1. Education
N.S. Gill

How Tall Were the Ancients?

By January 21, 2004

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Have you ever wondered how tall the Romans were? How about medieval knights? According to the following study, by Nikola Koepke and Joerg Baten, which shows the annual average height from the first to the eighteenth century, the average height of Europeans, male and female, in the 4th century was about 169 centimeters or about 5.5.
The Biological Standard of Living in Europe During the Last Two Millennia

Comments

October 7, 2008 at 5:16 am
(1) D Anderson says:

169 centimeters is a little over 5′ 6 1/2″, NOT 5′ 5″. That’s a significant difference!

October 7, 2008 at 7:26 am
(2) ancienthistory says:

thanks for pointing that out. Actually, neither 169 nor 5’5 is exact. If you want the exact figure, please look at the article.

March 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm
(3) Octavian says:

Actually 169cm = 5.54 inch, so 5.5 is OK. If you do not have a calculator just type in Google’s search window: 169 cm in feet
…and you get the answer

May 31, 2011 at 3:50 am
(4) Dr Dabbs says:

Neolithic man in 3000 BC had an average male height of 170 centimetres or 5 feet 7 inches. Females were 5 feet 6 inches on average. Only in the 21st Century has modern man grown substantially another 4 inches because of clean water, healthy babies and balanced nutritional diet.

June 13, 2011 at 1:39 am
(5) Poly says:

Ancient people like Hawaiians and Tongans were any where from 7ft to 8 ft tall…. jus thought i’d put state that

July 17, 2011 at 11:27 am
(6) andy says:

^sorry, but considering that Hawaiians and Tongans of today are nowhere close to averaging 7-8ft tall, I’m going to call your comment mistaken. Don’t get me wrong Hawaiians and Tongans are large people, but to say that their ancestors, who most likely did not eat as much food, nor as much protein (remember, people were smaller in the older days since food was much harder to come by), were averaging 1-2ft taller than their descendants, is wrong.

November 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm
(7) kanaka says:

my great grandfather was seven feet tall and his father was a little taller than him. both were pure hawaiians

December 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm
(8) Poly says:

A response to the comment left by andy. My great grandfather who was pure Hawaiian was 6ft 7inches is a clear example of Hawaiians being tall. My cousin luke kaumatule is 6ft 8inches tall look him up if you want he is all over the internet, along with his younger brother who is 6ft 8 in the 9th grade and looks to be as if he will surpass his younger brother.

January 1, 2012 at 7:44 am
(9) Kanaka maoli says:

Andy, ancient Hawaii was a land of abundant food supplies from the mountains to the sea. The taro patches and fish ponds were main sources of nutrients and protein and even in the early 1900′s, when a good portion of these taro patches and fish ponds were destroyed, there was still enough food to feed much more than the population at the time. So our ancestors had arguably better diets and lifestyles than we do today in modern Hawaii.
Also, my grandfather and all before him were pure Hawaiian. His older brother was around seven feet tall and most of the males on my Hawaiian side from the generation and before are 6″+.

January 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm
(10) kanaka says:

Andy, ancient polynesians were naturally tall people because they had a high potassium diet like taro breadfruit banana etc. that they ate every day since they were young. it was not uncommon to see a 7 foot guy or women walking around. the high chief of hawai’i were all tall, they were 7ft. 8ft. and taller. My grandfather side is kauakahi clan which is 7ft. average my grandmother side is keawe clan they average 6.8in. is that proof enough.

February 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm
(11) Jason says:

I was born and raised in Hawaii, so I can also testify to these statements by Kanaka and Poly. However, these are only “anecdotal” numbers. I was actually just having this exact argument with a friend, who studies history and has the same opinion as andy.

So, does anyone know of any official historical text that outlines how tall ancient Hawaiians really were?

February 21, 2012 at 5:51 am
(12) mele says:

Ancient Hawaiians did get up to 6ft and taller. For example, my very great uncle, King Kamehameha, stood over 7ft tall. I hope this helps with this confusion.

