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Posted on: September 15, 2020

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Two-hundred-year drought doomed Indus Valley Civilization : Nature News &  Comment
Indus civilization | History, Location, Map, Art, & Facts | Britannica





Math Shows How Famed Indus Valley Civilization May Have Been Toppled by Climate Change. DAVID NIELD, 12 SEPTEMBER 2020:

There are competing hypotheses around the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization in South Asia some 3,000 years ago, but a new mathematical proof has identified that climate change could have been responsible. Mathematical scientist Nishant Malik from the Rochester Institute of Technology crunched the numbers and found new evidence to back up the idea that shifting monsoon seasons and increasing drought might have helped bring about the collapse of the Bronze Age empire. By analysing the presence of a particular isotope in stalagmites in a North Indian cave – which should reveal the amount of water that fell as rain over time – scientists have previously been able to estimate monsoon rainfall in the region over the past 5,700 years. In the new research, Malik was able to identify patterns in this data showing a major shift in monsoon patterns as the civilization began to rise, and then a reverse shift that matched its decline.

“Usually the data we get when analysing palaeoclimate is a short time series with noise and uncertainty in it,” says Malik. “As far as mathematics and climate is concerned, the tool we use very often in understanding climate and weather is dynamical systems. But dynamical systems theory is harder to apply to palaeoclimate data. “This new method can find transitions in the most challenging time series, including palaeoclimate, which are short, have some amount of uncertainty, and have noise in them.”

What Malik is particularly interested in here is dynamical regime transition, where rare events suddenly become more likely. This has applications across physics, biology, and economics, from changes in precipitation patterns to the stock market. Mixing parts of this dynamical theory together with elements of algorithm-based machine learning and information theory, Malik was able to artificially fill in some of the gaps in the record, as well as calculate the probability of patterns that otherwise wouldn’t have shown up in standard graphs.

As Malik says, this is a good fit for digging into past climate data, where there are often big gaps in estimates about statistics such as rainfall. In the case of the stalagmite record, for example, they only really mark the summer monsoon season every five years. The Indus Valley Civilization – sometimes known as the Harappan Civilization, named after the first of its sites to be excavated by archaeologists – was one of the three early civilizations in the north-western part of South Asia, alongside ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It’s thought that settlements up the Indus river stretched for some 1,500 kilometres (932 miles) when the civilization was at its peak, with some of its cities perhaps reaching as many as 60,000 inhabitants.

Now, through a clever application of mathematics, we’re more sure than ever that it was climate change – rather than earthquakes or war as other experts have suggested – that caused the Indus Valley people to disperse to new areas.

The research has been published in Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science.


The climate science of the ancient world discovered here by clever mathematics is part of a well known and well documented historical event known as the Late Bronze Age Collapse (LBAC). This event is described in some detail in a related post with reference to the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) climate change alarm of of our time. This is not the first time that the LBAC was invoked in the context of AGW as Sir whatshisname has used it repeatedly in his “collapse of civilization” fearology lectures to push for climate action. LINK TO THE LBAC POST:

Sir David Attenborough documentary, Climate Change - The Facts « Hampshire  Friends of the Earth Network

Briefly the late Bronze Age civilization was the ultimate expression of the Neolithic Revolution that had created a global economy based on agriculture. This civilization evolved with the control of agricultural lands by kings and their armies, technological innovations such as pottery, metal works, brick-making, and the construction of elaborate buildings and structures such as the pyramids and the giant brick structures of Harappa, and most of all the invention of cross ocean shipping in giant paddle ships and the world trade they facilitated. The geographical extent of the Bronze Age global economy extended from Greece, through Egypt and Syria to Harappa.

The Greek Age of Bronze - Ships
3,500-Year-Old Advanced Minoan Technology Was 'Lost Art' Not Seen Again  Until 1950s | Ancient Origins

Bronze Age civilisation was destroyed by a 'perfect storm': Ancient Egypt  and other societies collapsed due to climate change, war and earthquakes |  Daily Mail Online
The ruins of Harappa, the Indus Valley Civilisation | Harappan, Indus  valley civilization, Mohenjo daro

Then, around 1200 BC or so give or take 50 years, the archaeological and textual data show that the lights went out on the LBA. A long gap of more than a 200 years of a Dark Age followed with no evidence of the great LBA global economy until the Early Iron Age-1 when an entirely new kind of global economy grew from the ashes of the LBAC.

