Third-Century Giant Discovered Outside of Rome

Archaeologists examine the earliest preserved skeleton suffering from gigantism

A tale of two tibia: Those of an average Roman and the man suffering from gigantism. Photograph by Simona Minozzi, Endocrine Society

In 1991, archaeologists working at a necropolis in Fidenae came across an unusually long tomb. The recent article “Pituitary Disease from the Past: A Rare Case of Gigantism in Skeletal Remains from the Roman Imperial Age” in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that this 6-foot 8-inch Roman stands as the earliest preserved example of a skeleton suffering from gigantism. Scientists examining the skull reported damage indicating a pituitary tumor, a condition that can disrupt the pituitary gland and lead to an unusually large release of human growth hormone.

The towering figure, who stood a full 14 inches higher than the average Roman male, passed away between the ages of 16 and 20. While the gigantism likely led to his other health problems, his relatively normal burial in the necropolis suggests that he was part of the community, rather than a curiosity for a Roman elite class infamous for taking pleasure in entertainers with physical deformities.

Read more in National Geographic.

Read Simona Minozzi, Walter Pantano, Francesco di Gennaro, Gino Fornaciari and Paola Catalano, “Pituitary Disease from the Past: A Rare Case of Gigantism in Skeletal Remains from the Roman Imperial Age” in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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  • Steve says

    6’8” is not a giant, it seems this person is just a bit taller than ”normal”, but not giant.
    If this person is an actual “giant”, he’s the shortest “giant” i have ever heard of.
    I am 6’1, and my dad is 6’7”, and my 14yo nephew is 5’9” and not done growing yet!
    And there are a lot of people taller than me around, and none that i know of have any
    genetic problems.
    This is just someone exaggerating & wanting to get a few minutes in the spotlight.
    sorry to burst your bubble.

  • Craig says

    I believe the finding not highly authentic but theoretical. It was not unusual to find those having a taller height in ancient narratives. As much research was put into arriving at a conclusion, those having such a distinct pleasure of being taller than the regular masses does not provide evidence of genetic deformities.

  • Kitichai says

    I have 45 days of the 90 day plan to finish up. Then I plan to go tgurohh it again over summer break. I really hadn’t thought of reading it aloud to the kids. It is a LOT of reading. Of course, you know that. LOL! Did you read it to everyone, littles included? I have 16, 12, 11, 10, 9, 7, 6, and 4 yr olds.Could you share your expectations of the children while you read? Do they color, play with a quiet toy, or just sit and listen? I really may consider doing this just need some help with figuring out logistics.Thanks! From another mom of 10![] Reply:January 3rd, 2011 at 2:36 pmI am planning on reading it to only my little non-readers (4 and 2). Everyone else is reading it on their own. (Our 5 and 7 year old girls are reading tgurohh the New Testament, not the entire Bible) I think it’s easier for them to concentrate when they are doing the reading themselves.[] Reply:January 7th, 2011 at 6:12 amSorry, forgot to answer your questions about expectations. It has turned out that I’m only reading sections to the 2 and 4 year old. (It just hasn’t worked for me to read all of it when they are available to sit and listen.) Anyway, when they are listening they are usually snuggling with me on the couch. I would also allow them to draw quietly if they wished.[]

  • Mervyn says

    The Hebrew Bible records “giants” in several instances, the most famous was Goliath. Others were reported by the recconaisance ten who were sent by Moses to search out for any likely difficulties when the Israelites entered Canaan.
    Later, there were wars against the Horites and a king who had a special bed because of his height.
    Otherr peoples, all over the world, have folk tales of giants.
    Could there have been a race of giant-sized men left over after the Deluge?
    Was it they who built the huge megolithic monuments such as the pyramids, and stone-henges round the world?
    Could rediation have affected their piturity glands?
    Food for thought.

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