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Zinc ~ n d Brass in

Archaeological Perspective
J.S. Kharakwal
l
and L.K. Gurjar
2
Abstract
Brass has a much longer history than zinc. There has been a bit of confusion about the early
beginning of zinc as several claims are made out side India. Both literary as well as
archaeological records reveal that production of pure zinc had begun in the second half of the
first millennium BC, though production on commercial scale begun in the early Medieval
times. This paper attempts to examine the archaeological record and literary evidene,e to
understand the actual beginning of brass and zinc in India. .
Introduction
Zinc (Zn) is a non ferrous base metal, which is generally found in bluish-white, yellow,
brown or in black colour. Its thief and important minerals are sphalerite or zinc blende,
smithsonite, calamine, zincite, willemite and franklinite. As it boils at around 900
0
C, which
is lower than the temperature it can be smelted at, therefore it is difficult to smelt this metal.
Hence zinc technology was mastered later than that of copper and iron. For pure zinc
production, therefore distillation technology was developed, in which India has the
distinction of being the fIrst. Zinc is used for galvanising iron and steel, brass making,
alloying, manufacture of white pigment in chemicals and medicines. But in ancient times it
was mainly used for brass making. In fact brass has a much longer history than zinc. Brass
can be produced either by smelting copper ores containing zinc or copper and zinc ore in
reduced condition or by mixing copper and .zinc metals.
Early evidence of zinc has been claimed from several parts of Europe and Middle East
e.g., Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus and Palestine. But all these claims, except for the evidence
of the sheet of zinc from the Athenian Agora (300 BC) are doubtful (Craddock et al., 1998: 1-
5). Recent studies have shown that such small percentages of zinc may occur due to
accidental use of copper ore associated with zinc or its ore.
'JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Udaipur (kharakwal@redijJmail.com),
'Hindustan Zinc Limited, Udaipur
Ancient Asia, Vo/. I, 2006 139

Ancient Asia
Brasses containing up to 25 percent zinc have been reported from the fifth and third
millennium BC contexts from China, but it seems that they did not play any role in the
development of zinc production technology in the Far East. It is generally held that the
Chinese started using zinc and brass from the last quarter of the third century BC when the
Han Dynasty flourished in China. Craddock and Zhou have suggested that zinc was
introduced in China through Buddhism around 2000 years ago. However, Weirong and
Xiangxi (1994: 16-17) inform that the earliest literary record about brass mentioned as tutly
is known from the Buddhist literature belonging to the Tan dynasty (619-917 AD). Brass
(thou-shih) was not a common commodity in the early centuries of the Christian Era at least
prior to 3'd century AD in China. Bowman et al. (1989) have analysed 550 coins ranging from
3rd century BC (Zhao dynasty) to the late 19
th
century (Ch'ing dynasty). They have found that
the percentage of zinc suddenly increased by 20% or even up to 28% in brasses of the early
171h century AD. It is also supported by the well known textual evidence of T'ien Kung K'ai-
Wu, written in 1637 (Sung and Sun 1966). It is the first definite evidence of metallic zinc in
China, which also mentions details of alloys used for coins. Weirong (1993) has examined
ancient Chinese literature and archaeological record and claims that metallic zinc was not
used in China prior to the 16
th
century AD.
As far as India is concerned the firm evidence of zinc smelting is known only from
Rajasthan. The antiquity of mining various types of ores in Rajasthan goes back to Bronze
Age (mid-fourth millennium BC) as the evidence of Ganeshwar-Jodhpura cultural complex
in north Rajasthan and Ahar culture in southern Rajasthan would indicate (Agrawal and
Kharakwal, 2003; Misra et al. 1995; Shinde et al. 2001-02). Both these cultural complexes
have yielded over 5000 copper-bronze objects (Hooja and Kumar, 1995) ranging from 41h to
1" millennium BC. Apart from these, the Mesolithic site of Bagor in Bhilwara district also
yielded a few copper arrowheads (Misra, 1973). There are large number of ancient copper,
iron, lead working and smelting sites across Rajasthan in the Aravallis, indicating a long
tradition of metallurgy. Besides metal tools, a variety of pottery, beads of semi precious
stones, terracotta, paste and other antiquarian material is known from such early settlements.
These early farmers were practicing diverse crafts using pyrotechnologies. It appears that
large scale production of different metals e.g., copper at Singhana, Toda Dariba, Banera,
Suras, Bhagal, Kotri, lead-silver at Ajmer, Agucha and Dariba, zinc at Zawar and iron at
Dokan, Iswal, Karanpur, Loharia, Parsola, Bigod, Jhikari-Amargarh, belonging to the
medieval times (Kharakwa1, 2005) was the result of such long experience of metal
technology involving pyrotechniques. In fact the Aravallis are a polymetallic zone like
Anatolia.
This paper is an attempt to present an overview of the archaeometallurgical researches
on zinc and the position of zinc and brass in archaeological perspective in India.
Zawar: The Oldest Production Center of Zinc
Zawar (24°21' N; 73°43' E) is located on the bank of the River Tiri, about 38 km south of
Udaipur town in the Aravalli hills in Rajasthan (Fig. 1). It is the only known ancient zinc
'smelting site in India (Craddock et aI., 1985). The entire valley ofTiri atZawar is marked by

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Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
immense heaps of slag and retorts, which indicate a long tradition of zinc smelting at Zawar.
On some slag-mounds are found remains of houses made of used retorts (Fig. 2) and stones,
perhaps belonging to the smelters/smiths.
Fig. I: Map showing location ofZawar (after Craddock et al 1985)
Fig. 2: Residential structures made of discarded retorts
Though archaeometallurgical activity at Zawar was casually recorded by several Indian
and British scholars between 17
th
and 20
th
century, the credit of highlighting the importance
of the ancient remains however goes to Crookshank (1947), Carsus (1960), Morgan (1976),

. s. Kharakwal and L.K. Gur ·ar
Ancient Asia
Strackzeck et al. (1967) and Werner (1976 see in Gurjar et al., 2001). Perhaps these reports
encouraged P.T. Craddock of British Museum and K.T.M. Hegde of M.S. University of
Baroda to initiate archaeometallurgical study at Zawar jointly with Hindustan Zinc Limited,
Udaipur in 1983 (Craddock et al., 1983, 1985; Gurjar et al., 2001; Hegde, 1989; Paliwal et
al., 1986; Willies, 1984). This team carried out extensive investigations both for ancient
mining as well as smelting of zinc at Zawar. They discovered incredible evidence for mining
and furnaces used for zinc smelting, besides primitive smelting retorts from the dam fill at
Zawar.
Besides Zawar, the evidence of early zinc mining and smelting has also been found 2 km
south east of village Kaya in form of a small retort heap and ancient mine workings in the
adjacent hills. It is the northwestern continuation of Zawar mineralization. These remains
have not been studied in detail but considering the shape of retorts it can be safely concluded
that they are of the same period. Kaya is located 6 km north ofZawar, and about 15 km south
ofUdaipurtown.
Mining
Zinc ores are widely distributed in the country, but major deposits are found in the
Aravallis. In recent years one of the largest lead-zinc deposits have been discovered at
Agucha in Bhilwara district (Tewari and Kavadia 1984), though the well known ancient
lead-zinc workings are located in the Zawar area ofUdaipur district. Zinc (Zn) is generally
found in veins in association with galena, chalcopyrite, ironpyrite, silver and cadmium and
other sulphide ores (Raghunandan et al., 1981). The Aravalli range in southern Rajasthan is
composed of rugged and gorgeous hills of pre-Cambrian metamorphic rocks with narrow
valleys. These rocks are rich in zinc ore in the form of sphalerite veins in association with
galena and copper bearing deposits. This mineralized belt of Zawar extends for about 25 km.
The major mineralization of sphalerite and galena with varying quantities of pyrite have
been found in the form of sheeted zones, veins, stringers and lenticular bodies (Raghunandan
et al., 1981). Since these minerals are quite distinct from each other it was possible to
separate them manually and this explains why zinc mining and smelting developed only at
Zawar.
There are extensive remains of old workings in Zawarmala, Mochia Magra, Balaria, and
at Hiran Magra in Zawar area in the form of deep trenches, shafts, open stopes, long
serpentine galleries and inclines. These mines are narrow and vary from 10 to 300 m in
length. There is extensive evidence of underground mining too (Fig. 3). It appears that this
mining continued for several hundred years as indicated by the enormous mound of slag and
smelting debris .

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Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
Fig. 3: The ancient mine in Zawar
Once the ore was located on ground, based on the presence of gossan or mineralized
veins, the nUners followed the down ward extension along dip and pitch of the ore-shoot and
developed huge inclined stopes and chambers underground. These stopes and branched
chambers were supported by finger like inclines further down. Arch shaped pillars (about
4X5m) were left to support the roof while developing such stopes and chambers (Gurjar et
al., 200 I). Mining was carried out by fire setting as evidenced by the rounded profile of
galleries and stope chambers, the supporting pillars, smooth surface of rock faces with sooty
deposits and the floors are buried deep in charcoal, ashes and calcined rocks (HindZinc Tech
1989). After dousing the fire the rocks were broken with chisels, pick axe, hoes and other
iron implements. A few such objects have been discovered from Mochia mines (Craddock et
al., 1989: 62, pI3). Extensive use of wood in the form of ladders, roof support, haulage
scaffold C'C date: 2350± 120 BP) have been found in the nUnes.
Extensive open pit mining followed by underground method was carried out at Rajpura-
Dariba. An opencast mine oflead-zinc (300 m long and 100 m wide) developed over east
lode at Dariba, (Raghunandan et al. 1981 :86-87) is a remarkable evidence of ancient mining
technology practiced in southern Rajasthan. Excavation carried out by Hindustan Zinc
Limited in 1986 has brought out the presence of massive timber revetment in the hanging
wall of the open pit. This consists of three or probably four benches each 4m high with
closely placed vertical posts, held back by three pairs of horizontal timbers and are pinned by
long timbers to provide support to weak hangingwall.
Here, in one of the underground mines of the East Load the miners reached up to a depth
of263 m, in the 3rd 4th century BC (Craddock et a/. 1989:59; Willies et a/. 1984). Such mines
are rarely known in the ancient world. A 14C date from Dariba indicates that deep
underground mining had begun in the second half of the second millennium BC. At Agucha
also extensive evidence of mining of rich galena pockets datable to the Mauryan times has
been discovered (Tiwari and Kavdia, 1984: 84-85). The smelting debris and mining clearly
indicates that it was carried out for lead and silver.

