Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Maps of European hair and eye color

A reader sent me the following e-mail:

I want to ask you some questions regarding your maps.

To be honest both maps look very questionable. Also I didn't see any source for these studies, especially the one for eye color looks completely invented. I'm sure that the percentage of light eyes in Italy (for example) is higher than 1-19%, surely in Italy there are more people with light eyes than Spain, Portugal and especially than Turkey or Lebanon , as there are more people with light eyes in Southern England than Bosnia.

My suppositions are confirmed by the studies of Coon or Lundman for example:

Map by Carleton Coon

Map by Bertil Lundman

The maps on my website come from my article on European hair and eye color diversity (Frost 2006) and are reproduced from an anthropology textbook (Beals & Hoijer 1965, pp. 213-214). Beals and Hoijer, in turn, cite a textbook by another anthropologist, Frederick Hulse (1963: p. 328). Unfortunately, Hulse does not indicate the provenance of his data. I suspect he was using data from military recruits, with a lot of interpolation. Or perhaps he was using even earlier maps.

Since my 2006 article came out, I have found one such map in a work by Biasutti (1959, cap. I Nazioni europee e la loro composizione etnica p. 43), which in turn is taken from Günther (1929). At Gene Expression, Razib has turned up another map by Carleton Coon (1982), which is ascribed to ‘Elmer Rising, 1939.’

All of these maps resemble each other in their broad outlines, but the minor differences are significant. I still have not found the original data on which any of them are based.


Beals, R.L. and H. Hoijer. (1965). An Introduction to Anthropology, 3rd edition, New York: MacMillan Co.

Biasutti, R. (1959). Razze e Popoli della Terra. Torino: Unione Tipografico-Editrice

Coon, C.S. (1982). Racial Adaptations. Burnham.

Coon, C.S. (1939). The Races of Europe. New York: The Macmillan Co.

Frost, P. (2006). European hair and eye color - A case of frequency-dependent sexual selection? Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 85-103.

Günther, H.F.K. (1929). Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes. Munich: J.F. Lehmann

Hulse F.S. (1963). The Human Species. An Introduction to Physical Anthropology. New York: Random House.

Lundman, B.J. (1977). The Races and Peoples of Europe. New York: IAAEE


Anonymous said...

According to an t.v series (possibily Blood Of The Vikings) Southern England is less Anglo-Saxon, going by Y chromosomes.

BBC World service had a feature the other day on a load of Islanders kicked off Anguilla (so that the "beetling battlements of Superpower America" could be futher extended) who recently won the right to live in Britain. They settled in Slough,as have many immigrants over the years. Why, well its close to Heathrow Airport.
When people sailed to Britain many must have settled near the South Engand Ports.

Ironbow said...

The truth is that these maps are a disaster and make little sense. Also, don't go by anything Coon says. The man has been totally discredited and may have been mentally ill.

BTW, the person who thinks that there are fewer light eyes in Spain and Portugal than Italy, kindly think again. Both countries have considerably more European haplogroups than Italy (well above 60 percent compared to around 50% for Italy)) and light eyes are fairly common in central and northern Iberia. Do some research. Or, better yet, take a long trip and visit Spain and Portugal. Don't go by distorted racial / ethnic exaggerations; makes you seem ignorant.

Anonymous said...


I've been to Italy and the percentages of blue eyes and blonde hair were higher than Spain.
I think the map is a fake.

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Jimmy88 said...

I find these maps very good based on what we see in Europe.But are they based on some very reliable sources?

Derick said...

What do you mean by "especially Turkey"? Light eyes aren't too uncommon in Western Turkey, especially Eastern Thrace. The people of the Balkans have undoubtedly made a heavy genetic impact upon Turkey.

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