Body height of mummified pharaohs supports historical suggestions of sibling marriages

Michael E. Habicht, MacIej Henneberg, Lena M. Öhrström, Kaspar Staub, Frank J. Rühli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Body height is an important factor in reconstructing health conditions and it serves as an indicator of socio-economic status. Researchers rely on ancient data to analyze evolutionary aspects of human health and its interrelation with environmental influences. This study presents body height estimates from all periods of ancient Egyptian history and compares the general population with the existing mummies of the members of royal families. A sample of 259 adult Egyptian mummies originating from various collections and published sources with body lengths (long bone measures or/and overall measurements, CT data) were analyzed, and royal mummies were scored with respect to the level of consanguinity. Male royals were taller than males in the general ancient Egyptian population, while female royals were shorter than females in the general population. The body height variation of the royals is significantly reduced when compared with a pool of non-royal mummies. This provides evidence for inbreeding resulting from consanguineous marriages. However, there appears to be no correlation between the level of inbreeding and individual body height. The random sample of general population does not show signs of inbreeding. Due to the present lack of larger, technically and ethically challenging genetic studies, the selected non-invasive approach of body height is the most reliable indicator of sibling marriages of pharaohs based on direct physical evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-525
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • ancient egypt
  • anthropometry
  • life expectancy
  • population
  • stature
  • Egyptology
  • Anthropology
  • Mummy studies
  • incest
  • Pharaoh


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