Men from Herzegovina are some of the tallest in the world, averaging an ample 183.4 centimeters (6 feet) tall. That’s pretty impressive considering that the average guy in the US is just 175.7 centimeters (5 ft 9 in). The male population of Bosnia, the Netherlands, Montenegro, Croatia, and other pockets of North-Central Europe equally resemble a gang of basketball players with high heels on.
Oddly enough, these corners of Europe with tall male populations all appear to have strong genetic ties to a population of badass mammoth hunters from the Upper Paleolithic.
A new study by Masaryk University in the Czech Republic has recently looked into the roots of Europe’s lofty populations through an anthropometric survey of young men in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Today, a unique genetic mutation can be found in up to 70 percent of men in parts of Herzegovina, 63 percent in the Croatian capital Dubrovnik, and 50 percent in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. Known as I-M170, it is passed down on the male Y chromosome.
According to the study, I-M170 is commonly “regarded as the genetic legacy of the Upper Paleolithic Gravettian culture,” which thrived in the Balkans, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe around 31,000 BCE to 22,000 BCE.
Lead author Pavel Grasgruber told IFLScience: “We know that the oldest sample containing I-M170 belongs to a male from the Gravettian culture, who lived some 33,000 years ago in Southern Italy.”
Archaeological evidence also shows that the men from this Gravettian culture had particularly tall men. This culture managed to spread across many parts of Central and Northern Europe. Grasgruber stressed that “I-M170 is not a gene of height,” although people with the mutation are exceptionally tall. Instead, it does reveal people with common origin from a single male founder who was likely to be of notable height.