View Full Version : Craniometrics and History - a tool or nothing?

23-05-15, 22:37
Craniometricsand History
Veryoften I read here and there thoughts of people about classicalphysical anthropology, affirming the measures taken from the skullshave no value and have to be neglicted. I seems that lot og thesepeople red some books where bad works and bad racist ideologies havebeen pointed out,for good reasons. But we have not to deny all worthto the old works and data furnished by old and current metricanthropology. An reading is a good thing, but comparing thinking arebetter ones.
BOASmade a survey about USA immigrants and took conclusions that arediscussed today by a lot of scientists, because his survey did nottake into account the differences of social situations changes amongdescendants of immigrants.
Aconstation was made about the cephalic index – I precise thatcephalic index (CI) is only a tiny part of all possible measurings ofskulls and that the measurings taken into account for the most in theplottings and means (averages) of today do not reveal the detailedshapes of crania – it is that the CI's changed by time, increasingfrom High Midle Ages to the 20° Cy before decreasing after it, as awhole. So one spoke of a general chronological trend tobrachycephalization. I do not deny it, but I think we have to becautious here : some questions :
-themeans we find concern the examined population whose burying we find ;did they always represent the average population, or rather theelite ? Does the proportion of elite / basic population remainthe same over time in sepultures? I think we have more chancesto find more popular classes people in the christian tombs of MiddleAges (or of today) than in the « barbaric » buryings ofthe Metals Ages, by instance.
-Couldanybody ever compare populations he was sure it represented thedescendants of the same unchanged ligneage* in the same place?And it concerns too my proper evaluations... But let us try to dosome comparisons. In Europe and surroundings (Eurasia, Near-East,Arabia, North-Africa, the extremes on life about the 1935's werepopulations of CI : 72 to CI : 89 (but individuals fromCI : 65 to CI 100 – these last ones maybe with cranialdeformations according to cradling?) - the span between these CImeans is of 17 (~= 21,11 % variation compared to the rough meanCI of 80,50).
-thedifference between IC taken on bones crania and alive people cannotbe to far from IC:# 0,09 # 0,70 so we can only at the mostconsider a CI : 1 increase from dead to alive (if I cansay it like that!) -
Ifwe compare today populations of antiquity to current ones –geographic, not ethnic critetia - we see,roughly,applying a '-0,50' mean correction:
NorthGermany : CI : 72/74 ↔ 80/82 (# +7,5) – South Germany :CI : 78/80 ↔ 84/86 (# +5,5) – France Auvergne (Gaulish) :CI : 82 ↔ 86/88 (# +4,5) – France Champagne (Gaulish) :CI : 77/78 ↔ 83/84 (# +5,5) - British Celts (Iron) :CI : 76/77 ↔ 77/79 (# +1) ; but BBs : 81-82 so #-4 !) -
& :some Last Middle Ages cemeteries of Zeeland/Noord-Brabant in theNetherlands showed CI's from 84 to 88 but we don't know their exactethnic affiliation : old pre-Celtic+Celtic populations notcompletely absorbed by Germanics ? Lorraine (brachycephalic)populations displaced to colonize uncomfortable places duringLorraine Duchy ? At the opposite, an ancient « Frisian »skulls sample gave a CI : 78 when today (1935 crit.) it is CI :79 : one could think the population never changed in Frisia,what is not proved in any way ! Scholars think the ancientTerpen' populations - in waterable zones – of North Netherlands wasmore of « mediterranean » type (roughly said, plus someslight imput of others), what could confirm today Frisians camerather from Denmark or at least from East. Seemingly a dominant trendtowards brachycephalization, sure, but at what real level ? Ithink it was of CI : 4 difference as a mean over the wholeperiod considered, except some places with more complicatedhistory...
