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ANAHITA  January 1998

ANAHITA January 1998

Subject:

Re: Age of Menarche

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 30 Jan 1998 01:42:09 EST

Content-Type:

text/plain

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In a message dated 98-01-29 17:34:13 EST, you write:

<< Considering the average age of menarche in my area of the world is
 around 12, not 16, I do not see how we can determine the age of menarche
in Alexendria (C4-5) by comparing it to Rome or any other region, unless
the surrounding geographical conditions as well as sociological are very
close.>>

I do agree that a comparison might not be exact, but it might be useful, if
one is not being rigorous.  Alexandian & Roman mixtures of populations and
diets (both ate a lot of Egyptian grains) were probably closer to each other
than our population & diet was to South India's in the 1970s, & the ages at
menarche were three years apart.   The people in Tamil-land told me that girls
matured at 16, which I mentioned before, that I used as a possible date for
menarche in the Classical age. I am taking into account that 16 might have
been a Tamil cultural convention, and might not be applicable at all.

I believe that diet changes account for most of the changes in the age of
menstrual onset & cessation.  Our diet in the post-industrial (?) world is
even unlike our own diet at the beginning of this century.  This has
definitely affected the time of menarche.  In our own time, even in this
country (USA) in this century, the age of menarche has been moving downward.
Girls at menarche are at least a year younger now than in my own adolesence.

The difference in physical maturation between the Dravidian descendents in
South India and the Americans I knew 20 years ago was not to be ignored.  For
the first time in my life, I could not tell the age of a child, on sight.
Intellectual development seemed similar, but not physical maturation rates.
(I thought that the difference was diet.  Tamil people in Sri Lanka, for
example, appeared to me to be much larger than those across the straits in
Tamil Nadu.  Close as they are, there is a great difference in diet & access
to modern technology.)  Although Rome & Alexandria might have had many
differences, one would not think there would be more than a year's variance in
a girl's age at maturity.

The rupture is in our own culture.  The change in diet in even one generation
caused enormous changes in height & in rates of maturation.  (& don't even
_think_ about how antibiotics, which cause a chicken to mature in six weeks
rather than 12, are affecting the people who eat them.   The availability of
chicken, which was once the most expensive meat, also has affected our rate of
maturity & our robustness. Many, many changes in diet & agriculture are
affecting our rates of maturation.)  I went to Chinatown with a small Persian
friend, earlier this week & lost her in the rush-hour throngs doing last-
minute shopping for the Lunar New Year.  I thought I might never find her in
the crowds of people her height, also all carrying large cones of flowers.
But as I scanned the street for her, I could easily see who was first-
generation and who second-generation American (or Hong Kong) in that crowd.

Sheila Shiki y Michaels

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Diotima's address: http://www.uky.edu/ArtsSciences/Classics/gender.html

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