Casting metals for the Qin First Emperor and his underground empire


Among the most spectacular finds at the Mausoleum of China’s First Emperor (259 - 210 BC) are the Terracotta Army built to protect him in the after life, and the two sets bronze chariots designed and buried to facilitate his travel in his underground empire. Thousands of terracotta warriors are equipped with casting bronze weapons, including swords, lances, halberds, spears, crossbows, and arrows, and the quantity and quality of bronze weaponry provide an extremely rare opportunity to investigate patterns of standardization and labor organization of bronze production within such a context. In addition, the bronze chariots comprise 4,000 parts assembled together, including numerous cast gold and silver ornaments that offer information about knowledge of transfer, technological changes, and cultural identity, particularly when compared to the forging, filigree, and granulation used to produce early Qin gold objects (techniques assumed to derive from Western influences). The casting technique employed here seems more consistent with an indigenous tradition manifest in cast weapons and ritual bronzes produced for centuries in the central plains of China. This presentation will show the research results from combining compositional, microscopic, statistical and spatial analysis, to investigate the human behavior, imperial logistics, and cultural interaction behind the metal production for the Qin First Emperor and his after life.

Cite this Record

Casting metals for the Qin First Emperor and his underground empire. Xiuzhen Li, Marcos MartinÓn-Torres, Andrew Bevan, Thilo Rehren. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431119)

Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15994