Bayesian analyses question the role of climate in Chulmun demography.
We investigate the relationship between climatic and demographic events in Korea during the Chulmun period (10,000-3,500 cal. BP) by analyzing paleoenvironmental proxies and 14C dates. We focus on testing whether a cooling climate, and its potential negative impact on millet productivity around the mid 5th-millennium cal. BP, triggered the population decline suggested by the archaeological record. We employ a Bayesian approach that estimates the temporal relationship between climatic events and change-points in the rate of growth in human population as inferred from radiocarbon time frequency data. Our results do not support the climate-induced population decline hypothesis for three reasons. First, our Bayesian analyses suggest that the cooling event occurred after the start of the population decline inferred from the radiocarbon time-frequency record. Second, we did not find evidence showing a significant reduction of millet-associated dates occurring during the cooling climate. Third, we detected different magnitudes of decline in the radiocarbon time-frequency data in the inland and coastal regions, indicating that the even if cooling episodes were ultimately responsible of these population 'busts', their impact was most likely distinct between these regions. We discuss our results highlighting the long tradition of mobility-based subsistence strategy in coastal regions as a potential factor contributing to the regional differences we were able to detect.
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