Stalagmites Shennong Cave
Science & Technology

Collapse of Ancient Liangzhu Culture – “China’s Venice of the Stone Age” – Caused by Climate Change

Stalagmites in caves positioned southwest of the excavation website present a climatic trigger for the collapse of the historic Chinese language Liangzhu tradition. Credit score: Haiwei Zhang

Known as “China’s Venice of the Stone Age,” the Liangzhu excavation website in jap China is taken into account one of the most vital testimonies of early Chinese language superior civilization. Greater than 5000 years in the past, the metropolis already had an elaborate water administration system. Till now, it has been controversial what led to the sudden collapse. Huge flooding triggered by anomalously intense monsoon rains induced the collapse, as a global staff with Innsbruck geologist and local weather researcher Christoph Spötl has now proven in the journal Science Advances.

In the Yangtze Delta, about 160 kilometers southwest of Shanghai, the archeological ruins of Liangzhu Metropolis are positioned. There, a extremely superior tradition blossomed about 5300 years in the past, which is taken into account to be one of the earliest proofs of monumental water tradition.

The oldest proof of massive hydraulic engineering constructions in China originates from this late Neolithic cultural website. The walled metropolis had a posh system of navigable canals, dams, and water reservoirs. This method made it potential to domesticate very massive agricultural areas all through the yr.

In the historical past of human civilization, that is one of the first examples of extremely developed communities primarily based on a water infrastructure. Metals, nevertheless, have been nonetheless unknown on this tradition. Hundreds of elaborately crafted jade burial objects have been discovered throughout excavations.

Lengthy undiscovered and underestimated in its historic significance, the archaeological website is now thought-about a well-preserved document of Chinese language civilization relationship again greater than 5000 years. Liangzhu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Web site in 2019. Nonetheless, the superior civilization of this metropolis, which was inhabited for nearly 1000 years, got here to an abrupt finish. Till immediately, it stays controversial what induced it.

“A skinny layer of clay was discovered on the preserved ruins, which factors to a potential connection between the demise of the superior civilization and floods of the Yangtze River or floods from the East China Sea. No proof could possibly be discovered for human causes reminiscent of warlike conflicts,” explains Christoph Spötl, head of the Quaternary Analysis Group at the Division of Geology. “Nonetheless, no clear conclusions on the trigger have been potential from the mud layer itself.”

Caves and their deposits, reminiscent of dripstones, are amongst the most vital local weather archives that exist. They permit the reconstruction of weather conditions above the caves as much as a number of 100,000 years into the previous. Since it’s nonetheless not clear what induced the sudden collapse of the Liangzhu tradition, the analysis staff looked for appropriate archives as a way to examine a potential climatic trigger of this collapse.

Geologist Haiwei Zhang from Xi’an Jiaotong College in Xi’an, who spent a yr at the College of Innsbruck as a visiting researcher in 2017, took samples of stalagmites from the two caves Shennong and Jiulong, that are positioned southwest of the excavation website.

“These caves have been properly explored for years. They’re positioned in the similar space affected by the Southeast Asian monsoon as the Yangtze delta and their stalagmites present a exact perception into the time of the collapse of the Liangzhu tradition, which, in response to archaeological findings, occurred about 4300 years in the past,” Spötl explains.

Knowledge from the stalagmites present that between 4345 and 4324 years in the past there was a interval of extraordinarily excessive precipitation. Proof for this was offered by the isotope information of carbon, which have been measured at the College of Innsbruck. The exact relationship was accomplished by uranium-thorium analyses at Xi’an Jiaotong College, whose measurement accuracy is ± 30 years.

“That is amazingly exact in gentle of the temporal dimension,” says the geologist. “The huge monsoon rains in all probability led to such extreme flooding of the Yangtze and its branches that even the subtle dams and canals might not stand up to these plenty of water, destroying Liangzhu Metropolis and forcing folks to flee.” The very humid weather conditions continued intermittently for an additional 300 years, as the geologists present from the cave information.

Reference: “Collapse of the Liangzhu and different Neolithic cultures in the decrease Yangtze area in response to local weather change” by Haiwei Zhang, Hai Cheng, Ashish Sinha, Christoph Spötl, Yanjun Cai, Bin Liu, Gayatri Kathayat, Hanying Li, Ye Tian, Youwei Li, Jingyao Zhao, Lijuan Sha, Jiayu Lu, Binglin Meng, Xiaowen Niu, Xiyu Dong, Zeyuan Liang, Baoyun Zong, Youfeng Ning, Jianghu Lan and R. Lawrence Edwards, 24 November 2021, Science Advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abi9275

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