Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 11, pp 6317–6324 | Cite as

Study on the copper and iron alloy from the Bronze Age unearthed from the Yangtze River area in Anhui Province, China

  • Ying Qin
  • Yifan ZhuEmail author
  • Qiao Huang
Original Paper


In the 1980s and 1990s, dozens of diamond-shaped ingots were unearthed from the Western Zhou Dynasty to the Warring States Period (1046–256 BC) from the ancient copper mining and metallurgy sites along the Yangtze in Guichi, Tongling, Nanling, and Fanchang in Anhui Province. These rust-colored metal ingots showed significant differences from the copper ingots unearthed in the area and were even designated as iron ingots or copper matte ingots when unearthed. Based on the previous work, the article analyzes these kinds of ingots unearthed in Nanling and Guichi by XRF, XRD, SEM and EDS, and OM (optical microscope). The result shows that the segregation of the copper-iron alloy samples analyzed is obvious, and the copper or iron phase in the supersaturated solid solution with dispersed state distribution can be seen in the samples. Therefore, these are not copper ice copper ingots, but iron supersatured copper-iron mixtures (alloys), which may be the earliest known artificial smelting of copper-iron alloys. It is produced by environmental control when smelting copper oxide ore containing iron by solid reduction.


Copper matte ingot Nanling Guichi Copper-iron alloy 



We especially want to thank Liu Pingsheng and Yang Lixin for providing copper ingot samples.

Funding information

The study was financially supported by the China Social Science Fund (Grant No. 17ZDA222).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History of Science and Technology and ArchaeometryUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiPeople’s Republic of China

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