Initial excavations of the region uncovered more of the warrior figures, as well as figures of horses. Archaeologists established these as belonging to the Qin Dynasty. Further excavations revealed that the figures were part of the terracotta army buried to protect Shihuangdi’s nearby tomb.

Construction and structure of the burial vaults of the terracotta warriors: method of concealment, location and purpose

The tomb lies at the centre of a complex that covers an area of around seven and a half square kilometres, however, site associated with the tomb, such as kilns and the burial grounds of conscripted workers extend over an area of 56 square kilometres. It was marked by a man-made hill which is around 70 metres high, but have been more than 100 metres high in ancient times.


The Burial chamber (23 metres below ground level) is built within a square enclosure, with doors in the middle of each of the four walls corresponding to the four cardinal points. The inside of the chamber is lined with bricks and the outside is sealed from underground water by stone slabs.

When it was built, the tomb was surrounded by a city of palaces above-ground, and hundreds of chambers below ground. The above ground structures were destroyed in ancient times. Layout of the tomb resembles layout of Qin capital, Xianyang, with the imperial palace enclosed by the walls of the city which, in turn, are surrounded by other walls. It was meant to represent the emperor’s real world – so he could continue his rule in the afterlife.

Terracotta Warriors: nature of warfare, armour, weapons, features and status of foot soldiers, officers and cavalrymen, extent of the finds

  • Warriors, horses and chariots of the terracotta army were buried in three pits between five and seven metres beneath the present ground level.
  • Pits were divided into trenches paved with brick and covered with a timber framework of pillars and cross-beams.
  • Soldiers, chariots and horses were wheeled into position within the trenches.
  • Wooden planks were laid across the top, then thick reed mats, and finally soil.
  • Fourth pit was found, but it was empty.

Pit 1:

= largest of the pits

= rectangular, measures 230 by 62 metres.

= soldiers and charioteers are arranged in battle formation – 11 columns in series of parallel trenches, 210 metres long.

= Inner 9 columns of heavily armed infantry stand four abreast.

= Remains of wooden chariots, now decayed, and terracotta horses which drew them.

= 3 rows of archers form the vanguard and at each side a single clumn of spearmen face outward.

= Warriors in rearguard were armed with crossbows.

= Half of Pit 1 has been excavated and 1087 soldiers, 32 horses and traces of 8 wooden chariots have been uncovered.

= Archaeologists estimate that Pit 1 may yield more than 6000 warriors, 160 horses and 40 chariots.

= Building in the shape of a giant aircraft hangar was constructed over Pit 1 to protect the site and the excavation and restoration work being carried out.

= More than 1000 soldiers have been restored to standing position in Pit 1.

Pit 2:

= L-shaped and covers an area of about 6000 square metres

= Excavations have so far revealed around 900 soldiers, including kneeling and standing archers, infantrymen and charioteers.

= Archers armed with crossbows kneel in front line. Behind them stand more archers ready to fire over the front line.

= War chariots are arranged in 8 groups of 8, each one with an officer archer and 3 infantrymen, one of each side and one at the rear. Charioteers wore distinctive long-sleeved armour to protect their arms and hands.

= Cavalrymen stand in front of their horses. Wear a short belted garment, close-fitting long pants and an armour vest.

= More than 350 chariot horses, 124 cavalry horses and the remains of 90 wooden chariots have been uncovered in Pit 2.

= Traces of original colouring remain on some of the figures.

= Only a part of Pit 2 has been excavated.

= Building over the top has been constructed.

= Archaeologists estimate that Pit 2 may hold up to 1300 figures.

Pit 3:

= Smallest of the 3 pits.

= U-shaped and covers an area of just under 500 square metres.

= Houses the battle headquarters of the terracotta army.

= Ranks of officers can be distinguished by uniform, armour and headdress.

= Front of pit, facing east, canopied chariot drawn by four horses and followed by four armoured soldiers.

= Horses and soldiers found in good condition, but many of the other 64 warriors were smashed.

= Numerous bronze weapons uncovered = swords, daggers, halberds, spears, axes, crossbow triggers, arrows


Chambers in and around the burial enclosure:

= Bronze and iron weights from GansuandShandong = large no. indicate the power of the central Qin government and its ability to standardise and make the management of the empire more efficient – Examining the Evidence, p. 194

= bamboo sheets from a tomb at Xiaogan, Hubeiprovince = covered in a type of writing called li shu = simplified type of writing designed during the reign of the First Emperor – detail the work and duties of a government official.

= Nine major enigmas of Qin Shihuang Mausoleum article