Myth #8 Revisited: People Were Shorter Back Then

January 3, 2011

A recent issue of The Economist (Dec. 18-31, 2010) has an article about a unique archaeological excavation in England. A mass grave was uncovered in Towton, a town between York and Leeds, full of soldiers’ remains dating from the War of the Roses in the 1400s. ArchaeologistsĀ could tell by the bones how old the men were (17-50) and, in excruciating detail, how each died. They reached many interesting conclusions, one being that the average medieval man was only 4 centimeters shorter than the average Englishman today.

“It was only in the Victorian era that people started to get very stunted,” says Christopher Knusel, one of the archaeologists who is now at the University of Exeter. They also debunked another myth–that people in the medieval era had blackened, rotten teeth. Sugar was not widely available at that time, so their teeth were strong. Their diet was pretty good too, something else they could discern from studying the bones.

Read the whole article, Nasty, Brutish, and Not That Short at


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