Physical anthropology

Physical anthropology. The study of the physical characteristics of human race with respect to origin, development, classification, and distribution. The subject can be subdivided into somatology and paleontology. The first describes and measures discrete bodily members, skin color, height and weight, blood type, and the structure of the internal organs (see Race). The second deals with early human history on the basis of archeological evidence. The earliest information about the physical characteristics of Ukraine’s inhabitants is in Herodotus’ and Hippocrates’ accounts of the Scythians. Medieval Byzantine and Arab authors, such as Procopius of Caesarea, Zacharias Rhetor, Ibn Dast or Ibn Rosta, and Ahmad Ibn Fadlān, provided further data on Ukraine’s population. Descriptions of Ukrainians are also found in the works of 17th- and 18th-century travelers. From impressionistic descriptions of the population of Kyivan Rus’ two anthropological types can be distinguished. The princes, knights, and merchants possessed mostly Nordic traits, whereas the general population consisted of short-headed Trypillians (or Armenoids).

According to archeological excavations the following anthropological types once inhabited Ukrainian territories: Neanderthal (Upper to Middle Paleolithic Period), Mediterranean (Middle Paleolithic Period), Cro-Magnon (Upper Paleolithic Period), Lapponoid (Upper to late Paleolithic Period), Southern Mediterranean with Negroid features (late Paleolithic to early Mesolithic Period), Nordic Cro-Magnon (Neolithic Period and Eneolithic Period), Armenoid (beginning of the Bronze Age), and Mediterranean (Bronze Age). The intermingling of these chief types led to the development of the East European or Sub-Nordic type (from the Lapponoid and Nordic types), the Adriatic or Dinaric type (from the Nordic and Armenoid types), and the Alpine type (from the Sub-Nordic and Dinaric types). The inhabitants of protohistoric and early historic Ukraine consisted of three main strata: people of the Trypillia culture, chiefly Armenoid in type; the Iranian people (Sakian people), chiefly Nordic and Mediterranean in type; and the Slavs, Nordic-Armenoid in type.

According to Fedir Vovk’s findings at the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Ukraine can be divided into three anthropological belts: (1) the northern belt (southern Kursk region, Chernihiv region, northern Kyiv region, northern Volhynia, and Kholm region); (2) the middle belt (southern Voronezh region, Kharkiv region, Poltava region, and Kyiv region, northern Podilia, southern Volhynia, and eastern Galicia [excluding the Hutsul region and Boiko region]); and (3) the southern belt (Bačka [former Yugoslavia], Transcarpathia, the southern Boiko and Hutsul regions, southern Podilia, and the Kherson, Zaporizhia, Tavriia, and Kuban regions). Most Ukrainians of the northern belt are of medium height, with fairly light hair and eyes, semiround heads with high foreheads, medium faces, and fairly wide noses, often snubbed. Ukrainians of the middle belt are mostly above medium height, with darker hair and eyes, round heads, high foreheads, medium-broad faces, narrow and straight noses. Most Ukrainians of the southern belt are tall with even darker hair and eyes, round heads, high foreheads, medium-broad and elongated faces, and narrow, mostly straight but sometimes curved and aquiline, noses.

In Rostyslav Yendyk’s findings this classification is modified and replaced by four territorial areas (see table). V. Diachenko’s data (1965) suggest four central and one peripheral anthropological area.

Volkov (Vovk), F. ‘Antropologicheskie osobennosti ukrainskogo naroda,’ Ukrainskii narod v ego proshlom i nastoiashchem, vol 2 (Saint Petersburg 1916)
Iendyk, R. Antropolohichni prykmety ukraïns'koho narodu (Lviv 1934)
Diachenko, V. Antropolohichnyi sklad ukraïns'koho narodu (Kyiv 1965)

Bohdan Medwidsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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