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Frequent disturbances enhanced the resilience of past human populations.

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The record of past human adaptations provides crucial lessons for guiding responses to crises in the future1-3. To date, there have been no systematic global comparisons of humans' ability to absorb and recover from disturbances through time4,5. Here we synthesized resilience across a broad sample of prehistoric population time-frequency data, spanning 30,000 years of human history. Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of population decline show that frequent disturbances enhance a population's capacity to resist and recover from later downturns. Land-use patterns are important mediators of the strength of this positive association: farming and herding societies are more vulnerable but also more resilient overall. The results show that important trade-offs exist when adopting new or alternative land-use strategies.


Acknowledgements: We thank P. Lockwood for comments on an earlier version of this work. We acknowledge support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council grant AH/X002217/1 (P.R.), Samsung Electronics grant A0342-20220007 (J.B.), Leverhulme Trust grant no. PLP-2019–304 (E.C.) and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences grant YIPA-CAS, 2022149 (X.R.).


Agriculture, Cross-Sectional Studies, History, Ancient, Longitudinal Studies, Population Dynamics, Resilience, Psychological, Social Change, Humans

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Leverhulme Trust (PLP-2019-304)
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