Does the longevity of the Sardinian population date back to Roman times? A comprehensive review of the available evidence

Citation metadata

From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 16, Issue 1)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,620 words
Lexile Measure: 1590L

Document controls

Main content

Abstract :

The discovery early in this century of the exceptional longevity of the Sardinian population has given new impetus to demographic studies of this phenomenon during the classical period. In the 1970s, it was hypothesised that the average mortality rate in Roman Sardinia was lower than in metropolitan Rome itself, postulating an ancient precedent for the remarkable longevity observable nowadays in the island's population. In the present study, the available evidence was examined in order to test this hypothesis. Literary, juridical, epigraphic, papyrological, anthropological and archaeological sources regarding the population of the Roman Empire, including Sardinia, were retrieved by accessing Science Direct, PubMed, Scopus and Google Scholar databases, as well as regional libraries, regardless of time limitation, and were independently reviewed by the authors. For Roman Sardinia, only funerary epitaphs were retrieved, in contrast with the numerous sources available for the whole Roman Empire. Inscriptions revealing the existence of three alleged nonagenarians, two centenarians, two ultracentenarians and one supercentenarian were found, corresponding to 2% in a total of 381 inscriptions. The majority were located in a highly Romanised rural area of central-western Sardinia. However, the ages reported in the epitaphs may be inaccurate because of the influence of confounders such as age rounding, approximations and/or amplifications, and are unrelated to the total number of inhabitants. In conclusion, the funerary evidence, the only available data from Roman Sardinia, is too weak to estimate the life expectancy of the local ancient population and cannot offer valuable arguments to support the hypothesis that exceptional longevity has been a Sardinian trait since Roman times.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A647526319