The wonders of the Terracotta Warriors sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang in Shaanxi, China, are many. The fleet of sculptures, dating back to the First Emperor of China in the third century BC, discovered in 1974, still draws crowds in to see life-sized, realistic soldiers in terracotta, buried with the emperor with the purpose of protecting him in his afterlife.
Yet scientists have also long marveled at the warriors’ weaponry; despite being few centuries old, their arsenal, from bronze swords to chariots, still has a perfect shining finish. A team of archaeologists and scientists from the University of Cambridge has recently taken a closer look. As detailed in a Reuters report what was once thought to have been an advanced preservation technique might be, in the end, just dumb luck. In the past, scientists attributed the weapons’ preservation to the metal chromium, which helps to fight off corrosion.
In reality, however, it seems that luck was the most important factor. Instead of chromium protecting the swords and shields of the Terracotta Warrior sculptures, it was the right combination of soil and their particular bronze-and-tin makeup. Though it may be a less fascinating explanation, the case can finally be settled.