The early Imperial China, particularly the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age; Metals and metallurgy; The Qin First Emperor’s Terracotta Warriors and bronze weaponry; I specialise in analysis using a combination of spatial statistics, material analysis, and palaeographic evidence.
Surface chromium on Terracotta Army bronze weapons is neither an ancient anti-rust treatment nor the reason for their good preservation
Martinón-Torres, M, Li, X, Xia, Y, Benzonelli, A, Bevan, A, Ma, S, Huang, J, Wang, L, Lan, D, Liu, J, Liu, S, Zhao, Z
For forty years, there has been a widely held belief that over 2,000 years ago the Chinese Qin developed an advanced chromate conversion coating technology (CCC) to prevent metal corrosion. This belief was based on the detection of chromium traces on the surface of bronze weapons buried with the Chinese Terracotta Army, and the same weapons’ very good preservation. We analysed weapons, lacquer and soils from the site, and conducted experimental replications of CCC and accelerated ageing. Our results show that surface chromium presence is correlated with artefact typology and uncorrelated with bronze preservation. Furthermore we show that the lacquer used to cover warriors and certain parts of weapons is rich in chromium, and we demonstrate that chromium on the metals is contamination from nearby lacquer after burial. The chromium anti-rust treatment theory should therefore be abandoned. The good metal preservation probably results from the moderately alkaline pH and very small particle size of the burial soil, in addition to bronze composition.
Ink marks, bronze crossbows and their implications for the Qin Terracotta Army
Bevan, A, Li, X, Zhao, Z, Huang, J, Laidlaw, S, Xi, N, Xia, Y, Ma, S, Martinon-Torres, M
Abstract At the heart of bureaucratic practice during Warring States and early Imperial China were regular, small acts of accountancy in which objects and people were marked so that their movements could be kept track of, their quality checked and their numbers marshalled. In the mausoleum complex of the Qin Shihuang (259-210 bc, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty), the longer texts and shorter inscribed marks found on the bronze weapons of the Terracotta Army are reasonably well known, and such information helps us to understand aspects of Qin craft organisation and logistics at this crucial period of Chinese state formation. This paper’s modest starting point is a study of two further, less well-known ink inscriptions found on crossbow triggers from Terracotta Army Pit 1. Using multispectral photography, digital microscopy and Raman analysis, we uncover evidence of further marks on the same two triggers that suggest a similar pattern of ‘matching’ marks as suggested by the incised evidence. We also identify the black substance used to make the marks as a soot-based ink. Spatial analysis of both the inked and incised trigger marks then provides wider context for how such marking practices amongst Qin bronze-workers may have operated.
China’s first emperor and the terracotta warriors
Lin, JCS, Li, X, Miller, K
For more than 2,000 years, an underground army of life-sized Terracotta Warriors secretly guarded the tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, until a chance discovery in 1974 revealed them to an astounded world. This book explores the rise, rule and death of Qin Shi Huang; the most controversial figure in Chinese history. We consider the emergence of the fiercely ambitious Qin Dynasty from the fires of the Warring States Period, the achievements of a man many consider to be a tyrant, and the remarkable mausoleum which ensures the First Emperor will never be forgotten. His burial is also put into context as we examine Chinese beliefs and burial practices from the Neolithic period onwards, and explore the achievements and legacy of the Qin’s successors, the Han Dynasty.00Exhibition: World Museum, Liverpool, UK (09.02.-28.10.2018).
Building the Terracotta Army: ceramic craft technology and organisation of production at Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum complex
Quinn, PS, Zhang, S, Xia, Y, Li, X
, Despite decades of research into the Terracotta Army of the First Emperor of China, many questions remain about how, where and by whom the figures were made. This new study compares the results of microscopic analysis of the life-sized clay statues to other ceramic artefacts recovered from the mausoleum. By focusing on their original raw materials and clay paste recipes, it proves that the terracotta warriors were made near the site. Compositional, technological and spatial links between different artefacts suggest that clay was processed centrally before being distributed to different local workshops in a highly organised system of labour and craft specialisation that laid the foundation for imperial China.
Marking practices and the making of the Qin Terracotta Army
Li, X, Bevan, A, Martinón-Torres, M, Xia, Y, Zhao, K
Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
A striking feature of Qin material culture (770–210BC) in ancient China is the frequency with which it preserves stamped, incised or painted marks with a variety of Chinese characters, numerals or symbols. In a general sense, such repeated mark-making was an administrative strategy that enabled Qin administrators to mobilise people, raw materials and finished goods in vast bulk, subject to careful quality and quantity control, and archaeologically, this strategy is nowhere more obvious than in the manufacturing feat constituted by Emperor Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum and his Terracotta Army. This study considers the production marks associated with both the terracotta warriors and their accompanying bronze weapons from a new perspective. We compare and contrast the marking practices on these two very different kinds of artefacts, devoting close attention to what this implies about workshop organisation or the operational sequences behind their manufacture. We also assess the location of such signs on their parent objects as well as their wider spatial distribution across the pit as a whole, ultimately with a view to understanding craft organisation and project logistics during this crucial early phase of empire-building in China.