November 28, 2008

Facial anthropometry of northern Iran

Singapore Med J. 2008 Nov;49(11):940-943.

The effect of ethnicity on facial anthropometry in Northern Iran.

Jahanshahi M, Golalipour MJ, Heidari K.

Introduction: The evaluation and measurement of human body dimensions are achieved by physical anthropometry. Cephalometery is a branch of anthropometry science in which the head and face anatomical dimensions are measured. This research was conducted in view of the importance of anthropometric indices of the face in forensic medicine, surgery, paediatrics and medical imaging. Methods: This descriptive and cross-sectional study was set up to determine and compare the face shapes in Fars and Turkman ethnic groups of 808 normal 17- to 20-year-old males and females in Gorgon, North Iran (Fars group 407, male 200 and female 207; Turkman group 401, male 198 and female 203). The length and width of faces were determined by using classic cephalometery technique with Martin spreading callipers, and the shape of faces in the ethnic group of Fars and Turkman in both sexes was compared. Results: The dominant type of face shape in both the native Fars and Turkman females was euryprosopic (37.7 and 51.7 percent, respectively). The dominant type of face shape in the native Fars and Turkman males was mesoprosopic (44 and 38.4 percent, respectively). Conclusion: This study determined the possible effect of ethnicity on the diversity of face shapes in young males and females in this region.

Link

56 comments:

Bram said...

This is very interesting. It seems the Turkman on average have rounder faces, which would be consistent with having more mongoloid ancestry than Persians. It would be great if they did a similar study on Iranian Azeris(Turks) and Iranian Persians and maybe even Kurds. Genetically, Persians and Azeris are almost indistinguishable. I would also be interested in knowing how these groups differ in terms of complexsion; Turkmen are on average darker than Persians I believe, especially the Turkmen in northeast Iran.

It would be especially interesting to see the results of genetic studies done on those Kurds who are blond and blue-eyed, as well as Persians and Azeris who have the same blond/blue phenotype. How did this phenotype get there?

Antigonos said...

Speaking of anthropometry folks, does anybody know what happened to the "Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology" (SNPA) site?

www.snpa.nordish.net

www.nordish.net

I tried to access it because it had probably the most complete anthropological glossary in the Net and included a lot of photos and diagrams as well but it doesn't appear?
Did it stop?

Bram said...

Antigonos,

I'm not certain, but I've heard it may have been taken down due to censorship or something. You know, race-denialists(people who claim race doesn't exist in any biologically meaningful way) now believe that just thinking race exists in any biologically meaningful sense makes a person a "racist", so the site was considered extremely "racist".

Mark Royer said...

Try this one.

http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=73310

Crimson Guard said...

I don't see what any of that above has to do with the topic.

Antigonos said...

Guys the SNPA was not a political orientated site but simply a scientific one!
It had a gigantic glossary on anthropology which i've found very useful.

Dear Royer

The site which you proposed me is a semi-political page on Germanic tradition!
It doesn't have anything to so with SNPA but thanks anyway!

Ali Sharif Azadeh said...

"Blond and blue-eyed" Persians, Kurds and Azeris??!!

You definitely don't live in Iran, buddy.

Iranians are much like Turks and Syrians, at least as far as my 26 years of living in this country has revealed to me.

Shalom

pconroy said...

Ali Sharif Azadeh,

I went to college with a Turkman girl from Northern Iran, and she was 5' 7", slender, pale skin, narrow face, light brown hair and blue, blue eyes!

She said that her look was not common, but she knew other Turkmans like her in Iran.

When I met her first, I guessed she was Northern French?!

South Central Haplo said...

Are you sure about the blond hair part.

Bram said...

Ali Sharif Azadeh,

I did not mean to imply that blonde hair and blue eyes is common in Iran(as a general rule, the more common blondism is in a country, the less interesting it becomes. For similar reasons, black hair is more interesting in Sweden than blonde hair). In fact I realize how extremely rare it is, even though I've never set foot in Iran. However, some Iranians have told me about blonde, blue-eyed relatives, and I've even seen a few photos of blonde and or blue-eyed Iranians, although they still look Iranian in other ways. It is said that blondism is more common among the Kurds than any other ethnic group in Iran. This is often said, but I am not sure of how true it is.

Why do some Iranians have fair hair or light eyes? It might go back to very ancient times(some connect it with the invading Indo-Europeans), or maybe they are the descendants of Slavic slave girls imported from eastern Europe. Or it could be due to natural variation among Mediterraneans. Some Iranians claim that Russian and British(and more recently Americans when the Shah was in power) soldiers who've been going in and out of Iran for the past couple of centuries are responsible for the occasional blond and/or blue-eyed Iranian. Even on this message board we have Pconroy claiming he knows a light brown-haired, blue-eyed Turkmen girl, and the Turkmen should arguably be the darkest of the Iranians, due to their central Asian roots(kind of reminds me of the blond, blue-eyed Tatars I've met who were from Russia). I personally know an auburn haired, greenish/blue-eyed Persian woman(keyli zibatarin!). Blondes probably make up no more than 5% of Iran's adult population.

Maju said...

