chapter  17
42 Pages

Population dynamics

WithFekri A. Hassan

Population dynamics are inexorably linked to cultural events, as is clearly shown by pronounced demographic transformations accompanying major cultural transitions. In archaeology, the emergence of an interest in the cultural processes that have shaped our archaeological past (Childe 1936) fostered an examination of aspects of prehistoric populations related to subsistence and settlements. A particular emphasis was placed on estimating population size and density, as in the pioneer syntheses by Howells (1960) and Cook (1972). In 1968, Lewis Binford introduced population increase as a possible mechanism in the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture, blasting a new trail of archaeological inquiry on the role of population growth in major cultural transitions (see Chapter 21). Population Growth: Anthropological Implications (Spooner 1972) set the stage for further avenues of future investigations, including a convergence with the studies undertaken by physical anthropologists interested in the lifespan and vital statistics of prehistoric populations (Vallois 1960). The pioneer work by J.L.Angel was extremely influential: his emphasis on the relationship between palaeodemography, palaeoecology, and health (Angel 1975) highlighted the importance of the study of palaeopathology as a means of assessing the relationship between health, disease and the fertility and mortality of ancient populations.