(Chapter X, section 2)




In the following study of the racial character of the living population of the British Isles, I shall reverse the usual order of "Great Britain and Ireland", and deal first with Eire. There are two excellent reasons for this decision; in the first place, Ireland, being the westernmost of the two islands, is the more marginal in an ethnological as well as geographical sense, it is the less varied, and has had the simpler racial history; in the second place, anthropometric data concerning the Irish are abundant, accurate, and detailed, while those which serve to describe the English, Welsh, and Scots are far less satisfactory.13

Historically, we have seen that Ireland was settled at successive periods by Palaeolithic survivors from northern Europe by way of Scotland, by Megalithic Atlanto-Mediterraneans, by Dinaric peoples from the eastern Mediterranean who came by way of Spain, by Keltic Iron Age Nordics, and by various groups of Scandinavians, of Normans, and of English. Of these various peoples the one which gave the island its language and the characteristic flavor of its historic culture was the Keltic. Christian Iron Age skeletal remains, from various parts of Ireland, belong predominantly to the Keltic Iron Age type, and are very similar to the skeletal series from sixteenth century London reviewed in the last section.14

The composite Irishman, representing the mean of ten thousand of his countrymen, is 35 years old, 172 cm. tall, and weighs 157 pounds. He is well built, muscular, and large boned, with shoulders 39 cm. broad, and a trunk length which is 53.3 per cent of his total height. His arms are long, and his span is 105.3 per cent of his stature. So far, his bodily dimensions and proportions might be matched among western Norwegians, Icelanders, many Swedes, Livs, and Finns of Finland. His head is large, for Ireland has consistently the largest head size of any equal land area in Europe. The three principal vault dimensions of his head, 196 mm. by 154 mm. by 125 mm., give him the mesocephalic cephalic index of nearly 79, and the moderately hypsicephalic length-height index of 64. His cranial vault, like his body, could again be matched among the larger-headed peoples of Scandinavia and the Baltic lands.

Both his forehead and his lower jaw are unusually broad, with minimum frontal and bigonial diameters of over 109 mm.; this great facial breadth is furthermore expressed by a bizygomatic diameter og 141 mm. The face is long as well as broad, with a menton-nasion height of 127 mm., and an upper face height of 73 mm. The facial index of over 90 is leptoprosopic, while the upper facial index of less than 52 is mesene. The nasal dimensions of 56 mm. and 36 mm. indicate a large nose, with an only moderately leptorrhine nasal index of between 64 and 65.

Without further details, it is possible to state what, in a general sense, the metrical dimensions and proportions summarized above must mean. In stature and in sagittal dimensions of the head and face, the composite Irishman might well be considered a Nordic in the Iron Age sense, of the Hallstatt variety as represented by living inhabitants of eastern Norway, or even of the Keltic Iron Age variety as represented by abundant skeletal series from England. But in total bulk and in lateral diameters, he exceeds any known Nordic form, and in fact cannot be considered an unmixed descendant of the greater Mediterranean family of races. He is comparable in these respects to the western Norwegians, to the Livs, and to some of the Finns. In order to explain his metrical character, it is necessary to invoke the mass absorption by either Megalithic Atlanto-Mediterraneans, or Iron Age Nordics, or both, of an earlier Upper Palaeolithic strain, which entered Ireland in a Mesolithic cultural condition. The living composite Irishman is not a pure Crô-Magnon or Brünn-Předmost man, but it would be no exaggeration to say that, from a metrical standpoint, at least half of his genetic ancestry is to be derived from such a source. Since the number of Mesolithic cultural survivors must have been quite small in proportion to that of the later invaders of Ireland, we are faced with a not uncommon situation, in which an older racial element has, by differential breeding rates, reëmerged.

