Friday, April 18, 2008

Fascinating Archaeological Sites

We began today with a tour of The Banpo Neolithic Village Museum. Banpo village was discovered in the 1950s and is an important archaeological site depicting life and culture in Neolithic China. The Yangshao people inhabited Banpo village and the society flourished between 5000 and 3000 BCE. To give you an idea of how old the site is, Banpo village was a thriving society a few hundred years before the Great Pyramids at Giza were built.

While at the site, we were able to see excavation sites showing outlines of homes, burial sites, and kilns as well as the skeletons of 4 women and 2 men found at the site.

Our next stop was a pottery and furniture workshop. Here we saw some life-sized Terra Cotta Warriors as well as beautiful lacquer furniture. We learned how the replica Terra Cotta Warriors are made and saw artists painting dragon sculptures and finishing furniture.

The largest part of our day was spent at the Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses. In 1974, peasants discovered clay pottery pieces while digging a well close to the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. These pieces turned out to be artifacts from the mausoleum, a construction effort that took 11 years to build in the 3rd century BCE. Emperor Qin is considered to be the first emperor of China. During his reign, he defeated the six major kingdoms of China, unifying the country and giving it its name (a “Q” in Chinese is pronounced “Ch”). He also began the construction of the Great Wall of China. Terrified of death, Emperor Qin ordered the construction of his mausoleum at age 30 and intended for his tomb to be guarded by life-size replicas of his army soldiers.

The museum covers 16,300 meters and consists of 3 separate excavation pits with life-size clay soldiers, horses, and charioteers. Pit 1 is the largest and contains rows of life-size soldiers with horses and chariot drivers lined behind them (the chariots were made of wood and destroyed by fire). Each soldier in the 3 pits has unique features and clothing. Originally the clay figures were painted, but very little remains of the paint today. Pits 2 and 3 contain pieces of soldiers, horses, charioteers, and weapons as they were found at the excavation site.

Today’s interesting tidbit: Over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, charioteers, and weapons have been found at the site of the excavation pits near the mausoleum of Emperor Qin. Pit 1 opened to the public in 1979. Pit 2 opened in 1994 and Pit 3 in 1989. In 1987, the site was named a World Heritage Center by UNESCO.

Photos: 1. David B., a teacher from Berlin, Connecticut, as a Terra Cotta Warrior. 2. Pit 1 at the Museum of Emperor Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses.


Kenneth said...

When you saw the pyramids a few years ago, did you think you would be seeing something even older?

Christie said...

AMAZING! Keep up the great writing about your adventures. Enjoy! Christie

Anonymous said...

Hi Katherine,
I am happy you are having a good time. This is a great experience seein all those sites and meeting lots of people. Looks like the flight to Shanghai went without incident. Talked to Hon Wei last noight. She was interested in how you were doing. Enjoy rest of trip.
John Gabriel