RE: [mythsoc] People sizes (was: On the trail of hobbits?)
- Stolzi@... wrote:
"> BTW, that size attributed to Jesus is based on the Shroud of Turin
Maybe, but I thought it was also found in legend or folklore."
Not likely - there are a lot of folk tales in different European countries
about when Jesus walked on Earth (some of them christianised versions of
Ovid's Philemon and Baucis or other tales that were already known in
Antiquity, with Jesus and St. Peter instead of Jupiter and Mercury), but
detailed characterisation is not an usual feature of true folk tales, the
characters of folk tales are usually "types".
One of the arguments in the Shroud of Turin story was that there is, from
the 4th century onward, a legend about a true portrait "not made by human
hands" of Jesus, and curiously enough, that is when the artistic
representations of His face all begin to have more or less the same
proportions and features, regardless of different styles and cultures, so it
is supposed there must have been some authoritative "original", which was
most probably the Shroud of Turin. For more information about this, try Ian
Wilson's books about the Shroud of Turin, the latest being "The Blood and
Concerning Julius Caesar, I looked up my Suetonius last night too - but he
only says that Caesar was said to be "tall, of a light complexion, well-made
limbs, the face somewhat full, eyes black and bright..." (Suetonius, Lives
of the 12 Caesars, book 1, chapter 45, translation mine (from the French)).
I liked that Spanish quote - nuch more poetical than the French! :-)
- I apologize to people for getting us started on this sidetrack about heights.
Let this be my last post on the subject.
There do seem to be many reputable sources that give large height differences
between certain ancient and medieval peoples and certain modern peoples,
often in the range of six to eight inches. One that I found was as much as
ten inches. I suspect that what that quote of "a full meter difference in
height" was about was that someone read that the difference was ten inches,
so they decided to report that in their article as "almost a foot". They
then decided to make that sound more dramatic, so they changed the wording to
the clearly inaccurate "a full foot". Apparently they were distracted while
typing this and by mistake they put down "a full meter".
The problem with the differences given above though is two things. One is
that sometimes they seem to be comparing different genetic groups, so the
differences aren't quite just due to the times. The other is that there
seems to be variations in the past about the amount of malnutrition and
disease, and this isn't just a continuous decrease. There were times and
societies in the past with relatively small amounts of malnutrition and
As to the average height of contemporary Americans, I've found reputable
sources that give the average height of adult American men as being either 5'
9" or 5' 10" (and that difference is not due to those sources rounding the
actual figures). It seems strange that they can't get their answers closer
than an inch, but this may be just the problems in doing a good survey.
After all, in the last American census 10 years ago, we couldn't even count
the number of people accurately. We missed 1.6%, and we may miss that many
in the census this year.
The tallest people in the world at the moment, according to one source, are
the Dutch, with the Scandanavians a close second. They're a little under 5'
11". There seems to be two reasons why they are taller. One is that there
probably are some genetic tendencies for Nordic peoples to be taller than,
say, Mediterrean peoples, and the U.S. has a mixture of genetic types. The
other is that the Northern Europeans, while their average standard of living
is about the same as in the U.S., has a significantly flatter economic
system. The U.S. has a higher proportion of people living in poverty and
hence has more people who are malnurished during their growing years.
Some sources are willing to go out on a limb and say that it appears that 5'
11" is the top of the genetic potential for men (and 5' 5.5" is for women),
so there isn't going to be any further growth in the average height beyond
what's observable in Northern Europe at the moment.
As to why many people in the U.S. give offhand estimates for average heights
in the U.S. that are off by two or three inches (so that people will sometime
claim that the average height in the U.S. for men is 6'), well, I'm going to
have to get political here. For those of you who have never met me, I'm a
touch under 4'11" (and purely for genetic reasons), and I can get political
about this really easily. There's lots of evidence of discrimination in
hiring, promotion, etc. by height. More to the point, short people tend to
be invisible. In the jobs in which people appear in the public most
(entertainment, politics, etc.), the people in those jobs are several inches
taller on average, and this affects people's estimates of average height.
Even just in everyday life, people tend to remember the tall people and
forget the short people they know when making estimates.
Can we get back to fantasy now?