COLUMBUS, Ohio - Equestrian Indian tribes on the American Plains in the late 1800s were the tallest people in the world, suggesting that they were surprisingly well-nourished given disease and their lifestyle, a new study found.
These results contradict the modern image of American Indians as being sickly victims succumbing to European disease, said Richard Steckel, co-author of the study and professor of economics and anthropology at Ohio State University.
"What these height data show is the ingenuity and adaptability of the equestrian Plains tribes in the face of remarkable stress from disease and hardship," Steckel said.
The average adult male Plains Indian stood 172.6 centimeters tall -- about 5 feet 8 inches. The next tallest people in the world at that time were Australian men, who averaged 172 centimeters. European American men of the time averaged 171 centimeters tall, and men living in European countries were typically several centimeters shorter.
Steckel conducted the study with Joseph Prince, an anthropologist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Their results were published in a recent issue of The American Economic Review.