The Terracotta Warriors, located near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in China, have captivated visitors with their life-like grandeur for thousands of years. This terracotta group is one of the most renowned archaeological sites in the world, and the mystery of how they were created continues to baffle scientists and archaeologists alike. Upon closer inspection, it has been determined that the figures were made from a combination of clay, straw, reeds, and a non-plastic earthenware material called quartz-rich fangshi. Much of this has been discovered through the use of modern technology, such as radiocarbon dating and CT scans.
Their appearance in 1974 was fascinating. Since then, they have caught the imagination of many scholars. Chinese archaeologists have recently discovered new details. They claim to know how the Terracotta Warriors were made.
Ancient Asian craftsmen used the warping method to make the statues. They would stack them and join rolls of clay on top of each other. “They first made the main parts of the body, including the feet and legs of the warriors. Then separately they made the head and arms.” Detailed by one of the scholars, Shen Maosheng.
The main body of the statue was dried in the open air. Then a second layer of fine clay was applied. Then the details of the warrior’s armor and clothing could be carved. “The craftsmen would later put on the arms and head,” Shen said.
So far, three excavations have been carried out in the pit. The third exploration was carried out between 2009 and 2022, in an area of about 430 square meters. It allowed the discovery of more than 220 terracotta figures and 16 horses of the same material. Also four chariots, weapons and production tools.
Archaeologists assured that a total of more than 6,000 ceramic figurines and horses could be found in the future. During the Qin dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC), most of it was looted and burned. Xiang Yu would be one of those responsible for the looting and destruction. He was a nobleman of the state of Chu who revealed himself towards the end of the Qin dynasty.
Repairing the terracotta sculptures has been a major challenge for archaeologists. A restoration expert at the museum, Lan Desheng, has spent 26 years repairing the Warriors. He rescued more than 130 statues so far. “It takes years to put the broken pieces of those ceramic figurines back together,” Lan said.
Restoration is hard work and requires great expertise, patience and a bit of luck as well, he acknowledged. Knowing how they made the Terracotta Warriors only makes them more interesting. Currently, the Warriors are housed inside the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang.