June 15, 2009 / 8:27 AM / 10 years ago

China's Terracotta Army to show true colors in new dig

Hundreds of Terracotta warriors, which were unearthed during the first excavation from 1978 to 1984, stand inside the No.1 pit at a museum in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, June 13, 2009. REUTERS/China Daily

XIAN, China (Reuters Life!) - Chinese archaeologists have restarted excavation work at the burial site of the famous Terracotta Army after 20 years, armed with technology that would preserve the original colors of the 2,000-year-old sculptures.

The team will work in Pit 1, the largest pit on the site near the northern city of Xian. State news agency Xinhua said the pit had already yielded more than 1,000 terracotta figures, but is believed to have held around 6,000.

Officials gave permission for digging to restart after two decades thanks to technological advances that ensure the still-buried warriors keep their original colors once they are exposed to the air.

“There is color here, in the pupil and on this part of the cheek and on the forehead you can see the color of the hair,” said one archaeologist working on site as he demonstrated the faint colors on the face of a recently uncovered warrior.

State television footage showed archaeologists painstakingly chipping earth away from the bodies of soldiers and horses. Hardly any of the figures were intact because the tunnels holding the army had collapsed.

Many hope that the new dig will also reveal a rare high-ranking officer amongst the archers, infantry and charioteers, Xinhua said. So far only 10 “generals” have been uncovered and none has been found in Pit 1.

Dating from around 210 BC, the Terracotta Army was crafted during the reign of the Qin Emperor who ordered the life-size figures to be buried in tombs around his own in Shaanxi province’s Lintong county, near Xian.

The army was created to help the emperor rule in the afterlife. Chinese records state that the site was discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well.

Reporting by Tyra Dempster, editing by Miral Fahmy

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