Men from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Netherlands, Croatia, and Montenegro are, on average, the tallest in the world, according to new research that helps to explain why such individuals often grow to six feet and more in height.
Their stature appears to be at least partly a genetic legacy of the Upper Paleolithic Gravettian culture, says the study, which is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The Upper Paleolithic broadly dates to between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago.
“The Gravettian is the most important prehistoric culture of the Upper Paleolithic Europe and is sometimes called ‘the culture of mammoth hunters,’” lead author Pavel Grasgruber of Masaryk University told Seeker. “I suspect that this big game specialization associated with a surplus of high-quality proteins and low population density created environmental conditions leading to the selection of exceptionally tall males.”
Remains of Gravettian men suggest that they stood between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 2 inches on average, which was an extraordinary size for the time. In contrast, men among the ancient Maya who lived several thousand years later were 5 feet 2 inches tall on average. Mayan women were about 4 feet tall on average.