Megan Shank is a wordsmith, entrepreneur and educator in New York.
July 1st, 2009

For Archaeology

Abstract

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From a distance, the mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, looks like a verdant hill, a welcome resting place among craggy peaks. According to the Han Dynasty historian Sima Qian, the unopened 2,200-year-old tomb contains countless treasures, including replicas of palaces and rivers of mercury. Other parts of the memorial complex in Xi’an have yielded incredible finds–most famously, a life-sized terracotta army 8,000 strong. A century after the emperor’s death in 210 B.C., Sima Qian wrote that it took more than 700,000 workers to complete the massive project. Though some scholars argue that number is inflated–greater than the population of any city in the world at that time–it remains widely used by Chinese historians. Even if the true number of workers at the emperor’s tomb was a fraction of that, they still represent a large and largely unknown population. Who were they? Where did they come from? Knowing their origins could tell archaeologists and historians a great deal about labor resources, movement and migration during an important period, when Qin Shihuangdi sought to expand his newly unified nation…



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