Life Span of Ancient Man
Q: I've frequently heard that our ancestors lived fairly short lives: only 40 years or so. BUT I've also heard the
notion is bunk, because high infant mortality brings the average down. Most people WHO MADE IT TO
ADOLESCENCE could expect to live to 70 or 80 just like today. So, which is it? --B. R., Buffalo, NY.
A: Our long-ago ancestors lived rather short lives, even discounting high infant mortality. Before 1900, few lived to see
70 and practically no one lived for 80 years.
Right: Adult male Neanderthal who lived 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. Discovered in Israel by Hisashi Suzuki.
W.J. MacLennan and W. I. Sellers investigated aging through the ages and published their findings in the "Proceedings of
the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh" in 1999. Their report started with Neanderthals.
The Neanderthals were the first hominids that intentionally buried their dead. Archeologists found four adults buried in the
Shanidar Cave in the Middle East. They had flowers placed over them (as detected by pollen analysis) and lived until the
ages of 24, 36, 40, and 41.
The Bronze Age (2,000 to 700 B.C.) folk of Northern Europe placed their dead in pits, sometimes with a large mound
marking the spot. These people arranged corpses, curled lying on a side, men on their left and women on their right, both
facing south. Archeologists discovered seven such skeletons in a storage pit in Slillfried/March, lower Austria. These
Bronze Age peoples died at the approximate ages of 3, 6, 8, 9, 30, 40, and 45 years.
The Scots from the Iron Age (700 to 0 B.C.) buried their dead in cists or stone chests. Recently scientists excavated nine
skeletons in Scotland from the Iron Age (700 to 0 B.C.). These people died at ages of about 10, 19, 30, 35, 40, and 45.
Three, however, lived past 45.
Anglo-Saxons back in the Early Middle Ages (400 to 1000 A.D.) lived short lives and were buried in cemeteries, much like Englishmen today. Field workers
unearthed 65 burials (400 to 1000 A.D.) from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in England and found none who lived past 45.
Kings did better. The mean life expectancy of kings of Scotland and England, reigning from 1000 A.D. to 1600 A.D. were 51 and 48 years, respectively.
Their monks did not fare as well. In the Carmelite Abbey, only five percent survived past 45.
The royal court, however, managed about as well as their kings, according to the UK & Ireland Genealogical Information Service. The 23 men reported on
lived an average of 49 years; only one lived into his 70s (71). All of these men, by the way, lived past adolescence so infant mortality does not bring the
Another royal court (20 men), born later (from 1600 to 1899 A.D.) lived an average of 62 years. These men also lived past adolescence (earliest death at 36).
Five men lived into their 70s but none into their 80s although John Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, lived to 79.
- i respectfully disagree with your statements in regards with life spans
before 1900s. you stated 'Before 1900, few lived to see 70 and practically no
one lived up to 80 years of age."
the reason i refused to agree with you is because as we all know Plato died at
age 84 and Aristotle died at age 62, Thomas Reid died age 86 and Galileo lived
to be 77 Issac Newton 84 and all these famous figures died before 1900. i
could name at least 10 more famous people who lived to be 60-80 years of
age.in-fact heres list of people who lived before 1900 and you can do the math
and see what the average life span of those people were and im sure you'll see
its nothing like what the investigation of W.J. MacLennan and W. I. Sellers
has proven. Sean, Toronto, Ontario, Canada