A new excavation of something branded the "No. 2 pit" is a potentially much more remarkable undertaking than it sounds: It could swell the ranks of China's famed terracotta army. Work began March 30 on the pit, which sits adjacent to the tomb mound of Qin Shi Huang, an emperor who conquered much of modern China before his death in 210 BC. That pit has seen previous excavations, between 1994 and 2008, reports the Xinhua News Agency, and gave up statues whose coloring led archaeologists to conclude the clay warriors were originally painted. What they expect a 2,150-square-foot section of the pit to give up now: as many as 1,400 warrior and horse statues, 89 war chariots, and 116 mounted soldiers, the AP reports by way of the Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum.
Those warriors would add to the 7,000 that were found at the site—the world's biggest underground mausoleum—since 1974. The No. 2 pit is thought to be a more archaeologically interesting site than the already excavated No. 1, with archaeologist Yuan Zhongyi describing the No. 2 as holding "the true essence of the terracotta army," noting the "colorful paint is also relatively well preserved." National Geographic's file on the terracotta warriors reports there are four pits that have seen some excavation, including one that was found to be empty, "a testament to the original unfinished construction." Qin's tomb mound hasn't been touched, and it's unclear whether China will ever decide to disturb a space that ancient texts describe as one filled with treasures. Last year saw one mystery of the terracotta army solved. (Read more China stories.)