Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Sa-Nakht May Have Been a Giant, New Study Suggests
A new study suggests that the remains of an ancient Egyptian, believed to be the Third Dynasty pharaoh Sa-Nakht, could belong to the first and oldest known human giant. Experts are now wondering: are giants more than just myth after all?
Did Giants Ever Exist?
In the search for proof that giants existed, people have traditionally exaggerated with unfounded stories and tales. Nevertheless, the controversial discoveries of skeletons measuring 7 feet to more than 9 feet tall, along with other artifacts, have suggested to some that truth inspired these legends.
Interestingly, American president Abraham Lincoln once stated, inspired by viewing Niagara Falls: “The eyes of that species of extinct giants, whose bones fill the mounds of America, have gazed on Niagara, as ours do now. Contemporary with the whole race of men, and older than the first man, Niagara is strong, and fresh today as 10,000 years ago.” Apparently, Lincoln believed in the existence of giants, but was he right? A new study says yes; well, kind of (not the kind of giants most of us would imagine).
A selection of newspaper clippings reporting on discoveries of giant skeletons. Credit: Hugh Newman
Not the Kind of Giant You Might Imagine
Live Science reports that as part of a study-in-progress on mummies, scientists have been closely examining a skeleton found in 1901 in a tomb near Beit Khallaf in Egypt. Previous research estimated that the bones dated from the Third Dynasty of Egypt, about 2700 BC. The initial analysis of the skeleton indicated that it belonged to Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh during the Third Dynasty. The only two evidences about his existence are found in two seal fragments, which were excavated from Wadi Maghareh, located in the Sinai Peninsula region. Egypt Travel Experts, Ask Aladdin, reported that the skeletal remains “of a very large-sized man” believed to be Sa-Nakht, were found in mastaba tomb K2 in Beit Khallaf, a small village of Mille Egypt.
Relief fragment of Pharaoh Sa-Nakht from The British Museum (Wikimedia Commons)
Sa-Nakht was a notably tall man for his time, as he was around 6’2 (1.87m) tall. Previous studies on ancient Egyptian mummies have shown that the average height for men back then was around 5’6 (1.68m), according to the study’s co-author Michael Habicht, an Egyptologist at the University of Zurich's Institute of Evolutionary Medicine.
Of course, most ancient Egyptian royals were better fed and in better health than everyday Egyptians, so they would normally grow taller and live longer than the Egyptian commoners. However, the nearly 6’2 remains of Sa-Nakht the scientists re-examined recently are almost five inches longer than the remains of Ramsses II, the tallest recorded ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who lived more than a millennium after Sa-Nakht and was only about 5’9 (1.75m) tall, as Habicht told Live Science.
Sa-Nakht May Have Suffered from Gigantism
Scientists who studied Sa-Nakht’s skeleton now believe that he had a condition known as gigantism, which occurs when the body produces too much growth hormone. In most cases, this occurs because of a tumor on the pituitary gland of the brain. Habicht and his colleagues have concluded that Sa-Nakht probably suffered from gigantism after they 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 tells Live Science. And added, "Studying the evolutionary development of diseases is of importance for today's medicine.” If their diagnosis is correct, the alleged Sa-Nakht would be the oldest known palaeopathological case of gigantism in the world.
The Kashmir giants, who suffered from a more severe form of gigantism (CC by SA 4.0)
Of course, no one would describe a 6’2 human as a giant nowadays, so the definition the scientists give to describe Sa-Nakht is not compatible with what we would consider a giant today, but is based on his diagnosis of gigantism. In fact, he probably wouldn’t have been tall enough to make a basketball team today - a typical NBA center stands in the 7-foot range! The scientists detailed their findings in the August issue of the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Top image: The skull of the Egyptian pharaoh Sa-Nakht, who may have had gigantism (public domain)