Siran Liu

Gold/Silver Smelting Technology in Historical Period of China

The issue that I want to pursue for my PhD is the study of ancient gold and silver extracting technology and the organization pattern of metal producing site in historical period of China. Gold and silver have been fascinating to human beings since long time ago and dramatically influenced the human history in various periods and cultural contexts. Gold artefacts were widely used by archaeologists and anthropologists in the study of ancient economics, trade, religion, ideology, etc. However, few researchers have dealt with the producing stage of ancient gold though it can provide fruitful information about ancient crafts people and society. The identification of gold and silver smelting sites dated to Tang (618AD-907AD) and Song Dynasty (960AD-1279AD) in southern China gives us a great chance to change this situation. Tang is a critical stage for Chinese gold and silver using. Frequent contacts with the Western Asia and India may bring new types of artefacts, and gold and silver processing technologies to China. Gold and silver objects significantly boomed from then on. The increasing demand for gold may trigger the development of gold smelting technology and large scale gold production system, as which was found in our sites.

The ongoing field investigations and excavations will reveal large quantities of samples related to metal smelting and processing such as ores, tailings, slag, crucible fragments, cupels and furnaces. Chemical, mineralogical and isotopic data will be gained. I will then expect to reconstruct the Chaine Operatoire of the whole metal producing process and identify technical choices of ancient craftsmen. Then it will be examined that in which aspect, the social and cultural background can affect these choices. Moreover, with the help of local archaeologists, we hope to have the coordinates, elevation, slope, ascent, distance to the river, etc of all functional sections in these sites. They can then be put into the GIS system to find out any spatial patterns in these sections and whether they are correlated with specific environment. It should help us to decode the planning strategy of gold and silver mines in ancient China.

Funding organisation

  • Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies


 Educational background

  • BA, Art Conservation, Peking University, 2005
  • BSc (double major), Chemistry, Peking University, 2005
  • Msc, Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials, UCL, 2010

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