Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Aboriginal Population Reconstructions - 5000 BP-first contact

According to Chris Johnson (Source 1) a rough estimate has put the Aboriginal population of Australia at about 1 million at the time Europeans arrived in Australia, and possibly about 250,000 at 10,000 BP. The reason for a growth of population is debated; one assumption being that the environment was improving. Johnson thinks this is unlikely. He says that any climatic change would most likely be in the opposite direction, towards a harsher climate, with less rainfall and more droughts, and generally more difficult for humans to flourish.

He suggests any population growth must have been intrinsic to what people were doing, such as reorganising their societies and some land management practices. Prehistoric population trends have been reconstructed by the use of radiocarbon dating of the evidence found at occupation sites, the assumption being that the population size could be estimated by the amount of evidence at the sites. Evidence lost from the older sites would cause the population at younger sites to be overrepresented, leading to uncertainty of the actual population growth, as opposed to the apparent growth. A model was designed by Johnson and Barry Brook to show how frequently occupation sites were abandoned, and how soon evidence was lost from such abandoned sites, the model showing apparent population increases through time. They concluded that this was not the cause of observed population increases in Australia, after running data through various simulations.

According to Johnson, actual population growth more appropriately explains the observed increase, the increase being slow at 10,000-5,000 BP and accelerating in the last 5000 years to first contact.

Johnson said "Our results imply that Aboriginal societies and cultures were dynamic and changing before the arrival of Europeans".

See Stone Tools, possible influence on population estimates from archaeological sites.

See Aboriginal Occupation of Greater Australia

Sources & Further reading

  1. Johnson, Christopher N. & Brook, Barry W,. Reconstructing the dynamics of ancient human populations from radiocarbon dates: 10 000 years of population growth in Australia, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 11 May 2011.
  2. Gough, Myles, Prehistoric Aboriginal Populations were growing, Cosmos Magazine Oline, 11 May 2011
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated 28/09/2013



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