Reconstructing regional population fluctuations in the European Neolithic using radiocarbon dates: a new case-study using an improved method

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Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report
Length: 282 words

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To link to full-text access for this article, visit this link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2014.08.011 Byline: Adrian Timpson, Sue Colledge, Enrico Crema, Kevan Edinborough, Tim Kerig, Katie Manning, Mark G. Thomas, Stephen Shennan Abstract: In a previous study we presented a new method that used summed probability distributions (SPD) of radiocarbon dates as a proxy for population levels, and Monte-Carlo simulation to test the significance of the observed fluctuations in the context of uncertainty in the calibration curve and archaeological sampling. The method allowed us to identify periods of significant short-term population change, caveated with the fact that around 5% of these periods were false positives. In this study we present an improvement to the method by applying a criterion to remove these false positives from both the simulated and observed distributions, resulting in a substantial improvement to both its sensitivity and specificity. We also demonstrate that the method is extremely robust in the face of small sample sizes. Finally we apply this improved method to radiocarbon datasets from 12 European regions, covering the period 8000-4000 BP. As in our previous study, the results reveal a boom-bust pattern for most regions, with population levels rising rapidly after the local arrival of farming, followed by a crash to levels much lower than the peak. The prevalence of this phenomenon, combined with the dissimilarity and lack of synchronicity in the general shapes of the regional SPDs, supports the hypothesis of endogenous causes. Author Affiliation: (a) Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK (b) Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, Darwin Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK (c) Archaologisches Institut, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, University of Cologne, D-50923 Koln, Germany

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A393157001