by Elton Gomes
The northeastern state of Meghalaya will be remembered for a long time in geological history. The last 4,200 years on Earth are being classified as a new age, and geologists are calling it as the Meghalayan Age. The Meghalayan Age has been marked by the onset of a mega drought that destroyed a number of civilisations around the world. Such ages divide the Earth’s existence into multiple slices of time. And each slice of time corresponds to important events such as the breaking-up of continents, dramatic shifts in climate, and the emergence of particular types of animals and plant life.
What is the Meghalayan Age?
In order to classify a geological period, geologists examine various aspects such as sedimentary deposits, ice cores, and deposits below the seafloor for clues regarding the occurrence of dramatic changes on earth. These changes should reflect explicitly and should be global in its extent. In the case of the Meghalyan classification – first suggested seven years ago – this change was indicated in a stalagmite cave found in the Mawmluh cave, which is one of the deepest and longest caves in India.
It is said to have begun with a drought that destroyed some civilizations around the world.
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The stalagmite cave gave a clear indication of ways in which oxygen atoms changed which is a proxy for climate, “specifically, precipitation,” said Mike Walker, head of the working group on the subdivision of the Holocene at the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS).
The Meghalayan is the youngest age to be recorded, and runs from 4,200 years to the present. The Age is said to have begun with a destructive drought whose effects were lasted for approximately 200 years. The drought severely destroyed civilisations in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the Yangtze River Valley. Several shifts in oceans and atmospheric circulation may have caused the disastrous drought.
Significance of the Meghalayan Age
Due to the stalagmite found in the Mawmluh cave in Meghalaya, the northeastern state is now part of geological history. Situated at an elevation of 1,290 metres, the conditions in Mawmluh cave have been suitable for preserving chemical signs of the transition that have been highlighted by an analysis of the stalagmite.
The Meghalayan Age is significant as it will be the first formal geological subdivision of the Holocene epoch. The Holocene epoch is the current age we live in, and reflects everything that happened over the past 11,700 years. With the inclusion of the Meghalayan age, the Holocene epoch will now be formally subdivided into three ages of Greenlandian, Northgrippian, and Meghalayan.
Stanley Finney, professor of geological sciences at Long Beach State University, said that the Meghalayan age is unique among the periods on the geologic timescale as its beginning coincides with a global cultural event produced by a global climatic event.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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