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VAE VICTUS
09-05-2005, 08:13
why were people shorter in ancient times?diet,whatever,anyone know?
im 6'7 and i was in an western american fort and the doors werent even to my shoulders.it sucked,had to duck into everything.also some suits of armor look quite short.

AntiochusIII
09-05-2005, 08:17
Nutrition. The ancient people can't be picky about their food - they already had enough worries about famine to be so - and those who could be picky (rich people; nobles, basically) didn't have the knowledge of nutrition, anyway.

Rodion Romanovich
09-05-2005, 09:50
Looking at roman food customs, I'm not sure that's the entire explanation. Roman food was very similar to later Italian food.

I don't know any other explanation than malnutrition though.

But seeing that some pharaos, particularly Pepi I think, lived over 90 years, malnutrition perhaps wasn't a problem in some ancient civilizations. If you can live long, then you can also be a little taller, perhaps.

Another explanation could be that Europe was overrun by the "northern barbarians" who very a lot taller, perhaps because being taller was important when hunting mammoths, but being tall wasn't necessary for those who lived further south where there weren't any mammoths, but slightly smaller animals. Mixing of those with shorter people resulted in slightly taller people. Some sources claim many of the "barbarians" were taller than modern average length. As the "barbarians" often lacked armor, most armor samples we look at today are from greeks and romans, so this theory is possible. Today, most peoples in Europe are a mix of earlier Mediterranean peoples and the "barbarians".

But that doesn't explain people being taller in the rest of the world today than during the ancient period. Perhaps it's a combination of malnutrition and taller tribes mixing with shorter, with different combinations of the two in different regions.

People being shorter during the Middle ages and up to around 1900 can at least be explained by the fact that we know that knowledge of nutrition of the time was limited, and work was very hard for most people. So the shortness at that time wasn't of a genetical, but rather an environmental, kind.

Longshanks
09-05-2005, 13:43
It has to do with nutirition. Modern Japanese people for example, are frequently taller than WW2 era Japanese because of diet. The difference is that Japanese people consume more beef, pork and dairy products than they did 50 years ago.

Kraxis
09-05-2005, 14:07
It has to do with nutirition. Modern Japanese people for example, are frequently taller than WW2 era Japanese because of diet. The difference is that Japanese people consume more beef, pork and dairy products than they did 50 years ago.
Nutrition can indeed have a most serious impact. As the case of Japanese and Chinese clearly show. They are almost at our hight now.
But the last 50 years we have grown too, in fact I know several people at the age of 30+ and I'm myself 25, so I know a lot of people at around 20 too. It is clear, the younger people are indeed taller. My brother who turns 32 in a few days was a tall man when he was younger (his class photos are obvious pointers), but now he is hardly taller than the average. I'm slightly shorter and I was the perfect average when I was a teenager, now I'm shorter. It is in fact rather disturbing to me. I hate being forced to look up at people.

That can't be nutrition as we have in fact in the last 20 years begun to eat a lot more of the bad food, but also a lot more luxury foods (luxury foods are not always good though). So something else is playing in... I have no idea really. Hormoneresidue in our food? Perhaps...

CBR
09-05-2005, 15:31
Nutrition and healthcare.

In the middleages people were actually taller than in the Rennaisance and that trend only changed in the late 19th century. Overcrowded cities and a change in nutrition because of the cooler climate are the major factors IIRC. Our modern day healthcare also gave an increase of the average height.

Kraxis: I actually think we do eat more meat now than for 30 years ago. Junk food might reduce the height but we will see when the children of today grow up ~:)


CBR

English assassin
09-05-2005, 15:36
Gravity was stronger in the past.

But seriously. As historical times are no way long enough for any material genetic change, this can only be a phenotypic change brought on by a change in the environment. And the obvious candidate by a long chalk is more calories and (maybe) better diet.

What is slightly hard to understand is that even well fed people in times past don't seem to have been that tall. Henry VIII of England, for instance, was reckoned to be pretty tall for his day, and quite a hard case all round. (Henry, like Elvis, bloated out in his later years, although presumably not on cheeseburgers.) Yet his armour is about 5'8", which today would be on the short side of average.

I can only guess Henry was genetically a short-arse who grew to his maximum possible stature, whereas peasants who had the genes to have grown much taller were being kept short by chronic under-nourishment.

Kraxis
09-05-2005, 16:01
Kraxis: I actually think we do eat more meat now than for 30 years ago. Junk food might reduce the height but we will see when the children of today grow up ~:)


CBR
Yes, we do, but in general we lived better back then, eating a far more varied diet. As I said, we pretty much eat the same now as back then, but we eat more junk and more luxury foods. That is how properous we have gotten here. We use about the same percentage on food now as in the early 70s, but since we have far more money now we use more. The difference is just that we could still afford a good diet in the early 70s but not the expensive stuff, and that is marginal in difference with regards to nutrition and other aspects that might have an impact (and sometimes it is worse).

Btw, I didn't know Henry VIII was that short. Hmmm... In any case the nobles that lived well enough to be tall like us, were in numbers a big enough group to be a fair statistical group, yet they are still not as tall as us. The case with Henry is pretty good. Who regarded Henry as tall? The peasant that never saw him? No it was his relatives, court nobles, servants and so on, people that lived quite well themselves. Among them should have been at least a good number that was taller than him.
Remember, tall is always considered in relation to your peers, and Henry's peers certainly had the nutritional background to be almost as tall as us. Yet Henry was special and still shorter than us... Interesting isn't it.

