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Shipwreck shows the ancient market for the removal of consumer goods



  Portrait of portable x-ray fluorescence detectors
Enlarge / Archaeologists use a portable X-ray fluorescence detector to study 900-year-old artifacts.

Xu et al. 2019

Later in the latter part of the 12th th century CE, a commercial cargo ship with commodity merchandise was drenched on the coast of Java. 1

00,000 ceramic vessels, 200 tons of iron, and smaller amounts of ivory, resin, and tin ingots offer narrow windows in the wider world of global trade and political change. The merchant vessel that swamped off the Java Sea was the sharp end of a long spear, and a new study gave light to the trade networks and manufacturing industries hidden behind the cargo-all thanks to a little help from a cool X-ray

Voyage of ancient trading routes

There was a network of trade routes crisscrossed in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea by late 12 th century, linking Song Dynasty China to extensively ports in Japan and Southeast Asia to the east, Indonesia to the south, and to the Middle East and to eastern Africa to the west. The merchant ships produce crops, raw materials such as metals and resin, and produce commodities such as ceramics on these routes. Today, ceramics are a common sight to ships in these waters, partly because the material flows into most of the other marine matter, and partly because of the large volumes that can be packed on merchant ships from around 800 CE to 1300 CE.

Archaeologists found Chinese ceramics on sites stretching from Japan to the east coast of Africa. And the diggers in Southeast China have acquired some well-known complexes, each with hundreds of dragon kiln-long tunnels pulled up on hills, which can burn 30,000 pieces of ceramic in an hour-time cluster several square kilometers. All production is aimed at exporting ceramic bowls, boxes, and other containers to overseas markets. "Most of the ceramics from this region are rarely derived from local settings in China and are almost exclusively found along sea trade routes," Field Museum archaeologist Lisa Niziolek, a co- author of the study, told Ars Technica.

of things called qingbai, comes from a complex called Jingdezhen in the province of Jiangxi: fine vessels with translucent light blue glaze with a smooth white outer paste. But the complicated kiln throughout China has given a booming market to knock-off qingbai. The Fujian provincial furnaces, in particular, have found fake qingbai tanks at thousands of lower quality, but the volume is much higher. Last year, a label on a ceramic box from Java Sea Wreck followed the box in the capital of Fujian Province.

Fujian boasts a number of kiln complexes that spread to a wide area, and many of their commodities are quite similar (the point, after all). To find out which cottage complexes supplies Java Sea Wreck shipment, University of Illinois archaeologist Wenpeng Xu and his colleagues need to look at the chemical fingerprints of the bluish glazes of the ancient peaks ceramics. That's where the X-ray gun-technically called portable X-ray fluorescence detector-comes.

Archaeologists with ray guns

When X-rays go into something-like a 900-year-old ceramic bowl, for example-the atoms of the bowl are likely to -fluoresce, or emit energy in the form of photons. Each chemical element poses a possibility to emit photons at its own unique frequency, so by counting photons of different frequencies, an XRF detector will "read" a chemical cosmetics things. In this case, Xu and his colleagues are interested in glaze-the thin outer layer of ceramics from the Java Sea shipwreck and the four known complexes in the southeast of China: Jingdezhen, Dehua, Huajiashan, and Minqing .

chemical signatures of some of the ceramics from the kiln complexes, they found that each site has its own signature, a combination of local cosmetics chemicals and specific recipes of potters used to make their filling and glazes. Ceramic glazes from Jingdezhen tend to contain more iron and less than others, while imitation from Dehua has more zinc and thorium and less iron.

Xu and his colleagues scanned 60 fragment fragments from the wreck, and clearly fell into their four separate chemical groups, each of which corresponds to one of four complexes that's complicated. It turns out that the ship that is destined for the Java Sea Wreck contains not only a selection of true qingbai ceramics, bound for foreign ports, but also a wide range of knockoff wares different types and quantities, says Niziolek as a surprise to archaeologists.

"The smooth made of qingbai oils from Jingdezhen only accounts for a very small percentage of the cargo," he told Ars Technica. "Most qingbai commodities come from kilns in Fujian province, which produced a large number of ceramics for exports to markets in East and Southeast Asia and other parts of the Indian Ocean World." And this shows much more complexity in the Pacific medieval trade networks than most archaeologists and historians are often suspected, which connects poters far from internally Southeast China to markets around Indian Ocean.

An unexpected long sailing

Xu and his colleagues say that based on their findings, the ship probably stopped at the port of Fuzhou to take ceramics from Jingdezhen, Minqing, and Huajiashan, which can travel by riverboat to the port. It then goes to 180km (111 miles) south along the Chinese coast to the port of Quanzhou to acquire more equipment from the kiln complex in Dehua. "The results of this study show that a large number of cargo ceramics are made in kilns in northern Fujian, closer to the port of Fuzhou," said Niziolek to Ars.

If they are right, it means medieval The merchant's captain made a conscious decision to add time and distance to travel to bring a greater selection of commodities to Indonesian markets.

From China, archaeologists wondered that the ship was bound for the rising Javanese port of Tuban when it met its fate. This is not the first or the last ship to be lost in those waters. "Chinese ceramics dating back to this time are found in the area, and there are reports that many of them come from coastal ships there," Niziolek told Ars. The crew undoubtedly knew the dangers of an ocean voyage, but they probably did not think that the later half of their cargo would be stored in a museum in a city that has not yet existed.

It emphasizes how much archeologists stand to learn from a shipwreck that was first acquired in the 1990s-its artifacts were in the Field Museum since 1999. In 2011, Xu, Niziolek, and of their colleagues a great project to track sources of things found at

"These projects are getting a lot of resources and many of them work together, so it takes some time to find funding, make research and analysis, and publish the findings, "Niziolek told Ars. "The work done on Java Sea Shipwreck materials demonstrates the value of sustained deep research in an existing museum collection."

Journal of Archaeological Science 2018. DOI: 10.1016 / j.jas.2018.12 .010 (About DOIs).


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