I’ve been sitting on this one for a week, hoping there’d be a bit more coverage, but the National Geographic seems to have an exclusive. Some excerpts:
It’s no tall tale—the first complete ancient skeleton of a person with gigantism has been discovered near Rome, a new study says.
At 6 feet, 8 inches (202 centimeters) tall, the man would have been a giant in third-century A.D. Rome, where men averaged about 5 and a half feet (167 centimeters) tall. By contrast, today’s tallest man measures 8 feet, 3 inches (251 centimeters).
Two partial skeletons, one from Poland and another from Egypt, have previously been identified as “probable” cases of gigantism, but the Roman specimen is the first clear case from the ancient past, study leader Simona Minozzi, a paleopathologist at Italy’s University of Pisa, said by email.
The unusual skeleton was found in 1991 during an excavation at a necropolis in Fidenae (map), a territory indirectly managed by Rome.
At the time, the Archaeological Superintendence of Rome, which led the project, noted that the man’s tomb was abnormally long. It was only during a later anthropological examination, though, that the bones too were found to be unusual. Shortly thereafter, they were sent to Minozzi’s group for further analysis.
To find out if the skeleton had gigantism, the team examined the bones and found evidence of skull damage consistent with a pituitary tumor, which disrupts the pituitary gland, causing it to overproduce human growth hormone.
Other findings—such as disproportionately long limbs and evidence that the bones were still growing even in early adulthood—support the gigantism diagnosis, according to the study, published October 2 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
His early demise—likely between 16 and 20—might also point to gigantism, which is associated with cardiovascular disease and respiratory problems, said Minozzi, who emphasized that the cause of death remains unknown. (Explore an interactive of the human body.)
- Read the whole thing at: Ancient Roman Giant Found—Oldest Complete Skeleton With Gigantism (National Geographic)
- The Daily Mail has a derivative piece: The Roman who towered a foot-and-a-half above his peers: First ancient skeleton of man with gigantism found
- A less chatty derivative piece can be found at PhysOrg: Paleopathologist finds gigantism in third century Roman skeleton
The original article is avaliable here (payfer; not even a free abstract, grumble): Pituitary Disease from the Past: A Rare Case of Gigantism in Skeletal Remains from the Roman Imperial Age (JCEM)