143 J.s. Kharakwal and L.K. Gurjar
Ancient Asia
For dewatering mines launders of hollowed timber (3 m long and 20cm wide) were used,
which have been dated back to 2
nd
century BC (Bhatnagar and Gurjar, 1989: 6). It is likely
that some kind of buckets may have also been used for pulling out water from such deep
mines. The possibility of shallow depressions at certain interval in the slanting wall of the
mines for collection of water can not be ruled out.
A few shallow conical and U shaped pits have been reported in hard rocks at Baroi and
Dariba. They may have been used for crushing! breaking rock fragments in order to separate
and beneficiate the ore before smelting. At Dariba such pits having a diameter of27-30 cm
and 60-70 cm deep were found close to a large opencast in calc-silicate rock. While at Baroi
in Za war these were 8-12 cm in diameter and 10-18 cm deep and found on the surface next to
ancient mine workings.
It is interesting to note that mining of such non-ferrous metals was also recorded in the
contemporary literature like Kautilya's Arthasastra (2.12.23, 2.17.14 & 4.1.35), which
mentions that there was a superintendent of mines in the Mauryan Empire (Kangle, 1972).
His duty was to identify metals and establish factories. While describing silver ores the text
clearly mentions that it occurs with nag (lead) and anjan (zinc). Since there is extensive
evidence of mining and smelting of lead, zinc and silver at Zawar, Dariba and Agucbha in
Rajasthan, it is quite likely that Kautilya was aware of this activity. Harry (1991) points out
that the imperial Maurya series of coins, particularly silver ones, containing one fourth of
copper, strongly indicates the mining of silver and zinc from southern Rajasthan. Mining of
such ores had surely begun in Rajasthan by the middle of the first millennium BC, if not
earlier.
Some scholars have argued that Zawar should be identified as Aranyakupgiri of the
Samoli inscription (Halder, 1929-30) belonging to seventh century AD. The word
Aranyakupgiri of the inscription perhaps stands for deep well like mines. Of course such
mines were there in Zawar during this time, but the inscription may refer to the mines of
Basantgarh located near Samoli in Sirohi district rather than Zawar.
The underground mining of ores at Agucha, Dariba and at Zawar may have been the
result of a gradual development of mining technology in Southern Rajasthan going way back
to the middle of the fourth millennium BC when Bronze Age cultures had just appeared on
the scene in the region.
What is interesting is the fact that no evidence of smelting of zinc has been found so far
prior to 9'h century BC. Craddock et al. have pointed out that mining of zinc ore was surely
done in Zawarmala in 3
rd
_4'h century BC. Perhaps the evidence of smelting ranging from 4'h
century BC to 9'h century is buried under the massive dumping of retorts and smelting debris
and temple complexes. The evidence of a large stone structure and Early Historic pottery
shapes exposed near the Jain temple in old Zawar also confirms the same .

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Table 1. Radio Carbon Dates for Zawar Mines (After Gurjar et al., 2001)
BM No. Context Material Date BP Calibrated dates
BM-2017R Retort charcoal modem 1550to 1635 AD
Modem
BM-2065R Retort charcoal modem 760t0360BC
LW11982/2 wood 2350±120 285 t0255BC
BM-2148R
BM- 2149R LW1198211, wood 2140±11O 365 BC TO 90 AD
launder in escape route
15 I 0 to 1690 AD or
BM-2222R Trench layer 3 charcoal 240±11O 1730 to 1810 AD or
1925 AD \to modem
BM-2223R Site 30, N side of furnace charcoal 530±50 1320 to 1345 AD
orl390 to 1435 AD
BM-2243R sample 33, site 34 charcoal 350±130 1420 to 1670 AD
BM-2484 site 5, layer 3, slag heap charcoal 100±45 1695 to 1730ADor
1815 to 1920AD
BM- 2485 site 14, layer 3 charcoal 1950±60 25BCtol15AD
1660 to 1675 AD or
BM- 2486 site 29, layer 2, small pit or hearth charcoal 200±35 1745 to 1800 or
1940 AD to modem
BM- 2487 site 2, trench 2, slag heap charcoal 1930±80 40 BC to 145 AD;
170 to 180AD
BM- 2488 site 7, trench 2, slag heap charcoal I 370±80 595 to 720 AD or
740 to 765 AD
BM- 2638 furnace block charcoal modem
BM- 2639 ZWLW/22, Pratap khan charcoal 2040±70 160 TO 135 BC or
125 BC to 25 AD
BM- 2481 ZMlLW/85113 small chamber off charcoal modem modem
main galaries
BM- 2482 ZM/LW/85114 short ladder way wood 2150±11O 365 to lOO BC
BM- 2483 ZMlLW/85/8, burned layer wood 2180±35 355 to 290 BC or
250 to 195 BC
BM-2634 ZWLW/87/26, top chamber charcoal I 340±1 00 600 to 790 AD
Balaria
1660 to 1695 AD or
1725 to 1820AD or
BM 2338 support timber western slope wood 170±50 1860 to 1865 AD,
(outer ring 1920 to modem
BM 2381 Gallery wood 2360±60 750 to 720 BC or
(outer ring 525 to 385 BC
BM-2666 ZW/LWI 87/32 charcoal 390±50 1440 to 1520AD or
1590 to 1629 AD

145 Js. Kharakwal and L.K. Gurjar
Ancient Asia
The consistency of these radiocarbon dates clearly suggest that mining activity was
carried out during the Early Historic period and medieval times (Craddock et aI., 1989:48).
Traditionally Maharana Lakha or Laksha Singh (14th century), who was ruling in the last
quarter of the 14th century, is believed to have re-opened these mines. He might have opened
several new mines rather than reopening the old ones. Besides, Maharana Pratap (16
th
century) is also credited for opening new mines at Zawar. One of the major mines at
Zawarmala is known after him. It seems that large scale production of zinc continued despite
political instability in southern Rajasthan during the late medieval times.
It was Abul Fazl who for the first time in 1596 in his well known Ain-i-Akbari recorded
the zinc mines of Zawar (Blochmann, 1989: 41-43). The mining and smelting activity was
not only registered in the contemporary local records and literature (e.g., Nainsi ri Khyat in
1657; Bakshikhana Bahi 91 , Rajasthan State Archaives records ofUdaipur and Bikaner and
others) but also in the writings of several scholars of the 19
th
and 20
th
century, mostly British
(Anon, 1872: Brooke, 1850; Carsus, 1960; Erskine, 1908; Shyamal Das, 1986 I (originally
published in 1886): 305; Tod, 1950: 221-222).
Mining of several ores for example iron, copper, lead was being done as late as the 19
th
century in several parts of Rajasthan. Unfortunately the Zawar zinc operation came to a halt
around 1812 AD, unlike the Chinese traditional zinc smelting. A few British officers
attempted to restart these mines in the middle and late nineteenth century with the financial
support of Maharana Sarup Singh (1842-61), Shambhu Singh (1861-1874 AD) and Sajjan
Singh (1874-1884 AD), but failed. It is believed that due to political instability in Mewar,
frequent attacks of the Mughals, Pindaris and the Marathas and recurrent famines in the 18
th
century these mines were abandoned.
Smelting and Production
The entire valley of the Tiri in Zawar is dotted by massive dumpings of slag and earthen
retorts indicating a long tradition and commercial production of zinc. Several radiocarbon
dates (see table 1) bracketed between 12th and 18
th
century also conform this activity. Gwjar
et al. (2001: 633) write, "the earliest evidence of zinc smelting on industrial scale is the
carbon date of 840±11 0 AD for one of the heaps of white ash removed from zinc smelting
furnace. The fragment of relatively small, primitive retorts and perforated plates found in the
earth fill of dam across the Tidi (Tiri) river may belong to the period or they must at least
predate the dam itself. It appears that the main expansion of the industrial phase of zinc
production began at Zawar sometime from 11''' or 12'" century".
At Zawarmala a bank of seven distillation furnaces (Fig. 4), roughly squarish on plan
(66x69 cm), were discovered by Craddock et al. Each furnace had two chambers, upper and
lower, separated by a thick perforated plate of clay. It is presumed by the excavators that the
furnaces may have looked like truncated pyramids and their height may have been about 60
cm. Brinjal shaped earthen retorts, filled with charge, were placed on the perforated plate in
inverted position in the upper chamber. As many as 36 retorts were placed in each furnace for

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Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
smelting and they were heated for three to five hours. The retorts were made in two parts and
luted together after filling the charge. To prepare the charge the ore was subjected to crushing
and grinding and mixed with some organic material and cow dung! rolled into tiny balls and
left in the sun for drying. These balls then were placed in retorts after drying. A thin wooden
stick was placed in the narrow opening of retort, which perhaps prevented falling of charge in
the lower chamber before heating when they are initially inverted in the furnace, and at the
same time would facilitate the escape of zinc vapour formed during heating. Such special
retorts, ranging from 20 to 35 cm in length and 8 to 12cm in diameter, were developed by the
metallurgists at Zawar for zinc distillation. Identification of different size of retorts is sure
indication of different shape and size of furnaces at Zawar, as the evidence of a bigger
furnace (base 110 cm square) from old Zawar would also indicate. After heating, zinc vapor
was collected and condensed in the lower chamber in small earthen pots. It was surely an
ingenious method that was devised for downward distillation of zinc vapour by the Zawar
metallurgists. Thus, it was for the first time anywhere in the world that pure zinc was
produced by distillation process on a commercial scale at Zawar. Gangopadhyay et al.
(1984) and Freestone et al. (1985) have carried out technical studies of ore and retorts.
Craddock (1995 :309-321) compares these furnaces with koshthi type furnaces illustrated in
Rasaratnasamuchchaya, an alchemical text datable to 13
th
century, and other earlier texts on
the same subject. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Hindustan Zinc, British Museum and M.S.
University Baroda for such wonderful discovery that is possibly the ancestor of all high
temperature pyrotechnical industries of the world.
Fig. 4: Zinc smeltingfurnaces at Zawar
It has been estimated that each retort may have been filled with one kilogram of charge
out of which 400 gram of zinc may have been produced. Thus each furnace produced around
25 to 30 kg of zinc in one activity of smelting. It has been estimated that 600,000 tons of
smelting debris at Zawar, produced about 32,000 tones of metallic zinc in four hundred years
(between 1400 and 1800 AD). Ifwe estimate this production from 12th century to 18
th
century
the quantity of metal would certainly be more than 50,000 tonnes. Colonel Tod in his well
known work, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, has reported that the mines of Mewar
were very productive during the eighteenth century, and in the year of 1759 alone the mines

147 Js. Kharakwal and L.K. Gurjar
Ancient Asia
earned Rs. 2,22,000 (Tod, 1950: 222, 399). Tod writes that about half a century ago these
mines were earning Rs. three 1akhs annually. Dariba mines yielded Rs. 80,000. He has
recorded these mines as Tin mines ofZawar. Since we do not have any evidence of ancient tin
working in Mewar region his tin mines must be nothing but zinc mines of Zawar. Moreover
the Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Rajputana (1908: 52) clearly mention that
these mines were famous for silver and zinc and were worked on a large scale un611812-13
when the worst famine took place (Kachhawaha, 1992: 26-27; Malu, 1987; Singh, 1947).
The production of zinc was perhaps very high under the rule of Maharana Jagat Singh
and Maharana Raj Singh during 17th century as the local records of AD 1634-35 and 1657
reveal that annual revenue of Zawar was rupees 2,50,000 and 1,75,002 respectively. It is
also clearly indicated in the record that per day income of these mines was Rs. 700; this
estimate was confirmed by Muhnot Nainsi in his famous work Nainsi ri Khyat (1657)
(Ranawat, 1987). Another record belonging to the reign of Maharana Raj Singh, reads that
the revenue earned in a year from Zawar was Rs. 17,96,944 (Bhati, 1995: 1,2, 11, 12, 14).
Gurjar et al. (2001: 634) have examined a record of the same king dated to 1655 AD,
preserved in the State Archaives, Udaipur which mentions an income of Rs. 1,70,967 in a
single month from Zawar! We are however, not sure whether this income was obtained only
from mining and smelting. As the entire area of Zawar is gorgeous and agriculture may not
have been enough to generate revenue, therefore it is likely that the entire revenue was
earned from mining and production of zinc. Erskine (1908) also informs that these mines
were certainly an important source of income right from fourteenth to early nineteenth
century as they yielded more than two lakh rupees annual revenue for Maharana's treasury at
least until 1766. Thus the annual income from Zawar was quite handsome and it is likely that
due to large scale production of zinc Zawar may have become one of the main sources of
state revenue and an important trade centre between the 12th and early 19
th
century AD. The
discovery of an earthen pot containing a coin hoard datable to 16
th
century by L.K. Gurjar in
1984 (Gurjar et al. 2001) at old Zawar also suggests that this area was an important
commercial center. There are remains of few structures on top of a hillock at Zawar, which,
according to knowledgeable villagers, belong to Vela Vania (a trader known as Vela).
Perhaps Vela Vania was involved in zinc trade.
It is worth mentioning here that most of the existing forts, huge water reservoirs, temple
complexes, water structures, and other monuments in Mewar were built between 10
th
and 18
th
centuries AD. It is likely that the revenue earned due to brisk trade of zinc at Zawar was
utilized for construction of these large monuments.
Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
Only a few Harappan bronzes have yielded a small percentage of zinc. For example
Lothal, a Harappan sites in Gujarat (2200-1500 BC) (Rao, 1985), has yielded around half a
dozen copper based objects containing zinc, which varies from 0.15 to 6.04 % (NautiyaI, et
al. 1981). One of the objects (antiquity No. 4189), though not identified, contains 70.7% of
copper, 6.04 % of zinc and 0.9% Fe, which could be termed as the earliest evidence of brass

