Radiocarbon test for demographic events in written and oral history [Anthropology]
We extend an established simulation-based method to test for significant short-duration (1–2 centuries) demographic events known from one documented historical and one oral historical context. Case study 1 extrapolates population data from the Western historical tradition using historically derived demographic data from the catastrophic European Black Death/bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis). We find a corresponding statistically significant drop in absolute population using an extended version of a previously published simulation method. Case study 2 uses this refined simulation method to test for a settlement gap identified in oral historical records of descendant Tsimshian First Nations communities from the Prince Rupert Harbour region of the Pacific Northwest region of British Columbia, Canada. Using a regional database of n = 523 radiocarbon dates, we find a significant drop in relative population using the extended simulation-based method consistent with Tsimshian oral records. We conclude that our technical refinement extends the utility of radiocarbon simulation methods and can provide a rigorous test of demographic predictions derived from a range of historical sources.
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