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Author Topic: Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?  (Read 4618 times)

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« on: 18/04/2008 23:43:39 »
As a species, humans are getting taller. Even 100 years ago, houses were made with doors that are now too small for the average person to get through without stooping. So how far can this process go?

And here's a follow-up question...

It has been said that a major contributory factor to people being taller is better diet. So why are people from poorer countries where there is much less food also taller? Looking at pictures on TV of refugee camps in Somalia, Ethiopia etc where people have gone to relief camps due to famine, they are as tall as the reporters. How can that be if diet is indeed a major factor?


 

Offline Bizzy

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« Reply #1 on: 21/04/2008 00:45:42 »
I guess humans can get as big as dinosaurs as long as the heart and cardiovascular system evolves as well. I think the need to be taller is probably governed by the need to be bigger than predators and the need to reach higher foods. Since we dont have either need, I guess we are getting taller through diet alone.
I guess refugees are getting taller because when they do eat they are eating well and a more varied diet than anytime in history. Its just that the food runs out sometimes through natural or civil events.
« Last Edit: 21/04/2008 00:47:47 by Bizzy »
 

another_someone

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« Reply #2 on: 21/04/2008 01:40:57 »
I think the situation in Europe is slightly different from that on Somalia, although how much different is open to debate.

There have always been some tall African tribes (but there have also been some short African tribes - it all goes back to the argument that there is probably greater genetic human diversity on the continent of Africa than in the rest of the human population of the world put together).

Clearly, even in Europe, there have been historic differences in height between Scandinavians and Italians, so if Europeans have been selectively breeding for height (i.e. women find taller men sexier, and so have taller children), then we could be reinforcing the genes that made Scandinavians taller.

The argument about houses being made smaller 100 years ago has been questioned as to its relevance by some people.  There is evidence that skeletons from the Mary Rose were quite consistent in stature with modern people (at least, with those of a generation ago - having a mean height of 5'7"), and so either the population 100 years ago had reduced in height over that in the 16th century, or the people 100 years ago also had to stoop to enter their houses, or the crew that manned the Mary Rose was not typical of the population as a whole for its time.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« Reply #3 on: 21/04/2008 07:56:39 »
George - if you go to any of England's stately homes and look at the furniture, it is considerably smaller. Hampton Court Palace is a prime example. Henry VIII's bed is tiny and the chairs are of the same scale.

What you say about Africa is true. I spent time in Rwanda and can confirm that the Tutsi are considerably taller than the Hutu. There are pygmies in the rainforest of Western Uganda/Eastern Zaire whose average height is about 5'3". All 3 are B'antu tribes.

In Kenya, the Maasai & Samburu (who are Nilotic) are much taller than the Kikuyu (B'antu).
 

another_someone

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« Reply #4 on: 21/04/2008 13:44:56 »
Nonetheless, I still think that we are looking more at a change in average height than any significant change in maximum height (their may be some slight change in maximum height, but predominantly I suspect that all that is happening is that more people are closer to the maximum height).

The fact the there were many of the sailors on the Mary Rose that were approaching 6' would imply that 6' people were not that uncommon in the 16th century, but simply that the average person was considerably smaller than that.

One could speculate that it is an indication of reduced genetic variability in the modern population.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« Reply #5 on: 21/04/2008 15:44:15 »
It could have been simply that big, strong men were chosen for the crew. It was, after all, Henry's flagship. He would not have wanted little wimps crewing it.
 

Offline MMTA

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« Reply #6 on: 13/04/2009 04:24:14 »
George - if you go to any of England's stately homes and look at the furniture, it is considerably smaller. Hampton Court Palace is a prime example. Henry VIII's bed is tiny and the chairs are of the same scale.

Have you tried lifting a medieval sword?

It's a misnomer that people were generally smaller... Henry VIII had a 54" waist, as measured from his armour and clothing, and when his skeleton was measured recently, his height was found to be 6'2".

Remember that when you're in stately home, the furniture looks smaller because the rooms are bigger :)

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Is there a limit to how tall a person can be?
« Reply #6 on: 13/04/2009 04:24:14 »

 

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