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      Holocene fluctuations in human population demonstrate repeated links to food production and climate

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          Significance

          The relationship between human population, food production, and climate change is a pressing concern in need of high-resolution, long-term perspectives. Archaeological radiocarbon dates have increasingly been used to reconstruct past population dynamics, and Britain and Ireland provide both radiocarbon sampling densities and species-level sample identifications that are globally unrivalled. We use this evidence to demonstrate multiple instances of human population downturn over the Holocene that coincide with periodic episodes of reduced solar activity and climate reorganization as well as societal responses in terms of altered food-procurement strategies.

          Abstract

          We consider the long-term relationship between human demography, food production, and Holocene climate via an archaeological radiocarbon date series of unprecedented sampling density and detail. There is striking consistency in the inferred human population dynamics across different regions of Britain and Ireland during the middle and later Holocene. Major cross-regional population downturns in population coincide with episodes of more abrupt change in North Atlantic climate and witness societal responses in food procurement as visible in directly dated plants and animals, often with moves toward hardier cereals, increased pastoralism, and/or gathered resources. For the Neolithic, this evidence questions existing models of wholly endogenous demographic boom–bust. For the wider Holocene, it demonstrates that climate-related disruptions have been quasi-periodic drivers of societal and subsistence change.

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          Most cited references 207

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          Discussion Reporting of 14C Data

          Count rates, representing the rate of 14C decay, are the basic data obtained in a 14C laboratory. The conversion of this information into an age or geochemical parameters appears a simple matter at first. However, the path between counting and suitable 14C data reporting (table 1) causes headaches to many. Minor deflections in pathway, depending on personal interpretations, are possible and give end results that are not always useful for inter-laboratory comparisons. This discussion is an attempt to identify some of these problems and to recommend certain procedures by which reporting ambiguities can be avoided.
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            IntCal13 and Marine13 Radiocarbon Age Calibration Curves 0–50,000 Years cal BP

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              Bayesian Analysis of Radiocarbon Dates

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A
                pnas
                pnas
                PNAS
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
                National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                5 December 2017
                20 November 2017
                20 November 2017
                : 114
                : 49
                : E10524-E10531
                Affiliations
                aInstitute of Archaeology, University College London , London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom;
                bSchool of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth , Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                1To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: a.bevan@ 123456ucl.ac.uk .

                Edited by Colin Renfrew, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and approved October 3, 2017 (received for review June 6, 2017)

                Author contributions: A.B. designed research; A.B. and S.C. performed research; A.B., R.F., and C.S. analyzed data; and A.B., S.C., D.F., R.F., S.S., and C.S. wrote the paper.

                Article
                201709190
                10.1073/pnas.1709190114
                5724262
                29158411
                Copyright © 2017 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

                This is an open access article distributed under the PNAS license.

                Page count
                Pages: 8
                Product
                Categories
                9
                PNAS Plus
                Social Sciences
                Anthropology
                Social Sciences
                Sustainability Science
                PNAS Plus

                radiocarbon, archaeology, britain, ireland, agriculture

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