Why do some Iranians have fair hair or light eyes? It might go back to very ancient times(some connect it with the invading Indo-Europeans), or maybe they are the descendants of Slavic slave girls imported from eastern Europe. Or it could be due to natural variation among Mediterraneans.

A little bit of all maybe but mostly the last part. Blondism exists in all the West Eurasian area, even deep in the Sahara where virtually no Indoeuropean put foot until the 20th century.

Furthermore blondism (specifically hair blondism) also appears to be relatively common in Australia (aborigines) and Melanesia (and more rarely in SE and South Asia), what strongly suggests to me that blond hair variants may have existed since very early in prehistory, even if as raities originally, becoming prominent just due to local founder effects.

Unlike what some want to think blondism, at least hair specific blondism also expanded from south to north and least originally.

In any case the European influence in Iran/Kurdistan/Iraq dates from the Epipaleolithic, when offshots of Eastern European Epigravettian moved into the Caucasus and the Zagros, areas probably deserted before (comparable to SW European re-colonization of Central Europe or Central European colonization of Northern Europe).


The intense genetic connections among Western Eurasians are not anyhow just due to West Asians colonizing Europe in different times (at least Aurignacian and Neolithic) but also to back-migrations from Europe (long before Indoeuropeans). Even if a big deal of Europe was then under the ice, we cannot ignore the fact that it is the largest landamss of the anthropological world region and that some of its subregions were also rather densely populated after the original UP colonization. Apart of the pretty clear "epigravettian" wave through the Caucasus, Anatolia and Northern Africa show signs that can easily be interpretated at least as influences from Europe as well. Maybe more than just cultural influences.

Whatever the case, it's pretty clear that West Eurasia (including North Africa) is a very homogeneous region, genetically and anthropometrically speaking, and therefore I'm not the least surprised of finding blondisms in Iran or among the Tuareg. No need to invoke Odin for that.

Bram said...

Maju, all good points. Blondism by itself doesn't mean much, especially in the young and if everything else is typical. In Australian Aborigines and Australoids, blonde hair seems to occur almost always in children to my understanding, but darkens with age. However, if blondism correlates with blue or green eyes in either families or individuals, then we are almost certainly talking about nordic ancestry. Tallness is often but not always associated with nordics among caucasians, so tall + blonde + blue eyes + light skin may mean we have a good case for nordic ancestry in some parts of Iran and Afghanistan where these traits occur, although usually not in combination(except among the Nuristanis).

terryt said...

"In Australian Aborigines and Australoids, blonde hair seems to occur almost always in children to my understanding".

True. And in Melanesians it's not so much blond as red-haired. The variation was not uncommon in Maoris in New Zealand during the early days of European settlement. These days though it would be hard to tell if red hair in Maori wasn't a product of European ancestry.

"if blondism correlates with blue or green eyes in either families or individuals, then we are almost certainly talking about nordic ancestry".

Agree totally. Perhaps those pesky Vikings traveled a long way. Or perhaps it's a product of some earlier movement we know nothing about.

Kosmo said...

The blond hair among Australoid peoples is caused by a completely different gene than the blond hair of Nordic peoples.

Among Australoids the trait is known as "tawny" and doesn't seem to lighten the skin at all, where as the gene for blondism among Eurpeans does tend to lighten the skin. (And this pale skin may actually be the aspect of phenotype that was selected for, dragging the light hair along with it as a pleiotropic effect.)

I'll try to track down a link.

Kosmo said...

My google-foo is not up to filtering through the ocean of dreck that pops up when searching this subject, but here's a quick link I found that at least discusses the trait:

http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2006/04/blonde-antipodals.php

terryt said...

That's an interesting link Kosmo, especially the many comments.

I find it intriguing that bond-haired, pale-skinned people who turn brown in the summer seem to have originally been concentrated in regions of northern deciduous forest. Many other species from the same region display exactly the same characteristics. In the case of these other species we universally accept the colour is an adaption to winter snow. But for humans we seem to go to incredible lengths to avoid considering this as a possible explanation, "the aspect of phenotype that was selected for".

Maju said...

Nope, the "pesky Vikings" did not travel so much. Hair blondism is an ancient trait that has become more or less common in several different Eurasian populations.

This is not incompatible with some newer mutations in the same generic range of "blondism" affecting only (or primarily) Central/Northern/Eastern Europeans. But these are not the only factors of blondism generically speaking. So far most of the genes associated with skin/hair color can only explain a percentage of it, not the whole array.

However, if blondism correlates with blue or green eyes in either families or individuals, then we are almost certainly talking about nordic ancestry.

Blue eyes are not rare among Basques, for example. While there was some Viking influence in the area (Bayonne was ruled by Vikings for 140 years) and also cultural/economical Atlantic networks in earlier times) it is really hard to think that such a high frequency is only due to Nordic ancestry. While it seems true that all blue eyes (without black spot) may descend from a single individual, I am never sure if the age estimates make any sense or are just erudite speculations. So, in what regards to me, the "grandparent" of all blue-eyed people was surely a European or at least West Eurasian but who and when is a mystery.

