Israeli study reveals real purpose of major section of China’s Great Wall

“The assumption that these were all military structures needs to be challenged,” Hebrew University Professor Gideon Shelach-Lavi said.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Contrary to long-held beliefs, the northern section of the Great Wall of China was not built to stop Genghis Khan’s army, according to an Israeli study.

The study published in the UK-based archaeological journal Antiquity, says the northern section of the wall, also known as the “Northern Line,” was used to monitor the movement of nomads and herdsmen who migrated south during the winter season to feed their flocks.

“Our analysis of the wall suggests that it was not built to defend against large invading armies or even against nomadic raids into sedentary lands. Rather it was geared to monitor and control the movements of nomadic populations and their herds,” said lead author Gideon Shelach-Lavi from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Unlike the other more famous parts of the wall, the Northern Line was constructed from packed earth and made only 2 meters (six feet) tall.

“Our study suggests that the assumption that these were all military structures needs to be challenged,” said Shelach-Lavi. “We need to study the structures and their context to better understand the reasons they were built.”

Using GIS analysis, drone photography, and satellite imagery, the team dated the 737 km section of the wall to the 11th or early 12th century, when the Khitan-Liao Empire ruled the area (907–1125).

Despite the apparent importance of the Northern Line, its construction is barely mentioned in any contemporary historical documents.

“This huge structure is extremely enigmatic,” said Shelach-Lavi.