DETAIL: This is very handsome bronze warrior's armor segment circa fifth or fourth century B.C. attributed to the Warring States Period of Ancient China. If you look to the backside of this bronze artifact (see images further down this page), you will see a loop. The loop was used to fasten rows of these segments onto a leather garment, creating body armor. Not quite as effective perhaps as a Kevlar vest, nonetheless it was enough to stop many penetrating blows which might otherwise have been fatal. The artifact is intact, albeit heavily oxidized. Unfortunately ancient metal, especially bronze and iron, tends to decompose in soil over the millennia. It is not too uncommon to unearth metal artifacts which are nothing more than crumbled stains within the soil (green for bronze, red for iron). You can sure see what was a metal artifact, but when touched it crumbles into the soil.
Fortunately this bronze armor segment was not unearthed in such an advanced state of decomposition. It obviously evidences considerably porosity (the fine surface pitting caused by oxidation), which kind of enhances its character, however the artifact is still durable and could be worn. Toward that end we have mounted it onto a 24 inch copper/bronze tone chain which, when worn, would rapidly darken so as to approximately match the tone of the artifact. The chain is free, included as the default method of mounting this artifact. Though of course this armor segment was not intended as ornamentation, we felt that it makes an exceptional and authentic ancient piece of jewelry.
If you request (follow the links below), we could mount the armor segment onto a framed display plaque (see it here), and it would make a great gift. The plaque narrates a brief outline of the history of ancient China along with a couple of images of very beautiful artifacts. It would make a great gift, for yourself or a friend, and would surely delight a son or daughter. It would not only make a very handsome display, but would be very educational as well. If you prefer, the bronze armor segment could be installed within a glass-front shadow box with or without printed history (see it here). Either way, whether worn as a pendant or displayed mounted onto a plaque or into a shadow box, this is a wonderfully evocative remainder of a very significant time and place in the ancient world.
HISTORY: Sharing the language and culture of the preceding Shang Dynasty, the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty through conquest and colonization gradually enveloped much of North China. The Zhou dynasty lasted longer than any other, from 1027 to 221 B.C. The early decentralization of the Zhou Dynasty has oftentimes been compared to Europe's medieval feudal system. However social organization in the Zhou Dynasty was more predicated upon family and tribal ties than feudal legal bonds. Philosophers of the period enunciated the doctrine of the "mandate of heaven", the notion that the ruler (the "son of heaven") governed by divine right. In reality the emperor shared power with the local lords. At times the local lords were oftentimes more powerful than the emperor. In the later dynasty, large scale conflicts oftentimes erupted between rival local lords (eventually culminating in the "Warring States" period).
The late Zhou Dynasty's potpourri of city-states became progressively centralized, characterized by greater central control over local governments and systematic agricultural taxation. The iron-tipped, ox-drawn plow, together with improved irrigation techniques, brought higher agricultural yields, which, in turn, supported a steady rise in population. The growth in population was accompanied by the production of much new wealth, and a new class of merchants and traders arose. However in 771 B.C. the Zhou court was sacked, and its king was killed by invading barbarians who were allied with rebel lords. The Zhou retreated eastward relocating their capital city. Today historians divide the Zhou Dynasty into the Western Zhou (1027-771 B.C.) and Eastern Zhou (770-221 B.C.). The west was abandoned, and the power of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty gradually diminished.
The Eastern Dynasty itself is further divided by historians into two periods reflecting the accelerating fragmentation and disintegration of China. The first from 770 to 476 B.C. is called the Spring and Autumn Period. The second is known as the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), as China completely dissolved. Though marked by disunity and civil strife, these two periods marked an era of cultural advancements known today as the "golden age" of China. Commerce was stimulated by the introduction of coinage. The use of iron not only revolutionized the production of weaponry but also the manufacture of farm implements. An atmosphere of reform was the result of the competition between rival warlords to build strong and loyal armies, requiring increased economic production and a strong tax base.
This created a demand for ever-increasing numbers of skilled, literate officials and teachers (a "civil service"), recruited on merit. Public works such as flood control, irrigation projects, and canal digging were executed on a grand scale. Enormous walls were built around cities and along the broad stretches of the northern frontier. Many of the era's intellectuals were employed as advisers by China's rulers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy. So many different philosophies developed during these two periods that the era is often referred to as "The Hundred Schools of Thought". The period produced many of the great classical writings on which Chinese practices were to be based for the next two and one-half millennia, including those of Confucius (551-479 B.C.).
