Repository logo

A Bayesian approach for fitting and comparing demographic growth models of radiocarbon dates: A case study on the Jomon-Yayoi transition in Kyushu (Japan).

Published version



Change log


Shoda, Shinya 


Large sets of radiocarbon dates are increasingly used as proxies for inferring past population dynamics and the last few years, in particular, saw an increase in the development of new statistical techniques to overcome some of the key challenges imposed by this kind of data. These include: 1) null hypothesis significance testing approaches based on Monte-Carlo simulations or mark permutations; 2) non-parametric Bayesian modelling approaches, and 3) the use of more traditional techniques such as correlation, regression, and AIC-based model comparison directly on the summed probability distribution of radiocarbon dates (SPD). While the range of opportunities offered by these solutions is unquestionably appealing, they often do not consider the uncertainty and the biases arising from calibration effects or sampling error. Here we introduce a novel Bayesian approach and nimbleCarbon, an R package that offers model fitting and comparison for population growth models based on the temporal frequency data of radiocarbon dates. We evaluate the robustness of the proposed approach on a range of simulated scenarios and illustrate its application on a case study focused on the demographic impact of the introduction of wet-rice farming in prehistoric Japan during the 1st millennium BCE.



Agriculture, Bayes Theorem, History, Ancient, Humans, Japan, Models, Theoretical, Oryza, Radiometric Dating

Journal Title

PLoS One

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Public Library of Science (PLoS)
European Research Council (801953)
Leverhulme Trust (PLP-2019-304)