Highly diverse Bronze Age population dynamics in Central-Southern Europe and their response to regional climatic patterns

Giacomo Capuzzo, Marco Zanon, Marta Dal Corso, Wiebke Kirleis, Juan A. Barceló

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18 Citations (Scopus)


The reconstruction of past demographic patterns is a fundamental step towards a better understanding of human-environment relations, especially in terms of quantifiable anthropic impact and population susceptibility to environmental changes. The recently developed Summed Calibrated Probability Distributions (SCPD) approach, based on large collections of archaeological radiocarbon dates, provides a new tool to obtain continuous prehistoric population curves suitable for comparison with palaeoenvironmental time series. Despite a wide application in Mesolithic and Neolithic contexts worldwide, the use of the SCPD method remains rare for post-Neolithic societies. Our aim is to address this visible gap and apply the SCPD approach to South European archeological contexts between the Bronze Age and the transition into the Iron Age (1800–800 cal. BC), then evaluating these results against local archeological narratives and palaeoecological data. We first test the SCPD method at a supra regional scale, ranging from the Ebro to the Danube rivers, and subsequently in five selected regions within this area. We then compare the regional population curves to climate data reconstructed from local palynological records. Our results highlight the contrast between a stable supra regional demographic trend and more dynamic regional patterns. We do not observe any convincing long-term correlations between population and climate, but localized episodes of demographic stagnation or decline are present in conjunction with climatic shifts or extremes. Nevertheless, climate change as a triggering factor should be considered with caution, especially in peripheral areas where the archaeological data is faint, or where local evidence points to contemporaneous, ongoing landscape overexploitation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0200709
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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