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Hanzhong bronzes and highly radiogenic lead in Shang period China

Chen, Kunlong, Mei, Jianjun, Rehren, Thilo, Liu, Siran, Yang, Wei, Martinón-Torres, Marcos, Zhao, Congcang, Hirao, Yoshimitsu, Chen, Jianli, Liu, Yu
Journal of archaeological science 2019 v.101 pp. 131-139
archaeology, isotopes, lead, provenance, China
For decades, the origin of the bronzes with distinct highly radiogenic lead isotopic ratios in Shang period China has been a puzzle. This paper presents new lead isotope data for bronze objects from the Hanzhong region, one of the key regional bronze cultures during Shang period China. On the basis of a synthetical investigation of the typological, chemical and lead isotopic features of Hanzhong bronzes and their relations to other regional bronze cultures, we propose the Qinling area as a potential region of origin for the metals containing highly radiogenic lead used by several contemporaneous but culturally/politically distinct entities across a vast territory. Taking into account both archaeological and geological evidence, this working hypothesis draws attention not merely to the geological provenance of metal resources, but also to the mechanisms of metal production and circulation as well as broader social-economic dynamics.