I doubt nutrition is the whole issue here. Other less obvious aspects must be affecting us.

lars573
09-05-2005, 16:19
Gravity was stronger in the past.

But seriously. As historical times are no way long enough for any material genetic change, this can only be a phenotypic change brought on by a change in the environment. And the obvious candidate by a long chalk is more calories and (maybe) better diet.

What is slightly hard to understand is that even well fed people in times past don't seem to have been that tall. Henry VIII of England, for instance, was reckoned to be pretty tall for his day, and quite a hard case all round. (Henry, like Elvis, bloated out in his later years, although presumably not on cheeseburgers.) Yet his armour is about 5'8", which today would be on the short side of average.

I can only guess Henry was genetically a short-arse who grew to his maximum possible stature, whereas peasants who had the genes to have grown much taller were being kept short by chronic under-nourishment.
Actually I saw a man who was 5'8" standing next yo Henry VIII armour. It was for "the 6 wives of Henry VIII" and he was on a stool to get to head level with Henry's 6'2" armour.

Byzantine Prince
09-05-2005, 16:29
It also has to do with our evolution and our way of life. Not everyone is going to be tall even today, but there's some evidence there a lot more tall people from short parents. That much might be true. It has to do with how many hours of sleep we get even how much we walk and work. Food is also important and considering that most animals today are fed with hormones, we are also getting hormone therapy by eathing the meant of these animals. Since hormones are primarily used to enlarge animals, they have the same effect on us to a lesser extent.

But if you are going to history for evidence, good luck! How can you know what people were like when you don't even have any studies from the era?

Rodion Romanovich
09-05-2005, 16:34
As historical times are no way long enough for any material genetic change, this can only be a phenotypic change brought on by a change in the environment.


That is partly true, but not entirely. The fact that the barbarians were taller but we have little remnants of them of type armor suits etc., means their mixing with the shorter people could result in a genetic change of length. Then the differences in length have been genetical, because those tribes got taller in a process of over 10.000 years. Changes in appearance and physical construction are quite quick genetical changes. Changes in behavior patterns and more complex details such as functionality of an organ system and things such as that take much longer. But a slight change of appearance, which can probably be regulated by a simple change in activity of hormone producing genes, could take 10.000 years or less IMHO.

But I see no other possibilities for a genetical change causing people to get taller. It would be impossible, according to my belief that is, for an entire isolated population to get taller without being mixed with populations with a greater average length.


What is slightly hard to understand is that even well fed people in times past don't seem to have been that tall.

That means there has to be SOME kind of genetical influence.

But apart from the one I mentioned above, I don't think it's possible with any other genetical factors. That leaves environmental factors. All posters above have already described those very well so I needn't repeat it. But I thought I'd just throw in my two cents on a possible genetical change (which isn't really a change in the usual sense), that could explain the cases when environmental effects aren't enough to explain why it was like it was.

Seamus Fermanagh
09-05-2005, 16:39
As noted:

Diet and Nutrition:

Modern diets commonly include higher percentages of protein and calcium, along with a greater range of other vitamins from fruits. Moroevoer, the modern diet is far more varied in terms of protein type etc. We think nothing of having 3 different kinds of meat in a given week -- wasn't practical before refrigeration. All of these things contribute to growth.

A lot of the northern groups -- where milk didn't spoil in an hour -- had far more calcium in their diets than the med peoples (adn were noted for their tallness).

"Small" suits of armor -- a number of these are "display" sets which were never made full size. A lot of the displays survive because they were never in use.

Healthcare matters too. Wear and tear will shorten you over time. There was little in the wya of sports medicine to counter it.

Seamus

Kraxis
09-05-2005, 16:53
"Small" suits of armor -- a number of these are "display" sets which were never made full size. A lot of the displays survive because they were never in use.

Healthcare matters too. Wear and tear will shorten you over time. There was little in the wya of sports medicine to counter it.

Seamus
Some armour was perhaps display armour, meant to stand somewhere in a hall or something, but that is far from all. They are just the most perfect. We have plenty of corroded mailshirts and the like.
For isntance there is a fullplate knightsarmour here in Copenhagen, worn by a knight in battle. On the armour you can see his rather ignomious demise. He was cut down by an arbalest (I expect, it could be a normal crossbow though). The breastplate was completely penetrated and the backplate was heavily dented at the point of impact. Nasty...
Anyway, this knight was the size of a small teenager, at most 1.60 meters. And from the elaborate ornaments on the armour it is clear he was no poor knight (also evident in the fact that it was full plate).

Steppe Merc
09-05-2005, 17:05
Different people in different places had different heights. Some peoples, either through diet or genetics were taller than others.
I think people with acess more meats and milks, like herders or serious hunters would probably be taller than farmers.
I think some Scythian mummies found were pretty tall, but I can't find where I read that, and I can't find anything on the internet about how tall they were...

And about armor, some of it is 3/4 of a real size, to show how delicate the armorer was. So just because a lot of it was tiny, doesn't mean all knights were midgets. Oh, that was already mentioned...

