Medieval man was as tall as us

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Medieval man was as tall as us

Medieval man was the same height as us, a study of 3000 skeletons say. Something about this just doesn't ring true. The "myth" that medieval people in the past were shorter is so persuasive that maybe this sample is only reflective of the area it was studied from. Still its a great study, and 3000 bodies must be pretty conclusive.

Judged by the height of the doorframes he built, medieval man was assumed to be vertically challenged. But after examining the bones of those who lived in the Middle Ages, scientists have discovered a much bigger truth. Evidence gathered from 3,000 skeletons reveals that human height has varied little over the past 1,000 years.

From the 10th century through to the 19th, the average height of adult men was 5ft 7in or 170cm - just 2in below today's average. Women were an average of 5ft 2in or 158cm - just over an inch shorter than today. All the bones in the study came from the medieval St Peter's Church in Barton upon Humber, North East Lincolnshire.

English Heritage senior curator Kevin Booth said the £2million project provided a "snapshot of England over the last 1,000 years". "This is a classic English parish church, it's a microcosm of what you get across the country," he said.

Researchers from Bristol Royal Infirmary studied every skeleton in an attempt to identify its sex, age and size and analysed bones for evidence of disease, injury, and diet. Sebastian Payne, chief scientist for English Heritage, said evidence from the remains and those from other cemeteries showed the heights of adults has remained "very stable" across the centuries.

"The idea that people were dwarflike is just not true," he said. "The perception comes partly from buildings having low doorways and partly from things like small bits of armour. "The reason why you get small pieces of armour is they are the ones made for rich small kids which didn't get heavily used and so survived. "Small doorways are more to do with heating efficiency than anything else."

Some differences did emerge in the Barton bones when scientists examined the skeletons of children. Ten-year-olds measured on average 18cm or 7in shorter than today. Puberty was delayed beyond 15 and they continued to grow later than today's teenagers.

As well as being of similar height, our predecessors suffered similar physical ailments to ours today, such as back and joint problems. Researchers were astonished that only two skeletons had evidence of tuberculosis and there were just four cases of polio.

Among the earliest remains is the skeleton of a man aged around 50, probably born during the reign of King Canute (1016-1035). He lived during the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the subsequent "Harrying of the North" by William the Conqueror. At 5ft 2in, he was short by the standards of his day, but had strong shoulder muscles.

His remains survived because he was buried in an oak coffin in unusual ground conditions which aided preservation. Many of these findings form part of an exhibition, Buried Lives, which opens tomorrow at the restored medieval church.

daily Mail

One of the skeletons

skeleton.jpg - 60.48kb
By netchicken: posted on 26-5-2007








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