Terracotta army may be guarding buried treasure

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The Independent Online

New images of the 2,000-year-old imperial resting place showed a bounty of coins scattered about in the sealed-off tomb. There are a "remarkable amount of coins", officials said.

The find has led Chinese and German archaeologists studying the remains to conclude that the emperor may have been buried with his state treasure.

Qin Shihuang, who ruled under the name "First Emperor" in 221-10BC, is thought to have ordered the building of a large underground tomb at the age of 13. His reputation was that of a unifier who brought in a single currency, the rule of law and written language before he died of a lethal concoction of mercury at the age of 49. But he was also an iron-fisted authoritarian and it is believed he wanted to be buried close to his terracotta army, which is arranged in battle formation.

The scientists' scans of the area also reveal details about the structure of the chamber which is thought to have been built by 700,000 men over 36 years.

The mausoleum lies near the former capital of Xi'an, an hour's flight south-west from Beijing. Not only have millions of tourists visited the site, but it is also thought to have provided the inspiration for Antony Gormley's Asian Field work, made up of hand-sized clay figurines. Gormley, who dislikes the comparison, travelled to China where he provided villagers from Guangzhou with tons of clay from which they crafted 190,000 statuettes.

The ancient tomb, which scientists prefer to preserve rather than excavate due to its precarious structure, became famous three decades ago when thousands of terracotta warrior figures were found accidentally by villagers. The subsequent years of air and light exposure have had a deleterious effect.

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