Stimulated by the discussion at another entry, yesterday I made a little graph, almost a mnemonic, on the demographics of Northern European Neolithic and Chalcolithic, based on academic data which I discussed back in 2009.
This is the result:
The very simplified graph is nothing but a version of another one, used in 2009 (and reproduced below), which in turn is an annotated and composite version extracted from two different studies (references also below).
For convenience I have marked the millennia marks at the bottom (meaning 5000, 4000, 3000 and 2000 BCE, from left to right) while the unmarked vertical scale ranks from 0 to 100 (marked by the lowest and highest dots, not the frame, which is actually outside of the graph itself). The dots mark population level at any time as proportion of the maximum (100) in discrete intervals rounded up/down to 10 ppts and taken at intervals of 250 years. Notice that I ignored monuments in the case of Britain, only considering the habitation and other productive sites.
Not sure if it will result useful to you but it did help me to visualize the demographics of Northern Europe in these four millennia of surely dramatic population changes. If you don't like this version the more detailed original double graph is below, scroll down.
Something quite obvious is that while Danubian Neolithic first caused an important population expansion, it later declined to quite low population levels, maybe because of climatic cooling and the exhaustion of the lands because of poorly developed agricultural techniques.
This late Danubian collapse lasted for about a millennium, when (1) Funnelbeaker (TRBK) in Denmark, (2) Megalithism in Britain and Denmark especially (later also in parts of Germany) and (3) Kurgan cultures in Poland (later also in Germany and Denmark) seem to have brought with them very notable demographic expansions.
But decline seems to set on again all around at the end of the Chalcolithic period, much more notably in the continent (in Poland the rate of archaeological findings decays to zero!) than in Britain and especially Denmark.
And now indeed the original "verbose" graph:
And the sources:
- S. Shennan & K. Edinborough, Prehistoric population history: from the Late Glacial to the Late Neolithic in Central and Northern Europe (Journal of Archaeological Science, 2007).
- Mark Collard et al., Radiocarbon evidence indicates that migrants introduced farming to Britain. Antiquity, 2009.
Update (Sep 19): Dienekes mentions today a pay-per-view study by Nicky J. Whitehouse which deals with the same issues and finds similar patterns of apparent early Neolithic expansion and collapse in the case of Ireland. Relevant graph:
Plantago is a leafy weed or herb (depending on your viewpoint) that grows largely in prairies and plowed fields.
A multi-disciplinary study assessing the evidence for agriculture in Neolithic Ireland is presented, examining the timing, extent and nature of settlement and farming. Bayesian analyses of palaeoenvironmental and archaeological 14C data have allowed us to re-examine evidential strands within a strong chronological framework. While the nature and timing of the very beginning of the Neolithic in Ireland is still debated, our results – based on new Bayesian chronologies of plant macro-remains – are consistent with a rapid and abrupt transition to agriculture from c. 3750 cal BC, though there are hints of earlier Neolithic presence at a number of sites. We have emphatically confirmed the start of extensive Neolithic settlement in Ireland with the existence of a distinct ‘house horizon’, dating to 3720-3620 cal BC, lasting for up to a century. Cereals were being consumed at many sites during this period, with emmer wheat dominant, but also barley (naked and hulled), as well as occasional evidence for einkorn wheat, naked wheat and flax. The earliest farmers in Ireland, like farmers elsewhere across NW Europe, were not engaged in shifting cultivation, but practised longer-term fixed-plot agriculture. The association between early agriculture and the Elm Decline seen in many pollen diagrams shows that this latter event was not synchronous across all sites investigated, starting earlier in the north compared with the west, but that there is a strong coincidence with early agriculture at many sites. After this early boom, there are changes in the nature of settlement records; aside from passage tombs, the evidence for activity between 3400-3100 cal BC is limited. From 3400 cal BC, we see a decrease in the frequency of cereal evidence and an increase in some wild resources (e.g. fruits, but not nuts, in the records), alongside evidence for re-afforestation in pollen diagrams (3500–3000 cal BC). Changes occur at a time of worsening climatic conditions, as shown in Irish bog oak and reconstructed bog surface wetness records, although the links between the various records, and assessment of causes and effects, will require further investigation and may prove complex. This period seems to have been one of environmental, landscape, settlement and economic change. The later 4th millennium BC emerges as a period that would benefit from focused research attention, particularly as the observed changes in Ireland seem to have parallels in Britain and further afield.