Field Museum archaeologists amend the written history of China's first emperor

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The exploits of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, are richly documented in 2,000-year-old records of his conquests across eastern China. His reign was indeed noteworthy – he is responsible for initiating construction of the Great Wall, and the discovery of life-size terracotta soldiers that guard his tomb in central China has generated worldwide attention.

But as the saying goes, history is written by the winners. Ancient texts can contain inaccuracies favorable to a strong ruler's legacy. That's why two Field Museum scientists and their Chinese collaborator have integrated textual information with archaeological research in order to further understand the impact of Shihauangdi's reign.

The scientists are Gary Feinman and Linda Nicholas – husband and wife anthropologists who, since 1996, have spent four to six weeks each year walking across fields in rural China looking for pottery sherds and other artifacts with colleagues including Fang Hui of the School of History and Culture at Shandong University. They compared ancient written records to archaeological evidence and the result of their work is a more holistic view of China's first emperor and his influence on the eastern province of Shandong.

A report of their research will be published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of March 1, 2010....

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