Ancient zinc mining and metallurgy site discovered in China's Hunan Province
From July to December in 2016, 14 large Zinc mining and metallurgy sites in Guiyang district were surveyed by Hunan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology cooperates with Peking University School of Archaeology and Museology and other organizations. Intentional excavation of Tongmuling site was hence carried out.
|Aerial photo of Tongmuling site [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]|
Tongmuling site is situated in Renyi Town, Guiyang County. The total area of the site is around 110,000 square meters. There is a platform formed by slag in the center of the site. The surface of the platform is triangular, with a length of 100 meters from the east to the west and a width of 50 meters from the south to the north. According to the excavation, a burning unit and two smelting unites on the platform presented a “品” shape, show that the mines were burned first and then smelted.
The burning unit is located in front of the platform (south part) and distributed in an oval shape with a length of 55 meters from the east to the west, a width of 20 meters from the south to the north, and a total area of about 1100 square meters. There are 6 burning stations distributed according to the topography in the burning unit. Each burning station consists of 4 or 8 cylindrical burning furnaces. The burning furnaces have similar size, with a diameter of around 0.9 meters at the opening and a preserved height of 0.8 meters. The wall is relatively straight and the bottom is flat. There is a ventilation opening on a side of the furnace.
|The melting workshop [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]|
The second smelting unit is located in the southwest part of the platform. In this unit, there are 3 smelting workshops with the channel furnace as the main body. The workshops are all connected with the road surface; therefore, they are suggested as the remains from same time period. The structure, design, and size of each workshop are similar to No. 1 channel furnace smelting workshop in the first smelting unit. According to the investigation, the collapse of the southwest part of the third channel furnace was probably caused by coal mining in modern times.
|Illustration showing the smelting process [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]|
Daily utensils and a small quantity of coins belong to Qianlong and Jiaqing periods of Qing dynasty were recovered from the housing and working areas. It is initially suggested that the site began to use in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties and abandoned in the late Qing dynasty.
|An ore wash trough on the river bed [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]|
Value and significance
The discovery and excavation of the entire platform in the center of the site indicates the function and structure of the smelting site. This is very important to the understanding of the function division, technological process, production capacity, and the daily life and productivity of the workers.
The discovery of lined round shaped furnaces has filled in the gap in the research of zinc-smelting technology in China. The channel furnaces recovered from the site are the most completed Qing dynasty zinc-smelting furnaces found in China. The remains of zinc-smelting and metallurgy uncovered with the furnaces dovetailed with the historical literature. It is very significant to the reconstruction of ancient zinc-smelting technology. The investigation and excavation result is a treasure to the research of Chinese metallurgical history, coin history, and political-social history.
Translator: Li Xuelei | Source: Chinese Archaeology [April 18, 2017]