The big question is “what happened?”. The honest answer is that we don’t know and we will likely never know. But it is possible to construct theories that are consistent with the available archaeological, textual, and paleo-climate data.

The two most popular theories are the Sea Peoples theory (see Drews 1993 below) and the climate change theory (Finkelstein, Weiss, Kaniewski, Drake, and others).  The paleo data show that one of the many warming events of the Holocene had occurred in the Late Bronze Age [LINK] . This warming event was an extreme high temperature condition (see chart below) that is thought to have caused widespread droughts from Egypt to Harappa. A deadly feature of these droughts is that they are thought to have persisted over centennial time scales and it is this length of the drought events that is thought to be what ended the Bronze Age civilization.


After centuries of a “dead” period, human civilization re-emerged in what is known as the Iron Age about 2,400 years ago give or take a century and the civilization that we live in now. It gave us Judaism and Christianity and similar religions that had a common theme involving “the end of the world”, a religion feature not found in Bronze Age religions.

Religions prior to the LBAC do not contain a Judgement Day “end of the world” of any kind even though some of them have different versions of heaven and hell mostly in after-lives or in places deep under the ground. However, religions that got started in the Early Iron Age right after the Dark Ages of the LBAC do contain a catastrophic end of the world of some kind (See Matthew 24 below) where the LBAC events are described with chilling accuracy. It is likely that the existence of doomology in our time in the form of an obsession with collapse of civilization similar to the LBAC, but framed in terms of current events such as the industrial economy, climate change, or population growth, derive from a distant genetic memory of the LBAC.

CONCLUSION: Modern iron age humans carry a doomsday gene that creates the genetic memory of the LBAC and that explains our obsession with doom as in the population bomb and the climate bomb and other end of the world scenarios listed in a related post: LINK TO END OF THE WORLD POST: .

It is noteworthy that the only example of the kind of collapse of civilization now being forecast and attributed to fossil fuel emissions of the industrial economy was achieved without fossil fuel emissions and without an industrial economy in an age to which climate scientists aspire and which they fondly recall as “pre-industrial”

Five times the world didn't end - BBC Bitesize

MATTHEW 24: When the disciples came up to Jesus to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things? Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places and then the end will come. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now and never to be equaled again.Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.


Chew, Sing C. “From Harappa to Mesopotamia and Egypt to Mycenae: Dark Ages, Political-Economic Declines, and Environmental/Climatic Changes 2200 BC–700 BC.” The historical evolution of world-systems. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005. 52-74. Considerations of hegemonic decline as a world historical process most often attempt to account for decline and collapse of complex institutions in terms of social, political, and economic processes (Gills and Frank 1992). As we increasingly question whether there are physical–environmental limits that would affect the reproduction of world-systems, political, economic, and social dimensions might not be sufficient to account for hegemonic declines. Consideration of environmental and climatological factors needs to be combined with socioeconomic relations in our understanding of hegemonic declines and shifts. This approach assumes that the humans seek to transform nature in an expansive manner, and ceaselessly amass surpluses. There are certain long periods in world history that exhibit large economic and social crises and hegemonic decline. Such long periods of economic and social distress are here termed dark ages.

Thompson, Thomas J. “An Ancient Stateless Civilization: Bronze Age India and the State in History.” The Independent Review 10.3 (2006): 365-384.

Chew, Sing C. “Ecological Relations and the Decline of Civilizations in the Bronze Age World System: Mesopotamia and Harappa– BC.” Ecology and the world-system (1999).

Frank, Andre Gunder, et al. “Bronze Age world system cycles [and comments and reply].” Current Anthropology 34.4 (1993): 383-429.

