Institute of Archaeology


Indus Geomorphology

This research network is investigating environmental changes over northwest India and Pakistan and their impact on water regimes and sedimentation in the river systems that flow out of the Himalayas into the Indus Valley.

Work by Goisan and Clift has documented the changing sediment regimes, and Himlayan sediment sources in the Indus river and the now extinct Ghaggar-Hakra river systems (the “lost Sarasati”), when these rivers were flowing, when tributaries and the Ghagar-Hakra dried up, and how this is related to both regional climatic changes in the Indian Ocean monsoon and to the distribution of agricultural settlements, especially those of the Harappan civilization.

Dorian Fuller has played the role of advisor on archaeological context, ancient agricultural production in the region and archaeological implications. In particular, the network is testing the hypothesis that gradual climatic drying was a push factor in an eastward shift in the foundation of new village settlements and an increasing reliance on summer cropping of millets during the later Harappan civilization. In more general terms, this initiative 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.

Together with the network members Peter Clift and Liviu Giosan, Dorian and some fellow archaeologists, Rowan Flad (Harvard) and Jim Aimers (State University of New York, Geneseo), convened an American Geophysical Union thematic conference (‘Chapman Meeting’) on the topic of Climates, past landscapes and civilizations (Santa Fe, March 2011).

Related outputs

  • Joint radio presentation by Dorian Fuller and Peter Clift for BBC Radio 4 program “The Material World” segment on ‘The End of Harappa’ aired on 19 March 2009
  • Ponton, C., L. Giosan, T. I. Eglinton, DQ. Fuller, J. E. Johnson, P. Kumar, and T. S. Collett (2012). Holocene Aridification of India. Geophysical Research Letters,  VOL. 39, L03704, 6 PP., doi:10.1029/2011GL050722
  • Clift, Peter D., Andrew Carter, Liviu Goisan, Julie Durcan, Geoff T. A. Duller, Mark G. Macklin, Anwar Alizai, Ali R. Tabrez, Mohammed Danish, Sam Van Laningham and DQ Fuller (2012). U-Pb zircon dating evidnece for a Pleistocene Sarasvati River and capture of the Yamuna River. Geology [on-line first] DOI 10.1130/G32840.1
  • Clift, Peter, Rowan Flad, Dorian Fuller and Liviu Goisan (2011). Studying the Relationship Between Past People and Their Environments. AGU Chapman Conference on Climates, Past Landscapes, and Civilizations; Santa Fe, New Mexico, 21–25 March 2011. EOS 92 (24) [14 June 2011]: p. 203


  • Leverhulme Trust funding (to Peter Clift): “Reorganisation of river systems and climate change as controls on the Harappan” (2008-2011)
  • Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution funding (for Liviu Giosan)