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Did pre-Columbian populations of the Amazonian biome reach carrying capacity during the Late Holocene?

Arroyo-Kalin, M; Riris, P; (2021) Did pre-Columbian populations of the Amazonian biome reach carrying capacity during the Late Holocene? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 376 (1816) , Article 20190715. 10.1098/rstb.2019.0715. Green open access

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Abstract

The increasingly better-known archaeological record of the Amazon basin, the Orinoco basin and the Guianas both questions the long-standing premise of a pristine tropical rainforest environment and also provides evidence for major biome-scale cultural and technological transitions prior to European colonization. Associated changes in pre-Columbian human population size and density, however, are poorly known and often estimated on the basis of unreliable assumptions and guesswork. Drawing on recent developments in the aggregate analysis of large radiocarbon databases, here we present and examine different proxies for relative population change between 1050 BC and AD 1500 within this broad region. By using a robust model testing approach, our analyses document that the growth of pre-Columbian human population over the 1700 years prior to European colonization adheres to a logistic model of demographic growth. This suggests that, at an aggregate level, these pre-Columbian populations had potentially reached carrying capacity (however high) before the onset of European colonization. Our analyses also demonstrate that this aggregate scenario shows considerable variability when projected geographically, highlighting significant gaps in archaeological knowledge yet also providing important insights into the resilience of past human food procurement strategies. By offering a new understanding of biome-wide pre-Columbian demographic trends based on empirical evidence, our analysis hopes to unfetter novel perspectives on demic expansions, language diversification trajectories and subsistence intensification processes in the Amazonian biome during the late Holocene.

Type: Article
Title: Did pre-Columbian populations of the Amazonian biome reach carrying capacity during the Late Holocene?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0715
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0715
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: palaeodemography, late Holocene, summed calibrated probability distributions, Amazonian archaeology, Amazonian biome
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098102
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