Institute of Archaeology

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The fate of India's earliest civilisations

20 March 2012

The fate of India's earliest civilisations

Collaborative palaeo-climatic research, involving the Institute's Dorian Fuller, is shedding light on the possible fate of India's earliest civilisations.

The Indus Geomorphology research network of whom Dorian is a member is examining the Indus Valley as a case study of the interplay of environmental conditions and climate change with the rise, persistence and decline of complex societies.

A recent palaeo-climatic study led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that major shifts in Indian civilisations are influenced by past changes in the Indian monsoon. The research tells the story of growing aridity in India, enabling valuable insights into the impact of the monsoon on past cultures, and points scientists toward a way to model future monsoons.

Dorian Fuller who investigated the ancient flora of India has noted:

  • What the new paleo-climatic information makes clear is that the shift towards more arid conditions around 4,000 years ago corresponds to the time when agricultural populations expanded and settled village life began.”

Read the WHOI press release here»

The article on 'Holocene aridification of India', co-authored by Dorian and published in Geophysical Research Letters Vol 39 (2012) presents important new, and quite high resolution, data on past monsoon dynamics and vegetation of peninsular India spanning the whole Holocene. The archaeological implications of the project are summarised in a recent entry in the archaeobotanist blog.