Rodion Romanovich
09-05-2005, 17:05
Well then, it could then be a genetical change. Those spoiled women always searching for the tallest men they can find ~:(... Seriously though, it might be a popular misconception that non-functional, non-behavior-related genetical changes would take that long time. Perhaps only a few generations are enough.

Another explanation could be pollution. Maybe we're polluting some chemicals that effect our growth hormones, seeing as the greatest increase of length came after the industrial age begun - the correlation of those incidents might not be pure coincidences. After all, we're polluting N2O (the 2 should be in subscript), which I don't know the English word for, but it's a gas that has been used as a drug and as anaesthetics. Without knowing it or deliberately wanting it, the average inhabitant in a European or American country is on drugs ~:). Something similar could be the case with polluted chemicals that affect growth hormones. Unfortunately, I can't come up with an example at the moment. Only well-known example of pollution of hormones is the contraceptive pills, that are femaleizing (is that a word btw?) fish and probably also, though luckily still only to a very limited extent, human males.

Can someone help making a timeline of how the average length has changed in different areas over time?

CBR
09-05-2005, 17:33
Searched through my links and found this recent study: http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/uni/wwl/koepke%5Fbaten%5Ftwomillennia.pdf


CBR

Rodion Romanovich
09-05-2005, 18:06
Cool! Note the abstract says: "One astonishing result is the height increase in the fifth and sixth centuries" - i.e. the period when the barbarians spread out over Europe and settled in most areas. My theory could be correct, then...

Quite interesting also that height difference between males and females has increased (page 22)...

GoreBag
09-05-2005, 18:43
You're not suggesting that Germans hunted mammoths, are you, Legio?

It is mostly diet, I would think, but perhaps also sleep. Since we have much nicer, softer and more comfortable sleeping conditions than your typical serf, and since the hormone for deep sleep is only released after, what, 5 or so hours of sleep without interruption, it could be that the majority of people today sleep better.

The "taller barbarians" theory is actually mostly myth. The concept was that the Mediterranean peoples were the most civilised, and the further away from the Mediterranean one went, the larger the people became (and also crueler). It was thought that the Northmen were almost giants, and the same for "bushmen" in southern Africa. This is odd, though, considering that Swedes are among the tallest people in the world, and Watoosies as well. I guess nothing is ever purely myth.

Rodion Romanovich
09-05-2005, 20:09
You're not suggesting that Germans hunted mammoths, are you, Legio?

lol, no. Just that the peoples living furthest north hunted mammoth in a period way before the time when the word "germanic" and "gallic" was first used. And the germanics and gauls and others were probably more of that ancestry than for example romans and greeks were. But it's hard to know anything for sure regarding human population movements in early history. Anyway, the point of this thing originating from the "mammoth hunting period" gives evolution a little more time, and that was the point of the theory - since there are no other explanations for how a genetical change could have happened. It's hard to believe the entire change could be environmental and not partly genetical, as it's so large. And if that's the case, then it's greater chance that this genetical change happened over say 10.000 years or more than over the less than 2.000 years from 5th century and up to today.



The "taller barbarians" theory is actually mostly myth. The concept was that the Mediterranean peoples were the most civilised, and the further away from the Mediterranean one went, the larger the people became (and also crueler). It was thought that the Northmen were almost giants, and the same for "bushmen" in southern Africa. This is odd, though, considering that Swedes are among the tallest people in the world, and Watoosies as well. I guess nothing is ever purely myth.

I believe there've been many myths of that sort, and myths of almost the opposite kind and so on. Which myth did you refer to, from which period did it come? Anyway I'm not sure the tallness thing is entirely a myth (although it's not proportional to your distance from greece and rome), but the cruelty thing is obviously (I hope ~D ) a myth...

King Henry V
09-05-2005, 20:43
I think it also had to do with the fact that most people-especially women- reproduced much earlier than they do today, often before their bodies have fully finished growing. As the mother is not herself fully grown, how can the child be so much taller?

Kagemusha
09-05-2005, 20:47
This is bit side topic but have you guys ever thought not how short but how tough Roman Legioners were. They werent as big as modern people but they had to march 20 miles in 5 hours every day when campaigning,carrying their armour,weapons,2 posts about 2,4 meters long,spade,cooking eguipment and food rations for 3-4 days+personal stuff.After the march they had to build fortified camp and after that would start the guard duty.It would be intresting to see how tough a veteran legionary was.After all the marching was the easyest part of their job? ~;)

Steppe Merc
09-05-2005, 21:39
Eh, it's their fault for not relizing how to use proper pack animals. ~;)

Seamus Fermanagh
09-05-2005, 22:08
The "taller barbarians" theory is actually mostly myth. The concept was that the Mediterranean peoples were the most civilised, and the further away from the Mediterranean one went, the larger the people became (and also crueler). It was thought that the Northmen were almost giants, and the same for "bushmen" in southern Africa. This is odd, though, considering that Swedes are among the tallest people in the world, and Watoosies as well. I guess nothing is ever purely myth.

I agree. Though I would also freely admit that sweeping generalizations were employed. After all, we aced 50k barbarians makes you sound tough, but we aced 50k barbarians and not a one of them was less than 2m plays better to the crowd.

Kage: Not only 20-30 miles in the day, fortify, and stand guard, but your veterans might have a lot of experience, since 20+ years was a normal "hitch."

