Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thousands and thousands of life size clay warriors stand in silent and eternal defense of the amazing tomb of the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang Di and is called the most spectacular archaeological find of the twentieth century. Qin Shi Huang Di began his reign in China in 221 B.C. at the age of thirteen.

One of his first official acts was to begin the construction of his tomb. Another great work this emperor was responsible for was the Great Wall of China. What makes the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di so fascinating are the approximately 8,000 life sized clay soldiers and horses that stand in trenches and in three of the chambers of the tomb.

One of the most amazing things about the clay soldiers is the fact that they are not all the same. They have different clothes, facial expressions, hair styles and weapons. There are generals, officers and ordinary soldiers, young and old alike. The figures are made of terracotta which is a fine gray clay.

The figures were formed by pressing the clay into molds. The heads of the figures were made separately from several dozen different molds. Features such as facial hair, lips, eyes and ears were added by hand. The completed figures were fired until they were hardened and then painted, although most of the paint has worn off. One can only imagine just how life like these soldiers must have seemed when their vibrant colors were first painted.

One pit alone contains an estimated 6,000 of these life sized soldiers. Archeologists are still working at excavating the site and have yet to determine exactly how large the number of these figures will grow. It is a truly amazing sight considering the fact that only one percent of the tomb has been unearthed.

Not all the jewels and treasures buried with the emperor have been found. According to archaeologists who are familiar with the tomb, some of the treasures in the tomb are guarded by devices that are triggered to release a deadly volley of arrows at any intruder who would dare to approach. It is believed that the workmen who set up these traps were buried alive in order to be sure that the secret of the entrance way died with them.

Emperor Qin was a ruler that was full of contradictions. He was responsible for standardizing writing, language and currency, unifying China. On the other hand, he is known for his cruelty and fierce armies. In an effort to bring the Confucians in control, he burned their religious writings. When their spiritual leaders resisted, he over 460 of them put to death.

Emperor Qin once had 400 enemy soldiers buried alive in one day when he ordered their execution. A total of 200 million people died during his efforts to unify China.

Workers extract a newly discovered warrior in Pit 1 of the tomb.

Detail of armor of one of the Terra Cotta officers.

In this image. a man works to restore the armor helmet of one of the warriors.

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