(Chapter XI, section 16)

The western Mediterranean islands

A study of the Mediterranean racial area in southwestern Europe would not be complete without the inclusion of the Balearics, Corsica, and Sardinia. The Balearic Islands contain a population taller than that in most of Spain, but equally dolichocephalic; the settlement of megalith-building Atlanto-Mediterraneans on these small islands in late Neolithic and early Metal Age times has left a permanent imprint on the population.127 The tall, long-faced type of Spaniard so frequently seen in the Guardia Civil is common here. Corsica and Sardinia, although equally popular with the megalith-builders are larger islands and are extremely rugged topographically, so that a more numerous pre-Megalithic Mediterranean element was enabled to survive, and to reëmerge as the present population.

Corsica is extremely mountainous, and the mountains rise directly out of the water. The Corsicans of the interior part of the island have preserved a culture of early Mediterranean origin with little change; their houses, their agriculture, their endogamous marriage system, their predilection for the blood feud, and their insistence upon personal freedom relate them ethnologically to the mountain Berber groups of North Africa. In historic times Corsica has belonged to many nations, from the Phoenicians to the French, but until the present her allegiance has been in most cases nominal, and throughout many changes of masters, the isianders have preserved their own character. The only actual immigration of outsiders recorded in recent times is that of 730 Greeks from the Peloponnesus who settled in the town of Cargèse, on the west coast of the island, in 1676. The descendants of these Greeks still preserve their ethnic identity, and remain unabsorbed.

Anthropometric studies of living Corsicans128 place them in approximately the same racial position as the Portuguese. The stature mean for the island is about 163 cm., the cephalic index, 76.6. Light or light-mixed eyes are probably under 20 per cent, while the commonest iris color is dark brown, or black. The hair color is black or dark brown, more frequently the latter; shades ranging from medium brown to blond include 15 per cent of the whole.

In general, the coastal population, particularly in the northern and western parts of the island and in the towns, is taller and less long-headed than that of the more isolated interior villages. The coastal people, from Bastia to Ajaccio, have a mean cephalic index of 77; 76 is the mean for the southern part of the island, and 75 for the interior. The Greeks of Cargèse have a mean of 77.8. In Bocognagno, an isolated mountain section, 38 per cent of the recruits summoned for military service were rejected on the grounds of being shorter than 154 cm.

There is one exception to this rule that the inhabitants of the kernel of the island are the shortest, longest-headed, and darkest, however—that is in the inaccessible plateau region of Niolo, in the very center of the island, where a tall, long-headed, and prevailingly blond group of people has been found. They are apparently Nordics, not unlike Riffians in appearance, and are a closely inbred local group. Whether they represent the survival of an ancient blond racial stratum in the Mediterranean area, or are the descendants of some early refugees to this mountain fastness, cannot be determined without a careful, modern survey of Corsica. In view of present evidence it appears that the Corsicans, like the North Africans, Spaniards, and Portuguese, are a blend of different Mediterranean strains, and that here, as in the more marginal Berber groups and in Portugal, a small, very long-headed Mediterranean type is both old and numerous, while later, taller, Atlanto-Mediterranean forms are also present. The Nordic problem is a local puzzle which awaits solution.

Culturally and historically, Sardinia resembles Corsica closely. The same intense Megalithic activity, followed by Greek and Carthaginian influences, and later by Roman rule, mark early Sardinian history. In later times the Saracens obtained possession of the island, but were expelled shortly afterward. Spain ruled Sardinia from roughly 1300 to 1700 A.D., and Spanish cultural influence is to be seen in most of the cities. In Sassari a dialect is still spoken which includes Spanish elements. In 1718 A.D., when Sardinia was given to the princes of Piedmont in exchange for Sicily, the townsfolk of Sassari were considered Spanish, and the country folk pure Sardinian. The language of the Sardinians, like that of Corsica, is a form of Italian, but pre-Italic languages were spoken on the island as late as the time of the Roman empire. These may have dated back to the period when the Shardana appeared as one of the western sea people attacking Egypt in Middle Kingdom times.

Anthropometrically, the Sardinians are a little better known than the Corsicans.129 They are, on the whole, a little shorter than the inhabitants of the more northernly island, with a stature mean of 162 cm., while nearly identical in head form (76.5).130 The hair color is designated as black in over half of the Sardinian groups measured, while hair blondism attains the ratio of but 1 per cent. Mixed or light eyes run to about 15 per cent. As in Corsica, many irises are deep brown or black.

Measurements and indices of the head and face related the Sardinians to the smaller Berber groups and to the Portuguese,131 and this resemblance is confirmed by the study of modern Sardinian crania, which show that the Sardinians are low-vaulted dolichocephals and mesocephals, with short faces and skeletally mesorrhine noses. Among Sardinian crania are a number which show a combination of prognathism, a primitive condition of the lower border of the nasal aperture, and extreme dolichocephaly.132 Regional studies within the island show that among the living population the inhabitants of the more remote mountain villages are shorter-statured, longer-headed, and more purely brunet than are those living nearer the coast. The relatively great antiquity of the most primitive small Mediterranean type is indicated, while at the same time the Nordic nucleus found in Corsica seems to be lacking here.

Sardinia and Corsica were peopled at the beginning of the Neolithic by a race of short-statured, dolichocephalic, low-vaulted, brunet Mediterraneans, coming probably from several quarters, including the adjacent European coasts, North Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean. Subsequent immigrations of other Mediterranean peoples have affected the racial composition of these islands but little.


127 References which include the Balearic Islands are:
Oloriz y Aguilera, F., BSAP, ser. 4, vol. 5, 1894, pp. 520—525; BRSG, vol. 36, 1894, pp. 389—422.

128 Duckworth W. L. H., ZFMA, vol. 13, 1910—11, 439—504; PCAS, vol. 13, (7 n. s.), 1909, pp. 267—279.
Fallot, A., RDAP, ser. 3, vol. 4, 1889, pp. 641—674; BMSA, ser. 6, vol. 2, 1911, pp. 43—54.
Jaubert, L. J., BSAP, ser. 4, vol. 4, 1893, pp. 756—760.
Mahoudeau, P. G., REAP, vol. 16, 1906, pp. 177—195.
Mattel, A., BSAP, vol. 11, ser. 2, 1876, pp. 597619.
Rocca, P., Les Corses devant l’anthropologie.

129 Duckworth, W. L. H., ZFMA, vol. 13, 1910—11, PP. 439—504.
Hawes, C. H., unpublished measurements on 12 Sardinian soldiers, measured in Crete. Permission for use granted.
Livi, R., Anthropometria Militare.
Niceforo, A., ASRA, vol. 3, 1896, pp. 201—222.
d’Hercourt, G., BSAP, ser. 3, vol. 5, 1882, pp. 463—471.

Livi’s cephalic index mean for Sardinia, 77.5, is apparently one unit too high. This may be explained by his use of a craniometric frame, instead of calipers. See Duckworth, W. L. H., ZFMA, vol. 13, 1910—11.

Detailed data are almost entirely limited to Hawes’s small series.

132 “Duckworth, ZFMA, vol. 13, 1910—11.