A British explorer has discovered a previously uncharted section of the Great Wall "marooned" in the deserts of Mongolia, the first part of the wall believed to have been found outside China.
William Lindesay led an expedition into the Gobi desert last Autumn in search of a wall that had been lost for almost a thousand years.
What he found was that a section of the Great Wall, last recorded in a 12th century atlas of Genghis Khan’s battles, still stands.
“We reached it on the middle of the second day,” he said. “We found a wall that was around shin-high. But as we followed it for ten minutes, we came over a rise and there was a wonderful section, taller than my shoulders and stretching for several hundred feet,” he said.
The news of his discovery is likely to cause a sensation in China and will be published next month as the lead story in the country’s National Geographic magazine.
The section of the wall he discovered runs for around 62 miles, built from a mash of earth and branches of “saksoul”, a local shrub.
Mr Lindesay arrived in China in 1986 to make a 1,530-mile journey, by foot, along the remnants of the Great Wall. He has been researching and conserving the wall ever since and was awarded an OBE for his work in 2006.
“I have been looking at this area since 1997, when a friend gave me a copy of an atlas showing the red lines of Genghis Khan’s attacks and counter-attacks, and underneath those are the strands of wall,” he said.
However, when he began making enquiries about sections of wall in Mongolia, he was repeatedly told that no structures had survived.
Eventually a Dutch historian mentioned a retired Mongolian geographer, Professor Baasan Tudevin, who had travelled extensively through the Gobi desert.
“The problem was that we could not find him. Eventually, as a last resort, we put a notice in the newspaper. And a couple of hours later, he turned up, wearing all the medals he had been awarded for his work. He told us there were various structures in the desert, and we could look for them using Google Earth,” he said.
After spotting what looked like a “black pen line”, an expedition was mounted, and the Mongolian government granted them permits to explore the region, which lies in a sensitive border area.
“It is an intimidating stretch of territory,” said Mr Lindesay. “We had two Landcruisers, with 60 litres of spare petrol for each and 200 litres of water. The Gobi means “flat and stony” and often that was the landscape.
Mr Lindesay believes this section of the wall may originally have been built in the Han dynasty, around 120BC, in a bid to defend the area against the Xiongnu, a federation of nomad warriors that China had been battling.
Carbon testing on the samples that the team brought back, however, dated the wall to the 11th or 12th centuries. Mr Lindesay believes the wall may have been rebuilt either by Genghis Khan’s third son, Ogedei Khan, to stop gazelles migrating into China, or by the Western Xia dynasty, which was obliterated by Genghis Khan’s armies.
“We definitely need more research,” he said. “We are already planning another trip.”
Source: The Telegraph, 27 February 2012