China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was a man haunted by death.
In 246 B.C. the adolescent ruler commissioned a massive tomb furnished with everything he’d need for the next life, including an entire army of life-size terracotta warriors, from mighty generals to humble infantrymen. Arranged in battle formation in pits near the emperor’s tomb, the clay army stood watch for more than 2,000 years. Then, in 1974, local farmers rediscovered the site while digging a well.
Since then, archaeologists have puzzled over how ancient artisans produced the estimated 7,000 lifelike clay soldiers, right down to their stylish goatees and plaits of braided hair. Some have suggested that the statues were modeled after real, individual soldiers; others think they were assembled from standard clay ears, noses, and mouths, similar to the Mr. Potato Head toy. Read more.