1982: Weiss, Barry. “The decline of Late Bronze Age civilization as a possible response to climatic change.” Climatic Change 4.2 (1982): 173-198. The disintegration of Eastern Mediterranean civilization at the end of the late Bronze Age (late thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C.) has traditionally been attributed to the irruption of new peoples into this area. However, the nearly contemporaneous decline of highly organized and powerful states in Greece, Anatolia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia warrants consideration of possible environmental causes likely to operate over sizable areas, especially since archaeological research has not succeeded in establishing the presence of newcomers at the onset of the Bronze Age disturbances. Climatic change is a particularly attractive candidate since temperature and precipitation variations persisting over relatively short times can adversely affect agricultural output. Carpenter (1966) argued that the Mycenaean decline and migrations in and from Greece in the late thirteenth century were caused by prolonged drought and not the incursion of less civilized Dorian tribes. Donley (1971) and Bryson et al. (1974) have presented evidence of a spatial drought pattern which occurred in January 1955 that might be invoked to support this thesis. Population movements in Anatolia at the same time, though not as well established, can be delimited to some degree by the distribution of Hitto-Luwian peoples in the late ninth century B.C. It is hypothesized here that a drought induced migration of Luwian peoples from Western Antolia occurred early in the twelfth century B.C., that it was associated in some fashion with the invasion of Egypt by the ‘Sea Peoples’ in the reign of Ramesses III, and that the defeated remnants of these peoples settled along the Levantine coast and filtered into North Syria and the upper Euphrates valley. It has been suggested that past climatic patterns recur in the present epoch but with a possibly different frequency. To establish that a spatial drought analogue to the above hypothesized migration can occur, temperature and precipitation records from 35 Greek, Turkish, Cypriot, and Syrian weather stations for the period 1951–1976 were examined. The Palmer drought index, an empirical method of measuring drought severity, was computed for each of these stations for the period of record. Since wheat yields tend to be highly correlated with winter precipitation for the area in question, the drought indices for the winter months were subjected to an empirical eigenvector analysis. An eigenvector (drought pattern) consistent with the postulated population movements in Anatolia occurred within the modern climatological record and was found to have been the dominant pattern in January 1972. The potential problems of eigenvector analysis in investigating problems of this type are discussed.

1993: Drews, Robert. BOOK: “The end of the Bronze Age.” Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe ca 1200 (1993): 113-129. BOOK REVIEW: {Note: this is the older sea people’s theory that is now challenged by the climate change theory}. A seafaring sword and shield armed infantry defeated and destroyed cities, armies and civilizations based on chariots. Stopped only in the marshes of Egypt, where they were assimilated into the Egyptian army and settled along the coasts of The Levant (the Biblical reference to the Philistines). The author doesn’t comment on how this parallels very similar events in 800 AD, where the sword and shield armed troops are the Vikings; and the mounted opponents are the Carolingians.The weakness in the book is that it doesn’t exactly explain how a loose order infantry could defeat chariots in the open. Most men run away when someone on a horse threatens to ride them down. And how does a man with a sword actually kill a man on a chariot? I also felt that the issue of whether the Sea Peoples weapons, iron versus bronze, was poorly addressed. If the Sea Peoples were not using iron weapons, then who did bring iron weapons to global prominence in this period?Also, an alternative theory on the end of the Bronze Age is that the Trojan war was real; the Sea Peoples were the Greeks who sacked Troy, who then went on a Med wide rampage and eventually settled as the Philistines. Would like to have seen this theory addressed…..Stimulating work, may need an update.4 of 4 people found the following review helpful. Notewory by Peter G. TsourasThis is one of those books that brings light to a distant but formative stage in history when the seemingly stable world of the late near eastern bronze age collapsed suddenly. The author makes good sense of the fragments of information that have survived. He pieces together the systemic collapse of the Mycenaean world and the forces that it unleashed against the already weakened Hititte Empire and sent like a growing storm to devastate the region from Anatolia to Canaan only to dash itself against the last might of Egypt. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Greek Bronze Age as well as the other contemporary cultures of the eastern Mediterranean as well as to anyone interested in the evolution of the art of war. FULL TEXT

1997: Weiss, Harvey. “Late third millennium abrupt climate change and social collapse in West Asia and Egypt.” Third millennium BC climate change and Old World collapse. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 1997. 711-723. The palaeoenvironmental record for the 2200 BC abrupt climate change is synthesized. Alternative explanations for synchronous and extended Old World social collapse are examined and rejected. Quantification of the abrupt climate change is necessary if we are to understand its social consequences. FULL TEXT

