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Main Races Of Mankind

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



It is only in the last fifty or sixty years that the varieties of men came to be regarded in this light, as a tangle of differentiations recently arrested or still in progress. Before that time students of mankind, influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the story of Noah and the Ark and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, were inclined to classify men into three or four great races, and they were disposed to regard these races as having always been separate things, descended from originally separate ancestors. They ignored the great possibilities of blended races and of special local isolations and variations. The classification has varied considerably, but there has been rather too much readiness to assume that mankind must be completely divisible into three or four main groups. Ethnologists (students of race) have fallen into grievous disputes about a multitude of minor peoples, as to whether they were of this or that primary race or "mixed," or strayed early forms, or what not. But all races are more or less mixed. There are, no doubt, four main groups, but each is a miscellany, and there are little groups that will not go into any one of the four main divisions.

Subject to these reservations, when it is clearly understood that when we speak of these main divisions we mean not simple and pure races, but groups of races, then they have a certain convenience in discussion. Over the European and Mediterranean and western Asia there are, and have been for many thousand years, white peoples, usually called the CAUCASIANS, subdivided into two or three sub-divisions, the northern blonds or Nordic race, an alleged intermediate race about which many authorities are doubtful, the so-called Alpine race, and the southern dark whites, the Mediterranean or Iberian race; over eastern Asia and America a second group of races prevails, the MONGOLIAN, generally with yellow skins, straight black hair, and sturdy bodies; over Africa the NEGROES, and in the region of Australia and New Guinea the black, primitive AUSTRALOIDS. These are convenient terms, providing the student bears in mind that they are not exactly defined terms. They represent only the common characteristics of certain main groups of races; they leave out a number of little peoples who belong properly to none of these divisions, and they disregard the perpetual mixing where the main groups overlap.

Whether the "Caucasian" race is to be divided into two or three main subdivisions depends upon the classificatory value to be attached to certain differences in the skeleton and partitularly to the shape of the skull. The student in his further reading will meet with constant references to roundskulled (Brachycephalic) and long-skulled (Dolichocephalic) peoples. No skull looked at from above is completely round, but some skulls (the dolichocephalic) are much more oblong than others; when the width of a skull is four-fifths or more of its length from back to front, that skull is called braehycephaly; when the width is less than four fifths of the length, the skull is dolichocephalic. While some ethnolorgists regard the difference between brachycephaly and dolichocephaly as a difference of quite primary importance, another school which the writer must confess has entirely captured his convictions dismisses this as a mere secondary distinction. It seems probable that the skull shape of a people may under special circumstances vary in comparatively few generations.1 We do not know what influences alter the shape of the skull, just as we do not know why people of British descent in the Darling region of Australia ("Cornstalks") grow exceptionally tall, or why in New England their jaw-bones seem to become slighter and their teeth in consequence rather crowded. Even in Neolithic times dolichocephalic and brachycephalic skulls are found in the same group of remains and often buried together, and that is true of most peoples today. Some peoples such as the mountain people of Central Europe, have more brachycephalic individuals percent. than others; some, as Scandinavians, are more prevalently dolichocephalic. In Neolithic Britain and in Scandinavia the earliest barrows (= tomb mounds) are long grave-shaped barrows and the late ones round, and the skulls found in the former are usually dolichocephalic and the latter most frequently brachycephalic. This points perhaps to a succession of races in western Europe in the Neolithic Period, but it may also point to changes of diet, habit, or climate.

But it is this study of skull shapes which has led many ethnologists to divide the Caucasian race not, as it was divided by Huxley, into two, the northern blonds and the Mediterranean and North African dark whites or brunets, but into three. They split his blonds into two classes. They distinguish a northern European type, blond and dolichocephalic, the Nordic; a Mediterranean or Iberian race, Huxley's dark whites, which is dark-haired and dolichocephalic, and between these two they descry this third race, their brachycephalic race, the Alpine race. The opposite school would treat the alleged Alpine race simply as a number of local brachycephalic varieties of Nordic or Iberian peoples. The Iberian peoples were Neolithic people of the long barrows and seem at first to have pervaded most of Europe and Western Asia.



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