It is a section of the Great Wall of China. It has 737 kilometers along the Mongolian steppe. It is called Genghis Khan Wall and was completely mapped for the first time. The archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gideon Shelach-Lavi, led the research team.
Results published in the last edition of antiquity. There he mentions some novel conclusions. Among them, he emphasizes that his function did not appear to be defensive, but was rather intended to control the population.
The time of Genghis Khan
The famous “Great Wall” actually consists of several fortifications. They were gradually built between the last millennia before Christ and the 17th century. Shelach-Lavi and her team examined the northern phase of this wall construction. It’s aptly called “The Northern Line”. This 737 km section is mainly in Mongolia, some sections in Russia and China. It is the area in which formerly nomadic tribes lived that invaded Imperial China.
The wall was built in the Middle Ages (11th-13th centuries) when Genghis Khan rose.
The researchers originally believed that this section of the wall was built for defense. It protected the local population of the Great Khan and its nomadic invaders. However, Shelach-Lavi’s results suggest that defense was not the primary function of these fortifications.
“Our analysis of the wall suggests that it was not built to defend itself against large armies. The aim was to monitor and control the movements of nomadic populations and their herds, “said the lead author.
The international team of archaeologists included colleagues from Yale University and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. They revealed the leading role of the northern line: the expansion of the influence of the Khitan-Liao empire. It was one of the imperial dynasties in the region. He controlled the nomads who lived in his northern territory.
Not made for war
Many of the wall structures are not at high strategic points. This is crucial for military defense. Instead, they were lower, probably closer to the streets. “The assumption that the entire wall was military structures must be questioned,” said Shelach-Lavi. «We have to examine the structures and their context. This will help us understand the reasons why they were built, “he added.
Despite the obvious meaning of The Northern Line, its construction is not mentioned in any contemporary document. It was also neglected by later researchers and was often only mentioned temporarily in textbooks. “This huge structure is extremely puzzling,” said Shelach-Lavi.
They set about changing that by systematically mapping The Northern Line for several years. In addition to aerial photography of drones, they did a detailed survey of a small part of the wall and the nearby structures. This allowed them to examine the remaining artifacts and examine the construction of the wall.
The team identified 72 structures along the wall organized in small groups, each about 30 kilometers away. This indicates that the Genghis Khan Wall was probably built in a single organized phase. Probably during the Khitan-Liao Empire (AD 907-1125). The Khitan Liao dynasty was before the reign of Chinggis Khan (AD 1162-1227).
Every step on the wall is a journey through time. And every new study removes the haze that prevents us from knowing the past of this great structure.