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Older & Wiser

Fossil records show that societies do better if there areold folks around, and scientists think they know why.

Will Knight writes in New Scientist that seniors played animportant role in the spread of human civilization 30,000years ago, according to a new study of the human fossilrecord. Researchers Rachel Caspari and Sang-Hee Lee studieddental fossils belonging to early humans and pre-humanspecies dating back 3 million years, in order to judge theirages. In those days, you were "old" at age 30. There wereseveral kinds of pre-humans but only one of them lastedlonger enough to become the ancestors of modern man. Thedifference may have been the number of seniors.

The researcher found five times as many people aged 30 orolder in the period of rapid population growth of modernhumans, around 30,000 years ago. "In the Upper Paleolithicthe proportion just skyrocketed," Caspari says. "It was justunbelievable. We didn't expect that."

Anthropologists think seniors played an important role inthe development of early human societies by providing extracare for children, keeping and passing on acquired wisdomand strengthening family bonds, which is pretty much whatthey do today. Older, infertile women were especiallyimportant and not just extra mouths to feed.

This news is especially interesting in light of the recentnews that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is actuallydetrimental to the health of older women, a finding thatgreatly surprised researchers. Perhaps women's bodies areprogrammed to play a new role after menopause, making this apositive development rather than a negative one which needsto be treated medically.

Caspari says, "There has been a lot of speculation aboutwhat gave modern humans their evolutionary advantage. Thisresearch provides a simple explanation for which there isnow concrete evidence: modern humans were older and wiser."

If there was ever a woman who was underestimated, it'sMaryMagdalene. Learn the truth about her incredible life fromthe ex-nun who was brave enough to discoverit.

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