Monday, January 30, 2006

Ancient Chinese Gossip Confirmed
Picture: Me and Liz "flying" down the steps of the emperor's tomb. Perhaps not the most reverent activity.

A few months ago, I mentioned I had been to the First Emperor's tomb in China, and talked about the legend of what is supposed to be inside it:
The written plans and descriptions they have found for the tomb say that the emperor called for a jeweled representation of the heavens to cover the ceiling, and a jeweled map of his empire to cover the floor, complete with a flowing river of mercury, which the emperor believed would make him immortal.
Last night, there was documentary on the Discovery Channel all about the latest research that has been done on the tomb (as well as the history of the emperor's life), which I thought was really interesting. They've done a lot of radar imaging to get a much better picture of what is actually down there, and built 3D images off that. (If you can ever get it to load, this Discovery Channel page is supposed to let you do a virtual walk through: Open the Tomb.)

The most exciting thing to me, though, was that they had also taken core samples of soil from all over the burial mound, analyzed them, and plotted out the high and low concentrations of mercury, which when put together... form a map of China at the time! So it looks like the grandiose written accounts describing a tomb with flowing rivers and seas of mercury, being continually circulated via machinery through the model of the empire in the floor, may well be true! It will be fascinating to see if and when they ever get the tomb open.

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