National Geographic : 2016 Nov
N 210 B.C. 377 ft Current 180 ft 25-33 ft 3,196ft7,175ft0.76mileseastfromouterwall Territory of the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.) Xianyang CHINA (Present day) TAIWAN Yellow Xi We i Yangt ze Office for sacrificial offerings Other offices Secondary palaces Main hall Stonework factory Stone armor Acrobat statues Stables and horses Bronze chariots and horses Stables and horses Innerwall Concubines’ burial ground Workers’ burial ground Tomb mound Royal family’s mass grave Terra-cotta army Sacrificial animals Outerwall Location of notable pits EXPLORE Ancient Worlds Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Warriors In 1974 farmers uncovered strange terra-cotta figures while digging a well near the old Chinese capital of Xianyang. Excavations revealed a virtual army of warriors, presum- ably meant to eternally protect China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di, after his death in 210 B.C. But an account from about 89 B.C . makes no mention of those figures. Instead, it tells of the next emperor sacrificing concubines to be buried with the deceased ruler and entombing craftsmen to keep them from talking about the lavish burial they had created. Was that historian wrong? Perhaps not. Over the past four decades, archaeologists have discovered various mass burials in the emperor’s funerary complex—the 20-plus square miles around his tomb, partly illustrated here. The emperor’s final resting place remains untouched. But in light of these discoveries, it seems entirely possible that the burial chamber may include the bronze coffin, replicas of palaces, rivers of mercury, and “rare utensils and wonderful objects” that the first-century B.C. text describes. — A. R. Williams Workers’ Burials Artisans, craftsmen, and laborers who died during the 36 years it took to build this complex were buried here. Some were identified by a ceramic tile fragment (right) that served as a tombstone. Murdered Princes One of the first emperor’s many sons killed his brothers to gain the throne. Those royals may lie here. The skeletons are mostly male, and the tip of an arrow splits one of the skulls. The Emperor’s Tomb Historical records say Qin Shi Huang Di created a replica of his realm as his final resting place. Archaeologists have not yet dug here, fearing that exposure might damage any buried treasures. Tile bearing name, rank, and place of origin The mound built over the tomb is shorter than recorded historically. Was it unfinished, or has it eroded? Additional Finds Excavations revealed many pits within and outside the walls of this complex. Bronze chariots, stone suits of armor, and terra-cotta figures such as acrobats came to light, along with the remains of real horses and other animals. Tour the tomb site with National Geographic, airing October 23 at 9/8c.