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Archaeologists have solved a 4,000-year-old enigma about a vanished Chinese civilization.

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS have made a significant breakthrough after unravelling the incredible riddle of ancient Chinese society.

A multinational team of academics conducted a new investigation on an abandoned ancient city. But until today, academics have been perplexed as to why the city in eastern China, constructed around 5,300 years ago, suddenly saw its people vanish. 

Traces of the Liangzhu civilization, a Neolithic community from the end of the Stone Age, were unearthed in the Yangtze River Delta. 

According to researchers, the ruins of Liangzhu city demonstrate how advanced the culture was as a community, particularly in agriculture and aquaculture.

They developed advanced architectural structures and systems, such as canals, dams, and water reservoirs, earning Liangzhu the moniker "Neolithic Venice of the East."

However, when it was all lost, most researchers believe it was due to flooding.

"A thin coating of clay was detected on the preserved ruins, which alludes to a possible connection between the end of the ancient civilization and floods of the Yangtze River or floods from the East China Sea," stated geologist Christoph Spötl of the University of Innsbruck in Austria."

The mud layer itself, however, did not allow for any conclusive conclusions on the source."

However, the current study has provided us with a clearer picture.

Prof. Spötl and his colleagues, led by Haiwei Zhang of China's Xi'an Jiaotong University, went deeper than the old mud deposits.

They studied mineral formations from two underwater caves in the area, which contain chemical traces of thousands of years of environmental conditions.

The team's research of stalagmite samples revealed that the collapse of Liangzhu City occurred during a period of intense precipitation that lasted for decades about 4,300 years ago.

"This is amazingly exact in light of the time dimension," Prof Spötl added.

"Massive monsoon rains are likely to have caused such catastrophic flooding of the Yangtze and its branches that even the most complex dams and canals were unable to withstand enormous masses of water, devastating Liangzhu City and causing people to evacuate."

Previous instances of climatic change in the Yangtze River Delta region, according to the research team, may have had an impact on other Neolithic cultures that lived in the area before the Liangzhu civilization formed.

"Archaeological studies suggest the presence of large-scale hydraulic complexes such as big earthen dams near Liangzhu city, which were constructed between [5,300 and 4,700 years before present," the researchers noted in their report.

"This shows that the Liangzhu society managed water resources successfully by building hydraulic infrastructure for flood prevention and/or irrigation to survive in a dry climate."

And the arid climate worsened following a predicted draught around 4,400 years ago when dam construction appears to have been halted because the existing dams would have sufficed under those dry conditions.

But, following that, the rains came down strongly, in two distinct bursts approximately 4,400–4,300 years ago.