Approximately 700,000 workers were forced to work (until death) in order to construct the terracotta army.
The terracotta warriors were discovered by a group of peasants on March 29, 1974, while digging a well on the outskirts of the city of Xi'an, China. The Shaanxi province in China is known for its drought-prone conditions. Hence, little did the farmers know that looking for some water beneath the earth would lead to one of the most mind-boggling discoveries in today's age. The farmers immediately informed the concerned authorities, and the government then requested a group of experts to probe further into the matter. The archaeologists were shocked to find terracotta statues in exceptional state, buried in the earth.
The entire Terracotta Army was preserved in pristine condition below the earth for more than 2,000 years. The exquisite shape in which they were found baffles scientists till date. Today, some of the most striking sculptures are included in the museum's traveling exhibitions around the world, that give information on Qin Shi Huang's mighty reign. Approximately 1,900 of a potential 7,000 warriors had been unearthed until the project was halted for various reasons.
This magnificent archaeological site has now been accredited World Heritage status, and is one of the most popular tourists destinations in China. Buzzle digs up some interesting facts to help you understand what the hype and curiosity behind this ancient treasure is all about.
The Terracotta Army of China
The region to the east of Qin Emperor's tomb at Mount Li had always been a topic of interest among archaeologists due to the past record of finding fragments of terracotta works.
Archaeologists earlier thought the excavation to be limited to couple of statues, but were alarmed when they unearthed thousands of sculptures of warriors, and hundreds of clay figures of chariots and horses.
The mausoleum showed a display of numerous figures, each different from each other. Each figure had unique facial expressions, and although they were discovered in a uniform gray color, small areas of paint suggested their once colorful appearance.
Further digging led to astonishing findings of not just warriors, but also infantrymen, archers, cavalrymen, swords, crossbows, and other weapons.
Historian Sima Qian (145-90 B.C.) suggests that the mausoleum was constructed by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, who had planned for his burial place long before he was enthroned. After Qin Shi Huang took the throne in 247 B.C., he ordered thousands of workers to construct the mausoleum.
The emperor chose a site in proximity to the foot of Mount Li, possibly due to the available geological richness in the form of gold and jade mines. Hence, the work to build an ulterior burial or a city in a mound increased manifold, which continued incessantly until Qin Shi Huang's death in 210 B.C.
The burial chamber was constructed 35 km from Xian, having a staggering 43 m high mound. The interior of the burial consists of two enclosures-a square one with four walls and four doors; and a rectangular one built in the north-south direction.
While the main structures over the chamber are missing, the first statues of the warriors were found under the ground while digging a well. The excavation of the first pit, thus, began at the same location and yielded as many as 1,087 warriors and other army personnel in a standing position, poised for battle, with archers guarding the flanks.
Pit 1 is 230 m in length and 62 m in breadth with 11 parallel corridors. The walls between these corridors were constructed with the help of pounded earth.
Subsequently, Pit 2 and Pit 3 were discovered to the north of Pit 1. The Pit 2 consisted figures of infantry, cavalry, and chariots. Pit number 3 comprised high-ranked officials with a war chariot that was drawn by four horses.
A considerable amount of headless statues were also excavated, indicating that thefts were rampant during that time and after the emperor's death. Digging of Pit 4 did not reveal any sculptures, probably due to unfinished work that was stopped abruptly after the emperor's death.
The four pits as a whole seem to resemble a fort, with Pit 1 and Pit 2 being the left and the right army respectively; Pit 3 the headquarters; and Pit 4 was possibly the middle army.
Studies reveal that figures of the army were constructed separately and then molded together. The figures, once put together, stood at a height of almost 6.5 feet with a unique build for each warrior.
While some warriors depict calm expressions, others have been given a ferocious look with alarming detail. Most likely, eight face molds were used before the expressions were carved.
The soldiers were dressed according to their ranks. Higher-ranked warriors had thick armor and detailed caps, whereas the infantrymen and other officials wore rather simple clothes with little work on them.
After baking the figures, it is believed that they were coated with a mixture of lacquer and colored pigments. Since archaeologists found stains of color on most clay figures, the lacquer's reaction to humidity probably led to peeling away of the paint.
The figures carried exceptional weapons, such as battle-axes, crossbows, arrowheads, swords, and spears; almost all weapons were made from bronze. In Pit 1 alone nearly 500 weapons and thousands of arrowheads were unearthed, with some still being extremely sharp. These weapons were coated with a 10-15 mm thick layer of chromium oxide that protected them from rusting.
Other findings from the pits included burial sites of horses, bronze cranes, ducks; and also carriages and armor suits made from stone.
On excavating further, archaeologists even found sculptures of musicians, dancers, and acrobats in action or performing. Unfortunately, due to unfavorable geological conditions, further excavation was not undertaken. So, the question still remains, why did the emperor choose a contrasting theme so close to the army?
People who believe Qin Shi Huang to be their ancestor were against excavating his tomb. Thus, considering their sentiments, and including the complexities involved in further excavation, the project has been stalled for now.