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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Royal Chinese treasure discovered
Terracotta army
About 8,000 terracotta soldiers have already been uncovered
Archaeologists studying the tomb of China's first emperor say he may have been buried with his state treasure.

A magnetic scan of the site has revealed that a large number of coins are lying in the unopened tomb.

Emperor Qin's mausoleum, near the former imperial capital Xian, became famous in 1976 with the discovery of 8,000 terracotta soldiers guarding it.

The emperor unified China then ruled it from 221-210BC.

He is believed to have spent decades building his immense underground tomb.

Tomb unopened

The burial mound covering the tomb has remained largely untouched by archaeologists for fear of damaging the treasures it contains.

But the magnetic scan of the area, conducted by Chinese and German archaeologists, revealed new details about the structure of the mausoleum and a "remarkable amount of coins," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The agency quoted Michael Petzet, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites Coins, as saying that the hoard might be the "state treasury" in the underground palace.

Mr Petzet said that coins from the time of Emperor Qin's time were most likely to be made of bronze, with some silver coins too.

However, Mr Petzet was adamant that until archaeologists knew better how to protect the coins, they should be left where they were.

"Excavation sometimes means destruction," Xinhua quoted Mr Petzet as saying. "Let them sleep underground. It's safer. No excavation should be done for fun or curiosity."

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