Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 70 ›› Issue (7): 1149-1164.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201507011

• Hydrology • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Prehistoric flood events recorded at the Zhongqiao Neolithic Site in the Jianghan Plain, Central China

Li WU1,2,3, Cheng ZHU3(), Feng LI4, Chunmei MA3, Lan LI5, Huaping MENG6, Hui LIU6, Xiaocui WANG4, Yan TAN3, Yougui SONG2   

  1. 1. College of Territorial Resources and Tourism, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu 241002, Anhui, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, CAS, Xi'an 710054, China
    3. School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
    4. State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography & Limnology, CAS, Nanjing 210008, China
    5. School of History & Culture, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610064, China
    6. Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Wuhan 430077, China
  • Received:2015-03-17 Revised:2015-04-21 Online:2015-07-20 Published:2015-08-11
  • Supported by:
    Open Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, CAS, No.SKLLQG1422;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41401216, No.41371204;Scientific Research Cultivating Foundation of Anhui Normal University, No.2014glkypy05, No.2014rcpy13


Field archaeological investigations were carried out in the Jianghan Plain in the middle reaches of the Changjiang River. Based on the integrated study with a comparative analysis for characteristics of the modern flood sediments, multidisciplinary approaches such as the AMS14C and archaeological dating, micromorphology of zircon, grain size, magnetic susceptibility and geochemistry are conducted to identify paleoflood sediments archived at the Zhongqiao Site. The results indicate that three paleoflood events (i.e. 4800-4597 cal. a BP, 4479-4367 cal. a BP & 4168-3850 cal. a BP) occurred at the Zhongqiao Site. Comparisons of paleoflood deposit layers at numerous Neolithic sites show that two Holocene extraordinary paleoflood events occurred over the Jianghan Plain area at approximately 4900-4600 cal. a BP (i.e. mid-late Qujialing cultural period) and 4100-3800 cal. a BP (i.e. from late Shijiahe cultural period to the Xia Dynasty). Further analysis of the environmental background for the paleoflood occurrences suggested that there was great climate variability between approximately 5000-4500 a BP and ca 4000 a BP. These two paleoflood events were closely related with the expansion of Jianghan lakes driven by the climatic change, and influenced the rise and fall of regional Neolithic Culture. Other evidences also suggested that intensified discrepancy between social development and environmental change processes (especially the hydrological process) in the end of Shijiahe cultural period might be the key factor leading to the collapse of Shijiahe Culture. The severe extraordinary floods related to the climatic anomaly at ca 4000 a BP and political conflicts from internal or other cultural areas all accelerated the collapse of the Shijiahe Culture. These results gave us a better understanding of the climate change at ca 4000 a BP, and also provide evidence for the prehistoric flood events in the Great Yu age, which is considered to be the turning point from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age in China.

Key words: prehistoric floods, Zhongqiao Neolithic Site, archaeological stratum, Jianghan Plain, Holocene