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Nondestructive Analysis of Dragonfly Eye Beads from the Warring States Period, Excavated from a Chu Tomb at the Shenmingpu Site, Henan Province, China

  • Yimin Yang (a1) (a2), Lihua Wang (a3), Shuya Wei (a4), Guoding Song (a1) (a2), Jonathan Mark Kenoyer (a5), Tiqiao Xiao (a3), Jian Zhu (a1) (a2) and Changsui Wang (a1) (a2)...


Dragonfly eye beads are considered to be the earliest types of glass objects in China, and in the past have been considered as evidence of culture interaction or trade between West and East Asia. In this article, synchrotron radiation microcomputed tomography and μ-probe energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence were used to determine the chemical composition, microstructure, and manufacturing technology of four dragonfly eye beads, excavated from a Chu tomb at the Shenmingpu site, Henan Province, China, dated stylistically to the Middle and Late Warring State Period (475 bc–221 bc). First, a nondestructive method was used to differentiate the material types including faience (glazed quartz), frit, glazed pottery (clay ceramic), and glass. Three beads were identified as faience and one bead as glazed pottery. The glaze recipe includes quartz, saltpeter, plant ash, and various copper, and is classified as belonging to the K2O-CaO-SiO2 glass system, which indicates that these beads were not imported from the West. Based on computed tomography slices, the manufacturing technology of the faience eye beads appears to include the use of an inner core, molding technology, and the direct application glazing method. These manufacturing features are consistent with the techniques used in China during this same time period for bronze mold-casting, proto-porcelain, and glass.


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