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New Dig at First Emperor Mausoleum Expected to Yield up to 1400 More Terracotta Warriors

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Chinese archaeologists have just launched an exciting new excavation project in a burial pit at the world famous tomb of the First Emperor of China in Xi’an.  Previous excavations revealed that the pit contains as many as 1,400 clay warriors and horses and more than 80 chariots, but lack of protective technologies had halted the dig back in 2008. Despite more than 40 years of research, the great Mausoleum has many more treasures waiting to be unearthed.

China.org.cn reports that the excavation will take place in Pit No. 2, a 200 square meter site that is already known to contain an enormous collection of terracotta chariots, cavalry, and archers.

"You can find all the kneeling archers, soldiers and cavalry in the No.2 pit," said Archaeologist Yuan Zhongyi. "Their colorful paint is also relatively well preserved."

Excavation in Burial Pit No. 2 first began in 1994 but had to be stopped in 2008 before the life-sized figurines could be recovered due to a lack of protective technologies to prevent the statues getting damaged.

“The No.2 pit was famed for the unearthing of several colorful warriors, including a rare specimen with a green face,” reports China.org.cn, “indicating that the army was once painted various colors that faded throughout the ages.”

A complete bronze chariot with four horses built for the First Emperor of China. Archaeologists are expecting to unearth 89 chariots in the new excavation of Burial Pit 2.

A complete bronze chariot with four horses built for the First Emperor of China. Archaeologists are expecting to unearth 89 chariots in the new excavation of Burial Pit 2. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Historical documents suggest that soon after Emperor Qinshihuang ascended to the throne in 246 BC, he began work on his tomb near Xi'an, China. It is now recognized as one of the greatest mausoleums in the world. The massive effort required 700,000 laborers, many of whom were convicts or people who were in debt to the empire. As part of the huge project, craftspeople sculpted around 8,000 colorful warriors — likely using real human beings as inspiration — and those warriors wore stone armor and wielded real lances, swords and crossbows. Archaeologists believe the army was meant to protect the First Emperor in his journey after death.

Terracotta Warriors and Horses, is a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Xi'an, China.

Terracotta Warriors and Horses, is a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Xi'an, China.  Wikimedia, CC

The giant army lay sealed beneath earth and vegetation for more than 2,000 years, until Chinese farmers accidentally discovered the ancient site while digging a well in 1974. It was the beginning of one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. However, while huge discoveries have been made at the site, including thousands of clay warriors, horses, chariots, and weapons, much still remains to be excavated and it is believed that the terracotta army is just the tip of the iceberg, as the emperor’s tomb itself remains unexcavated.

It is unlikely that the tomb of the First Emperor will be opened any time soon. For a start, historical documents reveal that the tomb was filled with deadly traps. Despite being over two millennia old, it has been argued that they would still function as effectively as the day they were installed. Furthermore, the tomb was said to be filled with poisonous mercury to simulate the two major rivers of China, the Yangtze and the Yellow River.  Lastly, archaeologists have said that our technology at present would not be adequate to deal with the sheer scale of the underground complex and the preservation of the excavated artifacts.

Featured image: The terracotta army of China. Source: BigStockPhoto

By April Holloway

Comments

Hi April, thanks for the news. Just wanted to make a quick clarification about the ascension date of the emperor. Ying Zheng (as he was known), ascended to the throne of the Qin state (pronounced Chin) as king in 246 BC during the Warring States period, when different regional states were fighting for control. His armies were ultimately victorious, defeating the other states and unifying China by 221 BC. This is when he renamed himself Qin Shihuang, and when he became emperor of all of China, and started to build his mausoleum, etc. Therefore the 221 BC date is the one that counts as his official rise to the throne of emperor.

rbflooringinstall's picture

Wow. It really was an army. I would love to see more of warriors that still have paint.

 

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

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