In 1974, in a deserted field in China’s Shaanxi province, farmers stumbled upon one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time concerning the tomb of Qin Shi Huang.
Do not dare to excavate the tomb
While digging, farmers found fragments of human figures made of clay.
Archaeological excavations revealed that the field was above several cellars. The vault contains thousands of life-size models of soldiers and warhorses. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the science page IFLScience, Apparently this terracotta army was meant to protect the nearby mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. This was the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. He reigned from 221 to 210 BC.
Much of the cemetery surrounding the mausoleum has been explored. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang has not been opened yet.
Perhaps all eyes have not dared to look inside this mausoleum for more than 2,000 years. They feared that this emperor’s tomb would be sealed inside.
Archaeologists give a reason: They fear the excavation could damage the tomb. It also loses important historical information.
Currently, only invasive archaeological techniques can be used to enter the mausoleum. But this technique carries a high risk of causing irreparable damage.
One of the most obvious examples is the excavation of Troy, Turkey, in the 1870s by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.
With his haste and “naive”, his archaeological work destroyed almost every trace of the city. Chinese archaeologists certainly don’t want to make the same mistake again.
What is scary about the tomb of Qin Shi Huang?
Scientists have come up with the idea of using a number of non-invasive techniques to look inside the tomb.
One idea uses “muons,” the subatomic product of cosmic rays colliding with atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, which could see through advanced X-ray-like structures. However, it seems that most of these proposals are slow to implement.
Opening the grave can also lead to many immediate and fatal dangers. In a document written about 100 years after Qin Shi Huang’s death, the ancient Chinese historian Sima Qian explains that the tomb was filled with traps to kill any intruders.
“Soldier statues with crossbows and arrows ready to shoot anyone who entered the mausoleum. Mercury is used to simulate hundreds of rivers. Including the Yangtze River, Yellow River and the great sea. They are set to flow mechanically,” writes historian Sima Qian.
Even if a 2,000-year-old bow and arrow weapon fails, the document shows a flood of toxic liquid mercury that could wash away grave diggers.
Those are not empty threats. Scientific studies have looked at mercury concentrations around tombs. The researchers found significantly higher concentrations of mercury than in other regions.