The vast Indo-Gangetic Plain in South Asia has been home to some of the world's oldest civilizations, whose fortunes ebbed and flowed with time-plausibly driven in part by shifts in the spatiotemporal patterns of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall. We use speleothem oxygen isotope records from North India to reconstruct the monsoon's variability on socially relevant time scales, allowing us to examine the history of civilization changes in the context of varying hydroclimatic conditions over the past 5700 years. Our data suggest that significant shifts in monsoon rainfall have occurred in concert with changes in the Northern Hemisphere temperatures and the discharges of the Himalayan rivers. The close temporal relationship between these large-scale hydroclimatic changes and the intervals marking the significant sociopolitical developments of the Indus Valley and Vedic civilizations suggests a plausible role of climate change in shaping the important chapters of the history of human civilization in the Indian subcontinent.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work is supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China to H.C. (NSFC 41230524), the Chinese National Basic Research Program to H.C. (2013CB955902), the National Natural Science Foundation of China to H.C. (NSFC 4157020432), and the National Science Foundation to A.S. (ATM-0823554), R.L.E., and H.C. (0502535, 0908792, 1103404, 1137693, 1337693, and 1702816).