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Setting, a land apart from the world, where an immortal race of humans live. Their social culture began as egalitarian hunter gatherers. Their cells are resistant to senescence and mutation, and they have a reservoir of stem cells in their bones that replenishes their bodies if they are injured. Other than that, completely human. So women still go through menopause. How would this affect their culture?

Specifically, by the time they entered the early bronze age, in what ways would menopause cause their culture to differ from mortal human culture?

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    $\begingroup$ How resistant are they to infection and trauma? If no more than humans, their average life expectancy in bronze age would not be much higher. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 27 '20 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ They live in a isolation from other humans, have a lrage, stable genetic population, fish for meat and use slash and burn farming. No livestock and they hold bords to be sacred/unclean. They maintain a semi nomadic lifestyle. All of this greatly reduces their contact with novel diseases. Also, resistance to senescence reduces the damage done by disease. The pursuit of medicine would be a big part of their culture, but they'd be more concerned with replacing teeth. $\endgroup$
    – Eloc
    Mar 27 '20 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ You know people lived into their 70-80s at high rates as long as they survived childbirth, infancy, and childhood to the age of 15? Granted, most died during those years, and many died after, but the average life expectancy after the tender years was 60-70. And then they died because of the large amounts of damage accumulated during their lives. Which would be reveresed by the traits I've given these immortals. $\endgroup$
    – Eloc
    Mar 27 '20 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/… $\endgroup$
    – Eloc
    Mar 27 '20 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the level of certainty in this article. If life expectancy after childhood was indeed 60-70 years, most adult remains found would have been of that age. However, this is not what archeologists are finding. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 27 '20 at 18:01
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It will be a "Handmaid's tale" world

If I understand aging dynamic of your world correctly, both men and women follow traditional age trajectory with respect to their fertility, but otherwise remain perfectly healthy and strong for an indefinite amount of time.

Traditional human hunters-gatherers have only a fraction of elders among them. Those elders, while respected, in many aspects are not at the same level as young adults. They do not have enough strength to be outright leaders and males, while still fertile, can not well perform sexually.

In this new society, long-term survivors would come to dominate the tribe, both demographically and socially. Young (both children and young adults) would represent a small fraction of population and would be subservient to elders.

One important aspect of it is that older males would have an extended appetite for young females. Males, for a time significantly longer that females, would have the capability and desire to proliferate. On the other hand, young fertile females would become a "premium resource", and any chance of marrying their age mates would be denied to them.

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I would say it depends, so I am going to make certain assumptions for this answer. Those assumptions being:

  • You mean they live a REALLY long time, like 400+ years
  • They still go into menopause at the same as as mortals

If this is the case, youth might become an almost insectiod ferver of breeding. It's very sad to be 300, feeling spry, but unable to have kids. The small percentage of the population might be encouraged to have as many kids as possible, so that the older population can share the joy of communally raising them. The period of youth and fertility would be such a short time in their lives, the culture might look upon it as kind of holy, to be preserved.

On the other hand...

If you haven't been young in centuries, it might continue to get more frighting and alien to watch (we are talking old people afraid of teenagers times a hundred). If so, the culture could become extremely oppressive to youth, trying to control them as much as possible during their crazy first four decades. If population size is being tightly controlled (since resources are limited and no one dies), you might go to extreme measures to prevent breeding amongst the young.

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Your society will eventually be a small number of immortal infertile old people.

Consider old people in a culture where they are supported by their families. The old people contribute but they do not work a job or bring in food. They depend on younger people in their family to do that. The same is true for children - until they grow up they too are dependent on the breadwinners. If the breadwinners in the family die or are disabled, it is the end of the family. If there are too many old people, or children they may be more than the breadwinners can support.

Your society (here in the role of family) is supported by reproductive age individuals. Because the old do not die, reproductive age persons are increasingly in the minority.

Human societies of all sorts are prone to dieback because of famine and disease. Hunter gatherers in particular and especially those confined to an area are vulnerable to food shortages - they cannot control food quantity like agriculturists can and this keeps population density low.

Your population will occasionally suffer more deaths than usual because of famine. Your old are as durable as your young and so under this sort of stress starvation is equally probable for each individual. As reproductive age persons are a smaller and smaller percentage of the population there will come a time when a dieback takes all of them.

Your population will then be composed of all old people and it will slowly shrink because of subsequent food shortages, death from accidents and so on.

There will be a time when the land available can easily supply the remaining persons and there will be minimal death from famine. Death from accidents will be very rare too as these ancients will be extremely wise and canny, and will not make mistakes. This population could go on for a very long time.

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I note that male fertility also declines sharply in old age. It's few decades older than women who hit menopause, but whether males go through it to is a great importance.

Also remember that a hunting and gathering society needs to limit births. They can not exceed the carrying capacity of the land. Having only a small part of the female population would help with that and consequently practices that help limit it are less likely.

If both men and women can not reproduce later in life -- after fifty for women and a hundred for men, say -- then youth's the time for children. Those who do not have children while young are stigmatized for life. You can earn prerogatives by having children, and in a hunting and gathering society these will be skills that you can use later in life, creating a vicious cycle for failure.

Now, in real-life examples, women space their children several years apart. This is maintained by nursing (they are close enough to the line that that will prevent building up the fat reserves for pregnancy and so suppress ovulation) and post-partum taboos. The fertility limiting aspects of this are no longer an advantage but that a woman has a hard time wrangling two (or more!) children while gathering is still in place. Consequently, gathering will probably be carried out only by the infertile older women; women of child-bearing years work in the camp. Hunting is less limited but men of child-begetting years may be valued to endanger their lives -- and hunting skills may be one of the baits to have many children.

If, on the other hand, men are fertile through most or all of their lives, the supreme honor for excellence in life is probably being chosen to become a father. Men would vie for it. (And given they still look as good as the younger men, they have less to worry about brides who complain about giving to an old bag of bones.)

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    $\begingroup$ The difference between male impotence and female infertility however is (as far as I know), that women have a finite number of ovules (since the embryonic state). Men generate new sperm cells, which also decreases from the age of 40 on and those become less and less fertile. Yet this (and the physical causes for impotence as the inability to get hard) might be solved by immortals being "forever young" without senescence, compared to the finite number of eggs. $\endgroup$ Sep 19 '20 at 16:48
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My first idea was that without senecence menopause wouldn't be a thing at all but a woman's ovules are all pre-existing from the embryonal state on and not newly generated so human menopause would indeed occur at the same age.


I'll leave this answer here for fellow men who might think they came to the same brilliant conclusion and are about to start researching half a day and write 917 words from 7 sources about their approach just to stumble across that fact afterwards.

Thx to AlexP, whose answer I stole that information from.

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It's also important to differenciate between embryonic stem cells and the stem cells of adult humans which are found in several organs, only regenerate that particular organ and are also affected by senescenc and get weaker with aging. (Source) Heart, brain and pancreas contain few adult stemm cells and are merely regenerating as adults. (Source)

(The sources are in German, you might use Google Translate for them).

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in what ways would menopause cause their culture to differ from mortal human culture?

It will be a lot better than if these women were fertile for their whole lives. Over a lifetime, humans would have so many progeny that overpopulation would soon overwhelm them.

I surmise that, in your scenario, young people would simply want their turn at life and would resort to killing people who lived too long.

In the long term, long-lived people would be selected against and eventually the trait would die out. This is what nature does already - it makes way for the next generation.

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