The northern American Southwest provides one of the most well-documented cases of human population growth and decline in the world. The geographic extent of this decline in North America is unknown owing to the lack of high-resolution palaeodemographic data from regions across and beyond the greater Southwest, where archaeological radiocarbon data are often the only available proxy for investigating these palaeodemographic processes. Radiocarbon time series across and beyond the greater Southwest suggest widespread population collapses from AD 1300 to 1600. However, radiocarbon data have potential biases caused by variable radiocarbon sample preservation, sample collection and the nonlinearity of the radiocarbon calibration curve. In order to be confident in the wider trends seen in radiocarbon time series across and beyond the greater Southwest, here we focus on regions that have multiple palaeodemographic proxies and compare those proxies to radiocarbon time series. We develop a new method for time series analysis and comparison between dendrochronological data and radiocarbon data. Results confirm a multiple proxy decline in human populations across the Upland US Southwest, Central Mesa Verde and Northern Rio Grande from AD 1300 to 1600. These results lend confidence to single proxy radiocarbon-based reconstructions of palaeodemography outside the Southwest that suggest post-AD 1300 population declines in many parts of North America. This article is part of the theme issue 'Cross-disciplinary approaches to prehistoric demography'.
|Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Published - Jan 18 2021
- Southwest USA
- radiocarbon summed probability distributions