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Megalithic cultures of central India provide important links between the southern Neolithic-Chalcolithic cultures and the early Historical period (∼500 BC to ∼AD 700) and reveal knowledge of ancient traditions of early inhabitants. Scientific dating of these Megalithic burial sites is a challenging task due to scarcity of dateable material and alterations. Here, we present multiple accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14C) dates from equine tooth-enamel and organic food remains recovered from pots from Megalithic burials of the Vidarbha region. Using δ13CTOC and δ15N values of organic food remains recovered from pots, we deduced past-diet (palaeo-vegetation) that indicates C4 type of vegetation and thus arid climate during life-spans of these burials. We also analyzed stable δ13C and δ18O isotopes of equine tooth-enamel to investigate hydro-climatic conditions of Maharashtra (Vidarbha region). A total of 10 AMS 14C dates of tooth enamel provide a time range of AD 250–874 for two Megalithic burials. Two AMS 14C dates of organic food remains recovered from pots corroborated aforementioned time-range. The average δ13C and δ18O of equine tooth-enamel samples were −5.3 ± 2.1‰ and −2.9 ± 0.8‰, respectively, both significantly enriched compared to their modern counterparts (−13.7‰ ± 0.7 and −4.3‰ ± 1.1), indicating intense arid conditions in the past.
A 1.3-m-long sediment core from the Penzi-la pass, Zanskar Valley, provides a record of hydroclimatic conditions and abrupt climate changes over short time scales since the mid-Holocene. These climatic changes of centennial time scale are crucial to understanding the hydroclimatic variability in northwestern (NW) Himalaya. Relatively higher δ13C values complemented by total organic carbon, loss on ignition, grain size parameters, and lower Rubidium/Strontium ratios during the Late Northgrippian imply that the area had a dry climate during the period from ~6200–4500 cal yr BP. Subsequently, a relatively stable hydroclimatic environment was experienced between ~4500 and 3400 cal yr BP. After ~3400 cal yr BP the multiproxy data show gradual strengthening of hydroclimatic conditions, however, this trend is interrupted by high-amplitude abrupt reversals (dry events) with a stepwise decreasing intensity at ~3300, 2600, 1700, and 400 cal yr BP. The two most important climatic events of the last millennia (i.e., Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age) were also recorded from the sedimentary archive. Overall, our data show a progressive increase in the moisture availability in the Zanskar Valley and are in agreement with the late Holocene climatic trends of central and western Himalaya.
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