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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

Updated 2 hours ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

5 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.