June 12, 2009

Dig to begin on China’s terra cotta army

More clay figures of high-ranking officers may be revealed in the renewed excavation of China's famous terra cotta army, archaeologists said.

A third phase of excavation is to begin Saturday on the largest of three pits containing the terra cotta army in Xian, in northwest China, China Daily reported Friday.

The life-sized soldier and horse statues date from 210 B.C. and are part of the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.

The majority of the figures found so far are archers, infantrymen and charioteers the emperor hoped would help him rule in the afterlife, lead archeologist Liu Zhancheng said. Fewer than 10 armored generals have been found so far, he said.

The three pits, discovered by a farmer in 1974, are believed to contain more than 6,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with more than 500 horses and at least 150 cavalry horses. Nearly 80 percent of the figures remained buried.

The site, which was last excavated in 1985, was named a World Heritage Site 1987.