Size matters: human phenotypes and social interaction during the 5kya turnover

YMPACT partners Dr. Eva Rosenstock from Freie Universität Berlin and Dr. Martin Trautmann from University of Helsinki held an online lecture in the Helsinki Archaeology Seminar on March 5th with the title: "Size matters: human phenotypes and social interaction during the 5kya turnover".


Human body height, one of the most obvious human physical traits, shows a significant shift towards taller stature in most of Europe starting around 3000 BCE (Trautmann 2012; Rosenstock et al. 2019; Ruff 2018). Likely drawing on the reservoir of tall populations of the Eastern European Steppe, this phenotypic change can be connected to the Yamnaya impact (Heyd 2017). Here, net nutrition as a determinant of stature has been proposed by earlier research (Cohen & Armelagos 1984) but plays a very minor role at best. Hence, besides other factors such as heterosis effects or IGF-1, a major genetic shift including also SNIPS determining stature (Cox, Ruff, Maier, & Mathieson 2019) and ideas of stature as a social signal (Bogin, Hermanussen, Blum, & Aßmann 2015) are discussed. Furthermore, the possible importance of height differences as selective advantage in physical and social competition between pre-Yamnaya and Yamnaya-related populations in the 3rd mill. BC are evaluated.


Bogin, B., Hermanussen, M., Blum, W. F., & Aßmann, C. (2015). Sex, Sport, IGF-1 and the Community Effect in Height Hypothesis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(5), 4816-4832.

Cohen, M. N., & Armelagos, G. J. (Eds.). (1984). Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture: Proceedings of the Conference on Paleopathology and Socioeconomic Change at the Origins of Agriculture held at Plattsburgh, held April 25 – May 1, 1982. Orlando: Academic Press.

Cox, S. L., Ruff, C. B., Maier, R. M., & Mathieson, I. (2019). Genetic contributions to variation in human stature in prehistoric Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(43), 21484. doi:10.1073/pnas.1910606116

Heyd, V. (2017). Kossinna's smile. Antiquity, 91(356), 348-359. doi:10.15184/aqy.2017.21

Trautmann, M. (2012). Die schnurkeramischen Bestattungen von Lauda-Königshofen. Steinzeitliche Hirtennomaden im Taubertal? Fundberichte aus Baden-Württemberg 32/1.

Rosenstock, E., Ebert, J., Martin, R., Hicketier, A., Walter, P., & Groß, M. (2019). Human stature in the Near East and Europe ca. 10,000–1000 BC: its spatiotemporal development in a Bayesian errors-in-variables model. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. doi:10.1007/s12520-019-00850-3

Ruff, C. B. (Ed.) (2018). Skeletal variation and adaptation in Europeans: Upper Paleolithic to the twentieth century. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell.