Optimal foraging theory, epidemics, and demographic collapse in Alta California

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 13:45
, Jacob - California State University, Sacramento

In western North America, prehistoric increases in human population densities frequently corresponds with resource depression of large game and a greater dependency on high cost resources, as predicted by optimal foraging models. These models similarly predict that when human population densities decline significantly, there should be a rebound in large game populations due to the relaxation of hunting pressures. This pattern of resource intensification and subsequent rebound of large game has been identified at Kathy’s Rockshelter in northern California. The timing of the rebound at circa AD 1478-1642 corresponds with the initial European exploration of the coast, suggesting that the pattern may represent a protohistoric demographic collapse of Native California populations due to the spread of epidemics into the interior.