Models in demographic ecology predict that populations in agrarian villages experience cycles of growth and decline as tied to relationships between founding population sizes, birth and mortality rates, habitat constraints, landscape productivity, and socio-economic practices. Such predictions should be equally applicable to fisher-hunter-gatherers. Intensive research at the Bridger River site on the Canadian Plateau has provided significant new insight into the dynamics of population growth and decline, subsistence productivity, cooperation, and development of social inequalities in material goods. In this paper, we present new evidence drawing from the fine-grained stratigraphic record of Housepit 54 to assess details regarding change in subsistence and technology as related to population and social dynamics. Results indicate a long and complex history characterized by two complete demographic cycles. Critically, the two subsistence downturns were managed using different tactics. Reduced local resources during the first period was likely managed with shorter stays in winter residences, somewhat more extensive use of the landscape, and continuation of egalitarian social relations. The second economic downturn followed a short-lived boom in resources and population growth that created extremely competitive social conditions. The subsequent downturn was managed by entrenched winter sedentism and likely social control of access to critical resources.
- Bridge River site
- Complex fisher-hunter-gatherers
- Indigenous history
- Lithic technology
- Malthusian demographic models