Lighthouses were first built in the 1800s. Before this time, coastal helpers built fires on hillsides to warn ships of dangerous water or to guide them in. Ships rely on lighthouses to warn them of danger (reefs or shallow water) and to guide them to land or a harbor. Most lighthouses are built in a similar manner: tall, round, with a bright light at the top. Towers are given different colors and patterns to set them apart from each other, such as diamonds, spirals, or stripes.
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