A group of Chinese researchers claim that they have geological evidence that China’s mythological flood known as the “Great Flood” was a real event that happened some 4,000 years ago.
The flood is mentioned in stories about Yu, the mythical founder of the country’s first dynasty, the Xia. But until recently, historians had thought that the flood, which reportedly was so devastating that it “threaten[ed] the very heavens,” was nothing more than a powerful legend.
According to the legend, Yu was the hero who managed to tame the waters and restore political order in his region. He reportedly dug channels and built other public infrastructures that pushed waters back to their source.
A research paper, published Aug. 4 in the journal Science, details geological evidence of a great flood on the Yellow River just like the legend suggests. Scientists dated the evidence to 1900 BC, which matches the dating in the Chinese stories.
Geologist Wu Qinglong, who made the discovery, said he found rock layers that resembled “outburst flood sediments” while he was doing science around the Yellow River eight years ago. He also discovered mud stone and types of rock that can only be found on the nearby mountaintops along the river.
Wu found that the sediment deposit was much thicker than regular deposits created by the Yellow River. The phenomenon can only be explained by a catastrophic event such as a huge flood.
Wu got help from several historians, archaeologists and fellow geologists in his research. The team unearthed another similar deposit at a nearby archaeological site called Lajia. In those sediment layers, scientists found broken pottery, while up in the mountains they found traces of an ancient lake which formed abruptly after river Jishi Gorge was blocked by a large obstacle which researchers believe it was debris.
The team found evidence that an ancient earthquake displaced the debris and created an artificial dam on the river in 1922 B.C. They speculate that the dam blocked the river and prevented it from supplying the Yellow River.
While the newly-created gorge accumulated water as months went by, the Yellow River went dry. But little did locals know about the incoming disaster. Nine months later, the dam was broken and the artificial lake spilled into the valley creating a massive local flood.
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