Allthe way what we can immediatly imagine is we are comparing what isnot comparable : COON and others remarked some old populations –on skeletons criteria – seem having reconquired weight after somehistorical periods – last 19°Cy territories, even in notpresenting a completely homogenous population, were by far morehomogenous than antiquity territories which populations wereorganized in clans and which we have, I think, only the elite relics.Look at the successive Long-Barrows/BBs/Celts transitions ! Whatdoes not exclude the two mentioned opposite « mesologic »caused trends, linked I suppose to firstable sedentization, povertyand short endogamy until the 19° CY followed by stronger exogamy andchanges in body work since the 20°Cy– less oxygenation acting uponskeleton development stages ? I have not the knowledge of recentstudies so … ?
-The'alpine' question is a good one : brachycephalisation begunamong Mesolithic way-of-life populations around the Alps, about the8000/7000 BC's. An apparently 'foetalisation' process seems havingmodified 'cro-magnoid' ligneages, more strongly in South than inNorth, augmenting the CI and diminishing a bit the global face, butkeeping the low skull – as for Cro-Magnon, principally at theauricular hole level - and partially too rather low orbits. Thecauses are ignored to date even if hypothesis like a 'iodine' problemhave been proposed. Surely an endogamy/isolation + selection processunder adaptative pression, creating not only individual congenital +lifelong adaptations but also acquired genetic heredity, because the'alpine' traits have been transmitted to other geographic areas byemigration/colonization, even maritime territories (France, Asturies,Italy).
The'alpine' types were a strong minority among SOM people (parisianBassin to Ardennes and « cousin » to Eiffel) and appearshaving come there from Jura/Alps over centuries and centuries ;at Iron Ages, the Armorican population of West Brittany, which hadknown until then almost only dolicho-subdolichocephalic populations(CI:72/76) of 'teviec' and diverse 'mediterranean' types (the most :« megalither » of high stature) at the exception of veryrare 'dinaroid' types at BBs times, received progressively butquickly enough new people of strong 'alpine' imput even ifsurely no pure ; what is interesting is that according to someauthors the first brachycephalic elements arrived on the westernshores were rather females and not males ; we could see here howweak was the imput of specific Celtic elite at Bronze Ages in todayBrittany but that it was followed by a strong subsequent imput ofcelticized dominantly 'alpinoid' populations of Eastern and CentralGaul at iron Ages : the sexing of skeletons is of someimportance when we try to separate internal in situ evolutions andexternal influences of crossings : the narrowing of faces inLast Neolithic-Eneolithic of Mediterranea seems beginning by womenand children modifications : could we not imagine a firstexchange of females or at least a first acceptation of foreignfemales by the local male populations, before they were submerged bymore numerous waves of newcomers or by accepted desiquilibratedosmosis ? Concerning Breton Armoric I « hear » theall-mesologic supporters speaking of a trend to brachycephalizationthere caused by – unkonwn - change of way-of-life at Iron Age or –as unkown – dramatic change in climate -
InAnatolia Near-East the first controlled non-neglictible augmentationsin CI - and proportions of fully brachycephals - date from the Chalcolithic and the Hittites period seems one ofevident increase of brachycephals weight. Some scholars think itcould have begun before in mesopotamia, by scarce introgressionscoming from the Zagros mountains, without precise if they werecaucasic speaking populations or not, what was the thesis pushedforwards in old antrhopology – not supported by proofs –Brachycephaly is not by itself a the proof of an unique origin as weknow all, even if apparently it seems an European continentalphenomenon among 'caucasians'. What is important is that it seemsappearing lately in Near-Eastern-Anatolia, whatever the geographicalorigin : Balkans, North the Caucasus ?

