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Ink marks, bronze crossbows and their implications for the Qin Terracotta Army

Bevan, A; Li, X; Zhao, Z; Huang, J; Laidlaw, S; Xi, N; Xia, Y; ... Martinon-Torres, M; + view all (2018) Ink marks, bronze crossbows and their implications for the Qin Terracotta Army. Heritage Science , 6 , Article 75. 10.1186/s40494-018-0239-5. Green open access

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Abstract

At the heart of bureaucratic practice during Warring States and early Imperial China were regular, small acts of accountancy in which objects and people were marked so that their movements could be kept track of, their quality checked and their numbers marshalled. In the mausoleum complex of the Qin Shihuang (259-210 bc, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty), the longer texts and shorter inscribed marks found on the bronze weapons of the Terracotta Army are reasonably well known, and such information helps us to understand aspects of Qin craft organisation and logistics at this crucial period of Chinese state formation. This paper’s modest starting point is a study of two further, less well-known ink inscriptions found on crossbow triggers from Terracotta Army Pit 1. Using multispectral photography, digital microscopy and Raman analysis, we uncover evidence of further marks on the same two triggers that suggest a similar pattern of ‘matching’ marks as suggested by the incised evidence. We also identify the black substance used to make the marks as a soot-based ink. Spatial analysis of both the inked and incised trigger marks then provides wider context for how such marking practices amongst Qin bronze-workers may have operated.

Type: Article
Title: Ink marks, bronze crossbows and their implications for the Qin Terracotta Army
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s40494-018-0239-5
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40494-018-0239-5
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/ publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Keywords: Empire, Raman, Multispectral, Spatial analysis, Craft production
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10064800
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