In any case, while the three blondism factors (hair, skin, eyes) may tend to add up in their effects and even appear together with some frequency, they seem to be fundamentally three different genetic factors (actually many more if we consider all involved genes separately) and only the blue eyes (without black spot) appear to have a single common ancestor with some certainty. You can anyhow have blue eyes and/or yellow hair along with dark skin, or you can have pale skin and rosy cheeks with brown eyes and black curly hair.

... blonde hair seems to occur almost always in children to my understanding

Blond hair, and I'd say also skin blondism, are paedomorphic traits and tend to darken in adults (light blond to ash blond, for example). As extreme example my mother swears that I was born with blond hair but that it became black in a matter of days (I'm in fact the only one with black hair among 6 syblings). Eye color instead appears stable though aging.

Here if you go around a school or children park, you notice that many kids, probably most, have rather light hair color (blond or brown). If you look at adults instead most are black/dark brown/ash blond haired (I use only males for these observations among adults, as women tend to dye their hairs much more often).

And in Melanesians it's not so much blond as red-haired

Not what I have seen actually: bright yellow blond hair (have not noticed any red hair so far). Though in young people mostly, yes. It seems to vary a lot among the different islands though.

Maju said...

The blond hair among Australoid peoples is caused by a completely different gene than the blond hair of Nordic peoples.

Among Australoids the trait is known as "tawny" and doesn't seem to lighten the skin at all, where as the gene for blondism among Eurpeans does tend to lighten the skin. (And this pale skin may actually be the aspect of phenotype that was selected for, dragging the light hair along with it as a pleiotropic effect.)


That's an excellent point. Everybody (everybody insterested in anthropology) should have this clear by now: the Australo-Melanesian blondism is native, not any random piece of European origin.

But this brings further matters: why there are blondisms, not just hair but also blue eyes, deep in the Sahara (Tuaregs)? Obviously the ubiquitous Vikings of the Nordicist imaginary never sailed there. In fact for all we know their genetic origins must have been (excepting the Tropical African component) in either West Asia or SW Europe (or both). There was never any "Nordic" migration there at all. So I understand that such traits' genes must have an origin prior to Neolithic, very likely in the Upper Paleolithic, somewhere in the Mediterranean area (or not far away from it).

Kosmo said...

I've long thought there must be at least two distinct genetic pathways to blond hair in Europeans, based on my own observations.

I think one of those versions of blond hair is caused by an allele of the MC1R loci and interacts with the various alleles for red hair.

The other would be unrelated to that loci.

terryt said...

I know I've got into trouble for it before but I was actually joking about the pesky Vikings. Any movement from Northwest Europe could be much more ancient than them.

I agree that "one of those versions of blond hair is caused by an allele of the MC1R loci and interacts with the various alleles for red hair".

The blondism in parts of the world far distant from Northwest Europe could be a product of very ancient expansions, perhaps before the Upper Paleolithic.

Maju said...

I know I've got into trouble for it before but I was actually joking about the pesky Vikings. Any movement from Northwest Europe could be much more ancient than them.

(...)

The blondism in parts of the world far distant from Northwest Europe could be a product of very ancient expansions, perhaps before the Upper Paleolithic.


There was nobody, or at least nobody of relevance, living in "NW Europe" before the Epipaleolithic. So, even if the gene would have travelled from Europe to Australia (what seems most unlikely anyhow) it would have needed to originate somewhere south of "NW Europe" in any case.

Anyhow, it's much more logical that the genes involved were actually extant in the late MP somewhere in Southern Asia (wide sense of the term), that is where we can picture H. sapiens living before they ever migrated into Europe or Australia.

terryt said...

"There was nobody, or at least nobody of relevance, living in "NW Europe" before the Epipaleolithic".

I suppose the Neanderthals were not relevant but I'd guess they'd feel insulted. Anyway blondism could have developed in some northern modern human population.

"it's much more logical that the genes involved were actually extant in the late MP somewhere in Southern Asia".

What selection pressure would give rise to blondism in that part of the world? And why are humans the only species in the world for which it's necessary to postulate selection, other than the obvious one, to account for the colour of some human populations? Besides which sexual selection and vitamin D production don't stand up to any critical scrutiny whatsoever.

pconroy said...

Terry said:
Besides which sexual selection and vitamin D production don't stand up to any critical scrutiny whatsoever.

I agree as regards Sexual Selection, but Vitamin D synthesis is another kettle of fish entirely!

The Neolithic revolution ushered in crop farming and dairying and Northern Europeans received much less vitamin D from fish and other sources, and this would have had a large adverse effect on them. So there would have been a great incentive to get lighter, and absorb more sunlight.
I myself was born with rickets, as a result of vitamin D deficiency, as I grew up in the most central county in Ireland, where fish are rarely eaten, and the sky is a uniform gray.

terryt said...

Thanks for your input Pconroy.

Some observations. Vitamin D is also absorbed from red meat. Admittedly by the Neolithic people were eating more grains than meat but by then people in Northern European were probably fully clothed. Pale skin would not have helped vitamin D production too much.

pconroy said...

Terry,

I would have thought that Northern Europeans were always fully clothed - otherwise they wouldn't have survived.

That's why having pale skin, particularly on the face, would be so important. BTW, I like many other Irish people am covered in freckles, but have almost none on my face!

