I wonder if it does not originate with sun worship. The sun is, quite literally, the giver of life on this
planet. In northern latitudes, it is at its most beneficient when it is at its height, at midsummer.
Primitive and not so primitive peoples also envisioned night=darkness as being a condition when the
sun was at its lowest, underneath the earth. The height or lowness of the sun is very much tied to
Another possible explanation comes from warfare before the invention of the airplane. Height in this
case equated with safety: one built ones fortresses on a height, and, in battle, selected the high
ground to defend. This image is present in the phrase 'the moral high ground' referring to a position
difficult to assail from a moral or ethical perspective.
Ecology and Evolution Program
University of Oregon