The northern segment of the Great Wall of China was built not to block invading armies, but to monitor civilian movements, an Israeli archaeologist said on Tuesday.
When the researchers completely mapped the 740-kilometer north line of the Great Wall of China for the first time, their results questioned previous assumptions.
"Before our research, most people thought the purpose of the wall was to stop Genghis Khan's army," said Gideon Shelach-Lavi of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who led the two-year study.
But the northern line, which is mostly in Mongolia and winds through valleys, is relatively low and close to trails, indicating non-military functions.
"Our conclusion is that it was more about monitoring or blocking the movement of people and cattle, perhaps to tax them," said Shelach-Lavi.
He suspected that humans might have been looking for warmer southern pastures during a medieval cold spell.
The construction of the Great Wall, which is divided into sections that total thousands of kilometers, began in the third century BC and continued for centuries.
The northern line, also known as the "Genghis Khan Wall" based on the legendary Mongolian conqueror, was built between the 11th and 13th centuries with crushed earth and littered with 72 structures in small groups.
Shelach-Lavi and his team of Israeli, Mongolian, and American researchers used drones, high-resolution satellite images, and traditional archaeological tools to map the wall and find artifacts that could be used to collect data.
According to Shelach-Lavi, whose results from the ongoing study were published in Antiquity magazine, the Northern Line has been largely overlooked by contemporary scientists.
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