The massive undertaking had an important goal: ensuring the emperor's military power and resources in the afterlife.
As part of the huge project, craftspeople sculpted about 8,000 colorful warriors - likely using real human beings as inspiration - and those warriors wore stone armor and "wielded" lances, swords and crossbows.
But it wasn't clear exactly how these ancient weapons were made. The crossbows were made of wood or bamboo that rotted long ago, and only the tips and triggers for the bows remained, Li told Live Science.
Small workshops To learn more about how the massive trove was built, Li and her colleagues visually inspected and measured about 216 of the five-part crossbow triggers from the mausoleum.
The lack of wear on the metal pieces suggests the weapons were never used in actual battle, but were instead built solely for the tomb, the researchers said.
In addition, the team analyzed the spots where triggers were found in the tomb, as well as the variation in the size and shape of the pieces.