Study: mythological Chinese flood may have really happened

China's ancient flood myth may be more fact than fiction, a new study suggests. According to the story, China was hit with a massive, cataclysmic flood about 4,000 years ago that lasted for more than two decades and ultimately helped shape the first part of Chinese civilization. Though the story is grand, it has thus far lacked evidence and as a result has encountered its fair share of critics. That may have changed, though, as researchers have found the first instances of evidence for such a massive flood.

The work was done by Nanjing Normal University's Wu Qinglong and his team. Based on evidence in the form of three skeletons, as well as specific sediment and rock formations found in the Jishi Gorge, the researchers were able to piece together a picture of what may have happened.

It appears an earthquake was ultimately responsible for the massive flood; when it struck, it caused a giant landslide which blocked off a major river in the region. Because the river was now dammed up, the water pooled in the region and, over time, turned into a huge, very deep lake. The researchers estimated it took up to 9 months for the lake to form.

Once it filled to capacity, though, the water began flowing over the top of the dammed region, causing the dam to fail at some point and all of that built-up water to come flooding out. This process — the timeframe from earthquake to flood — took about a year.

According to stories, China's Emperor Yu spent the better part of two decades leading dredging projects that, in due time, contained this massive influx of water. This returned a sense of order to the region and, soon enough, lead to the establishment of what ended up being the earlier portions of modern Chinese civilization.

You can read the full study here.

VIA: New Scientist