Research finds Terracotta Warriors more likely individually crafted

XI’AN, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) — The renowned Terracotta Warriors in China were more likely crafted individually by groups of artisans than made by assembling various mass-produced modules, research has found.

The research, published in the Archaeometry journal, was jointly conducted by experts from Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum and University College London.

It has shone new light on the long-standing question about the production mode of the iconic cultural treasure unearthed in Xi’an, capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

Previous studies suggested that a modular production system was used in building the Terracotta Warriors, which were assembled from prefabricated components that were perhaps made in several workshops with different raw materials and/or paste preparation techniques.

However, findings of the new research are more in line with the idea that each complete terracotta figure was individually created by a workshop or group of artisans.

Using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, a non-invasive technology, scientists quantified the geochemical composition of the clay paste of 28 restored statues in the museum, and analysed their component parts, including the arms and robe sections of the soldiers and the heads and legs of the horses.

Scientists found markings on 18 of the 28 statues, with the two most common being “Gong,” indicating the residence of ancient emperors or immortals, and “Xianyang,” meaning the capital city of the Qin Empire.

More importantly, they found a compositional distinction between figures marked with “Gong” and “Xianyang”, which seem to represent the products of two workshops involved in the supply of ceramic objects for the large-scale building project undertaken by the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-207 B.C.).

So far, more than 8,000 figurines of people and horses have been unearthed in the museum. Hundreds of figurines with the marking “Gong” and dozens with “Xianyang” have been found on the terracotta warriors that have been cleaned and restored.

Figurines with the marking “Gong” look more mighty with finer workmanship, said Li Xiuzhen, a researcher with the museum.

“The reason why the terracotta warriors are striking and fascinating is that each one contains a lot of information on technology, art and social organization over 2,000 years ago,” Li said.

“The research found that it was through a workshop-based manufacturing and management mode that the Qin Empire created the large army of terracotta warriors,” Li added.

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