Climate change linked to Indus civilization decline 4,100 years ago
A new study has suggested that climate change may have contributed to the decline of a city-dwelling civilization in Pakistan and India 4,100 years ago.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge have demonstrated that an abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon affected northwest India 4,100 years ago.
The resulting drought coincided with the beginning of the decline of the metropolis-building Indus Civilisation, which spanned present-day Pakistan and India, suggesting that climate change could be why many of the major cities of the civilisation were abandoned.
The research involved the collection of snail shells preserved in the sediments of an ancient lake bed. By analysing 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 shed light on a mystery surrounding why the major cities of the Indus Civilisation (also known as the Harappan Civilisation, after Harappa, one of the five cities) were abandoned.
Moreover, 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 civilisations of Greece and Crete, and the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, whose decline has previously been linked to abrupt climate change.
"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," Professor David Hodell, from Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences, said.
The new data 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.
The study was published in the journal Geology.
(Posted on 27-02-2014)