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Ralf Hermans from Janssen Pharmaceuticals
"At their feet you can see tiny green and yellowish spots - which is fungal material"
 real 28k

Monday, 18 September, 2000, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Terracotta army battles new enemy
Terracotta army, Xian, northern China
The army has been called the Eighth Wonder
China's famed terracotta army is being eaten away by more than 40 kinds of mould after surviving 2,200 years underground.

Reports say the mould has attacked around 1,400 of the 8,000 statues of warriors and horses discovered in an underground tomb in the city of Xian.

The Clintons visit the terrracotta army in 1998
The terrracotta army has had some famous visitors
The Chinese authorities have now signed a three year deal with a Belgian-based pharmaceutical company to save the precious artefacts.

The life-sized army, sometimes called the Eighth Wonder of the World, is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.

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

But archaeologists believe the figures uncovered so far may be just part of a larger army still buried underground near the tomb of Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC), who is known as China's first emperor.

Tourists

Reports have blamed the mould problem on raised temperatures and humidity in the building which houses the soldiers.

One reason for the large variety is thought to be the thousands of tourists who visit the site every week, carrying with them all kinds of fungal spores from far and near.

Chinese experts are now identifying the affected statues and collecting mould samples.

They are working with scientists at Janssen Pharmaceutical NV which has been asked to produce 500kg of anti-fungal chemicals to fight the mould.

Ruthless

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 to protect him in the afterlife.

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

But his dynasty collapsed shortly after his death.

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See also:

26 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China claims invention of toilet
03 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Asia's oldest axe tools discovered
20 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Road workers re-bury ancient relics
25 Jun 98 | Asia-Pacific
Plundering China's heritage
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