Archaeologists have discovered dozens of ancient “stone grenades” along the iconic Great Wall of China, according to a report.
Researchers made the find in the ruins of a building located in a section of the structure known as the Badaling wall. This part of the Great Wall, which lies around 50 miles northwest of Beijing’s city center, is the most visited section.
During recent excavations, archaeologists uncovered 59 stone grenades in total from the building, which they believe once served as a warehouse for storing weapons, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported.
“It is the first time that such a weapon storehouse has been found along the Great Wall,” Shang Heng, one of the archaeologists who was involved in the discovery, told Xinhua.
The Great Wall is an extensive series of defensive fortifications stretching for thousands of miles across what is now northern China and southern Mongolia. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken.
The Great Wall actually consists of numerous walls, many of them parallel to each other, that were built over the course of two millennia in order to protect against various nomadic groups.
The earliest sections were constructed in the 7th century B.C. but it was not until the 3rd century B.C. that Qin Shi Huang—the first emperor of a united China—connected a number of existing walls into a single system to defend against invasions from the north.
Construction continued right up until the Ming Dynasty, which spanned the years 1368-1644. The most extensive and best-preserved portions of the Wall, including the Badaling section, date to this dynasty.
“The Great Wall reflects collision and exchanges between agricultural civilizations and nomadic civilizations in ancient China,” the UNESCO description of the site reads.
“It provides significant physical evidence of the far-sighted political strategic thinking and mighty military and national defence forces of central empires in ancient China, and is an outstanding example of the superb military architecture, technology and art of ancient China.”
Previously, archaeologists have found hundreds of stone grenades in China similar to those found recently in the Badaling section. Designed to be filled with gunpowder, these grenades are thought to have been common weapons for guards on the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty.
“These seemingly unremarkable stones have a round hole in the center for gunpowder fillings. After filling, they can be sealed and thrown out, which can not only hit the enemy but also cause an explosion to defeat the enemy,” Shang said.
Gunpowder was the first explosive to be created by humans, initially developed in China at some point during the first millennium A.D., with the earliest confirmed reference dated to the 9th century A.D.
The recent excavations at Badaling also uncovered fire pits, cooking utensils and shovels, shedding light on the daily activities of wall guards, as well as defensive structures, such as a stone fort facility.