No Link Between Introduction of Agriculture & Human Population Growth

Currently, the human population growth is about 1% per year. Prehistoric human population growth, from beginning of the end of the Ice Age was just 0.04% annually until about 200 years ago, when a number of factors led to higher growth rates, such as modern medicine. We have been taught that the agricultural revolution increased population growth to some extent… Until now.

Prehistoric human populations of hunter-gatherers in a region of North America, between modern day Colorado and Wyoming, grew at the same rate as farming societies in Europe, according to a new radiocarbon analysis. The study used charcoal hearths as a symbolism of human activity. For humans in the region that is now Wyoming and Colorado between 6,000 and 13,000 years ago… People who foraged on animals and plants to survive; the analysis showed a long-term annual growth rate of 0.041 percent, consistent with growth that took place throughout North America. In comparison, during that same period, European societies were farming or transitioning to agriculture, yet the growth rate there was essentially the same.

University of Wyoming students excavate a prehistoric rock shelter in the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming during the summer of 2015. Hearths excavated at sites such as this provided many of the radiocarbon dates for new research showing that hunter-gatherers in the region that is now Wyoming and Colorado grew at the same rate as farming societies in Europe. Credit: UW Photo Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-12-growth-farming-non-farming-prehistoric-people.html#jCp
University of Wyoming students excavate a prehistoric rock shelter in the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming during the summer of 2015. Hearths excavated at sites such as this provided many of the radiocarbon dates for new research showing that hunter-gatherers in the region that is now Wyoming and Colorado grew at the same rate as farming societies in Europe. Credit: UW Photo

These conclusions challenge the commonly held view that the advent of agriculture 10,000-12,000 years ago accelerated human population growth. The researchers write,

“The introduction of agriculture cannot be directly linked to an increase in the long-term annual rate of population growth… This similarity in growth rates suggests that prehistoric humans effectively adapted to their surroundings such that region-specific environmental pressure was not the primary mechanism regulating long-term population growth.”

Instead, the factors that controlled long-term population growth during that period likely were global in nature, such as climate change or biological factors affecting all humans, such as disease.

3 thoughts on “No Link Between Introduction of Agriculture & Human Population Growth

  1. That’s not all research that is of high quality.
    Earth’s population has grown since the year 1680s. This is due to a generally wetter and warmer climate.
    Even if you do not know the exact population at this time, so you can count backwards and find out that Adam and Eve must have lived around 1200! ;-)
    This can not be. The explanation is that the world’s population has been steady or declining for long periods.
    Before you got agriculture so did Hunter people in Denmark most of the fish. After that it was agricultural, and then decreased proportion of the diet of the fish to 10%. Which is to be understood so that the population grew 10 times in a few years. But this was subsequently constant for millennia.

  2. Actually, agriculture had disadvantages as well as advantages. It made the spread of infectious disease easier for one thing. I’ve also seen articles suggesting that overall nutrition went down, as measured by height among other things. Perhaps these disadvantages cancelled out the benefit of a more stable food supply.

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