Record of vegetation, climate change, human impact and retting of hemp in Garhwal Himalaya (India) during the past 4600 years

Dieter Demske, Pavel E. Tarasov, Christian Leipe, Bahadur S. Kotlia, Lalit M. Joshi, Tengwen Long

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This study is focused on a 3.55-m-long sediment core retrieved from Badanital (i.e. the BT core) in 2008. Badanital (30°29′50″N, 78°55′26″E, 2083 m a.s.l.) is a small lake located in the upper catchment area of the Ganges in Garhwal Himalaya, northern India. The lake and the regional broad-leaved semi-evergreen forests are under the influence of the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and westerly associated cyclones. Palynological investigation of the BT core revealed past vegetation changes reflecting both climate and human impact during the last 4600 years. Maximum spread of oaks occurred during c. AD 550–1100 and c. AD 1400–1630, that is, the intervals which partly overlap with the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ and the ‘Little Ice Age’, respectively. Three intervals of decreased oak pollen percentages are attributed to (1) continuously drier and cooler climatic conditions and fire activity (c. 2600–500 BC), (2) severe reduction in oak forests followed by secondary succession of alder woods (c. AD 1150–1270) and (3) pre-modern settlement activities since the British imperial occupation (after c. AD 1700). We argue that the high percentages (i.e. up to 28%) of Humulus/Cannabis type and Cannabis type pollen point to intense local retting of hemp c. 500 BC–AD 1050. Based on our age model, Cannabis fibre production at Badanital is contemporaneous with archaeological records of ancient hemp products from different parts of Eurasia suggesting possible linkages to early trade and knowledge exchange routes connecting India and the Himalaya with Central and East Asia and possibly Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1675
Number of pages15
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cannabis
  • age model
  • human impact
  • late Holocene
  • non-pollen palynomorphs
  • pollen
  • retting of hemp
  • vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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