3,000-year-old tale of climate change-induced human migration

Surveying the archaeological site to understand the local landscape   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Imagine a large river flowing across the Great Rann of Kachchh and the sand hills of Thar desert. No, this is not from a novel, but from a recent research article that says that this region might have been home to the early Iron Age settlements about 3,000 years ago. The paper published in Archaeological Research in Asia adds that this region was also inhabited during the Medieval periods of about 1,500 to 900 years ago.

Glimpses of the 3,000-year-old Karim Shahi site

Glimpses of the 3,000-year-old Karim Shahi site   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Researchers from IIT Kharagpur during their geological explorations stumbled upon artefacts like pitchers, jewellery, jars, figurines. Using modern luminescence and radiocarbon methods, the team tried to date them, which revealed that these items were the earliest to be found in the presently arid Rann of Kutch and the Thar Desert.

The items collected from the Karim Shahi region revealed that humans occupied that region from Early Iron Age to the Early Historic (3,100 – 2,300 years) period. This period was considered to be archaeologically silent and was often marked as ‘Dark Age’ as there was no evidence of settlements. “The Bronze age Indus Valley civilisation started declining around 4,000 years and finally collapsed at 3,300 years before present. But what happened after that? They learned iron smelting which needed better skills yet no large scale organised cities have been found during the Iron Age. Were they nomadics? Were they migrating from place to place? Was there no settlement before the recorded Iron Age of 2,500 years in Gujarat? Several questions remained unanswered,” explains Prof. Anindya Sarkar from IIT Kharagpur’s Department of Geology and Geophysics who led the research.

Investigating team with research students

Investigating team with research students   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At another site called Vigakot, the team also found evidence of Historic to Medieval (about 1,500 – 900 years old) settlement.

Who were these people?

The Karim Shahi region was found to be very close to sea-level and based on the artefacts collected it has been pointed out that this region could have been a local trade center. The people are believed to have traded jewellery and pottery. Also, Chinese and Persian pottery were found at the Vigakot site indicating that it was a hub for a long-distance trade both through sea and land from China through India to West Asia.

Bull figurine from the site

Bull figurine from the site   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

But how did settlements continue in presently arid landscape?

Prof. Sarkar explains that monsoon was declining from about 7,000 years ago and this climate change was already causing an exodus. Harappan people already adopted water conservation techniques in their own ways. But the migration perhaps continued beyond, from Early Iron Age till medieval time.

Bangle fragments from the site

Bangle fragments from the site   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Sedimentological observation revealed that below these settlements, there was evidence of riverine system. Carbon isotopes and pollens in these sediments revealed that there was gradual increase in grasslands and plant communities that thrive in arid environments. Together our data suggested that aridification continued and people inhabited wherever some rainfall or river system existed. And all these happened probably due to natural monsoon decrease,” explains Prof. Sarkar.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 9:22:01 PM |

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