Maju said...

What selection pressure would give rise to blondism in that part of the world?

Absolutely none: just lack of pressure for dark pygmentation anymore, allowing anomalies like those. Being different it might have been favorably (or disfavorably) selected in the plane of sexual selection anyhow, but that's almost impossible to evaluate, as it's a subjective preference.

Hair blondism in any case does not appear to fulfill any apparent adaptative role, though it may be favored by the influence of other types of blondism, which are fuctional (light skin particularly). Overall Eurasians, with some very Tropical exceptions, appear to have a decreased level of melanine when compared with Africans. That is not adaptative evolution as much as dis-adaptation to the extreme tropical climates where the species was born. It's loss of function, not mere gain of it.

Said that, I'd expect people in Middle Europe (Rhin-Danub area mostly) to have favored already in the Paleolithic some lighter pygmentation, but only because the variants were already available in the genetic pool due to loss of funcion of darker pygmentation once the tropical enviroment was left behind. As East Asian morphlogial adaptations show there's no one simple way of pygmentation adapatation that is "necessary" in subartic climates: there are several posibilities. Why there are no (or are very rare, probable recent introgressions) blondisms (excepted some paling of the skin) in NE Asia? Because blondism is not a necessary solution to the problem of dweling in cold sun-poor regions. In fact only skin pygmentation seems to be relevant. And also probably because it was not in their genetic pool to be selected for anyhow.

I would have thought that Northern Europeans were always fully clothed - otherwise they wouldn't have survived.

They probably were but still there are some known cases of people living in cold latitudes who used very limited clothing (Fueguinos and Picts come to my mind right now).

terryt said...

I'd presume (ah, that comment again) that the first humans into Europe (early Neanderthals) did not have clothing. After all many tropical species have become adapted to north European environments without the help of clothing.

So why is it considered so unlikely that humans responded to the environment in the same manner as many other species in the region? They became white in the Winter and brown in the Summer.

One of my brothers is covered in freckles. We are of Irish and Scottish descent. And one of my nephews is part Maori (Polynesian) and he has freckles. Not actually too uncommon for the particular mixture but I think you would find it somewhat strange to see freckles on a dark-skinned person.

terryt said...

Maju. I missed your comment. We seem to be online at the same time. I guess it's morning there.

"Because blondism is not a necessary solution to the problem of dweling in cold sun-poor regions".

You're completely correct.

"Hair blondism in any case does not appear to fulfill any apparent adaptative role".

For most species we automatically assume it's an adaptation to winter snow. It makes the individual more difficult to see. Therefore blondism would have nothing to do with simply "the problem of dweling in cold sun-poor regions". Snow is necessary.

Maju said...

I'd presume (ah, that comment again) that the first humans into Europe (early Neanderthals) did not have clothing.

They certainly were able to furnish some good clothes. We don't know of Neanderthal needles (oldest one known is Solutrean, I believe) but without them they could well furnish some nice warming furs anyhow.

So why is it considered so unlikely that humans responded to the environment in the same manner as many other species in the region? They became white in the Winter and brown in the Summer.


Maybe because all those species are much older in Eurasia? Because they have fur and their seasonal change responds basically to cammouflage needs in arctic climates? Most European animals actually don't change coat colors with seasons, only those living in the far north do. Wolves don't change coat, neither do most foxes nor bisons, nor horses - nor nearly any animal I can think of that does not live very close to the arctic circle.

Neanderthal ancestors certainly had more time than us to adapt to cold climates but the most I can think of is that they possibly were much hairier than us, recovering the fur coat that our common "ape" ancestors surely had before migrating to the savannah, or maybe fatter (with much thicker lard protection). But I see no particular reason for them to have changed colors with seasons. It surely never snowed in Gibraltar anyhow (then as today).

terryt said...

"Because they have fur".

Ptarmagins don't have fur either. They have feathers. Evolution is quite capable of achieving the same result with different methods.

"It surely never snowed in Gibraltar anyhow".

We know that Neanderthals varied over their geographic range so it's quite on the cards their skin and hair colour did too. I'm quite happy to accept that they were not blond in Gibraltar.

"Maybe because all those species are much older in Eurasia?"

I have an idea I read somewhere that the polar bear is actually rather a recent development. And evolution can work surprisingly rapidly.

Maju said...

For most species we automatically assume it's an adaptation to winter snow. It makes the individual more difficult to see.

We are talking about head hair, the biological "hat", right? It should make no real difference, moreso as most animals can't see colors clearly and humans can cover, shave or even dye our heads. Blond hair is not the same as white hair (actually it's a lot darker - not to mention outstanding red/orange hair) and such yellow tones are not unusual among animals that dwell in many different enviroments (lions, camels, lynx, bears...).

The only apparently relevant adaptation in the case of blondisms, and the most extended one, is that of light skin and rosy cheeks, allowing for an improved absorption of UV rays and metabolization of vitamin D. The rest may have been favored by this (genetic addition) but may equally be totally independent developements. Hair color does not appear to have any adaptative role, at least not one of real importance.

I "automatically assume" nothing. Moreso when it's not white hair, like that of polar-adapted animals.

Ptarmagins don't have fur either. They have feathers. Evolution is quite capable of achieving the same result with different methods.

Whatever (correct spelling Ptarmigan, btw). We are not talking of a species that has been inhabiting the boreal zones for thousands of milennia but just for a few dozen of them. We had no real time to make major adaptations like growing fur again, instead we used technology (fire, clothing). If we were not able to grow fur at all, what use would it be to have it to change colors? In fact hair does not change colors by season at all, nor is white, nor covers most of the body... so it's not like I can make any sense of all that.

I'm quite happy to accept that they were not blond in Gibraltar.

Actually they (some of them) were red-haired. The famous two red haired Neanderthal specimens came from Gibraltar or somewhere nearby. But that doesn't mean they could not tan.

I have an idea I read somewhere that the polar bear is actually rather a recent development. And evolution can work surprisingly rapidly.

How "recent"? Said that way it could mean anything: from weeks to many million years. Anyhow, I'd admit that evolution can work very fast... but only if there's a major adaptative pressure pushing for it. And sometimes it just doesn't work at all anyhow.

I don't think we have any major adaptative pressure for blond or red hair (not against either anyhow), though we do have it for light and even very pale skin, specially since Northern Europe became open to colonization after the Ice Age.

pconroy said...

Terry,

I can't tan at all, only burn. I can get sunburnt in Ireland - which is on the same latitude as Northern Canada.

When I moved to New York about 20 years ago, I went to the beach and liberally applied SPF 45 sun-block and stayed under an umbrella, however I did wade into the water to mid calf, and later forgot to re-apply sun block, and was exposed to the sun for about an hour.

Within 2 hours my ankles and lower legs were red and swollen. Within 4 hours I had blisters all over. After a sleepless night, the blisters had merged together and I had lost all skin around my ankles. I had to go to a dermatologist and wear bandages for a week or more.

Needless to say I have never been to the beach again.

Two of my siblings have to wear sun hats, shades and long sleeved shirts in the summer, as not only do they not burn, they get sun poisoning/sun stroke if they are exposed at all.

pconroy said...

type:
...as not only DO THEY BURN

pconroy said...

Terry,

BTW, living in New York, I have seen freckles on African Americans, even when they are barely visible.

Same with red haired African Americans. Do you remember the rap group, "Redhead kingpin and the FBI"?

pconroy said...

Terry, Maju,

As regards the Neanderthals, IMO they would have worn reindeer fur, just like the Saami - which is light, insulating and very warm - owing to the unique properties of the hair follicle. Due to their adaption to the cold and the wearing of furs, I'd imagine they were nearly hairless, with a subcutaneous layer of fat.

I also don't imagine Neanderthals trekking from the tropics to Europe in one generation, rather descending from Home Erectus over millenia - with plenty of time to adapt as they went.

pconroy said...

typo:
reindeer skins, not fur...

terryt said...

"The only apparently relevant adaptation in the case of blondisms, and the most extended one, is that of light skin and rosy cheeks, allowing for an improved absorption of UV rays and metabolization of vitamin D".

Certainly not the only one but if you're obsessed with it I'll leave you in peace.

"If we were not able to grow fur at all, what use would it be to have it to change colors?"

You may not have noticed but it's not our hair that changes colour in summer, but our skin.

"I also don't imagine Neanderthals trekking from the tropics to Europe in one generation, rather descending from Home Erectus over millenia - with plenty of time to adapt as they went".

Exactly.

Maju said...

You may not have noticed but it's not our hair that changes colour in summer, but our skin.

Can you stop mixing apples and oranges, hair and skin color? It's outmost confusing.

terryt said...

I wasn't being specific as to what was changing, just that colour was changing. It was you who brought up the subject of hair in humans.

And another thing. We do see more people with pale skin clour as we move north. But if it's simply a result of use of clothing in low intensity environments how come populations in the East are not as pale as those in the west?

When we look at the region of blond hair, pale skin and blue eyes we see they are collectively concentrated in Northern Europe, especially centred around the Baltic Sea. Does this demonstrate the distibution of a phentype resulting from the use of clothing in prehistoric times?

Maju said...

We do see more people with pale skin clour as we move north. But if it's simply a result of use of clothing in low intensity environments how come populations in the East are not as pale as those in the west?


First, it seems obvious that when the Eastern Asian type coalesced they did not have the rare "blond" genes to select for. Instead they had others like smoother faces, lack of body hair (all that excelent for cold, much better than western adaptations in fact) and a unique pygmentation set that gives them a yellowish tinge, protecting them from skin cancer almost like black skin but allowing for some vit D metabolism anyhow. East Asians, specially Siberian/steppary peoples, who are arguably more archetypical than the rest, are much better prepared for cold than any western.

What some Westerners are better prepared for is not cold, nor snow but a persistent cloud cover sooo terribly typical of the Atlantic climate. And, ask Tim if you doubt me, it's as persistent in the Basque Country as in Britain. Have you ever heard a Londoner nag for excess cloudiness and rain? Only in Bilbao.

