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Accueil > Recherche > Projets de recherche auxquels participe le CEH

MANDU – Landscapes and Waterscapes in Asia. Monsoon, Climatic Anomalies and Societal Dynamics in Medieval India (2018-2022) – Olivia Aubriot

The MANDU project is part of the ANR Programme Man-environment interactions
Project coordinator : Anne Casile (Patrimoines locaux, environnement et globalisation)

India’s tropical monsoon climate is at the heart of ecosystems, life and the concerns of societies that have developed sophisticated means of water management to adapt to the contrasting seasons and to compensate for possible, potentially deadly, rainfall deficits. They have been an integral part of the historical and socio-ecological make-up of places, territories and agrarian systems for centuries.

The MANDU project focuses on the relationships between society, climatic anomalies and water management in semi-arid environments during the late medieval period in India ( 1100-1500). Marked by important sociocultural and political changes, this period in the history of social and environmental dynamics is one of the least well documented and, on the whole, least well known periods of India’s past.
Scientific advances in palaeoclimatology have recently made it possible to highlight the significant variability of India’s monsoon climate over the last millennium, and in particular the occurrence of extreme climatic events during the late medieval period (prolonged droughts and abnormally wet periods). The whole of Asia and other regions of the world seem to have been affected by climate anomalies during the medieval period. In Cambodia, they were a major factor in the decline of the Khmer kingdom.

While it is difficult to attribute any crisis or difficulty in the past, directly to the climate, droughts and floods were undoubtedly major events in the late medieval history of social vulnerabilities, political and socio-economic instability and upheavals, and even cultural change. The multiplication of palaeoclimatic proxies and the still largely undervalued wealth of available archaeological data make India a privileged site for researching the complex links between evolving cultural landscapes, climatic anomalies and water management.

What was the impact of climatic anomalies on societies ? How did populations adapt to hydroclimatic risks and variations during this period ?

To address these questions, the project coordinator has brought together a team of researchers from human, social and environmental sciences to carry out interdisciplinary research based on the study of the archaeological landscapes of a key site in central India : Mandu (Dhar district, Madhya Pradesh), whose history spans more than a millennium. Shaped over time by the monsoon climate, its sometimes extreme hazards, and the constraints of water management, the Mandu landscapes and the surrounding area preserve exceptional archaeological remains from the late medieval period. Safeguarded from recent urbanisation, these landscapes provide an ideal research laboratory for exploring the history of societies’ vulnerabilities, adaptations and resilience to hydroclimatic variations.

CEH permanent member contributing to this project :
- Olivia Aubriot