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First European settlements in California and mortality rate in the indigenous population

A recent and controversial study has analyzed how the mortality rate of the indigenous inhabitants of California changed as a result of the beginning of the Spanish presence in the area.

The decline of indigenous populations in America after the arrival of European settlers is one of the most serious demographic collapses in human history.

However, the exact time and scale of the collapse in some regions, such as California, had not been very clear. The new study seems to definitely dispel all doubts.

The research was carried out by a team that includes Terry L. Jones, from California State Polytechnic University, and Brian F. Codding, from the University of Utah, both institutions in the United States.

To determine whether there were appreciable fluctuations in the mortality rate in the California area before and after 1769, which was when an important Spanish expedition was launched that marked the beginning of a period of greater European presence in the region, Jones and his colleagues analyzed age-at-death records for 33,715 Native Americans who lived in central California between 3050 BC and 1870 AD.The data included 10,256 records of human burials that were the subject of archaeological excavations and 23,459 records created by missionaries from Spain and preserved by the Central California missions.

A sector of California. (Photo: NASA)

Between 1770 and 1800, indigenous populations in central California exhibited a mortality profile similar to that of populations experiencing an epidemic of severe disease.

Beginning in 1770, the Indians likely had sustained contact with individuals from Spain, who established permanent settlements and missions in central California for a time.

The data from the registries also show that near the Spanish missions more women than men died.

According to the authors of the research, the findings suggest that social catastrophes caused by Spanish settlers, such as slavery, food insecurity and a huge increase in violence, increased the vulnerability of indigenous people to disease, as well as their mortality in general. .

The study is titled “Historic and bioarchaeological evidence supports late onset of post-Columbian epidemics in Native California.” And it has been published in the academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). (Source: NCYT de Amazings)

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