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    Climate Change Linked To Indus Civilization Decline
    By News Staff | February 26th 2014 03:58 PM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    If climate change sends us all back to the Stone Age, we wouldn't be the first culture. Or at least to the Bronze Age.

    It used to be that changes in climate were simply history, now they are an indictment of everything we might hold dear, like electricity.

    4,100 years ago, write scholars in Geology, an abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon affected northwest India and the resulting drought coincided with the beginning of the decline of the metropolis-building Indus civilization that spanned present-day Pakistan and India.

    The inference is that climate change could be why many of the major cities of the civilization were abandoned. This happened in other regions too, which is why there have been large finds from antiquity in what might seem like bizarre locations in the Mid-East (see Jawa: Lost City Of The Black Desert).


    The new paper involved the collection of snail shells preserved in the sediments of an ancient lake bed. By analyzing the oxygen isotopes in the shells, the scientists were able to tell how much rain fell in the lake where the snails lived thousands of years ago. The results may shed light on why the major cities of the Indus civilization (sometimes called the Harappan civilization, after Harappa, one of the five cities) were abandoned.

    Climate change had obviously been suggested as a possible reason for this transformation before but there was no direct evidence for climate change in the region where Indus settlements were located. 

    The finding now links the decline of the Indus cities to a documented global scale climate event and its impact on the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Early Bronze Age civilizations of Greece and Crete, and the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, whose decline had already been linked to abrupt climate change.

    "We think that we now have a really strong indication that a major climate event occurred in the area where a large number of Indus settlements were situated," said Professor David Hodell, from Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences. "Taken together with other evidence from Meghalaya in northeast India, Oman and the Arabian Sea, our results provide strong evidence for a widespread weakening of the Indian summer monsoon across large parts of India 4,100 years ago."

    Hodell together with University of Cambridge archaeologist Dr Cameron Petrie and Gates scholar Dr Yama Dixit collected Melanoides tuberculata snail shells from the sediments of the ancient lake Kotla Dahar in Haryana, India. "As today, the major source of water into the lake throughout the Holocene is likely to have been the summer monsoon," said Dixit. "But we have observed that there was an abrupt change, when the amount of evaporation from the lake exceeded the rainfall – indicative of a drought."

    Credit and source: 
    doi:10.1130/G35236.1


    At this time large parts of modern Pakistan and much of western India was home to South Asia's great Bronze Age urban society. As Petrie explained: "The major cities of the Indus civilisation flourished in the mid-late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Large proportions of the population lived in villages, but many people also lived in 'megacities' that were 80 hectares or more in size – roughly the size of 100 football pitches. They engaged in elaborate crafts, extensive local trade and long-ranging trade with regions as far away as the modern-day Middle East. But, by the mid 2nd millennium BC, all of the great urban centres had dramatically reduced in size or been abandoned."

    Many possible causes have been suggested, including the claim that major glacier-fed rivers changed their course, dramatically affecting the water supply and the reliant agriculture. It has also been suggested that an increasing population level caused problems, there was invasion and conflict, or that climate change caused a drought that large cities could not withstand long-term.

    "We know that there was a clear shift away from large populations living in megacities," said Petrie. "But precisely what happened to the Indus Civilisation has remained a mystery. It is unlikely that there was a single cause, but a climate change event would have induced a whole host of knock-on effects.

    "We have lacked well-dated local climate data, as well as dates for when perennial water flowed and stopped in a number of now abandoned river channels, and an understanding of the spatial and temporal relationships between settlements and their environmental contexts. A lot of the archaeological debate has really been well-argued speculation."

    The new data, collected with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, show a decreased summer monsoon rainfall at the same time that archaeological records and radiocarbon dates suggest the beginning of the Indus de-urbanisation. From 6,500 to 5,800 years ago, a deep fresh-water lake existed at Kotla Dahar. The deep lake transformed to a shallow lake after 5,800 years ago, indicating a weakening of the Indian summer monsoon. But an abrupt monsoon weakening occurred 4,100 years ago for 200 years and the lake became ephemeral after this time.

    Until now, the suggestion that climate change might have had an impact on the Indus Civilisation was based on data showing a lessening of the monsoon in Oman and the Arabian Sea, which are both located at a considerable distance from Indus Civilisation settlements and at least partly affected by different weather systems.

    Hodell and Dixit used isotope geochemical analysis of shells as a proxy for tracing the climate history of the region. Oxygen exists in two forms – the lighter 16O and a heavier 18O variant. When water evaporates from a closed lake (one that is fed by rainfall and rivers but has no outflow), molecules containing the lighter isotope evaporate at a faster rate than those containing the heavier isotopes; at times of drought, when the evaporation exceeds rainfall, there is a net increase in the ratio of 18O to 16O of the water. Organisms living in the lake record this ratio when they incorporate oxygen into the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) of their shells, and can therefore be used, in conjunction with radiocarbon dating, to reconstruct the climate of the region thousands of years ago.