And it happens that what most expanded after the Ice Age was precisely the geography of Atlantic Europe with its plumby permanent cloud cover and its depressive rains and storms. In fact places like Stockholm or St. Petersburg have nothing to compare with at the same latitude: it's all subartic semidesert over there in Asia or America. The case of Europe, with temperate climate but extreme cloud cover up to very high latitudes, is unique and so are the most favored adaptations therefore.

All the bove has not really a direct connection to clothing anyhow. That's a misunderstanding: clothing is old and is used against cold specially but it's not the engine driving cold/cloudy climate adaptations, just an add-on.

When we look at the region of blond hair, pale skin and blue eyes we see they are collectively concentrated in Northern Europe, especially centred around the Baltic Sea. Does this demonstrate the distibution of a phentype resulting from the use of clothing in prehistoric times?

No. It has nothing to do with clothes, AFAIK. Clothes only explain why we do not need fur.

Anyhow, depending on what traits these are more frequent around the Baltic or the North Sea (blue eyes have a more western preferential distribution than very pale skin, not sure why, probably just an accident). It's clear in any case that blondisms, specially pale skin, were selected for in Northern Europe, probably as adptation to darker enviroments (not necesarily colder).

But it's not a trait that has migrated from north to south probably. It surely originated in mainland Europe or even in Asia, in a less dramatic form (less extreme modification, less common), being "refined" and concentrated only in relatively recent times, probably in relation with the post Ice Age colonization of the far north.

What I sustain is that the basic traits existed before Epipaleolthic and Neolithic. Blond hair is clear because of the Oceanian parallel trait, light skin was already present maybe with less extreme forms before that period too.

Only blue eyes, that appear to have a single common ancestor, may arguably have developed recently in Europe. But their presence in such remote areas like the Sahara suggests to me that, even if this trait is European in origin, it must have migrated to Africa in the only plausible time: the middle UP (Oranian), when the Cro-Magnon type also arrived to that area. If this is correct, blue eyes are as old in Europe as at least Gravettian.

terryt said...

"even if this trait is European in origin, it must have migrated to Africa in the only plausible time: the middle UP (Oranian), when the Cro-Magnon type also arrived to that area. If this is correct, blue eyes are as old in Europe as at least Gravettian".

Completely agree. And probably blond hair and pale skin.

"What some Westerners are better prepared for is not cold, nor snow but a persistent cloud cover sooo terribly typical of the Atlantic climate".

You may not believe it but I have actually been to many regions in the Northern Hemisphere, even Spain. I agree with the grey sky comment but the only time I've seen similar sky in this part of the world (the same latitude as Spain and even more rain here than in Britain) is during major bushfires. Therefore I feel that in Europe this colour of sky didn't exist until the Industrial Revolution. Therefore the comment:

"It's clear in any case that blondisms, specially pale skin, were selected for in Northern Europe, probably as adptation to darker enviroments (not necesarily colder)" is not valid except for the bit in brackets.

Finally:

"East Asians, specially Siberian/steppary peoples, who are arguably more archetypical than the rest, are much better prepared for cold than any western".

Very true, but you left out their most obvious feature: their eyes. Indicates they evolved in a relatively treeless environment, with glare being a problem, perhaps because of snow but possibly just semidesert conditions. I may not have made myself clear but I have never claimed blondism is an adaptation to cold, just to snow.

Maju said...

Completely agree. And probably blond hair and pale skin.

Well, for obvious reasons the tone of the skin is never pale over there (albinos excepted). But anyhow I disagree with white (not pale but more like variations of beige to cafe-au-lait) skin color having originated in Europe. Considering its distribution it's much more likely a West Asian developement in fact. Blond hair may be even older, though surely not too frequent early on.

It is only the extreme versions of white skin that are confined to some parts of Europe, and that "radicalization" of the trend is what may be more modern if anything (and obviously requires low solar input).

Therefore I feel that in Europe this colour of sky didn't exist until the Industrial Revolution.

Ehm? Are we taliking of the humid Oceanic cloud cover that strikes once and again against Europe's western coasts? Or are you talking of smog?

I am talking of a naural phenomenon that has nothing to do with industrialization at all.

Very true, but you left out their most obvious feature: their eyes. Indicates they evolved in a relatively treeless environment, with glare being a problem, perhaps because of snow but possibly just semidesert conditions

That's not what I've read and I don't make sense of that anyhow. Obviously the epicantic fold is too much widespread to be explained by any single cause but it's been argued that it's good protection against cold and frost and goes in line wth other East Asian triats (flat face, small hairless body). It's not a matter of glare but of keeping the eyes warm. Anyhow that particular trait is also very common in Northern Europe, albeit in a hybrid form.

But it may be just a random fixation anyhow, the Khoi-San also have that trait. Again it's probably just something very old within human variation that got fixaed or not among different groups on factors, possibly random founder effects, that we cannot analyze at all.

Trying to find a single cause, moreso an adpatative one, for this or that minor trait is surely doomed to fail. But some extreme traits like very white non-tanneable skin certainly demand an explanation. This is not the normal white skin that gets brown with the sun, it's very pale one that doesn't get tanned, or takes an extremely long period to do so. Mixing normal white with extreme white is a source of confusion. Obviously the tanneable type is older and the extreme type is a recent adaptation (or lost of function, or both) in specific very dark areas only available for colonization since some 10,000 years ago or so.

