Research proves South East Asian population boom 4,000 years ago


Share post:

Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have uncovered a previously unconfirmed population boom across South East Asia that occurred 4,000 years ago, thanks to a new method for measuring prehistoric population growth.

Research proves South East Asian population boom 4,000 years ago
The Man Bac burial site in Vietnam [Credit: Lorna Tilley]

Using the new population measurement method, which utilises human skeletal remains, they have been able to prove a significant rapid increase in growth across populations in Thailand, China and Vietnam during the Neolithic Period, and a second subsequent rise in the Iron Age.

Lead researcher Clare McFadden, a PhD Scholar with the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology, said the population trend was consistent across samples taken from 15 locations.

“We saw huge population growth associated with the agricultural transition,” McFadden said. “Up until about 4,000 years ago you have hunter gatherer type populations, then you have the introduction and intensification of agriculture. Agricultural transition has been widely studied around the world and we consistently see significant population growth as a result.”

The reason these population changes have never been quantified before is the tools used to measure prehistoric populations were all designed for Europe and the Americas where archaeological conditions are different to Asia.

Research proves South East Asian population boom 4,000 years ago
Lead researcher Clare McFadden, a PhD Scholar with the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology
[Credit: Australian National University]

Ms McFadden said the difference comes down to how children are represented in population numbers.

“For skeletal remains in Europe and America we often see the complete absence of infants and children, they are very poorly represented,” she said. “The preservation isn’t good – small bones don’t preserve well. Children are also thought to often be buried in a different cemetery to adults. So the method researchers used to measure populations excluded children because they didn’t have accurate representation.”

Ms McFadden said her new method for determining the rate of natural population increase takes into account the proportion of infants and children compared to the total population. This way researchers were able to bring population growth figures in line with other archaeological evidence in the region which suggested a rapid rise.

“In South East Asia and the Pacific, we actually have pretty good preservation of bones from children,” she said. “The skeletal evidence was there, we were seeing populations with huge numbers of infants and children compared to the adult populations, which suggests it was a growing population at that time. But the existing tools weren’t detecting that growth. The trends the new tool found aligned perfectly with what researchers expect to see in response to agriculture.”

The study has been published in a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Author: Aaron Walker | Source: Australian National University [September 19, 2018]



Related articles

1,500-year-old mosaic found during illegal excavation in Turkey

An early Byzantine monastery with a 1,500-year-old mosaic were unearthed in western Turkey as security forces nabbed two...

Assyrian marriage contract contains surrogacy clause in event of infertility

The first diagnosis to determine infertility was made 4,000 years ago, an ancient Assyrian clay tablet discovered by...

1,200-year-old soap factory unearthed in Israel

Israel’s most ancient soap making workshop (soapery) was discovered in an excavation site by the Israel Antiquities Authority...

Scientists prove gold purifying process used in medieval West Africa works

Humble fragments of clay crucibles and coin molds flecked with gold excavated by a joint team of British...

Ancient art in Somaliland in diplomatic limbo

The world’s most famous prehistoric art is in caverns in Europe, but the most recently discovered ancient cave...

Rare silver coins from 13th century discovered in South Bohemia

Archaeologists from South Bohemia have just announced a unique discovery of some 800 silver coins dating back to...

Rare prehistoric shell mound in Aichi, Japan, suggests possible mid-Jomon shell trade

An ancient heap of shells at Sakatsuji Shell Midden in the city of Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, most likely...

Danish Viking grave reveals archaeological mysteries

From the beginning of the 8th century up until the end of the 9th century, Viking graves in...