A chance discovery of a hidden pit in Xian, China, led to an incredible find – nearly 8,000 life-size soldiers sculpted 2,200 years ago. Called the Terracotta army, these clay figures were crafted to protect the tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The statues were modeled in clay and originally painted in bright colours. Each warriors is unique, with its own hairstyle, facial features, and expression. Attention to detail is so considered that even shoe soles, where visible, have their own intricate patterns.
In 1974 Chinese farmers were digging a well when they uncovered the pit housing the Terracotta army. Lined up according to rank, there are archers, charioteers, officers, generals, and horsemen. A production line approach was used to make each warrior, with every body part crafted separately before the figure was fully assembled at the end.
The warriors’ weapons were real, but never used in battle. Thousands of bronze spears, battleaxes, crossbows, and arrowheads have been uncovered in superb condition. One crossbow found was about 1.5 m (5 ft) long, and was capable of firing an arrow up to 792 m (2,600 ft).
Four pits were found, but the last was empty, suggesting the mausoleum was incomplete when the emperor died. Many warriors lay in pieces and were painstakingly restored. They had been preserved due to the consistent temperature from burial until excavation.