Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ancient Baby Boom Offers Warning

Ancient Baby Boom Offers Warning

Washington State Univ. researchers have sketched out one of the greatest baby booms in North American history, a centuries-long “growth blip” among southwestern Native Americans between 500 and 1300 A.D.

It was a time when the early features of civilization — including farming and food storage — had matured to where birth rates likely “exceeded the highest in the world today,” the researchers write in PNAS.

A crash followed, says Tim Kohler, WSU Regents professor of anthropology, offering a warning sign to the modern world about the dangers of overpopulation.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the study looks at the data from thousands of human remains found over the past century at hundreds of sites across the Four Corners region of the Southwest. While many of the remains have been repatriated, the data let Kohler assemble a detailed chronology of the region’s Neolithic Demographic Transition, in which stone tools reflect an agricultural transition from cutting meat to pounding grain.

Maize, which we know as corn, was grown in the region as early as 2000 B.C. At first, populations were slow to respond, probably because of low productivity, says Kohler. But by 400 B.C., he says, the crop provided 80 percent of the region’s calories.

No comments: