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Fatal Flooding Destroyed China’s Liangzhu Culture 4,300 Years Ago

By: April Carson

A flourishing metropolis, dubbed "China's Venice of the Stone Age," mysteriously vanished around 2300 BC, resulting in the collapse of China's ancient Liangzhu civilization. A new study published in Science Advances has now revealed the truth about the cataclysmic event that compelled residents of Liangzhu to migrate.

The city was built on a site that has been underwater for at least 4,000 years. The nature of the disaster is uncertain, but there's no doubting that major floods occurred in this area around 4,345 to 4,324 years ago as a result of an exceptionally powerful monsoon. Flooding caused by this storm would have been so severe that the citizens of Liangzhu and the surrounding region would have had to flee, as fast as possible, due to its overwhelming nature. While they may have returned to rebuild their city at some point, the archaeological record indicates that they never did.

The Fabulous Life and Sudden Death of the Liangzhu Culture

The Yangtze Delta, approximately 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Shanghai in China, was one of the most sophisticated civilizations to appear during the late Neolithic Age. It was centered in Liangzhu City, which has been excavated for years owing to its productive archaeology digs.

Our investigations have revealed significant evidence to suggest that the Neolithic Liangzhu culture's builders possessed a high degree of material wealth. The Liangzhu City site, for example, contains the most sophisticated, large-scale water management system ever discovered in China.

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The city's founders constructed an amazing interconnected system of canals, reservoirs, and dams to supply the metropolis' inhabitants with all of the water they needed while also allowing for agricultural irrigation outside the city walls. Because the canals were utilized for travel as well, it's likely that they were also used for transportation at one time.

Approximately 5,300 years ago, the Liangzhu culture was at the apex of its success and power. This was reflected in their magnificent and ingenious infrastructure, as well as the numerous carved jade works they produced in abundance. Many burial goods of this type have been found during archaeological investigations of the Liangzhu culture.

The Liangzhu culture, which had thrived for 1,000 years, suddenly vanished in 1,000 years. According to archaeological evidence, its people abandoned the enormous city they'd built and maintained throughout many generations and never returned.

To solve the riddle once and for all, a team of international researchers led by Christoph Spötl, the head of the Quaternary Research Group in the University of Innsbruck's Department of Geology, traveled to Liangzhu to find out why its civilization collapsed.

Fortunately, the researchers were not required to restart their study from the beginning. Flooding had already been shown to be related to the city's abandonment. "A thin layer of clay was discovered on the preserved ruins, suggesting a link between the collapse of an advanced civilization and floods from the Yangtze River or floods from the East China Sea," Spötl added in a University of Innsbruck news release about his group's research.

“There was no indication of human causes such as armed conflicts. However, the mud layer itself provided no clear answers because to a lack of significant findings,” according to Spötl. The researchers needed more proof to prove their fears about flooding were accurate. They discovered it in two caves that were very close to the Liangzhu City site.

Geological Record Reveals the Truth about Liangzhu Culture Climate Disaster

The geological record serves as an archive, recording changes in climate and the environment. One geological process that is strongly influenced by temperature is cave formation; scientists who study ancient environmental conditions may often gain insights by analyzing what was going on inside caves.

Haiwei Zhang, a geologist from Xi'an Jiaotong University in Xi'an, China, was hired to collect samples from stalagmites within two caves located just southwest of the excavation location. "These caves have been thoroughly studied for years," Spötl added. “A total of six sites, each with its own characteristics. They are all located in the same region affected by the Southeast Asian monsoon, and their stalactites provide an accurate view into the collapse of the Liangzhu culture, which, according to archaeological findings, occurred about 4,300 years ago.”

Stalagmites, along with other cave dripstones, are calcium carbonate rock deposits formed when water drips or runs down the ceilings or walls of caves. Water flowing through a cave affects the rate of calcium carbonate formation, which will naturally be altered by any flooding that takes place on the surface level.

Changes in carbon isotope data will result if a cave has been inundated with abnormal amounts of rainfall and runoff. The cave stalagmite samples collected by Haiwei Zhang were discovered to have been partially formed during a time of exceptional rainfall, which occurred between 4,345 and 4,324 years ago in this instance.

The time period was established using uranium-thorium dating methods, which are accurate to plus or minus 30 years. This is the smoking-gun evidence needed to link the collapse of the Liangzhu culture with the start of severe and repeated flooding, according to Christoph Spötl.

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"Liangzhu City, for example, was destroyed when the swollen Yangtze and its branches overflowed, causing such huge floods that even sophisticated dams and canals could no longer withstand them, sweeping away Liangzhu City and forcing people to flee," Spötl continued. “The extremely humid climatic conditions persisted for another 300 years, as evidenced by the cave data.”

The people of the Liangzhu culture apparently moved inland and abandoned their beloved homes for good in response to the long-term shift in climate. They may have thought, what would be the point of rebuilding if new super floods might occur at any time?

After their remarkable movement into the interior, it's uncertain what occurred to the inhabitants of Liangzhu City. From that time on, the Liangzhu culture they established seems to have vanished completely from the archaeological record, totally destroyed by an epic and unendurable weather catastrophe.

Manifest Destiny Techniques by Billy Carson with Author Justin Carson


About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav







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