In China, people sometimes refer to the Yellow River as the River of Sorrow or the Scourge of the Sons of Han. The river is Asia's second-longest and is infamous for its unpredictable and oftentimes devastating floods. However, scholars also believe that it was the birthplace of Chinese civilization, proving the resources that culture needed to flourish, the Smithsonian reports.
Now, evidence has emerged that for nearly as long as humans have been taking advantage of the Yellow River's resources, they have also been altering its natural course. Beginning around 3,000 years ago, researchers found, people living along the Yellow River started building levees and other flood mitigation systems. As populations increased, alterations to the river became more and more extreme.