Phenotypes of Hunters and Farmers

March 2, 2015

Europeans are descended from prehistoric hunter-gatherers and farmers. Here's what we know about the origins and physical appearance of these two populations from anthropology (Coon 1939, Pinhasi 2012) and genetics (Lipson 2012, Lazaridis 2014), along with representations of what they might have looked like:

Mesolithic Hunters had broad faces, dark skin, light eyes and were intermediate between Western and Eastern Eurasians. So to represent them I chose a Uralic Norwegian Lapp that I darkened and gave blue eyes.

Neolithic Farmers had narrow faces, light skin, dark eyes and were Western Eurasian, closest to modern Sardinians. So I chose an untanned, long-faced Mediterranean soccer player from Sardinia to represent them.

Of course, they didn't all look exactly the same. We know that there was diversity and overlap in some of their traits (Gamba 2014). But in general, the phenotypic variation we see in Europe today is the result of waves of settlements by these two distinct types from Siberia and the Middle East since ancient times, and the mixing that occurred between them in different proportions (Haak 2015), plus selective pressures favoring further depigmentation in some places.