Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 441–449 | Cite as

Multiple evidences indicate no relationship between prehistoric disasters in Lajia site and outburst flood in upper Yellow River valley, China

  • GuangHui DongEmail author
  • FanYu Zhang
  • FengWen Liu
  • DongJu Zhang
  • AiFeng Zhou
  • YiShi Yang
  • GongHui Wang
Research Paper


All around the world, ancient legends exist about the Great Flood, and the influence of the Great Flood in human evolutionary history is a hotly debated topic. In China, the legend of the prehistoric Great Flood and Yu the Great’s flood control has a long history and is considered to be closely linked to the establishment of the Xia Dynasty. However, there is a lack of solid scientific evidence. Against this issue, some scholars have proposed that an earthquake around 1920 BCE in the Guanting Basin along the upper reaches of the Yellow River led to the creation of a lake by damming in the Jishi Gorge and that the outburst of water from that lake led to the massive flood in the Yellow River region. These studies provided new scientific evidence for the Chinese legend. In this paper, we date skeletal samples embedded in earthquake sand blasting from the Lajia site, analyze remains from natural disasters (such as earthquakes and floods) and also archaeological remains. In addition, we compared the skeletal samples dating with that of sediments from the dammed-up lake. Our results are inconsistent with those of previous scholars. The earthquake at the Lajia site occurred no earlier than 1800 BCE, and the dammed-up lake in Jishi Gorge had disappeared by 3600 BCE. Thus, the formation and outburst of the dammed lake, the sudden death of ancient humans at the Lajia site and the ancient earthquake were independent events occurring at different times. In addition, the massive flood in the upper reaches of the Yellow River did not actually happen. Thus, we argue against and invalidate the hypothesis that the massive flood was related to Yu the Great’s flood control and the establishment of the Xia Dynasty.


Guanting Basin Qijia culture Lajia site Earthquake Outburst flood The establishment of the Xia dynasty 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41620104007, 41671077 and 41402240).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • GuangHui Dong
    • 1
    Email author
  • FanYu Zhang
    • 2
  • FengWen Liu
    • 1
  • DongJu Zhang
    • 1
  • AiFeng Zhou
    • 1
  • YiShi Yang
    • 1
  • GongHui Wang
    • 3
  1. 1.MOE Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Mechanics on Disaster and Environment in Western China (Ministry of Education), Department of Geological EngineeringLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Research Center on Landslides, Disaster Prevention Research InstituteKyoto UniversityGokasho, Uji, KyotoJapan

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