A new decade, a new archaeological discovery for China

It has been a very happy new year for archaeologists and Sinophiles alike who will delight in the news that China has unearthed a further 200 Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an to add to the existing army of 8,000 soldiers.

China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, announced the discovery on New Year’s Eve. Chinese archaeologists uncovered the new warriors during the third and latest excavation of one of several pits surrounding the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Alongside the warriors, archaeologists also unearthed 12 clay horses, the traces of two chariots and several weapons including bronze swords and bows.

The world-famous Terracotta Army was created 2,200 years ago to protect Emperor Qin in the afterlife following his reign from 221 to 210 BC. According to researchers, it took 30 to 40 years for 700,000 workers to complete the funerary sculptures. The vast army remained hidden from the world until 1974 when a group of local farmers tried to dig a well approximately 1 mile east of Emperor Qin’s tomb in Shaanxi province.

Quite by chance, the farmers stumbled upon fragments of a life-size clay figure sculpted in the form of a soldier. Further excavations revealed a vast subterranean vault containing thousands of the military figures. Lined up in battle formation, each warrior was unique in appearance.

Since then, Chinese archaeologists have continued to excavate the site and erected a museum facility with viewing theatres from which visitors can wonder at the Emperor’s army. The latest additions to the army were found over the course of a 10-year excavation of the “No. 1 Pit”, the largest of the three major pits surrounding the Emperor’s tomb.

Leader of the excavation, Shen Maosheng, told Xinhua that most of the newly-discovered warriors were sculpted into one of two positions: carrying pole weapons or bows. Maosheng says they provide an insight into the different roles and responsibilities of soldiers on the battlefield and the operation of the ancient Chinese military.

Researchers believe that there are likely to be even more vaults and warriors yet to be discovered on the site.

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