The horses in China's world-famous terracotta army were made near the mausoleum of Qinshihuang (First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, 259-210 BC), but the warriors were made elsewhere, according to an analysis of pollen on the clay.
Scientists from the Institute of Botany in the Chinese Academy of Sciences put the terracotta clay under a microscope and identified 32 different kinds of pollen grains.
"The pollen found in the horses was similar to that of Qinshihuang's mausoleum, but the pollen in the warriors was quite different," project leader Hu Yaqin told Xinhua News Agency yesterday.
Qinshihuang's mausoleum is located near Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
The pollen in the warriors was mainly from herb plants, such as mustard and cabbage, and plants like sagebrush, wormwood, quinoa, spinach, beets, and chard. The pollen in the horses came from trees, such as pine, kamala, and ginkgo.
"We signed an agreement with Qinshihuang's Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum in Xi'an, and they gave us 10 to 20 grams of clay fragments," said Hu.
Scientists guess that the horses were made near Qinshihuang's mausoleum to make transport easier and safer. The horses weigh about 200 kilograms (440 pounds) while the warriors weigh 150 kilograms (330 pounds), and they are two meters long with delicate fragile legs.
The scientists don't yet know precisely where the warriors were made.
Hu's article "What Can Pollen Grain Tell Us About Terracotta?" has been posted on the website of the Journal of Archaeological Science in London.
"This work may open a new trail for archaeologists in regard to ancient terracotta or pottery. The pollen can tell us things we want to know," said Hu.
The statues of warriors and horses were buried with Qinshihuang more than 2,000 years ago. His mausoleum has never been excavated, but the life-sized figures were unearthed from surrounding pits in the 1970s. Warriors and horses were buried with Qinshihuang to safeguard him after his death.
Because protection problems have only been partially resolved, only 1,500 terracotta warriors and horses have been unearthed, and nearly 6,000 items still lie buried in the dark earth.
(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2007)