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With cutting-edge technology, social science and world-class archaeology, the Horsepower project aims to generate unique insights into the extraordinary history of the first states of China and Mongolia.

About the Project

More than two thousand years ago these two powers emerged to create far-reaching legacies: the Chinese with the spellbinding Terracotta Army and the Mongolians, ancestors of Genghis Khan, with the first massed cavalry.


Though very different, these neighbouring empires shared a belief in the afterlife and a love of horses, depending on them for transport, war and sacrifice, ritually killing thousands to appease the spirits of the universe. 


The research will involve three main angles:

Ancient DNA from horses - to reveal where they came from, what they looked like and how they behaved. 


Analysis of bronzes – to explore their origins in China and how they were then traded into Mongolia and recycled into other forms.


Excavations of archaeological sites in China, Mongolia and the wider steppe – to bring new understanding to the role of the afterlife in different cultures and how ideas and artefacts flowed across Eurasia.

Photo ©Ursula Brosseder

Over the six years of the project, the team will be sharing the latest discoveries, explaining their meaning and the science behind them while engaging local communities including schools to explore the relevance of past lives to ours.

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Photo ©Rory Carnegie

Thank you to the generous funding from
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