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SYNAPSE Zoom Seminar: Palaeodemographic advances and potential applications in the Pacific region, Clare McFadden, 12 Apr

Australian National University, Outreach, SYNAPSE

Date: 8 March 2021

SYNAPSE Zoom Seminar: Palaeodemographic advances and potential applications in the Pacific region

Speaker: Clare McFadden

When: 12 Apr 2021, 2pm-3:30pm

Where: This is an online event and will be hosted via Zoom; Login details for the Zoom event will be included in your Eventbrite registration email

Registration via Eventbrite


In this seminar talk I will describe recent advances in palaeodemographic methods and theory, and will propose potential applications in the Pacific region. Prior attempts to estimate past population dynamics in the region have been constrained by unavailability of data, methodological limitations and the use of somewhat rigid population models. Methodological advances offer the opportunity for both estimating (by proxy) and modelling past population variables in the Pacific Islands. While palaeodemography typically aims to estimate past population dynamics in the absence of historical demographic records, the deep time oral histories in the Pacific region afford the opportunity for comparison and potentially cross-validation. Demographic estimates can be integrated with cultural, environmental and biological information to explore complex and dynamic populations interactions. Further, reconstructions of the demographic past can be contrasted with post-contact accounts, with potential insights into the scale of depopulation. The diversity and value of such applications are reliant on multidisciplinary approaches.


Clare McFadden is a biological anthropologist at the ANU. Her research has focussed on refining and expanding palaeodemographic tools, with an emphasis on application to bioarchaeological samples from Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. The palaeodemographic measures which she has developed and finessed use skeletally-derived age-at-death data to estimate fertility, the rate of natural population increase, maternal mortality, and elderly age-at-death. The application of these tools has reinforced overarching regional trends in population responses to major sociocultural and technological events.

This seminar is part of SYNAPSE: The CHL trans-disciplinary seminar series

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University