Population and Environment

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 9–22 | Cite as

The origins of agriculture: Population growth during a period of declining health

  • George J. Armelagos
  • Alan H. Goodman
  • Kenneth H. Jacobs


The increase in the Neolithic human population following the development of agriculture has been assumed to result from improvements in health and nutrition. Recent research demonstrates that this assumption is incorrect. With the development of sedentism and the intensification of agriculture, there is an increase in infectious disease and nutritional deficiencies particularly affecting infants and children.

Declining health probably increased mortality among infants, children and oldest adults. However, the productive and reproductive core would have been able to respond to this increase in mortality by reducing birth spacing. That is, agricultural populations increased in size, despite higher mortality, because intervals between births became shorter.


Infectious Disease High Mortality Population Growth Human Population Nutritional Deficiency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • George J. Armelagos
    • 1
  • Alan H. Goodman
    • 2
  • Kenneth H. Jacobs
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Hampshire CollegeUK
  3. 3.University of MontrealCanada

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