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4.9.04

Women Have Bones, Right?

Men From Early Middle Ages Were Nearly As Tall As Modern People

Northern European men living during the early Middle Ages were nearly as tall as their modern-day American descendants, a finding that defies conventional wisdom about progress in living standards during the last millennium.

Steckel analyzed height data from thousands of skeletons excavated from burial sites in northern Europe and dating from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Average height declined slightly during the 12th through 16th centuries, and hit an all-time low during the 17th and 18th centuries.

... Reasons for such tall heights during the early Middle Ages may have to do with climate. Steckel points out that agriculture from 900 to 1300 benefited from a warm period – temperatures were as much as 2 to 3 degrees warmer than subsequent centuries. Theoretically, smaller populations had more land to choose from when producing crops and raising livestock.

-- via Quark Soup


This is interesting, but I wonder why the study dealt only with men. It could be that Steckel just wanted to cut down on his data load, and decided that men's heights were more important. Or it could be a bias on the part of the people compiling his data, if the excavators whose work he relied on were more interested in the likely-better-provisioned male graves, so the data set on women is less complete.

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