What was the age distribution in the Bronze Age? How do I find out?

  • I've seen citations "around" (encyclopedias and wikipedia) that say the life expectancy in the Bronze Age was around 26
  • yet this number has to be skewed low due to higher infant mortality rates

So my question is basically:

Q: if you are living in a Bronze Age village, how old are your various neighbors?

  • 1
    Are you sure that the 26 age doesn't include infant mortality? Citations would improve the question, but I'm impressed by the question.
    – MCW
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 18:55
  • The usually definition of "life expectancy" only leaves out children who died in the first year after birth (to avoid taking into account death due to malformations and similar). So the 26 figure should already take into account child (>1 year) mortality.
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 18:58
  • Interesting! I really don't know, unfortunately. My question is still basically the same, however! Any ideas? Commented May 30, 2016 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


You can't expect any stable shape of the distribution throughout the Bronze Age. Just look at the distribution of age in the recent 110 years:

enter image description here

They're completely different in 1910, 2005, and 2025 (projected). The Bronze Age lasted for thousands of years and things were at least as unsafe and unstable as during the 20th century. You may get some reasonable idea if you take any distribution relevant for the contemporary eras and divide all ages by 3 or so.

  • The last few centuries have been rather exceptional in the demographic aspect; from demographic explosion to great wars and finally an elderly society. For the Bronze Age you would get almost no population increase, high mortality at all ages but specially at infance and the occasional effects of a drought; all of this would point to the first model (but noticeably "lower")
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 18:55
  • @SJuan76: I think the first distribution (1910) is due to (1) public health in cities, such as water and sanitary sewer, as well as vaccinations for small pox, etc. (2) improvements in food supply due to trains and steam powered ships, (3) improved living conditions. These are all recent improvements, mostly post-1850. The bronze age would look more like demographics from 1500 than 1900. Commented May 26, 2016 at 22:11
  • Lubos, point taken about trying to characterize several thousand years of history, but I'll settle for a solid single example. Do you have one? Commented May 30, 2016 at 4:30

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