(Chapter IX, section 2)


The Lapps


(2) THE LAPPS If the white race spreads far beyond the arbitrary boundaries of the European continent to the south and east, the opposite may be said of the north. In the circumpolar zone which fringes the Arctic Sea, Asia encroaches upon Europe, and except for Iceland, the racial uniformity of this frigid ring is, superficially at least, complete. In a far less superficial sense, is the cultural uniformity valid. From Greenland to Lapland one finds short, lank-haired people driving across the frozen tundra in bone-shod sleds, drawn by dog or reindeer; these hyperboreans dress themselves in warmly tailored fur garments, with trousers for both sexes alike; they live in conical huts of birch bark, or domes of rock and sod; they venerate the bear and witness the supernatural spirit flights and ventriloquistic conversations of their shamans.

With few exceptions they are all short in stature, and this shortness reaches its extreme at the two ends of the circumpolar zone, Greenland and Lappland. This shortness is accentuated in all of the circumpolar groups by a relative reduction in leg length, with a greater trunk height. The same reduction in length, probably produced by the same mechanism, has been noted in the case of the Magdalenian hunters in late glacial times. These same Magdalenians, notably Chancelade and the male Obercassel, showed at the same time an incipient degree of mongoloid adaptation, insofar as this adaptation is visible in the skull and especially the facial skeleton. It is likely that the occurrence of partial mongoloid traits in many Upper Palaeolithic survivor groups may be due to the retention of traits acquired during the final glacial maximum. In the same way all of the circumpolar groups show, in one degree or another, a certain amount of mongoloidism, and it is possible that the mongoloid stock as a whole represents a progressive mutation from a proto-white stock, of Upper Palaeolithic variety, which began in the Late Pleistocene and reached various degrees of specialization in post-glacial times.

The westernmost representatives of this circumpolar ring of peoples are the Lapps, who call themselves, in their own archaic variety of Finnic speech, Samen. Their country, Lapland, has no political existence, but is no less real an entity. It consists of the forested highlands of northern Sweden, which afford ideal reindeer pasturage, and the tundra-covered stretches of northern Finland, with the Norwegian coastal provinces of Troms and Finnmark, and much of the Russian Kola Peninsula. Except for small patches of forest and mountain, the Lapps are not alone in this country, but share it with a more numerous population of Finns and Norwegians, with whom they have, for centuries, been mixing.

There are, in the whole world, probably no more than 32,000 Lapps.1 Of these about 21,000 live in Norway, 7000 odd in Sweden, and 3000 more are evenly divided between Finland and Russia. In Norway, which holds thus two-thirds of the total, between ten and eleven thousand are concentrated in the province of Finnmark, where, in 1920, they formed 24 per cent of the population. In Sweden the greatest concentration is in Norrbottens län, which holds 4500. The Lapps are not, from the standpoint of numbers, an important people in the world. They are one of the marginal, vestigial groups destined to disappear by the process of absorption. Their importance lies, however, in their taxonomic position, and in the influence which they have had in the past, and may have in the future, on other European peoples with whom they have blended and will blend.

Their predilection for this blending process is so great that it is really very difficult to estimate their numbers, and the figures given above are by no means definitive. They include Lapps who speak their own language and call themselves ethnically Samen, and exclude those who have passed over into other populations, notably the northern Norwegian. At the same time they include many Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish genetic lines which have been incorporated into the culturally Lappish body.

Norwegian writers usually divide the Lapps into two main classes, the Reindeer Lapps, living in the forests and mountains, and the Sedentary Lapps, living along the coast and rivers, subsisting mostly on fish. It is generally believed that the original Lapps who entered Scandinavia were reindeer-herders, and that for many of them the sedentary life is a relatively recent readaptation. Today, however, no more than five thousand still herd reindeer, and of these five, three live in Sweden. Thus although Norway holds the majority of the world's Lapps, those who preserve the purest Lappish type, both in culture and race, live over the Swedish border.
The Lapps present a distinct problem to students of race, which has been answered in one way or the other by various authors since the middle of the last century. The problem is: are they primitive European brachycephals, related to the Alpines of west central Europe, or are they mongoloid invaders from Asia? This question is of more than taxonomic value, because it is intimately concerned with the historical position of all the western European brachycephals as well as with the validity of the classifications employed by the present schools in Poland and Germany. Fortunately, with the publication in 1935 of Schreiner's Zur Osteologie der Lappen,2 we are at length in a position to answer the Lapp question in a definite manner, and with some degree of assurance. The answer lies partly in the historical field, and partly in that of somatology.