Having established our composite Irishman, let us see what the differences are from this standard in reference to religious groups and to regions. The Catholics, who form the great majority of the population, fall close to the means reviewed above. The Presbyterians, who are concentrated in the North and who are in part the descendants of immigrants from Scotland, are a centimeter taller and three pounds heavier than the Catholics; their heads are a millimeter longer, a millimeter narrower, and a millimeter higher; their foreheads are a little narrower, their upper face heights longer, while other dimensions remain practically the same. The members of the Anglican Church of Ireland, on the other hand, are virtually the same as the Catholics in height and weight, and in head length and height, but are smaller in head breadth, the three breadths of the face, and in nose size. While the Orangemen slightly exceed the Catholics in some of the features which make the Irish type distinctive, the Church of Ireland Protestants tend rather toward a more usual Nordic metrical norm.

The regional differences are not great, with a single exception, that of the Aran Isles. The hypermarginal, culturally conservative Gaelic speakers of these islands seem to have formed, in isolation and by interbreeding, a distinct local racial entity. They are the tallest Irish group, with a mean stature of 174.5 cm.; they are longer legged, leaner, and lighter in weight than most of the others; their head length mean reaches the excessive dimension of 198.3 mm., while their head height, 120.3 mm., is extremely low. Thus they have the relatively low cephalic index of 77.8, and the orthocephalic length-height index of 60.7. Their total face height reaches the extreme mean of 130 mm., their nose height of 57. It is impossible, at present at least, to discover a continental prototype for the Aran Island racial dimensions. For the moment we must consider it a local development of race-forming proportions.

Aside from the Aran islands, we find that the tallest population lives along the western coast, from Galway to Kerry; the shortest in the east, in the counties of Wicklow, Carlow, and Dublin. The heaviest men live in the western counties, with one center in Mayo, Galway, and Roscommon, another in Kerry. In these counties the means attain 160-161 pounds; in the east, from Louth to Carlow, they fall to 153-154 pounds. There is very little regional variation in head length, but the breadth varies from means of over 155 mm. in Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare, and Mayo, to those between 152 and 153 mm. in all of southeastern and eastern counties included within a line drawn from Armagh to Longford, and south to Waterford. Head height varies little, and the same is true of the sagittal contours of the face. The same regional divisions which are seen in head breadth are maintained in the three breadths of the face; minimum frontals and bigonials of 110 and 111 mm. typify the western counties, of 107 and 108 mm. the eastern; western bizygomatic means run to 141 and 142 mm., those in the east to 139 mm. On the whole, greater size and greater laterality are concentrated in the western counties from Mayo and Galway to Cork, with Kerry as the greatest center; in Kerry the cephalic index rises to 80; in the eastern counties it falls to 78. The inference is that the maximum survival of the Mesolithic food-gathering population is to be found in the west and southwest of Ireland, in the more rugged part of the country, and in the very section which is poor in archaeological remains; on the other hand the descendants of the later invaders, from Neolithic through Iron Age times, are most concentrated on the more fertile land along the Irish Sea, and on the Great Plain.

Let us now examine the pigment characters and morphological traits of the Irish, both as a total group and regionally. In the first place, the Irish are almost uniquely pale skinned when unexposed, untanned parts of the body, are observed. Out of 10,000 men, over 90 per cent had skins of the pale pink shade represented by von Luschan #3, while not a single individual was darker than von Luschan #11. Although regional differences are not great, they are suggestive. In the southwestern coastal regions which we have designated as a metrical unit, the darker shades run from 4 per cent to 7 per cent; in the east, in the central plain and the counties near and south of Dublin, they run from 10 per cent to 18 per cent.

The pale Irish skin, where exposed to the sun, shows a marked inclination to freckling. Forty per cent of the entire group are freckled to some extent; in Kerry the ratio rises as high as 60 per cent, in Waterford and Wexford, Carlow and Wicklow - the southeastern counties - it falls to 30 per cent. Thus a difference of two to one in this character serves to differentiate the southwest from the southeast even more clearly than do metrical criteria.

