Climate change caused the demise of Central Asia’s river civilizations, not Genghis Khan

Cortez Deacetis


Image: Researchers investigate an abandoned medieval canal, Otrar oasis, Kazakhstan.
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Credit history: College of Lincoln

A new analyze challenges the extensive-held check out that the destruction of Central Asia’s medieval river civilizations was a direct end result of the Mongol invasion in the early 13th century CE.

The Aral Sea basin in Central Asia and the big rivers flowing as a result of the region ended up after property to innovative river civilizations which used floodwater irrigation to farm.

The region’s drop is typically attributed to the devastating Mongol invasion of the early 13th century, but new investigation of extended-time period river dynamics and historic irrigation networks shows the switching climate and dryer conditions might have been the true cause.

Exploration led by the College of Lincoln, British isles, reconstructed the consequences of local weather change on floodwater farming in the location and located that reducing river circulation was equally, if not a lot more, crucial for the abandonment of these earlier flourishing town states.

Mark Macklin, creator and Distinguished Professor of River Methods and International Transform, and Director of the Lincoln Centre for H2o and Planetary Wellness at the College of Lincoln reported: “Our investigation demonstrates that it was local climate transform, not Genghis Khan, that was the ultimate trigger for the demise of Central Asia’s forgotten river civilizations.

“We identified that Central Asia recovered speedily next Arab invasions in the 7th and 8th hundreds of years CE because of favourable moist problems. But prolonged drought during and pursuing the later Mongol destruction reduced the resilience of area population and prevented the re-institution of substantial-scale irrigation-dependent agriculture.”

The study centered on the archaeological sites and irrigation canals of the Otrar oasis, a UNESCO Planet Heritage site that was after a Silk Highway trade hub situated at the assembly place of the Syr Darya and Arys rivers in present southern Kazakhstan.

The scientists investigated the area to establish when the irrigation canals were deserted and analyzed the previous dynamics of the Arys river, whose waters fed the canals. The abandonment of irrigation devices matches a period of riverbed erosion between the 10th and 14th century CE, that coincided with a dry time period with reduced river flows, rather than corresponding with the Mongol invasion.


The study was led by the University of Lincoln in collaboration with VU College Amsterdam, College Higher education London, the University of Oxford and JSC Institute of Geography and Drinking water Protection, Almaty, Republic of Kazakhstan. It is released in Proceedings of the Countrywide Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and highlights the significant role that rivers can have in shaping environment record.&#13

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