Settlement geography of the Punjab during the early historic and medieval periods: A GIS approach
Utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis and quantitative geography techniques, the research provides insights into the meaning of changing settlement patterns in the Pakistani province of Punjab between the 5th century B.C and 18th century A.D. The study of archaeological settlement patterns in the Punjab has largely been limited to the Pre- and Protohistoric periods. While survey results from later periods have been published, the data have not received analysis or integration into the wider body of historical and archaeological knowledge. The primary site database collected for this dissertation abstracted from two extensive archaeological surveys conducted in the Punjab plain and Cholistan respectively. Statistical techniques are used to quantify the changing subregional occupations, site landform correlations and site dispersal patterns to create "settlement signatures" for the periods under study on a century scale, independent of any preconceived periodization schemes. By concentrating on historic periods where textual sources can provide evidence for different social and economic forces that relate to land use and occupation, the research illustrates the ways in which these signatures reflect those forces. Satellite imagery and topographic data are used, along with historical sources, to identify relic channels of the region's ever-shifting river system, the most important force in the transformation of the landscapes that form the physical context of the regional settlement systems.
For the historic periods, a major change in "settlement signatures" occurs in the 8th century A.D. This period corresponds with a change in the socio-political organization that occurred in the region characterized by a changing nature of the native polities with new theories of kingship and a tendency to organize on a basis of a quasi-feudal system. Related to these changes is the introduction of Islam. Thus, this change is independently observed in the spatial distribution of settlements of the Punjab data set. From the 9th century forward, a series of trends characterize the distribution pattern including the gradual expansion into new physiographic regions. In this dissertation, it is argued that these are the result of social and political pressures and policies as well as new technological adaptations to the environment.