The historical evidence does not favor the Alpine or local shrunken-Palacolithic-survivor theory. In the first place, the Lapps speak a Finnic dialect which is classified with the extinct Chude, spoken in the early centuries of the present era in Finland and the regions immediately east and north of the present city of Leningrad.3 The Chudes were Volga Finns who migrated in early times into the regions later to be occupied by their modern Finnish and Esthonian relatives, who eventually absorbed them. In the Lappish language are also found certain loan words from Letto-Lithuanian, and others from early Scandinavian. Letts and Lithuanians arrived in the Baltic lands only in the middle of the first millennium A.D.. Then the Lapps could not have moved to the far northwest much before this time. Furthermore, in order to have borrowed their language from the Chudes, who themselves did not arrive there much earlier, the Lapps must have mixed to some extent with them, and indeed the Lappish skeletons disinterred in Scandinavia show mixture with a Finnic type from the beginning.4 In the fourteenth century the Lapps were mentioned in the Lake Onega region, and tax registers from the sixteenth century establish their presence as far south as Lake Saima, a short distance farther north; hence it is certain that the Lapps had not been fully pushed up into their Arctic environment until recent times. In Norway, the earliest graves, found in Finnmark, may date from late "Roman" times, near the middle of the first millennium A.D., but the presence of the Lapps in this country is not absolutely certain before the ninth century. At this time Norse traders and settlers were sailing around the North Cape, into the previously unknown provinces of Troms and Finnmark, and they met Lapps there and mixed with them. A rich Viking grave of the tenth century, in eastern Finnmark, contains the skeleton of a twenty year old youth of manifestly mixed Norse and Lappish ancestry.5

Schreiner has collected some 300 Lapp skeletons from graves along the Norwegian coast, all of which were of Lappish construction or contained typically Lappish grave furniture; there is no reason to confuse them either with contemporary Viking graves or with the earlier remains of the Stone Age people of this region, for the Lapp graves are manifestly late and intrusive. Furthermore they are geographically restricted, for the Lapps did not, before the sixteenth century, range below 63º N. Latitude, and the most southerly Lappish burials yet found are at Steinkjær on the inner Trondhjem fjord. The Lapp inroad of the eighteenth century into South Trøndelag and Hedmark came not from the north, but from the Swedish provinces of Jämtland and Härjedalen, to the east. The Lapps did not, therefore, extend south into central Norway until very recent times, and had no opportunity to mix with Norwegians in any numbers south of Tysfjord, the northernmost fjord-valley of Nordland. They cannot, therefore, have been responsible for the brachycephaly in southern Norway. Although there is no skeletal material from the Stone Age sites of northern Norway, there is no reason to suppose that these people were the ancestors of the Lapps, since Lapp sites and Stone Age sites are distinct, and nothing transitional has been found.

On the historical side, the evidence is clear. In regard to somatology we may be equally positive, since there is no lack of anthropometric material. Series by Bryn,6 Alette Schreiner,7 Gjessing,8 Geyer,9 Kajava,10 and Zolotarev11 represent Lapps from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia; these studies are all modern and cover the living material fully, while K. E. Schreiner's skeletal series provides a check upon the dead. All of these series show that the Lapps are very mixed, and that they contain not only Nordic blood, derived from Norwegian contact, intense during the last four centuries, but also a blond brachycephalic element which presumably comes from their even commoner mixture with the Kvaens, the northernmost of Finns. Several attempts have been made to isolate "pure" Lapps, but this isolation must be relative since they were probably mixed before they arrived in the present Lappland.

