Accepted paper:

Prehistoric skeletons and demographic transition


Mark Cohen (

Paper short abstract:

Prehistoric skeletal populations and other evidence demonstrate that fertility increased as did mortality in the first demographic transition, ca 10,000 years ago, producing a very small increase in population growth accompanied by increased pathology and declining life expectancy.

Paper long abstract:

Comparisons of archaeological skeletons before and after the Neolithic transition from mobile hunter gatherers to sedentary farmers, ca 10,000 years ago, suggest increases in infection (periostitis and specific diseases such as tuberculosis) and malnutrition (e.g. iron deficiency anemia) as well as declining stature in most parts of the world. This is consistent with evident declines in the quality of diet (the transition from meat and mixed fresh vegetable diets to a diet of stored grains). It is also consistent with epidemiological expectations related to increased size and density of population since essentially all infectious organisms spread more easily with denser population, and sedentism produces a increase in garbage and feces accumulation. . Compound "interest" or population growth rates are based on the widely estimated early sedentary world population of 10,000,000 ca.10,000 years ago and 500,000,000 at the time of Columbus. (Reasonable variations on these estimates do not significantly affect the outcome of the calculation.) The figures suggest that on average population growth rates increased from near zero among hunter gatherers before 10,000 BP to only slightly higher with the beginning of farming. This miniscule rate of growth indicates that fertility and mortality must have tracked each other very closely to maintain such a near-steady state. Fertility increase is demonstrated in the comparison of age at death profiles of cemetery populations before and after the transition. Fertility increase

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New Directions in Anthropology