Believe me, I get it. People come in all shapes and sizes. Americans are tall and thin and short and stout. Africans are the same. Ditto for other countries. However, there was a time in history when physical attributes of ethnic groups were more consistent. People who descend from ancestors who have lived in the same geographical region for millennium, bear characteristics that have evolved over time in order to survive. Whether it be the food we eat, the freezing cold, high altitudes, sea level, hot sun, you name it, our bodies adapt to our environment in order to survive.
With the advent of trains, autos and air flight, humans can and do live most anywhere. We still have ethnic groups but within the groups we have a wide diversity of physical appearances. As genealogists seeking answers to our origins, we look to ourselves for the answers. Our hair, eye and skin color. Our body type. Even the way we write longhand might reveal clues to the people who came before us.
Our world today is sensitive to stereotyping and racism, we may feel uncomfortable exploring. I called a DNA testing company and spoke with someone. He made clear his belief that there are no races, just the human race. I understand this but it doesn’t stop us from reading old encyclopedias, old dictionaries and old history books for clues. It was in an old dictionary that I was doing research when I stumbled upon two contradicting descriptions of the physical anatomy of Iberians.
Iberia is the ancient name of the Spanish peninsula. 23andMe tells us that Iberia means Spain/Portugal. My old dictionary has Iberia as a, “Short, dark, dolichocephalic race, probably the neolithic inhabitants of western Europe.” And “One of an ancient people of the Caucasus…”
Before you picture your Iberian ancestors as short and dark with dolichocephalic (long) heads, remember this. Hamites are ancient members of the Caucasus. They made their way into Iberia. They’re dark too but they’re tall and have oval faces.
Short? Tall? Long? Oval? The attribute that these two “races” have in common is that they’re both “dark.” Makes one wonder how in the world did Caucasian become the term for white?
Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy V – Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family Trees. Available here: