A sculptor at Palermo University has taken a 12 000 year old stone age woman’s skull and reconstructed it using techniques that are frequently used to identify crime victims.

To those of you in love with garlic and the Mediterranean diet, the University observed she died at age thirty, which was older than the average age at that time, reminding us of the New Yorker cartoon where one cave man says to another: We live in an unpolluted environment, eat organic food with lots of fiber, exercise every day, and yet we still only live to age 30. What’s wrong with us?

Of course, the “average” age in estimates doesn’t mean people lived to be only 30. It means most of the kids and babies died, but if you made it to age 12, you probably lived to be 50 or 60.

Children could die of pneumonia and other lung infections, but I suspect that then, just like now, the main reason children died was from diarrhea. (There was no malaria in Italy before the year 200 or so, when it was imported from Egypt).

However, even adults had a shorter life span due to accidents and childbearing. Even a minor accident could result in death from sepsis or tetanus–and childbearing were a major reason behind the shorter life span for adults. And after a life of hard physical work, osteoarthritis (“wear and tear” arthritis) would be common and contribute to being old by age 50.

The lady was from the “old stone age”, before the agricultural revolution started, which allowed people to have a more reliable source of food in winter time.
Remember all of this the next time someone says we should live long healthy lives like our ancestors.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is

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