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Yangtze River 40 million years older than previously thought

New research has revealed that the Yangtze River in China is 40 million years older than previously thought.

A study of minerals by a team led by Durham University reveals that the Yangtze River began to cut the Three Gorges area around 45 million years ago, making it much older than previously believed.

The Yangtze River, the third-longest river in the world, has played a central role in the development of Chinese culture, and the Three Gorges, which separate the Sichuan Basin in the west from the lowlands of central and eastern China to the east, have particular historical, cultural, and geomorphological significance.

Without the transport pathway created by the Three Gorges, south-western China — including the rich agricultural area of Sichuan Province, known as China’s ‘rice bowl’ — would have remained cut off from the rest of the country by the otherwise inaccessible mountains that surround the region.

The new findings, published in Geology, show that sediments from the Three Gorges, previously analysed by researchers and dated as being only 1-2 million years old, must have been deposited long after the Three Gorges were cut.

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