The Golden Age

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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The Golden Age

Postby Forum Monk » Fri May 30, 2008 11:10 am

Everyone has heard that longevity of humans has increased in the last few hundred years due to healthier living and better medical knowledge. Many also know that based on skeletal studies, ancient people from the fourth through the first millenium BCE probably lived an average of thirty-five years. Certainly not much of a lifetime for raising families and certainly inconsistent with the historic record passed down from the ancestors.

In egypt, ancient kings were said to have ruled at times well over 50 years:
According to Africanus quoting Manetho, Menes (Narmer) ruled 62 years and Aha 57 years. Look at the regnal lengths of these kings from the Turin Canon:
II,17: Merbiapen (Anedjib) 74 years
II,18: Semsem (Semerkhet) 72 years
II,19: Kebehu (Qa'a) 63 years
II,20:Baw-Netjer (Hotepsekhemwi) 95 years
II,21: Kakaw (Reneb) - not recorded
II,22: Banetjer (Ninetjer) 95 years
II,23: Unknown name, 54 years - may be Peribsen/Sekhemib
II,24: Sened, 70? Years

Odd for a people that lived less than 4 decades. In sumeria, we have similar lengthy reigns perserved in the Kings Lists. Sargon and his descendant Naram-Suen each ruled 56 years, Queen Kug-Bau is said to have ruled 100 years and is attested in the records of several contemporary kings over the course of multiple decades. Dumuzid and Gilgamesh were each said to have ruled over 100 years apiece. Of course there are some kings mentioned who are said to have ruled mulitple centuries. (Not family dynasties because each of the sons in turn are enumerated.)

This wiki article dismisses more recent claims of great longevity as frauds:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longevity
A remarkable statement mentioned by Diogenes Laertius (c. 250) is the earliest (or at least one of the earliest) references about plausible centenarian longevity given by a scientist. The astronomer Hipparchus of Nicea (c.185—c.120 B.C.), who, according to the doxographer, assured that the philosopher Democritus of Abdera (c.470/460—c.370/360 B.C.) lived 109 years. All other account given by the ancients about the age of Democritus, appears to, without giving any specific age, agree in the fact that the philosopher lived over 100 years. This is a possibility that turns out to be likely given, not only by the fact that many ancient Greek philosophers are thought to have lived over the age of 90 (e.g.: Xenophanes of Colophon, c.570/565—c.475/470 B.C., Pyrrho of Ellis, c.360—c.270 B.C., Eratosthenes of Cirene c.285—c.190 B.C., etc.), but also because of the difference that the case of Democritus evidences from the case of, for example, Epimenides of Crete (VII, VI centuries B.C.) of whom it is said to have lived 154, 157 or 290 years, like it has been said about countless elders even during the last centuries, as well as in present time. These cases are most likely (or at least in most cases) exaggerations, if not deliberate frauds.


China and the hebrews also have similar traditions of long life many millenia ago. Note this quotation from Josephus:
"Now when Noah had lived 35O years after the Flood, and all that time happily, he died, having the number of 95O years, but let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives...make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain so long a duration of life...
"Now I have for witnesses to what I have said all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians, for even Manetho, who wrote the Egyptian history, and Berosus, who collected the Chaldean monuments, and Mochus, and Hestiaeus, and beside these, Hiernonymus the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician history, agree with what I here say: Hesiod also, and Hecataeus, Hellanicaus, and Acuzilaus, and besides Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years: but as to these matters, let everyone look upon them as he sees fit."


Many, many mythologies from around the world speak of a golden age in which the gods ruled and lifespans of multiple centuries were the rule, not the exception. This from the Hindu Law of Manu:

79. The before-mentioned age of the gods, (or) twelve thousand (of their years), being multiplied by seventy-one, (constitutes what) is here named the period of a Manu (Manvantara).

80. The Manvantaras, the creations and destructions (of the world, are) numberless; sporting, as it were, Brahman repeats this again and again.

81. In the Krita age Dharma is four-footed and entire, and (so is) Truth; nor does any gain accrue to men by unrighteousness.

82. In the other (three ages), by reason of (unjust) gains (agama), Dharma is deprived successively of one foot, and through (the prevalence of) theft, falsehood, and fraud the merit (gained by men) is diminished by one fourth (in each).

83. (Men are) free from disease, accomplish all their aims, and live four hundred years in the Krita age, but in the Treta and (in each of) the succeeding (ages) their life is lessened by one quarter.

84. The life of mortals, mentioned in the Veda, the desired results of sacrificial rites and the (supernatural) power of embodied (spirits) are fruits proportioned among men according to (the character of) the age.