Vat. 1,2006 148
Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
in India. From Kalibangan, another Harappan site in north Rajasthan, a long spear head of
copper was found containing 3.4% of zinc (Lal et al. 2003: 266). There is some evidence of
brass from the early Iron Age when we come across two examples from Atranjikhera (1200-
600 BC), a Painted Grey Ware culture site in the Ganga doab. One of the objects leaded
bronze contains 1.68% tin, 9.0% lead and 6.28% of zinc whereas the other one assayed
20.72% of tin and 16.20% of zinc (Gaur 1983: 483-90). Unless we have more examples of
bronzes containing appreciable percentage of zinc replacing tin, arsenic or other elements
we can not infer that the Bronze or Early Iron Age cultures were aware of the nature and
property of zinc. Nevertheless these examples perhaps represent the early or experimental
stage of zinc in India. The archaeological record indicates that in the second half of the first
millennium BC the percentage of zinc started increasing and intentional use of brass appears
on the scene. Such evidence has been found from Taxila, Timargarh and Senuwar.
Taxila, located about 30 km north ofRawalpindi in Pakistan, has yielded a large variety
of metal objects including those of copper, bronze, brass and iron (Marshall, 1951 :567-69).
Several brass objects datable from the 4th century BC to 1 SI century AD have been discovered.
One of them was a vase from Bhir mound, which predates the arrival of the Greeks at Taxila
(Biswas, 1993) and has assayed 34.34 % of zinc, 4.25% of tin and small quantity of lead
(3.0%), iron (1.77%) and nickel (0.4%). Another evidence of real brass was discovered
recently at Senuwar in the Ganga Valley from the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP)
levels (Singh, 2004: 594). Ithas 64.324% of copper and 35.52% of zinc.
Brasses made by cementation method generally contain less than 28% of zinc and rarely
could go up to 33% (Werner, 1970). Since the examples ofTaxila and Senuwar have yielded
more than 33% of zinc, therefore these are the earliest definite examples of real brasses. They
must have been made by mixing metallic zinc with copper. Zinc is a volatile metal and due to
its low boiling point (907°C), which is lower than the temperature it could be smelted, it is
difficult to smelt. Unlike other metals, it comes out in the vapour form from the furnace and
gets reoxidised, if it is not condensed. Craddock et al. have pointed out that zinc ore was
mined way back from 5
th
century BC «PRL 932 430±100 BC; BM 2381 380± 50 BC) at
Zawar and metallic or pure zinc was produced here by distillation process for the first time in
the world. The production of metallic zinc has been traced back to 9
th
century AD at Zawar,
but there is a strong possibility that the older evidence is buried under the immense heaps.
Though Taxila folks were aware of the distillation process (Habib, 2000), yet in the absence
of definitive evidence we cannot claim that they employed this process for obtaining zinc. It
is possible, though not proven that metallic zinc was produced atZawar way back from the 6
th
century BC, from here it reached at Taxi la and Senuwar. The other possibility is that zinc was
scrapped from the cooler parts of the furnaces at both sites!
Besides these, Prakash (Athavale and Thapar, 1967: 132 table IV) and Mahurjhari in
Mahararashtra (Deo, 1973; Joshi 1973:77), Asura sites in Chhotanagpur region (Caldwell,
1920: 409-411 ; Roy, 1920: 404- 405) have yielded brasses, which have been dated to the
second halfofthe first millennium BC. Most of these brasses have more than 15% of zinc
and some of them contain between 22 to 28 percent of zinc. This kind of evidence clearly
points out they were made by cementation process.

149 J.s. Kharakwal and LX Gurjar
Ancient Asia
Several circular or rectangular punch-marked and other coins of brass, bracketed
between the 2
nd
century BC and 4th century AD (Smith, 1906) (see Table 2), are known
mostly from northern India. Since none of them is analysed we do not know if they are real
brasses (objects containing more 28% zinc are called real brasses) or made by cementation
process. What is interesting is that most of these coins belong to the regional kings,
indicating popularity of brass in India. This kind of evidence goes against the assumption
that the Greeks introduced brass in India. The archaeological record clearly points out that
the Indians knew brass prior to the arrival of the Greeks.
Table 2: Early brass coins of India (After Smith 1906)
No Period King/Site No. Shape Reference
1 200 BC Gomitra ·1 Not stated Smith, 1906: 205
2 200 BC Mitasa (Gomitra?) or Satasa 1 Not stated Smith, 1906: 205
3 2"" cent. BC Unidentified Not stated Smith, 1906:)94
4 2·
d
cent. BC Gomitra (Mathura) Circular Smith, 1906: 193
5 id cent. BC Uttama Datta (Mathura) Not stated Smith, 1906: 193
6 2
nd
cent. BC Bhavadatta (Mathura) Not stated Smith, 1906: 193
7 2"" cent. BC Purushadatta (Mathura) 1 Not stated Smith, 1906: 192
8 2
nd
cent. BC Amoghbhuti (Kuninda king) 6 Circular Smith, 1906: 168-169
9 2"" cent. BC Rajanya (Naga or Narwar) 4 Not stated Smith, T906: 179-180
10 2
nd
cent. BC _ (Kosam), Circular Smith, 1906: 155
-
11 150 BC- 100 AD Dhana Deva (Ayodhya) Rectangular Smith, 1906: 148
12 150 BC-lOOAD Siva Datta (Ayodhya) 3 Rectangular Smith, 1906: 149
13 150 BC- 100 AD Ajavenl).a (Ayodhya) Circular Smith, 1906: 150
14 125- 80 BC Hagamasha (Satrap of Mathura) Not stated Smith, 1906: 196
15 100 BC Audumbara king Circular Smith, 1906: I
16 I" cent. BC-AD Yaudheya kings 3 Not stated Smith, 19p6: 181
.-"
17 I
U
cent. BC-AD Agnimitra (Panchala and Kausha1,,) 2 Circular Smith, 1906: 186-187
18 I" cent. BC-AD Bhumitra (Panchala and Kaushala) I Circular Smith, 1906: 187
19 la -1."" cent. AD? Devasa 8 Circular Smith, 1906: 207
20 I" -2"" cent. AD Unidentified Rectangular Smith, 1906: 20 I
21 2""cent.AD Unidentified 2 Circular Smitl.!, 1906: 203-204
22 3'd -4'" cent. AD
Pasaka type) Not stated Smith, 1906:89
23 Medieval Unknown (Jajjapura/i) Sri Siva type Not stated Smith, 1906: 333
24 3" -4'" cent. AD Basata (later Kushana) 5 Not stated Chatterjee, 1957: 103
Beside coins, several other brass antiquities have also been reported from the Early
Historic sites in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, which include lids, caskets,
bangles, finger rings, utensils, icons, chariot and religious object and utensil (Biswas, 1993,
1994: 360; Biswas and Biswas, 1996: 132) .

Vol. 1,2006
150
Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
Since zinc could change the colour of copper and impart it a golden glitter, it was
preferred for making Hindu, Buddhist and Jain icons throughout the historical period. For
example among the brass icons of the Himalayan region (from Tibet to Gandhar) lead is
present in appreciable amount and the percentage of zinc varies from 4 to 35 (Chakrabarti,
and Lahiri, 1996: 108-109; Reedy, 1988). Obviously these brasses were made by selection of
ore, cementation process and mixing metallic zinc wi th copper. In the absence of a source of
zinc in the Himalayan region it may be suggested that metallic zinc may have been supplied
from Zawar. The higher percentage of lead in these brasses clearly suggests that it was
deliberately added to increase the casting ability of the metal. Such leaded brasses were
called kakatundi in ancient India.
Craddock (1981 :20-31) has reported analysis of 121 Tibetan and Himalayan icons/metal
works by atomic absorption spectrophotometer for 13 elements in each sample down to
10ppm level. He has shown that as many as 45 artifacts have more than 28% of zinc, which
might have been made by mixing copper and zinc. The percentage of zinc in such artifacts
ranges from 28 to 54. It seems that most of the brasses of his list belong to Medieval and later
Medieval times.
From Phopnarkala and East Nimar, in Madhya Pradesh, several standing brass images of
Buddha have been discovered (Sharma and Sharma, 2000) assigned to the Gupta-Vakataka
period (5
th
_6
th
centuries AD). These brasses contain high percentage of zinc ranging from 21
to 30%, which means that they were made by cementation process (Tondan, 1983).
In the first half of the seventh century AD (AD 629-645) Hiuen Tsiang, a Chinese scholar
of Buddhism, extensively traveled in India. He saw a magnificent vihara (residential
complex of Buddhist monks) of brass near Nalanda under construction during the reign of
Raja Siladitya (Harshavardhan AD 606-647). It would have been more than 100 feet long
when completed (Beal, 2000vol ii: 174). He also noticed brass images (teou-shih) of
Buddhist and Brahmanic deities at several places in northern India (Beal, 2000 vol.i : 51,89,
166,177,197,198, voLii:45,46, 174).
The metal art of Eastern Indian complex, mainly coming from Bihar, West Bengal and
Bangladesh, is also fairly well known. A large number of ancient bronzes, belonging to Pala
and Sena School of art datable between 8
tb
to 12th centuries AD contain considerable amount
of zinc (Leoshko and Reedy, 1994; Pal, 1988; Reedy, 1991 a, b).
A large number of bronzes and brasses mostly icons of Jain and Hindu deities,
containing appreciable amount of zinc, have been reported from various parts ofGujarat, and
are datable to 6
th
to 14
tb
centuries AD (Swarnakamal, 1978). Most of the late medieval brasses
were made by mixing metallic zinc with copper as the percentage of zinc has been found to
exceed more than 28 %. In some cases lead is present up to 9.5%, which must have been
useful rending fluidity to the metal. It is likely that all these brasses were made of using
metallic zinc from Zawar. Biswas (1993) writes that the icon of seated Tirthankara dated AD
1752 from Gujarat is one the finest example ofthe late medieval brasses in India, which was
made a few years before the Maratha invasion of Me war.

