Early warning signals of demographic collapse detected in a meta-database of European Neolithic radiocarbon dates
This study uses statistical tests known as "early warning signals" (EWS) to determine whether declining socio-ecological resilience presaged a pattern of collapse during the Early Neolithic Period in Europe. Our earlier research has shown with a high degree of certainty that radiocarbon-inferred human demography during the Neolithic exhibits a boom-and-bust pattern. In this new study we analyze our meta-database of radiocarbon dates in order to determine whether societies on the verge of major reorganization -- regime shift -- may exhibit declining resilience, and if it can be detected using statistical methods. In seven of nine regional datasets we find increasing autocorrelation and variance leading up to collapse, suggesting that these societies began to recover from perturbation more slowly as resilience declined. We use simulation to validate our methods and show that sampling biases, atmospheric effects, radiocarbon calibration error, and taphonomic processes are unlikely to explain the observed EWS patterns. While EWS have been detected in biology and ecology, to our knowledge, this study is the first to find early warning signals of demographic regime shift among human populations.
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Early warning signals of demographic collapse detected in a meta-database of European Neolithic radiocarbon dates. Sean Downey, Randy Haas. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429436)
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min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;
Abstract Id(s): 14787