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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 4th edition of Meyers Konversationslexikon (Leipzig, 1885-1890) shows the Caucasian race (in blue) as comprising Aryans, Semites and Hamites. Aryans are further subdivided into European Aryans and Indo-Aryans (the latter corresponding to the group now designated Indo-Iranians). Adjacent to the Caucasians are the Sudan-Negroes to the south (shown in brown), the Dravidians in India (shown in green) and Asians to the east (shown in yellow, subsuming the peoples now grouped under Uralic and Altaic (light yellow) and Sino-Tibetan (solid yellow)).

The term Caucasian race (or Caucasoid, sometimes also Europid, or Europoid[1]) denotes the race or phenotypes of some or all of the indigenous human populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia.[2][3] The classification has been used in scientific racism[citation needed].

In common use in American English, the term "Caucasian" (rarely supplemented with the word "race") is sometimes restricted to Europeans and other lighter-skinned populations within these areas, and may be considered equivalent to the varying definitions of white people. The term continues to be widely used in many scientific and general contexts, usually with its more restricted sense of "white", specifically White American in a US context.


Origin of the concept

The Georgian skull Blumenbach discovered in 1795 to hypothesize origination of Europeans from the Caucasus.

The concept of a Caucasian race or Varietas Caucasia was developed around 1800 by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, a German scientist and early anthropologist.[4][4] Blumenbach named it after the peoples of the Caucasus (from the Caucasus region), whom he considered to be the archetype for the grouping.[5] He based his classification of the Caucasian race primarily on craniology.[6] Blumenbach wrote:

"Caucasian variety—I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones (birth place) of mankind."[7]

In physical anthropology

"Caucasoid race" is a term formerly used in physical anthropology to refer to people of a certain range of anthropometric measurements.[8]


Conceived as one of the "great races", alongside Mongoloid and Negroid, the Caucasoid race was taken to consist of a number of "subraces". The Caucasoid peoples were usually divided in three subraces on linguistic grounds, termed the Aryan race (native speakers of the Indo-European languages), the Semitic race (native speakers of the Semitic languages) and the Hamitic race (native speakers of the Berber-Cushitic-Egyptian languages).

The postulated subraces vary depending on the author. Another way of classifying the subraces was by the shape of the skull: The Nordic, Mediterranean, Alpine, Dinaric, East Baltic, Arabid, Turanid, Iranid and Armenoid subraces.

19th century classifications of the peoples of India considered the Dravidians of non-Caucasoid stock as Australoid or a separate Dravidian race, and assumed a gradient of miscegenation of high-caste Caucasoid Aryans and indigenous Dravidians.

By contrast, Carleton S. Coon in his 1939 The Races of Europe classified the Dravidians as Caucasoid as well, due to his assessment of what he called their "Caucasoid skull structure" and other physical traits (e.g. noses, eyes, hair). In his The Living Races of Man, Coon stated that "India is the easternmost outpost of the Caucasian racial region". Sarah A Tishkoff and Kenneth K Kidd state: "Despite disagreement among anthropologists, this classification remains in use by many researchers, as well as lay people."[9]

In a 1989 article in Scientific American by Colin Renfrew, he classifies the Dravidian race along with the Semitic race and the Aryan race as the three major subdivisions that emerged from the Proto-Caucasian race, which he states separated into the aforementioned three groups about 9,000 BCE after migrating from North Africa—the Semitics establishing themselves in and radiating from Jericho, the Aryans establishing themselves in and radiating from Catal Huyuk, and the Dravidians establishing themselves in and radiating from what is now southern Iran. [10]

