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1,700-year-old Terracotta Warriors Unearthed in Shangdong
Chinese archaeologists have unearthed more than 100 terracotta warriors dating back to the imperial Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) in east China's Shandong province.

Cui Dayong, a chief archaeologist with the excavation task force, described the pit containing the warriors as the fourth largest ofits kind found in China.

The three biggest pits include those in northwest China's Shaanxi province, where life-size terracotta warriors unearthed inthe 1970s from the tomb of Emperor Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) were dubbed "one of the eight wonders in the world".

At the excavation site at Weishan Hill in Shengjing town near the provincial capital, Jinan, archaeologists measured the newly-opened pit as 9.7 meters long, 1.9 meters wide and about 0.7 meters deep.

The terracotta warriors, whose size is yet to be determined, were assembled in three groups -- a total of some 30 cavalry men in five rows, chariots and about 80 infantry men, they said.

The warriors on horseback cut imposing and vivid figures, while the crimson-toned horses were sharply drawn and strongly sculpted.

As the excavation is expected to last two or three weeks, experts have yet to agree on who owned the pit.

Jiang Yingju, a prestigious archaeologist in east China's Shandong province, said that such pits were quite rare in China and, judging from its size and the number of warriors, the owner could have been a nobleman or other upper class figure of the Han Dynasty.

Meanwhile, Cui acknowledged that the formation of the terracotta warriors and horses accorded with the protocol of the Han Dynasty.

Most of the warriors and horses were damaged to varying extents with some crushed and the colorful coating faded because of water erosion, he added.

The warriors were discovered by Zhao Qingfang and Zhang Qiyuan, two villagers, by chance on November 23 while digging holes to plant trees on the hillside.

Recalling the moment he found them, Zhang said, "When we dug out two 'stone horseheads', I thought they might be cultural relics.

"But I was not sure, and then we reported the discovery to village head."

Local officials noted that several Han Dynasty tombs were unearthed over the years, which enabled local residents to have some basic knowledge about cultural relics.

(People's Daily December 5, 2002)

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