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Terracotta Army: This Shocking New Discovery Could Rewrite Chinese History

Oct 14, 2016 04:16 AM EDT
Terracotta Army
Marco Polo is not the first European to make contact with China. New evidence found by archaeologists revealed that Ancient Greeks artists could have traveled to China 1,500 years -- before Marco Polo -- to help construct the famed Terracotta Army.
(Photo : Flickr/Creative Commons/Colin Capelle)

Until now, history accounts that Marco Polo was among the first Europeans to interact with China in the 13th century, but new evidence found by archeologists revealed that Ancient Greeks artists could have traveled to China 1,500 years -- before Marco Polo -- to help construct the famed Terracotta Army.

The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art composed of a collection of Terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. The 8,000 pieces of clay were placed to guard the Emperor as he lays to rest in eternal life.

Read: Buddha's Skull Discovered in Ancient Crypt in China

According to The Independent, the incredibly surprising claim was based on a European DNA discovered at sites in China's Xinjiang province from the time of the First Emperor in the Third Century BC.

"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," Li Xiuzhen, a senior archaeologist at the Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum in China, told The Guardian.

"We now think the Terracotta Army, the acrobats, and the bronze sculptures found on site, have been inspired by ancient Greek sculptures and art."

National Geographic notes that the eminent pits of Terracota Warriors were unearthed by local workers while digging outside the city of Xi'an, China, in 1974. Aside from the soldiers, with their own unique facial expressions, the pits also contain some ancient weapons, clay horses and wooden chariots.
There are a total of four pits. While the three are filled with clay warriors, the one is left empty, an implication that the mausoleum might not have been finished.

Read: Golden Lotus: The True Story Behind the Persistent Foot Binding in China

Many more pits of Terracotta Warriors were unearthed, but this particular one has the most elaborate design and the most unique. Further suggesting, that it is one-of-a-kind.

Aside from the European DNA found on the site, the archeologists were also able to compare the style of Teraccota acrobats to Ancient Greek art. Startlingly, the styles are the same, Science Alert said.

The findings will be aired in, The Greatest Tomb on Earth, later this month, a documentary made by the BBC and National Geographic.

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