Lake sediments help scientists trace 7,000 years of mining, metal use in China

Jun 16, 2008
Lake sediments help scientists trace 7,000 years of mining, metal use in China
Scientists used core sediments from China's Liangzhi Lake to track use of metals over several thousand years. Credit: Courtesy of Xiangdong Li

A new geochemical study illuminates 7,000 years of mining and metal use in central China and links these trends to fluctuations in airborne pollution during the Bronze Age and other military and industrial periods in Chinese history. The study, which could help scientists better assess the accumulative environmental effects of human activity in the region since prehistory times, is scheduled for the July 1 issue of the ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.

Using carbon-dated core sediments taken from Liangzhi Lake in Hubei province, Xiang-Dong Li and colleagues were able to track metal deposit trends at the lake dating back to 5,000 B. C. Liangzhi Lake, located in an important region in the development of Chinese civilization, is relatively undistributed by local wastewater discharges and is therefore an ideal site to study ecological changes and the effects of past human activity, the scientists say.

Beginning in about 3,000 B.C. concentrations of copper, nickel, lead and zinc in the sediments began to rise, indicating the onset of Bronze Age in ancient China, the researchers found. In the late Bronze Age (475 B.C. to 220 A.D.), an era corresponding with numerous wars, sediment concentrations of copper increased 36 percent and lead by 82 percent.

Copper and lead were used extensively to make bronze tools and weapons. The sediments suggest mining and metal usage in the region continued to wax and wane into the modern era, reflecting the environmental changes influenced by past human activity.

Source: ACS

Explore further: New branch added to European family tree

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New branch added to European family tree

7 hours ago

The setting: Europe, about 7,500 years ago. Agriculture was sweeping in from the Near East, bringing early farmers into contact with hunter-gatherers who had already been living in Europe for tens of thousands ...

'Hidden Treasure of Rome' project unveiled

Sep 16, 2014

For more than a century, hundreds of thousands of historical artifacts dating back to before the founding of Rome have been stored in crates in the Capitoline Museums of Rome, where they have remained mostly untouched. Now, ...

NOAA team reveals forgotten ghost ships off Golden Gate

Sep 16, 2014

A team of NOAA researchers today confirmed the discovery just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait of the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the "mystery wreck." ...

User comments : 0