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TWORAINS Report Summary

Project ID: 648609
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TWORAINS (Winter Rain, Summer Rain: Adaptation, Climate Change, Resilience and the Indus Civilisation)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Rainfall systems are complex and inherently variable, yet they are of fundamental importance due to their impact on food security. Given that human populations can adapt their behaviour to a wide range of climatic and environmental conditions, it is essential that we understand the degree to which human choices in the past, present and future are resilient and sustainable in the face of variable weather conditions, and when confronted with abrupt events of climate change.
TwoRains will investigate the resilience and sustainability of South Asia’s first complex society, the Indus Civilisation (c.2500-1900 BC), which developed across a range of distinctive environmental contexts where westerly winter rainfall overlapped with the summer rainfall of the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM). It is now clear that there was an abrupt weakening of the ISM that directly impacted NW India c.2100 BC, and coincided with the start of the decline of Indus cities. The degree of connection between these two processes is, however, elusive.
Archaeologists have a unique role to play in understanding the ways that societies respond to climate change as they can investigate past instances of success or failure, and the Indus Civilisation provides an ideal laboratory in which to explore how societies can respond to variable and changing rain systems. TwoRains will combine cutting edge approaches from Archaeology, Earth Sciences and Geography to reconstruct climate, model rain patterns, and explore societal adaptations and responses to change by combining data on settlement distribution, food production and consumption, and water stress. The data will then be integrated and assessed using agent-based modelling. By adopting an integrated interdisciplinary approach, it will be possible to ask “Does climate change really cause collapse?”, elucidate how particular communities perceived weather and landscape changes, hypothesise why they made the decisions they did, and explore the consequences of those decisions.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project commenced in September 2015, and from that date the project PI (Cameron Petrie) has been engaged with extensive literature review, data preparation, data analysis and publication related to the project (e.g. Petrie et al. 2016, 2017, Petrie 2016). He has also conducted a preliminary reconnaissance of locations for palaeoclimate sampling in NW India and participated in collaborative excavations at the archaeological site of Khanak, which has evidence for early metallurgy.
A Research Administrator (Jenny Dunstall) was appointed in October 2015, and much of the first year of the project was devoted to organisational logistics and the appointment of the other members of the project team. PDRF1 commenced work on the project in March 2016 and PDRF2, PDRF3, PhD1, PhD2, PhD3 and PhD4 all commenced work on the project in October 2016. PDRF4 will commence work in April 2017. The remainder of the reporting period was devoted to the action.
PDRF1 (Hector Orengo) has been developing cutting edge new approaches to remote sensing analysis that are enabling the assessment of the long term hydrological evolution of the plains of northwest India. These include methods to explore hydrology in different seasons, and to model the action of flood waters resulting from the ISM. A paper presenting the initial results of this analysis is currently in preparation. He has also developed methods for identifying archaeological sites remotely that can be applied to the project study area. It is now clear that most of the objectives of this role in the project are achievable and we are in the process of planning publication and further work.
PDRF2 (Adam Green) has commenced the interrogation of the published archaeological records related to settlement distribution, and has commenced the construction of a comprehensive register of archaeological sites within the greater Indus region, and a focussed study of settlement location data integrity in the project study area. A paper presenting the initial results of this analysis is currently in preparation. He is planning long term survey fieldwork for 2017-2018.
PDRF3 (M. Cemre Ustunkaya) is collaborating to carry out growth experiments on millet species to collect primary data about how plants respond to different watering conditions. She has also commenced the sorting and preliminary analysis of the archaeobotanical assemblage from the excavations at Khanak, and the preliminary excavations at Lohari Ragho II that were conducted in 2015. She has also designed a variable sampling procedure for sampling the excavated contexts.
PDRF4 (Emma Lightfoot) will commence work in April 2017, initially collaborating to carry out the growth experiments with a particular interest in the levels of isotopic variation in plants subjected to variable watering regimes.
PhD1 (Jean-Philippe Baudouin) has been carrying out background research on the weather parameters that need to be considered for the successful weather modelling of the winter and summer rainfall regimes relevant for the project.
PhD2 (Alena Giesche) has begun preliminary analysis of gypsum samples from the palaeolake at Karsandi, and foraminifera samples obtained off the coast of Pakistan that provide information about water discharge from the Indus River. She has also been planning for further fieldwork to obtain speleothem and palaeolake samples for further palaeoclimate reconstruction.
PhD3 (Joanna Walker) has been modelling land systems and channel systems within the study area, which has laid the fundamental foundation for geoarchaeological fieldwork focusing on the relationship between settlements and their landscape context, and how those relationships changed in the wake of climatic and environmental variability.
PhD4 (Alessandro Ceccarelli) has been designing a systematic approach to the analysis of archaeological ceramics that can be utilised for the archaeological sites being investigated by the project. These approaches will enable the reconstruction of the production sequences used in the past, and will enable us to determine whether they changed in the wake of climatic and environmental variability.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Much of the work for the project is still at a preliminary stage, but the work being carried out by PDRF01 (Hector Orengo) is truly cutting edge in its application of super computing resources and the possibilities for big data computation that is afforded by the newly available Google Earth Engine.
Record Number: 198693 / Last updated on: 2017-05-23
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