The beginning of the Holocene some 12,000 years ago coincides with the slow but steady disappearance of hunter-gatherer communities worldwide. These are replaced by (or convert themselves into) communities dedicated to the domestication rather than hunting and gathering of plants and animals. Gujarat is not exception to the rule and hunter-gatherers are not to be found anywhere in the region in the present day.
A wetter period
However, archaeological evidence points to a longer persistence here of hunter-gatherer communities than in any neighbouring region. One of the reasons that may help explain this occurrence may be found in the particular environmental conditions that characterised this region in the early phases of the Holocene. The Holocene is defined as an interglacial. Interglacial periods follow glacial periods (ice ages) and are generally characterised by warmer and wetter atmospheric conditions.
A greener desert
At the very beginning of the Holocene North Gujarat was part of the southernmost stretches of the Thar Desert, which extension had reached these latitudes during the phase of greater desert expansion at the end of the last ice age. An increase in precipitation in the early Holocene led to the partial erosion of dunes with the accumulation of fine impermeable sediments and water in depressions between them. Lakes formed and sparse vegetation started growing, soon spreading to the dunes, favouring their stabilization. What used to be a torrid desert became a more clement desert margin. Nevertheless, the active core of the Thar Desert was (and is) still very close. Several years of abundant rain could be followed by years with almost no rain.
The advantage of being mobile
It was under those climatic and environmental conditions that the last hunter-gatherers of North Gujarat lived. Vaharvo Timbo illustrates well a possible socio-environmental scenario for that period. A cluster of five hunter-gatherer camps are situated on the top of as many dunes, forming a circle around what used to be a small shallow interdunal lake. Plants and animals colonised the margins of the lake during and after the rainy season, providing food and water for the local communities. In case of drier years, those communities could move towards the shifted front of the Monsoon to meet more abundant resources. Farming communities, lesser mobile due to the needs of a growing plot, are generally more vulnerable to series of consecutive dry seasons. It was only in recent periods that agriculture was introduced to the region, fully replacing the hunter-gatherer way of life and possibly contributing to the further greening and stabilization of this stretch of the Thar Desert.