151 J.S. Kharakwal and L.K. Gurjar
Ancient Asia
Table 3:
Elemental percentage ofbrasses datable to 14th to 18th centuries AD (after Biswas, 1993
and Swamakamal, 1978)
No Object Provena. Period Cu% Zn% Sn% Pb% Fe% Impurities
I Ambika Gujarat 1350 68.4 18.5 1.6 9.5 - Fe,Ag,Bi
2 Model of temple
"
1480 68.6 28.9 0.2 1.6 - Fe, Mg,Bi
with4doors
3 Vlshnu-Narayan
"
1485 58.9 36.8 0.5 2.1 - Fe,Ai,Ag, Si,
Mg, Bi
4 Rajput Prince Rajasthan 15th-16th 72.9 21.8 0.4 2.7 1.0 AI0.3, Mg,Ag
5 Kal Bhairava Gujarat 1554 76.7 13.8 1.2 6.3 1.5 Al,Mg
6 Chauri Bearer Gujarat 17th 58.3 35.5 1.5 2.3 0.8 Fe, Ni, AI,Ag,
Cd, Si, Mg
7 Dipalakshami Rajasthan 17th 58.8 33.2 0.9 4.5 - AI1.6, Mg
8 " Gujarat 18th 52.8 39.9 1.1 2.9 - Fe,AI
9 Tirthankara (seated) Gujarat 1752 62.3 36.0 - 0.5 - Fe,Ag,Bi
10 Sadakasari Lokesvara Nepal 60.5 35.3 2.75 2.37 - Fe, Ni, As, Au
form of Avlokitesvara
Table 3 contains a few brasses from medieval and late medieval period ofIndia, most of
which have a high percentage of zinc. All those examples containing more than 33% were
certainly made of metallic zinc. In some cases lead is present up to 9.5%, which must have
been useful rending fluidity to the metal. The metallurgists were obviously skilful to produce
high quality of brass. It is quite likely that all these brasses were made by using metallic zinc
from Zawar. The Mughals, who ruled over India between 12th and 16
th
centuries, had metal
karkhanas (factories), in which a large number ofbrasses for example utensil, decorative
pieces, guns, mortars and so on were produced perhaps employing zinc from Zawar (Neogi,
1979: 40-42).
It is held that the artillery made of iron, bronze and brass was introduced in India during
the Mughal period. Large cannons and guns made of brass have been reported from Agra,
Bengal and other places (Neogi, 1979). There are a few brass cannons at Udaipur too, which
might have been made by zinc obtained from Zawar.
BidriWare
The Bidri Ware ofBidar in South India, belonging to medieval period, is well known
for its glossy black surface decorated with exquisite silver inlay art (Gairola, 1956). It is a
zinc alloy decorated with silver or gold inlay. La Niece and Martin (1987) have done
detailed technical study of27 vessels of this ware from the Victoria and Albert Museum's
collection. Their results show that the content of zinc varies from 76 to 98%, copper 2 to
10% and lead 0.4 to 19%. Lead isotope studies have indicated that the zinc was not

Vo!. 1.2006 152
Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
obtained from Zawar for Bidri ware (Craddock et al. 1989: 52-53). This kind of result has
brought about a challenge to look for other zinc production sites in India, if this metal was
not imported from outside!
Literary Evidence
Ayurvedic treatises such as Susrnt Samhita (5
th
century BC) and Charak Samhita (2
nd
century BC) record the use of essence of various minerals and metals e.g., gold, silver,
copper, tin, bronze and brass for preparation of medicine. These texts also mention that the
instruments used for curing delicate parts of the body were made of gold, silver, copper, iron,
brass, tooth, horn, jewels and of special variety of wood (Datt Ram, 1900: 12; Shanna, 2001
11: 444). Both these texts record brass as riti or ritika. It is interesting that both Charak
Samhita and Susrnta Samhita refer to pushpanjan, which was prepared by heating a metal in
air and was used for cUring eyes and wounds (Chikitsasthanam 26.250) (Shukla and
Tripathai, 2002: 661; Ray, 1956: 60). This could be identified as zinc oxide as Craddock
(1989: 27) points out that "no other metal would react in the air to produce an oxide suitable
for medicinal purpose". Therefore, these Ayurvedic texts are perhaps the earliest literary
evidence of zinc in India.
Kautilya's Arthasastra is one of the earliest firm datable (4
th
century BC) textual
evidence fqr mining and smelting of metals, which reveals that the director of metals was
responsible for establishing factories of various metals such as copper (tamra), lead (sisa),
tin (trapu), brass (arakuta), bronze (kamsa or kamsya), tala and iron (Kangle, 1960 vol I: 59
and vol 11: 124; Kangle, 1972 vol 11: 108). Brass has also been frequently.mentioned in
ancient Sanskrit and Buddhist literature and was popularly known as harita, riti, ritika,
arkuta or arkutah, pitala and so on (Chakrabarti and Lahiri, 1996: 149; Neogi, 1979: 41;
Sastri, 1997:208). The term kamsakuta of Digha-nikaya and Dhammapada Atthakatha has
been interpreted as brass coins by Chatterjee (1957: 104-111). He strongly argues that brass
currency was in vogue between 6'h and 4th century BC in India, though we don't have
chemical analysis of known coins of this period. Darius I, a Persian king, had a few Indian
cups, which were indistinguishable in appearance from gold except for their smell (Hett,
1993: 257). This may only be the Indian brass.
Strabo quotes the explanation of Nearchus about India, who traveled the north-western
part of this country with the Macedonian army in 4'h century BC, and writes that "they use
brass that is cast, and not the kind that is forged; and he does not state the reason, although
·hementions the strange result thatfollows the use of the vessels made of cast brass, that when
they fall to the ground they break into pieces·like pottery" (Jones, 1954: 117). This kind of
evidence indicates that Indians were making brass way back in 4'h century BC. But we do not
know whether it happened due to absence oflead or high percentage of zinc?
The alchemist Nagarjuna is well known for his treatise on alchemy titled
Rasaratnakara, which was perhaps originally written, as Biswas (1993: 317, 1994: 361-362;
Ray, 1956: 116-118) argues, between 2
nd
and 4th century AD and compiled around 7'h or 8<11
centuries AD. Nagarjuna was certainly a great scientist, who, for the first time, not only

153
Js. Kharakwal and L.K. Gurjar
Ancient Asia
described cementation process but also zinc production by distillation technique (Biswas,
1993: 317; 1994: 361-362; Ray 1956: 129). This is therefore the earliest literary evidence,
which records that brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Rasarnavam Rastantram, an
alchemical text datable to 12th century AD, is an important alchemical text, in which both
brass and zinc have been recorded. This text clearly records zinc making process (Craddock
et ai, 1989: 31; Ray, 1956: 118), besides different kinds of zinc ores e.g., mratica rasak, gud
rasak and pashan rasak. Apart from these there are a few other alchemical texts such as
Rasakalpa, Rasarnavatantra, Rasprakash Sudhakar ofYasodhara, Rasendrachudamani of
Somadeva and Rasachintamani of Madanantadeva (all datable from 10
th
to 12th centuries
A.D), also explain different kind ofbrasses and zinc- making by distillation process (Ray,
1956: 171-191). The description by Yasodhara for extraction of zinc appears to be the best
one as Craddock et al.'s (1989) work has shown that it fits well with the process used at
Zawar. These texts reveal that k o s h t h ~ type furnaces were used for smelting and had an
arrangement of two chambers separated by a perforated plate. For distillation tiryakpatana
. th th
yantra were used. The Rasaratnasamuchchaya, a late 13 or early 14 century work of iatro
chemistry, is the best available literary evidence of zinc production process. In fact the zinc
smelting process described by Yasodhara earlier has more or less been repeated in this text
besides the illustrations of apparatus by Somadeva. Bhavamisra in the 16
th
century in his well
known work, Bhavaprakasanighantu, recorded as many as seven different kinds of alloys
(upadhatus) including bronze and brass (Chunekar and Pandey, 2002: 609). He has recorded
two different kinds -ofbrasses such as Rajariti and Brahmariti. Besides, two other types of
brasses (pittala) i. e., ritikaand kaktundi have also been recorded (Neogi, 1979: 41).
Besides these, Allan (1979: 43-45) cites the work of Abu Dulaf, AI-risalat al-thqniya,
datable to 9
th
_10
th
centuries AD, who described production of a variety of tutiya in Iran. He
recorded that the Indian tutiya was preferred in Persia (Allan, 1979: 43-45), which obviously
might have been better than the Persian one. It is likely that the Persians imported Indian
tutiya. The Persians also recorded Indian tutiya as the vapour of tin (Allan, 1979: 44), which
might be zinc (Craddock et al. 1989: 74) from Zawar. Thus the Persian literary source also
supports production of zinc in India in 9
th
_10
th
centuries AD. And brass has surely longer
history than zinc.
All the aforesaid literary references clearly suggest that metallic zinc was known in India
several centuries before the actual dated evidence of commercial production at Zawar.
Thus the aforesaid archaeological and literary evidence indicates that Indians had started
using zinc rich ores from second millennium BC, though we can not claim that it was
intentional. Of course stray discoveries of brasses have been made from Bronze and Early
Iron Age sites, but we can not conclude that it was a common metal. The discovery of coins
and other objects indicates that it became popular only in the second half of the first
millennium BC .

Vo!. 1,2006
154
Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective
zinc in Europe
William Champion established a zinc-smelting furnace in 1738 AD at Bristol in England
and started commercial production in 1743. His furnace was quite similar to the Zawar
example with downward distillation (Day, 1973 :75-76). What is interesting is that
Champion used exactly the same technique of distillation per descensum that was used at
Zawar and even used 1.5% (weight) common salt in the zinc smelting charge (Biswas,
1993 :327). Thus his arrangement of retorts and technique was identical to Zawar. Dr. Lane is
believed to have smelted zinc ore at his copper work in Swansea in 1720 (Porter, 1991: 60)
around 20 years before Champion started zinc production in England. Was it Lane who came
to Zawar and learnt zinc-smelting technique and attempted it at Swansea, from where
Champion, Henkel and others copied the Indian process!
Craddock gives credit to the Portuguese ships for transporting zinc from India to China
and eventually introduction of zinc' technology. He emphatically states that the Zawar
process is the ancestor of all known zinc smelting techniques in the world.
Conclusion
Thougp. early evidence of metallic zinc is known from Athenian Agora and Taxila
(datable 41h to 2
nd
centuries BC), there is no evidence of regular production of metallic zinc at
these sites. However, recent discovery ofbrasses from Senuwar has now strongly indicated
that metallic zinc was surely being produced during the Early Historic phase in India. It can
be suggested that zinc was no more a rare metal. To date the oldest evidence of pure zinc
comes from Zawar as early as 9'h century AD, when distilration process was employed to
make pure zinc. The Bhils of Southern Rajasthan are held to be the aborigines of this region
(Hooja 1994) and prepare alcohol by traditional down-word distillation method.
Interestingly zinc was also produced ZaWar by using same principle of distillation.
Moreover, Brooke (1850) has recorded that until 1840 the Bhils of Zawar knew distillation
process of pure zinc. Therefore the credit of innovating special retorts and furnaces for
distillation of zinc surely goes to the Bhil tribe of Southern Rajasthan. It was surely this local
knowledge which they could successfully employ for distillation of zinc. Thus the Zawar
metallurgists brought about a break through in non- ferrous metal extraction around 121h
century, if not earlier, by producing it on commercial scale. On the other hand in China
commercial production of zinc started almost three hundred years later than India. It appears
that brass was introduced in China in the early centuries of the Christian Era through
Buddhism, though the idea of zinc distillation process may have traveled in l6'h century via
international trade to China. From China it was exported to Europe in the middle of the 171h
century AD under the name totamu or tutenag, which was derived from Tutthanaga - a name
of zinc in South Indian languages (Bonnin, 1924; Deshpande, 1996). However, Indian zinc
had already reached Europe prior to this and had created great curiosity about this metal.
Thus the commercial production of zinc at Zawar had begun almost three hundred years
earlier than China, if not earlier. Therefore, Zawar has globally stolen the march by
becoming the oldest commercial center of zinc in the world. William Champion's furnace in

