The ingredients in a 2,300-year-old ancient Chinese chemical formula have finally been identified, revealing new secrets about metallurgy in ancient China.
The recipe comes from the Kaogong ji, a Chinese text dating back to 300 BC, called “the oldest known technical encyclopedia.” The translated text of the recipe reads: “The needle is divided into six, the tin occupies one. Here is the receipt for the bell and the tripod. The needle is divided into five, the tin occupies one. This is the receipt for the ax and trapdoor . “
For the past century, researchers have been unable to identify two of the key ingredients known as “Jin” and “Xi”.
But now, researchers from the British Museum and the University of Oxford say the two mysterious elements are most likely pre-mixed alloys. A paper outlining their findings will be published in October in the journal Antiquity.
“These formulations were used in the largest bronze industry in Eurasia during this period,” said Ruiliang Liu from the British Museum in a press release. “Attempts to recreate these processes have been made for over a hundred years, but have failed.”
Previous studies suggested that the two ingredients could be copper and tin, but the researchers say the use of copper and tin created a metal that did not match Chinese artifacts of the time. there.
Analyzing ancient Chinese coins, the researchers concluded that this ancient metalworking process must have involved alloys, not pure metals. The most probable combination is a copper-tin-lead alloy mixed with another copper-lead alloy.
“It points to an additional step – the production of pre-made alloys – in the production of copper alloy objects in China,” says Liu.
Liu says the discovery adds an “additional but previously unknown layer to the metal supply and production network in China.”
The researchers say their discovery allows for a better understanding of ancient metalworking practices in China and provides an example of how science can help solve historical and linguistic mysteries language.