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Scientists estimate that there are a total of 8,000 terra-cotta warriors. (Reuters)

An Ancient Palace Uncovered

Archaeologists find a 2,200-year-old royal palace at the site of the famous terra-cotta warriors in China

By Tyrus Cukavac | January 2 , 2013
<p>TOP: The terra-cotta army was created to honor Qin Shihuangdi, the first emperor of China. (4X-image / Getty Images)</p><p> BOTTOM: The Emperor’s massive funeral complex is buried in the Chinese city of Xi’an. (Jim McMahon)</p>

TOP: The terra-cotta army was created to honor Qin Shihuangdi, the first emperor of China. (4X-image / Getty Images)

BOTTOM: The Emperor’s massive funeral complex is buried in the Chinese city of Xi’an. (Jim McMahon)

The ancient city of Xi’an (shee-an) in China holds many treasures. And last month, archaeologists working there made an important discovery—a buried palace built in the third century B.C. to honor China’s first emperor.

The entire palace measures roughly 2,260 feet long by 820 feet wide. It includes 10 courtyard houses and one main building. Archaeologists found bricks and pieces of pottery at the site of the palace, as well as the remains of walls and roads.


The palace is part of the massive burial complex of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi (chin shir-whong-dee). He conquered seven warring kingdoms and united ancient China in 211 B.C.

Qin Shihuangdi wanted his legacy, or accomplishments, to be remembered forever. So he hired more than 700,000 workers to build his funeral complex in Xi’an. It represents a miniature version of his vast kingdom.

The complex also includes the world-famous terra-cotta army, a collection of more than 8,000 life-size clay statues. These sculptures represent soldiers, acrobats, and horses from the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-206 B.C.). Scientists have not yet found all these terra-cotta warriors, even though they discovered more of the statues last summer.


Farmers discovered the complex by accident in 1974. Since then, scientists studying the site have learned a great deal about life in ancient China. But much of the emperor’s tomb has yet to be excavated, or unearthed. Many of the artifacts (objects from the past) are so old that scientists cannot preserve them.

“Archaeologists fully acknowledge that nobody in the world has the technology [to safely excavate Xi’an’s treasures] yet,” explains Kristin Romey, an expert on Chinese archaeology.

But as technology improves, archaeologists will keep digging to uncover the rest of the wonders that still lie buried in Xi’an.

“It’s one of the most important archaeological discoveries that’s waiting to be made,” says Romey, “and we know where it is.”

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