    Speculating on the effect lessening rainfall would have had on the Indus Civilisation, Petrie said: "Archaeological records suggest they were masters of many trades. They used elaborate techniques to produce a range of extremely impressive craft products using materials like steatite, carnelian and gold, and this material was widely distributed within South Asia, but also internationally. Each city had substantial fortification walls, civic amenities, craft workshops and possibly also palaces. Houses were arranged on wide main streets and narrow alleyways, and many had their own wells and drainage systems. Water was clearly an integral part of urban planning, and was also essential for supporting the agricultural base.

    At around the time we see the evidence for climatic change, archaeologists have found evidence of previously maintained streets start to fill with rubbish, over time there is a reduced sophistication in the crafts they used, the script that had been used for several centuries disappears and there were changes in the location of settlements, suggesting some degree of demographic shift."

    "We estimate that the climate event lasted about 200 years before recovering to the previous conditions, which we still see today, and we believe that the civilisation somehow had to cope with this prolonged period of drought," said Hodell.

    The new research is part of a wider joint project led by the University of Cambridge and Banaras Hindu University in India, which has been funded by the British Council UK-India Education and Research Initiative to investigate the archaeology, river systems and climate of north-west India using a combination of archaeology and geoscience. The multidisciplinary project hopes to provide new understanding of the relationships between humans and their environment, and also involves researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and the Uttar Pradesh State Archaeology Department.

    "It is essential to understand the link between human settlement, water resources and landscape in antiquity, and this research is an important step in that direction," explained Petrie. "We hope that this will hold lessons for us as we seek to find means of dealing with climate change in our own and future generations."



    Citation: Yama Dixit, David A. Hodell, and Cameron A. Petrie, Abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon in northwest India ∼4100 yr ago', Geology, G35236.1, February 24, 2014, doi:10.1130/G35236.1


    Comments

    very interesting!

    please find all my 6 papers
    The Demise of the Dravidian, Vedic and Paramunda Indus myths

    I am publishing my sixth research paper directly online as it is an extension of my previous papers. Kindly read pages 4 to 18 as it contains a detailed discussion of the term ‘Aryan’. This paper shows why the Dravidian, Vedic and Paramunda Indus theories are not tenable.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/136268397/The-demise-of-the-Dravidian-Vedic-an...

    Methods to reconstruct the languages of the Harappans were presented in the present and previous papers. We hope other scholars take up the exercise of reconstructing the languages of the Indus Valley civilization!

    Part one

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/27103044/Sujay-NPAP-Part-One

    Part Two very,very important!

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/27105677/Sujay-Npap-Part-Two

    (These comprise the complete and comprehensive solution to the Aryan problem)

    Literacy in pre-Buddhist India (before 600 BC)

    Please find my collection of papers on literacy in Pre-Buddhist India

    Indus valley civilization (2600 BC to 1900 BC)

    1. The reconfirmation and reinforcement of the Indus script thesis (very logical and self explanatory paper)

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/46387240/Sujay-Indus-Script-Final-Version-Fina...

    2. The reintroduction of the lost manuscript hypothesis (the case for this thesis has obviously become much stronger in the recent past)

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/111707419/Sujay-Indus-Reintroducing-Lost-Manus...

    Post-Harappan India (1600 BC to 600 BC)

    1. Literacy in post-Harappan india (obviously literacy in post-Harappan India existed in certain pockets & were limited to very small sections of society- alphabetic scripts were brought from West Asia and the Indus script also continued – this a very logical and self-explanatory paper and anyone can cross-verify the conclusions)

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/127306265/Sujay-Post-Harappan-Literacy-and-ori...

    This above mentioned Monsoon failure theory explaining the reason for decline of IVC is a doubtful correlation. This Monsoon decline theory is absolutely fine, there is no objection to that theory at all. But, only problem is that this monsoon decline theory is being correlated to the fall of Indus Valley Civilization,which is a kind of illogical correlation.

    This theory of " Monsoon Decline" is being stretched beyond a limit to accommodate the theory of "IVC Decline". The Indus river is a perennial river and it doesn't dry up even in harsh summers because of the melting of glaciers. The river Indus supports nearly 18 crore people Pakistan even today. Could it not have supported a few thouand people 5000 years back? It looks like that there is some misinterpretation here.

    Further, the research team is analyzing the sediments at the lakes in India, but, concludes that IVC sites declined because of monsoon failure. The so called Indus cities were on the banks of "Indus River", which is a perennial river. There is no possibility that drought would have affected IVC people at river banks. Hence the correlation applied by the research authors is not correct.

    There is a possibility that IVC never declined at all. These Indus Valley excavation sites are looking deserted because these sites were used as grave yards from time immemorial by various occupants of these lands.These sites have been wrongly identified as Metropolises, whereas in reality they were only Necropolises. This wrong identification is the reason for confusion on theories about decline of IVC. Follow the below given link for detailed information.
    --------
    https://sites.google.com/site/indusharappacivilization/home/d-revised-ve...