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Central Europe’s Stone Age population could have filled a mid sized cruise ship

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According to a recent study during certain periods of the Stone Age in central Europe there could have been only 1,500 people.  So as to put this figure into perspective, it is roughly the amount of people who can travel on a mid sized cruise ship. 

In Central Europe there are now more than 700 million inhabitants.  However this area of land was not always as populated.  Two researchers, Isabell Schmidt and Andreas Zimmermann from the University of Cologne in Germany have tried to establish the European demographic several thousand years ago.  However this is no easy task. Focusing on archaeological evidence and model populations, these researchers have tried to calculate the number of people living in the Central European area during the Stone Age.  The details of the study were published in the journal PLOS one.

Believed to be 1,500 people spread out over 1.5 million km squared

The researched area covers the land between Spain and Poland on a west/east axis and the area from north to south between Denmark and Italy. (See map below)  Researchers wanted to estimated the number of people living in this territory about 42,000 to 33,000 years ago.  In order to this, researchers mapped about 400 archaeological sites known to have been occupied by our ancestors during this period.  The researchers identified 13 regions (Core Areas) occupied by groups in this territory. This included northern Spain, SW France and Belgium.

Table.3 Population numbers and densities calculated for the Aurignacian Core Areas, The Core Area Population Density is given in persons per 100 km2. Credit: Population dynamics and socio-spatial organization of the Aurignacian: Scalable quantitative demographic data for western and central Europe
Isabell Schmidt Andreas Zimmermann

Researchers calculated population sizes during this time period using ethno-historic data on group size.  They did this by multiplying the calculated number of groups (min, max, mean) by the group size. A group size is roughly around 42 hunter and gatherers.  Using these calculations researchers estimated that there could have been a population of 1,500 people (with a range of 900 to 3,800 people) occupying  Central Europe.  These results suggest that there was very small population of hunter gatherers in comparison to today’s population.

Stone age
Credits : Wikimedia Commons

These estimations are based on incomplete archaeological data and so of course do not give us an exact understanding of the population size of Central Europe during this period.  Nevertheless this study does give us an understanding of Europe’s demographic during this period.  Researchers discovered that there there were higher density populations in the south west of France with an average of 437 people living in this Core Area.  The north of Spain estimated to have a population of around 264 people, Belgium 218 people and Danube 140 people.  According to this research, these areas look to be “hubs” of population in Stone Age Central Europe.  (See the map below)

Core Areas
Mapping of the demographic estimates for the Aurignacian (sites: class 1) within the TAC. Core Areas (red lines) are shown together with population density estimates, including ranges Credit: Population dynamics and socio-spatial organization of the Aurignacian: Scalable quantitative demographic data for western and central Europe:
Isabell Schmidt, Andreas Zimmermann

Source, PLOS

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