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Glacio-archaeological evidence of permanent settlements within a glacier end moraine complex during 980-1840 AD: The Miyar Basin, Lahaul Himalaya, India

Saini, Rakesh and Sharma, Milap Chand and Deswal, Sanjay and Barr, Iestyn David and Kumar, Pawan and Kumar, Parvendra and Kumar, Pankaj and Chopra, Sundeep (2019) Glacio-archaeological evidence of permanent settlements within a glacier end moraine complex during 980-1840 AD: The Miyar Basin, Lahaul Himalaya, India. Anthropocene, 26. p. 100197. ISSN 2213-3054

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Abstract

This study presents glacio-archaeological evidence from the Miyar basin, Lahaul Himalaya, that points towards the former presence of a well settled agricultural society, within a glacier end moraine complex. Three high altitude villages (Tharang, Phundang and Patam, now in ruins) with elaborate irrigation networks thrived within the end moraine complex of Tharang glacier at 3700 m a.s.l. Evidence exists in the form of dilapidated houses which had an organised internal space, chronologically constrained by radiocarbon (14C) dating. These settlements occupied the end moraine complex between 980 and 1840 CE, thereby encompassing the majority of Little Ice Age period (1300–1600 CE), as defined elsewhere. The existence of settlements along with an irrigation system and associate fields at ∼3700-3800 m a.s.l. for almost ∼860 years during the late 10th to early 19th centuries suggests more favourable climatic (warm) conditions that at present. By contrast, present habitation is restricted to areas below ∼3500 m a.s.l. However, the slope controlled irrigation system also suggests moisture stressed conditions during the 980–1840 CE period, similar to present. The available temperature and snowfall proxies for the region support our proposed timing, and suggest favourable climatic conditions for the survival of these settlements.

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