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18 May 2011
Debate continues over growth of Aboriginal population

A great debate is under way following the use of a new mathematical model, which has been used to predict the growth pattern of the native Australian Aboriginal population, in the time prior to the arrival of Europeans.
     The model's author is ecologist Professor Christopher Johnson of the University of Tasmania. His paper was accepted by the Royal Society back in April and is published online this week. He contends that the previous use of radiocarbon dating to predict population growth is flawed as it does not take into account loss of evidence from older sites. He claims that his mathematical model, developed in conjunction with Professor Barry Brook of the University of Adelaide, has allowed for this and he predicts that the Aboriginal population growtrh throughout the Holocene, was exponential i.e. increasing at an increasing rate, quoting a growth rate increase from 10% to 40% per 1,000 years, over the last 10,000 years.
     One of the most vehement opponents to this theory is archaeologist Doctor Sean Ulm of James Cook University. He claims that the model does not take into account regional variability and that the research was focused on rock shelters, whilst ignoring settlements in open sites. What is certain is that this debate has a long way to run yet.

Edited from ABC Science (11 May 2011)

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