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The sources of cobalt blue pigment in ancient China

Zhang Fukang;Mike Cowell;Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Academia Sinica;The British Museum;  
This paper reports the results of an analytical survey of about 100 items of early blue glass and blue-and-white ceramics,from Europe,the Near East,the Middle East and the Far East.Energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence technique was used to determine the relative amounts of elements associated with cobalt which included Fe,Mn,Ni,Zn,As and Cu.Three compositional groups were established based on the data obtained.Song and Yuan folk kiln blue-and-white,middle to late Ming blue-and-white,as well as Chinese local coblat minerals all belong to the first com position al group; Warring states,Tang and Egypt cobalt blue all belong to the second compositional group;Yuan and early Ming blue-and-white,as well as Persian blue-and-white all belong to the third compositional group.Based on the results of recent studies on early glasses excavated in China and on the history of communication in ancient China,further discussions on the possibility of importing cobalt from Middle East into China before early Ming were made.
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