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Book Chapter

Iron Ore

January 01, 1975


It seems that implements and weapolas made of iron came into use in China about a thousand years later than in such ancient countries as Egypt or Mesopotamia. The true iron age began in these countries roughly in the middle of the second millennium B.C. whereas in China it did not begin until the middle of the first millennium P.C. J.C. Needham, in his monumental work Science and Civilisation in China, considers the time gap to be about eight centuries. Stating that iron appeared at Asia Minor at about 1400 BC, he says that “the appearance of iron among the Chinese feudal States, at about 600 B.C. was … the latest appearance of iron in any of the great culture-areas” [42, p.99]. The Chinese historian, Fan Wen-lan, suggests that iron implel,tents could have been in use since Western Chou times (1066–771 B.C.), but admits that he cannot provide any direct evidence to substantiate this suggestion. He says that such probability lies in the following point. The process of obtaining copper from copper ore is much more complicated than that of obtaining iron, and the progress from copper to bronze, no doubt, also entailed great difficulties; but in the early period of the Shang Dynasty (1562–1066 B.C.?) bronze was already widely used. Therefore it is unlikely that the Chinese could not obtain iron from ore in Western Chou times which followed Shang [21, pp.148 and 187]. The first reference to iron as metal is found in Tso Chuan, where it is

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Mineral Resources of China

A. B. Ikonnikov
A. B. Ikonnikov
Department of Economics, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National Universtiy
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Geological Society of America
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January 01, 1975




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