Chinese Terracotta Army

Today, I’m combining two chronicles—Did You Know? and ARCHAEO-Crush—using one group of artefacts: the Chinese Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Did you know that on this day back in 1974 two local farmers in Xi’an came upon this incredible discovery while digging a well?  Archaeologists soon arrived to investigate and the rest is history…

Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di's terracotta army, intended to protect him in the Afterlife. (Photo taken by my Dad during his trip to Xian.)

Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army, intended to protect him in the Afterlife. (Photo taken by my Dad during his trip to Xi’an.)

Type: artefact (funerary statuary)
Civilisation: ancient China
Date: 210–209 BCE
ARCHAEO-Crush: I love those terracotta warriors and other figures.  There are so many of them (more than 8000 soldiers, horses, chariots and non-military figures) and remarkably each one has individual features. There aren’t two alike! What I find utterly fascinating (and horrifying) is that the statues were fully painted, but in just a few minutes the pigments dry up and flake away with exposure to the dry air at the time of excavation. After much research, scientists and conservators have been able to consolidate the pigments with polyethylene glycol 200 (PEG200) and electron beam polymerization. I find conservation absolutely fascinating… You may have hear of PEG before as it is also used in the consolidation of water-logged wooden artefacts like Viking ships.
Bucket list status:  I have seen a selection of soldiers, chariots and horses in The First Emperor: China’sTerracotta Army, an exhibition held at the High Museum in Atlanta in 2008-09. I would definitely like to see them again, this time in China.  It’s at the top of my bucket list!
Additional info: UNESCO World Heritage 441
The science geeks interested in learning more about the conservation aspect can read the Getty’s 2010 Conservation of Ancient Sites along the Silk Road (PDF available online, at the virtual library on their website), which features a scientific article (pages 35-39) on the consolidation of the colour pigments of the terracotta army.

The Great Wall of China

Today, I’m offering you a new chronicle, an idea that I have been churning in my head for a while: ARCHAEO-Crush.  This chronicle will feature one archaeological crush per month–an artefact, a monument or a site of which I am rather fond.  Each post will include a photograph, a brief info notice and the reason why I like it so much. (These posts will be regrouped in the ‘Categories’ section in the sidebar not under an actual chronicle in the menu.)

In celebration of Chinese New Year, my ARCHAEO-Crush for the month of February is…

The Great Wall of China as photographed by my father in fall 2014.

The Great Wall of China as photographed by my father in fall 2014.

Type: monument (military fortifications)
Civilisation: ancient China
Date: 3rd century BCE to 17th century CE
ARCHAEO-Crush: The fact that this monument is the longest man-made architectural structure is absolutely amazing, even though the sections do not all join (apparently some natural features serve as ramparts). Astoundingly, it is over 20,000 km in length. Additionally impressive is the fact that it was built continuously (!!!) for practically 2000 years by various emperors, using different building techniques. It is a masterpiece of military architecture.  I love architecture…
Bucket list status:  Somewhere near the top of the list!
Additional info: UNESCO World Heritage number 438