The Pigmentation of Europeans—a response to sunlight

©Fernando Caracena 2016

Europe is the ancestral home of the “white” people. Considering the amount of historic and prehistoric migration of various tribes in Europe, the pigmentation of Europeans (Fig.1) correlates well with the amount of solar light reaching the surface (Fig.2). Anthropologists cite natural selection as the cause of the correlation between the strength of solar radiation at the surface and the amount of pigmentation of untanned skin of individuals.

Fig. 1 The distribution of untanned pigmentation of Europeans. From The Commons.

Fig. 2 The distribution of solar radiation reaching the surface in Europe. From The Commons.

It is clear from the two maps (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) that whiteness is in response to dimness of solar illumination in Europe, just as a person's tan is a response to exposure to the sun. An old French saying is that Africa begins south of the Pyrenees. According to the pigmentation map of Europe, the saying applies as well to all the southern tips of Europe. Mountain barriers impose abrupt boundaries on the pigmentation map of Europe that lead to a perception of racial separation. Physical anthropologists, such as Coon, tried to classify Europeans into three sub-races, but such classifications failed because the average deviation of individual characteristics from the local average was greater than the difference that was supposed to separate the “races”. The same is true of the “races” of man across the globe. For example, from the map (Fig. 1) one would conclude that Spaniards are dark, but might observe that a Spanish friend is as blond and blue eyed as a Scandinavian.

Bryan Sykes a well known Oxford geneticists has done some pioneering work tracing the origins of Europeans through DNA and mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) analysis of living and dead Europeans. He wrote a popular book describing the results of his mtDNA analysis of Europeans called, "Seven Daughters of Eve".

Blood types of local populations tell a complimentary story of human migration and genetic history. The distribution of ABO and RH blood groups among native populations cut across those of pigmentation. Likewise, other measurements, such as skull shapes of human being, tell a still different story. Archaeologists studying the distribution of artifacts, history, and DNA of human remains are able to trace migration patterns of major groups of Europeans, such as the Celts. DNA studies of various populstions has produced some surprising connections, such as those between the Irish and the Basques.

The conclusion that one can make at this time is that each human being is unique.

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