Migration Muddles in Prehistory

Susan R. Frankenberg and Lyle W. Konigsberg

in Rethinking Anthropological Perspectives on Migration

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780813036076
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041780 | DOI:
Migration Muddles in Prehistory

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This chapter assesses how migration patterns can be detected in bioarchaeological and paleoanthropological contexts. Using quantitative genetic models and simulation methods, it demonstrates that past migration has a small or undetectable biological effect when population or migrant numbers are small, migration is a single event, and/or genetic drift has a long time to operate. The examples stress the need for clearly defined testable models of how population characteristics behave under various migration scenarios. The chapter argues that model-bound analyses of prehistoric population structure best evaluate competing ideas about past migration because they explain biological variation in terms of clear, mathematically defined processes without traditional hypothesis-testing frameworks and ad hoc explanations.

Keywords: migration models; prehistoric population structure; quantitative genetic models; simulation methods

Chapter.  4752 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology

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