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Early Paleoindian Women, Children, Mobility, and Fertility

  • Todd A. Surovell (a1)
Abstract

If we take the archaeological record at face value, the colonization of unglaciated North America appears to have been very rapid. The highly consistent dating of Clovis archaeological sites (11,500-10,800 B.P.) suggests that this continent was populated within a matter of centuries. To explain the spatial and temporal scales of this phenomenon, it is necessary to invoke both high mobility and high fertility rates during the initial colonization process. However, it is widely believed that it is maladaptive for mobile foragers to have large numbers of offspring due to the costs of transporting those children. Thus, the archaeological record presents us with a paradox. Using a mathematical model that estimates the costs of raising children for mobile hunter-gatherers, this paper asks the question-is high mobility compatible with high fertility? It is concluded that high mobility, if defined as the frequent movement of residential base camps, is quite compatible with high fertility, and that early Paleoindians could indeed have been characterized by high reproductive rates. Therefore, it is quite possible that the Americas were populated very rapidly by highly mobile hunter-gatherers.

Resumen

Si nos circunscribimos a las evidencias existentes, el poblamiento de Norteamérica parece haber sido un fenómeno bastante rápido. Los datos altamente consistentes acerca de la ocupación Clovis (11,500-10,800 A.P.) sugieren que el continente fue poblado en cuestión de siglos. El explicar la dimensión espacial y temporal de este fenómeno nos lleva a considerar altos índices de mobilidad y fertilidad durante elproceso de poblamiento inicial. Sin embargo, comúnmente se considera que, para recolectores móbiles, es inadecuado tener un número muy elevado de infantes, debido a los costos de transporte de los mismos. En ese sentido, la evidencia arqueologíca nos presenta una paradoja. A través de un modelo matemático de estimación de los costos de mantenimiento de ninos en cazadores-recolectores mobiles, este trabajo plantea la pregunta: ¿Es compatible la alta mobilidad con la alta fertilidad? Se concluye que la alta mobilidad, definida como el desplazamiento frecuente de campamentos residenciales, es bastante compatible con un alto indice de fertilidad y que los pobladores paleoindios tempranos podrian caracterizarse por altos índices reproductivos. De esta manera, es posible que América fuera poblada rapidamente por cazadores-recolectores altamente móbiles.

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