Toconclude : yes, way-of-life and diet and climate and geographyhave an influence upon skulls (and skeletons and …) but we cannotdiscard the modification in skeletal types in past as witness ofemigration or colonization, for even a 100 % mesologic religion– what is far from reality - it cannot eliminate the fact thatbrutal changes proves an extra-local people arriving, classical typesleft aside.

&: I did not speak here of shapes, what is a tool even more sensible than the only habitual measures and indexes -
I wrote this post because I know someones believe craniometrics vare of no worth and that types do not help in any way to identify populations or subpopulations, now and before, opinion which is without any basis.

24-05-15, 02:25
Ifwe compare today populations of antiquity to current ones –geographic, not ethnic critetia - we see,roughly,applying a '-0,50' mean correction:
NorthGermany : CI : 72/74 ↔ 80/82 (# +7,5) – South Germany :CI : 78/80 ↔ 84/86 (# +5,5) – France Auvergne (Gaulish) :CI : 82 ↔ 86/88 (# +4,5) – France Champagne (Gaulish) :CI : 77/78 ↔ 83/84 (# +5,5) - British Celts (Iron) :CI : 76/77 ↔ 77/79 (# +1) ; but BBs : 81-82 so #-4 !) -
This is interesting and worth of a good research.

24-05-15, 14:24
this thread could end up very quickly or perdure a long time according to lack or richness of points -
but my first aim was to show that a unique focal of interest in history and evolution leads always to ridiculous statements or at least very very incomplete ones- studying diverse mesologic imputS upon health and skeletons is veru respectable, what is not respectabel, and it is worth concerning other focalizations, is excluding every constatetd fact could have other causes than mesologic ones. I say that because I red some surprising opinions (among scholars too) concerning first BBs versus Corded or other cultures people skulls when in fact almost every early and even posterior BBs sepultures showed dominantly brachycephal crania (and for the most too with planoccipitaly, what perdured in some European regions today). In, it is not only the BBs settlements but also other Chalcolithic sites which showed introgressions of this type of brachycephals in Southwestern Europe in populations very more dolichocephalic by tradition. I have not ready-to-use answer at hand for now because I'm not a scientist and I cannot study that in a practical way, but I find the link in time between Metallurgy/Ores research rising in Europe and the propagation of this sort of skulls bearers is interesting. population bearing a dominnt 'alpine' type could have spred from Western Alps to the Eastern ones and Balkan, and mix with firstable 'brünnoid' types - first step towards robust 'brünnoid-Borreby B (higer faced, more ruggish and "brutal" than 'cromagnoid-borreby' A - before mixing again, but this time with very slender 'mediterranean' type, creating the so called 'dinaroid' typeS (individual variations of the mix) - in this entirely hypothetical explnation we could explain the variability of the "dinaric type", a mix but a mix dominated by some genetically (or statistically only?) dominant trait which is planoccipitaly. So a genetically inherited set of diverse features, not homogenous, but with statistically dominant ones visible in certain populations.
what is suppose for now, with what I know and what I ignore, is that the first bearers of Y-I2 (and maybe Y-I1) have dominantly a 'brünnoid' type, wht is not contradicted by Sweden and Luxemburg Hunters-Gs remnants.*

24-05-15, 15:15
*: I don't exclude some 'cromagnoid' traits too, but less heavy**, because the crossings at Mesolithic were already in march, but Y-I2 appears as the almost unique Y-Haplo then -
**: If I rely on some survey, the HGs of the Iron Gates gorge showed the two old types, side by side or mixed according to places before they mixed gradually with neolithic people.
Left the Damatia/West Balkans (DInraic Alps) aside for we have almost nothing concerning Mesolithic there, we find today (20°Cy!) populations rich of 'dinaroid' tednancies in the Romanian Carpathians: I could show that more recent events in plains had pushed them into highland refuges; History gives us a lot of these events. I have no metric bones element concerning old times there, but this "refuge" position can be the mark of an ancient enough presence in Romania so surely in other close regions - by example Bulgary is rather mesocephalic as a whole ( CI: 77-78 compared ot I: 81/82 for whole Romania) but some mountainous districts showed CI about 85-86: maybe some 'dinaroid' aspect? - we know 'alpine' type were already in Chalcolithic times in Greece and maybe earlier (the Pende mountains? between Greece and Southern Alabania, without I could bet for an Y-Haplo it's true). So the complicated mix of types giving possibly birth to dinarized populations was already possible in the "region". what we know about the metals daybreak in Europe shows us a center of gravity around Bulgary-Romania where more than a wave of Southerners had the possibility to go into contact with predecessors of local Mesolithic background. the Cucuteni-Tripolye chain of successive cultures with everytime a strong imput from South-East of Europe or Anatolia was the ideal place for some osmosis at some time giving way to the 'dianroid' complex.
'Dinaroid' types appears all of them almost at same time in Western Mediterranea: the Metals Ages, from Chalcolithic/Eneolithic to Bronze, seemingly declaining later.
in Iberia, for I know (maybe others remnants are to be found earlier) , this type appeared about the 2200 BC, in BBs contexts. After that, in Bronze context, associated with artefacts from Egea/Troia region, spite in lesser proportions.