155 J.s. Kharakwal and LK Gurjar
Ancient Asia
the 18
th
century at Bristol was based on Indian downward distillation process, the idea of
which may have reached there through the Portuguese or East India Company or by some
European traveler. Hence Zawar, in the words of Craddock, is the · ancestor of all zinc
production techniques of the world. It was an industrial activity, which laid the basis of
various modem chemical and extractive industries.
Acknowledgements
We would like to record our sincere thanks to Prof. D. P. Agrawal and Rajiv Malhotra for
constant encouragement to work on archaeometallurgy in Rajasthan. We are grateful to
Profs. P. T. Craddock, V.H. Sonawane, K. K. Bhan, Toshiki Osada, G. L. Possehl, V. S.
Shinde, K. S. Gupta, S. Balasubramaniam, Michael Witzel, Meena Gaur and Drs Piyush
Bhatt, S. Aruni, P .. Dobal, J. Meena, R. Barhat, B.M. Jawalia, S. K. Sharma,
VishilU Mali, H. Chaudhary and Mr. P. Goyal, L. C. Patel and Miss Noriko Hase for helping
us at various stages while colleting data for this paper.
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159 J.s. Kharakwal and L.K. Gurjar

Ancient Asia

Brasses containing up to 25 percent zinc have been reported from the fifth and third millennium BC contexts from China, but it seems that they did not play any role in the development of zinc production technology in the Far East. It is generally held that the Chinese started using zinc and brass from the last quarter of the third century BC when the Han Dynasty flourished in China. Craddock and Zhou have suggested that zinc was introduced in China through Buddhism around 2000 years ago. However, Weirong and Xiangxi (1994: 16-17) inform that the earliest literary record about brass mentioned as tutly is known from the Buddhist literature belonging to the Tan dynasty (619-917 AD). Brass (thou-shih) was not a common commodity in the early centuries of the Christian Era at least prior to 3'd century AD in China. Bowman et al. (1989) have analysed 550 coins ranging from th 3rd century BC (Zhao dynasty) to the late 19 century (Ch'ing dynasty). They have found that the percentage of zinc suddenly increased by 20% or even up to 28% in brasses of the early 171h century AD. It is also supported by the well known textual evidence of T'ien Kung K'aiWu, written in 1637 (Sung and Sun 1966). It is the first definite evidence of metallic zinc in China, which also mentions details of alloys used for coins. Weirong (1993) has examined ancient Chinese literature and archaeological record and claims that metallic zinc was not th used in China prior to the 16 century AD. As far as India is concerned the firm evidence of zinc smelting is known only from Rajasthan. The antiquity of mining various types of ores in Rajasthan goes back to Bronze Age (mid-fourth millennium BC) as the evidence of Ganeshwar-Jodhpura cultural complex in north Rajasthan and Ahar culture in southern Rajasthan would indicate (Agrawal and Kharakwal, 2003; Misra et al. 1995; Shinde et al. 2001-02). Both these cultural complexes have yielded over 5000 copper-bronze objects (Hooja and Kumar, 1995) ranging from 41h to 1" millennium BC. Apart from these, the Mesolithic site of Bagor in Bhilwara district also yielded a few copper arrowheads (Misra, 1973). There are large number of ancient copper, iron, lead working and smelting sites across Rajasthan in the Aravallis, indicating a long tradition of metallurgy. Besides metal tools, a variety of pottery, beads of semi precious stones, terracotta, paste and other antiquarian material is known from such early settlements. These early farmers were practicing diverse crafts using pyrotechnologies. It appears that large scale production of different metals e.g., copper at Singhana, Toda Dariba, Banera, Suras, Bhagal, Kotri, lead-silver at Ajmer, Agucha and Dariba, zinc at Zawar and iron at Dokan, Iswal, Karanpur, Loharia, Parsola, Bigod, Jhikari-Amargarh, belonging to the medieval times (Kharakwa1, 2005) was the result of such long experience of metal technology involving pyrotechniques. In fact the Aravallis are a polymetallic zone like Anatolia. This paper is an attempt to present an overview of the archaeometallurgical researches on zinc and the position of zinc and brass in archaeological perspective in India. Zawar: The Oldest Production Center of Zinc Zawar (24°21' N; 73°43' E) is located on the bank of the River Tiri, about 38 km south of Udaipur town in the Aravalli hills in Rajasthan (Fig. 1). It is the only known ancient zinc 'smelting site in India (Craddock et aI., 1985). The entire valley ofTiri atZawar is marked by
140

•Vo!. J, 2006

2) and stones. the credit of highlighting the importance of the ancient remains however goes to Crookshank (1947). I: Map showing location ofZawar (after Craddock et al 1985) Fig. which indicate a long tradition of zinc smelting at Zawar. Carsus (1960). Fig. Gur ·ar • . Morgan (1976). . On some slag-mounds are found remains of houses made of used retorts (Fig.Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective immense heaps of slag and retorts.s. 2: Residential structures made of discarded retorts Though archaeometallurgical activity at Zawar was casually recorded by several Indian th th and British scholars between 17 and 20 century.K. perhaps belonging to the smelters/smiths. Kharakwal and L.

Hegde of M..T. The major mineralization of sphalerite and galena with varying quantities of pyrite have been found in the form of sheeted zones.. and at Hiran Magra in Zawar area in the form of deep trenches. Paliwal et al.. (1967) and Werner (1976 see in Gurjar et al.. This mineralized belt of Zawar extends for about 25 km. Gurjar et al. These mines are narrow and vary from 10 to 300 m in length. They discovered incredible evidence for mining and furnaces used for zinc smelting. long serpentine galleries and inclines. 2001). 1981). Zinc (Zn) is generally found in veins in association with galena. chalcopyrite.Ancient Asia Strackzeck et al. 1986. 1984). Willies. shafts. The Aravalli range in southern Rajasthan is composed of rugged and gorgeous hills of pre-Cambrian metamorphic rocks with narrow valleys.. •Vol.. stringers and lenticular bodies (Raghunandan et al. Since these minerals are quite distinct from each other it was possible to separate them manually and this explains why zinc mining and smelting developed only at Zawar. Mochia Magra. veins. 1989. but major deposits are found in the Aravallis.M. Mining Zinc ores are widely distributed in the country. It is the northwestern continuation of Zawar mineralization. 2006 142 . Udaipur in 1983 (Craddock et al. There are extensive remains of old workings in Zawarmala.S. There is extensive evidence of underground mining too (Fig. Perhaps these reports encouraged P. besides primitive smelting retorts from the dam fill at Zawar. and about 15 km south ofUdaipurtown. open stopes. ironpyrite. This team carried out extensive investigations both for ancient mining as well as smelting of zinc at Zawar. These remains have not been studied in detail but considering the shape of retorts it can be safely concluded that they are of the same period. 3). It appears that this mining continued for several hundred years as indicated by the enormous mound of slag and smelting debris . silver and cadmium and other sulphide ores (Raghunandan et al. 1983. Balaria. Hegde. 2001. Kaya is located 6 km north ofZawar. These rocks are rich in zinc ore in the form of sphalerite veins in association with galena and copper bearing deposits. 1985. though the well known ancient lead-zinc workings are located in the Zawar area ofUdaipur district. In recent years one of the largest lead-zinc deposits have been discovered at Agucha in Bhilwara district (Tewari and Kavadia 1984).T. Craddock of British Museum and K. Besides Zawar. J. the evidence of early zinc mining and smelting has also been found 2 km south east of village Kaya in form of a small retort heap and ancient mine workings in the adjacent hills. University of Baroda to initiate archaeometallurgical study at Zawar jointly with Hindustan Zinc Limited. 1981).

Kharakwal and L.K.s. Arch shaped pillars (about 4X5m) were left to support the roof while developing such stopes and chambers (Gurjar et al. The smelting debris and mining clearly indicates that it was carried out for lead and silver. After dousing the fire the rocks were broken with chisels. 1981 :86-87) is a remarkable evidence of ancient mining technology practiced in southern Rajasthan. in the 3rd 4th century BC (Craddock et a/. 1989:59. Such mines are rarely known in the ancient world. These stopes and branched chambers were supported by finger like inclines further down. (Raghunandan et al.. ashes and calcined rocks (HindZinc Tech 1989). 1984). the nUners followed the down ward extension along dip and pitch of the ore-shoot and developed huge inclined stopes and chambers underground. An opencast mine oflead-zinc (300 m long and 100 m wide) developed over east lode at Dariba. Here. roof support. At Agucha also extensive evidence of mining of rich galena pockets datable to the Mauryan times has been discovered (Tiwari and Kavdia. the supporting pillars. 200 I). 1984: 84-85). hoes and other iron implements. 1989: 62. Willies et a/. This consists of three or probably four benches each 4m high with closely placed vertical posts. 3: The ancient mine in Zawar Once the ore was located on ground. 143 J.Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective Fig. smooth surface of rock faces with sooty deposits and the floors are buried deep in charcoal.. Mining was carried out by fire setting as evidenced by the rounded profile of galleries and stope chambers. pI3). A 14C date from Dariba indicates that deep underground mining had begun in the second half of the second millennium BC. in one of the underground mines of the East Load the miners reached up to a depth of263 m. held back by three pairs of horizontal timbers and are pinned by long timbers to provide support to weak hangingwall. Extensive open pit mining followed by underground method was carried out at RajpuraDariba. haulage scaffold C'C date: 2350± 120 BP) have been found in the nUnes. based on the presence of gossan or mineralized veins. Excavation carried out by Hindustan Zinc Limited in 1986 has brought out the presence of massive timber revetment in the hanging wall of the open pit. A few such objects have been discovered from Mochia mines (Craddock et al. Gurjar • . Extensive use of wood in the form of ladders. pick axe.

