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Terracotta Army research in the media

5 November 2012

View of Pit 1 of the Terracotta Warriors (Photo: Xia Juxian)

Collaborative research on the Terracotta Army undertaken by Institute staff and Chinese colleagues has revealed a sophisticated labour model in operation to create the Army and their thousands of bronze weapons.  

The most comprehensive analysis of the Terracotta Army’s weapons, now being undertaken by a team from the Institute of Archaeology, led by Marcos Martinón-Torres and the Museum of Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum in Xian shows that the craftsmen responsible for arming the 7000 warriors, chariots and horses followed a sophisticated labour model now associated with Toyota, the world’s biggest car maker. Rather than being a novel innovation, ‘Toyotism’ may have been developed by craftsmen working on China’s Terracotta Army more than 2000 years before the Japanese carmaker was founded.

The researchers have been employing innovative methods to investigate the Army, blending scientific and geographic approaches that are rarely integrated in archaeology. Among the equipment they have adapted are portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometers, more commonly used by mining prospectors, and polymer putty used by dentists to take teeth impressions, which they use to create accurate moulds of sections of the weapons, to be examined under a scanning electron microscope.

The UCL Institute of Archaeology signed an agreement with the museum at Xian in 2006 to launch a large-scale project to investigate the Terracotta Army. The project, “Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army”, was recently recognised as a British Academy Project, one of only five research projects to receive this prestigious designation since 2008.

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