Bayesian Demography As A New Tool For Prehistoric Population Estimates

Hinz, Martin; Hafner, Albert (7 September 2019). Bayesian Demography As A New Tool For Prehistoric Population Estimates (Unpublished). In: 25th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists. Bern. 04. - 07.09.2019.

In order to understand human-environment relationships in the past and the dynamics of socio-ecological systems, it is essential to have a robust estimate of population sizes. Size and density of population are crucial factors for the reconstruction of group sizes, the character and range of political institutions for social organization, the constraints and possibilities of economic practice, the number of people available for collective activities, for economic and social exchange systems, and the creation and maintenance of collective identities. And, of course, the human impact on the environment. Most estimates of population sizes currently work on limited spatial scales or use proxies that hardly allow for absolute numbers (e.g. sum calibration). The figures in the archaeological discourses on population density in general currently come from vague sources and are often decades old. In demography in general, the last decade has triggered an upswing in the application of Bayesian methods, so that a Bayesian demography has been announced. Bayesian demography is currently at the forefront of methodological developments in this area, but has reached such maturity that the United Nations has been using it since 2015 for population forecasts and projections. The Bayesian approach offers the possibility of combining heterogeneous data and at the same time qualifying them in terms of uncertainty and credibility. This is precisely where it becomes very interesting for archaeological data, since they are mostly inaccurate, biased, sparse, simplified and often based on simplistic assumptions. In this contribution, issues and possibilities of the application of Bayesian demography in the field of archaeological (prehistoric) population size and density estimation will be discussed and the results of a pilot study will be presented, which should lead to a more comprehensive project for the reconstruction of demographic developments in prehistory on a large scale.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Pre- and Early History

UniBE Contributor:

Hinz, Martin and Hafner, Albert


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)




Martin Hinz

Date Deposited:

20 Apr 2020 15:51

Last Modified:

20 Apr 2020 15:51


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