Seamus

Kagemusha
09-05-2005, 22:34
Kage: Not only 20-30 miles in the day, fortify, and stand guard, but your veterans might have a lot of experience, since 20+ years was a normal "hitch."

Seamus

Yes.I just wonder how rugged those retiring legioners must have been.Someone who served full time prior "Pax Romana" must have seen quite a few clashes and quite a tour de Europe,Africa and Middle East. :eeeek:

Kraxis
09-05-2005, 23:34
Remember the old add saying: "Join the Army and see the world." Well in this case we could say: "Join the Army and walk the world."

Kagemusha
09-05-2005, 23:47
Well sayd Kraxis. :bow: Should start another thread about legionaries,this is going so off topic,but im too damn tired.Maybe i start it tomorrow. :sleeping:

CBR
09-06-2005, 05:29
I doubt they marched 20 miles in 5 hours as standard. March speed was around 100 paces/minute or quick step of 120 paces and thats about 4-5 kmh. The numbers from Vegetius' manual are pretty close to what later armies managed to do in the 19th century.


CBR

Longshanks
09-06-2005, 06:36
This is bit side topic but have you guys ever thought not how short but how tough Roman Legioners were. They werent as big as modern people but they had to march 20 miles in 5 hours every day when campaigning,carrying their armour,weapons,2 posts about 2,4 meters long,spade,cooking eguipment and food rations for 3-4 days+personal stuff.After the march they had to build fortified camp and after that would start the guard duty.It would be intresting to see how tough a veteran legionary was.After all the marching was the easyest part of their job? ~;)

Height has nothing to do with endurance, physical strength or any other factor related to soldiering. I always get a chuckle when someone suggests the "barbarians" were stronger than the Romans because they were taller on average. A Roman Army could march circles around a barbarian one, proof that the Roman soldier was more physically fit because of his superior training and conditioning.

GoreBag
09-06-2005, 07:10
lol, no. Just that the peoples living furthest north hunted mammoth in a period way before the time when the word "germanic" and "gallic" was first used. And the germanics and gauls and others were probably more of that ancestry than for example romans and greeks were. But it's hard to know anything for sure regarding human population movements in early history. Anyway, the point of this thing originating from the "mammoth hunting period" gives evolution a little more time, and that was the point of the theory - since there are no other explanations for how a genetical change could have happened. It's hard to believe the entire change could be environmental and not partly genetical, as it's so large. And if that's the case, then it's greater chance that this genetical change happened over say 10.000 years or more than over the less than 2.000 years from 5th century and up to today.

The only problem with that theory is that Celts and Germans are descendants of Indo-Europeans, who didn't live in mammoth-land. What few people more native to the area who interbred with the Germanic or Celtic invaders would have been a pretty insignificant addition to the gene pool, especially considering the Celtic tendency to kill all their predecessors. Still, though, I want to learn more about the Tsjuder people...


I believe there've been many myths of that sort, and myths of almost the opposite kind and so on. Which myth did you refer to, from which period did it come? Anyway I'm not sure the tallness thing is entirely a myth (although it's not proportional to your distance from greece and rome), but the cruelty thing is obviously (I hope ~D ) a myth...

I believe the myth was early-middle-ages or dark-ages in origin...it would make sense to have its popularisation coincide with increasing clashes with northern barbarians and southern...barbarians. Like I said, though, not all myths are purely fictional in origin.

As for cruelty...well, the vikings did perform a good many human sacrifices. The "Blood Eagle" especially would have been enough to make "good Christians" sit up and take notice once the news reached them in their warm, cozy homes along the Mediterranean.

yesdachi
09-06-2005, 16:16
I found an interesting article on height in the NBA.

An excerpt…
Stephen Morgan, an economics professor at the University of Melbourne, found that the average Chinese 17-year-old boy was 2.7 inches taller in 1995 than in 1955. The diet of the average Chinese child, especially in the cities and along the coast, improved dramatically after free market reforms began in 1978.

In contrast, "Americans have not grown (in height) in 25 years," noted Richard Steckel, an Ohio State economist and anthropologist. Economic historians who study changes in average stature call themselves "auxologists."

It appears that “free market reforms” make people taller. ~;)

I think nutrition is the biggest factor but I wouldn’t dismiss that a good nights sleep (farmers vs. barbarians) and an active lifestyle (hunting, marching, etc.) would be contributing factors.

I think the use of vitamins and supplements have also become more influential. All the way back to the day James Lid figured out citrus fruit prevented Scurvy and I’m sure others were using them long before.

@ King Henry V
Nice observation about women. The way babies suck (pun intended) the calcium and other nutrients out of their mothers it would be reasonable to expect some women of large families to be pretty small and less healthy.

Rodion Romanovich
09-06-2005, 18:45
The only problem with that theory is that Celts and Germans are descendants of Indo-Europeans, who didn't live in mammoth-land. What few people more native to the area who interbred with the Germanic or Celtic invaders would have been a pretty insignificant addition to the gene pool, especially considering the Celtic tendency to kill all their predecessors. Still, though, I want to learn more about the Tsjuder people...


I'm not sure about that. Was it really people, and not only culture, that moved? It's really hard to prove that so far back in history. But if there is any good proof, I'd like to know it.



