Mr. Mike Fitzpatrick on the subject of “The Terra Cotta Army”

Mr. Mike Fitzpatrick was this months guest speaker.

His chosen topic was The Terra-Cotta Army and his knowledge of this subject was only surpassed by his enthusiasm.

The Terracotta Army or the “Terracotta Warriors and Horses” is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.

During his illustrated talk we were transported back in time to when China (as we know it today) did not exist, to see what surely must be the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century.

As is sometimes the case with great discoveries, the army was discovered quite by accident during excavations for a well, when a workman fell through into the great chamber.

Despite a commonly held belief, the figures were not buried in the earth but were placed in great chamber with a paved floor, which was then covered with timbers and tilled soil.

The terracotta warriors are unique. Not only are they life-size and individually modelled in clay, but the detail of the figures is astounding. Not only can we observe the construction of body armour of terracotta army, with even the heads of rivets standing out, butthe soles of the shoes of the kneeling warriors are modelled with fine tread patterns. The hands and the heads of the terracotta warriors were made separately, and each head is reputed to be different and individual. Although all the warriors were in the pits they had been buried in, many of them were in pieces and have had to be restored. The museum technicians and craftsmen who undertook this difficult task often had to remodel parts to restore areas of the figures that were too badly damaged to be reconstructed.

Mr Fitzpatrick delved into the customs and rituals of the time of China’s first emperor and provided a fascinating insight into the rituals surrounding death, for the army was intended to accompany the Emperor into the afterlife and to provide protection for him.

A fascinating subject and very well presented. All in all a very interesting talk.

JIM PORTER

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