Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army, by Michael Capek

Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army, by Michael Capek (Lerner, 2008, 80pp).
The farmers who lived in the shadow of Emperor Qin's burial mound told stories of ghosts beneath the earth. In 1974, the ghosts were found--the terracotta army of the emperor, thousands of clay warriors and their weapons, entombed over two thousand years before. This book is detailed account of their discovery, and the years of painstaking excavation that yielded fabulous treasures. It is told in the present text, so that the reader has the sense of making discoveries, first with the farmers digging a new well, then with the archaeologists, who are faced with one of the most formidable archaeological challenges ever:
"It seems that a vast room lies beneath the whole field. Terracotta pottery and metallic weapons fill the chamber. Yuan and the other archaeologists are overwhelmed. No one has found anything of this sort in China before. for that matter, no one has found anything like this anyplace else in the world."

Emperor Qin's army is a fascinating topic, thoroughly explored here. I wish there had been more room to place the army more firmly in its cultural and historical context--there are some sidebars, that begin to do this, but the book never strays far from the present. Copious illustrations, a glossary, a list of websites, a bibliography, and more, enhance this book's research value. And it is an excellent exploration of just how tricky archaeology can be, and how much patience can be required--today, when the museum visitor sees the warriors standing in their orderly rows, it is hard to remember that they were found in many, many pieces!

This review is my contribution to Nonfiction Monday over at Picture Book of the Day. I received my copy from the publisher.

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