February 21, 2012 at 6:31 am
(13) NS Gill says:

I don’t know how this developed into a discussion of Hawaiians, but information about the height of grandparents or great grandparents is not ancient and doen’t belong on this site. For those interested, this article: The Physique of the Ancient Hawaiians
Vaughan MacCaughey
The Scientific Monthly , Vol. 5, No. 2 (Aug., 1917), pp. 166-174
provides some data on the height of Hawaiians.

March 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm
(14) Emabel says:

NS Gill, after avidly following the in-depth debate above, I am now (having initially only indulged a passing curiosity regarding the height of the Romans) incredibly intrigued by the various theses offered herewith. However, I do not appear to be able to gain access to the article that you have cited. Can you offer me any guidance in this matter?

March 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm
(15) ancienthistory says:

I don’t know what to say. I clicked on the link and it pulled up a google doc. https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.uni-tuebingen.de%2Funi%2Fwwl%2Fkoepke_baten_twomillennia.pdf

June 14, 2012 at 1:34 am
(16) lousou aonga says:

interesting

June 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm
(17) islandgirl says:

The Hawaiian Canoe made ancient Hawaiians tall, big and strong. The long voyage to Hawaii demanded that only the most fit and healthy could make the 2700 mile journey from Tahiti. The Tahitians were taller than the first wave of immigrants from the Marquesas and soon took over as the rulling alii. Archaeological studies of ancient Hawaiian skulls show by their teeth that Hawaiians had a very nutritious diet. Journals by European explorers are filled with reports of Ploynesian largesse regarding hogs, fish, foul, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh water, wood and whatever else these foreigners desired. Earlly Hawaiians did not have to toil for a subsistence diet. They didn’t work hard for the land to supply them with plenty. For example, the Makahiki, celebrating the God Lono, was four months of no work or war. It was a time of feasting, dancing and enjoying. In spite of European diseases, the Hawaiian population has made a comeback by mixing with other races and very few pure Hawaiians are alive today while part-Hawaiians have lost the height of their ancestors. Aloha

August 6, 2012 at 8:10 pm
(18) Michael says:

Actually, Octavian, D Anderson was correct. 169 cm IS 5’6″ and a half, NOT 5’5″. The reason you came up with 5’5″ is because you probably converted 169 cm into FEET not inches. 169 cm IS approximately 5.5 feet. But remember, the number after the decimal is TENTHS, not twelfths. 5.5 feet means 5 and one half feet, NOT 5 feet 5 inches. 5 and one half feet, because feet are divided into, of course 12 inches, IS 5’6″. 169 cm is exactly 66.5354 inches. 5 feet is sixty inches, and the remainder is about 6 and a half inches, therefore 5’6.5″ Please don’t hastily correct someone before you’re certain you’re right. This whole issue arises from the fact that our number system is in tens usually, but that “feet” and “inches” break the general rule by being 1/12.

September 14, 2012 at 3:34 am
(19) Bruce says:

Heights did vary according to culture and location. When I was researching ancient Britain I discovered that Germanics and Celts were about the same size as moderns, often six feet or more. Diet and hygiene (childhood disease tends to reduce size) varied by culture.

October 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm
(20) Shane says:

I’ve always wondered how various populations averaged in height. I can never find studies on how ancient West/Central African kingdoms averaged in height. This was before colonialism and during a time when they were self-sufficient. I also wonder about the height of ancient Saharan/North African people living while the desert still had plush areas. This would be the Garamantes, Numidians, and early East/North African Nilotic people.

March 12, 2013 at 5:48 am
(21) drg says:

I think some commenters are a little confused, based on Darwin’s theory of evolution what you eat isn’t passed down through generations or genes. Only the strongest suited to each environment survive.

Which means for example that if tall people where able to gather food from tall trees and short where not, the chances are that short people would slowly die out and only tall people left to bread with each other.

This of course this is a very simplified example as it relies on their only source of food coming from tall trees, but you get the idea.

March 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm
(22) Dr. Thaddaeus R. Banicus says:

What’s Darwins Theory of Evolution have to do with this? Even he admitted it wasn’t real; and anyone who does some thinking can come to the conclusion that it isn’t to be taken seriously.

