Prof Granger part of team that discovers evidence of Great Flood in China - Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences - Purdue University Skip to main content

Prof Granger part of team that discovers evidence of Great Flood in China


Writer(s): Logan Judy

Archaeologists previously thought the Chinese Xia dynasty mythological, but new evidence suggests otherwise.

A new study coauthored by EAPS Professor Darryl Granger, which was published in Science, reveals geological evidence of a cataclysmic flood along the Yellow River in north central China. This flood, Granger says, could be the flood associated with Emperor Yu, who by tradition begins the first dynasty of China. Both the flood and dynasty were once thought to be fictitious, due to a lack of archaeological evidence.

“An earthquake triggered a landslide that dammed the river, and when the dam broke it released a catastrophic flood,” he said. “We suggest that this flood corresponds to the story of the Great Flood as told in China.”

The research was conducted by a team led by geologist Qinglong Wu of China’s Nanjing Normal University. The study began when sediments from a landslide bordering the Yellow River were also found more than fifteen miles away, at the Lajia archaeological site.  Further investigation revealed evidence of a flood so powerful it would have raged at 300,000 to 500,000 cubic meters per second. The damage would have been widespread and catastrophic.

In the legend of the Great Flood, it took Emperor Wu’s people multiple generations (about 20 years) to control the flood, something Granger says “makes sense in light of the geological evidence.”

“This was one of the largest known floods on Earth over the past 10,000 years,” he said, “and this is the first time that geologic evidence for it has ever been found.”

The team places the date for the flood at approximately 3,900 years ago, which corresponds with the first appearance of the Erlitou people, who lived in the Yellow River valley.

Read more about the study at


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