Dec 04, 2023—Dec 05, 2023
Abstract: It is challenging to estimate population dynamics in prehistoric settings due to a multitude of factors. At the same time, such estimates are of great interest as they can provide great value in understanding environmental and social interactions in human societies before the ubiquitous influence of large-scale polities (states), testing theories about universal and particular aspects of human behavior. We aim to collect a set of case studies for prehistoric, small-scale (non-state) societies where population trajectories can be compared systematically, along with additional evidence on cultural, political, and environmental factors that might have played an important role in shaping them. This will allow better comparisons with historic cases, where recent theoretical and empirical work indicates that feedback between structural and political factors and population dynamics plays an important role in outcomes. We believe that a comparative analysis of prehistoric population dynamics can be especially valuable in separating universally applicable facets of human behavior, political and social dynamics that stem from the scale of political organization, and individual differences among the societies in question and their environments. In this workshop, we aim to critically assess evidence on population trajectories of prehistoric societies, along with related knowledge that can be important in establishing causal relationships. Beyond collecting case studies that allow comparisons and quantitative analysis, we aim to explicitly consider challenges in interpreting and using the data, especially any pitfalls that might pose issues to non-specialists. This way, we are hoping to create a resource that fosters meaningful collaboration between archaeologists, historians, modelers, and complexity scientists.