Liliput Village in Iran
In a remote corner of the Iranian province of South Khorasan, not far from its border with Afghanistan, there is a village that about a century ago was inhabited by people of very short stature. This is confirmed by local architecture. Of the approximately two hundred stone and earthen houses that make up the settlement, seventy or eighty are very low. These mud houses with a height of less than two meters with narrow doorways, which can not be entered without stooping. In some of these houses, the ceiling height is only 140 cm.
Liliput Village in Iran
Marriages between close relatives, poor nutrition and drinking water mixed with mercury made the inhabitants of Makhunik half a meter lower than people of average height at that time.
For centuries, the inhabitants of Mahunik were almost completely isolated from modern civilization. The region was dry, deserted and barren, making it difficult to grow crops and keep animals. Turnip, corn, barley, and a fig-like fruit called jujube – the only thing that could be grown. People ate simple vegetarian dishes, such as porridge (kashk-beneh) (made from whey and pistachios grown in the mountains) and potik (pokhteek) (a mixture of dry whey and turnips).
Malnutrition largely contributed to the insufficient growth of residents. The isolation also forced people to marry close relatives, as a result of the defective genes that were in both parents, more pronounced in their offspring. Some of these genes have provoked dwarfism.
Small stature is not the only reason why these people built small houses. For a small house you need less construction materials, which was convenient, since large domestic animals that could pull carts with materials were in short supply, and there were few good roads. Therefore, local residents had to carry all the materials on themselves for a distance of several kilometers. Small houses are easier to warm and cool than large ones; they fit better into the landscape, which makes them more difficult to reach for potential invaders.
In the middle of the 20th century, there was a breakthrough in the development of the city in the region, helped by the construction of roads and the emergence of vehicles, which allowed the residents of Mahunik to add more foodstuffs to their plates, such as rice and chicken. Children grew healthier and higher than their parents, and as the quality of medical care improved, dwarfism among residents began to decline.
Today, most of the 700 residents of Mahunik have an average height. Many years have passed since they left the tiny dwellings of and moved into brick houses. But, excluding growth and at home, nothing has changed for the villagers. Life is still harsh, and agriculture is weak due to continued drought. Young people travel to nearby cities for work, and women do weaving. Old people live on state aid.
The unique architecture and history of Mahunik create a rich tourist potential, which, as the residents hope, one day will give the opportunity to live and work in their own village.