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Crossbows and imperial craft organisation: the bronze triggers of China's Terracotta Army

  • Xiuzhen Janice Li (a1) (a2), Andrew Bevan (a2), Marcos Martinón-Torres (a2), Thilo Rehren (a2) (a3), Wei Cao (a1), Yin Xia (a1) and Kun Zhao (a1)...
Abstract

The Terracotta Army that protected the tomb of the Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang offers an evocative image of the power and organisation of the Qin armies who unified China through conquest in the third century BC. It also provides evidence for the craft production and administrative control that underpinned the Qin state. Bronze trigger mechanisms are all that remain of crossbows that once equipped certain kinds of warrior in the Terracotta Army. A metrical and spatial analysis of these triggers reveals that they were produced in batches and that these separate batches were thereafter possibly stored in an arsenal, but eventually were transported to the mausoleum to equip groups of terracotta crossbowmen in individual sectors of Pit 1. The trigger evidence for large-scale and highly organised production parallels that also documented for the manufacture of the bronze-tipped arrows and proposed for the terracotta figures themselves.

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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