National Geographic : 2012 Jun
- helped develop a binding agent, now under patent, that holds the soil together so the color won't be lost. e next challenge, Rong says, will be to nd an acceptable method for reapplying this color to the warriors. With less than one percent of the vast tomb complex excavated so far, it may take centuries to uncover all that remains hidden. But the pace of discovery is quickening. In 2011 the museum launched two long-term excavation projects on the anks of the 250-foot-high central burial mound. Exploratory digs in this area a decade ago uncovered a group of terra-cotta acrobats and strong men. More extensive excavations will yield "mind-boggling discoveries," predicts Wu Yongqi, the museum's director. Down in Pit 1, Yang tightens the straps that hold her reconstructed warrior together. His head, still wrapped in plastic, is beaded with moisture. His lifelike pigment has been pre- served, and his body will go on display at the museum with all of the cracks and ssures he received during his 2,200 years underground. In the early days of the Xian excavations, the fractures and imperfections of the terra-cotta warriors were plastered over. Now, re ecting the evolution of the museum's views on historical accuracy, a new army is forming on the pit's west end, cracks and all. In every statue Yang's handi- work is plainly visible. "It's nothing special," she says with a modest smile. And with that, she and her village friends get back to work, piecing together the puzzle beneath the roots of their old persimmon trees. j Digging Into New Discoveries Crouching by a jumble of fresh nds, Yang Jingyi brushes away the last of the mud before restoration begins. As their excavations move closer to the central burial mound, archaeologists hope to reveal many more unusual twists in the story of the terra-cotta army.