Myths abound with stories of giants, from the frost and fire giants of Norse legends to the Titans who warred with the gods in ancient Greek mythology. However, giants are more than just legend. The supposed remains of Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh of ancient Egypt, may be the oldest known human giant.
As part of ongoing research into mummies, scientists investigated a skeleton found in 1901 in a tomb near Beit Khallaf in Egypt with an estimated age of 2700 B.C – Third Dynasty of Egypt.
Prior work suggested that the skeleton of the man — who would have stood at up to 6 feet 1.6 inches (1.9 meters) tall — may have belonged to Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh during the Third Dynasty. Previous research on ancient Egyptian mummies suggested the average height for men around this time was about 5 feet 6 inches (1.7 m).
Ancient Egyptian kings were likely better fed and in better health than commoners of the era, so they could be expected grow taller than average. Still, the over-6-foot-tall remains the scientists analyzed would have towered over Ramesses II, the tallest recorded ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who lived more than 1,000 years after Sa-Nakht and was only about 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall.
Relief fragment of Sanakht in the pose of smiting an enemy. Originally from the Sinai, now EA 691 on display at the British Museum.
In the new study, Habicht and his colleagues reanalyzed the alleged skull and bones of Sa-Nakht. The skeleton’s long bones showed evidence of “exuberant growth,” which are “clear signs of gigantism,” Habicht said.
These findings suggest that this ancient Egyptian probably had gigantism, making him the oldest known case of this disorder in the world. No other ancient Egyptian royals were known to be giants.