Field Journal
Central China

In 1974, an unprecedented discovery was made by farmers in central China: more than 8,000 terracotta figures who were buried less than one mile from the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. In the four decades since the discovery, archaeologists and scholars have continued to study this remarkable site, and though much has been revealed, much has remained a mystery.

But recent excavations across the site by Mausoleum archaeologists, offer new revelations about not only the tomb itself, but that re-write the history of China and its contact with the western world.

The Terracotta warriors in the Mausoleum of the First Emperor guard macabre and explosive new secrets.

The new archaeological finds suggest China and the West were in contact over fifteen hundred years earlier than the time European explorer Marco Polo arrived in China. For the first time archaeologists believe they have evidence of technologies from the West being used to create treasures found at the Tomb of the First Emperor. “We now have evidence that close contact existed between the First Emperor’s China and the West before the formal opening of the Silk Road. This is far earlier than we formerly thought,” says Dr Li Xiuzhen, Senior Archaeologist at the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, China.

Before the creation of the First Emperor’s tomb, there was no tradition of building life-sized human statues in China. Statues found before the First Emperor’s time are small, 20 centimetre tall simple figurines.

Where The Terracotta Army came from and who created them has previously been a mystery. To explain how such an enormous change in skill and style could have happened, Dr Xiuzhen believes that influences must have come from outside China.

Additionally, geophysical evidence suggests the First Emperor’s tomb complex is much bigger than first thought – 200 times bigger than Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. “The archaeological work undertaken here recently is more important than anything in the last 40 years,” notes Prof Zhang Weixing, Lead Archaeologist at the Tomb Site.

“By systematically examining the First Emperor’s main tomb and subsidiary burials we have discovered something more important even than the Terracotta Army.” China’s Megatomb Revealed

Emerging Explorer Albert Lin and National Geographic Channel unearth the terrible secrets that lie hidden in the tomb of China’s first Emperor. The Terracotta Warriors are just the tip of the iceberg in the largest tomb complex ever discovered, which has gone largely unexcavated…until now. These silent statues guard explosive, macabre findings that paint a very different picture of the ancient world from what we thought we knew.

View more information on China’s Megatomb Revealed on National Geographic Channel here.