China's terracotta warriors team to receive major award in Spain

08:58, October 21, 2010      

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The archaeological team excavating the terracotta warriors at Xi'an City in northwest China will receive the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences in the Spanish city of Oviedo this Friday.

The army of more than 7,000 life sized terracotta figures of warriors and horses was first discovered in 1974 and declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1987.

The army forms part of the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the Emperor who unified China and the founder of the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC).

It is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century and a rich source of information about Chinese civilization that has had a major impact on research into sculpture, architecture and Chinese society during this period of formation and consolidation of the empire.

The Director of the Xi'an excavations, Xu Weihong, is currently in Oviedo where he and two other members of the team, Cao Wei and Zhang Weixing will receive the award.

"It is clear that it is very important (for China), it is the most important discovery in China in recent decades and we have worked hard. We have made a museum of the first emperor and it is a reference point for investigation and the conservation of polychrome figures," Xu told a media conference.

"In China, we say this is a discovery without precedent and for the moment we have not found any full size armies from dynasties posterior to the Qin Dynasty," said Xu, who nevertheless believes other armies could be discovered.

"We know that the tradition of burying armies when an Emperor died began with the Qin Dynasty, so we are not ruling out finding others of this kind," he said.

The director expressed his gratitude for being chosen for the Prince of Asturias Award, which is "to reward the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic work performed by individuals, groups of individuals or institutions at international level."

"This also helps people get to know the work of the archaeologists. Thousands of people come here and see how we work. They think what we do is a mystery and when they see us they realize there are no secrets. Xi'an is a window into the world of archaeology," Xu said.

He then explained his amazement at seeing the warriors and discussed the immensity of the discovery.

"My first impression was that the warriors were alive. It looked as though they had just woken up after a long sleep. Each one has its one expression and gestures and that makes them very real. Every warrior has its own peculiarities, they even have different postures."

"We are talking about an excavation of three pits and we have only opened one seventh part. The second has around 6,000 square meters and we have not done anything, while we have finished work in the third pit," he said.

However, despite the awe-inspiring site of the rows of warriors, it is often the much smaller objects which reveal more information.

"In my work, what attracts my attention the most is not the figures, it is the other material, be it burnt pieces that we can date, remains of weapons, fingerprints or anything that is unexpected. For example, some weapons were in silk covers and I'd like to investigate more about the textiles of the era and to count the strands they used in the scabbards."

"These remains can give us a lot of information because they represent the level of development in the society we want to study."

"Xi'an still has secrets and now we are especially looking at social aspects. We want to know how people lived in the years of the first emperor, what they wore and what they did in their daily lives."

"From our point of view as investigators, we hope to find more than warriors and figures. We want to find other objects that tell us about the society that dug the tomb and made the warriors," Xu said.

Source: Xinhua


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