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Response to Comments on “Outburst flood at 1920 BCE”

On March 31st, 2017, the paper entitled as “Response to Comments on ‘Outburst flood at 1920 BCE supports historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty’” was published by Science (Volume 355, issue 6332) online (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6332/1382.5) which responded to the three comments written by the research teams of the Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources Research, CAS, the University of Hong Kong, and Shaanxi Normal University. It is co-written by the researchers of the School of Geography Science, Nanjing Normal University——Qinglong Wu, Zhijun Zhao, and Shibiao Bai, as well as partners of other institutes.

On August 5th, 2016, a team of archaeologists and geologists led by NNU researcher Qinglong Wu Published a paper on Science entitled as “Outburst flood at 1920 BCE supports historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty” which declared that a disastrous flood overwhelmed the Jishi Gorge on the upper reaches of the Yellow River around 1920 BCE. This outburst flood is probably where the legend of China’s Great Flood originated from and provides evidence for the historicity of China’s legendary first dynasty (Xia dynasty) as well as its starting point. This research aroused wide-ranging discussion among the academic circle and the public.

The three comments have mainly put forward questions in five aspects: the evidence of Jishi Gorge’s outburst flood, the maximum discharges of the outburst flood, the age of the dammed-lake in Jishi Gorge, the starting point of the Erlitou culture, and the relationship between the Outburst flood at 1920 BCE and the historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty. As for the evidence of the Outburst flood sediments at 1920 BCE, the research group of Shaanxi Normal University regarded it as a misjudgment. The commentators of the University of Hong Kong holds the view that the outburst flood is transient, therefore Manning’s formula is not available in estimating the peak discharges of outburst floods. All the three comments share the same view that the ancient dammed-lake in Jishi Gorge disappeared about 8000-5500 years ago, thus has no relevance with the ruin of Lajia tribe. The commentators of the Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources Research, CAS, and the University of Hong Kong think that Jishi Gorge’s outburst flood provides no support for the historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty.

Faced with those questions, Wu’s team responded in the “Response” as follows: according to the existent evidence, “black sand” is excluded from the products of earthquake liquefaction sand blast. And the special set of clastic deposit in Guanting Basin is not likely to be the cause of the flood in the valley; the outburst of the dammed-lake caused by huge landslides is a process which usually lasts several to dozens of hours, so that Manning’s formula is applicable in estimating the peak discharges of outburst floods; the age range of C-14 in charcoal samples that we got from the dammed-lake sediments is about 4000-3500 BCE, which proved relevant to the ruins of Lajia tribe; the Outburst flood at 1920 BCE has connection with Erlitou culture, but the exact starting point of Erlitou culture remains to be explored; the relationship between Jishi Gorge’s outburst flood and the historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty is based on both the uniqueness and the magnitude of the flood and its timing: It was exceptionally large and rare, with no similarly devastating flood events ever occurring again during the historical period. Thus, it is the only geological candidate yet found for the origin of China’s Great Flood.

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