The hair form shows a difference between Protestants and Catholics; 44 per cent of Protestants have straight hair, and only 28 per cent of Catholics; the most numerous category in both groups, however, is low waves. The hair is almost uniformly medium in texture; coarse and fine alike are rare. The beard is moderately developed in the general European sense, extremely heavy and sparse beards are alike rare. At the same time the body hair, which is almost always present, is of a moderate development, and few very hairy men are found. The Aran Islanders are much less hairy, much thinner bearded, and on the whole straighter haired, than the other Irish. Elsewhere the waviest hair, along with a minimum of pilous development, is found in the Great Plain.

The hair color of the Irish is predominantly brown; black hair accounts for less than 3 per cent of the total, while the ashen series (Fischer #20-26) amounts to but one-half of one per cent. Forty per cent have dark brown hair (Fischer #4-5); 35 per cent have medium brown (Fischer #7-9); reddish brown hues total over 5 per cent (closest to Fischer #6, #10), while clear reds (Fischer #1-3) run higher than 4 per cent. The rest, some 15 per cent, fall into a light brown to golden blond category (Fischer #11-19). Thus the hair color of the Irish is darker than that of most regions of Scandinavia, but not much darker than Iceland; it is notably different from Nordic hair, as exemplified by eastern Norwegians and Swedes, in its almost total lack of ash-blondism. The rufous hair color pigment reaches a world maximum here; not so much in reds as in the prevalance of golden hues in blond and brown shades. The lightest hair is found in the Aran Islands, where the commonest shade is, nevertheless, medium brown; in the southwestern counties there are more goldens and at the same time more dark-browns than in Ireland as a whole, while the Great Plain runs fairest of all. Red hair, with a regional maximum of 8 per cent, is commonest in Ulster, rarest in Waterford and Wexford.

In the proportion of pure light eyes, Ireland competes successfully with the blondest regions of Scandinavia. Over 46 per cent of the total group has pure light eyes, and of these all but 4 per cent are blue. Very light-mixed eyes (equivalent to Martin #13-14) account for another 30 per cent, while less than one-half of one per cent have pure brown. There is probably no population of equal size in the world which is lighter eyed, and blue eyed, than the Irish. The almost total absence of gray eyes corresponds to the equal paucity of ash-blond hair. Compared to eastern Norway, Sweden, and Finnic and Baltic groups, the eye color is disproportionately light in comparison to hair color. Regional differences, while not great, are of some importance. The ratio of pure blue eyes falls to 33 per cent in Kerry and Clare, and rises to 50 per cent in other regions - Carlow and Wicklow in the southeast, and Armagh, Monaghan, and eastern Cavan in the North. On the whole, the east is lighter eyed than the west, as it is lighter haired. At the same time the Presbyterians are blonder than the Catholics, who are in turn fairer than the members of the Church of Ireland.

External eyefolds occur in 13 per cent of the total; median and internal eyefolds are apparently rare or lacking; eyebrows show some degree of concurrency in all but 2 per cent of the group, and the greatest concurrency is found in the north and east, the least in the south and west; regional differences are consistent but small. Since concurrent eyebrows are not a Nordic trait, and there cannot be enough Bronze Age Dinaric blood in Ireland to have spread this feature to the entire population, one assumes that it goes with the older Mesolithic strain. Bushy eyebrows, not included in this survey, are known by common observation to be prevalent among the Irish, especially in advanced age.

Moderately developed browridges are observed in over half the Irish group; pronounced ones in 20 per cent. A Mediterranean smoothness of the supraorbital region is rare. The strongest browridges are found in the Aran Islands and in the southwestern counties, especially in Kerry, Cork, Kilkenny, and Tipperary. Another center is found in Ulster, and on the whole the Protestants have heavier browridges than the Catholics.

