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Kalibangan is sited on the topographically higher margins of the palaeochannel. Credit: S. Gupta (Imperial College London)

History texts teach that the Indus Valley society, one of the earliest known human civilizations, arose along the banks of the Sutlej River. But a new study published in Nature Communications suggests the river may have shifted away from the area 3,000 years before humans built their cities, writes Jonathan Amos at the BBC.

What's different: Other ancient civilizations, like Egypt and Mesopotamia, were built and flourished along rivers with consistent water. The authors of this study believe that in contrast, the Indus Valley civilizations depended on seasonal floods from monsoon rains.

What's there: The Indus Valley archaeological sites include Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. Although the sites were discovered later, the civilization appears to have been larger and more widespread than contemporary societies in Mesopotamia and Egypt scattered along and throughout what appears to be a massive, ancient riverbed.

What they did: The researchers used satellite imagery to map the course of the Sutlej River through time, and determined that the Sutlej indeed formed the riverbed the civilization flourished along. However, when they dated the sediments in the channel left by the river, they found it hadn't run through that region for over 8,000 years.

A benefit? It's possible the absence of the river helped the fledgling civilization. "Some of their sites were actually built in the palaeo-channel itself and that makes no sense if there was a big raging Himalayan river there at the time because these people would have been wiped out" by devastating, seasonal floods, study author Rajiv Sinha told the BBC.

Not so fast: Rita Wright, an anthropologist who was not involved in the study, tells the BBC that it's important to keep in mind that the Indus civilization was large and sprawling, and this only examines one region of it.

Go deeper

NRA files for bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for voluntary bankruptcy as part of a restructuring plan.

Driving the news: The gun rights group said it would reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment." Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

43 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.