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The archaeological legacies of Howard Carter and Zhao Kangmin: famous finds fifty-two years apart

Emperor Qin's Tomb, terra cotta soldiers, Xi'an, China

"The largest tomb in Chinese history"

Howard Carter, born 1874 in Kensington, England, was perhaps the most famous archaeologist in the world prior to the Indian Jones movie franchise. Having joined an archaeological expedition to Egypt in 1891, 8 years later he was named Chief Inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service (now the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, an independent ministry), a position he held until his resignation in 1905. In 1914, Carter joined an expedition led by Lord Carnarvon who had received permission to conduct investigations in Egypt’s famed Valley of the Kings. This expedition yielded little until November 1922, when Carter found the steps that would lead to the tomb of Tutankhamun—or King Tut. His response to Carnarvon’s question “Can you see anything?” became famous—“Yes, wonderful things!”

A century after Carter was born, two Chinese farmers were digging a well in a field outside the ancient city of Xi’an. Turning up some terra cotta sherds, the accidental archaeologists notified Chinese authorities, having no idea what they had discovered—an extraordinary burial tomb for China’s first emperor containing thousands of life-like terra cotta warriors, together with other military accoutrement. While the site became instantly famous—and was declared a World Heritage site in 1987—the name of the government archaeologist who was sent to document the site largely fell into oblivion. Recently, Zhao Kangmin passed away at age 82.


Archaeologist Who Uncovered China's 8,000-Man Terra Cotta Army Dies At 82

National Public Radio

May 20, 2018

For more on Emperor Qin’s Tomb, see National Geographic's reference page t

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