The Great Walls of China

China, Great Wall of China
There was more than one Great Wall of China, a Chinese archaeology team has discovered.

Several portions of the wall are actually double, triple, or quadruple walls running closely parallel to one another. This was a common feature in many ancient fortifications because it made the position harder to take. Often the troops would be garrisoned between the walls for protection against surprise attacks from the rear. The land between the walls also offered a protected area for flocks and farmland to provision the troops.

The Chinese team found that the main wall was larger than the others. The investigation continues.

Several walls were originally built starting in the 5th century BC or perhaps earlier. Under the Emperor Qin Shi Huang in c.220 BC, the earlier scattered walls were linked together to make a continuous fortification to protect China from nomadic tribes to the north. The Great Wall was lengthened, added to, and rebuilt several times in later centuries. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) there was a major expansion during which 5,650 km (3,511 miles) of wall were built. A recent survey found the entire wall, with all of its branches, runs for 8,852 km (5,500 miles). This figure will have to be reassessed now that parallel walls have been found.

[Photo courtesy Francisco Diez]

Lost kingdom found in China

China, Zhou
Archaeologists in China have discovered a forgotten ancient kingdom.

Working in Linfen city in the northern Shanxi province, the team of scientists found tombs with bronze artifacts bearing the name of the local ruler–Count of the Ba Kingdom. There was no previous record of this kingdom, although considering China’s vast history such surprises shouldn’t be, well, surprising.

The tombs date back to the Xizhou dynasty (1046 to 771 B.C.), also known as the Zhou dynasty. This was the longest-running dynasty in Chinese history and while the feudal rulers were powerful, there were many smaller kingdoms that came and went with the fortunes of politics and war. Apparently the Zhou chroniclers didn’t feel the need to record the Ba Kingdom, or maybe all the records got lost in the past 3,000 years.

Despite a bit of political chaos, the Zhou dynasty saw high achievements in art, like the bronze vessel above, the development of iron technology, and advances in writing.

Chinese archaeology is enjoying something of a renaissance thanks to greater funding and increased legal protection for ancient sites. It’s also facing some serious challenges as growing cities and rapid construction threaten ancient sites.

[Photo courtesy PericlesofAthens via Wikimedia Commons. This vessel is not one of the ones found in the Ba Kingdom tombs]