Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another Wonder of the World?

By Amanda Lensch
UNL Graduate Student

Of course! We saw and conquered the Terra Cotta Warriors, located just outside of Xi’an.

Holy cow, what a sight!

In 221, Qin Shihuangdi (no I can’t say this either) united all of the separate kingdoms of China in 221 BC, declaring himself the emperor. During his reign he demanded that an elaborate tomb be made with plenty of warriors to stand guard after he entered into the afterlife. They were made by craftsmen and slaves of his day.

The site wasn’t discovered until a farmer decided to drill a well in 1974, some two thousand years later!

To date, there are more than 8,000 warriors that have been discovered, and excavation continues. By all appearances, these anthropologists have a lot of job security!

Anyway, the awesome thing about them is every single soldier is unique – as in different faces, different hands, and apparently even different stylized finger nails (or at least this is what our guide said). The craftsmanship on these pieces is unbelievable! The theory is each man is modeled after an actual soldier. I can’t decide if this is really really cool, or creepy… In terms of research, a whole host of things can be examined. Rank can be identified through hair and clothing styles, types of weapons, who was on the ‘front lines’, etc… The list goes on.

Three Fun facts about the Terra Cotta Warriors:
  1. The armor of the original/live soldiers was made out of leather, and if you happened to be lucky enough to be of higher rank, you may get multiple layers of armor. Personally, I don’t know just how much good leather would do against an arrow, but it must have been the best option.
  2. All of the terra cotta pieces were originally painted! But once excavation started and these pieces were exposed to oxygen, the color disappeared. They had used different minerals to paint the soldiers in vivid colors, but oxidation occurred, eliminating the color. They are trying to determine ways to prevent this from happening to the soldiers who haven’t been uncovered yet.
  3. Due to the roof collapsing, among other issues, most of the warriors were found in broken pieces. Sometimes hundreds of pieces, thus providing a giant puzzle to those working on this excavation project.
After hitting two of the eight wonders of the world in one week, I think it’s time to start planning trips to see the other six! Anyone want to join?

Amanda Lensch is working on a master’s in textile history with an emphasis in quilt studies at UNL. She has a bachelor’s degree in apparel merchandising, design and production with an emphasis in museum studies and a minor in entrepreneurial studies from Iowa State University. She is a graduate assistant working in collections at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and previously interned at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., and Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

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