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

Timpson, A; Colledge, S; Crema, E; Edinborough, K; Kerig, T; Manning, K; Thomas, MG; (2014) Reconstructing regional population fluctuations in the European Neolithic using radiocarbon dates: a new case-study using an improved method. Journal of Archaeological Science , 52 pp. 549-557. 10.1016/j.jas.2014.08.011. Green open access

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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.

Type: Article
Title: Reconstructing regional population fluctuations in the European Neolithic using radiocarbon dates: a new case-study using an improved method
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.08.011
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2014.08.011
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Keywords: Neolithic, Radiocarbon, Demography, Simulation, Europe, Monte Carlo, SPD, Summed probability distribution
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1447786
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