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Adaptation to Variable Environments, Resilience to Climate Change: Investigating land, water and settlement in Indus northwest India

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Petrie, CA 
Singh, RN 
Bates, J 
Dixit, Y 
French, CAI 


This paper explores the nature and dynamics of adaptation and resilience in the face of a diverse and varied environmental and ecological context using the case study of South Asia’s Indus Civilization (ca. 3000–1300 BC). Most early complex societies developed in regions where the climatic parameters faced by ancient subsistence farmers were varied but rain falls primarily in one season. In contrast, the Indus Civilization developed in a specific environmental context that spanned a very distinct environmental threshold, where winter and summer rainfall systems overlap. There is now evidence to show that this region was directly subject to climate change during the period when the Indus Civilization was at its height (ca. 2500–1900 BC). The Indus Civilization, therefore, provides a unique opportunity to understand how an ancient society coped with diverse and varied ecologies and change in the fundamental environmental parameters. This paper integrates research carried out as part of the Land, Water and Settlement project in northwest India between 2007 and 2014. Although coming from only one of the regions occupied by Indus populations, these data necessitate the reconsideration of several prevailing views about the Indus Civilization as a whole and invigorate discussion about human-environment interactions and their relationship to processes of cultural transformation.



4301 Archaeology, 4401 Anthropology, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, 44 Human Society, 13 Climate Action, 15 Life on Land

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Current Anthropology

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University of Chicago Press
British Academy (PM120008)
British Council in India (IND/CONT/06-07/172E)
Isaac Newton Trust (MINUTE 726(B))
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/H011463/1)
British Academy (SA-47604)
European Research Council (648609)
UKIERI, NERC, AHRC, British Academy, McDonald Institute