How the West Was Lost:Coping With Life in a Strange, New Civilization

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The marine sediment core known as 63KA was taken close to the mouth of the Indus River delta and holds important and intriguing information about past changes in river discharge and depth of ocean stratification. The discharge of the Indus River is directly linked to the amount of summer rainfall. Ocean mixing depth is related to the strength of winds and evaporation over the Arabian Sea during wintertime that, in turn, correlates with winter precipitation over northwestern India. Three species of planktonic foraminifera with distinct ecological niches have been used to track relevant changes in salinity and temperature by measuring the oxygen isotopes from their calcareous shells, which produce a synchronous record of summer and winter monsoon strength.

Work on samples from this marine core attracted wide interest in when a summer monsoon mega-drought around 4.


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Michael Staubwasser from the University of Cologne, who was lead author of the paper and is co-author on the latest research, safeguarded samples from this core for over 20 years. The new results point to a year period of abnormally strong winter precipitation between c. The possibility of a simultaneous decrease in winter precipitation by 4. A shift from plentiful winter rain to the totally opposite extreme, in combination with summer monsoon rains that were already declining, will have had a dramatic impact upon the people living in this region," says Alena Giesche, lead author on the new publication and PhD candidate in Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

Climatic changes during this time period coincide with important cultural changes in the Indus Civilization, which saw the culmination of a process of deurbanisation by c. There was clear decline in the major urbanized centres, but there was also an increase in the numbers of rural settlements in the summer monsoon-dominated regions in the east, suggesting that populations adapted to changing conditions," says Dr.

The new results are particularly exciting because they track two rainfall regimes in the same exact core.


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It has a detailed radiocarbon chronology and because proxies for both the summer and winter rainfall are recorded in the same samples, the relative timing of the two can be determined with confidence," says Prof. This research has been carried out as part of an ongoing collaborative project between Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India, and the University of Cambridge, under the scope of the TwoRains project. Materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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How the West Was Lost : Coping with Life in a Strange, New Civilization

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