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Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh May Be the 1st Known 'Giant'



The possible skull of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Sanakht of the Third Dynasty.Credit: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

The supposed remains of Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh of ancient Egypt, may be the oldest known human giant, a new study finds.

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 myth; accelerated and excessive growth, a condition known as gigantism, can occur when the body generates too much growth hormone. This usually occurs because of a tumor on the pituitary gland of the brain.

As part of ongoing research into mummies, scientists investigated 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 B.C. [Photos: The Amazing Mummies of Peru and Egypt]

Prior work suggested that the skeleton of the man — who would have stood at up to 6 feet 1.6 inches (1.987 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), said study co-author Michael Habicht, an Egyptologist at the University of Zurich's Institute of Evolutionary Medicine.

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, Habicht said.

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, the researchers said. No other ancient Egyptian royals were known to be giants.

"Studying the evolutionary development of diseases is of importance for today's medicine," Habicht said.

In the early dynasties of Egypt, short statures were apparently preferred, with "many small people in royal service," Habicht said. "The reasons for this preference are not always certain."

Still, because the alleged remains of Sa-Nakht were buried in an elite tomb, there may have been no social stigma attached with gigantism at the time, the researchers said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the August issue of the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Originally published on Live Science.

New grass snake discovered in the UK


The Natrix helvetica was originally thought to be a subspecies of the grass snake

A new type of snake has been discovered in the UK, bringing the total number of species to four.

Scientists say the barred grass snake, Natrix helvetica, is actually a different species to the common or eastern grass snake, Natrix natrix.

Before, it was thought the grass snake was one species with several subspecies that looked slightly different.

The others native to the UK are the smooth snake and the adder, which is venomous.

Grass snakes are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act so it is a criminal offence to injure or kill them.

Both types of grass snake are normally found in lowland regions in the south of England. The snakes can be more than a metre (3ft) long, are found near water and eat mainly amphibians like frogs and newts.

The newly distinguished barred grass snake is grey, not olive green like the N. natrix and does not have the same bright yellow collar.

The snake is also found in Switzerland, Italy and France and also has been seen in western Germany.

The species has been distinguished from the common or eastern grass snake

Along its entire length the N. helvetica has black stripes, which on the common grass snake are barely noticeable.

The Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany led the study into the genetics of more than 1,600 grass snakes.

Professor Uwe Fritz said: "We discovered that the barred grass snake, previously considered a subspecies, is in fact a distinct species.

"We now have to pay close attention to which species of grass snake is involved in each case, in order to be able to assess whether one of them may be more threatened than previously thought."

Source: bbc
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About Le Minh Hieu

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.