2,000-Year-Old Chariot Found Adjacent to Terracotta Army Site

An extremely rare carriage pulled by six donkeys was discovered by archaeologists in a tomb west of Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum in Shaanxi province.

Skeletons of sheep used to pull chariots for 2,000 years.  Photo: Dayoo News

Skeletons of sheep used to pull chariots for 2,000 years. Photo: Dayoo News

Archaeologists discovered the remains of an ancient chariot near the famous Terracotta Army in northwest China. The sheep-drawn carriage was found in a tomb west of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum site, a few kilometers northeast of Xi’an city in Shaanxi province, Live Science reported on November 5 .

Archaeologist Jiang Wenxiao, who directed the excavation of the tomb, said the main structure of the chariot had rotted after more than 2,000 years underground (Qin Shi Huang’s tomb dates back to the 3rd century BC). But the research team found a row of six sheep skeletons with accessories used to pull the chariot, so they deduced that this was a chariot pulled by sheep.

Horse-drawn and ox-drawn carts were common in ancient China, but sheep-drawn carts were extremely rare. However, they have appeared in Chinese history. Emperor Wu of Jin, the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty, who ruled from 266 to 290, used to drive a sheep-drawn cart around the palace every night to choose his concubines.


Wenxiao announced the discovery at the Fourth Archaeological Conference held in Xi’an in October. The team hopes to analyze the burial chamber in the western tomb to identify the person buried there. .

In addition to the chariot pulled by six sheep, archaeologists also unearthed a four-wheeled wooden chariot possibly pulled by horses, equipped with a rectangular umbrella. They also found many bronze artifacts related to carts and horses, iron tools and weapons, revealing the period when they first appeared.


Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who ruled from 221 to 210 BC, is considered the first emperor to unify China. His mausoleum spans more than 26 square kilometers and took 38 years to complete. Three large earthen pits in the mausoleum contain more than 8,000 life-sized terracotta statues, simulating the emperor’s army and horses.

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