New research sheds light on one of the world’s earliest urban civilisations

An international team, including Birkbeck’s Professor Andy Carter, uncovered new evidence on the rise and fall of the Indus Civilisation.

Image credit: Usman Ghani, Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0

Professor Andy Carter from Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Science was part of an international team which has shed new light on one of the earliest urban civilisations: the Bronze Age Indus society. The Indus civilisation lived on what is now northwest India and Pakistan around 4000 years ago and has long been the centre of a debate around urbanism and water supply.

It had previously been thought that the Indus settlements were linked to a long-lost Himalayan river, which provided them with the water their early urban society needed to thrive, and that the drying up of the river was a major factor in its eventual decline.

However, Carter and colleagues from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and from Imperial College London used data collected from satellites to locate the course of the ancient river and drill into the ancient river bed to obtain samples to define its age and source.

This new evidence showed that the river had changed its path several thousand years before the settlement of the Indus people.  This ancient civilisation flourished in the relict-incised river valley as it provided favourable conditions to exploit fertile land and collect monsoon rain to fulfil their water needs.

Professor Carter said: “This research provides an excellent demonstration of how international cross-disciplinary research can help solve a longstanding controversy.”

The research is published in Nature Communications

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