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Standardisation, Labour Organisation and the Bronze Weapons of the Qin Terracotta Warriors

Li, X; (2012) Standardisation, Labour Organisation and the Bronze Weapons of the Qin Terracotta Warriors. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access


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Alongside the thousands of terracotta warriors discovered in the tomb complex of the first emperor of China, were tens of thousands of bronze weapons, including arrowheads and crossbow triggers, lances, spears, halberds (and the ferrules associated with them), swords and a few other special types. This quantity and quality of bronze weaponry provides an extremely rare opportunity to investigate patterns of standardisation and labour organisation within a single, very large and intentional assemblage as well as to consider the role of bronze production during the Qin period (325-206 BC) which marks perhaps the most crucial early stage in Chinese political unification. This thesis draws upon extensive measurements, typological analysis and related statistical treatment, as well as a study of the spatial distribution of those bronze weapons found in the most extensively excavated part of the tomb complex (the five easternmost trenches in Pit 1). Metric data and statistical assessment of inter- and intra-group variation (e.g. coefficients of variation) suggest interesting patterns with regard to relative degrees of standardisation. A combination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and point pattern analysis are used to assess formally any spatial patterning in the weapons and their analytical attributes, which then also provides further information about the labour organisation behind the production, transportation and placement of weapons as they were moved from the workshop and/or arsenal to the funeral pits. Combining these insights with those obtained from inscriptions found on some of the weapons and from ancient documents, this project investigates what technologies and crafting behaviour affected weapons production and labour organisation in a centralised imperial system. This research project fills a gap in the study of mass production, the behaviour of craftspeople and related logistical organisation in ancient China and to provide empirical data by analysing systematically on the types, dimensions and spatial patterns of Qin bronze weapons in the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s tomb complex.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Standardisation, Labour Organisation and the Bronze Weapons of the Qin Terracotta Warriors
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1350109
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