Scientific Evidence of Flood May Give Credence to Legend of China’s First Dynasty

Aug 4, 2016

By Nicholas Wade

Scientists have found evidence of a catastrophic flood that overwhelmed the upper Yellow River valley in China some 4,000 years ago, an event that they say may confirm the historical basis of China’s semi-legendary first dynasty.

Ancient Chinese texts record a mix of historical events and legends. Some records, such as those relating to China’s second and third dynasties, were confirmed in surprising detail when archaeologists turned up inscriptions on oracle bones and ancient bronzes.

But records of the first dynasty, that of the Xia, contain stories of a Great Flood with a Noah-like savior, the Emperor Yu, who gained the mandate of heaven after dredging canals to dispel the floodwaters and make the land safe. Historians have long wondered whether this flood account was a creation-style myth, the folk memory of a real event, or some mixture of the two. Some have dismissed the story of Emperor Yu as a fiction intended to justify centralized rule and, in the absence of any evidence of a massive flood at the time, many have regarded the stories of the Xia dynasty as more myth than history.


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23 comments on “Scientific Evidence of Flood May Give Credence to Legend of China’s First Dynasty

  • a creation-style myth, the folk memory of a real event, or some mixture of the two

    They’re all; legends, myths, sacred texts; mixtures of real events, political spin, merging of narratives and occult explanations of things which could not be accounted for by the science of the time.

    The events of the Flight from Egypt are based on the consequences of the explosion of Thera, Jason’s perambulations around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are based on real places and situations encountered by ancient merchant seamen and consolidated into the epic of the Argonauts (into quite recent times in Georgia, they were still straining gold ore with woollen fleeces), the Biblical Flood was likely derived from the flooding of the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf, as a result of the melting of the glaciers and consequent rise in sea level.

    I do get a bit annoyed when contributors here say outright, and simplistically, that the events of the Bible didn’t happen. Mostly I’m sure that they did happen in some form, somewhere, sometime – the Bible account mythologises them.



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  • I do get a bit annoyed when contributors here say outright, and simplistically, that the events of the Bible didn’t happen.

    Ok, but memes, straight out of a bronze-age mind or based on eye-witness account’s passed down through the Chinese whispered folk-stories. which of these is it, we just don’t know! Fantasy and historical fact is mixed so much in the bible no-modern scholar can discern one from the other!
    Clearly Christ-risen from the dead is made up. Big flood stories based on folk-lore and large scale flooding are slightly more plausible, but only just!



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  • River valley floods are quite common in historical and geological time scales.

    Landslides and glacial ice-dams creating temporary lakes, with the subsequent collapse of the dam when the river finally over-tops it and erosion cuts down through the debris, are the usual scenario!

    Mt St. Helens is another example of a natural dam creating a lake or increasing the size or height of an existing lake.
    This is being actively managed to prevent the collapse of the dam and consequential flooding down stream!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_Lake_(Washington)#Current_water_level
    Current water level
    The water level of Spirit Lake is maintained at about 3,406 ft (1,040 m) by draining water through a gravity-feed tunnel completed in 1985. The 2,500 ft (760 m)-long tunnel was cut through Harrys Ridge to South Coldwater Creek, which flows to Coldwater Lake and into the North Fork of the Toutle River.[1][9] Had the lake level not been stabilized, the dam, which was composed of volcanic avalanche debris created by the 1980 eruption, would have been breached and caused catastrophic flooding within the Toutle River Valley




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  • cbrown #5
    Aug 5, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    I think the flooding of the Med. as a whole, is simply too ancient for human memory, but various hills and mountains became islands when sea-levels rose at the end of the last ice-age.
    Divers have found roads etc. under the Med.
    There is also the further complication around Greece and Turkey, of alterations to coastlines, from the up-lift and subsidence of land levels resulting from tectonic volcanic and earthquake activity.

    There are fossil beaches at various depths below the Black Sea, and differing theories about the stages of flooding raising the levels from those of the earlier lake, up to the present levels.

    Global sea-levels rose by about 290 feet, at the end of the last ice-age, so it is not surprising that in addition to sporadic river valley floods, there was world-wide flooding of coastal plains and estuaries, which gave rise to the handing down of various myths and folk tales.

    The biblical account of Noah and the Ark is absurd, but a flood could have happened (NOT world wide):

    It seems likely that the the Israelites copied the story from the earlier Babylonian version when they were captives there, and then revamped it. That flood is most likely to have been the flooding of the floodplains of the Tigris/Euphrates valley.

    https://blog.britishmuseum.org/2014/01/24/was-the-ark-round-a-babylonian-description-discovered/

    This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million. The cuneiform was a sixty-line passage from the ancient Babylonian Story of the Flood. This story had been well known since the 1870s, when George Smith, a brilliant decipherer who worked at the British Museum, first identified the story known from the Book of Genesis in a seventh-century cuneiform tablet from Nineveh. The two accounts – Babylonian and biblical – were closely related. The new tablet, however, written in about 1750 BC, has startling new contents.



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  • I think the flooding of the Med. as a whole, is simply too ancient for human memory, but various hills and mountains became islands when sea-levels rose at the end of the last ice-age.
    Divers have found roads etc. under the Med.

