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Keywords:

  • population projections;
  • stochastic modeling;
  • total fertility rate;
  • growth rate

Abstract

On the basis of new examination of ancient DNA and craniometric analyses, Neolithic dispersal in Central Europe has been recently explained as reflecting colonization or at least a major influx of near eastern farmers. Given the fact that Neolithic dispersal in Central Europe was very rapid and extended into a large area, colonization would have to be associated with high population growth and fertility rates of an expanding Neolithic population. We built three demographic models to test whether the growth and fertility rates of Neolithic farmers were high enough to allow them to colonize Central Europe without admixture with foragers. The principle of the models is based on stochastic population projections. Our results demonstrate that colonization is an unlikely explanation for the Neolithic dispersal in Central Europe, as the majority of fertility and growth rate estimates obtained in all three models are higher than levels expected in the early Neolithic population. On the basis of our models, we derived that colonization would be possible only if (1) more than 37% of women survived to mean age at childbearing, (2) Neolithic expansion in Central Europe lasted more than 150 years, and (3) the population of farmers grew in the entire settled area. These settings, however, represent very favorable demographic conditions that seem unlikely given current archaeological and demographic evidence. Therefore, our results support the view that Neolithic dispersal in Central Europe involved admixture of expanding farmers with local foragers. We estimate that the admixture contribution from foragers may have been between 55% and 72%. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.