As for cruelty...well, the vikings did perform a good many human sacrifices. The "Blood Eagle" especially would have been enough to make "good Christians" sit up and take notice once the news reached them in their warm, cozy homes along the Mediterranean.

Yeah, but the Christian witch hunt was also human sacrifice, and most wars at that time had been fought in the Mediterranean region. I think people close to and far from the Mediterranean region are about equal in cruelty.

Hurin_Rules
09-06-2005, 18:56
Remember folks, its not just the type but also the amount of food you eat.

In the Middle Ages and even up to the agricultural/industrial revolutions, many people continued to starve to death or were malnourished simply because they couldn't find enough of ANYTHING to eat. This included pregnant women. Our diet today is not only much more varied (we can get bannanas in December) but also much more voluminous than ever before. That's why so many of us are fat, which was quite rare before the agricultural revolution; and that's part of the reason why so many of us are tall, compared to those of the past.

Rodion Romanovich
09-06-2005, 19:29
Btw, did height change much in the 14th century, after the black death? Sources claim that consumption of meat was extremely increased at that time. Looking at data before and after the black deat, we'll perhaps get an answer to the question "does meat increase length or not?"

GoreBag
09-06-2005, 20:18
I'm not sure about that. Was it really people, and not only culture, that moved? It's really hard to prove that so far back in history. But if there is any good proof, I'd like to know it.

Well, I know a little about Celtic migrations and their predecessor-cultures, but not so much about the Germanics' migrations other than that they are thought to have come in from somewhere along the Caspian sea (Odin is supposed to have come from there, too).


Yeah, but the Christian witch hunt was also human sacrifice, and most wars at that time had been fought in the Mediterranean region. I think people close to and far from the Mediterranean region are about equal in cruelty.

I suppose that's a fair estimate. I don't really have statistics on 'cruelty' to present. It was more of a mindset than a perception based on fact, mostly having to do with the severity of the climate.

Seamus Fermanagh
09-06-2005, 20:20
...we'll perhaps get an answer to the question "does meat increase length or not?"

Might want to edit this to say "height" to avoid.....issues. ~:rolleyes: ~;)

Seamus

econ21
09-06-2005, 20:27
Btw, did height change much in the 14th century, after the black death? Sources claim that consumption of meat was extremely increased at that time. Looking at data before and after the black deat, we'll perhaps get an answer to the question "does meat increase length or not?"

Yes, if you look at the article by Koepke and Baten, the pdf for which was linked to in this thread, you'll see a pretty large and statistically significant increase in height in the 14th century.

BTW, when was the black death? I thought it was in the 14th century, in which case it rather challenges the idea of using height as a measure of the standard of living.

I wonder if mortality in the Black Death was large to mess up the data? - either because it weeded out the small or perhaps killed even the tall.

Rodion Romanovich
09-06-2005, 22:00
Some say it was one third that died during the black death. Anyway, the lack of people made workers (peasants) fewer, and when demand exceeds need... yeah, you know... the peasants could suddenly start requiring more in terms of wages etc. So they probably both increase meat percentage and total amount of food.

@Seamus: Oops, I see what you're at :embarassed: ~D

Hurin_Rules
09-07-2005, 03:39
Yes, if you look at the article by Koepke and Baten, the pdf for which was linked to in this thread, you'll see a pretty large and statistically significant increase in height in the 14th century.

BTW, when was the black death? I thought it was in the 14th century, in which case it rather challenges the idea of using height as a measure of the standard of living.

I wonder if mortality in the Black Death was large to mess up the data? - either because it weeded out the small or perhaps killed even the tall.

The Black Death swept through Europe from 1347-51. It hit the mediterranean first and took several years to push into some of the more remote areas of Eastern Europe.

If you survived, your standard of living would almost certainly have gone up, due to more arable land and food available.

Why don't you think height would be an accurate measure (albeit only one) of standard of living? Standards did increase for most people after the BD, by pretty much any measure you could imagine.

GoreBag
09-07-2005, 03:49
Interestingly enough, it is thought that some immunity to the plague comes with the genetic default of poor vision - that's why so many people need glasses these days.

doc_bean
09-07-2005, 09:52
Interestingly enough, it is thought that some immunity to the plague comes with the genetic default of poor vision - that's why so many people need glasses these days.

Even the ancient Egyptians had a lot of people with sight problems. I think it's a consequence of civilization, not everyone needs perfect vision to hunt anymore.

econ21
09-07-2005, 10:22
Why don't you think height would be an accurate measure (albeit only one) of standard of living? Standards did increase for most people after the BD, by pretty much any measure you could imagine.

Fair enough. It's just that as an economist, I am acustomed to using the standard of living as a measure of the welfare of people. Naively looking at the height data for the 14th century, you might think welfare was relatively high. But this is in stark contrast to my layman's view of the period, courtesy of the Barbara Tuchanan. If a third of the population (or whatever) is wiped out due to an epidemic, then you can't just look at the standard of living of the survivors to judge overall welfare.

I am not sure how widespread this problem (factoring in mortality risk when assessing welfare) is. It's certainly been said about AIDS in Africa (it may not lower GDP per capita, as it lowers the capita as much as the GDP).

I don't know if something similar might apply to the surprising rise in heights during the barbarian invasions of the 6th century - maybe the population was being decimated, so living standards rose?

It's certainly relevant to the argument that agriculture led to a lowering of heights compared to those in hunter-gather societies.