In 1920 H.G. Wells referred to the Mediterranean race as the Iberian race . He regarded it as a fourth subrace of the Caucasian race, along with the Aryan, Semitic, and Hamitic subraces. He stated that the main ethnic group that most purely represented the racial stock of the Iberian race was the Basques and the Basques were the descendents of the Cro-Magnons. (Wells called the Mediterranean race the Iberian race because the ancient Iberian language was and is believed by some to have been related to the Basque language). [11] In 1994, in his book The History and Geography of Human Genes, population geneticist L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza stated that “there is support from many sides” for the hypothesis that the Basques are the descendents of the original Cro-Magnons. [12]

There was no universal consensus of the validity of the "Caucasian" grouping even within scientific racism. Thomas Henry Huxley in 1870 wrote that the "absurd denomination of 'Caucasian'" was in fact a conflation of his Xanthochroi and Melanochroi types.[13]

In the medical sciences

In the medical sciences, where response to pharmaceuticals and other treatment can vary dramatically based on ethnicity,[14][15] there is great debate as to whether racial categorizations as broad as Caucasian are medically valid.[16][17] Several journals (e.g. Nature Genetics, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, and the British Medical Journal) have issued guidelines stating that researchers should carefully define their populations and avoid broad-based social constructions, due to the fact that these categories are more likely to be measuring differences in socioeconomic class and access to medical treatment that disproportionately affect minority groups, rather than racial differences.[18] Nevertheless, there are journals (e.g. the Journal of Garstroentorology and Hepatology and Kidney International) that continue to use racial categories such as Caucasian.[14][19]

Usage in the United States

In the United States, the term Caucasian has been mainly used to describe a group commonly called White Americans, as defined by the government and Census Bureau.[20] Between 1917 and 1965, immigration to the US was restricted by a national origins quota. The Supreme Court in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) decided that Asian Indians – unlike Europeans and Middle Easterners – were Caucasian, but were not white, because most laypeople did not consider them to be white people. This was important for determining whether they could become naturalized citizens, then limited to free whites. The court and government changed its opinion in 1946. In 1965 major changes were made to immigration law, lifting earlier restrictions on immigrants from Asia.[21]

The United States National Library of Medicine has used the term "Caucasian" as a race in the past, but has discontinued its usage in favor of the term "European," avoiding the now deprecated[22] term "race".[23]

