Counting Bones and Stones: current challenges in Palaeodemographic theory
Confirmed half-day session for the 34th Annual Conference of the Theoretical Archaeology Group, (University of Liverpool, 17th December -19th December 2012)
Session organisers: Christina Collins (University of Sheffield) and Jennifer French (University of Cambridge)
****CALL FOR PAPERS****
The study of demography has a long history in archaeological thought with the approach taken towards population corresponding with wider contemporary theoretical shifts. The end of the 20th century saw a clear move from considering past population change in terms of population pressure and group adaptation strategies (as epitomised by the famous Malthus/Boserup debate), to an emphasis on the role of the individual in population processes and, through an explicitly evolutionary approach, the role of population on other aspects of past socio-cultural systems.
Despite the increased sophistication of palaeodemographic theories, two fundamental difficulties arise with their actual application to the archaeological record; 1) the reliance on proxy data to document demographic change and; 2) the poor resolution of the archaeological record which can obscure the short-term demographic processes which underpin all population changes.
This session will explore the challenges which affect the palaedemographer especially insofar as method and theory can be reconciled. Papers are welcome from any archaeological period or region. Suggested topics could include:-
- The contrast between macro-scale ‘prime mover’ approaches and micro-scale evolutionary theories of population change in the archaeological record
- The continued prevalence of the Mathus/Boserup debate- after decades of discussion how useful is this dichotomy for understanding past population change?
- Specific theoretical and methodological challenges associated with studying demographic change in different types of past societies (hunter-gatherer, early farming communities, urban settlements etc) and in different archaeological periods (prehistoric/ historic)
- The contrasting research trajectories of palaeodemographic approaches using osteological and archaeological (material culture) evidence.
- The methodological challenges to the archaeologist of implementing theories about past population change to a specific data-set. Can we reconcile the strong theoretical basis of palaeodemography with the frequent paucity of appropriate data in the archaeological record on which to test our theories? Are current palaeodemographic methods fit for purpose?
Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and include the name of the author (s) and institutional affiliation (s). Please submit to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org by 1st September 2012
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
University of Cambridge, UK Email: email@example.com
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