2. It is likely that some kind of buckets may have also been used for pulling out water from such deep mines. Some scholars have argued that Zawar should be identified as Aranyakupgiri of the Samoli inscription (Halder. Craddock et al. 1989: 6). The word Aranyakupgiri of the inscription perhaps stands for deep well like mines.12.35). His duty was to identify metals and establish factories. Dariba and Agucbha in Rajasthan. J. It is interesting to note that mining of such non-ferrous metals was also recorded in the contemporary literature like Kautilya's Arthasastra (2. if not earlier. but the inscription may refer to the mines of Basantgarh located near Samoli in Sirohi district rather than Zawar. Perhaps the evidence of smelting ranging from 4'h century BC to 9'h century is buried under the massive dumping of retorts and smelting debris and temple complexes. nd which have been dated back to 2 century BC (Bhatnagar and Gurjar. Dariba and at Zawar may have been the result of a gradual development of mining technology in Southern Rajasthan going way back to the middle of the fourth millennium BC when Bronze Age cultures had just appeared on the scene in the region. They may have been used for crushing! breaking rock fragments in order to separate and beneficiate the ore before smelting. At Dariba such pits having a diameter of27-30 cm and 60-70 cm deep were found close to a large opencast in calc-silicate rock. What is interesting is the fact that no evidence of smelting of zinc has been found so far prior to 9'h century BC. The possibility of shallow depressions at certain interval in the slanting wall of the mines for collection of water can not be ruled out.17. While describing silver ores the text clearly mentions that it occurs with nag (lead) and anjan (zinc).23. Harry (1991) points out that the imperial Maurya series of coins. Of course such mines were there in Zawar during this time. While at Baroi in Za war these were 8-12 cm in diameter and 10-18 cm deep and found on the surface next to ancient mine workings. A few shallow conical and U shaped pits have been reported in hard rocks at Baroi and Dariba. Mining of such ores had surely begun in Rajasthan by the middle of the first millennium BC. 1929-30) belonging to seventh century AD. The evidence of a large stone structure and Early Historic pottery shapes exposed near the Jain temple in old Zawar also confirms the same . Since there is extensive evidence of mining and smelting of lead. •Vol. particularly silver ones. it is quite likely that Kautilya was aware of this activity. have pointed out that mining of zinc ore was surely rd done in Zawarmala in 3 _4'h century BC. 2006 144 . which mentions that there was a superintendent of mines in the Mauryan Empire (Kangle. The underground mining of ores at Agucha. 1972). zinc and silver at Zawar.Ancient Asia For dewatering mines launders of hollowed timber (3 m long and 20cm wide) were used.1. containing one fourth of copper.14 & 4. strongly indicates the mining of silver and zinc from southern Rajasthan.

launder in escape route Trench layer 3 Site 30. Gurjar 145 Js.2482 BM. Pratap khan ZMlLW/85113 small chamber off main galaries ZM/LW/85114 short ladder way ZMlLW/85/8. Radio Carbon Dates for Zawar Mines (After Gurjar et al. small pit or hearth site 2. slag heap site 7.2638 BM. burned layer ZWLW/87/26.2485 BM. trench 2.2487 BM.2149R LW1198211. 2001) BM No. trench 2. layer 2.K.2483 BM-2634 Balaria charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal charcoal wood wood charcoal 240±11O 530±50 350±130 100±45 1950±60 200±35 1930±80 I 370±80 modem 2040±70 modem 2150±11O 2180±35 I 340±1 00 BM 2338 BM 2381 BM-2666 support timber western slope Gallery ZW/LWI 87/32 wood (outer ring wood (outer ring charcoal 170±50 2360±60 390±50 750 to 720 BC or 525 to 385 BC 1440 to 1520AD or 1590 to 1629 AD Kharakwal and L.2481 BM. BM-2017R BM-2065R LW11982/2 BM-2148R BM. modem BM-2222R BM-2223R BM-2243R BM-2484 BM.2486 BM.2488 BM. • . layer 3. top chamber Context Retort Retort Material charcoal charcoal wood wood Date BP modem modem 2350±120 2140±11O Calibrated dates 1550to 1635 AD Modem 760t0360BC 285 t0255BC 365 BC TO 90 AD 15 I 0 to 1690 AD or 1730 to 1810 AD or 1925 AD \to modem 1320 to 1345 AD orl390 to 1435 AD 1420 to 1670 AD 1695 to 1730ADor 1815 to 1920AD 25BCtol15AD 1660 to 1675 AD or 1745 to 1800 or 1940 AD to modem 40 BC to 145 AD. site 34 site 5. N side of furnace sample 33. layer 3 site 29.. slag heap furnace block ZWLW/22.2639 BM. slag heap site 14.Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective Table 1. 170 to 180AD 595 to 720 AD or 740 to 765 AD 160 TO 135 BC or 125 BC to 25 AD modem 365 to lOO BC 355 to 290 BC or 250 to 195 BC 600 to 790 AD 1660 to 1725 to 1860 to 1920 to 1695 AD or 1820AD or 1865 AD.

separated by a thick perforated plate of clay. copper. The fragment ofrelatively small.. 1960. who was ruling in the last quarter of the 14th century. 1908. 1989: 41-43). roughly squarish on plan (66x69 cm). (2001: 633) write. 1. 4). It is presumed by the excavators that the furnaces may have looked like truncated pyramids and their height may have been about 60 cm. It seems that large scale production of zinc continued despite political instability in southern Rajasthan during the late medieval times. It appears that the main expansion of the industrial phase of zinc production began at Zawar sometime from 11''' or 12'"century". As many as 36 retorts were placed in each furnace for •Vol. filled with charge. One of the major mines at Zawarmala is known after him.g. The mining and smelting activity was not only registered in the contemporary local records and literature (e. Shambhu Singh (1861-1874 AD) and Sajjan Singh (1874-1884 AD). Pindaris and the Marathas and recurrent famines in the 18 century these mines were abandoned. th frequent attacks of the Mughals. It is believed that due to political instability in Mewar. Besides. Rajasthan State Archaives records ofUdaipur and Bikaner and others) but also in the writings of several scholars of the 19th and 20 th century. Carsus. unlike the Chinese traditional zinc smelting. Nainsi ri Khyat in 1657. upper and lower. 2006 146 . Smelting and Production The entire valley of the Tiri in Zawar is dotted by massive dumpings of slag and earthen retorts indicating a long tradition and commercial production of zinc. were placed on the perforated plate in inverted position in the upper chamber. lead was being done as late as the 19 century in several parts of Rajasthan. Each furnace had two chambers. is believed to have re-opened these mines . Brinjal shaped earthen retorts. 1850. A few British officers attempted to restart these mines in the middle and late nineteenth century with the financial support of Maharana Sarup Singh (1842-61). primitive retorts and perforated plates found in the earth fill of dam across the Tidi (Tiri) river may belong to the period or they must at least predate the dam itself. but failed. 1950: 221-222). Maharana Pratap (16 century) is also credited for opening new mines at Zawar. He might have opened th several new mines rather than reopening the old ones. mostly British (Anon. Shyamal Das. Erskine. 1986 I (originally published in 1886): 305. Tod.Ancient Asia The consistency of these radiocarbon dates clearly suggest that mining activity was carried out during the Early Historic period and medieval times (Craddock et aI. th Mining of several ores for example iron.. Gwjar et al. It was Abul Fazl who for the first time in 1596 in his well known Ain-i-Akbari recorded the zinc mines of Zawar (Blochmann. Bakshikhana Bahi 91 . Several radiocarbon th dates (see table 1) bracketed between 12th and 18 century also conform this activity. 1872: Brooke. Traditionally Maharana Lakha or Laksha Singh (14th century). Unfortunately the Zawar zinc operation came to a halt around 1812 AD. At Zawarmala a bank of seven distillation furnaces (Fig. "the earliest evidence of zinc smelting on industrial scale is the carbon date of 840±110 AD for one of the heaps of white ash removed from zinc smelting furnace. were discovered by Craddock et al. 1989:48).

(1984) and Freestone et al.S. Craddock (1995 :309-321) compares these furnaces with koshthi type furnaces illustrated in th Rasaratnasamuchchaya. It has been estimated that 600.000 tons of smelting debris at Zawar. (1985) have carried out technical studies of ore and retorts. It was surely an ingenious method that was devised for downward distillation of zinc vapour by the Zawar metallurgists. To prepare the charge the ore was subjected to crushing and grinding and mixed with some organic material and cow dung! rolled into tiny balls and left in the sun for drying.000 tones of metallic zinc in four hundred years th (between 1400 and 1800 AD). A thin wooden stick was placed in the narrow opening of retort. Such special retorts. The retorts were made in two parts and luted together after filling the charge. has reported that the mines of Mewar were very productive during the eighteenth century. were developed by the metallurgists at Zawar for zinc distillation. Identification of different size of retorts is sure indication of different shape and size of furnaces at Zawar.Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective smelting and they were heated for three to five hours. Kharakwal and L. Ifwe estimate this production from 12th century to 18 century the quantity of metal would certainly be more than 50. British Museum and M. University Baroda for such wonderful discovery that is possibly the ancestor of all high temperature pyrotechnical industries of the world. Colonel Tod in his well known work. and at the same time would facilitate the escape of zinc vapour formed during heating. These balls then were placed in retorts after drying. and in the year of 1759 alone the mines 147 Js. zinc vapor was collected and condensed in the lower chamber in small earthen pots. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. it was for the first time anywhere in the world that pure zinc was produced by distillation process on a commercial scale at Zawar. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Hindustan Zinc. and other earlier texts on the same subject.000 tonnes. produced about 32. After heating. Gurjar • . as the evidence of a bigger furnace (base 110 cm square) from old Zawar would also indicate. Gangopadhyay et al. ranging from 20 to 35 cm in length and 8 to 12cm in diameter. Thus. an alchemical text datable to 13 century. Fig. which perhaps prevented falling of charge in the lower chamber before heating when they are initially inverted in the furnace.K. 4: Zinc smeltingfurnaces at Zawar It has been estimated that each retort may have been filled with one kilogram of charge out of which 400 gram of zinc may have been produced. Thus each furnace produced around 25 to 30 kg of zinc in one activity of smelting.

It is worth mentioning here that most of the existing forts. 700. 2. 1992: 26-27. One of the objects (antiquity No. Tod writes that about half a century ago these mines were earning Rs. has yielded around half a dozen copper based objects containing zinc. Another record belonging to the reign of Maharana Raj Singh. which. 1. 399). a Harappan sites in Gujarat (2200-1500 BC) (Rao. Malu.2006 148 .15 to 6. which varies from 0. belong to Vela Vania (a trader known as Vela).50. 80. 1987. (2001: 634) have examined a record of the same king dated to 1655 AD.75. As the entire area of Zawar is gorgeous and agriculture may not have been enough to generate revenue. Perhaps Vela Vania was involved in zinc trade. which could be termed as the earliest evidence of brass •Vat.000 (Tod. It is likely that the revenue earned due to brisk trade of zinc at Zawar was utilized for construction of these large monuments. 11. therefore it is likely that the entire revenue was earned from mining and production of zinc. Udaipur which mentions an income of Rs. Moreover the Imperial Gazetteer ofIndia Provincial Series Rajputana (1908: 52) clearly mention that these mines were famous for silver and zinc and were worked on a large scale un611812-13 when the worst famine took place (Kachhawaha. Gurjar in 1984 (Gurjar et al. For example Lothal. 2001) at old Zawar also suggests that this area was an important commercial center. 1987). 6. three 1akhs annually.Ancient Asia earned Rs. water structures.70.944 (Bhati. 14). 12. Erskine (1908) also informs that these mines were certainly an important source of income right from fourteenth to early nineteenth century as they yielded more than two lakh rupees annual revenue for Maharana's treasury at least until 1766. 1947). Gurjar et al. The production of zinc was perhaps very high under the rule of Maharana Jagat Singh and Maharana Raj Singh during 17th century as the local records of AD 1634-35 and 1657 reveal that annual revenue of Zawar was rupees 2. It is also clearly indicated in the record that per day income of these mines was Rs. Dariba mines yielded Rs. There are remains of few structures on top of a hillock at Zawar.002 respectively. 1. huge water reservoirs. temple th th complexes. et al. 17. contains 70.7% of copper.967 in a single month from Zawar! We are however. 4189).22.000 and 1.04 % of zinc and 0. though not identified. reads that the revenue earned in a year from Zawar was Rs. Thus the annual income from Zawar was quite handsome and it is likely that due to large scale production of zinc Zawar may have become one of the main sources of th state revenue and an important trade centre between the 12th and early 19 century AD.04 % (NautiyaI. The th discovery of an earthen pot containing a coin hoard datable to 16 century by L.2. not sure whether this income was obtained only from mining and smelting. Since we do not have any evidence of ancient tin working in Mewar region his tin mines must be nothing but zinc mines of Zawar. Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective Only a few Harappan bronzes have yielded a small percentage of zinc. according to knowledgeable villagers. 1995: 1.K.96. 1985).000. preserved in the State Archaives. 1950: 222. 1981). and other monuments in Mewar were built between 10 and 18 centuries AD. He has recorded these mines as Tin mines ofZawar. this estimate was confirmed by Muhnot Nainsi in his famous work Nainsi ri Khyat (1657) (Ranawat. Singh.9% Fe.