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (2009): Main Entry: eu·ro·poid, Variant(s): or eu·ro·pid, Function: noun, Inflected Form(s): -s, Usage: usually capitalized, Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary europ- (from Europe) + -oid or -id: CAUCASOID
  2. ^ e.g. The Races of Europe by Carlton Stevens Coon. From Chapter XI: The Mediterranean World—Introduction: "This third racial zone stretches from Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco, and thence along the southern Mediterranean shores into Arabia, East Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Persian highlands; and across Afghanistan into India."
  3. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary defines Caucasoid as as noun or adjective meaning Of, pertaining to, or resembling the Caucasian race. It defines Caucasian as "relating to a broad division of humankind covering peoples from Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia, and South Asia" or "white-skinned; of European origin".
  4. ^ a b University of Pennsylvania Blumenbach
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary: "a name given by Blumenbach (a1800) to the ‘white’ race of mankind, which he derived from the region of the Caucasus."
  6. ^ Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, The anthropological treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, translated by Thomas Bendyshe. 1865. November 2, 2006.
  7. ^ Blumenbach , De generis humani varietate nativa (3rd ed. 1795), trans. Bendyshe (1865). Quoted e.g. in Arthur Keith, Blumenbach's Centenary, Man, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1940).
  8. ^ Reinhard, K.J., & Hastings, D. (Annual 2003) "Learning from the ancestors: the value of skeletal study".(study of ancestors of Omaha Tribe of Nebraska), American Journal of Physical Anthropology, p. 177(1)
  9. ^ Tishkoff SA, Kidd KK (November 2004). "Implications of biogeography of human populations for 'race' and medicine". Nat. Genet. 36 (11 Suppl): S21–7. doi:10.1038/ng1438. PMID 15507999. 
  10. ^ Renfrew, Colin. (1989). The Origins of Indo-European Languages. /Scientific American/, 261(4), 82-90.
  11. ^ Wells, H.G. The Outline of History New York:1920 Doubleday & Co. Volume I Chapter XI "The Races of Mankind" Pages 131-144 See Pages 98, 137, and 139
  12. ^ Cavalli-Sforza, L. Luca; Menozzi, Paolo; and Piazza Alberto The History and Geography of Human Genes Princeton, New Jersey: 1994 Princeton University Press Page 280
  13. ^ T. H. Huxley, On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind, Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1870).
  14. ^ a b York P C Pei, Celia M T Greenwood, Anne L Chery and George G Wu, "Racial differences in survival of patients on dialysis", Nature
  15. ^ "Study Shows Drug Resistance Varies by Race", Kate Wong, Scientific American
  16. ^ Categorization of humans in biomedical research: genes, race and disease, Neil Risch, Esteban Burchard, Elad Ziv, and Hua Tang
  17. ^ Genetic variation, classification and 'race', Lynn B Jorde & Stephen P Wooding
  18. ^ The Race, Ethnicity, and Genetics Working Group of the National Human Genome Research Institute (2005) "The Use of Racial, Ethnic, and Ancestral Categories in Human Genetics Research", American Journal of Human Genetics, 77(4): 519–532
  19. ^ "Ethnic and cultural determinants influence risk assessment for hepatitis C acquisition", Anouk Dev, Vijaya Sundararajan, William Sievert
  20. ^ Painter, p.
  21. ^ "Not All Caucasians Are White: The Supreme Court Rejects Citizenship for Asian Indians", History Matters
  22. ^ Leonard Lieberman, Rodney C. Kirk, and Alice Littlefield, "Perishing Paradigm: Race—1931-99," American Anthropologist 105, no. 1 (2003): 110-13
  23. ^ "Other Notable MeSH Changes and Related Impact on Searching: Ethnic Groups and Geographic Origins". NLM Technical Bulletin 335 (Nov-Dec). 2003. "The MeSH term Racial Stocks and its four children (Australoid Race, Caucasoid Race, Mongoloid Race, and Negroid Race) have been deleted from MeSH in 2004. A new heading, Continental Population Groups, has been created with new identification that emphasize geography.". 



  • Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, On the Natural Varieties of Mankind (1775) — the book that introduced the concept
  • Gould, Stephen Jay (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-01489-4.  — a history of the pseudoscience of race, skull measurements, and IQ inheritability
  • Piazza, Alberto; Cavalli-Sforza, L. L.; Menozzi, Paolo (1996). The history and geography of human genes. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02905-9.  — a major reference of modern population genetics
  • Cavalli-Sforza, LL (2000). Genes, peoples and languages. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9486-X. 
  • Augstein, HF (1999). "From the Land of the Bible to the Caucasus and Beyond". in Harris, Bernard; Ernst, Waltraud. Race, science and medicine, 1700–1960. New York: Routledge. pp. 58–79. ISBN 0-415-18152-6. 
  • Baum, Bruce (2006). The rise and fall of the Caucasian race: a political history of racial identity. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-9892-6. 
  • Guthrie, Paul (1999). The Making of the Whiteman: From the Original Man to the Whiteman. Chicago, IL: Research Associates School Times. ISBN 0-948390-49-2. 
  • Wolf, Eric R.; Cole, John N. (1999). The Hidden Frontier: Ecology and Ethnicity in an Alpine Valley. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21681-4. 

External links

  • Downloadable article: "Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age" Li et al. BMC Biology 2010, 8:15. [1]


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



caucasoid (comparative more caucasoid, superlative most caucasoid)


more caucasoid

most caucasoid

  1. (anthropology) a member of the racial classification of humanity composed of peoples indigenous to Europe, the Northeast Atlantic, North Africa, West Asia, South Asia and parts of Central Asia, as well as their diaspora in other parts of the world.

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