Last year, archaeologists began excavating a late Neolithic settlement in Jiaojia, a village in China’s Shandong province. They have unearthed a trove of fascinating finds there—including the ruins of 104 houses, 205 graves, and 20 sacrificial pits—but a recent discovery has taken experts by surprise. As Mark Molloy reports for the Telegraph, a graveyard in Jiaojia was found to contain the bodies of several men who were 5'9'' or taller. That might not seem like anything to write home about, but the men would have been exceptionally tall for the period in which they lived.
The remains, which date to about 5,000 years ago, were buried in large tombs. One of the individuals found in the graveyard was even taller than his leggy peers, measuring approximately 6'2'' or 1.9 meters.
"This is just based on the bone structure,” Fang Hui, head of Shandong University's school of history and culture, tells China Daily. “If he was a living person, his height would certainly exceed 1.9 meters."
Hui didn’t provide specific details about the average height of Neolithic populations living in what is now modern-day China, but Molloy writes that the men in the Jiaojia graveyard “would have seemed like giants to the average person 5,000 years ago.” In Europe, for context’s sake, the average height of Neolithic populations was about 5'5'' (1.67 meters), according to the publication Our World in Data.
Researchers have theorized that the men grew to (relatively) towering heights because they were high-status individuals who had access to better food than most of their contemporaries. The large tombs that housed the bodies certainly suggest that their occupants were wealthy. The theory would also explain why some of the remains, along with pottery and jade artifacts found within the tomb, appear to have been deliberately broken.
“The damage may have been done not long after the burials and may be due to power struggles among high-ranking people,” China Daily reports.
The people of Shandong province consider height to be a defining attribute, though vertically speaking, the men found in the Jiaojia graveyard still wouldn't have been in league with Shandong’s most famous son. Legend has it, Confucius, a native of the region, is said to have reached a height of 9'6".