Estimating stature of giants from long bones

Estimating stature of giants from long bones, femur and tibia lengths will often severely under-estimate actual stature using the standard anthropological regression models for tibia, femur — inaccurate for tall or very tall persons, routinely underestimating stature by 6 inches to more than 12 inches!!!

Trotter & Gleser 1952, and Fordisc 2.0 and other commonly used long bone regression models to calculate stature are based on a bell curve using measurements from thousands of skeletons…It works very accurately for persons who are within the normal height range of 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.82 meters).

However, it becomes increasingly inaccurate the shorter or taller you are from the mean, or normal range!!! That is to say, if you are less than 5 feet tall, or more than 6 feet tall.

Below is a list of 12 different historic and pathological human giants who are from 7 to 8 feet tall and whose bones were housed in museums in the 1890’s, and the dimensions of their long bones listed. The average ratio of femur length to stature of the giant is 1 to 3.73, the femur representing about 27% of living stature.

Using the overly simplistic regression formula such as Trotter and Glesser and Fordisc 2.0, we find that the femurs on the skeleton of the 7 ft 7+ inch 18th century Irish Giant Charles Byrne which measure 62.5 cm (24.6 inches) would erroneously suggest a living stature of only 6 ft 8 to 6 ft 11 inches tall, or fully 8 to 11 inches less than his actual stature!!!!!

Similarly, the Guinness Book of World Records 1990 listed the estimated length of Robert Wadlow’s femur as 29.5 inches (75 cm). Wadlow stood 8 ft 11.1 inches tall in life. Using the Trotter and Glesser or Fordisc 2.0 method, Wadlow should have been only 7 feet 10-1/3 inches tall! – or nearly 13 inches shorter than his actual height of almost 9 feet!

So it becomes rather obvious, that even pathological human giants tend to conform to the same basic proportions as people of normal stature, with some occasional exceptions. But by and large the femur to height ratio generally is from 1: 3.5 to 1:4 in , or 1:3.7 being the general average for males. The ratio tends to be higher in women than in men.

But the general rule of thumb, is that if a femur length is given of any individual, I multiply it by 3.6 or 3.7 to find the approximate conservative estimate of stature. it works very well most of the time for me.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Estimating stature of giants from long bones

  1. And Gee, I just almost wonder if Jantz and Koenigsberg perhaps read this blog post I made back in 2014. Because their excellent chapter 9, “Multivariate Regression Methods for Analysis of Stature” in the 2017 book “New Perspectives in Forensic Human Skeletal Identification” tackles exactly the same questions I bring up in this post – the question of allometry, and population specific regression estimates of long bones (femur), and how extreme statures of giants can be severely under-estimated when using regression formula from a normative population sample, They even use the example of Charles Byrne (which I use above), and cite the 1899 works of Karl Pearson, who had noted how his standard regression based on femur and long bones tended to under-estimate stature of giants.

  2. They note in their book (figure 9.2 pg 90) that the femur length to stature percentage in humans, ranging from 1.4 meters to 2 meters tall, really has limited range of positive allometry (shorter persons have shorter relative limbs/femurs, and taller ones longer limbs/femurs relative to stature) where about ~27% of stature, is composed of the femur. This actually tends to jive with the work done by Marc Feldesman et al, 1980’s-90’s, which shows that the femur to stature ratio approximates about 27% of stature.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s