Last week I was writing about Goliath, the giant of biblical renown. The earliest records mark his height at 6 and a half feet, while later stories (including the Old Testament bible) report him being just shy of ten feet tall.
I had commented that the average height was shorter then, so being over 6 feet might very well be gigantic, relatively speaking. Well, now I’m doing the follow-up to that. Just how tall have humans been throughout history?
As it turns out, the answer is remarkably un-dramatic. Currently, the average height of men worldwide measures in at 5 feet, 9 inches. Turn the clock back 1000 years and the average height then was… [suspenseful organ sound] …5 feet, 8 inches. So in the last 1000 years we’ve grown an inch? Not quite. In around the 1600′s when our health and sanitation hadn’t yet caught up to the size of growing cities, human height was averaging 5 feet, 5 inches.
So we’re looking at a general fluctuation of maybe 5 inches per millennium. Not too exciting. Now let’s talk about some notable exceptions!
The tallest man… ever! Robert Wadlow was measured at 8 feet, 11 inches. He died in 1940, at the age of 22. Being ridiculously tall does seem to affect your lifespan. The average age of people over 8 feet is 43 years. (not counting two gentlemen still towering among us) Biologically, the human body runs into a lot of problems at that size, which seems to cast some doubt on Goliath pushing 10 feet and still being an able-bodied warrior.
Now, I find it rather amusing that there is a speck of physical evidence in support of the biblical height claim… but it comes from our ape ancestors. The Gigantopitecus blacki is an ancient species of ape discovered in southern China. All that has been found is a jaw bone and a few teeth, but they are huge! Some very smart people have been working on this, and by comparing the size of the jaw to its nearest related species the whole ape is speculated to be 10 feet tall. It’s a real-life sasquatch!
There are plenty of other stories of giants. Many claim “hearing about” giant skeletons found around the world, but in every case… every single case… the bones were either A) secreted away by some un-named government organization, or B) mysteriously lost. And for science, frankly, that just won’t do.