Humans need water to survive, and so access to this precious natural resource has been an important factor in deciding where we have made our homes throughout history. Building near rivers, lakes and springs gave early settlers access to clean water for domestic and agricultural use, and the availability of fish meant they h ad a reliable food source. Traveling by boat also became an easy way to navigate the land more quickly, enabling our species to migrate to new areas.
As humans spread across continents and populations boomed, trade between civilizations became more frequent. Coastal settlements allowed for larger vessels to come and go, increasing trade and boosting the local economy, with many more port towns being built as a way to access rare goods and riches.
But the waterfront isn’t always a safe place to settle. With little protection from flooding, natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, bad weather and changing sea levels can destroy in a day what took people hundreds of years to build. Water can claim land, buildings and human lives. Here we dive into some of the lost civilizations now deluged beneath the depths.
Lion City, China
This valley in China’s Zhejiang Province was purposely flooded as part of the Xin’an River Dam project to generate hydroelectric power for the region, creating the Qiandao Lake. Submerged 80 to 100 feet (25 to 40 meters) below the surface of this human-made lake lies an ancient city frozen in time. Believed to be around 1,400 years old — though some believe certain structures are even older — the city once stood at the base of Wu Shi (Five Lion) Mountain, which is now also partially submerged.