The Terracotta Army or the “Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses”, is a collection of life like terra cotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang the first Emperor of China It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife, and to make certain he had citizens to rule over after his death.
The figures, dating from 3rd century BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers 30k outside of Xi’an near the final underground (and undisturbed) palace and tomb of the first emperor. One of the reasons archeologists have not disturbed the treasures and underground palace is the threat of ‘rivers’ of deadly mercury supposedly that surrounds the tomb built in order to protect the crypt from robbers.
Ground tests in the soil confirm unusually high concentrations of mercury. Another factor is how poorly unearthed artifacts do when they are reintroduced to the environment. Most of the terra cotta soldiers had brightly colored outfits and facial features, some of which began to decay within seconds of being unearthed!