time in the Hexi Corridor, a dozen of of copper ores have been discovered containing highly radiogenic lead. Though fundamentally different from those in the Central Plains, they illustrate a possible new type of copper that was used in Bronze Age western China, and the first-hand materials are significant for further understanding provenance of raw metals for metallurgical production in the prehistoric Hexi Corridor.