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Radiocarbon-dating an early minting site: the emergence of standardised coinage in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 August 2021

Hao Zhao*
School of History, Zhengzhou University, P.R. China
Xiangping Gao
School of History, Zhengzhou University, P.R. China
Yuchao Jiang
School of History, Zhengzhou University, P.R. China
Yi Lin
School of History, Zhengzhou University, P.R. China
Jin Zhu
School of History, Zhengzhou University, P.R. China
Sicong Ding
School of History, Zhengzhou University, P.R. China
Lijun Deng
Modern Analysis and Computer Center of Zhengzhou University, P.R. China
Ji Zhang
School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, P.R. China
*Author for correspondence ✉


The origins of metal coinage and the monetisation of ancient economies have long been a research focus in both archaeology and economic history. Recent excavations of an Eastern Zhou period (c. 770–220 BC) bronze foundry at Guanzhuang in Henan Province, China, have yielded clay moulds for casting spade coins. The technical characteristics of the moulds demonstrate that the site functioned as a mint for producing standardised coins. Systematic AMS radiocarbon-dating indicates that well-organised minting developed c. 640–550 BC, making Guanzhuang the world's oldest-known, securely dated minting site. This discovery provides important new data for exploring the origin of monetisation in ancient China.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd.

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