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People haven't grown taller in this Roman city for 2000 years, finds a study

The citizens of Milan have managed to stay the same height for the past 2,000 years, proving that the saying "good things come in small packages" is true.

People haven't grown taller in this Roman city for 2000 years, finds a study
Cover Image Source: GettyImages/Photo by: MICROGEN IMAGES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/ vlada_maestro

If you think you've grown a few inches since the Roman era, you might be surprised to hear that the citizens of Milan haven't. According to a study published in the Scientific Reports journals, both the male and female citizens of Milan have not significantly changed in height over the past 2,000 years, which is unusual considering the average height of people in industrialized nations has increased by around four inches in the last 150 years. Mirko Mattia, co-author of the paper and postdoctoral fellow at the Università degli Studi di Milano, was equally surprised by the findings, stating that European studies have observed a U-shaped trend in adult stature, with tall individuals in Roman and Early Medieval times, a negative secular trend in the Late Middle Ages and/or Modern era and finally a height recovery in the 20th century.

The researchers used both historical data sources and ancient skeletons to measure how the average height of Milanese people changed over time, finding that male heights ranged between 152 centimeters (5 feet) to 195.4 centimeters (6 feet 5 inches), with a mean of 168.5 centimeters (5 feet 6 inches), while female heights lay between 143.5 centimeters (4 feet 8 inches) to 177.6 centimeters (5 feet 10 inches), with a mean stature of 157.8 centimeters (5 feet 2 inches). Both of these averages were found not to significantly change over time, leaving the citizens of Milan stuck in the past - literally.

Image Source: GettyImages/Photo By: 	Hillary Kladke
Image Source: GettyImages/Photo: Hillary Kladke

 

In a study conducted by Mattia, it was revealed that the evolutionary trend of stature in Milan remained relatively stable over the past 2,000 years. For the study, Mattia and his team examined over 500 skeletons spanning five different historical time periods. The time periods include the Roman era (1st-5th century A.D.), Early Middle Ages (6th-10th century A.D.), Late Middle Ages (11th-15th century A.D.), Modern era (16th-18th century A.D.) and Contemporary era (19th-21st century A.D.). They chose 50 females and 50 males from each period, all of whom came from the same urban context of the city of Milan and from the same (mostly) lower-class, socioeconomic background. It was to ensure that the data collected was not biased by geographical or social disparities.

Image Source: GettyImages/Photo by: 	Stevica Mrdja / EyeEm
Image Source: GettyImages/Photo by: Stevica Mrdja / EyeEm

 

The skeletal remains were taken from the Anthropological Collection of the LABANOF (Anthropological and Odontological Lab of the State University of Milan) and displayed in the University Museum of Anthropological, Medical and Forensic Sciences for Human Rights. The authors suggest that the reasons for the static height in Milan over the past two millennia may be due to the fact that the city was rich in natural and food resources, with walls to provide defense against potential threats. This comparatively better living condition could explain the stable trend of stature in Milan for both men and women.

In conclusion, it appears that the citizens of Milan have managed to stay at the same height for the past 2,000 years, proving that the saying "good things come in small packages" is true!

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