Thursday, August 20, 2009

Emporer Qin's Terra-Cotta Army

2200 years ago, Qin unified China, erected much of the great wall, standardized weights, measures and handwriting, and then began to construct his mausoleum, which he populated with some 8000 clay soldiers and horses. The artisans ground up semiprecious stones to make lacquers then decorated the figures with the pigments after the base lacquer dried. Farmers were digging for a well in 1974, and found the first of the army. Trouble is, once the statues are unearthed, the lacquer shrinks in the dry air, and flakes off within minutes. So, there are a bunch more figures waiting to be exhumed once scientists figure out how to preserve the finish. There are a couple of ways to try to keep the finish from flaking, but the magic bullet has yet to be developed. Save something for the next generation of archaeologists.

No comments: