Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Professor Gideon Shelach-Lavi and his team have fully mapped the “Genghis Khan’s Wall,” a 737km section of The Great Wall that resides outside of China along the Mongolian Steppe.
The famous “Great Wall of China” actually consists of several fortifications, built piecemeal between the last millennia BC and the 17th century AD. Shelach-Lavi and his team studied the northern phase of this wall-building. Aptly named “The Northern Line”, this section spans 737 km (458 miles) and is mostly located in Mongolia, with some sections in Russia and China, an area that used to be home to nomadic tribes that routinely raided Imperial China. T
he wall was built during the Medieval Period (11th- 13th Centuries), an era that saw the rise of Genghis Khan.
Originally, researchers believed that this section of the wall was built to defend the local population from the Great Khan and his nomadic raiders. However, Shelach-Lavi’s findings suggest that defense was not the primary function of these fortifications.
“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 that it was geared to monitor and control the movements of nomadic populations and their herds,” explained Gideon Shelach-Lavi.
Significantly, many of the wall’s structures are not located at high vantage points, which are critical for military defense. Instead, they were located at lower altitudes, likely closer to roads and other sites that would aid in population control.