An evaluation of modelled estimates for C release following early land clearance at the global level based on new model assumptions suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated its magnitude, chiefly because of underestimation of the mid-Holocene global population. Alternative information sources for population and land utilisation support both a greater total CO2 release and a greater Neolithic contribution. Indeed, we show that the quantity of terrestrial C release due to early farming, even using the most conservative assumptions, greatly exceeds the net terrestrial C release estimated by inverse modelling of ice core data by Elsig et al. (Elsig J, Schmitt J, Leuenberger D, Schneider R, Eyer M, Leuenberger M et al. ( 2009) Stable isotope constraints on Holocene carbon cycle changes from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 461: 507-510), though uncertainty about past global population estimates precludes calculation of a precise value.