The Scale of Formative Transitions in the Americas: Inferences Based on the Texture and Timing of Demographic Changes

Summary

This paper examines the large-scale texture and timing of demographic transitions associated with the development of settled agricultural life in the Americas. Based on previous work concerning the Neolithic Demographic Transition (NDT) worldwide, we draw on two sources of published data (skeletal remains and surface survey) to trace Formative-era population growth rates across a huge region, including the US Southwest, Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Andes. The goal is to assess the pattern and scale of demographic changes. Do individual regions display similar trajectories but with variable timing, suggesting that they are basically independent of each other? Or, instead, are there large-scale patterns suggesting a role for historical linkages among regions? For instance, do the Andes and Mesoamerica each stand out as internally coherent and distinct from surrounding areas? Is the gradient of adoption of pottery from coastal Ecuador (c. 3500 BC) to Mesoamerica (c. 1900 BC) associated with or independent of the Neolithic Demographic Transition? Do developments proposed for particular areas—such as the emergence of more productive varieties of maize in Mesoamerica around 1000 BC—play detectable roles beyond the area(s) for which they were originally proposed?

Cite this Record

The Scale of Formative Transitions in the Americas: Inferences Based on the Texture and Timing of Demographic Changes. Richard Lesure, Greg Schachner, Kate Bishop, Brittany Jackson, Reuven Sinensky. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 402947)