DISCOVERY: China Once Had “Giants!” Why Did Population Shrink?

Archaeologists in China have just discovered graves in Shandong Province bearing the ancient remains of a ‘giant’ population buried approximately 5,000 years ago. The bones reveal at least one male individual who would have reached 6ft, 3 in—towering above the people of the time.

“This is just based on the bone structure,” said Fang Hui, the head of Shandong University’s school of history and culture. “If he was a living person, his height would certainly exceed 1.9 meters.”

As Science Alert notes, the average height of 18-year-old males in the region was 5 ft, 9 inches in 2015. The national average in 2015 was 5 ft, 8 in, much shorter than their ancient forebears. That’s an interesting development, given that men in China today would enjoy better access to healthy foods and have more knowledge about nutrition.

We do know that European males from the same period as the people in Shandong only stood at 5 ft, 5 in. It’s clear these ‘giants’ were extraordinarily tall for their time. Researchers think the people of Longshan culture, named after Mount Longshan in Zhangqiu, had mostly good food to thank for their frames.

“Already agricultural at that time, people had diverse and rich food resources and thus their physique changed,” Fang told Xinhua.

Fang’s team has been conducting the dig since last year and has already excavated the ruins of 205 graves and 20 sacrificial pits. The tallest men were found in larger tombs, suggesting they may have been important individuals of high status. The layout of the ruins of houses also reveals separate bedrooms and kitchens—an advanced luxury for the time.

Archaeologists also uncovered bones of pigs and horses, suggesting the villagers farmed animals.

There are more answers to come in the future. So far, just 2,000 square meters of the Jiaojia site has been excavated.