"Michy" wrote:I've always supposed that most people in past centuries did age faster than we do, primarily due to non-existent dentistry and more physically-strenuous lives -- I name these because these are the two factors that come to mind that could easily make you look older than you really are, regardless of what the actual state of your health might be. And of course, these would apply to the commoners more than the royals, and would be more of a factor the farther back in time you go. So I'm thinking that, in most cases, a 40-year old woman in 1310 probably looked older than most 40-year-old women today (forget cosmetic surgery -- I'm just talking about the effects of medicine and lifestyle on our appearance). Is this the opinion of most historians, or am I mistaken?
I expect sometimes you might look older in a cosmetic sense compared to certain groups of people in some parts of the world today, and their bodies would have reflected their lifestyles and the state of nutrition. (not many obesity related illnesses here. Hasn't it been said that the current generation of young western adults, down to lifestyle, are going to be first not to outlive their parents?). The teeth of the medievals might not have been straight and they might not have have toothpaste, fluoride and toothbrushes, but they also didn't have sugar and processed foods. Their jaws were actually more robust than ours are today. We are turning into chinless wonders because we no longer have to masticate our food. We have medicines to correct blips in our health and keep us alive. My husband would have died at around 40 without modern medicine. My second son would have died at 4 weeks old without it. I'd have been motherless at 7 because my mother would have died in childbirth and my brother with her, unborn. So medicine certainly helps us to achieve longer lifespans. Historians used to trot out the opinion that people aged faster, but the tide has turned away from that as far as I am aware. I couldn't quote you, but the discussion cropped up a while back on an academic medievalist list where I hang out and the opinion was that it was ridiculous to say that a medieval person was old at 35. While diet and social conditions have an effect, (you could expect to live longer and grow taller in the 11th & 12th centuries when the weather was good and people hadn't started crowding into towns) so too does the genetic body clock and that hasn't suddenly changed - although it might given current avenues of research. Putting a 40 year old woman of 1310 beside a western female of a corresponding age from the same social strata, and a woman from say rural Afghanistan, would be interesting. Our notion of what 40 actually looks like is very conditioned by our niche in our own sector of global society.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard nI chasront'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'
Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschalwww.elizabethchadwick.com