Report

Outburst flood at 1920 BCE supports historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  05 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6299, pp. 579-582
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf0842

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Flood control initiates Chinese civilization

Around four millennia ago, Emperor Yu the Great succeeded in controlling a huge flood in the Yellow River basin. This is considered to have led to the establishment of the Xia dynasty and the start of Chinese civilization. However, the dates of the events and the links between them have remained uncertain and controversial. Using stratigraphic data and radiocarbon dating, Wu et al. verify that the flood occurred and place the start of the Xia dynasty at about 1900 BC, thus reconciling the historical and archaeological chronologies (see the Perspective by Montgomery).

Science, this issue p. 579; see also p. 538

Abstract

China’s historiographical traditions tell of the successful control of a Great Flood leading to the establishment of the Xia dynasty and the beginning of civilization. However, the historicity of the flood and Xia remain controversial. Here, we reconstruct an earthquake-induced landslide dam outburst flood on the Yellow River about 1920 BCE that ranks as one of the largest freshwater floods of the Holocene and could account for the Great Flood. This would place the beginning of Xia at ~1900 BCE, several centuries later than traditionally thought. This date coincides with the major transition from the Neolithic to Bronze Age in the Yellow River valley and supports hypotheses that the primary state-level society of the Erlitou culture is an archaeological manifestation of the Xia dynasty.

View Full Text

Related Content