Session: #5

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Understanding Prehistoric Demography
In recent years, archaeologists have become increasingly interested in questions related to the demography of prehistoric communities. Indeed, the study of population dynamics is critical to many of the questions we now want to ask about the prehistoric past, whether our concern is population size, structure or mobility. Demographic analysis can operate at multiple scales, each posing its own challenges and necessitating the development of innovative theoretical and methodological approaches. Studies using aDNA analysis have identified significant population movements across large swathes of Europe, dramatically affecting the genetic composition of prehistoric communities. Isotope analyses have similarly made great strides in detecting prehistoric mobility, permitting finer-grained understandings of the mobility of specific individuals and groups. Summed Probability Distribution analyses of radiocarbon dates have been used as proxies for population fluctuations over time, while ethnoarchaeological and cross-cultural approaches to population reconstruction remain important in understanding local and sub-regional population dynamics.

This session brings together researchers working across the broad field of prehistoric demography, including papers from Stone Age Demographics, and COMMIOS (Communities and Connectivities: Iron Age Britons and their Neighbours), two large-scale projects studying prehistoric Norway and Britain respectively. Instead of focussing on one method, the aim of the session is to explore how different methodologies, spatio-temporal scales and theoretical perspectives may complement each other within and between projects and case studies to provide a more nuanced understanding of prehistoric demographies. We invite papers at any spatio-temporal scale, from the size and composition of individual households and intra-settlement organisation, to regional and supra-regional settlement patterning and population structure. Papers may focus on the development of specific methods, theoretical frameworks for demographic reconstruction, or case studies.
prehistory, demography, population dynamics, mobility, multi-proxy, multi-scalar
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Main organiser:
Ian Armit (United Kingdom) 1
Charlotte Damm (Norway) 2
Matija Črešnar (Slovenia) 3
1. University of York
2. University of Tromso
3. University of Ljubljana