The terracotta army was discovered by accident in 1974 at Xian, in China, when local farmers digging a well broke into a pit containing 6000 life-size terracotta figures. Excavation in 1976 revealed two further pits both filled with terracotta warriors. On the eastern side of the tomb a number of small pits have been found containing the bones of horses and smaller size terracotta figures of grooms. Since then discoveries have continued to be made at the site and to date the remains of nearly 8000 terracotta figures have been recovered.
There has been worldwide fascination in the discovery of the Terracotta Army and it is now regarded as the 8th Wonder of the Ancient World.
The terracotta army was guarding the tomb of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang di, who lived over 2200 years ago. He became famous for unifying the warring states into what is now China, and for becoming the country’s first emperor. He is remembered for instigating the building of the Great Wall of China, and the fanatical fear of death and an obsessive quest for the secret of immortality. This craze for life and the fear of death ultimately gave us the legacy of the terracotta warriors.
The terracotta warriors are unique. Not only are they life-size and individually modelled in clay, but the detail of the figures is astounding. Not only can we observe the construction of body armour of terracotta army, with even the heads of rivets standing out, but the soles of the shoes of the kneeling warriors are modelled with fine tread patterns. The hands and the heads of the terracotta warriors were made separately, and each head is reputed to be different and individual. Although all the warriors were in the pits they had been buried in, many of them were in pieces and have had to be restored. The museum technicians and craftsmen who undertook this difficult task often had to remodel parts to restore areas of the figures that were too badly damaged to be reconstructed.