Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army

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金属制品、冶金和秦帝国 / Metals, metallurgy and the Qin Empire

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Qin metallurgy book cover

(scroll down for English version)

在这个博客里面,我们谈了很多有关秦兵马俑所配备的很多类型的青铜兵器,同时通过多学科的研究获取了青铜兵器所蕴涵的大量的有关秦社会与技术方面的信息。除了在我的博士研究和中英合作研究中所关注的大量青铜兵器之外,秦人还制作生产了大量的其它青铜钱币、器皿,生产工具,金银器和铁制工具,并在秦时期广泛使用,有关这些金属制品,我们在这里关注的很少。为了能够向共众公布我们有关青铜兵器的研究成果,能够进一步在大的历史和考古学背景下研究这些兵器,以及进行相应的对比研究,中英联合在2011年4月6-9日在西安召开了秦时期冶金及其社会考古学语境国际学术研讨会,我在这里介绍的正是这次学术研讨会的论文集,是以中文的形式于2014年由科学出版社出版的。

The terracotta warriors and the 'portrait' debate

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3d models of 12 warrior ears

In the last few days, we have noticed fresh interest in our work in both conventional and social media. We are very pleased that our research keeps engaging the broader public – and also sorry if the lines that follow sound slightly killjoy!

3d models and the faces of Qin?

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We're excited to have just had another paper come out (you can find it in the Journal of Archaeological Science here) that describes how we have been building 3d models of the terracotta warriors and using them not simply for nice documentation and presentation, but also to try to address some thorny analytical questions too. The 3d modelling technique itself is an extremely promising one (derived from the fascinating filed of 'computer vision') which is fast becoming popular in archaeology since it was first introduced a couple of years ago (our project can claim to be an early adopter, but the first archaeological application is probably this one). I'll come back to the technique itself below, but the background rationale for why we might find such models useful for the Imperial Logistics project is also interesting.

Do archaeologists always carry two toothbrushes?

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Children listening (courtesy of Elinor Hoskins, Archant)

You can never prepare well enough for an encounter with schoolchildren. They will always manage to catch you off-guard. A few weeks ago I had great fun, and some moments of nerves, talking about archaeology and archaeologists with some 350 children aged 7 to 11 at St. Augustine’s Catholic Primary School.

Crossbow triggers and imperial craft organisation

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PCA showing groupings based on measurements of different trigger parts

Our latest paper has just been published in the journal Antiquity and focuses on the crossbow triggers for the Qin Terracotta Army.

What’s so special… and spatial… about the Terracotta Army?

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We’ve been getting some nice publicity recently due to a Channel 4 documentary that has featured our collaborative work on the terracotta warriors and their weapons. We’ve also got some papers out or on the way, that discuss in a bit more detail our project methods and results. In fact, a lot of what we have had to say has had a strong ‘spatial’ component. By this I mean, that we are rarely interested only in Qin warriors and weapons as if they had been unearthed at random (i.e. as if they were just one enormous bag of finds from an unknown find-spot), but instead, thanks to the excellent recording methods of the excavators at locations such as the vast “Pit 1”, we can explore what additional information the spatial distribution of warriors or their weapons can offer. Janice Li first began looking at the warriors and weapons in this way on behalf of our project, and we have been following that lead ever since (in Pit 1 especially).

Archaeometallurgy at the BUMA conference in Japan

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Bronze trigger, and details of the surface filing and inscription as seen on silicone rubber impressions observed under the SEM

Janice and I will spend this week at the beautiful town of Nara (Japan) attending the 8th International Conference on the Beginnings of the Use of Metals and Alloys (BUMA 8). Notwithstanding the somewhat dull title, this is a very exciting archaeometallurgical conference with a strong emphasis on the Asian world. Clearly the place to be!

On a day like this 39 years ago… serendipity and the Terracotta Army

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Close up of warrior head small

On 29 March 1974, a group of farmers digging a water well in Lintong, to the east of Xi’an, struck upon one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. The Terracotta Army would become the icon of the 2,200 year-old city-like mausoleum of China’s First Emperor. A further four decades since its discovery, have we learned anything about serendipity?

The terracotta warriors under the microscope

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Patrick in Pit 1

I arrived back from my first trip to Xi'an to initiate the ceramics phase of the project. Was great to see the Terracotta Army, to see the Mausoleum, and to experience China. Inspirational!

The British Academy in Xi'an

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Prof Dame Hellen Wallace (right) and Dr Xiuzhen Janice Li

I have just returned from a spell of a few months in Xi’an, where I have been continuing the data acquisition while working on ongoing publications. A highlight of my time there was the visit by a distinguished delegation led by Professor Dame Helen Wallace, Foreign Secretary of the British Academy, to the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum. That was an official visit to mark the adoption of our “Imperial Logistics” as a British Academy project.

Toyota and the Terracotta Army: mass production and mass media

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Cars and terracotta warriors in China Daily

Last year ended with a substantial amount of media and blog coverage triggered by our publication in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. What was all the fuss about? And how accurate was the news coverage?

Long live adoption!

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halberd.jpg

Our first blog entry has to be devoted to the very news behind the origins of this blog: we have been adopted! The British Academy has recently announced that Imperial Logistics is one of the five projects they have decided to adopt as “Academy Research Projects”.

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Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army
UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY UK
+44 (0) 20 7679 7496 · terracotta-army@ucl.ac.uk