The 4.2 ka aridification event is regarded as one of the most severe climatic changes in the Holocene, and affected several Early Bronze Age populations from the Aegean to the ancient Near East (Cullen et al., 2000; Weiss and Brad- ley, 2001). This study demonstrates that the cli- mate changes at that time extended to the plains of northwestern India. The Kotla Dahar record alone cannot fully explain the role of climate change in the cultural evolution of the Indus civilization. The Indus settlements spanned a diverse range of environmental and ecological zones (Wright, 2010; Petrie, 2013); therefore, correlation of evidence for climate change and the decline of Indus urbanism requires a comprehensive assessment of the relationship between settlement and climate across a sub- stantial area (Weiss and Bradley, 2001; Petrie, 2013). The impact of the abrupt climate event in India and West Asia records, and that observed at Kotla Dahar, on settled life in the Indus region warrants further investigation.Plato (or rather the Egyptian priest speaking through Plato) may have been the first one to note the differential survival of people as a result of natural catastrophes. It is hard to imagine that such an extreme event would not unbalance agricultural economies leading to famine and also endanger the supply systems on which early cities were based. The failure of cities would in turn lead to a failure of governing elites centered on them and a power vacuum which new elites (armed with bronze weapons at this time) might take advantage of. Climate may have ended the Bronze Age civilization itself 1000 years later.
Geology doi: 10.1130/G35236.1
Abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon in northwest India ∼4100 yr ago
Yama Dixit et al.
Climate change has been suggested as a possible cause for the decline of urban centers of the Indus Civilization ∼4000 yr ago, but extant paleoclimatic evidence has been derived from locations well outside the distribution of Indus settlements. Here we report an oxygen isotope record of gastropod aragonite (δ18Oa) from Holocene sediments of paleolake Kotla Dahar (Haryana, India), which is adjacent to Indus settlements and documents Indian summer monsoon (ISM) variability for the past 6.5 k.y. A 4‰ increase in δ18Oa occurred at ca. 4.1 ka marking a peak in the evaporation/precipitation ratio in the lake catchment related to weakening of the ISM. Although dating uncertainty exists in both climate and archaeological records, the drought event 4.1 ka on the northwestern Indian plains is within the radiocarbon age range for the beginning of Indus de-urbanization, suggesting that climate may have played a role in the Indus cultural transformation.