Sunday, October 25, 2009

Anglesey / Ynys Môn : Wales (The British Isles)

The Isle of Anglesey is an island off the northwest coast of Wales with still a strong Welsh-speaking population. Numerous megalithic monuments testify to the presence of humans in prehistory. A quotation of Wikipedia :

In two recently published books, Blood of the Isles, by Brian Sykes and The Origins of the British, by Stephen Oppenheimer, both authors state that according to genetic evidence, most Welsh people and most Britons descend from the Iberian Peninsula, as a result of different migrations that took place during the Mesolithic and the Neolithic eras, and which laid the foundations for the present-day populations in the British Isles, indicating an ancient relationship among the populations of Atlantic Europe. According to Stephen Oppenheimer 96% of lineages in Llangefni in north Wales derive from Iberia. Genetic research on the Y-chromosome has shown that the Welsh, like the Irish, share a large proportion of their ancestry with the Basques of Northern Spain and South Western France, although the Welsh have a greater presumed Neolithic input than both the Irish and the Basques. Genetic marker R1b averages from 83-89% amongst the Welsh.

  • Sample :
Full scale

  • Brief anthropological analysis :
- Type 1 : Dark, leptomorphic, long straight nose, close set eyes, angular chin and large jaws
~ Atlanto-Med

This type undoubtedly is the living proof of the many links between Atlantic nations in Europe from Portugal to the British Isles. A depigmented variant of that subtype could be said to be the quintessential British look.

The following variant might be specifically more Welsh-looking : it's characterized by a more arched nose and a stronger chin. Women are noticeably more square-headed.

- Type 2 : Dark,brachymorphic, little and low-rooted nose, wide set eyes, soft general features
~ Alpinoid

In essence, one can say that locals all exhibit a "British flavour" that somehow hints to a common Paleolithic past with Iberia and Western France. Some comparisons between Welsh people from Anglesey and Gascon people from SW France (essentially from the Landes) to prove my point : such comparisons could easily be extended to the whole Iberian Peninsula and Western France.

Anglesey :

SW France :

  • Final morphotypes :

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Avellino : Campania (Italy)

A former centre of the Samnites, a group of Sabellic tribes, the modern province of Avellino (formerly Abellinum) was part of many South Italian principalities (Benevento then Salerno) that eventually ended under the control of the Kingdom of Naples (Principato Ultra).

  • Sample :
Full scale

  • Brief anthropological analysis :

- Type 1 :
Dark, leptomorphic, long straight nose, close set eyes, angular chin and large jaws
~ Atlanto-Med

An interesting depigmented variant exhibits an even more convex nose (~Dinaro-Med) :

At first glance - this will need improving - my impression is that this whole type somehow sets inland Campania apart from coastal Campania where phenotypes are more in the Type 2 range with infamous Campanian smiles. Let's note that historically speaking, this province seems to have had deeper relationships with the Adriatic than with Naples. Maps of former Italian dioceses can be a hint to former ethnic kinship between Italian provinces.

- Type 2 : Dark, brachymorphic, little nose, round-faced, wide set eyes, large jaws
~ Alpinid

A more leptomorphic variant can be found (~ Alpino-Med) :

  • Final morphotypes :

Saturday, October 10, 2009

La Rioja (Spain)

La Rioja was inhabited by the tribes of the Berones in the Ebro valley, the Autrigones and the Vascones in Low Rioja whose exact borders still are subject to debate. Initially a Navarrese possession, La Rioja was lost in favour of Castile in the XIIth century. It was resurrected as the "Provincia de Logroño" in the XIXth century. The Glosias Emilianenses - glosses written in a Latin codex by a monk from San Millán de la Cogolla - are amongst the first testimonies of both Basque and Ibero-Romance languages. Basque toponymy still is very dense in High Rioja : Ezcaray, Altuzarra, Ayabarrena, ...

  • Sample :
Full Scale

  • Brief anthropological analysis :

- Type 1 :
Dark, leptomorphic, long nose, close set eyes, angular chin and large jaws
~ Atlanto-Med

A less leptomorphic variant characterized by a more convex nose and a somehow pointy chin can be found as well : this is the type most similar to some neighbouring Basque types.

The classical depigmented variant is common as well which really hints to a plausible Atlantic continuity from Spain to the British Isles.

- Type 2 : Dark, brachymorphic, square-faced, short nose, low wide-set eyes
~ Alpinoid

The following individual is very interesting as he seems to be a mix of both previous types :

  • Final morphotypes :


We're at the eve of massive modifications : the old world that resulted from the medieval fossilization of Western Europe into tiny entities that were more or less autonomous is ending. Along with that world languages, peculiarisms, diehard characters, peoples are disappearing. More than two millenia during which the exception was the rule are vanishing at the hands of economic globalization. This weblog doesn't aim at missing yesterday's world. The author of these lines could do it very well, alternating pathos and diatribe. He won't. My goal is only to imperfectly show how what is now collapsing used to be.

Physical anthropology is an obsolete science. It sought dynamic explanations whereas it was condemned to static descriptions. Some intuitions were proved to be right thanks to genetics. Others were just nice fables that gave simple explanations to complex things. However, the failure of physical anthropology should not condemn its purpose. On the one hand, one could find brilliant authors who succeeded in relativizing clumsy concepts : amongst them were scientists from the French School who insisted on the arbitrary character of typology and emphasized on secondary traits as a way to obtain a pertinent analysis. On the other hand, difficulties to comprehend an issue should never make us renounce dealing with it through every way offered to us.

Let's briefly sum up my axioms :

- Western Europe is a mosaic of little geographical entities which developed original characteristics - despite substrates or superstrates - because of isolation induced by the medieval Christian society.

- Those entities are an enlarged family : one can find common secondary traits and speculate the existence of ethnies transcending classical typology whose relevance is to provide vocabulary. Only genetics can give definitive solutions about these regions' ethnogeneses.

- The autochtonous character of an individual can be easily identified through one's surname. Surnames prove an uninterrupted filiation at least since the XIIth century. Patronymy is a mistreated science more particularly on the Internet where folklorical explanations are thriving.

Here's my approach :

- I define an entity according to various criteria : religious borders heir to ancient civitates, geological or linguistic borders, ...

- I select individuals living in the region according to the autochtonous character of their patronyms.

- I thus get a representative "sample" of "indigenous" people of the area (forgive me for this vocabulary !) that allows us to humbly conclude aproximate yet interesting things (only the paternal autochtonous character can be proved and a pic is just a pic). By the way, the XIXth century could have not made it better than I do. We're waiting for precise genetic studies that will take into account the local aspect of the issue.

- Just for fun, I offer some "morph" pictures out of the 32 individuals that were selected.

My fields of study are quite classical : I confess an attraction to "Romania" and its margins (Italy, France, Spain, ...). I'm opened to your proposals and comments. Stay tuned !

NB : This introduction was first written for Anthroeurope's twin : Anthrofrance. Come and visit !