Connect with us

Archaeology

Periods of prolonged droughts caused downfall of Indus megacities

Published

on

A new study by the University of Cambridge has found new evidence locked away in stalagmite formations in a Himalayan cave, suggesting that the downfall of the Indus megacities was caused by periods of prolonged droughts.

The Indus Civilisation was a Bronze Age culture from 3300 BC to 1300 BC, that emerged in the alluvial plains of the Indus River system. At its peak, the civilisation covered an area that spanned much of Pakistan, northeast Afghanistan, and northwestern India.

The large megacities of the Indus are noted for their advanced urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, and techniques of handicraft and metallurgy.

Researchers examined growth layers in a stalagmites collected from a cave near Pithoragarh, India, which enabled them to chart historic rainfall by measuring a range of environmental tracers — including oxygen, carbon and calcium isotopes.

The study revealed three protracted droughts, each lasting between 25 and 90 years over a period of 200 years that started around 4,200 years ago. During this period, the city builders took various steps to adapt and remain sustainable against the climatic strain placed on the populations which coincides with the reorganisation of the metropolis planning.

Prof Cameron Petrie, from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology, said: “During this transformation, larger urban sites were depopulated in favour of smaller rural settlements towards the eastern extent of the area occupied by Indus populations. At the same time, agriculture shifted towards reliance on summer-crops, especially drought-tolerant millets, and the population transitioned to a lifestyle that appears to have been more self-reliant.”

“We find clear evidence that this interval was not a short-term crisis but a progressive transformation of the environmental conditions in which Indus people lived,” added Petrie.

The team also identified distinct periods of below-average rainfall in both the summer and winter seasons. According to the researchers, the evidence for drought affecting both cropping seasons is extremely significant for understanding the impact of this period of climate change upon human populations. The droughts during this period increased in duration, to the point where the third would have been multi-generational in length.

Alena Giesche, from Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, said: “The findings support existing evidence that the decline of the Indus megacities was linked to climate change. But what’s been a mystery until now is information on the drought duration and the season they happened in. That extra detail is really important when we consider cultural memory and how people make adaptations when faced with environmental change.”

The team are now looking to expand their climate reconstructions to western parts of the Indus River Region, where the winter rainfall system becomes more dominant than the Indian Summer Monsoon. “What we really need are more records like this, from a west-east oriented transect across the region where the summer and winter monsoons interact — and, crucially, capturing the beginning of this arid period,” said Giesche.

“Currently, we have a huge blind spot on our maps extending across Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Indian summer monsoon and the Westerlies interact,” said Prof. Sebastian Breitenbach, co-author and palaeoclimatologist at Northumbria University. “Sadly, the political situation is unlikely to allow for this kind of research in the near future.”

University of Cambridge

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Continue Reading

Archaeology

Geophysical study finds evidence of “labyrinth” buried beneath Mitla

Published

on

By

A geophysical study has found underground structures and tunnels beneath Mitla – The Zapotec “Place of the Dead”

Mitla is an archaeological site associated with the Zapotec culture, located in the Oaxaca Valley in the present-day state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

The Zapotec civilisation emerged in the late 6th century BC, originating in the Central Valleys of the Etla. The culture was centred on the settlements of Oaxaca, San José Mogote, and Mitla, with the city of Monte Albán serving as the civic-ceremonial centre.

At its peak, the Zapotec had a population of more than 500,000 inhabitants, having developed sophisticated construction techniques, a writing system, two calendar systems, and complex agricultural cultivation.

In 2016, the Lyobaa Project, an institutional collaboration led by the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) employed ground penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), and ambient seismic noise interferometry (AIRSA) to explore potential archaeological features beneath the San Pablo Apóstol church, built atop the Zapotec ruins in Mitla.

Image Credit : Lyobaa Project

According to local legend, the church was constructed on an entrance way to an underground labyrinth, serving as a passage between the realm of the living to the realm of the dead, referred to as Mictlán in Nahuatl, meaning the “place of the dead” or “underworld.”

In 1674, the Dominican chronicler, Francisco Burgoa, described Spanish missionaries entering the labyrinth: “Such was the corruption and bad smell, the dampness of the floor, and a cold wind which extinguished the lights, that at the little distance they had already penetrated, they resolved to come out, and ordered this infernal gate to be thoroughly closed with masonry.”

As part of phase two of the Lyobaa Project, the researchers have identified buried architectural complexes and a series of corridors during a study of the Calvario, Arroyo, and del Sur groups within the archaeological zone.

The Arroyo group, located in the central area of the site has three quadrangle features connected by tunnels that likely date from AD 1200 during the Late Postclassic period.

The project also conducted a survey of the quadrangular plaza where the San Pablo Apóstol church was constructed on the remains of a pre-Hispanic temple. Beneath the plaza the researchers found that there are four mounds with clay internal cores.

Archaeologist, Denisse Argote, said: “We were able to determine that, although the core of the stepped structure is solid, the foundation of the historic church requires short-term intervention to guarantee its conservation, so measures must be taken to ensure its structural stability.”

“There are cracks in the historic building, since it does not have a foundation and, underneath, in what corresponds to the remains of the pre-Hispanic building, it seems that there are areas with small cavities,” added Argote.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : INAH

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

Continue Reading

Archaeology

Discovery of a Romanesque religious structure rewrites history of Frauenchiemsee

Published

on

By

Archaeologists from the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation have announced the discovery of a Romanesque religious structure on the island of Frauenchiemsee, the second largest of the three islands in Chiemsee, Germany.

According to the researchers, the structure holds important religious significance, suggesting it might have been erected to venerate Blessed Irmgard (also known as Irmengard), the daughter of King Louis the German and the great-granddaughter of Charlemagne.

During the mid-9th century, Irmgard was appointed the first abbess of Frauenwörth Abbey, who restored the decaying premises and founded a Benedictine convent for nuns. Because of her royal ancestry, she had the right to wear a thin golden hoop resembling a crown, often depicted on paintings and frescoes with her image.

Following her death in 866, Irmgard was venerated and her head reliquary was translated to Seeon Abbey in 1004. She was officially beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, and a celebratory ceremony in 2003 saw her relics reunified.

A recent geophysical study to locate the demolished remains of the Church of Saint Martin has revealed the imprint of a Romanesque structure completely absent from all historical text and contemporary maps.

Image Credit : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

The structure is buried at a depth of 1 metre and measures 19 metres in diameter. The GPR results reveal the floor plan of an octagonal central building with an ambulatory formed by eight supports and four arrange in a cross shape.

Mathias Pfeil of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation notes that religious structures with pre-Romanesque or Romanesque architecture, particularly those with sacral significance, are exceedingly uncommon north of the Alps. Such edifices are often perceived as imitations of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

According to the researchers, the structure was likely built during the construction of the new monastery and Romanesque abbey church (of which the gatehouse and bell tower survive to this day) to venerate Irmgard as a destination for pilgrims

Header Image Credit : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

Sources : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

Continue Reading

Trending

Generated by Feedzy