The mystery of China’s Terracotta Army solved

For years, experts tried to find an explanation for the extraordinary preservation of the weapons. The answer comes from an international group led by University of Cambridge archaeologist Marcos Martinón-Torres.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The secret of the excellent preservation of the bronze weapons of China’s Terracotta Warriors is a chromium-rich lacquer. The thousands of life-sized figures guarded the mausoleum dedicated to the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, lived between 259 and 210 BC

The terracotta figures were found during an excavation carried out at the mausoleum in 1974, which is located near the city of Xi'an, with suits of armour and weapons. The find represents one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century.

For decades experts have been perplexed by the great preservation of the bronze figures, which retained their shiny surface, sharp blades and beautiful halberds, despite being buried for more than 2,000 years.

Scientists believed that the Chinese artisans had employed an unexpectedly advanced anti-rust method.

Now the answer comes from the research of University of Cambridge archaeological scientist Marcos Martinón-Torres, who led the study published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday.

According to experts, the secret lies with the chromium-rich lacquer applied as a primer to the Terracotta figures and the wooden parts such as handles and shafts before they were painted with colours.

Chromium found on the bronze surfaces was simply contamination from the lacquer and currently there is no indication that the preservation is nothing more than the result of chance.