I may not have made myself clear but I have never claimed blondism is an adaptation to cold, just to snow.

I say it's not. Blondism is not one single trait but at least three (if we consider blond and red hair separately, then four). While the general depygmentation message imbued in the involved genes may be adding up in the individual, each trait has its own specific genes, distribution patterns and "evolutionary" history. You can see very pale people with brown eyes and black curly hair and you can see blond people with blue eyes that are very much tanned. And certainly there are "black blondes" too, at least in Oceania.

I say that:

1. Blond hair is as old as Eurasian humankind, at least - and is not apparently adaptative.
2. Blue eyes must be as old as the middle Upper Paleolithic - and again it's not apparently adaptative.
3. White (beige) skin must be as old as Western Eurasians (early UP probably) but extreme truly depygmented pale skin may be a more recent developement. This trait is clearly adaptative for dark climates where UV input is very low, scuring provision of the fundamental vitamin D. There is a wide gradation in this particular trait that may perfectly mean different stages of "evolution" in different times and places.

terryt said...

"I am talking of a naural phenomenon that has nothing to do with industrialization at all".

Have you ever set foot in a country where you can see blue sky?

Maju said...

Have you ever set foot in a country where you can see blue sky?

What kind of question is that? Of course! I can see blue skies here when the weather is favorable (Summer or south wind periods). But what really dominates are the NW winds from the Atlantic that mostly bring rain and grey skies.

But sure they are more common further south or east in the Mediterranean.

terryt said...

I was questioning your experience because earlier I wrote (although you seem not to have read it), "the only time I've seen similar sky in this part of the world (the same latitude as Spain and even more rain here than in Britain) is during major bushfires".

Therefore the sort of grey sky we are talking about is a result of particles in the air (smog if you prefer), and has very little to do with "the humid Oceanic cloud cover that strikes once and again against Europe's western coasts". And so it is almost certainly the result of human fires of various sorts rather than being a continuation of a very ancient climatic phenomenon.

I remember that at times during the Northern Hemisphere Summer, with no prospect of rain, visibility was never anywhere near as far as it is here. The sky was still that dull shade of grey, right down to and including West Africa. And it's not much clearer in North America, and worse in Asia.

Maju said...

Therefore the sort of grey sky we are talking about is a result of particles in the air...

It's not. It happens in much better ventilated place like Galicia or West Ireland. In Galicia it's said that "when it rains, it rains and, when not, it's sparkling anyhow". I have no idea about the peculiarities of climate in New Zealand but I know rather well how the climate here works: the dominant wind comes from the NW and brings either stormy fronts or just clouds and clouds - except in Summer when it's high pressures which are more common (and yet storms for in the evenings often). Exceptionally Siberian or Saharan air masses dominate instead with heir own specificities (extreme cold or heat) but they are never the main component for too long.

I guess Siberian pressures dominated in the Ice Age with greater force.

I remember that at times during the Northern Hemisphere Summer, with no prospect of rain, visibility was never anywhere near as far as it is here. The sky was still that dull shade of grey, right down to and including West Africa. And it's not much clearer in North America, and worse in Asia.

Well, I can assure you that the weather almost every single day in parts of those continents is all day plumby sun (Saudia or Arizona, for instance). And certainly there the skies are blue most of the time. The Tropics (West Africa for instance but also south of the Equator) are very rainy but the Sahara is not.

Your impressions seem misguided therefore.

pconroy said...

Terry,

Your statement:
And so it is almost certainly the result of human fires of various sorts rather than being a continuation of a very ancient climatic phenomenon.

Is just plain wrong!

The prevailing winds in Ireland are West, South West - so there would have to be smog/industrial pollution/or forest fires in the Atlantic ocean?????

No, the cause of the gray, overcast skies, is cold air coming down from the artic, hitting the warm water of the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift, and throwing up water vapor - aka clouds - which are blown over Ireland in a near continuous stream of cloud cover.

terryt said...

"the dominant wind comes from the NW and brings either stormy fronts or just clouds and clouds - except in Summer when it's high pressures which are more common".

Exactly the same as here except the dominant wind is, of course, from the SW. But we can also get rain from the north, south or east and points in between as well.

I hate to repeat myself but we have even more rain that Ireland but we have skies similar to northern hemisphere ones only when there are huge bushfires in Australia. Spectacular sunsets though.

I do agree that skies are clearer at the western extremities of Europe. In fact I did see blue sky in Clare. Pollution from China is certainly detectable in North America so presumably it encircles the northern hemisphere because of the well spread out input.

"The Tropics (West Africa for instance but also south of the Equator) are very rainy but the Sahara is not".

I was actually well north of the equator but even on the way down I was very seldom able to see even the smallest patches of land as we flew over Mauritania. I doubt that was because it was raining.

Perhaps we should just agree that we have different opinions on the subject.

Maju said...

Perhaps we should just agree that we have different opinions on the subject.

