Correspondence | Published:

Did agriculture reduce human lifespan?

Nature volume 409, page 131 (11 January 2001) | Download Citation



In his review1 of Clark Spencer Larsen's book Skeletons in Our Closet: Revealing the Past through Bioarchaeology, Christopher Wills concludes that “overall health was reduced by . . . the introduction of agriculture”. He notes that there is little evidence that farmers lived longer than hunter–gatherers.

In the Indian epic Ramayana2 one finds the following: “In the Golden Age, agriculture was abomination. In the Silver Age, impiety appeared in the form of the agriculture. In the Golden Age, people lived on fruits and roots that were obtained without any labour. For the existence of sin in the form of cultivation, the lifespan of people became shortened.” It is conceivable that food shortages in the pre-agricultural era produced healthier individuals because of reduced caloric intake, which is known to delay the onset of age-related pathologies and to extend the lifespan3.


  1. 1.

    Nature 406, 676–677 ( 2000).

  2. 2.

    (tr.) The Ramayana of Valmiki 602 (Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1976).

  3. 3.

    Exp. Gerontol. 35, 299–305 (2000).

Download references

Author information


  1. 3B/33 Takshila, Andheri (east), Mumbai 400 093, India

    • Narendra G. Mehta


  1. Search for Narendra G. Mehta in:

About this article

Publication history




By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing