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 !