Anti-Flooding Tactics to Blame For Yellow River Flooding – Auto World News

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have linked the Yellow River’s deadly floods to a widespread pattern of human-caused environmental degradation and related flood-mitigation efforts that started changing the river’s natural flow some 3,000 years ago.

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For years now, Mother Nature has been blamed for a number of deaths caused by massive flooding along the Yellow River, which is also known in China as the “River of Sorrow” and “Scourge of the Sons of Han.”

“Human intervention in the Chinese environment is relatively massive, remarkably early and nowhere more keenly witnessed than in attempts to harness the Yellow River,” said T.R. Kidder, PhD, lead author of the study and an archaeologist at Washington University, according to a press release issued by the university.

“In some ways, these findings offer a new benchmark for the beginning of the Anthropocene, the epoch in which humans became the most dominant global force in nature,” Kidder added.

Research was published this week in the Journal of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Kidder’s research, co-authored with Liu Haiwang, senior researcher at China’s Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, is based on analysis of sedimentary soils deposited along the Yellow River “over thousands of years,” according to the release.

The study provides the earliest known archaeological evidence for human construction of large-scale levees and other flood-control systems in China. It also shows that the Chinese government’s efforts to tame the Yellow River with drainage ditches and levees actually made flooding a lot worse.

As walls were built higher, the more dangerous the previously stable Yellow River became.

“New evidence from China and elsewhere show us that past societies changed environments far more than we’ve ever suspected,” said Kidder, the Edward S. and Tedi Macias Professor in Arts & Sciences and chair of anthropology at WUSTL. “By 2,000 years ago, people were controlling the Yellow River, or at least thought they were controlling it, and that’s the problem.”

The study includes data from the team’s digs at the sites of two ancient communities in the lower Yellow River flood plain of China’s Henan province.

Geoarchaeologists used a number of precise analytic tools to confirm a site’s sedimentary history since ancient levees can be difficult to spot with an untrained eye.

“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,”¬†Kidder said.¬†

When the levees broke, the river not only flooded, but it also often changed course. Before the floods of AD 14-17, it is believed that some 9.5 million people lived in the rivers path.

Anti-Flooding Tactics to Blame For Yellow River Flooding – Auto World News

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