March 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm
(23) DerDoc says:

Dr. Bianicus,
You are right as to Darwin’s Theory. I may add that not even Darwinists believe in his theory. It is a mere assumption that GUIDES researchers, much as the assumption of the “Reasonable Man” guides economists. Everyone knows that both assumptions are not found in reality, but we use them as they are as close to reality as possible at this time, and we tweak them as necessary in our experiments.

April 29, 2013 at 6:19 am
(24) Jordan says:

@andy the Haole! Andy Andy Andy. Today’s food is filled with chemicals that alter our genes. Over time people have shrunk due to the introduction of food processing. I’m sure the Romans today are no where near the size of the ancient Romans. Also, how do you know Hawaiians ate less back then??? Are you an Anthropologist of Ancient Hawaii? In Old Hawaii, being overweight was considered desirable. Hawaiians had a main staple of food called “Kalo.” Google Kalo Andy and get educated before you open your big mouth. And are you taking into consideration the type of food they ate? hawaiians didnt eat any genetically modified foods that stumps healthy growth in hawaiians like us today. and i seriously hope you dont consider all people from Hawaii to be Hawaiian. our Islands mainly consist of asians and caucasian mixes. I’m sorry, I’m going to have to say YOUR comment about Hawaiians is mistaken.

April 29, 2013 at 10:12 am
(25) Michael says:

As to the height of early Hawaiians they weren’t even near six feet tall. Here is part of a study, and by the way the average age for men before death was 30 and 32 for females. Most suffered from bone density problems because of the limited choice of fuit on the islands which was two:

Biological Characteristics of Early Hawaiians based on Skeletal Remains

(referenced from Early Hawaiians – An Initial Study of Skeletal Remains from Mokapu, Oahu by Dr. Charles Snow)

What did the typical Hawaiian man and woman look like in ancient Hawaii? The average height for a male was about 5 feet 7 inches, while the average height for a female was 5 feet 7 inches, while the average height for a female was 5 feet 3 inches. They tended to have large heads and a high frequency of “rocker jaws” and shovel-shaped incisor/front teeth. These people were especially noted for their muscular bodies and narrow hips.

April 29, 2013 at 10:15 am
(26) parishmp says:

Here is part of a study done of early Hawaiins using skeletans found. The average age for men was 30 and 32 for women.

Biological Characteristics of Early Hawaiians based on Skeletal Remains

(referenced from Early Hawaiians – An Initial Study of Skeletal Remains from Mokapu, Oahu by Dr. Charles Snow)

What did the typical Hawaiian man and woman look like in ancient Hawaii? The average height for a male was about 5 feet 7 inches, while the average height for a female was 5 feet 7 inches, while the average height for a female was 5 feet 3 inches. They tended to have large heads and a high frequency of “rocker jaws” and shovel-shaped incisor/front teeth. These people were especially noted for their muscular bodies and narrow hips.

March 7, 2014 at 8:18 am
(27) T.J. Kuahine says:

Can you post a link to your study? What time period were these “ancient” Hawaiian remains from? Your post is very vague which makes me question the validity of your study and the claims made? I highly doubt that “limited choice of fruit” was an issue in the ancient Hawaiian diet. Any essential nutrients found in fruit, including Fiber, Potassium, Folate, Vitamin A and Vitamin C could already be found in the Hawaiian diet. In my research I have found that fruit is highly overrated anyway and one would be better off replacing them with vegetables due to the issue of sugar content and it’s affect on insulin (hyperinsulinemia). I don’t claim to know everything so please enlighten me if I am wrong. Just a proud Hawaiian trying to figure out the truth lol

March 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm
(28) k.logan says:

So after reading this article and posts I got curious and spent over an hour looking into the height of ancient Hawaiians. There’s documented proof that when Capt. Cook first landed on the island that the chief was 6feet tall. With further proof saying the average height was 5’8″ -6 foot. But there is also proof in the form if skeletal remains of hawaiians being over 6’7″. I’ve had some interactions with hawaiians and personally I can believe that the island had “giants”

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