Geological data provide support for legendary Chinese flood
Researchers have provided geological evidence for China's "Great Flood," a disastrous event on the Yellow River from which the Xia dynasty is thought to have been born. The flood occurred in roughly 1920 BC, they say, which is several centuries later than traditionally thought -- meaning the Xia dynasty, and its renowned Emperor Yu, likely had a later start than Chinese historians have thought, too.
Yu's story was handed down for a millennium before entering the historical record, yet, geological evidence for the flood he mastered has always been lacking. Thus, "some scholars have argued that the story is either a historicized version of an older myth," David Montgomery explains in a related Perspective, "or propaganda to justify the centralized power of imperial rule."
|A view of the skeletons in cave F10 from another direction at Lajia site |
[Credit: Cai Linhai]
The researchers mapped and dated distinctive sediments that were deposited downstream of a Qinghai Province dam when the dam broke. In further work, they determined that the flood that broke the dam was of enormous proportions. Using radiocarbon dating techniques on samples that included human bone, they dated the flood to 1920 BC.
|Processes of the outburst flood [Credit: Wu Qinglong]|
This date not only coincides with the major transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in the Yellow River valley, possibly resolving a longstanding contradiction among Chinese historians about when Xia started in relation to this critical period in history, but it also coincide with the beginning of the Erlitou culture that dominated China in the early Bronze Age -- supporting arguments that this culture is the archaeological remains of the Xia dynasty.
|This image highlights the variable timelines for the start of the Xia dynasty according to traditional Chinese culture,|
the Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project and the flood that was newly identified and dated by Wu et al.
[Credit: Carla Schaffer/AAAS]
Author: Kerry Sheridan | Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science [August 04, 2016]