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(P34) Population dynamics among hunter-gatherers: inferring socioeconomic structures

Convenors: Juana Maria Olives Pons, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology; Albert García-Piquer, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Abstract: This session brings forward the importance of demographic studies on hunter-fisher-gatherer societies, in an interdisciplinary environment, where different topics related to population dynamics can provide relevant results for a critical understanding of these societies, and how it may be possible to identify the roots of social constructs existing nowadays.

Keywords: demography, socioeconomic structures, regulation of reproduction, resource management, modelling

Format: standard panels (10 minutes per speaker), with discussion

Precirculated materials: optional


Paleodemographic attempts to reconstruct prehistoric hunter-fisher-gatherer societies has faced several limitations due to the characteristic of the archaeological materials and methodologies available for their study, obtaining incomplete and rather biased results. For its part, biochemical studies shed some light on questions related to population bottlenecks or expansions, migratory movements, diseases, and changes in the dietary spectrum. Demographic studies on modern HFG have shown great variability in their demographic indexes, some of which do not meet the growing rates extrapolated from the prehistoric record. With the purpose of solving these contradictions, some points may need to be reconsidered, e.g. the European impact on demographic variables prior to the ethno-demographic studies, and the weight of social norms in controlling human reproduction. Simulation studies of the demography of prehistoric and modern HFG have now a quite long history, but some issues still under discussion need further exploration, considering the possibilities that AI and M.A.S. provide.

This session aims to offer a space for interdisciplinary discussions about the importance of demographic studies of HFG, which may contribute with some insights into their socioeconomic structures, far from the traditional genetic and ecological explanations. Additionally, the session brings forward how methodologies and hypothesis for population dynamics among prehistoric and modern HFG shall be reshaped, in order to achieve reliable results. The session may highlight the possibilities of an interdisciplinary perspective, such as how archaeological, anthropological and demographic studies raise questions related to socioeconomic asymmetry (gender inequality), resource management (subsistence systems), population dynamics (rates and indexes), and structural violence (female infanticide), among others. Finally, the session may analyse the extent of those social constructs developed by prehistoric HFG, which exist in contemporary pre-industrial and industrial societies, but are erroneously considered as natural or biologically determined (e.g. gender inequality).




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