New Historian

Ancient Chines Levees Caused Environmental Change

Chines Levees

<![CDATA[According to research from Washington University, China's deadly river floods that have caused lots of suffering among people living near the Yellow River were a result of humans tampering with the river's natural flow nearly 3000 years ago! According to the lead author of the study, Dr. T.R. Kidder, the ancient Chinese intervention into the environment was surprisingly large scale, as they attempted to control the Yellow River. It has been discovered that these floods have been happening for a very long time, and the government of the time looked at ways to tame the river, by building levees, dikes and drainage ditches. Unfortunately in this effort to make things better, they only made things worse, causing a great destructive flood which killed millions and triggered the end of the Western Han Dynasty, around 14-17 A.D. Kidder led an archaeological team, along with co-author and senior researcher at China's Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. They analyzed sediments of soild deposited along the Yellow River of thousands of years. They examined soil layers at the Anshang site, as high as 50 feet. They cleaned back sections of the quarry to reveal patterns of sedimentary deposits that dated back to about 10,000 years. What they found next was shocking. Nearly a third of that 10,000 year section was deposited in the last 2,000 years alone, which indicates human tampering. By examining soil coloration and using tests for physical and chemical alterations linked to human activity, they were able to deduce the systems that the Chinese built, plus radiocarbon dating to determine the age. According to Kidder, the Chinese built the first drainage and irrigation systems at the lower sections of the Yellow River about 2600 to 2700 years ago. The levees were built much farther up the river, and served the purpose of preventing too much erosion from taking place upstream, which caused agricultural problems for the growing Chinese civilization. These levees were built to be up to 14 feet in height and caused sediments to accumulate in the river bed, which raised the river even higher, increasing the chance of flooding. Kidder and his team asserted that the Yellow River, as it is now, is purely engineered. Kidder states that the Yellow River existed for millions of years, and was relatively calm and stable. However, Chinese farmers moved into the area and their agricultural efforts caused the upper river to become more turbulent. Over the years, more farmers moved into that area on the behest of the Chinese government, as the growing population required more food. As time went on the surrounding areas became more populated, and the upper river became more disturbed, causing more sediment to be washed down the river the river to rise over the levees. This caused the great flood that devastated an area thought to have been populated by over 9 million people. Utter chaos ensued from the disaster and the region became the center of a rebellion that soon caused the end of the Western Han Dynasty, which had lasted five centuries. This study shows the earliest human construction of large-scale levees and other flood-control mechanisms, and is to be published in the Journal of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.]]>

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