Archaeologists have long tried to understand why cultural complexity often changed in prehistory. Recently, a series of highly influential formal models have suggested that demography is the key factor. According to these models, the size of a population determines its ability to invent and maintain cultural traits. In this paper, we demonstrate that the models in question are flawed in two important respects: They use questionable assumptions, and their predictions are not supported by the available archaeological and ethnographic evidence. As a consequence, little confidence can be invested in the idea that demography explains the changes in cultural complexity that have been identified by archaeologists. An alternative explanation is required.
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)|
|Publication status||Published - 4 Apr 2016|