Archaeologists and historians working in Xi’an, a central city in China home to the famous Terracotta Warriors, found evidence suggesting that Greek craftsman influenced the construction of the famous soldiers.
The BBC reports that Greek craftspeople could have been teaching the Chinese how to build the life-size statues as early as the third century BC. Senior archaeologist, Li Xiuzhen, reported that ancient Greek sculptures and art might have influenced the warrior’s construction. She stated, “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.”
Found by a farmer in 1976, the Terracotta Warriors were built more than 2,000 years ago as guards for China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife.
Other recent studies on the Terracotta Warriors also suggest a Western influence on the soldiers (no, it’s not food–related or movie–related). According to the Guardian, one study found European mitochondrial DNA at the Xi’an site.
Researchers in China have not found life-size statues that preceded the Terracotta Warriors (although artist Prune Nourry’s “Terracotta Daughters” follows them). National Geographic Australia reports that the closest finds are 20-centimeter tall figurines.
Li and other researchers’ finding hits on a larger point about previous notions of Chinese history. And this is not the first time that the origins of the Terracotta Warriors have come into question. In early October, photos of wax replicas of the soldiers went viral, highlighting the dissatisfaction and annoyance of fooled Chinese tourists.
BBC reports that Li and other researchers will elaborate upon their findings in the documentary, “The Greatest Tomb on Earth,” a collaboration between BBC and National Geographic. The show will premiere on BBC Two on Sunday.
— Dan Snow (@thehistoryguy) October 12, 2016