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Ancient Indian Civilization Followed the Rains, Researchers Say
May 30, 2012

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The Harappan civilization was the victim of migrating monsoons, according to a team of researchers.

The civilization, which flourished along the Indus River Valley in what is now India and Pakistan and Afghanistan, is named after Harappa, its largest city. The other famous city in this civilization was Mohenjo-Daro. Remains of both cities have been unearthed over the years, and both have shown evidence of an advanced civilization that had its own writing and legal systems and its cities laid out in grids.

The civilization flourished because of its proximity to the river, but it relatively suddenly disappeared from the global map, leaving behind dust and memories of a once-great trading partner for ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. At its height, the Harappan civilization accounted for about 10 percent of the planet's population, historians say, and sent its goods as far and wide as Egypt and China.

One thing the Harappans didn't do, however, is irrigate their land. Rather, they let the annual monsoons provide the needed silt and other nutrients to grow plentiful crops. And when the monsoons stopped coming, the people moved on.

The researchers, led by a geologist from the Woods Hole (Mass.) Oceanographic Institution, found evidence that the Harappan people followed ancient monsoons in the first place, and founded the ancient cities such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro around the suddenly rich agricultural land, then followed the monsoons again many years later, leaving the Indus River Valley and its suddenly arid lands behind.

Basing their assertion on photos taken by space shuttle astronauts and newly taken samples of layers of the earth, the researchers reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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