Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: between work and sleep
I don't know if I can add anything valuable here... but here goes...
from what I know, a large factor is both the traits one is born with, and diet/lifestyle
Take for example the frontier of 1500-1800 Taiwan. The Han (Chinese) settlers were generally short, lean, tough folks. It was the "Wild Wild East" and the settlers were often pirates, farmers, or fighters. Violence was common place. But the lifestyle of the Chinese at that time was full of hardship. Unsanitary, crowded towns encouraged diseases. Lean, sometimes protein-deficient, diets caused many to be shorter or skinnier than they could be. The social structure made it so that most did not have access to quality nutrition even if the capability of creating it was there. Lots of arable land was used to make rice, tea, sugarcane, etc., much of it for export. Families had as many children as they could afford to raise, a common trend in farming families.
The aboriginal people of the Taiwanese plains (Ping Pu) were said to be taller, athletic, and well-built. They married later in life and had fewer children. Headhunting was common and in some groups one had to bring back an enemy head before being allowed to marry or receive tattoos which signified bravery and manhood. They had slash-and-burn agriculture of sustenance and hunted deer. Until severe marginalization by Han settlers, they ate pretty good. They generally had smaller populations, but had happier and healthier lives. However, look at the Taiwanese aborigines of the mountains. Here descriptions change. They are still described as athletic, well-built men... but they are shorter. Game is a bit less plentiful in the mountainous jungles and agriculture was harder in some areas with their level of agricultural technology.
If Taiwanese aborigines, Filipinos, Indonesians, etc. all come from the Austronesian gene pool... why are some short and others tall? Pingpu were taller... and Samoans have the stereotype of having a lot of muscular potential. Yet Filipinos and Indonesians are said to be shorter... I think not only do natural traits have to do with it, but diet and lifestyle do as well.
Parallels can be seen in Native America where the Peruvians in the Andes were said to be a shorter people... the Aztecs too were short people (intensely agricultural and under strict hierarchy). However the Iroquois/Haudensosaunee were said to have been somewhat tall and athletic. Some colonists compared them to Spartans. They had a mix of hunting/gathering and agriculture for food production. They lived in smaller numbers than the city-building Aztecs and Incas... but thanks to settled agriculture they had larger populations than their Algonquin rivals (who later adopted it).
And take the Celts of Europe for instance. They were said to have been tall men. Romans and Greeks described them as animal-like barbarians. Archeological and textual evidence points to the possibility that Celts were the fathers of several military inventions as well as pants and soap. They did not live in as dense cities as Romans and Greeks, had a hierarchy, but not one that prevented the commoner from being able to procure some protein. (As far as we know.) BUT BUT BUT... I remember reading that some of the Celts in the Alpine mountains had less access to certain important nutritions. Therefore many of them were shorter and malnourished than their other Celtic cousins. That didn't stop the Boii and the Helvetti from being fearsome warriors back in day....
I am Taiwanese but born in America. Despite having a light build, I am 5'10". In the USA, it's nothing to brag about. But 177.8 cm in Taiwan is decent height.