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Nanjing Belt

Nanjing Belt

Sometimes the most interesting discoveries in archeology happen by pure chance and so was the case with the Nanjing Belt. On December 1952,The Jingyi Middle School of Yixing City in the Jiang-su Province of China began work on a sports field. The first order of business was to level the ground which included a hill and four irregular shaped mounds. A short time after work had started a worker’s spade penetrated the soil revealing an opening to a tomb.

Work was halted and the authorities notified. Later in 1953 the Huadong Historical Relics Working Team was sent to conduct a full-scale excavation. The dig revealed that there were in fact two tombs and luckily one had an inscription that gave the exact date and occupant. The inscription read “20th September of the seventh year of Yuankang the late General Zhou”

Zhou could be found in historical records and had died fighting the Tibetans in A. D. 297. This unquestionable age of the tomb or its contents made one discovery truly amazing. Around the waist of the tombs occupant were twenty pieces of metal, the remains of a belt. A fragment of the belt was sent for analysis by the Chemistry Department of Najing University. The results revealed the fragment was composed  of  85% aluminum , 10% copper, and 5% manganese.

Aluminum? Danish chemist Hans Christian Oersted is credited with isolating aluminum in 1825 in very small amounts. How did aluminum end up in a belt 1700 years ago? This started a bout of academic in fighting that was only halted by the Cultural Revolution in China.

Some confusion has arisen due to the fact that some parts of the belt were made of silver and others of the aluminum alloy. This caused different institutions to get different results. The following excerpt from “Aluminum Objects from a Jin Dynasty Tomb -Can They Be Authentic?” sums up the weakness of this argument best.

“It is not possible that three established scientists could, from the spectral evidence available to them, have confused aluminum and silver. There can be no doubt that some fragments, thought to be part of the belt ornaments, contained aluminum, but what is less certain is the composition of the aluminum-containing metal. The spectroscopic method used is excellent for the determination of metals present attrace levels but is less suitable for high concentrations.” DR   ANTHONY  R.  BUTLER,  DR  CHRISTOPHER   GLIDEWELL  and SHARER   E.  PRITCHARD, INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, VOL. 11, NO 1, 1986

The rest of the arguments make the assertion that the aluminum was left by tomb robbers. Once again “Aluminum Objects from a Jin Dynasty Tomb -Can They Be Authentic?” sums up the weakness of this argument.

“Luo Zong-chen states quite definitely that all the artifacts were found in situ and were under an undisturbed layer of dust. Although the tomb had been entered by robbers, it is difficult to see why they should have left the silver objects in place and have carefully inserted pieces of aluminum for the confusion of future excavators.” DR   ANTHONY  R.  BUTLER,  DR  CHRISTOPHER   GLIDEWELL  and SHARER   E.  PRITCHARD, INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, VOL. 11, NO 1, 1986

Over all “Aluminum Objects from a Jin Dynasty Tomb -Can They Be Authentic?” makes a strong case for the aluminum artifacts being authentic and does this for all but the last paragraph. Sadly, scientist for all they tout being opened minded are about the most closed minded group you can find. They just could not resist playing the hoax card and stand firmly behind their findings. The paragraph follows.

“We cannot finish without some speculation on how the scraps of aluminum found their way into the tomb. Accidental introduction or introduction by tomb robbers is both highly implausible. Planned falsification, as mentioned previously, is also difficult to accept. We are led to suggest, for want of something better, that the aluminum was introduced as an academic prank by a participant who was probably greatly embarrassed when he realized the consequences of his actions. Fortunately for scholars in the West, the Chinese themselves were the first to doubt the authenticity of the claims. It is perhaps a mark of our regard for the enduring genius of the Chinese people that the claims were taken seriously for so long.” DR   ANTHONY  R.  BUTLER,  DR  CHRISTOPHER   GLIDEWELL  and SHARER   E.  PRITCHARD, INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, VOL. 11, NO 1, 1986

Sometimes you can’t help but smile.

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