The Han dynasty marked a return to relative stability during China’s formative years, and it was during this time that the Great Wall was most aggressively expanded across China’s ancient territories. Mostly built between 120 and 200 BC, the western portion of the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty was erected at the height of China’s westward expansion via the Silk Road, and served to consolidate remote frontiers, protect trade routes, and defend against the Xiongnu, precursors to the eventual Mongol Empire.
While most other sections of the Great Wall are made up of piles of stones or bricks, the Han dynasty Great Wall was constructed through alternative means in accordance with the limited construction materials available. First a basic frame was created using woven rose willow and reeds, these slender lattices were then filled with layers of sand and gravel, consolidated with an ample amount of high-salinity groundwater. Although most of the Han dynasty wall has since been reclaimed by the desert, several sand-baked watch towers and sections of the Wall continue to stand the test of time, jutting out of the barren terrain in defiance to two thousand years of natural disaster and human destruction.