Irish Giants May Not be All Myth

DNA from skeleton of Charles Byrne, the "tallest man in Ireland," shows a common ancestry with five families from the North.

THE PREVALENCE of giants in Irish mythology may have a genetic basis which exists to this day, researchers claim.

DNA extracted from the bones of Charles Byrne, who billed himself as the world’s tallest man in the 18th century, shows a common ancestry with five Northern Irish families who have a similar genetic condition.

The condition could be traced back to a common ancestor who lived about 1,500 years ago, but lead researcher Dr Marta Korbonits said the genetic window could be anything between 400 and 3,700 years ago. She said she was struck by the prevalence of giants in Irish mythology which features the likes of Fionn Mac Cumhail, mythical creator of the Giants Causeway.

“It was folklore up to now, but we have identified the gene that has caused the gigantism that has been going around Ireland for at least 1,500 years. There might be a grain of truth in the folklore,” she said.

Read the full article in the January 7, 2011 edition of IrishTimes.com

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