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Fertility in Ancient California: Life History Strategies and Implications for Demographics, Resource Intensification, and Social Organization

Author(s): Alexandra Greenwald

Year: 2017

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Summary

Human behavioral ecology predicts that individuals alter reproductive strategies in response to environmental and social conditions. I consider stable isotope measures (δ15N and δ13C) of weaning age, parental provisioning, and child foraging derived from human tissues as proxies for the reproductive strategies employed by prehistoric hunter-gatherer populations from Central California over a 6,000-year period. Shifts in weaning age and childhood diet over time suggest reduced parental investment associated with the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA) (1100-700 BP), a period noted for severe episodic droughts and general environmental and social disruption. The decline in mean weaning age and associated shortening of inter-birth intervals during the MCA is consistent with the hypothesized offspring quantity-quality trade-off. This change in life history strategy initiated a cycle of population growth and resource intensification that drove adaptive shifts in settlement patterns and socio-political structure, ultimately resulting in native Californian’s high population density and unique tribelet organization.


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Fertility in Ancient California: Life History Strategies and Implications for Demographics, Resource Intensification, and Social Organization. Alexandra Greenwald. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431697)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -125.464; min lat: 32.101 ; max long: -114.214; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15158

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America