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Old 4th January 2018, 08:25 AM
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Default ARCHAEOLOGY: Old Age In The Middle Ages

Linky says the "most of 'em dead at 40" thing is not so

Quote:
An Australian archaeologist may have debunked the myth that people in the Middle Ages did not live much past 40, by studying their teeth.

Christine Cave, a scholar at the Australian National University (ANU), developed a new method for determining how old people were when they died, based on how worn their teeth were.

And her research suggests many more people lived to a ripe old age in medieval times than previously thought.

Over a five-year period, Ms Cave examined the teeth of more than 300 people buried in Anglo Saxon English cemeteries between 475 and 625 AD.

She determined several were older than 75 when they died.

"Teeth are wonderful things. They can tell us so much about a person, they are simply marvellous," she said.

"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.

"For people living traditional lives, without modern medicine or markets, the most common age of death is about 70."

Ms Cave said up until now, older people had been largely ignored in archaeological studies because there was no accurate way to identify them beyond the age of 50.

"There are difficulties in aging older people, skeletally, because age is based on degeneration and people are very different," she said.

"You could have two old people who are the same age, and one is crippled with arthritis and can't move, while the other runs a marathon every week so there's a great variation.

"A lot of skeletal reports are quite meaningless if you're trying to study the elderly ... Effectively they don't distinguish between a fit and healthy 40-year-old and a frail 95-year-old."
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