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Inside the tomb of the First Emperor

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The tomb of the First Emperor, also known as the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, is the burial complex and mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the founder of the Qin Dynasty and the first emperor of a unified China.

According to the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian (a historian from the Han period), Qin Shi Huang was born in 259 BC in Handan, the capital of Zhao.

He was given the name of Ying Zheng or Zhao Zheng – Zheng being his month of birth “Zhengyue”, the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Around 246 – 247 BC, the 13-year-old Ying Zheng succeeded his father to the throne of Qin and reigned for 36 years as Qin Shi Huang until his death in 210 BC.

Qin Shi Huang’s reign brought about the unification of China and an end to the Warring States period in 221 BC. He constructed a series of walls to connect fortifications along the empire’s northern frontier (the precursor to the Great Wall of China) and built a national road system and the Lingqu Canal.

Although some historians see Qin Shi Huang’s rule as one of tyranny, he did enact several major economic and political reforms to standardise the Chinese states incorporated into his Empire and worked to completely abolish the feudal system of loose alliances and federations.

During his life, Qin Shi Huang became obsessed with immortality and sought the elixir of life. He sent ships in search of Penglai mountain on an inhabited island, where an ancient magician known as Anqi Sheng was said to reside. Qin mythology believed that immortals resided on the mountain and knew the secret to everlasting life.

It was this obsession with immortality that would be Qin Shi Huang’s downfall, as many historians propose that he died from prolonged poisoning due to regular consumption of an elixir containing mercury. Mercury exposure would undoubtedly cause a decline in function of the central nervous system and result in severe brain and liver damage.

Qin Shi Huang was buried in the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, a large complex commissioned when he first became emperor. The mausoleum is located in present-day Lintong District in the city of Xi’an, and was constructed over 38 years using 700,000 workmen (based on historical text).

The structure of the mausoleum is situated beneath a 76-metre-tall hillock (mound) shaped like a truncated pyramid, however, due to soil erosion the pyramid now stands at 47 metres tall. The base of the pyramid measures 515 x 485 metres and covers an area of just under one square mile.

Excavations around the complex have discovered around 7,000 (estimates suggest up to 8,000) statues of terracotta warriors, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians, and around 100 wooden battle chariots placed to serve the emperor in his afterlife.

Archaeologists have steered clear of excavating the tomb beneath the hillock due to concerns of the irreparable damage that would be caused to the structure, and the accelerated degradation of the tomb contents when exposed to contaminants such as air pollutants, temperature oscillations, changes in humidity, bacteria and fungus.

This is evidenced with the terracotta warriors, as when they were first excavated, the painted surface present on some examples began to flake and fade within seconds of exposure to the dry air of Xi’an’s climate.

What is known about the tomb interior comes again from the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian, who describes how workmen constructed palaces and scenic towers for a hundred officials within the interior of the hillock. They poured bronze to cast the emperors outer coffin and filled the tomb with rare artefacts and treasures from across China.

Using non-invasive techniques such as geo radar and gravimetre investigations, archaeologists have determined that the “palace” measures 140 × 110 × 30 m3, while the central coffin chamber measures 80 × 50 × 15 m3.

Most interestingly, is Sima Qian’s account of Mercury being used in the tomb to simulate the hundred rivers, the Yangtze, Yellow River, and the great sea, which sat below a representation of the heavenly constellations.

In 2016, a study using lidar mapping was conducted around the mausoleum to detect traces of mercury concentrations. The study found elevated concentrations up to 27 ng/m3, significantly higher than the typical general pollutant level in the area which was found to be around 5–10 ng/m3.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) continues to follow a process of research and evaluations to develop a protection plan before any long-term excavations can take place in the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.

Header Image Credit : Alamy (Under Copyright)

Sources :

Zhao, G., Zhang, W., Duan, Z. et al. Mercury as a Geophysical Tracer Gas – Emissions from the Emperor Qin Tomb in Xi´an Studied by Laser Radar. Sci Rep 10, 10414 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-67305-x

An Integrated Geophysical and Archaeological Investigation of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum https://doi.org/10.2113/JEEG11.2.73

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill

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Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

Construction of the early Romanesque Merseburg Cathedral was begun by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg in 1015.

It was consecrated in 1021 in the presence of Emperor Heinrich II (Henry II), however, following a series of collapses in the eastern part of the structure, the cathedral wouldn’t be formally consecrated and opened until 1042 by Bishop Hunold.

The Merseburg Cathedral of St. John and St. Lawrence is today considered one of the most important cathedral buildings in Germany.

The LDA team were excavating the basement of the so-called Martinikurie, a two-story residential building from the Baroque period. Excavations revealed the remains of the first bishop’s palace, dating from from the time of the second consecration of Merseburg Cathedral.

According to the LDA: “We found the almost completely preserved basement-like lower floor of a hall building, whose 1.75 metre thick foundation walls are still preserved up to a height of 3.40 metres. Steps in the masonry and a pillar from the time of construction inside the building prove that at least one hall-like upper floor once stood on top of this.”
The palace was constructed by Bishop Hunold, who headed the diocese of Merseburg between 1036 and 1050.

“This finding makes it possible to locate one of the most important buildings of the episcopal see in Merseburg – a building that, with its location and size, clearly expresses the self-confidence of the diocese, which was re-founded in 1004 by King Henry II of Germany” added the LDA.

Header Image Credit : LDA

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA)

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions

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Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

The papyri were discovered in Berenice Troglodytica, an ancient seaport of Egypt on the western shore of the Red Sea. The city was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC), who named it after his mother, Berenice I of Egypt.

During the Roman period, Berenice Troglodytica was one of the main waystations for the trade in war elephants and exotic goods, imported from India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and Upper Egypt.

Excavations of an animal cemetery located on the western outskirts of the city have uncovered an accumulation of ceramics originating from the Mediterranean, Africa and India.

Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Among the accumulation, the team found Roman coins, a fibula, ostracons (fragments of texts on ceramics), and several papyri.

The papyri contains the correspondence of centurions, naming Haosus, Lucinius and Petronius. Centurions were soldiers who were promoted to command a centuria or “century”, a military unit consisting of between 80 to 100 men.

“In the correspondence, Petronius asks Lucinius (stationed in Berenice Troglodytica) about the prices of individual exclusive goods. There is also the statement: “I am giving you the money, I am sending it by dromedarius (a unit of legionnaires moving on dromedaries). Take care of them, provide them with veal and poles for their tents.”

Dr. Marta Osypińska from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław, said: “For Egyptologists and other scientists dealing with antiquity, this is an extremely rare and high-calibre discovery.”

“In this part of the world, there are very few sites from the Roman period. The Egyptians tend to leave little historical accounts from this time in history, because it is the moment when they were conquered.” added  Dr. Osypińska.

Header Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Sources : PAP

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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