VAE VICTUS
09-09-2005, 20:51
As noted:

Diet and Nutrition:

Modern diets commonly include higher percentages of protein and calcium, along with a greater range of other vitamins from fruits. Moroevoer, the modern diet is far more varied in terms of protein type etc. We think nothing of having 3 different kinds of meat in a given week -- wasn't practical before refrigeration. All of these things contribute to growth.

A lot of the northern groups -- where milk didn't spoil in an hour -- had far more calcium in their diets than the med peoples (adn were noted for their tallness).

"Small" suits of armor -- a number of these are "display" sets which were never made full size. A lot of the displays survive because they were never in use.

Healthcare matters too. Wear and tear will shorten you over time. There was little in the wya of sports medicine to counter it.

Seamus

what about the black africans,there are some tall people there.maybe because they hunted more and ate more meat?but then what of the nobles the countries around the meditterean,didnt they have a steady diet of meat,so could they have been taller than the average?

VAE VICTUS
09-09-2005, 20:54
Even the ancient Egyptians had a lot of people with sight problems. I think it's a consequence of civilization, not everyone needs perfect vision to hunt anymore.

i dont think its that.they didnt realize how bad their vision was,also the muscles around the eyes have been used when looking over long distances,and such.also in civilastion people tend to read more and this can be detrimental to eye sight some times.

Rodion Romanovich
09-09-2005, 21:21
what about the black africans,there are some tall people there.maybe because they hunted more and ate more meat?but then what of the nobles the countries around the meditterean,didnt they have a steady diet of meat,so could they have been taller than the average?

The massai (spelling?) people drink loads of milk and eat plenty of meat, according to what I've heard. Milk products and meat...

Craterus
09-09-2005, 21:36
Evolution also has something to do with it.

People are now less hairy, taller and thinner obviously the natural thin shape can be ruined by junk food/poor diet.

People like Danny DeVito (hairy, short and stout) are going to disappear in the next couple of hundred years.

yesdachi
09-09-2005, 22:02
Evolution also has something to do with it.

People are now less hairy, taller and thinner obviously the natural thin shape can be ruined by junk food/poor diet.

People like Danny DeVito (hairy, short and stout) are going to disappear in the next couple of hundred years.
Evolution probably has a little to do with it but doesn’t evolution in humans take a long time? Healthy people from 1,000 years ago were not that different from the way we are today, were they? ~:confused:

Edit: in the case of evolution do you think we will be more physically fit or less? ~:cheers:

Craterus
09-10-2005, 01:51
I think society and lifestyle has a lot more to do with fitness than evolution. You can't be born with a high level of fitness, but you can maintain one with the right lifestyle.

GoreBag
09-10-2005, 07:17
I don't think people are less hairy at this point. My legs are basically carpeted.

Samurai Waki
09-10-2005, 08:05
I think the height change has a lot to do with genetics and a lot to do with nutrition. Height as a demographic has changed, but not that much. Most of my family is a combination of stocky Prussian/Saxon Germans and tall, lanky Irish. Most men on my mom's side of the family are 6'5 to 6'1 and lanky, and on my dad's side of the family most of my family members are 5'8 and shorter and much stockier, I seem to be a combination of both. I'm 5'11 and 170 lbs, so taller side of average, but I have a stockier rather than lanky build, whilst my two of my brothers are tall 6'6 and 6'4 but only about 130-140 lbs. So height in the past couple of decades has only gone up about an inch from my parent's, my dad is 5'9 but my grandpa was 5'11. And we clearly had a difference in nutrition. So nutrition adds in, but it isn't a deciding factor in height. From past skeletal records I think it can be assumed people started having better nutrition during the 1800s, since the Boston Tea Giant (who was considered quite large at the time and was only 5'8), and I assume my ancestors were shorter than he, to my great-great-great grandpa who was 5'7 and considered average in the 1880s, people started getting taller about 130 years ago and really has only changed slightly since then. Of course even before then there were "freaks". Charlemagne for example was 6'4. Which I assume was taller than people 200-300 years after him and later. But, I don't know the average height of a person nor their diet during his reign, but maybe he was considered average or just a little taller than most people under his rule. As said before, Barbarianesque people were taller than their roman or civilized counter parts, and I think that has been a huge factor in height vs. nutrition. I don't think nutrition became a deciding factor for height until the 900s-1700s.

Gawain of Orkeny
09-10-2005, 08:28
why were people shorter in ancient times?diet,whatever,anyone know?

Have any of you been watching the shows this week on the history channel on Rome? In one episode they speak of a standard carrier and tell his story. In it they say in order to be a Roman soldier you had to be at least 6ft tall. I was shoked. Does anyone know anything about this?

Strike For The South
09-10-2005, 09:16
Have any of you been watching the shows this week on the history channel on Rome? In one episode they speak of a standard carrier and tell his story. In it they say in order to be a Roman soldier you had to be at least 6ft tall. I was shoked. Does anyone know anything about this?

Yea I heard that I dunno if I beilve even if it was on THC

Rodion Romanovich
09-10-2005, 11:03
Have any of you been watching the shows this week on the history channel on Rome? In one episode they speak of a standard carrier and tell his story. In it they say in order to be a Roman soldier you had to be at least 6ft tall. I was shoked. Does anyone know anything about this?

