Some secrets of China’s terra-cotta army are baked in the clay | Science News

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Some secrets of China’s terra-cotta army are baked in the clay

Craftsmen used local materials and signature ceramic recipes to shape the warriors and their entourage

By
9:30am, August 22, 2017

BATTLE READY  Terra-cotta warriors, built more than 2,200 years ago, stand in the tomb of China’s first emperor. Distributing different clay pastes to specialized workshops enabled the production of so many finely crafted statues, researchers propose.

China’s first emperor broke the mold when he had himself buried with a terra-cotta army. Now insight into the careful crafting of those soldiers is coming from the clays used to build them. Custom clay pastes were mixed at a clay-making center and then distributed to specialized workshops that cranked out thousands of the life-size figures, new research suggests.

Roughly 700,000 craftsmen and laborers built Emperor Qin Shihuang’s palatial mausoleum in east-central China between 247 B.C. and 210 B.C. A portion of those workers gathered clay from nearby deposits and prepared it in at least three forms, researchers propose in the August Antiquity. On-site or nearby workshops used different signature clay recipes for terra-cotta warriors,

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