One of the examined skulls of the Cro-Magnon humans (image: PNAS)
Reading aloud People are not getting old for long: it was only about 30, 000 years ago that life expectancy rose dramatically, American anthropologists have discovered. Rachel Caspari of Ann Arbor University and Sang-Hee Lee of the University of Riverside, PNAS (online pre-publication, doi / 10.1073 / pnas.0402857101), have found ways to develop more lifelike, elderly people in the community ). The researchers studied more than 750 fossil remains of humans in consecutive time periods. Based on the teeth, they determined the age of the individuals and thus the ratio of young and old adults. When old they defined individuals that were at least twice as old as the age at which sexual maturity began. In this period of life usually come the wisdom teeth. In the course of evolution, more and more people reached a higher age, the scientists found out. At the end of the Paleolithic there was an increase in the lifespan, which was much larger than the previous climbs.

This trend has probably contributed significantly to the population grew and cultural innovations emerged, write Caspari and Lee. Thanks to older, more experienced people, the early modern man could accumulate more information and pass it on from generation to generation. Social ties and relationships have also been strengthened by reaching the higher age. For example, grandparents can help with the education of grandchildren. "Significant longevity came late in human evolution, " the authors said. "The benefits must have somehow outweighed the shortcomings and diseases of old age."

ddp / bdw? Cornelia Dick-Pfaff

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