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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 12:29 GMT
New battle over terracotta warriors
Three Chinese villagers are fighting to be recognised as the discoverers of the famed terracotta warriors, one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th Century.

Yang Xinman, Yang Peiman and Yang Peiyan asked the museum where the 2,200-year-old clay statues are housed to record their names in the institute's literature, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.

But the Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Chariots Museum in northern Xian province said it was not authorised to do so, Xinhua said.

According to the Chinese web portal, Sina.com, the three farmers want recognition before they die.

"In recent years, as they are getting old, their desire for an acknowledgement and safeguarding of their discovery rights is becoming stronger and stronger," Sina.com said.

It said that the men also wanted a certificate for their discovery.

The villagers said they would pursue their claim, if necessary in the law courts.

Nine people have claimed to have discovered the warriors, five of whom are now dead, Xinhua said.

The models of warriors and horses in battle formation were discovered in 1974 by peasants digging a well.

Qin, who created the first unified Chinese empire around 220 BC, is regarded as one of the country's most ruthless rulers.

The terracotta army was buried around his tomb, possibly in the hope of gaining protection in the after-life.

Labourers who worked on the tomb and childless concubines were interred with him to safeguard its secrets.

Qin's dynasty collapsed shortly after his death.

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