During the Mesolithic period, men were predators (hunters - fishers - gatherers). In the Neolithic period, they became food producers (farmers - stock-breeders). This change entailed a completely different relation to nature. The use of naturally occuring plant resources was replaced by agricultural production and resources were optimised by using gradually more sophisticated farming techniques:

  • selection of seeds and domestic animals,
  • leaving land fallow, essarting and burning,
  • livestock wintering and food storage.

This new way of life was much more demanding (especially in terms of time), but it allowed many more people to be fed on a given territory.

Population changes in the territory France occupies today are illustrated below:

  • 15 to 20,000 inhabitants in the Upper Paleolithic (approximately 0.03 inhabitants per km2),
  • 50 to 75,000 inhabitants in the Mesolithic (approximately 0.1 inhabitants per km2),
  • 50,000 to 1 million inhabitants in the Middle Neolithic (1 to 2 inhabitants per km2, but with more densely populated areas alongside uninhabited areas),
  • 5 to 10 million inhabitants at the end of the Iron Age (the height of primitive farming, before the beginning of urban development), i.e. 10 to 20 inhabitants per km2,
  • 60 million inhabitants today, a "post-industrial", essentially urban population. But the density of the less-populated rural areas is sometimes lower than during the Iron Age.
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Swamping - current shelling in French Guiana.

Number of hectares per inhabitant.