Chinese archaeologists began the third excavation on Saturday 13th June, hoping to find more pottery figures and unravel some of the mysteries left behind by Qin Shihuangthe first emperor of China. This is the first time in almost 25 years that new digging has been approved for the site. The Museum will uncover about 200 square meters this year and hopes to expand to 2,000 square meters in the next 5 years.
Video from CCTV (China Central Television, shown below) shows the start of the excavations at Pit 1 now underway and features interviews with some of the technicians and archeologists. There are good detail shots as well as an aerial overview.
Excerpts from interview on the video:
00:23-28 I announce the launch of the third excavation.
00:47-53 Several pieces of the terracotta warriors have been unearthed.
01:09-13 A small device is put in the corner to monitor the temperature and humanity in the pit.
02:03-05 Everyone is expecting a new discovery.
02:28-39 One bronze arrow was unearthed from the backfilled soil.
The Qin terracotta army was one of the greatest archaeological finds of modern times. It was discovered in Lintong county, 35 km east of Xi’an in 1974 by peasants who were digging a well. The first formal excavation of the site lasted for six years from 1978 to 1984 and yielded 1,087 clay figures. A second excavation, in 1985, lasted a year and was cut short for technical reasons.
Qin Shihuang, who died in 210 B.C. at the age of 50, established the first empire of China by conquering rival kingdoms. In order to consolidate his unified state, he standardised weights and measurements, and established a single written language, currency and legal statutes, while building an extensive system of roads and canals along with an early incarnation of the Great Wall. He was very comprehensive about his death. He tried to find elixir for his immortality, and at the same time he commissioned his mausoleum to be built, guarded by these terracotta warriors. It is believed they were created to protect the emperor in the afterlife.
The 230 by 62-metre pit was assumed to contain about 6,000 life-sized terracotta figures by archaeological survey. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has approved the museum’s third excavation of 200 square meters in Pit 1, and the excavation is likely to continue if it proves fruitful.
In the first day of excavation, some traces of two parallel chariots, one terracotta warrior, bronze arrows and a painted wooden piece (possibly small part of drum) were discovered. More detailed information about the battle formation and other artefacts will be expected to unearth.
The difficulty lies in how to preserve afterwards, especially the colours of warriors. Richly coloured figures were unearthed from the tomb complex in previous excavations, but once they were exposed to the air the pigments began to peel off and detached from the clay figure, turning the figure to be grey. Even though the research on the colour preservation has gained a big achievement after long term cooperation with Germany, it is still considered an essential for this new excavation.