2010: Kaniewski, David, et al. “Late second–early first millennium BC abrupt climate changes in coastal Syria and their possible significance for the history of the Eastern Mediterranean.” Quaternary Research 74.2 (2010): 207-215. The alluvial deposits near Gibala-Tell Tweini provide a unique record of environmental history and food availability estimates covering the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. The refined pollen-derived climatic proxy suggests that drier climatic conditions occurred in the Mediterranean belt of Syria from the late 13th/early 12th centuries BC to the 9th century BC. This period corresponds with the time frame of the Late Bronze Age collapse and the subsequent Dark Age. The abrupt climate change at the end of the Late Bronze Age caused region-wide crop failures, leading towards socio-economic crises and unsustainability, forcing regional habitat-tracking. Archaeological data show that the first conflagration of Gibala occurred simultaneously with the destruction of the capital city Ugarit currently dated between 1194 and 1175 BC. Gibala redeveloped shortly after this destruction, with large-scale urbanization visible in two main architectural phases during the Early Iron Age I. The later Iron Age I city was destroyed during a second conflagration, which is radiocarbon-dated at circa 2950 cal yr BP. The data from Gibala-Tell Tweini provide evidence in support of the drought hypothesis as a triggering factor behind the Late Bronze Age collapse in the Eastern Mediterranean.

2011: Kaniewski, David, et al. “The Sea Peoples, from cuneiform tablets to carbon dating.” PloS one 6.6 (2011): e20232. The 13th century BC witnessed the zenith of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean civilizations which declined at the end of the Bronze Age, ∼3200 years ago. Weakening of this ancient flourishing Mediterranean world shifted the political and economic centres of gravity away from the Levant towards Classical Greece and Rome, and led, in the long term, to the emergence of the modern western civilizations. Textual evidence from cuneiform tablets and Egyptian reliefs from the New Kingdom relate that seafaring tribes, the Sea Peoples, were the final catalyst that put the fall of cities and states in motion. However, the lack of a stratified radiocarbon-based archaeology for the Sea People event has led to a floating historical chronology derived from a variety of sources spanning dispersed areas. Here, we report a stratified radiocarbon-based archaeology with anchor points in ancient epigraphic-literary sources, Hittite-Levantine-Egyptian kings and astronomical observations to precisely date the Sea People event. By confronting historical and science-based archaeology, we establish an absolute age range of 1192–1190 BC for terminal destructions and cultural collapse in the northern Levant. This radiocarbon-based archaeology has far-reaching implications for the wider Mediterranean, where an elaborate network of international relations and commercial activities are intertwined with the history of civilizations.

2012: Drake, Brandon L. “The influence of climatic change on the Late Bronze Age Collapse and the Greek Dark Ages.” Journal of Archaeological Science 39.6 (2012): 1862-1870. Between the 13th and 11th centuries BCE, most Greek Bronze Age Palatial centers were destroyed and/or abandoned. The following centuries were typified by low population levels. Data from oxygen-isotope speleothems, stable carbon isotopes, alkenone-derived sea surface temperatures, and changes in warm-species dinocysts and formanifera in the Mediterranean indicate that the Early Iron Age was more arid than the preceding Bronze Age. A sharp increase in Northern Hemisphere temperatures preceded the collapse of Palatial centers, a sharp decrease occurred during their abandonment. Mediterranean Sea surface temperatures cooled rapidly during the Late Bronze Age, limiting freshwater flux into the atmosphere and thus reducing precipitation over land. These climatic changes could have affected Palatial centers that were dependent upon high levels of agricultural productivity. Declines in agricultural production would have made higher-density populations in Palatial centers unsustainable. The ‘Greek Dark Ages’ that followed occurred during prolonged arid conditions that lasted until the Roman Warm Period. {Notes: Stable carbon isotopes from radiocarbon-dated pollen can indicate paleoclimate, Mediterranean sea surface temperatures (SST) indicate precipitation patterns, The Bronze Age Collapse is contemporaneous with a sharp drop in temperatures (GISP2), The Bronze Age Collapse and Greek Dark Ages may result from the same arid period.