Well, you are questioning climate science based on your own personal, subjective and very patchy perceptions. I can't agree that you have a founded opinion in this matter. Btw, blue sky in Nouakchott (the dust over the horizon is obviously sand in the air^^)

terryt said...

"the dust over the horizon is obviously sand in the air".

Particles. So what particles in the air give European skies the same grey haze I saw down near Mauritania? What "climate science" says it is water particles? Reference? I rest my case.

Maju said...

The sky here is grey because of cloud cover, not any particles. I live in an industrial city and know rather well what is a smog cloud (they tend to be yellowish and get stuck between hills in sunny days, but in times of rain they get washed off) and what is a regular atmospheric water cloud. Also these clouds come mostly from the Ocean and, believe me, they are full of water, that more often than not pours down upon arrival.

Please...

terryt said...

I've just checked average annual rainfall for New Zealand, Bilbao, Dublin and Galway. All between 1000-1700mm, much the same. So clouds here also "come mostly from the Ocean and, believe me, they are full of water, that more often than not pours down upon arrival". And yet when it stops raining we have have clearer blue skies than Ireland or most of Spain (not familiar with the northwest of Spain).

I know what smog is, having visited several large cities. I agree it's usually a yellowish colour but we're concerned here with midaltitude particles. The most noticable thing about the northern hemisphere as you fly over it at altitude is that the earth seems to be wearing a grey cap.

Maju said...

The climate here has been about the same since the Epipaleolithic, sorry.

The differences you (very anecdotically notice) are probably due to New Zealand being an island, so the clouds don't get stuck against the mountains and hills. I'm sure a metereologist can answer your doubts better. Here it rains nearly every day in all the winter period (i.e. from October to April or May) and most of the time the clouds stay between rain and rain - what is like some 30 minutes maybe? The problem is not just rain (that's normal) but very heavy very persistent rain, which may cause flooding.

When it's cloudy and not raining (nor sparkling or snowing or pouring hail...) it means it will most likely rain anyhow in the next hours. When it's sunny and there is not a front coming from the sea, then it means that, for a change, there is no rain coming.

The most noticable thing about the northern hemisphere as you fly over it at altitude is that the earth seems to be wearing a grey cap.

I see no reason why those supposed industrial particles would not reach the southern hemisphere, honestly. Most likely the dominance of the ocean in your half of the world makes clouds not to get stuck so easily.

Whatever the case I'm not talking "haze" here but clouds: typical regular atmospheric clouds that bring rain or equivalent. They are pretty much persistent, believe me. I don't think I've seen the sun in a month or two.

terryt said...

"Whatever the case I'm not talking 'haze' here but clouds".

But I'm talking about haze, not clouds. The other morning I drove into town and the hills 30 kms away, at the northern head of the harbour, had a very slight haze about them. We'd just had a bit of rain and there is an oil refinery just across the harbour from them, but I can't remember ever being able to see hills that far away anywhere in Europe.

"so the clouds don't get stuck against the mountains and hills".

The Southern Alps, admittedly a long way from here but the clarity of the atmosphere is much the same, are much higher than the Pyrenees and lie across the prevailing wind, rather than along it. Mountains do not account for the difference.

"I see no reason why those supposed industrial particles would not reach the southern hemisphere, honestly".

The pattern of air ciculation means the atmosphere of the two hemispheres is quite surprisingly independent.

The locals in Taranaki have a similar saying to yours about the clouds. "When you can't see the mountain, it's raining. When you see it, it's going to rain". Sound familiar? Do you really believe "The climate here has been about the same since the Epipaleolithic"?

Maju said...

... but I can't remember ever being able to see hills that far away anywhere in Europe.

I can assure you that you can here see as far as the horizon, as anywhere else on Earth, as long the geography allows.

The pattern of air ciculation means the atmosphere of the two hemispheres is quite surprisingly independent.

Well, the ashes from Krakatoa and Sumbava reached Europe and North America. But guess they were too close to the Equator to count, right?

Anyhow, I seriously think you are suffering from some sort of subjective "hallucination" based in very imperfect patchy data. As said before, you can perfectly see the horizon any day at the coast if the weather is not too bad, so your claim is simply wrong. And you can see the Sun and the Moon and miriads of stars if luminic pollution allows. The sky can be as clear as you can imagine, believe me.

Do you really believe "The climate here has been about the same since the Epipaleolithic"?

Since the late Epipaleolithic yes. There were some post-glacial flucuations in the early phase. Of course there are minor temporary changes like the "little ice age" or "the year without summer" and certainly I am concerned about the effects of global warming but they still are not too apparent (just some less xirimiri, very thin rain in other times sooo typical, and more tropical-like pouring - maybe less likehood of snow but not this winter which seems quite cold so far).

Maju said...

One field of science that is very concerned about the clarity of atmosphere is astronomists, btw. Yet, while there are some major telescopes in the southern hemisphere (notably the VLT, in the exceptionaly clean air of Atacama desert), some of the most important ones, which have looked for extremely good sighting conditions too are in the northern hemisphere (Hawaii, Canary Islands, etc.) Of course, you may want a nice rather sunny climate for that but you can find such optimal conditions north of the Equator too.

In fact I cannot really believe we are having this discussion at all. Let's make like it did not happen, ok?