Someone Had to Build the Terracotta Army—Archaeologists Just Found Their Humbler Grave Sites

Forty-five grave sites were found only kilometers from the emperor’s tomb

Terracotta Army
Jean-Pierre De Mann/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

There are thousands of terracotta warriors, first discovered in 1974, guarding the mauseleum of the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang. An army that big must have needed an army of workers to build it. And now archaeologists in China think they may have found the graves of some of the people who built the tomb. 

Forty-five graves were uncovered within a few kilometers of the Emperor's tomb, with the International Business Times reports, "skeletal remains of people believed to have been buried in a coffin with their leg twisted." This is one clue that these crypts are connected to the terracota warriors—"twisting leg of the dead before burying was a burial custom of the Qin Dynasty," say the IBT.

Another clue was the pottery found in the tombs, with the character Li on it. The China Daily:

According to Shih Chi, the historical record written by Sima Qian during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), a township named Li was established in 231 BC near the place where the emperor's mausoleum would be built. More than 30,000 families moved into Li in 212 BC for the construction project.

According to archaeologists, the number of pottery objects imprinted with the Li moniker that were unearthed in past years show that the township was large and important, with its major purpose being the building and protecting of Emperor Qin Shihuang's final resting place.

The people whose remains were found in the 45 tombs would represent only a small fraction of the 700,000 strong workforce believed to have been recruited to work on the emporer's mausoleum. The emperor's tomb itself, reportd to contain numerous precious stones and rivers of mercury, has still not been excavated.

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