John Black | Ancient Origins | December 3, 2013
In 1974, one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the world took place when more than 8000 life-size clay warriors were uncovered in Xi’an, China.
They have become known as the ‘Terracotta Army’. A new analysis on the weapons found with the clay warriors revealed they were real weapons, not replicas, and they were powerful enough to pierce armour and kill opponents with a single blow. The 2,200-year-old terracotta army lies in the greatest mausoleum in the world, and archaeologists believe that it was meant to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his journey after death. Each soldier was created with unique characteristics and was placed according to rank.
They were also equipped with new weapons, which would allow the army to defend their king in the afterlife. Scientists from the University College London and the Terracotta Army Museum reproduced arrowheads from 200BC when the Terracotta Army was built and tested them with a crossbow of that period. The results showed that the arrows easily pierced through the armour used in 2nd century BC in China, and would have been capable of inflicting a fatal blow.
“These crossbows were two millennia ahead of their time,” said Mike Loades, historian and expert in ancient weapons. These findings, along with many others, will be broadcast next Sunday night in the Channel Four documentary ‘New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors’ in the UK. “Amongst the many new findings, the film reveals the true extent of the site and number of warriors and that the weapons carried by the warriors were full military grade, rather than replicas: they were designed to kill as efficiently in the afterlife as in this one,” the producers write.
“New insights into how the figures were made, including revolutionary 3D computer modelling of the warriors’ heads, challenges the traditional explanation and changes our understanding of how sophisticated technology and society were in ancient China.”
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