2013: Langgut, Dafna, Israel Finkelstein, and Thomas Litt. “Climate and the Late Bronze Collapse: new evidence from the Southern Levant.” Tel Aviv 40.2 (2013): 149-175. A core drilled from the Sea of Galilee was subjected to high resolution pollen analysis for the Bronze and Iron Ages. The detailed pollen diagram (sample/~40 yrs) was used to reconstruct past climate changes and human impact on the vegetation of the Mediterranean zone of the southern Levant. The chronology is based on radiocarbon dating of short-lived terrestrial organic material. The results indicate that the driest event throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages occurred ~1250–1100 BCE—at the end of the Late Bronze Age. This arid phase was identified based on a significant decrease in Mediterranean tree values, denoting a reduction in precipitation and the shrinkage of the Mediterranean forest/maquis. The Late Bronze dry event was followed by dramatic recovery in the Iron I, evident in the increased percentages of both Mediterranean trees and cultivated olive trees. Archaeology indicates that the crisis in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age took place during the same period—from the mid- 13th century to ca. 1100 BCE. In the Levant the crisis years are represented by destruction of a large number of urban centres, shrinkage of other major sites, hoarding activities and changes in settlement patterns. Textual evidence from several places in the Ancient Near East attests to drought and famine starting in the mid-13th and continuing until the second half of the 12th century. All this helps to better understand the ‘Crisis Years’ in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the quick settlement recovery in the Iron I, especially in the highlands of the Levant.

2013: Kaniewski, David, et al. “Environmental roots of the Late Bronze Age crisis.” PLoS One 8.8 (2013): e71004. The Late Bronze Age world of the Eastern Mediterranean, a rich linkage of Aegean, Egyptian, Syro-Palestinian, and Hittite civilizations, collapsed famously 3200 years ago and has remained one of the mysteries of the ancient world since the event’s retrieval began in the late 19thcentury AD/CE. Iconic Egyptian bas-reliefs and graphic hieroglyphic and cuneiform texts portray the proximate cause of the collapse as the invasions of the “Peoples-of-the-Sea” at the Nile Delta, the Turkish coast, and down into the heartlands of Syria and Palestine where armies clashed, famine-ravaged cities abandoned, and countrysides depopulated. Here we report palaeoclimate data from Cyprus for the Late Bronze Age crisis, alongside a radiocarbon-based chronology integrating both archaeological and palaeoclimate proxies, which reveal the effects of abrupt climate change-driven famine and causal linkage with the Sea People invasions in Cyprus and Syria. The statistical analysis of proximate and ultimate features of the sequential collapse reveals the relationships of climate-driven famine, sea-borne-invasion, region-wide warfare, and politico-economic collapse, in whose wake new societies and new ideologies were created.

2014: Armit, Ian, et al. “Rapid climate change did not cause population collapse at the end of the European Bronze Age.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.48 (2014): 17045-17049. The impact of rapid climate change on humans is of contemporary global interest. Present-day debates are necessarily informed by paleoclimate studies in which climate is often assumed, without sufficient critical attention, to be the primary driver of societal change. Using new methods to analyze paleoclimatic and archeological datasets, we overturn the deterministic idea that population collapse at the end of the northwestern European Bronze Age was caused by rapid climate change. Our work demonstrates the necessity of high-precision chronologies in evaluating human responses to rapid climate change. It will be significant for geoscientists, climate change scientists, and archeologists. The impact of rapid climate change on contemporary human populations is of global concern. To contextualize our understanding of human responses to rapid climate change it is necessary to examine the archeological record during past climate transitions. One episode of abrupt climate change has been correlated with societal collapse at the end of the northwestern European Bronze Age. We apply new methods to interrogate archeological and paleoclimate data for this transition in Ireland at a higher level of precision than has previously been possible. We analyze archeological 14C dates to demonstrate dramatic population collapse and present high-precision proxy climate data, analyzed through Bayesian methods, to provide evidence for a rapid climatic transition at ca. 750 calibrated years B.C. Our results demonstrate that this climatic downturn did not initiate population collapse and highlight the non-deterministic nature of human responses to past climate change.

This civilization


Hi there, Chaamjamal. V. interesting post. It rather shows how predelictions of the day influence our notions about the past, not always advancing understanding. It’s a very long time since I did my prehistory degree, but back then in the 1970s, the explosion of Thera/Santorini was thought to have brought catastrophic changes to the Bronze Age Mediterranean, not least from the dust cloud that meant agricultural collapse, scarce sunlight and poor air; ash polluted soil; tsunamis; disruption and collapse of vibrant trade network. The sea people did not figure in the story in my day, but I can well see how surviving populations might take up a marine existence, pillaging and all. How else would they live. Interesting that the prevailing alarm for the planet doesn’t seem to much concern itself with vulcanicity and its potential for wholesale wipe-out devastion. This is a link for the eruption:

Fascinating story about Thera Santorini. Thank you. I became interested in pre history after helping an archaeologist friend in israel with carbon dating statistics. .

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