Collapse of ancient Liangzhu culture due to climate change

Stalagmites in the cave, located southwest of the excavation site, indicate the climatic cause of the collapse of ancient Chinese Liangzhu culture. Credit: Haiwei Zhang

The Liang Celebration Excavation Site in eastern China, called Venice during the Stone Age of China, is considered one of the most important testimonies of the advanced civilization of early China. Over 5,000 years ago, the city already had an elaborate water management system. So far, the cause of the sudden collapse has been the subject of debate.A large flood caused by an unusually heavy monsoon rain caused the collapse, as an international team with Innsbruck geologist and climate researcher Christoph Spetl showed in the journal. Science Advances..

The Yangtze River Delta, about 160 kilometers southwest of Shanghai, is home to the archaeological sites of Liangzhu. Advanced culture flourished there about 5300 years ago. This is considered one of the earliest evidences of monumental hydroponics. The oldest evidence of China’s large hydrotechnical structure comes from this late Neolithic cultural site. The walled city had a complex system of navigable canals, dams and reservoirs. This system has made it possible to cultivate a very large agricultural area throughout the year.

In the history of human civilization, this is one of the first examples of a highly developed community based on water infrastructure. However, metals were not yet known in this culture. During the excavation, thousands of finely crafted jade burials were found. The ruins, which have not been discovered for a long time and whose historical importance has been underestimated, are now considered to be a well-preserved record of the Chinese civilization dating back more than 5,000 years. Liangzhu was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.

However, the advanced civilization of this city, which was inhabited for nearly 1000 years, suddenly ended. To date, the cause of it is controversial. “A thin layer of clay was found in the preserved ruins, which indicates a possible link between the end of advanced civilization and the floods of the Yangtze River or the East China Sea. A militant conflict,” he said. Is Christoph Spettl, Head of the Quaternary Research Group of the Faculty of Geology. “But the mud layer itself could not draw a clear conclusion about the cause.”

Dripstone saves the answer

Caves and their deposits (such as drip stones) are one of the most important climate archives that exist. They enable the reconstruction of climatic conditions on caves up to the last hundreds of thousands of years. The cause of the sudden collapse of Liangzhu culture is not yet clear, so the research team searched for a suitable archive to investigate the possible causes of this collapse.

Haiwei Zhang, a geologist at Xi’an Jiao Tong University in Xi’an, who spent a year as a visiting researcher at Insburg University in 2017, took samples of stalagmites from two caves, Shennong and Jiulong, southwest of the excavation site. .. “These caves have been well explored over the years. Located in the same Southeast Asian monsoon-affected areas as the Yangtze River Delta, stalagmites provide accurate insights into the timing of the collapse of Liangzhu culture. The discovery happened about 4300 years ago, “Spötl explains.

Data from the stalagmites show that there was a period of very high rainfall between 4345 and 4324 years ago. Evidence of this was provided by carbon isotope records measured at the University of Insburg. Accurate dating was performed by the uranium-thorium analysis of Xi’an Jiaotong University, which has a measurement accuracy of ± 30 years. “This is surprisingly accurate in the temporal dimension,” says a geologist. “Large monsoon rains probably caused severe floods in the Yangtze River and its branches, and even sophisticated dams and canals could no longer withstand these large amounts of water, destroying Liangzhu City, Fleeing people. ”As geologists show from cave data, very humid climatic conditions continued intermittently for another 300 years.

An early example of a large hydropower company unearthed in China

For more information:
Haiwei Zhang et al, The collapse of Liangzhu culture and other Neolithic cultures in the lower Yangtze River in response to climate change, Science Advances (2021). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abi9275..

Quote: The collapse of ancient Liangzhu culture caused by climate change (November 24, 2021) is from Acquired on November 24, 2021

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Collapse of ancient Liangzhu culture due to climate change

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