Estimating Age without Measuring it: A New Method in Paleodemography
To estimate the structure of past populations by age at death, with only biological indicators available, paleodemographers have developed several methods that rely on a reference population whose biological indicators and ages at death are known. First, we examine these approaches with their underlying assumptions, and show their weaknesses. To remedy these shortcomings, we propose a new statistical method that provides a more reliable estimate of the age distribution of deaths. It is a Bayesian method, whose principle and practical use involve choosing a prior distribution, determining a posterior distribution, and applying credibility intervals. A simulation-based comparison with earlier methods shows the clear superiority of our approach, which we then apply to actual archaeological data. The article concludes with an overview of the main advantages of the proposed method: flexibility and efficiency.