How Did Europeans Develop So Many Different Hair and Eye Colors?
A number of remarkably well-preserved mummies from the second millennium BC have been recovered in the dry Tarim Basin of Central Asia, dominated by the Taklamakan Desert and located in what is today far western China. Several of the corpses have European features and blond or reddish-brown/copper-colored hair. The oldest ones such
as the Loulan Beauty date back to the early second millennium. From around 1800 BC, the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucausoid, or Europoid, says Professor Victor Mair of Pennsylvania University. The textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber reckons that their cloth can be traced back to the Black Sea region of Eastern Europe. DNA samples have confirmed the northwest Eurasian origins of several of the ancient mummies found in this area.
Indra, the Vedic god of thunder, is described in the ‘Rigveda’ as having blond orred/copper-colored hair and beard, similar to his Slavic and Germanic Indo-European counterparts such as Thor. These hair colors are specifically European genetic traits that are rare elsewhere. Not totally unheard of, but rare. Indra was a preeminent drinker of ‘soma’, just like Thor was a great drinker of alcoholic beverages. Indra plays a part in the Jain and Buddhist mythology of India, but in Brahamanic times he was supplanted by Vishnu and Shiva as the most important gods.
People with red hair are sometimes referred to as redheads or gingers. This distinct phenotype exists primarily in Europe north of the Alps, starting from the Ukraine and Russia in the northeast, but red hair occurs most frequently (2-6% of the population) in Britain, Ireland and northwestern Europe and can occasionally be encountered elsewhere. Only 1-2% of the human population today has red hair, making it the rarest naturally occurring hair color. This rate keeps falling as the northern European percentage of the worlds population keeps falling.
Geneticists havent determined when red hair first came into being, but current estimates indicate that this event could have taken place already in the Paleolithic era. Carles Lalueza-Fox, a professor of genetics at the University of Barcelona, in 2007 claimed that his team had found a genetic variant among Neanderthals which is not present in humans today, but which causes an effect similar to that seen in modern redheads. Red hair among anatomically modern humans is associated with pale skin. It is an adaptation to the environment in northern climates with weak sunlight, especially in the winter. It appears as if the Neanderthals had lighter skin than the first African settlers in Europe, although the advances in paleogenetics are now so rapid that everything I say here could be proved or disproved in a few years.
In ‘The 10,000 Year Explosion‘: ”How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution”, Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending estimate that by the end of the last Ice Age there may have been 6 million hunter-gatherers world wide. The subsequent advent of agriculture vastly increased the amount of food available, as humans didn’t merely have to rely on what was readily available in nature but could grow their own food. This allowed those who practiced it to greatly expand their numbers, but the nutritional quality may well have been poor at first.
Consequently, the health of each individual was not necessarily better in the Neolithic period than it had been in the Paleolithic era. The bodies of those who practiced agriculture had to adapt to a new diet consisting of foods that had either not been eaten before or had previously been of secondary importance. The more permanent settlements associated with agriculture gave rise to new infectious diseases, as a critical mass of humans lived in close contact with each other and with domesticated animals. There is every reason to suspect that the earliest farmers suffered from a number of health problems related to a low-protein, vitamin-short, high-carbohydrate diet, and some genetic changes may have helped to compensate for this:
For example, we see changes in genes affecting transport of vitamins into cells. Similarly, vitamin D shortages in the new diet may have driven the evolution of light skin in Europe and northern Asia. Vitamin D is produced by ultraviolet radiation from the sun acting on our skin an odd, plantlike way of going about things. Less is therefore produced in areas far from the equator, where UV flux is low. Since there is plenty of vitamin D in fresh meat, hunter-gatherers in Europe may not have suffered from vitamin D shortages and thus may have been able to get by with fairly dark skin. In fact, this must have been the case, since several of the major mutations causing light skin color appear to have originated after the birth of agriculture. Vitamin D was not abundant in the new cereal-based diet, and´any resulting shortages would have been serious, since they could lead to bone malformations (rickets), decreased resistance to infectious diseases, and even cancer. This may be why natural selection favored mutations causing light skin, which allowed for adequate vitamin D synthesis in regions with little ultraviolet radiation.