    I’m not au fait enough with the geo-hydrography of the Med to comment, but I know that portions of it were flooded at the end of the ice age. Cave paintings have been found where the cave entrances were well under water, a whole civilisation was drowned when the Black Sea was inundated (origin of the story of Atlantis?).

    How long stories can last is an open question. There is an area in Victoria which was volcanically active four thousand or so years ago, and the local Aborigines still had stories of fire coming from the ground when white settlement occurred. Oral tradition seems to have a very long life.

    Whatever – the process of retelling, merging, refashioning, enhancing, recasting, relocating is the oral tradition’s operating system, and the sacred books of all the ancient religions are written-down versions of much more ancient oral material. Even the process of transferring oral into written form, results in radical change; the scribe sees the oral material through eyes which have been fashioned by literary education and composition and it is nearly impossible to escape that framework.



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  • Olgun #7
    Aug 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Even further back.

    As eejit mentions @ #2, The Thera/Santorini eruption, caused a massive tsunami in the ancient Aegean and Mediterranean, which flooded Crete and coasts all around the Eastern Med! , wiping out the Minoans and others.

    @ your link – Accounts of a great deluge are seen in . . . . . . . . . . . . the stories of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of North America, and the stories of the Muisca people, to name but a few.

    There was also a very large tsunami on the American North West coast.

    http://www.oregongeology.org/sub/earthquakes/oraltraditions.htm

    The Cascadia fault is the boundary between two of the Earth’s tectonic plates: the smaller offshore Juan de Fuca plate that is sliding under the much larger North American plate.

    The earthquake also left unmistakable signatures in the geological record as the outer coastal regions subsided and drowned coastal marshlands and forests that were subsequently covered with younger sediments.

    The recognition of definitive signatures in the geological record tells us the January 26, 1700 event was not a unique event, but has repeated many times at irregular intervals of hundreds of years. Geological evidence indicates that 13 great earthquakes have occurred in the last 6000 years.

    Oral traditions of many Native American tribes describe what is interpreted as this huge earthquake and tsunami destroying coastal villages throughout what is now northern California, Oregon, Washington and southern British Columbia.

    “There was a shaking, jumping up and trembling of the earth beneath, and a rolling up of the great waters.”

    It’s clear now that the stories document a massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the Northwest before the arrival of European settlers. But because the tales were treated as myths, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that one researcher recognized their value for the study of earthquakes.

    In Bangladesh and India, the Indus-Ganges basins and deltas have had regular massive floods from the distant past to the present day.

    One of the oldest and most interesting accounts originates in Hindu mythology, and while there are discrepancies, it does bear fascinating similarity to the story of Noah and his ark.

    There are bound to be folk tales associated with these massive river floods, brought on by monsoon rains.

    No doubt there will be indigenous tales about the regular seasonal flooding in the Amazon too!



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  • eejit #8
    Aug 6, 2016 at 5:47 am

    I think the flooding of the Med. as a whole, is simply too ancient for human memory, but various hills and mountains became islands when sea-levels rose at the end of the last ice-age.
    Divers have found roads etc. under the Med.

    I’m not au fait enough with the geo-hydrography of the Med to comment, but I know that portions of it were flooded at the end of the ice age.

    The post ice-age (approx. 20000yrs to 7000yrs ago) flooding of coasts and the Black Sea basin, are quite separate events from the re-flooding of the Med. 5.33million years ago.

    http://phys.org/news/2009-12-mediterranean-sea-years.html

    Sea water flooded in through the Strait of Gibraltar at a rate three times the current flow of the Amazon River, said the report publish by the scientific journal Nature.

    About 5.6 million years ago the Mediterranean Sea had became disconnected from the world’s oceans and mostly dried up by evaporation with its largely saline surface between 1,500 and 2,700 metres below sea level, the study said.

    “The Atlantic waters found a way through the present Gibraltar Strait and rapidly refilled the Mediterranean 5.33 million years ago in an event known as the Zanclean flood,” it said.



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  • phil rimmer #11
    Aug 6, 2016 at 6:24 am

    @Wiki link – The flood myths or deluge myths are, taken collectively, myths of a great flood. These accounts depict global flooding, usually sent by a deity or deities to destroy civilization as an act of divine retribution.

    This is or course misleading, as the floods occurred at different times in history, and most of the ancient authors had no concept of the Earth as a globe!
    Only YEC creationists would ignore the geology and dating, and pretend these could be taken “collectively” as one great flood!

    What the ancient mythical stories told, was the flooding of all of THEIR WORLD, which to early tribes or families, had pretty close territorial horizons only a few tens or hundreds of miles across!



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  • Whilst watching Prof. Brian Cox in his new series The Forces Of Nature, at the 25min mark and after, I couldn’t help but think the myth came from river bore. Their ‘world’ would have been their immediate surroundings and, I thought the flood had to be ‘predictable’ or known. Perhaps the boat was bigger than the others that might get washed away in unusually high tides and the animals were a few of goats and a dog.

    A much smaller occurrence with great expectations in the myth world.