149 J. which is lower than the temperature it could be smelted. Brasses made by cementation method generally contain less than 28% of zinc and rarely could go up to 33% (Werner. Kharakwal and LX Gurjar • . The other possibility is that zinc was scrapped from the cooler parts of the furnaces at both sites! Besides these. One of the objects leaded bronze contains 1.25% of tin and small quantity of lead (3 . 1973. Timargarh and Senuwar.72% of tin and 16. Nevertheless these examples perhaps represent the early or experimental stage of zinc in India. Another evidence of real brass was discovered recently at Senuwar in the Ganga Valley from the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP) levels (Singh. brass and iron (Marshall. has yielded a large variety of metal objects including those of copper. 1920: 409-411 . Roy.324% of copper and 35. The production of metallic zinc has been traced back to 9 century AD at Zawar. Joshi 1973:77). but there is a strong possibility that the older evidence is buried under the immense heaps. 1920: 404. 4. bronze. Since the examples ofTaxila and Senuwar have yielded more than 33% of zinc. 1951 :567-69).0% lead and 6. which predates the arrival of the Greeks at Taxila (Biswas.68% tin. 2003: 266). Such evidence has been found from Taxila. There is some evidence of brass from the early Iron Age when we come across two examples from Atranjikhera (1200600 BC). Asura sites in Chhotanagpur region (Caldwell. yet in the absence of definitive evidence we cannot claim that they employed this process for obtaining zinc. 9. a long spear head of copper was found containing 3.4%). therefore these are the earliest definite examples of real brasses. Craddock et al. Taxila. located about 30 km north ofRawalpindi in Pakistan. if it is not condensed. They must have been made by mixing metallic zinc with copper. another Harappan site in north Rajasthan. Ithas 64. It th is possible. Prakash (Athavale and Thapar.34 % of zinc. 1967: 132 table IV) and Mahurjhari in Mahararashtra (Deo.405) have yielded brasses. This kind of evidence clearly points out they were made by cementation process. Zinc is a volatile metal and due to its low boiling point (907°C). Though Taxila folks were aware of the distillation process (Habib. BM 2381 380± 50 BC) at Zawar and metallic or pure zinc was produced here by distillation process for the first time in th the world. though not proven that metallic zinc was produced atZawar way back from the 6 century BC. Most of these brasses have more than 15% of zinc and some of them contain between 22 to 28 percent of zinc. from here it reached at Taxi la and Senuwar. 1993) and has assayed 34.20% of zinc (Gaur 1983: 483-90).28% of zinc whereas the other one assayed 20. 1970).Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective in India.0%). Unless we have more examples of bronzes containing appreciable percentage of zinc replacing tin. Several brass objects datable from the 4th century BC to 1SI century AD have been discovered. it comes out in the vapour form from the furnace and gets reoxidised.52% of zinc. it is difficult to smelt. which have been dated to the second halfofthe first millennium BC. have pointed out that zinc ore was th mined way back from 5 century BC «PRL 932 430±100 BC. From Kalibangan. iron (1. arsenic or other elements we can not infer that the Bronze or Early Iron Age cultures were aware of the nature and property of zinc.77%) and nickel (0.s. Unlike other metals. 2004: 594). 2000). The archaeological record indicates that in the second half of the first millennium BC the percentage of zinc started increasing and intentional use of brass appears on the scene. One of them was a vase from Bhir mound. a Painted Grey Ware culture site in the Ganga doab.4% of zinc (Lal et al.

BC-AD I" cent. BC 2"" cent. 1994: 360. 1906:89 Smith. BC nd 2 cent. 1906: 203-204 Smith. BC 2"" cent. Dhana Deva (Ayodhya) Siva Datta (Ayodhya) Ajavenl). 1906: 196 Smith.!. I" -2"" cent. 19p6: 181 Smith. Biswas and Biswas. 1906: 207 Smith. 1906: 155 Smith. Since none of them is analysed we do not know if they are real brasses (objects containing more 28% zinc are called real brasses) or made by cementation process. What is interesting is that most of these coins belong to the regional kings. 1906: 193 Smith. 1906: 186-187 Smith. 1906: I ~6 Smith. which include lids. 1906: 192 Smith. several other brass antiquities have also been reported from the Early Historic sites in Uttar Pradesh.100 AD 125. AD U .a (Ayodhya) Hagamasha (Satrap of Mathura) Audumbara king Yaudheya kings Agnimitra (Panchala and Kausha1.2006 150 . 1996: 132) . 1906: 333 Chatterjee. 1906: 193 Smith.80 BC 100 BC I" cent. chariot and religious object and utensil (Biswas. 1906:)94 Smith. utensils. 1906) (see Table 2). AD Medieval 3" -4'" cent. finger rings. are known mostly from northern India. 1906: 150 Smith.AD 3'd -4'" cent.-" 2""cent. caskets.Ancient Asia Several circular or rectangular punch-marked and other coins of brass. BC d 2· cent. bracketed nd between the 2 century BC and 4th century AD (Smith..100 AD 150 BC-lOOAD 150 BC. 1906: 205 Smith.) Bhumitra (Panchala and Kaushala) Devasa {K~sam) Unidentified Unidentified Pasaka SK~shana type) Unknown (Jajjapura/i) Sri Siva type Basata (later Kushana) 5 2 3 2 I 8 3 1 6 4 No. BC-AD I cent. bangles."" cent. AD Beside coins. AD? 1. BC nd 2 cent. BC nd 2 cent. 1906: 205 Smith. •Vol. T906: 179-180 Smith. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. 1906: 148 Smith. The archaeological record clearly points out that the Indians knew brass prior to the arrival of the Greeks. BC-AD la. This kind of evidence goes against the assumption that the Greeks introduced brass in India. 1906: 149 Smith. 1906: 168-169 Smith. 1906: 187 Smith. 1906: 193 Smith. 1993. 1957: 103 150 BC. BC id cent. 1. Table 2: Early brass coins of India (After Smith 1906) No 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Period 200 BC 200 BC 2"" cent. icons. ·1 1 Shape Not stated Not stated Not stated Circular Not stated Not stated Not stated Circular Not stated Circular Rectangular Rectangular Circular Not stated Circular Not stated Circular Circular Circular Rectangular Circular Not stated Not stated Not stated Reference Smith. indicating popularity of brass in India. 1906: 20 I Smitl. BC King/Site Gomitra Mitasa (Gomitra?) or Satasa Unidentified Gomitra (Mathura) Uttama Datta (Mathura) Bhavadatta (Mathura) Purushadatta (Mathura) Amoghbhuti (Kuninda king) Rajanya (Naga or Narwar) _~svaghosa (Kosam).

1978). In some cases lead is present up to 9. it was preferred for making Hindu. extensively traveled in India. 2000 vol. Biswas (1993) writes that the icon of seated Tirthankara dated AD 1752 from Gujarat is one the finest example ofthe late medieval brasses in India. which was made a few years before the Maratha invasion of Mewar. 151 J. which must have been useful rending fluidity to the metal. cementation process and mixing metallic zinc wi th copper. Obviously these brasses were made by selection of ore. 166. 1988).46.Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective Since zinc could change the colour of copper and impart it a golden glitter. Craddock (1981 :20-31) has reported analysis of 121 Tibetan and Himalayan icons/metal works by atomic absorption spectrophotometer for 13 elements in each sample down to 10ppm level. Pal. 174). containing appreciable amount of zinc. have been reported from various parts ofGujarat. is also fairly well known. From Phopnarkala and East Nimar.177. The percentage of zinc in such artifacts ranges from 28 to 54. 1991 a.5%. West Bengal and Bangladesh. 1994. In the first half of the seventh century AD (AD 629-645) Hiuen Tsiang. He saw a magnificent vihara (residential complex of Buddhist monks) of brass near Nalanda under construction during the reign of Raja Siladitya (Harshavardhan AD 606-647). 1983). 2000vol ii: 174). several standing brass images of Buddha have been discovered (Sharma and Sharma. which might have been made by mixing copper and zinc.89. which means that they were made by cementation process (Tondan. He also noticed brass images (teou-shih) of Buddhist and Brahmanic deities at several places in northern India (Beal.197. For example among the brass icons of the Himalayan region (from Tibet to Gandhar) lead is present in appreciable amount and the percentage of zinc varies from 4 to 35 (Chakrabarti. 1988. and Lahiri. 2000) assigned to the Gupta-Vakataka th th period (5 _6 centuries AD). b).198. and tb th are datable to 6 to 14 centuries AD (Swarnakamal. Kharakwal and L.K. It seems that most of the brasses of his list belong to Medieval and later Medieval times.i : 51.S. mainly coming from Bihar. Reedy. He has shown that as many as 45 artifacts have more than 28% of zinc. voLii:45. A large number of bronzes and brasses mostly icons of Jain and Hindu deities. in Madhya Pradesh. Gurjar • . The metal art of Eastern Indian complex. In the absence of a source of zinc in the Himalayan region it may be suggested that metallic zinc may have been supplied from Zawar. Most of the late medieval brasses were made by mixing metallic zinc with copper as the percentage of zinc has been found to exceed more than 28 %. It is likely that all these brasses were made of using metallic zinc from Zawar. It would have been more than 100 feet long when completed (Beal. Buddhist and Jain icons throughout the historical period. a Chinese scholar of Buddhism. These brasses contain high percentage of zinc ranging from 21 to 30%. 1996: 108-109. belonging to Pala tb and Sena School of art datable between 8 to 12th centuries AD contain considerable amount of zinc (Leoshko and Reedy. Such leaded brasses were called kakatundi in ancient India. A large number of ancient bronzes. Reedy. The higher percentage of lead in these brasses clearly suggests that it was deliberately added to increase the casting ability of the metal.