Cool, then the romans created a reverse evolution in terms of height, because so many roman legionaries died and those that didn't stayed away from the women until their service was completed and they were already quite old...

CBR
09-10-2005, 13:32
Hm they might have messed up somewhere then as Im only familiar with one hight requirement of 6 feet and thats from a later date (Vegetius) and a Roman foot is AFAIK 0.97 English foot so that is 5' 10''. Height requirements also changes depending on how desperate you are for recruits. What period were they talking about?


CBR

cunctator
09-10-2005, 15:48
Vegetius wrote in the late 4th century AD about the earlier roman army. It isn`t always clear about what periods he was talking about, since he largely described his perfect army with collected pieces of 500 years roman military history.
Here the minimum size for recruits of the alae (cavalry regiments) and first cohorts is mentioned. So he most likely refers to the principates army ca. 0ad- 250ad. At this time the most soldiers were recruited in areas with a population of celtic or germanic origin, which had become "roman" in the meantime.
Also earlier roman soldiers couldn`t been too small. The republican era fayoum scutum is 1,28m high and the scuta as described by polybios 4 roman feet. (*1,20M]. Every soldier under 1,6X m should get problems with this.


Here are the quotes:

De Re Militari
Flavius Vegetius Renatus
Book one




THEIR SIZE
We find the ancients very fond of procuring the tallest men they could for the service, since the standard for the cavalry of the wings and for the infantry of the first legionary cohorts was fixed at six feet, or at least five feet ten inches. These requirements might easily be kept up in those times when such numbers followed the profession of arms and before it was the fashion for the flower of Roman youth to devote themselves to the civil offices of state. But when necessity requires it, the height of a man is not to be regarded so much as his strength; and for this we have the authority of Homer, who tells us that the deficiency of stature in Tydeus was amply compensated by his vigor and courage.


V. Proceritatem tironum ad incommam scio semper exactam, ita ut VI pedum uel certe V et X unciarum inter alares equites uel in primis legionum cohortibus probarentur. Sed tunc erat amplior multitudo, et plures militiam sequebantur aramatam; necdum enim ciuilis pars florentiorem abducebat iuuentutem. Si ergo necessitas exigit, non tam staturae rationem conuenit habere quam uirium. (Et ipso Homero teste non fallitur, qui Tydeum minorem quidem corpore sed fortiroem armis fuisse significat.)

Mr Frost
09-11-2005, 06:36
I highly doubt the Roman Army prior to the large influx of Germans could have managed anything like the height requirement Vegitus mentions and still have fielded the numbers they did .

The average actual Roman was of such height that an entire army of 5'10" {1.78 m in French} would have been like America or Britain only allowing troops of atleast 6'1" {1.85 m if you're a Mime} , they wouldn't be able to maintain the numbers of troops they need . The example I give could actually be more extreame , but I'm being conservative insofar as to the average height of Romans {Republic and Early Empire} .

In WWI at Galipolli , the Brittish and Commonwealth forces actually created a "six footer" Regiment as a ploy to intimidate the Turkish troops {to make them think their foes were all huge men} . They could only make the one Regiment , despite having a sizeable army present to draw from {most by far were Aussies and Kiwis as both countries at that time were mostly rural and the bulk of their troops farmboys raised on plenty of good food whereas the average British soldier was a city lad whom would have the water the cabbage had been boilded in for breakfast when a child . Nutrition seemed to be the key factor on size .}


Edit : I should point out on the subject of surviving armours on display ; even full size {for battle , not display} armours typically look small when displayed in most museums as the armour stands they are hung on are not of full human proportion .
When such suits are put on a mannequin of size fit for the armour {just as a good tailor will be able to correctly determine the size of a person from their clothes if said clothes are tailored , there are still folk whom can do the same with armour and full plate was always tailored to the wearer} , they look invariably taller than when on a typical armour stand .

CBR
09-11-2005, 14:18
Well Vegetius talks of cavalry and first cohorts so it doesnt appear to be for the regular troops. Grenadiers in Napoleonic times were also taller than the average troops IIRC

The difference in height between northen and southern europeans is a few centimeters, cant remember the exact number, and that is AFAIK genetics. The Dutch appears to be the tallest of all Europeans.

So overall I doubt "barbarians" really give a big boost in height for the average legionary. But of course you could find small "isolated" groups that were tall. Saxons are mentioned as being tall.

Local living conditions combined with genetics can produce a bigger difference than just genetics alone, and contemporary writers might just have seen the biggest and bravest warriors and commented on them.


CBR

Watchman
09-14-2005, 00:04
Grenadiers were specifically picked from the physically larger soldiers, on the grounds that all things considered a big man can throw a grenade farther than a small one and you really can't throw the little horrors too far. Later on it was mostly for appereances, and helped further distinguish such elite units from the rank and file.

Here's a funny detail: estimates and measurements taken from Stone Age graces and the odd surviving skeletons found in Finland suggest the average height of the period was only slightly less than it was about twenty years ago. Yet, as is well known, in the meantime people were for quite a while a fair bit shorter, and indeed in the agrarian backwoods of Finland this was often into the early 1900s. Since then people have been getting taller at a remarkably rapid rate, much helped by the soaring living conditions.