85. One set of duties (is prescribed) for men in the Krita age, different ones in the Treta and in the Dvapara, and (again) another (set) in the Kali, in a proportion as (those) ages decrease in length

86. In the Krita age the chief (virtue) is declared to be (the performance of) austerities, in the Treta (divine) knowledge, in the Dvapara (the performance of) sacrifices, in the Kali liberality alone.


The problems of reconciling the seemingly long lives of the ancients with modern scientific understanding results in a plethora of explanations, from "its exagerration" to "different time basess were used". So why did practically every culture from the old world to the new world either exaggerate their claims or failed to recognize the course of a tropical year?
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Postby kbs2244 » Fri May 30, 2008 11:37 am

I did some research into those real old ages in the OT.
The different length of a “year” argument falls apart when you look at the ages they were said to first become a father.
A common argument is that they were counting months as years.
But their fatherhood ages, often given in the same sentence as the death ages, would mean most of them were becoming fathers while still in the single digits of a solar year age. One late bloomer was around 12, but he was the exception.
I can give the verses if anyone cares.
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Postby Ishtar » Fri May 30, 2008 12:37 pm

I think this is a really interesting subject, Monk. Thanks for raising it ... it's always been something that has puzzled me too.
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Postby dannan14 » Fri May 30, 2008 12:57 pm

At least one souce on 'Coast to Coast AM', i can't remember which, claims that long life spans were due to higher oxygen levels in the past. Unfortunately i have never read of any science that can back up such a claim.

i love Coast to Coast, but so many of the guests (and most of the callers) are quacks that most of the time its a radio version of The Enquirer. :(

Beyond that i've got nothing more than maybe they used a 260 day ritual calendar like the Mayans, but it looks like kb just tore that idea to shreds.
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Postby Minimalist » Fri May 30, 2008 1:38 pm

The longer life-spans could also be due to heightened imagination.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Forum Monk » Fri May 30, 2008 1:48 pm

Normally I follow the science but in this case I am troubled by the idea the average age was 35 and somewhat less for women. (Women less because of the pressure of birthing, raising children and still gathering food.) Even if women (girls) were having babies by 14, they would not live long enough to see their children reach 'maturity' (i.e. 14). Yea, ok, maybe one or two kids.

The other troubling thing for me, is the universality of the belief. Like the flood , it is practically in every culture around the world.
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Postby dannan14 » Fri May 30, 2008 2:05 pm

Forum Monk wrote:The other troubling thing for me, is the universality of the belief. Like the flood , it is practically in every culture around the world.


That is why i can't dismiss the possibility that there aren't just stories. i think i will, for now, be content with saying that we don't know simply because no one has yet come up with a reasonable explanation for this literary phenomenon. i'm patient. i can wait a few more lifetimes before the answer is found. 8)
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Postby Minimalist » Fri May 30, 2008 2:15 pm

http://www.wonderquest.com/LifeSpan.htm

The Neanderthals were the first hominids that intentionally buried their dead. Archeologists found four adults buried in the Shanidar Cave in the Middle East. They had flowers placed over them (as detected by pollen analysis) and lived until the ages of 24, 36, 40, and 41.

The Bronze Age (2,000 to 700 B.C.) folk of Northern Europe placed their dead in pits, sometimes with a large mound marking the spot. These people arranged corpses, curled lying on a side, men on their left and women on their right, both facing south. Archeologists discovered seven such skeletons in a storage pit in Slillfried/March, lower Austria. These Bronze Age peoples died at the approximate ages of 3, 6, 8, 9, 30, 40, and 45 years.




Perhaps these weren't the "chosen people?"
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Forum Monk » Fri May 30, 2008 4:09 pm

This link contains a summary chart from one such study showing median life-spans in the 30's.

http://www.beyondveg.com/nicholson-w/an ... 4-1a.shtml

Of course some lived longer, some shorter.

Maybe kings had the good easy life and so were at the high end of the scale? I don't think so, as many died by violence.
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Postby Minimalist » Fri May 30, 2008 4:47 pm

You know what Mel Brooks said:


"It's good to be the King."
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Forum Monk » Fri May 30, 2008 5:10 pm

Tomorrow when I have time, I will post more about the golden age.
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Postby Minimalist » Fri May 30, 2008 5:13 pm

BTW, it does seem to be a virtually universal myth....almost like the flood.

I'll toss another one into the mix...I think it was VonDaniken who first made a point of it... many cultures talk about a "war" in the heavens.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby dannan14 » Fri May 30, 2008 6:37 pm

Minimalist wrote:I'll toss another one into the mix...I think it was VonDaniken who first made a point of it... many cultures talk about a "war" in the heavens.


We're all space aliens i tell you.
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Postby Minimalist » Fri May 30, 2008 7:05 pm

Image



Quiet, Earthling!
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Forum Monk » Fri May 30, 2008 7:12 pm

dannan14 wrote:We're all space aliens i tell you.


I'm not - I assure you.
8)
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