Did ancient people manage to live to be 100 years old?

After the Industrial Revolution, which gave great impetus to the development of medicine, some people began to live to be 100 years old. According to statistics, today there are approximately 500 thousand centenarians on Earth. José Paulino Gomez was long considered the oldest person in the world, but in 2023 he died at the age of 127. In 2024, the oldest person is Maria Brañas Morera, who turned 117 in March. People manage to live a record long time thanks to the fact that today many of us have access to tasty and healthy food – if you learn to live without stress, a person can completely forget about health problems. In ancient times, many people died early, but perhaps there were long-livers among them? Scientists recently answered this question, and the answer is very interesting.

Did ancient people manage to live to be 100 years old? There were no long-livers among the Neanderthals, but more modern people could easily live to be 100 years old. Photo.

How many years did ancient people live

The authors of the scientific publication IFL Science spoke about how scientists tried to find long-livers among ancient people. Judging the life span of our distant ancestors can only be done by surviving skeletons. Sometimes it is possible to find traces of the causes of death on them – for example, in the skulls of some people there are marks from heavy blows, and on the bones there are noticeable consequences of serious diseases.

How many years did ancient people live. Skull of an ancient man. Source: dlt.ncssm.edu. Photo.

The skull of an ancient man. Source: dlt.ncssm.edu

According to the results of numerous studies, the ancestors of modern humans like Australopithecines and Neanderthals lived to a maximum of 20-23 years. When modern humans appeared in the world, the average life expectancy ranged from 31 to 39 years. Life expectancy strongly depended on whether a person survived childhood – if so, then men and women could well live to the maximum age for those times.

How many years did ancient people live? In ancient times there was a very high infant mortality rate. Source: breezyscroll.com. Photo.

In ancient times there was a very high infant mortality rate. Source: breezyscroll.com

After the 1800s, human life expectancy doubled because medicine made great strides after the Industrial Revolution. Around that time, the world's very first vaccine was invented, and scientists also discovered antibiotics to treat bacterial diseases. In addition to all this, people have at least a little, but their quality of life has improved.

Read also:The oldest person in the world died at 127 years old – who owns the new record? p>

Long-livers in ancient times

But really, not a single ancient person could live more than 100 years? The results of some studies suggest that there may well have been long-livers in the ancient world. However, due to the lack of convincing evidence, such discoveries are highly doubted.

Back in 1994, scientists studied the well-preserved graves of 300 men of Greco-Roman origin. Archaeologists were able to find the dates of their birth and death on the tombstones – judging by them, during the Roman Empire, the average life expectancy of men was 72 years. In the modern world, people also live something like this.

Long-livers in ancient times. Perhaps men in Ancient Rome lived up to 70 years. Source: arzamas.academy. Photo.

Perhaps men in Ancient Rome lived to be 70 years old. Source: arzamas.academy

Based on the headstones, the oldest person in this cemetery was 107 years old at the time of his death. If this is true, it turns out that thousands of years ago there were indeed centenarians among people. But due to the lack of convincing evidence that the man really lived for so long, scientists doubt their guesses. After all, a mistake could well have been made on the tombstone inscription.

With all this, there is an assumption that in 2500 BC there was at least one 100-year-old person living in the world. At that time, the population of the Earth was about 100 million people, and among all this multitude of men and women there could very well be a centenarian.

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The very first centenarians in the world

There is an opinion that the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Piopi II ruled for 94 years. If this is true, then he could be one of the very first centenarians in the world. But scientists believe that they simply misread the ancient inscriptions, and in fact the Egyptian king reigned for 64 years.

The very first centenarians in the world. Statuette of Queen Ankhnesmerir II and her son Pepi II. Source: Wikipedia. Photo.

Statue of Queen Ankhnesmerir II and her son Pepi II. Source: Wikipedia

The ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder, in his book Natural History, listed several more historical figures who allegedly lived for more than 100 years. For example, according to him, Terence, the wife of the Roman politician Marcus Tullius Cicero, was a 103-year-old centenarian. And Clodia, the wife of the ancient Roman lawyer Aulus Ophilius, was able to live to be 115 years old. But this information is hard to believe, because there is no evidence other than the words of Pliny the Elder.

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Today there are centenarians in almost every country. For example, during the Soviet era, Shirali Muslimov was very famous – a man who lived so long that he became a father at 137 years old. You can read more about this amazing story in our article “The Oldest Man in the USSR.”