The scholars seem to put that up to not only the quantity but also the quality and variation of food. Back in the Stone Age people for the most part lived by fishing, hunting and horticulture, rarely saw actual famine and had a pretty balanced diet. Enter agriculture, and not only are a lot of people intimately familiar with stark hunger for much of their life (thanks to both the unreliability of crops and the fact there's now someone who wants a part of it, by threat of force if need be) but they're also eating a whole lot more one-sided diet.

Aurelian
09-15-2005, 20:50
why were people shorter in ancient times?diet,whatever,anyone know?
im 6'7 and i was in an western american fort and the doors werent even to my shoulders.it sucked,had to duck into everything.also some suits of armor look quite short. - Vae Victus

Obviously, you have reversed the order of causation. Ancient people were shorter because doorways were shorter. The low-hanging doorways proved to be an evolutionary disadvantage to taller people... who were removed from the gene pool after suffering repetitive closed-head injuries. Smaller people, who could move freely under the doorways of the time were at no such disadvantage. This would have been particularly true in and around the ancient Mediterranean, with its greater concentration of stone, brick, and marble arched doorways. Northern populations, with softer wood and thatch arched doorways, would have suffered less severe head injuries.

This theory is further supported by the obvious decrease in height suffered by human populations when they transitioned from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies. Nomadic hunter-gatherer populations could grow to their full height, while the height of settled agricultural populations was stunted by their need to pass through the doorways of permanent mud-brick shelters.

The prevalence of closed-head injuries in settled agricultural communities is made clear by the frequent historical references to "village idiots".

Improved living conditions in the modern era (including bigger buildings and houses), and better medical care, have improved the chances of a tall person surviving until adulthood.





~D

Kraxis
09-16-2005, 11:30
Nice...

This btw, is also proof that the human race is a far cry from intelligent, it is merely sentient.

I think, therefor I am. *gonk* Lousy doorway!

Gregoshi
09-16-2005, 16:17
:laugh4: Brilliant Aurelian. :laugh4:

Aurelian
09-18-2005, 06:45
Thankyouverymuch. :elvis:

:wall:

Kekvit Irae
09-18-2005, 07:50
Why were people shorter back then? They didnt have basketball.

cunobelinus
09-28-2005, 18:04
Its natural for animals to adapt to how much food they have and devolop smaller or bigger .

Kraxis
09-28-2005, 23:02
Its natural for animals to adapt to how much food they have and devolop smaller or bigger .
Not this fast... We are talking a few hundred years. Most animals need at least tens of thousands of years to change. Obviously we have either cahnged our own biology and/or we have been latently this big withou ever realizing its potential.

Casmin
09-28-2005, 23:37
Climate as well as nutrition plays a part in body size. People from hotter climates may have tall bodies with slender appendiges. The more skin surface per body weight the more heat is released. However, you can also have short people in hot climates like the pygmies. Their body mass decreased in order to release heat. They also had a history of malnutrition. In cold climates, body sizes tend to be larger like those of Northern Europeans. However, the Inuits are shorter. To compensate they have stocky barrel-chests and shorter arms to conserve heat.

Obviously it would take many many years for climate to take effect, however, the changes imposed on a human from nutrition take a much shorter time.

Check this out: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,61-1786767,00.html

Alexanderofmacedon
10-03-2005, 01:17
Diet...

ah_dut
10-03-2005, 21:03
I know that poor people in the east end of london seemed to live on tea, bread and margerine, their genetic potential for growth may have been good but they never got the nutrients necessary

Sigurd
10-03-2005, 22:01
What do you mean people where shorter? The ancients where quite tall.
Examples would be:
Harald Hardraade - (7 feet+), captain of the Varangian guard and later king of Norway.
Caius Julius Verus Maximinus - (8 feet 6 inches), Emperor of Rome
Goliath - (9 feet 9 inches).
Og - (required a bed that was 13 feet long)
Cimbri or Cimmerians (Celtic): averaged a foot higher than the Romans but had amongst them a substantial number of people of exceedingly height, some with towering heights above that of Goliath.
:duel: ~D
Western Europe Giants (http://www.stevequayle.com/Giants/W.Europe/W.Europe1.html)

Alexanderofmacedon
10-03-2005, 23:56
I don't know if they had milk in the Roman era (should I know this?), but I do know that it would be hard to come by.

Later the Pope said that Jerusalem "flowed with milk and honey"

He said something that he knew would get men to fight probably.

There was other ways to get calcium, like orange juice (which there were many citrus fruit orchards in Italy), but I think not having milk/or much of it, would contribute to some stunting?

Has anyone said this already? I didn't read them all...

Kraxis
10-04-2005, 00:34
No I don't think so... That was one good point, never even thought of that.

Danish and most other nordic water is highly calcium-rich, we have either hard or very hard water. Often you have to decalcify the bathroom tap once a month to have a clear stream running (a 5 person family), most don't though as we can't be bothered to do it.

Perhaps that had some impact on the height of the generally tall northern people?

Another source of calcium is spinach, but I don't know who ate that. I do know that it was often eaten in winter as it was good at lasting long and could stand on the field during the cold (so you could harvest a little now and then in winter).

Alexanderofmacedon
10-04-2005, 02:13
If it was up north then it really was cold!~D

Yeah, I think the non-milk diet may have played a role in that.

Sigurd
10-06-2005, 11:25
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/h/hu/human_height.htm