Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Yellow river flood defences dated

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Water
The Yellow River Floodplain The Yellow River Floodplain Shutterstock
01 Aug
2014
Flood-mitigation efforts on China’s Yellow River that began almost 3,000 years ago are at least partly responsible for devastating floods that have killed millions and toppled dynasties, according to a new study

Excavations at two ancient communities in the lower Yellow River floodplain in China’s Henan province revealed a 10,000-year history of sediment deposition. Analysis of the organisation of soil grains revealed whether earthen structures identified within the deposits were human-built or laid down as part of a natural sedimentation process, while radiocarbon dating of snail shells and other organic matter helped to identify the timeframes during which the structures were created. The results suggest that the Chinese began building levee systems along the lower reaches of the river about 2,900–2,700 years ago – the earliest known archaeological evidence for human construction of large-scale levees and other flood-control systems in China.

‘Our evidence suggests that the first levees were built to be about six to seven feet [1.8–2.1 metres] high, but within a decade, the one at Anshang was doubled in height and width,’ said the study’s lead author TR Kidder, of Washington University in St Louis. ‘It’s easy to see the trap they fell into: building levees causes sediments to accumulate in the river bed, raising the river higher, and making it more vulnerable to flooding, which requires you to build the levee higher, which causes the sediments to accumulate, and the process repeats itself.’

This story was published in the August 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps the two sides of global malnutrition –…

Cities

Thomas Bird reports on the coronavirus, speaking to those trapped…

Forests

The world’s second largest tropical forest receives significantly less funding…

Cities

The world’s first water-borne dairy farm has been erected on…

Cities

Continental Europe’s most extensive underground rail transport network, the Madrid…

Cities

A central highway in Brazil’s largest city is about to…

Cities

Urban photography marries themes and passages from TS Eliot in…

Mapping

From Leonardo da Vinci’s genius and the history of Starbucks,…

Mapping

How do you usually travel to work? Question 41 in…

Water

The Nile is home to mysteries both ancient and modern…

Places

While researching his main article on the world’s smallest countries,…

Places

Vitali Vitaliev briefly meets the down-to-earth ruler of Liectenstein

Places

In the third of his series on geopolitical oddities, Vitali…

Water

Increased rainfall intensity, predicted to occur as the climate changes,…

Deserts

Now in its fourth year, this annual lecture series highlights…

Cities

With Jakarta suffering from severe subsidence, pollution and congestion, Indonesia…

Mapping

A revolution in digital mapmaking is underway and the implications…

Cities

India has pledged $120billion to make its cities ‘smart’. But…

Cities

Buildings made from wood are becoming increasingly common in cities…