Understanding of the origin and development of bronze technology in eastern Asia remains unresolved. Here we report on the distribution of copper and associated cations in sediments from Huoshiliang in northwestern Gansu, China, strontium and lead isotope analyses of ore and slag samples, and some artifact fragments at archaeological sites at Ganggangwa and Huoshiliang in the Black River valley.
We conclude that bronze production began perhaps as early as 2135 BC and that the Baishantang modern mine site at Dingxin was a possible source of copper ore. There was at least one other, but currently unidentified, source of ore. The Bronze Age people were also farmers and planted cereals such as wheat, and they may have abandoned the region when wood was exhausted and desertification took over.