UCL News


Press cutting: Pollen clue to clay army origins

26 March 2007

Ancient pollen could lead scientists to the kilns where the figures in China's terracotta army were made.

The 2,200-year-old clay army of 8,000 soldiers, 300 horses and 200 chariots guards the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.

Soils from different regions contain distinct pollen "signatures", reflecting variations in vegetation. …

Pollen from the terracotta horse came mainly from trees; a similar pollen signature is found in soil taken from pits in the emperor's mausoleum.

Pollen from the terracotta warrior came mainly from herbaceous plants. …

Several ancient kilns have previously been found in this region of China, but it has been difficult to determine whether any were used to make the terracotta army. The research may help scientists trace an origin for the clay figures.

Dr Arlene Rosen [UCL Institute of Archaeology] said the research was "one important step towards solving the mystery of where the clay army came from". …

Dr Rosen said there were more accurate ways to trace the source of clay used in archaeological artefacts. These include analysis of the temper - coarse-grained material added to stop the clay from cracking as it dries - through X-ray diffraction.

BBC News