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Family Size, Prehistoric Population Estimates, and the Ancient Maya

  • William A. Haviland (a1)

Current interest among anthropologists in population size as a major independent variable makes it likely that attempts will be made to estimate the size of populations resident at various prehistoric sites at particular points in time in Mesoamerica. Such estimates are likely to depend on some notion of the average number of people resident in a single house. The problem of arriving at such a statistic is illustrated for the Classic Maya site of Tikal, Guatemala. A consideration of demographic data from Tikal and modern Yucatán Maya communities, as well as information on household composition in sixteenth century Yucatán are reviewed which suggests that it is best to assume that each individual dwelling within a prehistoric household group at Tikal was inhabited by an average of 5 people. This requires some slight modification of previously published population estimates for Tikal and Mayapan, which relied on a base figure of 5.6 people per house.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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