China’s mythical ‘Great Flood’ possibly rooted in real disaster | Science News

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China’s mythical ‘Great Flood’ possibly rooted in real disaster

Chinese civilization may have gotten a watery start thanks to a nearly 4,000-year-old deluge

By
2:00pm, August 4, 2016
Yellow River

FLOOD SITE  China’s Yellow River cuts through a gorge not far from where researchers say a landslide-created dam burst nearly 4,000 years ago and flooded the region. This finding may support folktales of a Great Flood that led to the founding of Chinese civilization.

Ancient Chinese tales and writings about a massive flood of the Yellow River that led to civilization’s rise in East Asia appear to hold water, researchers say.

A section of the Yellow River dammed by an earthquake-caused landslide broke open about 3,936 years ago, says a team led by geologist Qinglong Wu of China’s Nanjing Normal University. A wall of water about one-third as high as the Empire State Building charged down the Yellow River valley, possibly changing the river’s course and leading to years of flooding in lowland areas inhabited by farmers, the scientists report in the Aug. 5 Science.

“This was one of the largest known floods on Earth over the past 10,000 years,” geologist and study coauthor Darryl Granger of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., said at a news conference.

That natural disaster came to be known as the Great Flood,

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