210–209 BC

Discovered in 1974, the Terracotta Army (arguably the most stupendous find in all archaeological history) is an enormous cache of clay statues buried in three massive pits near the tomb of Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, who died in 210 BC. Meant to protect him in the afterlife, the Army is believed by some estimates to number more than 8,000 soldiers along with 670 horses and 130 chariots. Each is life-size, though actual height varies according to military rank. While the features for each soldier appear unique, they’re actually based on 10 basic facial shapes, part of an assembly line process in which craftsmen used molds to fabricate the figures in separate segments before joying them together with a watered-down clay called slip. The soldiers were then outfitted with actual weapons (spears, swords, etc.) and painted bright colors, though over time, the pigment faded or flaked off completely.