3 2.Bi Fe. decorative pieces.Ag.Ai. 1993 and Swamakamal.0 35.3 Sn% Pb% Fe% 1.7 58. Mg.2006 . which might have been made by zinc obtained from Zawar.9 72.5 0. Si. Ni.2 39. most of which have a high percentage of zinc. As. 1956). BidriWare The Bidri Ware ofBidar in South India.3 60. Their results show that the content of zinc varies from 76 to 98%. 1978) No Object I 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ambika Model of temple with4doors Vlshnu-Narayan Rajput Prince Kal Bhairava Chauri Bearer Dipalakshami Provena.9 1. Au 9.5 2.4 68. who ruled over India between 12th and 16 centuries.5 18. It is a zinc alloy decorated with silver or gold inlay.9 36. which must have been useful rending fluidity to the metal.5 28.Mg Fe.8 " Tirthankara (seated) 10 Sadakasari Lokesvara form ofAvlokitesvara 2. It is held that the artillery made of iron.6. There are a few brass cannons at Udaipur too. Mg. Bi AI0. in which a large number ofbrasses for example utensil.5 33.4 to 19%. AI.1 2. guns. belonging to medieval period. The metallurgists were obviously skilful to produce high quality of brass. Large cannons and guns made of brass have been reported from Agra. copper 2 to 10% and lead 0.3 4. Lead isotope studies have indicated that the zinc was not 152 •Vo!. Mg Fe. Mg AI1.Ag Al.Ag.Bi Fe.9 76.75 - Table 3 contains a few brasses from medieval and late medieval period ofIndia. 1979: 40-42).5 2.3 58.8 62. 1.0 1. All those examples containing more than 33% were certainly made of metallic zinc.8 35.9 36.2 0. Si. Ni.37 " " Rajasthan Gujarat Gujarat Rajasthan Gujarat Gujarat Nepal 1.9 0.Ag. Mg. is well known for its glossy black surface decorated with exquisite silver inlay art (Gairola.3.8 13. had metal karkhanas (factories). In some cases lead is present up to 9. Gujarat Period 1350 1480 1485 15th-16th 1554 17th 17th 18th 1752 Cu% Zn% 68.6 2. Bengal and other places (Neogi.6 58. It is quite likely that all these brasses were made by using metallic zinc th from Zawar. Cd. mortars and so on were produced perhaps employing zinc from Zawar (Neogi.7 6.5 0.AI Fe.6 0.5 0.5%. 1979).Ag.8 52.Ancient Asia Table 3: Elemental percentage ofbrasses datable to 14th to 18th centuries AD (after Biswas. bronze and brass was introduced in India during the Mughal period. The Mughals.Bi Fe.5 1. La Niece and Martin (1987) have done detailed technical study of27 vessels of this ware from the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection.8 21.4 1.1 - Impurities Fe.2 1.

these Ayurvedic texts are perhaps the earliest literary evidence of zinc in India. This may only be the Indian brass.g. if this metal was not imported from outside! Literary Evidence th nd Ayurvedic treatises such as Susrnt Samhita (5 century BC) and Charak Samhita (2 century BC) record the use of essence of various minerals and metals e. Nagarjuna was certainly a great scientist. which was prepared by heating a metal in air and was used for cUring eyes and wounds (Chikitsasthanam 26. 1972 vol 11: 108). lead (sisa). tin. arkuta or arkutah. jewels and of special variety of wood (Datt Ram. gold. brass (arakuta). 1993: 257). Neogi. copper. Ray. which was perhaps originally written. tin (trapu). 1989: 52-53). This kind of evidence indicates that Indians were making brass way back in 4'h century BC. bronze (kamsa or kamsya). ritika. Sastri. brass. and not the kind that is forged. 1994: 361-362. tala and iron (Kangle. bronze and brass for preparation of medicine. a Persian king. not only 153 Js. Strabo quotes the explanation of Nearchus about India. 1960 vol I: 59 and vol 11: 124. 1997:208). pitala and so on (Chakrabarti and Lahiri. th Kautilya's Arthasastra is one of the earliest firm datable (4 century BC) textual evidence fqr mining and smelting of metals. Brass has also been frequently. silver. The term kamsakuta of Digha-nikaya and Dhammapada Atthakatha has been interpreted as brass coins by Chatterjee (1957: 104-111). tooth. Shanna. 1956: 116-118) argues. who traveled the north-western part of this country with the Macedonian army in 4'h century BC.K. and writes that "they use brass that is cast. 1979: 41.Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective obtained from Zawar for Bidri ware (Craddock et al. Kangle. iron. as Biswas (1993: 317. though we don't have chemical analysis of known coins of this period. and he does not state the reason. Ray. although ·hementions the strange result thatfollows the use ofthe vessels made ofcast brass. This could be identified as zinc oxide as Craddock (1989: 27) points out that "no other metal would react in the air to produce an oxide suitable for medicinal purpose". riti. This kind of result has brought about a challenge to look for other zinc production sites in India.mentioned in ancient Sanskrit and Buddhist literature and was popularly known as harita. Both these texts record brass as riti or ritika. Therefore. Kharakwal and L. Darius I. for the first time. had a few Indian cups. between 2nd and 4th century AD and compiled around 7'h or 8<11 centuries AD. These texts also mention that the instruments used for curing delicate parts of the body were made of gold. 1900: 12.250) (Shukla and Tripathai. horn. It is interesting that both Charak Samhita and Susrnta Samhita refer to pushpanjan. which reveals that the director of metals was responsible for establishing factories of various metals such as copper (tamra). 2002: 661. silver. which were indistinguishable in appearance from gold except for their smell (Hett. copper.. He strongly argues that brass currency was in vogue between 6'h and 4th century BC in India. But we do not know whether it happened due to absence oflead or high percentage of zinc? The alchemist Nagarjuna is well known for his treatise on alchemy titled Rasaratnakara. 2001 11: 444). Gurjar • . 1996: 149. who. that when they fall to the ground they break into pieces·like pottery" (Jones. 1954: 117). 1956: 60).

is the best available literary evidence of zinc production process.2006 154 .. Besides these. The discovery of coins and other objects indicates that it became popular only in the second half of the first millennium BC . Ray 1956: 129). who described production of a variety of tutiya in Iran. These texts reveal that koshth~ type furnaces were used for smelting and had an arrangement of two chambers separated by a perforated plate.. is an important alchemical text. 1989: 31. 1. an alchemical text datable to 12th century AD. This is therefore the earliest literary evidence. Besides. but we can not conclude that it was a common metal. 1979: 43-45). And brass has surely longer history than zinc. a late 13 or early 14 century work of iatro chemistry. He has recorded two different kinds -ofbrasses such as Rajariti and Brahmariti. 1979: 41). Thus the Persian literary source also th supports production of zinc in India in 9th _10 centuries AD.making by distillation process (Ray. which obviously might have been better than the Persian one. 1994: 361-362. All the aforesaid literary references clearly suggest that metallic zinc was known in India several centuries before the actual dated evidence of commercial production at Zawar. In fact the zinc smelting process described by Yasodhara earlier has more or less been repeated in this text th besides the illustrations of apparatus by Somadeva. Allan (1979: 43-45) cites the work of Abu Dulaf. •Vo!. For distillation tiryakpatana . It is likely that the Persians imported Indian tutiya. Apart from these there are a few other alchemical texts such as Rasakalpa. mratica rasak. The description by Yasodhara for extraction of zinc appears to be the best one as Craddock et al. besides different kinds of zinc ores e. in which both brass and zinc have been recorded. th th datable to 9 _10 centuries AD. th th yantra were used. Rasprakash Sudhakar ofYasodhara. which records that brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. He recorded that the Indian tutiya was preferred in Persia (Allan. Thus the aforesaid archaeological and literary evidence indicates that Indians had started using zinc rich ores from second millennium BC.Ancient Asia described cementation process but also zinc production by distillation technique (Biswas.'s (1989) work has shown that it fits well with the process used at Zawar. Of course stray discoveries of brasses have been made from Bronze and Early Iron Age sites. The Persians also recorded Indian tutiya as the vapour of tin (Allan. 1956: 118). AI-risalat al-thqniya. Bhavaprakasanighantu. recorded as many as seven different kinds of alloys (upadhatus) including bronze and brass (Chunekar and Pandey. This text clearly records zinc making process (Craddock et ai. 1989: 74) from Zawar. which might be zinc (Craddock et al. Rasarnavatantra. 1993: 317. The Rasaratnasamuchchaya. Ray.D).e. Rasarnavam Rastantram.g. Bhavamisra in the 16 century in his well known work. also explain different kind ofbrasses and zinc. gud rasak and pashan rasak. two other types of brasses (pittala) i. though we can not claim that it was intentional. Rasendrachudamani of Somadeva and Rasachintamani of Madanantadeva (all datable from 10th to 12th centuries A. 1956: 171-191). 2002: 609). 1979: 44). ritikaand kaktundi have also been recorded (Neogi.

It can be suggested that zinc was no more a rare metal. from where Champion.a name of zinc in South Indian languages (Bonnin.Zinc and Brass in Archaeological Perspective zinc in Europe William Champion established a zinc-smelting furnace in 1738 AD at Bristol in England and started commercial production in 1743. However. From China it was exported to Europe in the middle of the 171h century AD under the name totamu or tutenag. Was it Lane who came to Zawar and learnt zinc-smelting technique and attempted it at Swansea. Moreover. if not earlier. Conclusion Thougp. Kharakwal and LK Gurjar • . which was derived from Tutthanaga . Thus the Zawar metallurgists brought about a break through in non. Indian zinc had already reached Europe prior to this and had created great curiosity about this metal. Zawar has globally stolen the march by becoming the oldest commercial center of zinc in the world. though the idea of zinc distillation process may have traveled in l6'h century via international trade to China. William Champion's furnace in 155 J. 1996). However. by producing it on commercial scale. On the other hand in China commercial production of zinc started almost three hundred years later than India. Deshpande. if not earlier. Dr. What is interesting is that Champion used exactly the same technique of distillation per descensum that was used at Zawar and even used 1.ferrous metal extraction around 121h century. when distilration process was employed to make pure zinc. 1924. He emphatically states that the Zawar process is the ancestor of all known zinc smelting techniques in the world. Interestingly zinc was also produced ZaWar by using same principle of distillation. Henkel and others copied the Indian process! Craddock gives credit to the Portuguese ships for transporting zinc from India to China and eventually introduction of zinc' technology. recent discovery ofbrasses from Senuwar has now strongly indicated that metallic zinc was surely being produced during the Early Historic phase in India. Therefore the credit of innovating special retorts and furnaces for distillation of zinc surely goes to the Bhil tribe of Southern Rajasthan.5% (weight) common salt in the zinc smelting charge (Biswas. Brooke (1850) has recorded that until 1840 the Bhils of Zawar knew distillation process of pure zinc. Lane is believed to have smelted zinc ore at his copper work in Swansea in 1720 (Porter. 1973 :75-76). 1993 :327). The Bhils of Southern Rajasthan are held to be the aborigines of this region (Hooja 1994) and prepare alcohol by traditional down-word distillation method. Thus the commercial production of zinc at Zawar had begun almost three hundred years earlier than China. It appears that brass was introduced in China in the early centuries of the Christian Era through Buddhism. there is no evidence of regular production of metallic zinc at these sites. It was surely this local knowledge which they could successfully employ for distillation of zinc. His furnace was quite similar to the Zawar example with downward distillation (Day. early evidence of metallic zinc is known from Athenian Agora and Taxila nd (datable 41h to 2 centuries BC). To date the oldest evidence of pure zinc comes from Zawar as early as 9'h century AD. 1991: 60) around 20 years before Champion started zinc production in England. Therefore.s. Thus his arrangement of retorts and technique was identical to Zawar.

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