A stalagmite rising from the floor of a cave in China is providing clues to the end of several dynasties in Chinese history.
Slowly built from the minerals in dripping water over 1,810 years, chemicals in the stone tell a tale of strong and weak cycles of the monsoon, the life-giving rains that water crops to feed millions of people.
Dry periods coincided with the demise of the Tang, Yuan and Ming dynasties, researchers report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.
There were decade-long fluctuations between A.D. 190 and 530, the end of the Han Dynasty and most of the Era of Disunity, the researchers said. From 530 to 850 the monsoon declined, covering the end of the Era of Disunity, the Sui Dynasty and most of the Tang Dynasty.
According to the researchers, the 9th-century dry period contributed to the decline of the Tang Dynasty and the Mayans in Mesoamerica. It also may have contributed to the lack of unity during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, they said.