Terracotta Warriors For The Afterlife
The fears we felt 2,000 years ago aren’t so different from the fears we may still harbour now.
Over 2,000 years ago, a Chinese emperor was buried in a tomb the size of a football pitch, part of a 100-square-metre necropolis, with almost 10,000 terracotta warriors guarding the east of the tomb. Close to a million workers are said to have been involved in the construction of this army of sculptures meant to protect the emperor in the afterlife.
They Were All Fools Back Then
As is usually the case with ancient traditions, we often scorn them for being foolish and uninformed, naive and superstitious. Yet, when it comes to modern traditions and beliefs, we don’t exhibit the same level of scrutiny. We were humans then and we are humans now. We know far more today, but we still fear what we don’t know. Emperors may not be buried with terracotta armies anymore, pharaohs may not be laid to rest in breathtaking pyramids, but wealth is accumulated in other ways and displayed to similar effects. How far are we from the first human intending to be buried in the moon? How soon will we hear of one wanting to spend eternity travelling towards the stars?
It is tempting to consider ancient beliefs as obsessed with ridiculous things, like being buried with money and bodyguards. Nevertheless, the protection is against the same unknown that has terrified us since the first hominid pondered about death and the afterlife.
It isn’t only death that makes us act in such a strange manner either. The unknown is very much also here with the living. Airport security, for instance, is a pain. It isn’t something that especially enervates me, thanks to a wise man who told me when I was very young that it was pointless to let inevitable things irritate you. However, in the many hours that I must have spent queuing in front of a tray, holding my trousers together while removing my shoes, I have wondered about the usefulness of it. You can’t take liquids aboard but batteries are fine. You can’t have sharp objects with you but cables are okay. We must switch our phones off but, if connected phones were a real danger, we all know they would confiscate them before boarding and return them to…