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Darryl Holman's Research: Paleodemography

djholman@u.washington.edu

My research in historical demography and paleodemography is aimed at understanding health, mortality, and population processes in the past. I share with many anthropologists a deep interest in how technological innovations (e.g. stone tools, agriculture) changed our species. Demographic changes may follow from these cultural changes and, at the same time, demographic changes may lead to development and deployment of new technologies. The high rate of population growth experienced by contemporary humans is a demographic anomaly-for most of our past, growth rates have remained, on average, close to zero. Yet nearly everything we know about human population dynamics comes from observations taken over a brief (100 or 200 year) demographically anomalous period. Paleodemography, and to some extent historical demography, can provide alternative ways to investigate the demographic regimes and dynamics of populations that characterize most of our species' past.

Paleodemography has had a turbulent couple of decades. Methodological difficulties of recovering health and demographic information from skeletal samples have caused some researchers to proclaim the field dead. But over the last decade, a number of researchers have begun to develop new methods that attempt to overcome the limitations. For a number of years, I have worked with other paleodemographers on recovering age-at-death distributions (O'Connor and Holman 1995), somatic growth rates (Konigsberg and Holman 1999) and estimating population growth rates (Holman et al. 1997, 1998) from skeletal samples. We participated in a series of workshops on mathematical modeling for paleodemography, sponsored by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. Participants met at three workshops to discuss problems and develop solutions to a number of thorny paleodemographic problems. Our contributions to this effort included developing new statistical methods for estimating age-at-death distributions from multiple imperfect age indicators (Holman et al. 1999, 2000a, 2002a, 2002b), a method to recover population growth rates from paleodemographic observations (Holman et al. 1997, 1998; Wood et al. 2002), and a new parametric model of human mortality (O'Connor et al. 1997; Wood et al. 2002). Our current and future work in this area includes investigating mortality biases in paleodemographic samples (Holman et al., submitted), and applying the age-at-death distribution method to a number of demographic samples.

References cited

  • Holman DJ, O'Connor KA, Wood JW, Boldsen JL (1997) Correcting for nonstationarity in paleodemographic mortality models. American Association of Physical Anthropologists, St. Louis, 3-5 Apr. Abstract: American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 24:132.
  • Holman DJ, O'Connor KA, Wood JW, Boldsen J (1998) Estimating population growth rates from skeletal samples. American Anthropological Association, Philadelphia, 2-6 Dec.
  • Holman DJ, Wood JW, O'Connor KA. (1999) Estimating age-at-death distributions from skeletal samples: A multivariate latent trait approach. Workshop on Mathematical Modeling for Palaeodemography: Coming to Consensus. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, 9-11 Jun.
  • Holman DJ, Wood JW, O'Connor KA (2000a) Estimating age-at-death distributions from skeletal samples: A multivariate latent trait approach. Follow-up Workshop on Human Longevity in the Past: New Approaches to Reconstructing Prehistoric Mortality. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research 4-5 Aug.
  • Holman DJ, O'Connor KA, Jones RE. (submitted) Assessing biological mortality bias in deciduous tooth emergence. submitted
  • Holman DJ, O'Connor KA and Wood JW. (2002b) Estimating age-at-death distributions from skeletal samples: A multivariate latent trait approach. In Hoppa RD and Vaupel JW (eds.) Paleodemography: Age Distributions from Skeletal Samples. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 222-242.
  • Holman DJ, Usher B, Milner G, Boldsen J, Konigsberg L (2002c) Empirical and simulation study of the multivariate latent trait method. Third International Workshop on Future Directions in Paleodemography, Max Planck Institute, Rostock Germany, June 6-8.
  • Konigsberg L, Holman DJ (1999) Estimation of age at death from dental emergence and implications for studies of prehistoric somatic growth. In Hoppa RD and Fitzgerald CM (eds.) Human Growth in the Past: Studies from Bones and Teeth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 264-289.
  • O'Connor KA, Holman DJ (1995) Comparison of maximum likelihood and Bayesian tooth age-at-death distributions. American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Oakland, 31 Mar. Abstract: American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Suppl. 20, pg. 163.
  • Wood JW, Holman DJ, O'Connor KA and Ferrell RJ. (2002) Models of human mortality. In Hoppa RD and Vaupel JW (eds.) Paleodemography: Age Distributions from Skeletal Samples. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 129-168.



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