Evidence of an earthquake provides proof of a fabled flood in China
If a crisis really is danger plus opportunity, then the ancient Chinese Emperor Yu really picked a doozy to make a name for himself. Thousands of years ago, an earthquake triggered a massive flood, unleashing enough water in the Guanting Basin to submerge a 38-story-building. Yu leveraged this disaster by dredging the flooded Yellow River, then becoming the Emperor of the first great dynasty in Chinese history. The catch was that until recently, there was very little evidence than any of these dramatic events were true.
Researchers working along the Yellow River have now found multiple lines of evidence to explain the Great Flood, plus pin Yu and the Xia Dynasty‘s ascension to a specific date. The flood appears to have been indirectly caused by an earthquake that both wiped out a local village, and created a rockslide further upstream on the Yellow River. That rockslide dam eventually gave way, unleashing the legendary flood. Fissures opened by the earthquake were then filled by sediment from the flooded river, which gave researchers their first clue these events were all connected. With the sediments in the fissures showing these were contemporary events, the remains of villagers who died in the earthquake could then be radio-carbon dated for a more specific date.
Dawn of the Dynasty
Aside from the geological history involved, being able to specify that these events occurred in close to 1920 BCE helps political historians as well. Without knowing when or if this flood occurred, there’s been very little to anchor the Xia Dynasty in history, and researchers had to work backwards from known events, extrapolating how many years before that another dynasty may have started. Knowing when Emperor Yu took power lets the chronology flow from the past for the first time, shifting things by over 100 years. It also better matches when China began to transition from the Neolithic, or Stone Age, into Bronze Age technologies and practices.
The resulting picture is that this tragic flooding really was a catalyst for opportunity, advancing Chinese civilization as people had to band together under their first Emperor to recover from this unusual natural disaster.
Source: Dragons and Magical Dirt: Legendary 'Great Flood' Left Real Evidence by Kacey Deamer, Live Science