Ancient humans lived longer than first thought: Aussie research

Updated 2018-01-04 11:30:19 Xinhua

An Australian archaeologist has debunked the myth that ancient humans were lucky to live past the age of 40, after she discovered a new way to determine the age of skeletal remains.

For decades, researchers have thought that prior to the use of modern medicine, humans had a much shorter lifespan, but PhD candidate Christine Cave from the Australian National University (ANU) has rubbished the myth after discovering a new method by which to gauge the age-of-death of ancient humans.

In a media release published on Thursday, Cave said that age-of-death could be deduced by examining how worn down a skull's teeth were compared to modern humans of a similar age.

Cave said she examined the remains of hundreds of people buried between the years 475 and 625 and found that many lived past the age of 70.

"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 on Thursday.

"For people living traditional lives without modern medicine or markets, the most common age of death is about 70, and that is remarkably similar across all different cultures."

Cave said the myth surrounding the lower life expectancy of ancient humans grew because researchers were unsure of how to accurately determine older humans' age-of-death - something which could now be done with her method.

"When you are determining the age of children, you use developmental points like tooth eruption or the fusion of bones that all happen at a certain age," she said.

"Once people are fully grown, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine their age from skeletal remains, which is why most studies just have a highest age category of 40 plus or 45 plus."

"So effectively, they don't distinguish between a fit and healthy 40-year-old and a frail 95-year-old."

Cave said she hoped her research will allow other researchers and archaeologists the scope to give a "more accurate view" of past societies.

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