The Making of Nomadic Metallurgy along China’s Northern Frontiers
The rise of nomadic communities has been the subject of great interest in the world archaeology and history alike. The Warring States of China (475-221 BC), in particular, underwent an increasing pressure from Inner Asian nomads who played a decisive role in shaping and transforming the politics and economies of Chinese states.
While the majority of the groups have remained unknown to historical accounts, archaeological records have revealed extraordinary examples of their material cultures, notably metallurgy. New excavations in northern China (Ningxia Autonomous Region) and Mongolia have unearthed a series of richly furnished cemeteries dated to the first millennium BCE. Stylistic similarities seen in the rich metalwork assemblages from these graves suggest strong links both to the north and south, straddling the major socio-economic and political divide between the nomadic pastoral world and the settled agricultural Chinese states. However, the specific character of these ‘links’ and the place of small-scale northern societies within the large-scale networks of metal exchange remains unclear.
The “Nomadic Metallurgy” project combines archaeology with innovative scientific methods to investigate the chemistry of copper-alloy artefacts from key cemetery sites related to nomadic peoples living along of the mountainous borderlands north to China’s central plains (modern-day Nei Mongol Autonomous Region of China and Republic of Mongolia). This work will add a critical piece to the puzzle of metal exchange between Inner Asia and metropolitan China, allowing us to better understand how nomadic powers transformed the political history of early Chinese states through the distribution of metal resources, technology, and commodity. This study aims to advance the state of the art in copper metallurgy in China and Mongolia with a substantial chemical database, introduce innovative data analytic techniques, and build a solid paradigm for interpreting the essence of exchange networks on both regional and cross-regional scales.
Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, Forschungsbereich Archäometallurgie
Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, Forschungsbereich Montanarchäologie
Dr. Tsagaan Turbat, Institute of Archaeology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Mr. Noost Bayarkhuu, Institute of Archaeology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Juni 2017 – Mai 2020