I 'll try to finish later concerning and History and again mesologic esplanations - sorry, I'm very slow!

24-05-15, 19:33
In Provence the same phenomenon occurred, showing the first 'dinaroid' appearing at the beginning of Chalcolithic and in first BB sepultures, before decline at the later stages of Bronze. In Hungary, follwing the first BBs developments in central Europe, some 'dinaroids' appeared too before mixing. the problem is still: where is the cristalization place of the people bearing thses type at high %s ??? in Hungary - based upon the little a can know - they seem coming from West ( BBs), in Southwestern Europe they seem coming from East, in Northern Europe, they seem coming from Central-Upper Rhine: but some hundreds of years separe surely the diverse apparitions so it is hard to disentangle. I still bet upon an Eastern Balkan melting-pot origin, about -3500/-3000, maybe before... the late enough presence of similar types in the Steppes at their Bronze Age (more recent there by force*) and late enough too in Caucasus-Anatolia is perhaps a confirmation of a Balkans origi, a kind of return to sources, t)he pupils giving the lesson to the teachers as often in History, but a return genetically "enriched"? How to be sure? a question linked to that: the presence of brachycephals of medium stature with variable faces among Tadjiks (it seems not recent but we can see too a slight 'mongoloid' Thibetanlike influence') and the allegation made by some scholars the Zagros mountains would have sheltered some brachycephal people too who infiltred themselves more than a time in the Mesopotamia plain, maybe even before Sumer times (not "sommer time"!).
we have to learn a lot of things yet, I suppose. The major fact is that the "brachycephals" question in Anatolia Caucasus North Near-East is a relatively new one in a previous great region of dolichocephals, newer in every aspect than in Central-Western Europe. Mesologic pressions and endogamies could have acted but not only and not too much.
*: but maybe before as apparently among partially brachycephal Pit Grave people of Kalmykia very different physcially from the Maykop and South-Caucasus people OF THE TIME.

24-05-15, 20:01
some naive mechanical explanations concernig skulls and bones - they are not senseless all of them, by chance! - concern the links between maxillar, cephalic index and temporals forms: the strong chewing of rather raw (?) meat and leather would have compressed temporals, developped the lower jaw and augmented dolichocephaly -the problem is that populations living in the same climate at the same time and apprently with the same economy, present bifg differences, as we can see with the two big schemes offered by Cro-Magnon and C-Capelle or Brünn. their jaws are completely different in shape, if robust both. seen from the front of the side of from under, theyare very different? Their temporals also are different, as well as the frontal or occipital general profile of their skull. and more later, in population seeming being the result of crossings between the two general types, we find individuals with very different shapes and measures, someones closer to one of the previous patterns, or shwoing completely new re-arrangements of shapes. SO, the mastication question is not completely out of sense but it is by far a minor actor in the shaping of skulls and jaws, and genetic heredity with mutations and sometimes isolation seems to me a more effective agent.
other old explanation: the occiput form (globally) framed by the position of body and work of the neck muscles - linked, supposedly, to way-of-life. Were the Paleolithic and Mesolithic people of close regions living so different lifes to explain their different shapes of occiput. Here again, action of the "milieu",yes, but slight compared to heredity.
I don' deny the effects of nutrition, work and so on upon the body, it would be ridiculous of my part. we see the human jaws diminishing. but some aspects of old shapes keep on differenciating different heredities here again. even the problem of flaring opposed to compressed gonials (jaws angle) cannot be explained by mastication...
the old concepts of lateral short-legged bodies opposed to longiligne hir-legged bodies have been proposed influenced by a simplistic tentative of modeling. An observator of individual but also collective distributions of traits knows it is completely out of work. Some "athletic" populations have long legs associated to broad back. the action of some activities modifies global breadth to length indexes but not so easy the internal length proportions or breadth proportions.
So yes, we can agree skeletons are not the only result of genetic heredity, but we cannot explain every skeletal variation between individuals and groups by the unique mesologic approach, I add it is even a fault to pass without make use of the tool metrics anthropology provide us to explain some kind of changes in History.
I think we cannot leave aside any tool of knowing, it's simple! NO preference.