We have been talking recently in class about sites and how archaeologists search for sites. A couple of years ago, I watched a program on the discovery channel that focused on the “terracotta army” found in China that for some reason reminded me of this. I did some additional research on the topic now because I still find it extremely fascinating that a group of people would go through so much work to create such detailed statues, and for what purpose.
The Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, located in the Shaanxi Province of China, is the tomb of the Emperor Qin Shi Hung, who was the first emperor of China from 221BC-201BC. The terracotta army is an array of militaristic life-size soldiers and horses (numbering in the range of 7,000 units) made of hard fired clay adorned with real weapons, unique details, and even some armor. The army was buried underground adjacent to the large four layered pyramid-like structure of the mausoleum in three separate pits to serve as the personal body guard to the emperor in the afterlife. The mausoleum alone covers 2.13 square kilometers, contains a burial chamber, and an underground palace resembling his actual palace in real life. Inside the city structure of the mausoleum were many chambers for animals, birds and also 48 tombs for imperial concubines who were buried alive with the emperor. Similar chambers were found outside the mausoleum for others who were buried along with the emperor. In terms of site size the mausoleum and outer grounds where the terracotta army was found measured 12 km long.
So, aside from being insanely cool, I thought this article had several relevant points that could be related back to topics we discussed in class. Most recently (last lecture) we talked about test pits and shovel tests. Some of the literature on the project indicated that archaeologists dug test pits outside the mausoleum to look for artifacts. Secondly, the actual burial mound/tomb has not been excavated but archaeologists have used remote sensing techniques to peek inside the tomb to see what may be inside (this goes along with some of our topics in class). And of course this particular site exemplifies the size and location of materials that may be sub surface or easily visible such as the mausoleum. One last point I wanted to bring up was on the ethics of excavating such a site. A few lectures ago, we talked about if its ethical to dig certain sites and disturb the remains of past cultures of people, this site has obvious evidence of being a “memorial” and “sacred burial” for Chinese culture. Should the site have been left alone for these obvious reasons, or is there merit in justifying the dig to explore ancient Chinese culture. These were a few things I thought of when I read this article and I also would be interested to read others opinions on this topic. Hope this was interesting to everyone.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.