Research shows SE Asian population boom 4,000 years ago

September 19, 2018 by Aaron Walker, Australian National University
Lead researcher Clare McFadden, a PhD Scholar with the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology. Credit: Australian National University

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.

Using the new measurement method, which utilises human skeletal remains, they have been able to prove a significant rapid increase in 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 Ph.D. 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.

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 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 ."

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

Explore further: For skeleton sex it's all in the hips

More information: Clare McFadden et al. Detection of temporospatially localized growth in ancient Southeast Asia using human skeletal remains, Journal of Archaeological Science (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2018.08.010

Related Stories

For skeleton sex it's all in the hips

September 9, 2015

Archaeologists at The Australian National University (ANU) have weighed into a long-running controversy surrounding one of the best methods of determining the sex of human skeletal remains.

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (3) Sep 20, 2018
HUman beings were planting and eating plants from the beginning: Genesis 1:29.
In fact all animals were vegetarian too.

The bible has it right and modern paleontologists have it completely wrong.

There is no way humans could have existed for 2800000 years prior to now without having discovered how to use agriculture except a few thousand years ago. Plus if they did exist even since about 12k - 28k years as farmers, we should now be overrun with about 50-100 billion people. Where are they? Even allowing for shorter lifespans as per evolution, there should be waaaaaayyyyyyy more people on earth if the evolutionary history is true.

The biblical historical narrative is much more consistent with actual observations in contrast to the stupid evolutionary model that has to keep on dodging bullets.
not rated yet Sep 21, 2018
Oh, My Goddess! fj's at it again. Desperate to prove that we taxpayers should be demanding refunds from what ever school for failure he wasn't competent to graduate from.

But 'cha know what? His little trailer park of ignorant inbreds could make some money off the tourist trade. fj's so determined to revive primitive Sumerian religious beliefs?

That his neighbors could make a quick buck off the gullible faithful. Flogging them gimcrack charms, weird idols and fetish schlock.

And can do a thriving business in made-in-china magma crap.

Oops! Sorry, I meant "caps". Yes I did.

"Oh yes! It looks simply adorable on your pinhead."
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (1) Sep 24, 2018
Asian population and its consumption and pollution are ruining the planet. The West is partly to blame, we employ them, like China.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.