Where are the weapons used to be in the hands of Terracotta Warriors?

If you look closely to Terracotta Warriors, you will find that the hands of the Terracotta Warriors are all the gestures of holding something. According to archaeologists, they used to hold weapons. Where are they? There are two possibilities of these disappeared weapons.

Why did archaeologists speculate Terracotta Warriors once held weapons?

The hands of each terracotta warrior are obviously in the gestures of “holding something”, so the archaeologists speculate that each warrior was equipped with weapons such as sword and spear. First, in the excavation process of the Terracotta Warriors, the archaeologists found some weapons buried in the partition walls next to the warriors; and those weapons were just in line with the posture of the warriors. Also, in the latest excavation, some of the terracotta warriors are still holding the well preserved weapons in their hands. Hence, experts were surer that the terracotta warriors were originally armed.

Possible reasons for the disappearance of weapons

1. The weapons were corroded.

For those disappeared weapons, archaeologists have once considered that they have been buried for so long that they all have corroded away. But the speculation is not very convincing because some other bronze articles were preserved like crossbows and chariots, why could not the bronze weapons in the hands of terracotta warriors be preserved?

See also: 

Advanced Anti-rust Chromium Plate on Terracotta Army Weapons? Just Coincidence! 

Real Reasons Why Terracotta Army Weapons are Well-preserved

2. The Weapons were stolen.

First of all, metal was rare resource in ancient times, and after the unification of China by the first Emperor of Qin, all the weapons were required to be handed over to the country. At the end of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC), peasant uprisings occurred frequently but they lack weapons. So the weapons in the Terracotta Army were more likely be stolen.
Secondly, observing the existing warriors with weapons, some weapons have been obviously moved. It’s possible that the terracotta warriors have seized the weapons too firmly, and the tomb robbers couldn’t pull them out. In addition, steal holes and some scattered weapons were found in Pit 1, which further proves that the loss of weapons in the hands of the Terracotta Warriors is caused by human beings.

​ Who did on earth stole those weapons?
Besides the peasant soldiers, experts speculated that it was Xiang Yu - a leader of Chu State (740 - 223 BC). Xiang Yu hated Emperor Qin Shi Huang who defeated his state, and according to Chinese historical records, Xiang Yu burned the imperial palace of the first Emperor Qin Shi Huang and stole his mausoleum. Besides, after the Qin Dynasty’s demise, Xiang Yu fought against Liu Bang - the founder of Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD). In this process, weapons were in demand, and these weapons in the Terracotta Warriors had a great attraction for Xiang Yu. However, these are only the experts’ conjectures, and there is no actual evidence.  

See also: How did the Terracotta Army get burnt and destroyed? 

Where are the existing weapons of the Terracotta Army preserved?

Although the weapons in the hands of the terracotta warriors had disappeared, in the Exhibition Hall of Historical Relics of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum, tourists can still appreciate many weapons unearthed from the pits of Terracotta Army, mainly including bronze swords, spears, dagger-axe, crossbows, halberds and battleaxes.

- Last updated on Nov. 13, 2020 -
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