It’s not easy to study the elderly in a society where life was all too often cut short by disease, childbirth and injuries. But new research on people living in the Bronze Age suggests the elderly began to gain power over a 600-year period in Austria.
The findings rely on skeletal aging and a comparison of objects placed in graves of individuals of different ages. As time passed in the small farming hamlets of lower Austria, researchers reported online July 15 in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, older men began to be buried with copper axes, a privilege not granted to younger men. That might indicate that in some ancient societies, the elders were in charge, said study researcher Jo Appleby, a research fellow in archaeology and anthropology at the University of Cambridge.
"It also shows that within the past there was change in one small area in quite a limited time period," Appleby told LiveScience. "We can’t assume that the elderly will have good status or bad status in any given context." Read more.