More Terracotta Warriors rise from the earth

Updated: 2010-05-19 00:00
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More Terracotta Warriors rise from the earth

XI’AN — Chinese archaeologists have unearthed about 120 more figures in their latest excavations at the Terracotta Army site that surrounds the tomb of China’s first emperor in Shaanxi province.

Most of the newly found Terracotta Warriors were broken when unearthed from the No 1 pit in Lintong county, 35 km east of Xi’an, Shaanxi’s capital, where excavation started on June 13 last year, said Xu Weihong, acting head of the excavation team.

Xu said it was still hard to give an exact number of the figures.

The No 1 pit is the first and largest of three pits at the site. It had also suffered the worst damage so archaeologists hadn’t pinned much hope on the excavation.

“It’s a pleasant surprise to find some of them painted in pink, red, white, gray or lilac,” Xu said.

Archaeologists said that the colors on the figures’ faces showed their different expressions, but further studies will be needed. 

Xu and his colleagues used special chemicals to preserve the figures’ original colors. After photographing them, they wrapped them in plastic film for protection.

Richly colored figures were unearthed from the mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of a united China, in the previous two excavations, but once they were exposed to the air they began to lose their luster and turned an oxidized grey.

To better protect the unearthed clay warriors and horses and the colors on them, the museum cooperated with German archaeologists and technicians for more than 10 years and achieved “very effective preservation technologies”.  

“We also found 12 clay horses and a number of other relics such as bronze weapons, wooden chariots, drums and wooden rings in the pit,” Xu said.

The excavation also made clear that the pit had seven layers and was set on fire as archaeologists found traces of burns on the clay warriors and the walls of the pit. 

The newly found figures were between 1.8 and 2 meters tall, a mystery archaeologists are still trying to understand.

“We’re not certain whether people who lived in the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) were actually that tall, or the craftsmen exaggerated their height,” Xu said.

An army officer also stood out in the excavation. Except for his broken head, the figure was one of the most preserved warriors, he said.

Besides the Terracotta Warriors, archaeologists also found piles of charcoal that was believed to be grain in ancient times, said Zhang Tianzhu, deputy head of the excavation team.

On the two chariots, archaeologists found three “suitcases” that were made of a fabric similar to silk. Similar fabric was found on the drum, Xu said.

“It provides important clues for further research on textiles and industry in the Qin Dynasty.”

The No 1 pit is said to contain about 6,000 life-sized Terracotta figures, more than 1,000 of which were found in previous excavations.

Experts believe the emperor had hoped the army would help him rule in the afterlife.

The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 by peasants who were digging a well.

The first formal excavation of the site lasted for six years from 1978 to 1984 and produced 1,087 clay figures. A second excavation in 1985 lasted a year but was cut short for technical reasons.

The Terracotta Army, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in December 1987, has turned Xi’an into one of China’s major tourist attractions.


Xinhua contributed to this story