The mystery of the unusual growth of Pharaoh Sankha

(ORDO NEWS) – Sankha was the third (or fourth according to another version) pharaoh of the III dynasty of Ancient Egypt and ruled in 2648-2630 BC, that is, over 4600 years ago.

Very little information about this ruler has reached us; in archeology, he is better known for his strange skeleton.

In 1901, archaeologists uncovered a tomb near Beit Hallab, Egypt, about 70 miles northwest of Luxor, and found an unusually large skeleton there. From heels to the top of his head, it was 187 cm and for modern times this person would be considered just a brute, but for Ancient Egypt he was abnormally tall, since the growth of most Egyptians in that era was no more than 160 cm.

It is not known for certain that these are the remains of the pharaoh, however, on the wall of the tomb, next to the scant remains of the bas-relief, the name Sanakht was found, which was listed as the name of the ruler on other ancient Egyptian monuments, and on the bas-relief itself you can see the head of a man in the headdress of the pharaoh.

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According to scientist Francesco M. Galassi and his colleagues at the University of Zurich, Sankha’s unusually large stature was the result of gigantism, a rare hormonal condition that leads to abnormal excessive bone growth. Moreover, Sanakht’s skeleton is now believed to be the oldest recorded case of gigantism.

In fact, archaeologists also found more ancient skeletons of people with signs of painful abnormal bone growth, but these skeletons were attributed to acromegaly, and not to gigantism. The difference between these diagnoses is that with gigantism, bones begin to grow abnormally from an early age, and with acromegaly, only in adulthood.

According to researchers, Sankha was definitely much taller than any other Egyptian ruler who has come down to us in the form of a mummy.

“The alleged pharaoh Sankha probably had gigantism, and then this is indeed the oldest known case in the world. In ancient times, there was no surgical or pharmaceutical treatment for such a disease, therefore, the regression of his bones could only be the result of a gradual degeneration of the pituitary gland,” they said scientists.
But even if the skeleton of Sankha did not belong to the pharaoh, then it was undoubtedly some kind of high official, because he was buried in an elite tomb with honors. Certainly not with a heap of treasures, like Tutankhamun, it nonetheless.

And in this case, it is assumed that gigantism in that era was not something marginal, that people with such a disease were not perceived by society as ugly or inferior, but rather the opposite.

In a study that scientists from the University of Zurich once conducted, it is indicated that Sanakht’s skeleton, in addition to abnormal growth, has other signs of gigantism, in particular, expansion of the bones of the arms, feet, forehead and jaw.

This research was published in The Lancet in 2017.

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However, not everyone accepted this conclusion. According to supporters of alternative history, the version with gigantism is too far-fetched.

First of all, because such people usually suffer very much from various bone problems, as well as many other concomitant diseases. Because of this, their life expectancy was usually short – 25-30 years. Nowadays, such children receive very early medical or surgical treatment, but thousands of years ago people lived as long as they were marked by fate.

Patients with gigantism often have headaches, generally poor health, problems with movement, memory loss, disruption of the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, gonads, etc.

At the same time, it is believed that Sankha was in power for 18 or 19 years. Historians do not know at what age Sankha became the ruler, and it is also not indicated (for some reason) at what age he died, so this greatly complicates the assessment of his health. However, it is reasonable to assume that a ruler suffering from poor health, memory problems and frequent severe headaches would not have lasted that long.

Unfortunately, historians are more interested in Sanakht’s place in the Egyptian royal dynasty and whether he was in fact a pharaoh or only a brother of the pharaoh or his other relative, than the mystery of his unusual skeleton. The version with gigantism, which became almost a fact after the 2017 research, is in fact still only a version.

There are also some details that have not yet been explored. For example, Sankha’s skull as a whole was very large, not only in the frontal or jaw area, but in height and width. And his long bones of arms and legs looked proportional enough.



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