Makhunik: The village of the ‘Dwarves’


Poor inbreeding, malnutrition, and mercury-contaminated drinking water make it impossible for people in a village in Iran to grow taller. They make up one of the most unique villages in the world: the dwarf village.

“Makhunik Dwarf Village” is located in a remote area of Iran’s southern Khorasan province near the Afghan border.


About a century ago, Makhunik was literally inhabited by dwarves. Historical studies show that the Makhunik people at that height are always about 50 centimetres below the average height of the Iranian people.

Signs of height restrictions are reflected in the architecture here. In about two hundred ancient houses built of clay and stone, 70-80 houses have particularly low height.

These homes have high ceilings less than 2m. The design doors are so narrow that ordinary people cannot enter unless they bend over. Some of the houses have a ceiling height of less than 1.4m.


Nearly infertile couples plus poor diets and mercury-contaminated drinking water have made the height of the Makhunik residents far lower than the average height at that time.

Throughout the centuries, the ancestors of the Makhunik people lived in isolation almost completely outside of the connecting world.

Makhunik Village is located in a wilderness and barren area, which adds to the harsh climate that makes cultivation and livestock difficult. Radishes, cereals, barley and a fruit called jujuba are the only agricultural products in the area.

The people of Makhunik can survive for hundreds of years thanks to their very meager dishes, including kashk-beneh (made from flour and a chestnut tree growing in the mountains), pokhteek (made from cereal and beet).

This poor diet has led to malnutrition and is one of the factors contributing significantly to the “shortage” of the Makhunik people.


On the other hand, isolation also forces people to marry in close relatives, which does not allow to make the degeneration.

That means that the “bad” genes of both parents will “pass” on to their offspring, including the “missing feet” phenomenon.

Limited height of the people is not only the reason for the house to build small but also building a small home means you can minimize the amount of building materials and expenses.

Perfect cooling is one more reason of small homes than large houses and can easily be “hidden” to avoid detection by invaders.

Till the mid-20th century the Iranian government paid attention to the construction of a series of roads. The convenience of transportation has made the ancient Makhunik village conditions to integrate with the world.


Now children in Makhunik have access to adequate health care, nutrition, healthy development and heightened parenting.

Currently, more than half of the population of Makhunik has reached an average height of about 700. They left the tiny homes of their ancestors and moved into houses built of tall, solid, modern brick.

However, in addition to the homes, meals and height raised, there is not much improvement for the people in this village. Life is still difficult, the climate is still harsh, and the crop is still poor due to continuous drought.

Young people are leaving the village to go to neighbouring cities to live a good life, but old people do not have any option to do so and still depends on government subsidies.

The architecture and heritage of Makhunik is considered to be very potential for tourism development. That is the hope of the people here.

They also hope that one day the unique legacies left by their fathers will create employment and income opportunities. The life of the Makhunik people can be as high as their height.


About Dawn Richard

In addition to writing for NextColumn, Dawn Richard contributes to other publications including Sensiblereason and Natural News. He studied Computer Science and Journalism at Boston University, and also worked in BBC as well as in the public sectors.

View all posts by Dawn Richard →

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