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It was supposedly built to keep the bloodthirsty Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan at bay.
But the northern segment of the Great Wall of China served a more mundane purpose, according to Israeli archaeologists who say it was actually used to hem in livestock.
The archaeologists came to the conclusion, which challenges previous assumptions, after mapping out the Great Wall's 460-mile Northern Line for the first time.
"Prior to our research, most people thought the wall's purpose was to stop Genghis Khan's army," said Prof Gideon Shelach-Lavi, an expert at Jerusalem's Hebrew University and the leader of the two year-study.
But the Northern Line, which lies mostly in Mongolia, winds through valleys, is relatively low in height and close to paths - which suggests it served non-military functions.
"Our conclusion is that it was more about monitoring or blocking the movement of people and livestock, maybe to tax them," Prof Shelach-Lavi said.
He suggested that people may have been seeking warmer southern pastures during a medieval cold spell.
Construction of the Great Wall, which is split into sections that in total stretch for thousands of miles, first began in the third century BC and continued for centuries.
The Northern Line, also known as "Genghis Khan's Wall" in reference to the Mongolian conqueror, was built between the 11th and 13th centuries with pounded earth and dotted with 72 structures in small clusters.
Prof Shelach-Lavi and his team of Israeli, Mongolian and American researchers used drones, high-resolution satellite images and traditional archaeological tools to map out the wall and find artefacts that helped pin down dates.
According to Prof Shelach-Lavi, whose findings from the ongoing study were published in the journal Antiquity, the Northern Line has been largely overlooked by contemporary scientists.