In the profile of the nose, convex forms total 45 per cent, straight 48 per cent; while the rest are mostly concave. There is a special center of nasal convexity in the northwest, especially in Donegal, Mayo, and Galway. Concave profiles, on the other hand, are commonest in the southwest, and reach the ratio of 10 per cent in Kerry. Protestants are much more frequently convex in nasal profile than Catholics, and concavity is at a minimum among them.

The tip of the nose is of moderate thickness in three-fourths of the Irish, thick in almost all the rest; few have really thin tips. Such regional variation as there is shows that the fewest thick tips occur in the Aran Isles and in northwestern Ireland; the greatest number of them in the east, and on the Great Plain. The nasal tip of the Irish is, on the whole, too thick for a strictly Nordic classification. At the same time less than 2 per cent of these nasal tips point downward, and almost all the rest are inclined upward; pronouncedly upturned noses occur as frequently as in 20 per cent of cases in some counties. Aside from East Baltic and eastern Slavic countries, it is unlikely that any region in Europe possesses so high a ratio of elevated nasal tips, which, in the complex of races which have entered into the Irish people, can only be associated with the Palaeolithic element. The Alpines, Lapps, the East Baltics, and the central Asiatic mongoloids, all being to some extent Palaeolithic survivors, are all characteristically snub-nosed.

The nasal wings are almost uniformly medium in lateral extension; compressed and flaring forms are about equal in number and together form but 10 per cent of the whole. The distribution of these is of no importance, except that the most compressed are found in the Aran Isles. The lips are as a rule of moderate thickness and eversion; very thin, straight or convex lips are not uncommon, particularly in the south; while very thick or very everted lips are not found anywhere. The lips and the whole mouth region are sometimes, however, thrown into prominence by the presence of facial prognathism; this occurs in 8 per cent of the whole, while purely alveolar prognathism is found in but 2 per cent. There is a strong regional differentiation in both kinds of prognathism, however; the center of concentration is in the eastern counties, from Armagh to Waterford; facial prognathism reaches its maximum of 24 per cent in Wicklow and Carlow. It is interesting to note that the counties which show the maximum of Upper Palaeolithic features are the least prognathous of all, and that the Protestants show it more frequently, to a slight degree, than do the Catholics.

One feature for which the Irish face is famous in caricature, along with the freckles, the great malar breadth, the upturned nose, and the long, convex upper lip, is the great prominence of the chin. Sub-medium chin development, characteristic of many European racial groups, is found in but 10 per cent of the whole in Ireland, but rises to 15 per cent and 17 per cent in the counties of Ulster, where it is commonest; the extremely projecting, square chin, often cleft, also attains nearly 10 per cent of the whole, and is councentrated in the southwestern counties of Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Kilkenny, and Tipperary, reaching a maximum of 15 per cent in Cork. One more feature, less noticeable on the living but even more important as a diagnostic of the Upper Palaeolithic survivors, is lambdoidal flattening. Among Irish Catholics this is found in 81 per cent of the whole, while among Presbyterian Protestants, only 27 per cent, and among Church of Ireland members, 40 per cent possess it. Its regional variability is greater than that of any other character studied; it ranges from over 90 per cent in all the western counties to but 54 per cent in Waterford and Wexford. On the other hand some degree of occipital flattening, which is associated with the Bronze Age Dinaric element in the Irish population, is perceptible in 18 per cent of the population, and is especially concentrated in Ulster and to a lesser extent in the east. It is especially prevalent among Protestants, particularly Presbyterians.

We have now reviewed in some detail the racial characters of the living Irish, and are prepared to make some tentative conclusions. These are: the Irish people represent a blend between two principal racial groups, (a) the survivors of the unreduced Upper Palaeolithic people of northwestern Europe, in a mesocephalic or sub-brachycephalic form, and (b) a Keltic Iron Age Nordic. The other two factors, (c) the tall, long-headed Mediterranean form brought by the Megalithic invaders, and (d) the Dinaric introduced during the Bronze Age, have both been submerged by the earliest and latest population waves.