HISTORY OF CHINESE CIVILIZATION: Remains of Homo erectus, found near Beijing, have been dated back 460,000 years. Recent archaeological studies in the Yangtse River area have provided evidence of ancient cultures (and rice cultivation) flourishing more than 11,500 years ago, contrary to the conventional belief that the Yellow River area was the cradle of the Chinese civilization. The Neolithic period flourished with a multiplicity of cultures in different regions dating back to around 5000 B.C. There is strong evidence of two so-called pottery cultures, the Yang-shao culture (3950-1700 B.C.) and the Lung-shan culture (2000-1850 B.C). Written records go back more than 3,500 years, and the written history is (as is the case with Ancient Egypt) divided into dynasties, families of kings or emperors. The voluminous records kept by the ancient Chinese provide us with knowledge into their strong sense of their real and mythological origins – as well as of their neighbors.
By about 2500 B.C. the Chinese knew how to cultivate and weave silk and were trading the luxurious fabric with other nations by about 1000 B.C. The production and value of silk tell much about the advanced state of early Chinese civilization. Cultivation of silkworms required mulberry tree orchards, temperature controls and periodic feedings around the clock. More than 2,000 silkworms were required to produce one pound of silk. The Chinese also mastered spinning, dyeing and weaving silk threads into fabric. Bodies were buried with food containers and other possessions, presumably to assist the smooth passage of the dead to the next world. The relative success of ancient China can be attributed to the superiority of their ideographic written language, their technology, and their political institutions; the refinement of their artistic and intellectual creativity; and the sheer weight of their numbers.
A recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the sedentary Chinese against the threats posed by non-Chinese peoples on the margins of their territory in the north, northeast, and northwest. China saw itself surrounded on all sides by so-called barbarian peoples whose cultures were demonstrably inferior by Chinese standards. This China-centered ("sinocentric") view of the world was still undisturbed in the nineteenth century, at the time of the first serious confrontation with the West. Of course the ancient Chinese showed a remarkable ability to absorb the people of surrounding areas into their own civilization. The process of assimilation continued over the centuries through conquest and colonization until what is now known as China Proper was brought under unified rule.
HISTORY OF BRONZE: Bronze is the name given to a wide range of alloys of copper, typically mixed in ancient times with zinc, tin, lead, or arsenic. The discovery of bronze enabled people to create metal objects which were better than previously possible. Tools, weapons, armor, and building materials made of bronze were harder and more durable than their stone and copper predecessors from the “Chalcolithic” (the “Copper Age”), i.e., about 7000-3500 B.C., and the Neolithic (“New Stone Age”), i.e. about 12000 to 7000 B.C.). Of particular significance were bronze agricultural implements, tools for cutting stone, and weapons. Culturally significant was bronze statuary, particularly that of the Romans and Greeks. The ancient Greeks and Romans had a long history of making statuary in bronze. Literally thousands of images of gods and heroes, victorious athletes, statesmen, and philosophers filled temples and sanctuaries, and stood in the public areas of major cities. In fact, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes are two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Initially bronze was made out of copper and arsenic. It was only later that tin was used, becoming (except in ancient Egypt) the sole type of bronze in the late 3rd millennium B.C. Tin-alloyed bronze was superior to arsenic-alloyed bronze in that the alloying process itself could more easily be controlled, the alloy was stronger and easier to cast, and unlike arsenic, tin is not toxic. Toxicity was a major factor in the production of arsenic bronze. Repeated exposure to arsenic fumes ultimately led to nerve damage in the limbs. Evidence of the long agony of Bronze Age metalsmiths came down to the ancient Greeks and Romans in the form of legend, as the Greek and Roman gods of metalsmiths, Greek Hephaestus and Roman Vulcan, were both lame. In practice historical bronze alloys are highly variable in composition, as most metalworkers probably used whatever scrap was to hand. In one instance of ancient bronze from Britain, analysis showed the bronze to contain a mixture of copper, zinc, tin, lead, nickel, iron, antimony, arsenic, and silver.
Other advantages of bronze over iron include that bronze better resists corrosion, particularly seawater corrosion; bronze resists metal fatigue better than iron; and bronze is a better heat conductor (and thus is better suited for cooking vessels). However ancient bronze, unless conserved properly, is susceptible to “bronze disease”, wherein hydrochloric or hydrosulfuric acid is formed due to impurities (cuprous chloride or sulfur) found within the ancient bronze. Traditionally archaeology has maintained that the earliest bronze was produced by the Maikop, a proto-Indo-European, proto-Celtic culture of Caucasus prehistory around 3500 B.C. Recent evidence however suggests that the smelting of bronze might be as much as several thousand years older (bronze artifacts dating from about 4500 B.C. have been unearthed in Thailand).
