This article is within the scope of WikiProject History, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of the subject of History on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Archaeology, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Archaeology on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Paleodemography should NOT be mingled with historical demography as most of the work done in paleodemography is carried out on prehistoric populations, not historic ones. Much like forensic anthropology, paleodemography offers methods that could be taken up by a number of other fields but you don't see bioarchaeologists conflating themselves as forensic anthropologists. The goal and the emphasis of the disciplines are different.
John J Crandall (talk) 20:28, 18 July 2009
Undergraduate Representative-at-Large, National Association of Student Anthropologists 2008-2010
I agree with Mr. Crandall, for one very simple reason: the study of the past ≠ history; the study of the past > history. It is not uncommon for different disciplines to share common interests (for example, sociology and sociocultural anthropology), and obviously archaeology and history share a common concern for the human past, but these two fields of inquiry have been separated from each other in academic institutions for well over a century, for a few good reasons. First, while the two are interested in understanding (describing, explaining) the human past, their respective means of approaching the past are not identical: historiography reposes on the historical (in other words, documentary) record, while archaeology reposes on the archaeological (in other words, non-documentary, material) record. Where the two fields can be brought together, there is often a great opportunity for much richer interpretations of the past than where only the archaeological record exists. This complimentarity should never be made light of, and historical archaeologists certainly tend to be somewhat well-versed in the history of their study areas and vice versa. At worst, the two can be antagonistic, drawing attention to discrepancies of interpretation based on the documentary vs. the material record.
But the fact remains that archaeologists and historians are very different creatures by training. Doing historiography involves reading documents critically, not at face value, understanding that the authors of historical texts have biases which may represent different aspects of the past with greater or lesser accuracy. Doing archaeology, on the other hand, involves working with the highly fragmentary material residues of past human activity, which from the outside might seem like educated guesswork or just plain speculation (though as an archaeologist by training, I wholly reject this outlook).
The second point of departure is that, at least in the United States, most archaeology programs are taught as a subfield within anthropology departments, whereas history programs tend to stand alone, as their own departments. Anthropological archaeologists are very much interested in understanding human nature and the human condition in a cross-cultural context alongside their linguistic, biological, and sociocultural anthropology colleagues, whereas historiography often (though certainly not exclusively) tends to take a very particularistic stance on specific periods and study areas. This second point is the weaker of the two, because certain strains of anthropology have assumed particularistic outlooks as well, while many strains of historiography have taken an interest in identifying and explaining common patterns in the human past. Nevertheless, the two fields do tend to tend towards the opposite ends of the generality-particularity spectrum.
The problem is confounded by the fact that demography has regularly defied disciplinary bounds. Formal demography emerged in sociology in the early- to mid-20th century, but it "left home" rather quickly thereafter. At the University of Washington, where I am working on my graduate research in archaeology, the closest thing we have to a demography department is the Center for the Study of Demography and Ecology (CSDE), which brings together faculty and students from bioanthropology, archaeology, sociology, and a handful of other disciplines. No graduate program in demography exists under the CSDE, per se. Instead, graduate students from different disciplines may hold fellowships which the CSDE offers, coming together for CSDE seminars, but completing their demographic research in their home department. In such a multidisciplinary context, where researchers with convergent research interests but divergent formal training and different bodies of evidence come together, drawing institutional lines is admittedly difficult. Should all demographers who have an interest in past demographic processes be lumped together under a single heading on that account, including historians, archaeologists, and genomic scientists? Or should they continue to reside in their own disciplines because they are trained to work with very different bodies of evidence but come together in multidisciplinary settings to share notes? My preference is for the latter, though admittedly this is because this is the system with which I am familiar and comfortable. In any case, if they are to be brought together under one heading, it most certainly should not be "historical demography," because the adjective "historical" is a poor fit for what archaeological and genomic demographers do. I have never once attempted to use church registries, ancient censuses, birth records, death records, etc. to reconstruct past population dynamics, and am not well-versed in how to establish quality control protocols to control for the shortcomings which confront these data sets. I suspect that a historical demography would similarly be ill-equipped to handle human or hominin bones or temporal frequency distributions of archaeological sites in a demographically informative way. Neither we archaeological demographers nor our colleagues in historical demography would be very useful in the labs of genomic demographers (though we are well-versed in some of the basic vocabulary of genomic demography ... "most recent common ancestor (MRCA)," "population bottleneck," and the like). Perhaps there would be some value in lumping archaeological demographers (Bocquet-Appel, Chamberlain, etc.), historical demographers, and genomic demographers under some common heading owing to our shared interest in past demographic processes, but "historical demography" is certainly not a reasonable candidate for such an overarching affiliation. Paleodemography seems similarly inappropriate, because the prefix "paleo-" typically refers not to the whole past, but rather to the deep past, and would perhaps best apply to the work of demographically interested paleoanthropologists and genomic demographers working on pre-H. sapiens hominins.
B.A., History and Philosophy 2000; M.A., Archaeology 2008
Valid points, I removed the merge notice. I'd also like to invite both of you to register an account and help us develop this and related subjects. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 19:19, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
Folks, I don't know if this is the place to report this or not, but as I understand it Wikipedia does not display advertisements. When I hover over the word "unavailable" in this article, it appears to be a hyperlink and pops up an ad window. I took a screenshot and uploaded it to my website.