A leading Chinese academy says Lop Nur, the former lake believed to nurture the ancient Loulan (Kroraina) civilization along the Silk Road, evaporated in 1962.
The announcement, made by scientists from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography under the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Thursday, sets the date 10 years earlier than what was previously thought.
Chinese professor of Nanjing University Wang Fubao inspects during a survey at the Lop Nur desert in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Nov. 28, 2008. Its the sixth journey for the 76-year-old scientist since year 2002 inside Lop Nur, a former lake area known as "the sea of death".(Xinhua/Zhao Yi)
Lop Nur is located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts in China's northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The lake, once the largest in northwest China, was believed to have evaporated in 1972 as a result of desert erosion and the loss of trees cut for firewood.
Scientists from Xinjiang reported the lake dried up because it lacked a water source in the desert.
Xia Xuncheng, a researcher with the institute, said "evaporation was irreversible and human activities only sped up the process."
Thursday's announcement was made after a more than 4,000 km long scientific expedition by scientists in the lake area and satellite picture analysis.
The research, which started from mid-November and lasted nearly a month, indicated a large flood hit the area in 1958. A lake emerged afterwards once covering more than 3,000 square km in the Tarim Basin.
"The lake was only three meters deep and as much as one third of its water evaporated as there was no water supply", said Xia.
Lop Nur, or Lake Lop, also known as "the sea of death", is now a 20,000-square-km seasonal marsh which is rich in oil, gas, coal and mineral resources
The area is also known for being the test site for the first Chinese nuclear bomb.
In 1980, Peng Jiamu, a noted Chinese scientist, went missing in his fourth expedition to the Lop Nur and was never found. Source: Xinhua