History : Mar-Apr 2016
THE WALL’S DEFENSIVE TOWERS 3 2 1 The towers built along the Great Wall had several functions, including defense, observation, signaling, and refuge. Defense towers, such as the one in the illustration, were garrisoned by 30 to 50 men who served for four-month periods. The soldiers lived in the tower itself and kept their equipment and food there, too. They were in many respects small castles that were designed to withstand lengthy sieges. Watchtowers were considerably smaller and garrisoned with just five men. Signal towers were equipped so as to be able to raise the alarm using various methods: smoke signals, colored flags, cannon shots, and lanterns. 4 1Living Quarters The top of the Great Wall itself is where the soldiers ate and slept when they were not on guard duty or working the land. The smaller upper floor could be used as a room for storing equipment and arms. 2Parapets The tower and wall were equipped with battlements to protect the defenders. The embrasures allowed them to shoot bows, crossbows, and, especially from the 16th century, firearms from behind cover. 3Officers Each tower was assigned an officer who in turn reported to officers of five towers, ten towers, longer stretches of the wall called “circuits,” and, finally, the wall’s nine military zones. 4A Larger Defense In spite of its imposing size, the Great Wall was only the most visible part of a fortified area that included watchtowers on both sides of the border and walled cities where border patrol units were stationed.