Guessing the True Purpose of China’s Mysterious Danba Valley Towers

“Some look like defensive structures and feature narrow slits that could be used for shooting arrows. Others, such as those on mountaintops or at valley entrances, could have marked or guarded a frontier.” No one is really sure why they were built, or for what they were used. In the Danba Valley in western China, there are nearly 1,000 towers of varying shapes, sizes and states of repair, and their age ranges from 300 to roughly 1,700 years. Some of the towers are simple and appear to have served a utilitarian purpose. Others are rather tall and ornate, and may have been built as status symbols for wealthy merchants and traders. All of them are built of some combination of cut stone, bricks and wood timbers. And while determining the towers’ age and purpose has been a challenge and delightful mystery for archeologists, a bigger challenge for China is how to prevent future damage from ongoing neglect, and the threat of earthquakes and planned hydroelectric power projects in the area. Here’s hoping the mystery of Danba Towers gets solved before the structures fall apart or are washed away in the name of modern progress. (Wall Street Journal Travel – Danba Valley Mystery Towers)