Number 6 of China's Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries 2013
The site of the Hanguguan – Hangu Pass (or toll station) – is located in the gorge of the eastern slope of the Fengling Mountain Range. This pass was built in the third year of the Yuanding reign era of Western Han emperor Wu (114 BC). The investigation and excavation of this site was carried out from June 2012 to October 2013. Apart from numerous construction elements, 108 coins and more than 250 objects of pottery, porcelain, metal and bronze, the prospected area of 139,000 m² size revealed the remains of walls built of rammed earth, buildings and ancient roads.
Based on the archaeological work it was possible to reconstruct the overall layout of the toll station, i.e. a small and narrow city site aligned in an east–west direction along the gorge. The eastern city wall was directly connected to the rammed-earth wall, which was constructed on the southern and northern mountains. For this reason, this station was particularly suitable as a means of defense and control. The main living area was located in the southern part of the site. A long and narrow corridor in the middle extended from the east to the west. It was the only way out. Based on the remains and unearthed artifacts, the earlier estimated date of the walls, buildings and roads to Han Dynasty was confirmed.
The system of toll stations as controlled and easy to defend passages inside the Great Wall experienced an important development during the Qin and Han dynasties. Related material and in-depth studies on this topic are still very scarce. The Hangu Pass was one of the most important gate systems of the Han Empire. Its discovery provides important new knowledge both for the scientific research and the conservation of such sites. Apart from this, the discovery of the Hangu Pass was also of great support for the ancient Silk Road bid for UNESCO World Heritage. The network of the ancient Silk Routes was officially listed as UNESCO world cultural heritage on June 22nd 2014 (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1442/, access: 2014.07.30).
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