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  • They seem to have given it up lately, as scientific mapping of past geological events advances, but at one time YECs always used as evidence, the fact that all, or most,civilisations have a flood myth. Of course they do, there would be few areas in the world that didn’t suffer catastrophic flooding at one time or another. Then occurs the process of conflation, the merging of stories., as different cultures engage with each other. Perhaps in the history of the world there were a few dozen Noahs.



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  • Holocene flood narratives will be ten a penny. As Alan says they will be somewhat parochial in cause but epic in the re-telling. That someone’s great great grandad packed the family and as many animals as they could manage into a river/coastal trading boat when an Ice plug started to give way through the rapid rewarming is all thats needed. It may even be part of a journey around the coast to find a better location. The selfishness of the act, saving animals rather than neighbours is disowned and made judgemental.. The rest of the changes that come in the re-tellings are easily imagined.



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  • Alan, I live a mile from the Pacific ocean in the Pacific Northwest. If you watch Nova on the Ring of Fire, you will see the researchers digging down a few feet and finding a black layer of soil.
    They are three miles from my home and the building in the background is the Green Lantern tavern where I had played pool for years.
    You can dig in the sand here in my backyard and find the same. I had a four foot hole dug in my yard for a pond where I discovered the layer. I can’t verify the age or if is the same layer but the depth was found about three feet down.



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  • phil rimmer #15
    Aug 6, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Holocene flood narratives will be ten a penny.

    Like Biblical epics – once scientific evidence, photography, and modern communications, enter the scene, the stretch in tall stories becomes somewhat contained! – And despite some peoples’ worlds being submerged, local remains local, even when events are “really” big (on a local scale)!

    http://gizmodo.com/dramatic-photos-show-some-of-the-worst-flooding-texas-h-1779675718

    Now remind me about those “mysterious ways”!
    Wasn’t their Governor Perry calling on Xtians to pray for rain a while ago, when his god was punishing those mean old Texan sinners with drought! ! 🙂

    Perhaps Poseidon (Olympian god of sea, floods and earthquakes.)was offended!!!??



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  • My whole state was formed and shaped by a massive flood or floods.

    “The Missoula Floods (also known as the Spokane Floods or the Bretz Floods) refer to the cataclysmic floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge at the end of the last ice age. The glacial flood events have been researched since the 1920s. These glacial lake outburst floods were the result of periodic sudden ruptures of the ice dam on the Clark Fork River that created Glacial Lake Missoula. After each ice dam rupture, the waters of the lake would rush down the Clark Fork and the Columbia River, flooding much of eastern Washington and the Willamette Valley in western Oregon. After the rupture, the ice would reform, creating Glacial Lake Missoula again.”



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  • alf1200 #17
    Aug 6, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    @#9 -The recognition of definitive signatures in the geological record tells us the January 26, 1700 event was not a unique event, but has repeated many times at irregular intervals of hundreds of years. Geological evidence indicates that 13 great earthquakes have occurred in the last 6000 years.

    You can dig in the sand here in my backyard and find the same. I had a four foot hole dug in my yard for a pond where I discovered the layer. I can’t verify the age or if is the same layer but the depth was found about three feet down.

    You better keep an ear open for Cascadia fault earthquake warnings, and have a route to high ground planned – just in case of a repeat!!



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  • alf1200 #21
    Aug 6, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Alan, As my christian neighbor stated, “we will be saved by the ten foot wide canal”………
    Yep……….that should do it…………………

    Just a couple of seconds while I do the calculations!

    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/on-nw-coast-potential-for-tsunami-waves-up-to-100-feet-now-seems-possible/

    The specter of 30-foot waves slamming into the Northwest coast used to be about the worst thing emergency managers in Washington and Oregon could imagine. Now, a year after Japan’s megaquake and tsunami, they’re wondering whether their nightmares were bad enough.

    Scientists and planners are reconsidering the region’s tsunami risk in light of the massive walls of water that swept nearly 20,000 people to their deaths on the day the Japanese simply call 3-11. The tsunami reached 130 feet high in some places, taking everyone by surprise.

    Levels that extreme are unlikely in the Pacific Northwest, but experts say it’s possible some parts of our coast could be hit by waves of up to 100 feet the next time the offshore fault called the Cascadia subduction zone snaps.

    “That is definitely something we need to be prepared for,” said Vasily Titov, head of tsunami modeling at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle. “Underestimating kills people … and the Japan event emphasized that in a very vivid way.”

    Nope!! It seems a tad undersized!

    Tsunami waves are not the splashy forward and back rollers loved by surfers!
    They are walls of water miles long and just keep coming!



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  • Bristol Channel, 1607: The British Geological Survey has suggested that …. a tsunami would most likely have been caused by an earthquake on a known unstable fault off the coast of Ireland, causing the vertical displacement of the sea floor. One contemporary report has been identified which describes an earth tremor on the morning of the flood.

    Since we are on the subject, has anyone considered this in relation to the new power station about to be constructed Hinkley Point, or indeed to the existing ones there or in Berkley, which is very low lying. Whose to say that the next tsunami won’t be much worse; a mega tsunami rolling into a low lying and ever narrowing tidal channel, fringed by nuclear installations?



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