During the past 10,000 years, the human skeleton has become more lightly built. Archaic features such as brow ridges have virtually disappeared in most populations (except Australian aborigines), even though a few Europeans still had them during the Bronze Age. Surprisingly, skull volume has apparently also decreased in most populations, which might correspond to a slightly smaller human brain today than in the Mesolithic. Some of these changes are apparent within the past one thousand years, judging from medieval skeletons.
*As Cochran and Harpending point out*, the genetic changes underlying light skin in Europe and East Asia are not identical, although both of these groups faced similar evolutionary pressures. In most parts of the world, even in temperate regions, everyone has dark eyes and dark hair. To us these facts suggest that there was something fundamentally different in the selective forces affecting skin color in Europe and East Asia. If those forces were different, at least one of them was probably selecting for something other than vitamin D.
We dont have access to all the genetic data just yet, but blond hair appears to be caused by a younger mutation than red hair. Most likely, when the Lascaux cave paintings were created by the end of the Upper Paleolithic (ca. 15,000 BC) not a single human being in the world had either blond hair or blue eyes. It is interesting to speculate why some Europeans developed blue eyes whereas people in northeast Asia, who experienced comparable evolutionary pressures for light skin (and quite probably high IQ as well), didn’t evolve the same wide range of eye colors as Europeans did, from brown to blue, green, gray or hazel eyes.
Blue eyes are common in many European populations but are nearly nonexistent in the rest of the world. They can occasionally be found in nearby areas such as northern Syria, among the Berbers of northwestern Africa or in regions which have been exposed to European genetic influences in the past, for example Afghanistan or parts of Central Asia since the Indo-European expansion, Alexander the Great and his men or certain traders and adventurers.
According to authors Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending*, blue eyes are caused by a change in a DNA sequence that is embedded in HERC2, the gene next to OCA2. That allele accounts for 75 percent of the variation in eye color in Europe. Its the third longest haplotype in Europeans and therefore cant be very old: Analysis of the unshuffled region associated with OCA2 suggests that it originated about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Blue eyes are most common in northern Europe, centered around the Baltic. The simplest assumption is that the allele originated in the center of the region, where its frequency is very high today, so our best guess is that it first occurred in a Lithuanian village about 6,000 years ago.
Originally, we all had brown eyes, says Professor Hans Eiberg from the Universityof Copenhagen. Moreover, all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor. If this event happened between 6000-4000 BC then it may have been related to the introduction of agriculture to northern Europe. The mutation affected a gene called OCA2 and literally turned off the ability to produce brown eyes. OCA2 is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to hair, eyes and skin. The mutation in the adjacent gene does not switch off the OCA gene entirely but limits its action. If the OCA2 gene had been completely turned off, those who inherited this mutation would be without melanin at all, that is, albino.
We dont know why red and blond hair came into being, but if the mutation for blue eyes happened in northern Europe after the introduction of agriculture then it may have been at least partly linked to diet. For example, northern Europeans utilized milk and dairy products much more than East Asians did, but this is speculation for the time being. Most likely, the evolution of the range of skin- and hair colors we see in modern Europeans happened in stages after the first influx of dark-skinned peoples from Africa. Merely by living in a cool northern climate you will evolve lighter skin over time, but perhaps there was a secondary effect after the introduction of agriculture, since the new diet included less vitamin D.
As anyone can wear contact lens to change their eye color, blue eyes are are rare among North America regions.
Blue eyes have become increasingly rare among North American children due to non European immigration and intermarriage with other ethnic groups. In 1900, 80 percent of people married within their ethnic group, and blue eyes a genetically recessive trait were passed down among people of northern European ancestry. About half of Americans born in 1899 had blue eyes compared to merely one 1 of every 6 today, and the rate keeps falling fast.
We keep hearing a lot of people praising diversity in Western mass media these days, but Europeans have a higher natural diversity of hair- and eye colors than the inhabitants of all other continents combined. This great diversity of phenotypes is directly threatened by non-European mass immigration, which once again reminds us that diversity in the Multicultural vocabulary is merely a code word for getting rid of everything thats unique to Europeans.