This workshop is organized by Peter Turchin, CSH External Faculty.
As our knowledge of Neolithic populations increases and becomes more quantitative, several research teams have proposed that the population dynamics of groups that switched from foraging to agriculture and animal husbandry do not fit the idea of a monotonic increase towards carrying capacity, as was envisioned in early models (Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza 1973). In particular, research by Stephen Shennan’s group (Shennan et al. 2013, Shennan 2018) has documented recurrent population collapses following initial agriculture booms in mid-Holocene Europe. Detailed regional archaeology supports the idea that there were repeated cycles of social complexity linked with population dynamics in, for example, Central Europe (Gronenborn et al. 2018). A similar pattern of recurrent population cycles has also been documented in Southwestern United States (Kohler, Cole, and Ciupe 2009).
This workshop will address the possible causal explanations of Neolithic cycles. We will focus on three hypotheses: (1) exogenous forcing of population ups and downs due to climate variability, (2) an endogenous boom-bust dynamics resulting from feedbacks between population and agriculture (i.e., resulting from soil exhaustion), and (3) an endogenous cycle between population and warfare. For a simple model of the third hypothesis see (Turchin and Korotayev 2006).
Our approach will combine model development (which will translate each hypothesis, as well as their combinations, into a suite of agent-based models) with two empirical case-studies: (a) SW Germany (Detlef Gronenborn) and (b) SW US (Tim Kohler, Kyle Bocinsky, Stefani Crabtree). However, during this first workshop we will focus on the European case-study, leaving SW US for a follow-up workshop in 2020.