The Upper Palaeolithic people are concentrated in southwestern Ireland, especially in Kerry and Cork; just in the part of Ireland from which the Irish in America are mostly derived. The Iron Age Nordic element is concentrated in the eastern counties and in the fertile Great Plain region of central Ireland; what other Nordic elements brought by the Danes and English are also centered here. The Megalithic and Bronze age minority elements are found also in the east, and the latter is particularly common among members of the Protestant landlord class.

By means of this study it is possible to reconstruct with some probability the living appearance of the Upper Palaeolithic men. They were typically tall, broad-shouldered, large-chested; their heads were large, their browridges heavy to medium; their foreheads broad and high; their faces were broad and slightly flattish, the mouth large, with lips of moderated thickness and little eversion, the lines around the mouth deeply drawn, the whole lower jaw wide and deep, with a prominent chin. The nose was of moderate to large size, straight to concave-profiled, with a moderately thick, upturned tip. The hair was brown and wavy, frequently rufous, of medium abundance on beard and body; the eyes light-mixed blue. The skin was typically inclined to freckling, and very fair.

In contrast to this type, the Iron Age Keltic people were slightly shorter, and usually slender in bodily build, with finer bones; they were narrower in head and face diameters, with a more retreating forehead, a higher-bridged, more convex-profiled nose with a thin, less frequently everted tip; the mouth was smaller, and the mandible much shallower and narrower, the chin of more moderate dimensions. The hair was straight or wavy, brown or light brown in color, and the eyes typically blue.

It is impossible at present to define with equal clarity the two minor types; the Atlanto-Mediterranean element, if it were brown eyed and black haired, has completely lost its original pigment qualities through mixture. Yet "Mediterranean" types can be isolated in Ireland, and one may perhaps ascribe to them the occurrance of prognathism and some of the curly hair. If we grant that the eye color of the Megalithic people may have borne the germ of blondism, and may have changed, through mixture and other causes, to mixed and blue, then there are Megalithic descendants in Ireland who can easily be recognized. The planoccipital, brachycephalic, aquiline-nosed Dinaric element, if it were ever brunet, must also have lost its original pigment association; today it is frequently red haired.


13. This section is almost entirely based upon the as yet unpublished series of some 10,000 adult Irish males, drawn from all counties, all religious communities, and all social and occupational levels in both Eire and Northern Ireland. This huge and amply documented series was measured by Mr. C. Wesley Dupertuis under the auspices of the Division of Anthropology of Harvard University, and with the close coöperation of both governments in Ireland. The data have been tabulated and seriated in the Harvard Anthropometric Laboratory, under the direction of Professor Earnest A. Hooton. This material will be summarized in the following pages with the express per- mission of the appropriate authorities; its present use is intended in no way to antici- pate the later publication of a detailed report by Professor Hooton and Mr. Dupertuis, which report will contain a careful racial analysis impossible here. Opinions expressed in these pages as to the racial significance of this material are my own, and do not necessarily anticipate the findings of the future authors of the detailed monograph.

Earlier works upon the physical anthropology of the living Irish, useful for compara- tive purposes and for detailed regional study, include:

Beddoe, J., RBAA, vol. 64, 1894, p. 775.
Browne, C. R., PRIA, ser. 3, vol. 3, 1893-96, pp. 317-370, 587-649; vol. 4, 1896- 98, pp. 74-111; vol. 5, 1898-1900, pp. 223-268, 269-293; vol. 6, 1900-02, pp. 503-534.
Haddon, A. C., and Browne, C. R., The Ethnography of the Aran Islands.

Series of Irish measured in America are to be found in:

Gould, B. A., Investigations in the Military and Anthropological Statistics of American Soldiers.
Davenport, C. B., and Love, A. G., Army Anthropometry.
Hrdlicka, A., The Old Americans.

14. Howells, C. P., Prehistoric Man in Ireland.