I came across an old article recently, about the collapse of the Harappan civilization. Here's the paper it is based on- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3387054/

I found this to be the most compelling explanation so far, because the evidence seems to back it up. However, I'm surprised because I've barely ever heard or seen this article/paper being discussed anywhere (or maybe I'm bad at finding such discussions).

It might sound like an opinion-based question because I want to know what people think about this theory, but I also want to know if there is any more data that supports or strongly refutes this claim.

EDIT- Explaining the claim (not sure if claim is the right word because there's quite a lot of evidence)- The claim is that climate change and drought forced the IVC people (barring few small farming communities) to move eastward towards the Ganges. And this is backed by the fact that a large number of IVC sites of the late-Harappan era were found closer to the Ganges.

I wanted to know how widely is this accepted, or are there any papers that refute this?

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    The paper you cited (and several other sources) is also cited by Wikipedia's Indus Valley Civilization. You might want to have a look at that as it has quite a lot of links relating to climate change. Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 14:43
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    Can you please edit the question to specify what "the claim" is? I've skimmed through the linked articles, and it's just not clear to me which part you are asking about.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 16:58
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    @BrianZ Explained the claim. Let me know if I need to add something more.
    – lmnml
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 18:35

2 Answers 2


(I also suggest to post the question in the earthscience SE).

The paper IS the data. Well, some of it.

From the abstract of the paper, river morphology and relative and absolute chronology (here deposition, incision and luminance dating) combined can lead to reconstruction of the events that formed the fluivial landscape. Thus, it was concluded that the initial decline of monsoon activity first caused less regular flooding of the plains, thus boosting agriculture and population density between 4.5ky and 3.9ky BP in the area of observation. But further suppressed monsoon activity then made the river activity die down, and people had to move out.

This is in line with overregional climate activity in the holocene, in principle a gradual cooling from the so-called holocene climatic optimum and therefore changes to circulation patterns, including the Asian monsoon on the Indian subcontinent, and changes in vegetation and dependent agriculture.

While this development is general consensus, local or regional impact of changes of such patterns must be investigated separetely. In this case, yes, other work seems to support the thesis of a connection of monsoon activity and human occupation in the area of observation, e.g.: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0012825218304549

The work in OP is not isolated and without context.


Theories about how regional climate change shaped the decline of the Indus Valley Civlization go back to at least the 1960s if not earlier. Here is a review of where the evidence stood as of 2005. The following seems to have been generally accepted by that time.

Weakening of the summer monsoon led to the beginning of the arid phase in South Asia ~5000–4000 cal yrs BP. This triggered a chain of changes in agricultural practices and food habits in the South Asian population. In some cases, societies adapted to monsoon failures by constructing ponds, dams and other rain harvesting structures. In other situations, people migrated eastward towards Ganga plain, where rainfall was sufficient to sustain the burden of new influx of human population

Although the details of this process are subject to ongoing research and debate, I'm not seeing any major challenges to the narrative I have just quoted. I have no expertise in this area but it appears that yes, there is sufficient evidence to support this general interpretation.

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