Accepted paper:

Adaptation to variable environments and resilience to climate change in Indus northwest India


Cameron Petrie (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

The Indus Civilisation spanned an environmental threshold where the winter and summer rainfall systems overlapped, and there is evidence that this region was affected by the dramatic weakening of the Indian Summer Monsoon. It is thus an ideal case study for investigating Environmental Humanity.

Paper long abstract:

There is much to learn from the past about the success or failure of adaptations to particular environments and ecological niches, and the resilience of responses to environmental pressures and climatic threats. This paper will explore the nature and dynamics of adaptation and resilience in the face of the diverse and varied environmental and ecological context occupied by the populations of the South Asia's Indus Civilisation (c.3000-1300 B.C.). Most early complex societies developed in regions where the climatic parameters faced by ancient subsistence farmers were varied, but not especially diverse. In contrast, the Indus Civilisation developed in a specific environmental context that spanned a very distinct environmental threshold, where the winter and summer rainfall systems overlapped. There is also evidence that this region was subject to climate change c.2200-2100 BC, when the urban phase of the Indus Civilisation was at its height. The Indus Civilisation therefore provides a unique opportunity to understand how an ancient society was adapted to a number of diverse and varied ecologies, and how its populations coped change in the fundamental and underlying environmental parameters. This paper integrates research carried out as part of the Land, Water and Settlement project in northwest India between 2007 and 2014 and the TwoRains project which started work in the same region in 2015. The results of this research resonate with thinking about modern developmental needs, water management, and reconsiderations of the impact of current water and land management policies in modern India.

panel P46
Past weather, past climate - archaeology as Environmental Humanity