It’s no secret that the Great Wall of China is the longest manmade structure in the world, but according to a recent archeological study by the Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage, it’s significantly longer than we once thought.
This latest survey, started back in 2007, involved archeologists examining the known stretches of the Wall as well as the ruins found spanning 15 Chinese provinces. Previous surveys estimated its length at 5,499 miles (8,850 kilometers), but that estimate has been more than doubled to 13,170 miles (21,195 kilometers).
The Great Wall, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and one of the most important architectural and military structures ever built, dates back as far as the Warring States period (453 to 221 B.C.) when independent fortifications were joined to stop invaders from the north. Construction continued through the Han and Ming Dynasty periods, and various periods of construction could account for the sizable discrepancy in the latest estimates of the length of the wall.
According to the China Great Wall Society, the previous figure from 2009 (5,499 miles) only accounted for the sections of the Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty. The latest survey took into account sections of wall from all the dynasties. No matter what the true figure is, the Great Wall remains the largest historical site in the world and a must-see on many a bucket list.
Only eight percent of the Ming Dynasty wall still stands, and much of it is in disrepair. While most visitors head to the easily accessible (and largely renovated) sections of the wall close to Beijing, more intrepid travelers are starting to venture out to the less visited ruins of the wall in other provinces. As you get further from the heavily trafficked portions, you’ll see nature beginning to reclaim portions of the Great Wall’s crumbling stones.