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The Terracotta Army is an archaeological site located near Xi’an in the Shaanxi province of China. The “army” is comprised of thousands of statues of soldiers that surround the tomb of the first Qin Emperor, Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The site has been an important archaeological site since its discovery in March of 1974. The site has been studied and excavated extensively by archaeologists throughout the past 40 years. Some consider the site to be one of the most important archaeological sites ever found. In 1987 UNESCO added the site to the World Heritage Sites list (Wertz).
Workers who were digging a well on local farmland discovered the Terracotta Army in 1974. The workers informed the Chinese government who then sent qualified officials to examine the artifacts and the site. Examination and excavation of the area revealed an enormous tomb containing over 8,000 soldiers and horses all equipped with weapons as if prepared for war. The researchers quickly realized that they had discovered the largest collection of ceramic and pottery figurines ever found in China. Through written historical record as well as archaeological evidence, researchers have determined that the entire site was built by a team of over 700,000 workers between the years 246-209 BCE (Rhodes). Through excavation and examination of the site researchers have determined that the site surrounds the tomb of the first Qin Emperor making it incredibly important to the history of China. The first Qin Emperor made many changed in Chinese culture, including the standardization of coinage, the expansion of the Chinese empire and the first construction of the Great Wall. Because Qin Shi Huang was so important to Chinese history, the discovery of his tomb was a major event for archaeologists. The site is comprised of at least four pits that were constructed to separate the different parts of the army; the first pit contains over 6,000 soldiers who stand at attention. Many of these soldiers were broken or damaged when they were discovered. Researchers have been working ever since to repair the damages. The second and third pits contain the Calvary units complete with chariots and horses and well as higher-level military officials such as commanders and generals (Wertz). Through intense measuring and examination processes archaeologists have discovered that no two figures are exactly a like. Using 3D and x-ray technology archaeologists have estimated that eight face molds were used for the soldiers and then clay was added later to create specific facial features. It is also worth noting that archaeologists have found that the warriors are different heights based on rank and position in the military. Researchers were able to use precise measuring techniques in order to determine this. The actual tomb of the Emperor has lain untouched and unopened. It is thought to be about the size of a football field and is thought to contain vast amounts of precious artifacts. Historical accounts of the building of the tomb report that there were streams of mercury flowing through the tomb to simulate rivers. Chemical testing of the area has supported this claim. It is believed that the Terracotta Army was placed around the tomb in order to protect the Emperor in the afterlife (Rhodes).
Although archaeologists have not excavated the entire site they are certain that many more rooms exists. Ground penetrating radar technology, as well as x-ray technology has revealed vast rooms containing unknown artifacts. One particular room appears to be made of walls that are shaped like staircases (Roach). Through chemical analysis archaeologists have been able to confirm that all of the ceramic figures were once painted with brilliant colors. Some of the statues still display small amounts of faded paint, however most have lost their color. It is believed that this may have been due in part to a fire that took place. There were charred beams and posts that suggest the roof may have collapsed onto the warriors during a fire. The soldiers that are broken also support this claim (Wertz).
A museum has been created around the tomb of the Terracotta warriors that can be visited today. The museum allows visitors to view the warriors and walk around the mound that contains the tomb itself. Researchers are in constant debate on whether or not to excavate the actual tomb. Some argue that it is important to know what lies inside for cultural and historical purposes, while other argue that the site should simply be allowed to rest untouched. In either case the entire site itself is very important to the history of China and much can be learned about the origins of the Chinese Empire from this site.
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