To determine the head count in Australia’s founding population, Williams compiled the most complete estimate to date of the continent’s prehistoric population. He turned to a database of 5000 cooking pits, human burials, shell heaps, and charcoal deposits. All were from Australian archaeological sites, and all had been assigned a date using radiocarbon dating methods. As the human population grows, the number of archaeological sites and artifacts available for radiocarbon dating grows, too. That makes radiocarbon dates a yardstick of population, or so think Williams and some other researchers who employ this technique.
Story: Traci Watson, Science Magazine | Photo: Alan Williams