Skip to content

Inscriptions, filing, grinding and polishing marks on the bronze weapons from the Qin Terracotta Army in China

by Xiuzhen Janice Li, Marcos Martinón-Torres, Nigel D. Meeks, Yin Xia, Kun Zhao
Journal of Archaeological Science ()
Get full text at journal


This paper is concerned with the inscriptions and finishing marks present on the surfaces of the thousands of bronze weapons recovered together with the Terracotta Army at the mausoleum complex of Qin Shihuang, the First Emperor of China (259-210BC). After utilising the textual information from the inscriptions to reconstruct aspects of labour organisation and political control during the production of the weapons, the work concentrates on documenting and explaining the techniques employed to produce the inscriptions, to file casting imperfections, and to obtain the smooth, shiny and sharp finish still noticeable on many of the weapons. Silicone rubber impressions of surface features of swords, lances, crossbow triggers and arrows were examined under the scanning electron microscope (SEM), and these observations were supplemented with examination of the artefacts under the stereomicroscope and the SEM. The evidence indicates the use of a variety of chisels for making the inscriptions, and of files for removing excess metal from surfaces. In addition, the grinding and polishing marks demonstrate the large-scale, systematic use of rotary wheels to achieve an ideal final polish. These findings are contextualised in the broader history of Chinese metallurgy, with special attention to the emergence of iron tools and of rotary mechanical devices. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Cite this document (BETA)

Readership Statistics

23 Readers on Mendeley
by Discipline
35% Arts and Humanities
22% Social Sciences
17% Materials Science
by Academic Status
35% Student > Ph. D. Student
26% Researcher
17% Student > Postgraduate
by Country
9% Portugal
4% United States
4% Netherlands

Sign up today - FREE

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research. Learn more

  • All your research in one place
  • Add and import papers easily
  • Access it anywhere, anytime

Start using Mendeley in seconds!

Sign up & Download

Already have an account? Sign in