The original impetus to write this volume emerged nearly a decade ago. It stemmed from a dissatisfaction, in fact a cognitive dissonance, between on the one hand the need to instruct graduate students in the available procedures for the reconstruction of past populations from skeletal remains, and on the other hand a profound unease at the results generated by such exercises. Fortunately it turned out that several researchers were simultaneously trying to square the same circle, and although the gestation of this book has been inordinately long, it has benefited from the insights provided by the combined endeavours of a new generation of anthropologists, archaeologists, population geneticists and biostatisticians whose research has reinvigorated the science of palaeodemography. In this book I have attempted to summarise and evaluate some of these exciting new developments, as well as to revisit some of the older and more established procedures for inferring population parameters from archaeological evidence.
Many individuals and organisations have knowingly or unwittingly contributed to the production of this book. Thanks are due first of all to the stimulating intellectual environment provided by colleagues and students at the University of Sheffield, and to the long-standing policy of the Department of Archaeology to resource periods of study leave for some of its academic staff. Some of the ideas expressed in this book have been trialled on successive cohorts of students enrolled on the Human Osteology masters training programme at the University of Sheffield.