The age-old fascination with giants has persisted throughout human history and transcended throughout our culture. Tales of these colossal figures have sparked our imagination and curiosity for generations.
Some may dismiss these stories as mere legends or fantasies, while others question whether there is evidence leading to the possibility that giants, in some form, may have once roamed our world.
Are Giants Real?
Do giants have any basis in reality? Humanlike beings who grow to 20 feet or more are the stuff of fiction, and even far in the past, there’s no evidence hominins ever got much taller than we are today.
Some remarkable exceptions among Homo sapiens have existed, but they are most often the result of hormonal disorders. Such conditions occur when the body produces excess growth hormone throughout life. Those who suffer from these disorders — as was the case for the tallest man ever measured, Robert Wadlow — continue to grow for years.
Wadlow stood 8 feet, 11 inches tall, making him a veritable giant to most of us. But his stature came at a cost; Wadlow reportedly had little sensation in his feet and died of an infected blister in his early 20s. Other abnormally tall individuals can also suffer from issues related either to their height or to the condition that led them to grow so tall.
Read More: Who Was the Tallest Person to Ever Live?
Is There Any Evidence of Giant Humans?
There are few signs that ancient humans ever grew much taller than we do. While anthropologist Lee Berger once claimed that some members of a species of archaic hominin, H. heidelbergensis, grew to over 7 feet tall, there’s little evidence that’s true.
If anything, ancient humans were shorter than we were. Neanderthals stood, on average, several inches shorter than us.
To find true giants, we must journey back even further, to our primate ancestors. The giant ape species Gigantopithecus blacki may have stood up to 10 feet tall and died out just a few hundred thousand years ago — meaning our evolutionary cousins existed alongside them.
Read More: Homo heidelbergensis: The Answer to a Mysterious Period in Human History?
Did Giants Ever Exist in the Past?
Gigantopithecus lived during the Pleistocene epoch, which was characterized by various megafauna, including large mammals. Its giant size fits within the context of the larger evolutionary trends seen in this period.
Researchers know the size of G. blacki from the fossil remains of its teeth and jawbones. Gigantopithecus fossils have been discovered in various parts of Southeast Asia, particularly in China, Thailand and Vietnam.
The molars of Gigantopithecus are notably large and robust. These molars were adapted for processing tough and fibrous vegetation, suggesting a plant-based diet. The size and wear patterns on these teeth indicate that the hominid needed massive jaw muscles to chew its food, a characteristic of large-bodied animals.
G. blacki may have been the closest thing that ever existed to mythical Bigfoots and Sasquatches. But today, there are no giants to speak of.
Read More: The Time of Giants: How Did Dinosaurs Get So Big?
This article was originally published on May 12, 2020 and has since been updated with information on G. blacki. This story is part of an ongoing series exploring questions about human origins. Read more about ancient humans:
Just How Many Extinct Types of Human Did Our Ancestors Meet?
These Skulls From Ancient Humans Might Provide Clues About Early Mating Practices
How Scientists Know Our Human Ancestors Ate Insects
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