As stated by Bridget and Allchin, “The climate is one of extremes, the summer temperatures being very high, and the winters often very cold, with snow lying for up to two months in the higher valleys. Given these climatic conditions, the choice of habitations for communities of the Neolithic period must have depended primarily upon their suitability for varying pastoral and agricultural requirements.
As the rainfall is generally less than 10 inches per annum, mainly falling in the winter months, water for men and animals was obviously a prime necessity in site location. Because of the scarcity of water, settlements were never large, unless they coincided with a good permanent spring or source of water.
This scarcity also set strict limits upon the production of crops. Consequently a pastoral element in the economy has predominated and has certainly been well represented up until the present day. There are signs that in Balochistan, in prehistoric times, attempts were made to retain rain water in surface drainage tanks, behind earth or stone embankments”.
The suitability of this region for the growth of agriculture has also been testified by others. Possehl writes: “A number of scholars have observed that the Afghan-Baloch region is environmentally and ecologically very much akin to the entire Iranian Plateau and the uplands of the regions bordering the Mediterranean: It has a steppe-like quality with pistachio, juniper, and almond tree cover, along with the hard cold winters in which wheat and barley evolved.
It is also within the range of the winter westerlies, which bring moisture, often in the form of snow, to the Near East on across the Iranian Plateau to the Punjab and Western Sindh. What this tells us is that the Afghan-Baloch region is a perfectly reasonable place for both wild barley (which is documented) and wild wheat to have been found”.
The two major sites of interest to us in this region are Kili Ghul Muhammad and Mundigak. Kili Ghul Muhammad has yielded evidence relating to the domestication of cattle-sheep, goat and oxen and of mud-brick houses suggesting sedentary way of life.
The site seems to have developed in several phases and pottery too appears in a later phase supporting settled way of life for its inhabitants. Mundigak, the other site, also provides evidence of permanent settlement. Initially the houses were like oblong cells made of pressed earth but subsequently larger houses began to appear.
They were made of sun-dried bricks and had more than one enclosed living room. Bridget and Allchin write: “Domestic hearths are found from the beginning, and ovens, presumably for baking bread, are situated at first outside the houses, and later, possibly in the court yards”.
The details suggest that organised agriculture and the associated permanent settlements had become a conspicuous feature of Balochistan region. These developments could serve as a precursor to the beginning of agriculture in the Indus system. The environmental conditions of the Indus system have been graphically described by Bridget and Allchin.
They write: “The Indus plains offer a very different environment from the upland villages of Balochistan. The picture that we see today, even despite modern flood control measures, of a highly unstable river, constantly changing its course within a wide flood plain, and laying down quantities of silt in the course of its annual inundation over large areas of the plain, was probably the same in many respects at the time of the earliest settlements on the edge of the plain.
The rate of accumulation of silt throughout the period (approximately 180 cm per millennium for the plain as a whole, or 250 cm near the river’s banks) has been such that not only must many features of the valley have become submerged, along with any early sites associated with them, but the plain itself must have expanded in area, increasing the extent of highly fertile alluvial soil.
The main channel of the Indus flows through a wide alluvial flood plain which, with the recession of the annual inundation of June to September, is of great fertility. Wheat and barley sown at that time ripen by the following spring, without either ploughing or maturing of the ground. The banks of the river and of its subsidiary channels are not cultivated and must then, as now, have supported a dense gallery forest.