The famous Terracotta army is an iconic symbol of the power of Ancient China, but now it appears the artists behind the work may have had some help from Greek sculptors, according to new research set to be broadcast by the BBC and National Geographic.
The first emperor to unify China was entombed in a massive mortuary site, watched over by some 8,000 lifelike terracotta soldiers. Now, a group of archeologists working in the Xinjiang province found European DNA at many locations in the area from around the time the clay army was created.
The researchers behind the work said this indicates ancient Greek artists journeyed to China to play a role style the famous landmark. If true, this would mean European-Chinese were formed 1,500 years before Marco Polo’s historic trip.
“We now have evidence that close contact existed between the first emperor’s China and the West before the formal opening of the Silk Road. This is far earlier than we formerly thought,” Li Xiuzhen, a senior archaeologist at the first emperor’s mausoleum site, told The Guardian. “We now think the Terracotta Army, the acrobats, and the bronze sculptures found on site, have been inspired by ancient Greek sculptures and art.”
Learning about an Ancient Monument
The famous Terracota Warriors are standing in large pits and were unearthed by regional workers while excavating outside the city of Xi’an in 1974. Besides the soldiers, with their own distinctive facial expressions, the pits also hold weapons, clay horses and wooden chariots.
There are four pits overall. Three are full of clay warriors and one is empty, a sign the mausoleum may not have been complete.
Historical discoveries from both Europe and Asia have already revealed hints of trade between the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Chinese. The Silk Road, with its established trading posts, arose in the third century Han dynasty, but quite a few of its paths were well-worn by then. Chinese historians have also documented the arrival of Roman traders. During the reign of the emperor Augustus, Chinese silk was surging into Rome and a lot of its wearers were being derided as effete and immoral by pundits of the day, including Seneca.
Image credit: Thinkstock
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