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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

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 mins ago - World

True COVID-19 death toll is double the official numbers, study finds

Expand chart
Data: IHME; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

There have been twice as many deaths from COVID-19 around the world as have been reported, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which analyzed excess mortality and other factors.

The big picture: The U.S. has undercounted by over 300,000 deaths, while the death tolls in India and Mexico — second and third on the list, respectively — are nearly three times the official numbers, according to the analysis.

Top Wall Street cop says report on meme stocks is coming

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wall Street's top regulator says a report examining meme stock mania will be coming "sometime this summer."

The big picture: It will "detail the range of activities" that came out of the January events," SEC chair Gary Gensler said Thursday at a third congressional hearing held to dissect the GameStop trading phenomenon.

Exclusive: Jennifer Garner to be featured in Mother's Day vaccination campaign

Jennifer Garner. Photo by IngleDodd Media/via Getty Images

Actress Jennifer Garner will team up with the Biden administration in a coordinated campaign to encourage vaccinations around Mother's Day, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: The administration is eager to keep up the pace of inoculations now that all adult Americans are eligible but the pace of vaccinations is starting to slow.