Reverse Engineering China's Terracotta Army through Morphometric and Spatial Analyses


Built in the 3rd century BC, the Mausoleum of China’s First Emperor is one of several very large known constructions commissioned by early states and empires. Understanding the craft processes and production organisation behind such constructions is informative to historians of technology but also as a potential indicator of wider institutional practices for the management of labour, materials and knowledge, which may facilitate comparisons between different states. The lack of associated production remains, however, makes such a study particularly challenging, and it requires tailored research methods.

Here we present the methods and main results of an ongoing joint project that seeks to characterise the logistical organisation of the Qin state as seen through the reverse engineering of the Terracotta Army. We focus on the combination of morphometric and spatial analyses of the warriors, their bronze weapons, and marks and inscriptions found on them. These allow us to infer logistical aspects of the production process, from the organisation of the workforce in cells, through the interim storage of artefacts, and up to the processes leading to their final deposition in the Mausoleum. We will discuss implications of these results in the broader context of an emerging empire.

Cite this Record

Reverse Engineering China's Terracotta Army through Morphometric and Spatial Analyses. Marcos Martinón-Torres, Xiuzhen Janice Li, Andrew Bevan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431308)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15948