People of the Indus Valley civilisation who lived in what is now north-west India 4,000 years ago had a meat-heavy diet, new research indicates
Analysis of pottery from the era reveals a preponderance of animal products, including pig, cattle, buffalo and goat meat as well as dairy.
Scientists say people living in rural and urban sites had similar diets, and this allowed them to endure bouts of significant aridity caused by climate change.
Analysis of pottery from the era of the Indus Civilisation (pictured) reveals a preponderance of animal products, including pig, cattle, buffalo and goat meat as well as dairy products.
Lipids were discovered in ancient pots (pictured) and their concentration has long been used to paint a picture of the diet of ancient civilisations
Molecules called lipids, which make up fats and oils, are hardy and traces can survive for millennia, whereas other nutrients, such as proteins, degrade beyond detection.
Lipids were discovered in the pots, and their concentration has long been used to paint a picture of the diet of ancient civilisations.
Study author Dr Akshyeta Suryanarayan, a former PhD student at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘The study of lipid residues involves the extraction and identification of fats and oils that have been absorbed into ancient ceramic vessels during their use in the past.
‘Lipids are relatively less prone to degradation and have been discovered in pottery from archaeological contexts around the world.
‘However, they have seen very limited investigation in ancient ceramics from South Asia.’
TThis study is the first to investigate absorbed lipid residues in pottery from multiple Indus sites, including the Indus city of Rakhigarhi,’ researchers say
All modern-day Indians descended from the Ancient Indus civilisation
The largest ever study of ancient human remains has revealed most people in India today are descended from the once vast Indus Valley Civilisation.
DNA has been analysed, for the first time ever, from a person that lived in this society and found modern Indians are all likely descended from this singular culture.
The woman, buried at Rakhigarhi, the capital of the ancient culture has painted a rich tapestry of the origins of Indian people.
Her DNA also revealed, helped by DNA from 524 other never before-studied ancient individuals, new secrets on the origins of language and farming in the region.
It agreed with previous studies which stated that Indo-European languages — such as Hindi, Bengali, Persian, Russian and English — likely flooded south and central Asia via migrants from the Eurasian Steppe.
Not, as some experts claimed, from farmers migrating out of present-day Turkey.
The other breakthrough comes from the long-standing debate of how farming originated in India.
It found it was not brought by large-scale movement of people from the Fertile Crescent where farming first arose.
Instead, farming started in South Asia through local hunter-gatherers adopting the practice.
‘This study is the first to investigate absorbed lipid residues in pottery from multiple Indus sites.’
The research, published today in the Journal of Archaeological Science, looked at ancient ceramic vessels from rural and urban settlements of the Indus Civilisation in north-west India, the present-day states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Researchers say their study allowed for ‘comparisons to be made across settlements and across time’.
Indus society spanned from 5,300 to 3,300 years ago, when the civilisation entered a period of decline and went extinct shortly afterwards.
What caused the demise of the once-great civilisation is a long-standing mystery.
A recent study claims the Indus Valley civilisation was wiped out by climate change.
It claims monsoons spiked around 5,250 years ago when the planet cooled and this allowed the Indus civilisation to emerge and flourish as the storms provided the semi-arid region with water via the Ghaggar–Hakra river system.
But a climate U-turn 2,000 years later saw monsoon numbers drop, reducing the amount of water that Indus settlements along the river network and relied on.
When it dried up, the society crumbled into oblivion.
The society existed at the same time as ancient Egypt but far less is known about the Indus people due to scarce surviving artefacts.
By identifying the presence of lipids and analysing them to determine where they came from, the researchers gained more insight into typical Indus diets.
Dr Suryanarayan says the study faces some difficulties with interpreting the results because it threw up unexpected results.
‘For example, we found a predominance of non-ruminant animal fats, even though the remains of animals like pigs are not found in large quantities in the Indus settlements.
‘It is possible that plant products or mixtures of plant and animal products were also used in vessels, creating ambiguous results.’
‘Additionally, despite the high percentages of the remains of domestic ruminant animals found at these sites, there is very limited direct evidence of the use of dairy products in vessels, including in perforated vessels that have been previously suggested to be linked to dairy processing.’
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILISATION?
The Indus Civilisation, also known as the Harappan Civilisation, was an advanced Bronze Age society.
It developed mainly in the northwestern regions of South Asia from 5,300 to 3,300 years ago.
The Indus cities were at their richest between and 2600 and 1900 BC.
Along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilisations of the Old World.
The Indus occupied the Indus River Valley area in modern Pakistan and India
The Empire stretched from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, over what is now Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
At its peak, the civilisation may have had a population of more than 5 million, making up 10 per cent of the world’s population.
Among their settlements, researchers have uncovered the world’s first known toilets, along with complex stone weights, drilled gemstone necklaces and exquisitely carved seal stone.
Etched in of these artefacts is an unusual and complex script, which researchers are racing to decipher.
Why the Civilisation disappeared around 3,000 years ago remains a msytery, but experts have suggested war, famine or even climate change could have been responsible.