The mysterious disappearance of a Chinese civilization 4,000 years ago finally explained

5.300 years ago, a particularly advanced civilization began to take off, not in Mesopotamia, nor in Europe, but in eastern China. A brilliant civilization which met an end as brutal as it was mysterious, and whose secrets scientists have just unraveled.

This civilization is distinguished by the construction of a city, Liangzhu, one of a kind at the time. The ruins of the site on the banks of the Yangtze River Delta exhibit particularly advanced architectural features, especially with regard to agriculture and aquaculture. Canals, dams, water reservoirs: this Neolithic society thus built a grandiose city that some do not hesitate to call “Chinese Venice of the Stone Age”.

Yet after only a millennium of technological prowess and inventions, Liangzhu’s culture abruptly vanished, relate Science Alert. The important city was abandoned around 4,300 years ago, without archaeologists really understanding why. Till today.

Drought and flood

Throughout previous research, a thin layer of clay had been found on the ruins, suggesting that a severe flooding had probably got the better of this civilization. This hypothesis has just been confirmed in a new study, published in the journal Science Advances.

For centuries, the city of Liangzhu had managed to tame the vagaries of the waters of this dry region, as evidenced by the remains of large hydraulic complexes – dams, among others – found nearby. The construction of this infrastructure would have finally ended 4,400 years ago, at the same time as a mega-drought would have hit the territory, explains the study.

But while the aridity was only increasing, torrential rains would have fallen in two stages in the region, more than 4,300 years ago. Rains of such magnitude that the various dams would not have withstood the river floods caused by the Yangzi river. The grandiose Liangzhu would then have gradually emptied of its population, causing in its decline the fall of an entire civilization.

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The other Neolithic societies which will subsequently try their luck in the region will not be more successful: the unstable climate, between mega-drought and monsoons, will lead them to their destruction each time.


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