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Updated on: Thursday, May 30, 2019, 01:52 AM IST

Indus civilisation did not develop around flowing river

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London: The Indus Civilisation, one of the world’s oldest urban civilisations spanning across northwest India and Pakistan, flourished along a course abandoned by the major Himalayan river Sutlej, and did not develop around a flowing river as previously thought, scientists said on Wednesday.

The Indus or Harappan Civilisation was a Bronze Age society that developed from 5,300 to 3,300 years ago, at about the same time as urban civilisations developed in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Scientists have found that much of the Indus civilisation thrived around an extinct river, challenging ideas about how urbanisation in ancient cultures evolved.

Archaeological evidence shows that many of the settlements in the Indus or Harappan Civilisation developed along the banks of a river called the Ghaggar-Hakra in northwest India and Pakistan. Scientists had assumed that it flowed while the Indus urban centres grew, playing an active role in their development. It has generally been thought that this was a major Himalayan river that dried up either due to climatic or tectonic changes.

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The study, led by researchers from Imperial College London (ICL) in the UK and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, showed that a major Himalayan river did not flow at the same time as the development of Indus Civilisation urban settlements. This research shows how ancient urban centres did not necessarily need an active, flowing river system in order to thrive. “The findings challenge our current understanding of how urbanisation in many ancient civilisations began and grew in relation to natural resources,” said Sanjeev Gupta, from Department of Earth Science and Engineering at ICL.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows the Sutlej River – a major Himalayan river – used to flow along the trace of the Ghaggar-Hakra river but rapidly changed course upstream eight thousand years ago. This meant that three thousand years later, when the Indus people settled in the area, there was only an abandoned large river valley occupied by seasonal monsoon river flow instead of a large Himalayan river.

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This also suggests that the Indus civilisation would not have been threatened by the risk of devastating floods that living next to a big river brings. Most major ancient urban civilisations, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, formed around big rivers, so the implications of these findings extend well beyond the Indus. Research in this area has been focusing on the role of rivers drying up leading to abandonment of urban centres by ancient communities.

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Published on: Thursday, November 30, 2017, 07:27 AM IST
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