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Since c. 1906 China was closed for foreign archaeologist, SAFSA was the first foreign group, which had a permit to excavate in Xi’an together with Chinese archaeologists. Later for a while some other foreign groups were excavating under Chinese supervision. There are in The United States a great number of specialists on Chinese art & archaeology, but until 1990 none of them excavated in China. Through our field school, the participants could establish under the umbrella of SAFSA future contacts with leading Chinese archaeological experts. In China every program should be attached to a UNIT. The Field School with partnership with the Archaeological Institute of Shaanxi Province with the host Institution of Xi’an Jiaotong University created a unit. The goal is to exchange methodology and to teach the future generation of American or foreign archaeologists who want to be specialized or just gain an exposure in Chinese archaeology. The program of SAFSA is an archaeological practicum
SAFSA helped to unearth a late pre-historic village from the matrimonial Yangshao culture. During other campaigns were unearthed great many built tombs from the Qin and Han Period. From the Eastern Han period (c.50 AD), in a tomb of an officer was discovered a child’s secondary burial. The child died earlier and reburied with the father. We helped also to unearth one of the Treasuries of the First Emperor of China (r.221-210 BC.) In 1998 SAFSA helped to unearth about 300 terra cotta soldiers of Han Emperor Jing Di (died, 141 BC). During the summer of 2000 a burial Mound, from the Tang period, the Mausoleum of Li Xian, the grandson of the only Chinese woman Emperor Wu Zetian was unearthed.
Earliest Star-map in Xi’an.
A late western Han painted tomb (c.50 BC) was accidentally discovered within the perimeter of Xi’an Jiaotong University, The mural depicts the earlier representation of star map in constellation. Although the tomb was plundered in antiquity, but enough material remained in situ to date and analyze the tomb. The dating of the tomb was made (a) by deduction, and (b) by aesthetic comparison.
The tomb, faced to South, was constructed by flat wedge-and-buckle crafted bricks, which were assembled without mortar. These types of constructions in China were very rare. The two identically sized chambers flanked at the front of the main chamber were similarly covered with barrel vault. The vault, and the sidewalls of the main chamber, was highly decorated with mural painting, while the walls and the ceilings of the other two chambers were unpainted. The murals on the ceiling and the walls of the main chamber depicted a star map according to the description of the famous Han historian Sima Qian (145 – 87 BC.? ). His father was also historiographer and in succeeding his father he also became Lord Grand Astrologer in the Court of the Han Emperor WU Di (Liu Che – r.141 – 87 BC).
Mausoleum of Jing Di (Yang Ling Mausoleum)
During the summer campaign of 1998 the Field School helped to unearth great many terra cotta soldiers related to the tomb of Han Emperor Jing Di (Liu Qi, died 141 BC). The site is located in the Xianyang Yuan (plateau), near to the airport of Xi’an. As part of the renewal of the infrastructure of Chinese transportation, from the new Airport through the mausoleum area to Xi’an a speedway was built. Therefore, a salvage excavation was ordered in which our Filed school also collaborated. On the same plateau nine of the eleven Han Emperors were buried.
The tomb complex of Emperor Jing Di, called the Yang Ling Mausoleum of the Han Dynasty covers an area of 96.000 square meters. It was placed in a garden settings, which included the Tombs of the Emperor Jing Di, the Empress Wang who died in 126 B.C., and the first Concubine (Su Ji), the living quarter of the spirit of the Emperor, the burials of the attendants, and officials, The different pits containing miniature granary, figurines of soldiers, caretaker civilians, horse drawn chariots as well as domesticated miniature animals, and then later added the relatives and important people related to Emperor Jing Di. There was a special large ossuary filled with the bones of the executed war prisoners, for serving as slaves the Emperor in his afterlife.
Large-scale excavation started in 1990. Great number of artifacts were so far discovered and determined the extend of the Yang Ling site, which gave convincing documentary evidences to archaeological support to the data which was given by Ban Gu (A.D. 32 92) in his History of Han Dynasty (Han Shu). The burials of the Emperor and Empress were square-pyramidal tumuli. The base of the Emperor’s one was made for 170 meter and the top is 50 meter on each side. The tumulus was placed in a garden and enclosed by a wall of 410 long on each side. The distance between the base of the tumulus and the four walls was 120 meter.
The area in which the Field School worked and unearthed a large score of terra cotta soldiers was a partly already excavated a c. 150 meter long, c. 4 meter wide and 7 meter deep pit, filled with terra cotta soldiers in military formation to defend the Mausoleum complex of Yang Ling. Following the advise of Confucius (551 B.C 479 B.C), already Qin Shi Huang (reigned c.221 207 B.C.) Decided to place around his burial underground palace complex several thousands of life size terra cotta soldiers. However, in this several hundred meter long narrow corridor the painted terra cotta soldiers were only 1/3rd of that of Qin Shi Huang’s. The Government of Slovenia offered help to properly dig out these soldiers and above the long ditch, which is crossing the present super highway from the Airport to the City of Xi’an. The Slovenes in our section of the long ditch built a roof with skylight. Under this roof, in the same constant humidity, protected from the heat rays of the sun, the tidies works of unearthing these terra cotta soldiers were made. The faces were individualized portraits. It was made by excellent sense of proportion and quite realistic facial expressions. These Terra Cotta soldiers and that of the tomb of Qin Shi Huang are the proofs of the high level Chinese portrait tradition that existed long before the importation of realistic Buddhist sculptures from India.
The weapons we unearthed were made as exact miniaturized replica of which used in the battlefield for attack such as the crossbow, iron halberds, spears and swords. For defensive purpose use the shields which were discovered in the collapsed pit of
the soldiers. The tiny copper three-edged arrowheads, was a perfect imitation of the large one, which were used already in the previous Dynasty. Near to the bodies of the soldiers, miniaturized Han coins with square hole in the center with readable inscription of Ban liang (half liang) were found.
Hui-Ling Mausoleum – Tomb of Crown Prince Li Xian of Tang
SAFSA in collaboration with the Chinese field director Professor MA Zhijun of Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology, helped to unearth during summer of 2000 the so-called HUI-LING MAUSOLEUM, near Xi’an in Pucheng County (Shaanxi Province). It was the resting-place of Li Xian, the elder brother of Emperor Xuan Zhong (Li Longji, r.712-756), one of the grandsons of the only female Emperor Wu Ze-tian. Important wall paintings both sides of the entrance corridor, terra cotta figures, and stone outer coffin with low relief were discovered, as well as the gate and the walls around the burial mound.
Both sides of the corridor, which led toward the burial chamber frescoes, were painted on the wall, and the side niches great number of female painted terra cotta statuettes were placed. Under the supervision of Ms. Jiang Jun, director of the Field Laboratory and her two assistants, our students carefully scraped off the dirt from these statuettes and prepared them for preliminary conservation.
The frescoes on the corridor’s wall are in a very fragile shape. Without immediate removal from the wall and proper conservation, certainly it would fall off soon from the wall. It would need immediate. Dr. Lengyel the American Director of SAFSA, as a member of ICOM/ICMAH-UNESCO immediately requested help from the President of ICOM, Jacques Perot, A French group soon arrived and removed the frescoes. After proper conservation they were placed place into the museum of the Archaeology Institute of Shaanxi Province. Certainly, the Institute would need foreign help to train specialists for the fresco removal and conservation.