Did Many People Reach Old Age before the Development of Modern Medicine?

People are living longer these days, primarily because medical care has advanced so significantly. Nevertheless, an archaeologist studying skeletal remains in England says that you shouldn’t believe the common assumption that lifespans in early medieval times lasted only 40 years or so. Christine Cave of the Australian National University studied the teeth of more than 300 people in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, dating from 475 AD to 625 AD, and found the remains of several people who were older than 75 when they died.

Rethinking an old assumption:

  • Cave, a PhD scholar, developed a unique method of determining an individual's age at the time of death based on how worn the teeth were, compared to living populations of comparable cultures.

  • “People sometimes think that in those days, if you lived to 40, that was about as good as it got. But that's not true,” Cave said.

  • In addition, Cave found that younger individuals tended to be buried with high-status items -- jewelry for women and weapons for men -- while older people were interred much more simply.

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More Info: ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Discuss this Article

Post 2

I agree with anon999563.

In any society at a certain time, there were long-lived people but they did not present the majority.

Post 1

I would like to know a value for 'several'! Three people would be 1 percent, and 30 would be 10 percent. In order to be buried in a known place like a cemetery you had to be famous or wealthy. 'Joe Slave' was buried by his family or fed to the animals. No reason to bury the unworthy. Reaching past 60 would probably be only for those that had the means and the luck to not get killed.

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