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Terra-cotta warriors show their true colors

XI'AN - The tomb of Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC), China's first emperor, was discovered completely by accident in March of 1974.
Several farmers from Xiyang village, which is in the eastern suburbs of Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, were digging a well when they uncovered a clay figure.
What they initially suspected to be a ghost turned out to be just a small part of the eighth wonder of the world - the terracotta army.
Archaeologists arrived on the scene and, after a drilling survey, identified three pits surrounding the tomb. An estimated 6,000 figures were buried with the emperor, including warriors, horses and chariots. It is believed that the army was intended to protect the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) ruler in the afterlife.
In 1975, a museum housing the No 1 pit - covering an area of 16,300 square meters - was built with permission from the State Council. It was eventually opened to the public on Oct 1, 1979, a year into the first excavation.
The Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China.
So far, 114 terracotta figures have been discovered during the third dig at the No 1 pit, which began in June last year.
"We also found clay horses and a number of other relics, like bronze weapons, wooden chariots, drums and wooden rings," said Xu Weihong, acting head of the museum's excavation team.
Traces of burn marks on the warriors' bodies and the walls show the pit was at some point set on fire, while some of the newly discovered figures were between 1.8 meters and 2 meters tall.
"We're not certain whether people who lived in the Qin Dynasty were actually that tall or if the craftsmen exaggerated their height," said Xu.
As well as the warriors, archaeologists also found piles of charcoal that were believed to be grain in ancient times and three "suitcases" made of a fabric similar to silk.
"We have almost completed the excavation on the first aisle and still working hard on the second," said Xu. "As the newly unearthed figures were broken into small pieces, we have to spend more time to take them out and then put them together."
She said she could not predict when the dig will be finished but assured that "the progress of our work is based on the progress of protection".

Since the site's discovery near Xi'an, China, in 1974, archaeologists have unearthed more than 1,500 of the life-size figures. But once the warriors see the light of day after more than 2,200 years of burial, their paint disappears, sometimes within minutes of exposure. With an estimated 8,000 more figures still buried, scientists have been looking for ways to lock the paint in place. Now, a group of chemists in Germany has a technique that just might work.

The warriors were originally coated with polychrome--a material consisting of a lacquer base topped by a layer of pigment, explains Heinz Langhals at the University of Munich. Because water-saturated soil at the site has altered the lacquer, he says, the coating cracks and peels off once the warriors are removed from their soil encasements. Researchers have tried different polymer-based materials to strengthen the polychrome and secure it to the terra-cotta surface, but the polymer molecules have been too big to penetrate the coating.

Green-Faced Soldier
There is a unique green-faced soldier stand out from the 1,500 terracotta warrior figures of the Terracotta Army. He is discovered in Pit No.2 in 1999, and attracted many archaeologists attention.

So many years have passed, but the paint on the warrior’s face still remains. The whole body of this figure was painted in color. The figure's face, neck and ears were painted light green, which marks him out as very different to the other pink faced terracotta warriors. The eyebrows and beard are black, the hair band is scarlet, and the hair bun and the hair are painted ochre.

Symbolic Meaning of the Colour
The discussion between the archaeologists is that why he was painted in this way. Some experts believe that it was done completely by mistake, guessing the figure's creator must have been color blind. While others refute this by pointing out that the strict management rules of the Qin Dynasty would not allow a product which did not conform to the specification to be buried in the mausoleum. Now, there is a point that the warrior’s green face was intended to frighten enemies, like others view, their just guess, but don’t have scientific evidence.

Maybe you will have a question: why the green is the symbolic of youthfulness and vibrancy? The answer given by the experts is interesting: they assert that the green-faced terracotta warrior could have been placed there to demonstrate the braveness of all the soldiers and the power of the army in battle.

Now, a new explanation has been put out by a student from Shanghai Jiaotiong University. He thinks the green-faced terracotta warrior was a sniper in the army. He gives three strong reasons to support this theory. Firstly, the "Shi Ji" (the Book of History) records that sniper tactics were already in use by the Qin Dynasty. The warrior was a kneeling archer, in a position of controlling the bow, which is the basic stance of a sniper. Secondly, snipers are generally required to fight in isolation which means that their representation in the army is very slight when compared with regular soldiers, both in ancient and modern times. The fact that this warrior was the only one of his kind to be unearthed in Pit No.2 supports the student's assertion. Finally, snipers traditionally use camouflage in order to blend in with the surroundings and remain unseen. The terracotta warrior sniper who painted a green-faced could silently approach the enemy without being noticed, like the ocean camouflage clothing today.

Unit now, there is not an exactly answer for this warrior, but archeologists continue to search for clues in the hope that they can one day solve this mystery. The painted terracotta warrior has aroused the world's curiosity. In 2006, it was exhibited in Germany with other Qin warrior figures. This special figure drew many people who admired its distinguished beauty.

There is a company of partly assembled statues at the western end of Pit 1, where located the temporary restoration site of the museum now. Buried beneath them, more Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses await to be unearthed. A group of skilled workers toil here everyday to test the missing parts and try to make the right connections. Thousands of fragments awaiting connection have lain for years in long piles on the ground. Some fragments have marks on to indicate where the item was found and which statue it might belong, but most don. According to the marks, the pieces were glued together by epoxy item. Most of time, each statue would take a few months to be mended. If the workers can find one piece that fits in a day, that will be a lucky day. The final restoration step is to patch up the statues and then they will be sent back to the original places where they were found. Ever since the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses were discovered 25 years ago, the flaking off of the has tormented archaeological accepts from around the world. After years of research, two new technological methods were invented by teams of experts of the Terra-cotta Museum and further developed in co-operation with experts from the Cultural Relics Office of Bavaria of Germany since 1996. These two inventions are knows as PEG200 and HEMA and now extensively applied on the newly unearthed kneeling archer from Pit 2. They can keep the original paint on the statues from fading and flaking after being brought to light.

Archaeological experts revealed that craftsmen in the Qin Dynasty first painted a layer of lacquer on the surface of the sculptured warriors, and then colored them with paint made of minerals. The water remained in the layer of lacquer evaporated soon after the warriors being unearthed and made the paint layer get creased.

The aim of two inventions is to replace the water in the lacquer layer and keep the paint on the lacquer layer from getting creased. The experts of the museum covered the colored Terra-cotta Warriors with a solvent of PEG200, Which slowly permeates into the lacquer layer to replace the water.

He other way is using a special chemical, dubbed HEMA, before stabilizing the paint by electronic beaming.

Both inventions worked, but the HEMA is now used more often than the PEG200 because experiments have revealed that it works better on arge pieces than the PEG200

Terra-Cotta Warriors in Color
It was a dazzling spectacle: a life-size army of painted clay soldiers buried to guard an emperor's tomb. Now archaeologists and artists, armed with the latest tools and techniques, are bringing that ancient vision back to life.


Terracotta Warriors Finding the Terra Cotta Warriors
warriors Cotta Pot No. 1.   Production process of Qin Terracotta Army
Third Excavation of Pit 1  Lifelike Terra Cotta Figures
Terracotta Army Pit No.2   Military Formation of Terra Cotta Army
Terra Cotta Pit No. 3  Exquisite Weapons of Terracotta Army
Bronze Chariots  Terra-cotta warriors show their true colors.
terracotta warriors Accessory Pits The Colorful Uniform of Qin Terracotta Figures
  Stone Helmet and Armor near Emperor Qin mausoleum The Statue of Kneeling Archer
 Stories of Terracotta Warriors  Qin Shi Huang Tomb

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