July 30, 2011

Neolithic demographic transition

A podcast with the author.

Science 29 July 2011:
Vol. 333 no. 6042 pp. 560-561
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208880

When the World’s Population Took Off: The Springboard of the Neolithic Demographic Transition

Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel


During the economic transition from foraging to farming, the signal of a major demographic shift can be observed in cemetery data of world archaeological sequences. This signal is characterized by an abrupt increase in the proportion of juvenile skeletons and is interpreted as the signature of a major demographic shift in human history, known as the Neolithic Demographic Transition (NDT). This expresses an increase in the input into the age pyramids of the corresponding living populations with an estimated increase in the total fertility rate of two births per woman. The unprecedented demographic masses that the NDT rapidly brought into play make this one of the fundamental structural processes of human history.



sykes.1 said...

I saw the data plot over at Rahib's blog. I have to ask, Do anthropologists do statistics?

The (hand-drawn?) line on the chart purporting to show a trend is totally bogus. There is no trend. None. There is a scatter plot with a huge scatter. There is no connection between the data and the line, except both are in the first quadrant.

Furthermore, the plotting position of each cemetery depends critically on the author's determine of the start date for the local neolithic transition. Errors in the start dates will move the individual data points either left or right on the chart.

You can make an argument that there are more cemeteries in the neolithic, although that depends on the start dates.

You cannot argue that the percentage of teenagers increased.

All-in-all, yet another example of the futility of peer review.

Matt Bandy said...

He's not an anthropologist; he's a demographer. And yes, he does statistics. Look at his resume sometime.

Steve said...

You read one article by an anthropologist in which the author did a poor job of using statistics, and you immediately entertain the notion that all anthropologists are bad at statistics ("I have to ask, Do anthropologists do statistics?")
Sounds like it may be you who needs a stats refresher course, specifically on the topic of sample size!