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Pretransitional population control and equilibrium

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A persistent theme in much anthropological writing is the concept of the deliberate control of population numbers by hunter-gatherers as a means of achieving moderate family size, adequate nutrition, and constrained adult mortality. An analysis of the mix of theory and field evidence that led to this conclusion finds the case not proven. On the contrary, Malthusian constraints can operate, and probably did operate, to produce a hunter-gatherer society where most adults were reasonably robust and healthy even though child mortality was high and life expectancy short. The absence of population limitation in pre-Neolithic times implies high mortality as well as high fertility, and weakens the argument positing a Neolithic mortality crisis.
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Keywords: anthropology; fertility; fertility control; hunter-gatherers; infanticide; natural fertility; population control; prehistoric demography; stationary population

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Australian National University

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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