Chinese scientists have finally solved a long-time riddle: where were the 8,000 terra-cotta warriors made that were unearthed in the 1970s from the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor who unified China?
After a three-year joint research project, scientists from Beijing, Zhengzhou and Xi'an cities reached the conclusion that the world-renowned terra-cotta warriors were created close to where they were excavated.
Qin Shihuang's tomb has been called "the eighth wonder of the world." Nearly 8,000 life-sized terra-cotta warriors and horses along with tens of thousands of pieces of weaponry have been uncovered from three pits less than a mile from the emperor's tomb. The purpose of the warriors and horses was to sustain and protect the spirit of their ruler throughout eternity.
To deduce where the warriors were made, researchers collected and analyzed more than 100 samples from different parts of the Qin Tomb, using the neutron activation technique. Then they selected 32 elements from each sample for microelement-analysis, a method that has been used worldwide for studying ancient ceramic wares.
The method had proven to be the most efficient one in various parts of the world, requiring fewer samples but with a relatively higher accuracy rate, said Zhang Zhongli, a research fellow at the Qin Shihuang Tomb Museum in Shaanxi Province, who took part in the research.
The research team agreed the world-renowned terra-cotta warriors were made with earth taken either from Zaoyuan Village, which lies 9.5 km away from the tomb where China's first emperor was buried or Gaoxing Village, which is only 5.5 km from the tomb.
The conclusion tallied with China's tradition of using earth from right where the kiln was located, Zhang said. The Qin Tomb was no exception.
The team's research report has been published in the Chinese magazine Chinese Science.
Their findings that the kiln sites were around the Qin Shi Huang Tomb were accepted by archaeologists from approximately 20 countries at the recently-ended International Forum on Ancient Ceramics Science and Technology held in Shanghai
(Xinhua News Agency December 13, 2002)