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New Research Sheds Light On How Ancient Indus Civilization Adapted To Climate Change

31 January 2017, 11:00 am EST By Livia Rusu Tech Times
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New research has shown the existence of climate change during the early Holocene period in the region of the Indus Civilization. The study suggests that the population was well-adapted to change in environmental conditions.  ( C. Petrie | University of Cambridge )

Using the case study of South Asia's Indus Civilization, researchers have looked into the dynamics of adaptation and resilience in correlation to varied environmental contexts. The study analyzes how the Indus population from north-west India interacted with the environmental conditions.

The results of the study, published online, Jan. 27, in the journal Current Anthropology, also examine the way the environment varied during climate change periods.

Climate Change During Early Holocene

The study was carried out as part of a larger collaboration between the University of Cambridge and Banaras Hindu University, and it provides scientific contextualization to the current issues of global warming, by analyzing climate patterns from thousands of years back.

In the context of the research, it is noted that most of the developed ancient civilizations were developed in regions where the climate patterns were varied, although not extreme, but permissive enough to sustain subsistence.

"This does, however, present significant empirical challenges as there is growing consensus that in order to properly comprehend human adaptation, sustainability, and resilience, it is essential to consider local climatic and environmental conditions," noted the research.

In this context, the Indus Civilization had more specific parameters, due to the particular environmental context of the region. According to the research, on that specific geographic area both winter and summer rainfall seasons overlapped.

Additionally, the research provides evidence that the region was subjected to climate change during the very period when the Indus Civilization was at its peak, approximately between 2500-1900 BC. This way, the researchers found that the situation of this civilization represents a perfect opportunity to better comprehend the way an ancient civilization responded to different major environmental changes.

Holocene is the name given to the period starting approximately 11,700 years back up until today, the time since the last ice age. Although there have been small-scale climate changes, such as the "Little Ice Age," approximately between 1200 and 1700 A.D., the Holocene period has generally been relatively warm.

Indus Civilization And Climate Change

In the early Holocene, the Indus Civilization was located near to Kotla Dahar, a deep lake, as a result to which regular and consistent rainfalls occurred due to the evaporation. But the lake also showed proof of two dramatic drops in the monsoon rainfall, along with a progressive lowering of the water level inside the lake.

The second drop suggests that the river became completely ephemeral ca. 2200-2000 BC, due to a sudden weakening of the monsoon, which further implies that climate change should be considered as a contributing factor to the deurbanization of the plains in northwest India.

"[...] Until recently, however, debates about the impacts of climate change on Indus populations have been hampered by a lack of direct and proximate climate data. Proximate data is essential for establishing whether there was any local impact of globally detectable climate change on the plains of northwest South Asia during the Holocene," also noted the study.

According to the research, the discovery suggests that the local Indus population adapted to the varied environmental conditions even before the development of urban centers, which could have been favorable when encountering a broader climatic variation.

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