Study Says Megaflood Legend in China is True

     (CN) — An ancient megaflood once thought to be the stuff of legends that drowned China immediately before the birth of the nation’s first dynasty did in fact occur, according to a study published Friday.
     The flood occurred around 1900 B.C., wiping ancient Chinese cities as a 30-story wave crashed along the banks of the Yellow River. According to legend, Emperor Yu tamed the flood by redirecting and dredging its channels — leading to the Xia dynasty and Chinese civilization.
     An international group of researchers combined to analyze children’s bones in the remnants of a vast landslide caused by a massive earthquake in what is now Qinghai province, near Tibet.
     Yu’s efforts ended up “earning him the divine mandate to establish the Xia dynasty and marking the beginning of the Chinese civilization,” the study says.
     The team estimate the Yellow River flood happened in about 1920 B.C. through carbon-dating the skeletons of children who were part of a group of 14 victims found crushed downstream following the earthquake. Cracks in the ground were filled with mud typical of a flood, which indicated that it struck about a year after the massive quake.
     The flood is on par with any other megafloods from the past 10,000 years, reinforcing the “great flood” tales passed down by Chinese people for centuries.
     Some historians doubt the existence of the Xia dynasty, but the new study — published in the journal Science — “provides us with a tantalizing hint that the Xia dynasty might really have existed,” said David Cohen, a co-author and professor at National Taiwan University.
     David Montgomery, who was not involved in the study, said, “Some scholars have argued that the story is either a historicized version of an old myth, or propaganda to justify the centralized power of imperial rule,” David Montgomery, a University of Washington geomorphologist who was not involved in the study, said.
     Deluges are commonly featured in numerous historical documents, including Hindu texts and the Bible. Scientists believe they were more common after ice sheets melted and raised sea levels following the last ice age 10,000 years ago.

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