The Army That Conquered The World

The Army That Conquered The World.

When a group of farmers stumbled onto the terracotta warriors of the first Chinese emperor in northeastern Xian in 1974, it captivated the world. According to a court historian, Siam Qian, over 720,000 labourers worked on the project that spanned 60 sq km and took 38 years to build. The total number of statues are unknown, as only four pits had been excavated, containing over 8,000 figures so far. The ground around the still unexcavated Emperor’s tomb, encompassing 2.13 sq km, contains a higher concentration of mercury than its surroundings; at the time, mercury was believed to be part of an elixir of eternal life. Pits around the tomb were filled with dancers, musicians and acrobats caught in mid-performances.

“It is the best choice to keep the ancient tomb untouched, because of the complex conditions inside,” said Duan Qingbo, archaeologist and researcher in the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute. Duan, who is also the head of the archaeological team working on the ancient mausoleum, told China Daily that though some historical records about the tomb have proved to be true, the latest findings differ from older accounts. After careful geological prospecting with advanced remote sensing technology over the past five years, Chinese archaeologists found that there are symmetrical stairways and wood-like structures inside the tomb, which have never been described in any records before. “It is not the proper time to open the tomb at the moment, since so many things still remain unknown,” Duan said. Duan’s reluctance to open the ancient tomb is shared by other Chinese officials and archaeologists. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage also does not advocate the excavation of such ancient tombs at present. In accordance with the Protection Law of Cultural Heritage of People’s Republic of China, excavation on such ancient sites is only allowed when they are threatened by natural disasters or robberies, or meet with the requirement of national key projects. “An improper excavation will harm the cultural relics inside the tomb,” Zhang Bai, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said at the 15th Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) held in Xi’an in last October. “These cultural relics have been buried for more than 2,000 years in the grave and have achieved a state of equilibrium. If they are excavated improperly and have no good technology for protection, they will quickly turn bad when they are exposed to the sunlight, oxygen and other things outside the tomb, and the situation could grow out of control,” Zhang said. Zhang revealed that pieces of beautiful white ivory unearthed from an ancient tomb in southern China turned dark and powdery within 2 hours of being unearthed.

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