Mammoth hunters, illustrated by Geoff Taylor

Mammoth hunters, illustrated by Geoff Taylor

A recent study from Masaryk University proposed that genes for tallness appeared among the Gravettian culture — a band of hunter-gatherers who lived in Southern Italy some 50,000 to 10,000 years ago. These Upper Paleolithic Europeans, the tallest of whom stood at 5’10, were mammoth hunters, which may have had something to do with their height.

“I suspect that this big game specialisation associated with a surplus of high-quality proteins and low population density created environmental conditions leading to the selection of exceptionally tall males,” said the study’s lead author Pavel Grasgruber in an interview with Seeker.

This may explain why Europeans from the Dinaric Alps (Albanians and South Slavs in particular) who are genetically related to the Gravettins are so tall to this very day.

Another factor affecting Dinaric people could be higher calcium intake. The late anthropologist Carleton Coon, author of the book The Mountains of Giants: A Racial and Cultural Study of the North Albanian Mountain Ghegs, noted that the Dinaric Alps contain limestone bedrock with high mineral content, including calcium. Grasgruber said that Coon’s “idea is not unreasonable.”

Tall stature can be a mixed blessing. On the downside, larger individuals can require more nutrition and may be at greater risk for some health issues, such as cancer, blood clots, and spine problems. On the upside, many of us — particularly in Western cultures — tend to favor tall people, viewing them as more attractive and strong. Tall height can also be advantageous for particular sports, such as basketball.



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