Shortly after the emergence of bronze technology in the Caucasus region, bronze technology emerged in ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer), Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization of Northern India, the Aegean, the Caspian Steppes (Ukraine), the Southern Russia/Central Mongolia Region (the Altai Mountains), the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), Anatolia (Turkey) and the Iranian Plateau. By the late third millennium B.C. many Western European Bronze Age Cultures had emerged. Some of the more notable were the Celtic cultures of Middle Europe stretching from Hungary to Poland and Germany, including the Urnfield, Lusatian, and (Iron Age Transitional) Hallstatt Cultures. The Shang in ancient China also developed a significant Bronze Age culture, noted for large bronze burial urns. The ancient Chinese were the first to cast bronze (using the “lost wax” technique) about 2200 B.C. Prior to that time all bronze items were forged. Though weapons and utilitarian items were produced in great numbers, the production of bronze in ancient China was especially noteworthy for ornamented ritualistic/religious vessels (urns, wine vessels, water pots, food containers, and musical instruments), many of immense size.
Britain’s Bronze Age cultures included the Beaker, Wessex, Deverl, and Rimbury. Copper and tin ores are rarely found together, so the production of bronze has always involved trade. Cornwall was one of the most significant sources of tin not only for Britain, but exported throughout the Mediterranean. Other significant suppliers of tine were the Taurus Mountains of Anatolia (Turkey), as well as Spain. Enormous amounts of copper was produced from the Great Orme mine in North Wales, the island of Cyprus, the European Alps, and from the Sinai Peninsula and other nearby sites in the Levant. Though much of the raw minerals may have come from Britain, Spain, Anatolia, and the Sinai, it was the Aegean world which controlled the trade in bronze. The great seafaring Minoan Empire (about 2700 to 1450 B.C.) appears to have controlled, coordinated, and defended the trade.
Tin and charcoal were imported into Cyprus, where locally mined copper was mined and alloyed with the tin from Britain. Indicative of the seafaring trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, a shipwreck from about 1300 B.C. off the Turkish coast revealed a ship carrying a ton of copper ingots, several dozen small tin ingots, new bronze tools, scrap metal, and a blacksmith's forge and tools (along with luxury trade goods from Africa). It appears that the Bronze Age collapsed with the fall of Minoan Empire, to be replaced by a Dark Age and the eventual rise of the Iron Age Myceneans (on mainland Greece). Evidence suggests that the precipitating event might have been the eruption of Thera (Santorini) and the ensuing tsunami, which was only about 40 miles north of Crete, the capital of the Minoan empire.
Some archaeologists argue that it was Santorini itself which was the capitol city of the Minoan World. However where Crete or Santorini, it is known that the bread-basket of the Minoan trading empire, the area north of the Black Sea lost population, and thereafter many Minoan colony/client-states lost large populations to extreme famines or pestilence. Inasmuch as the Minoans were the principals of the tin/copper shipping network throughout the Mediterranean, the Bronze Age trade network is believed to have failed. The end of the Bronze Age and the rise of the Iron Age is normally associated with the disturbances created by large population disruptions in the 12th century B.C. The end of the Bronze Age saw the emergence of new technologies and civilizations which included the large-scale production of iron (and limited scale production of steel).
Although iron was in many respects much inferior to bronze (and steel was inefficiently produced in very limited quantities), iron had the advantage that it could be produced using local resources during the dark ages that followed the Minoan collapse, and was very inexpensive when compared to the cost of producing bronze. Bronze was still a superior metal, resisting both corrosion and metal fatigue better than iron. And bronze was still used during the Iron Age, but for many purposes the weaker iron was sufficiently strong to serve in its place. As an example, Roman officers were equipped with bronze swords while foot soldiers had to make do with iron blades.
Pliny the Elder, the famous first century Roman historian and naturalist, wrote about the reuse of scrap bronze and copper in Roman foundries, noting that the metals were recast as armor, weapons or articles for personal use, such as bronze mirrors. The melting and recasting foundries were located at the Italian port city of Brindisi. Located on the Adriatic coast, Brindisi was the terminus of the great Appian Way, the Roman road constructed to facilitate trade and military access throughout the Italian part of the Roman Empire. The city was the gateway for Roman
penetration into the eastern parts of her empire (Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea Region, the Danubian Provinces, and eventually Mesopotamia).
SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.
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