It is generally assumed that the Lapps were originally brunet, and that what blondism they possess has been acquired through this mixture. There is, of course, no factual basis for this assumption, and if it be true, the Lapps must have more non-Lapp than Lapp blood. flair color was observed by means of the Fischer scale in six modern studies,12 while in two others13 no scale was employed, but the material is capable of comparative use. In these series the adult male Lapps vary, in black to dark brown hair colors, from forty to eighty per cent; the beard color, when observed, is lighter. There is some argument as to whether the pure brunet Lapp hair is really black or dark brown, which would indicate that it often falls into a borderline category. When blond, it is usually ashen, and almost never golden or red. The selected "pure" groups, Bryn's Reindeer Lapps, and some of Geyer's mountain and forest Lapps from Sweden, have seventy per cent or over of this dark hair, while the fairest Lapps, with a majority of brown and blond shades, are found in Finland and in the Kola Peninsula.

Pure dark eyes are found among one-third of Reindeer Lapps, and among as few as eight per cent in the total of Lapps from Norway.14 Pure light and light-mixed eyes are commonest among the Lapps of Finland, where they total between thirty and forty per cent, and least common among the Reindeer Lapps of interior Norway and Sweden. Even among the purest selected sub-groups, such as that of Geyer, who isolated from a - larger Swedish Lapp sample a few individuals of most pronounced Lappish type, at least a third are light or light-mixed in iris color.

The skin color of Lapps with light hair and eyes is as light as that of Norwegians and Finns, but in the majority, with mixed or dark hair and eye pigmentation, the skin tends to a grayish yellow to yellowish brown, with some moderately dark individuals, equivalent in pigment intensity to Spaniards or Italians.15 On the whole the skin is lighter on the face and darker on the body, and is usually darkest on the abdomen and genitalia.16 Among the old this skin becomes deeply wrinkled, since it is then deficient in sub-cutaneous fat. The eyes are set in deeply excavated sockets in senility, owing to the same fat deficiency. The Lapp hair is thick on the head, usually straight or but slightly wavy; it is of moderate texture, and seldom coarse or wiry in a truly mongoloid manner. Graying begins late, and baldness is rare. The beard, except where much Nordic blood is apparent, is very scanty, consisting of a few widely separated hairs. The body hair again is largely deficient, for there is seldom any on the chest or abdomen; even the pubic hair is scanty, and on men as well as on women its area of growth is sharply outlined at its upper border. The external genitalia which this hair partly conceals are as a rule small.

Thirty different series give the stature of the Lapps over a span of 130 years. Eleven series published between 1870 and 1900, give means of 138 to 156 cm., which could be averaged at 151 cm. Twenty-seven others, measured between 1905 and 1934, and including several thousand Lapps, range from 155 to 164 cm.;17 during this period the Lapps grew, apparently, seven or eight centimeters. This may be accounted for either as evidence of continuous progressive mixture, or the influence of the stature increase tendency in northwestern Europe, or both.

A study of Lapp bodily proportions shows that the trunk is long in proportion to the legs, which are especially short in the tibial segment, and often bowed; the arms are relatively long, especially in the humeral segment. The hands and feet are as a rule small and delicate. Despite the great relative arm length, both shoulders and hips are narrow, and these peculiarities are especially accentuated in the more brunet, shorter, and presumably less mixed segment of the Lapp population.18

The head of the Lapps, while large in proportion to the body size, is absolutely small. The length ranges in the low 180's, and the breadth in the 150's, while the height is probably about 122 mm. The cephalic index means range from 80 to 88; and a large list of series shows no change during the last century. There are, however, regional differences; the center of extreme round headedness lies among the inland groups in northern Norway, while the Swedish, Finnish, and Kola Peninsula Lapps become progressively narrower headed. The mean for the purest Reindeer Lapps of Norway is 87; for the eastemmost Lapps, 80 to 83.

The forehead of the Lapps is narrow in proportion to the parietal breadth; the profile of the head from above is a short ovoid. The occiput is flat-curved, with some flattening at lambda. Browridges, as a rule, are absent, and the forehead is usually steep, and frequently equipped with frontal bosses. The faces of the Lapps are extraordinarily short, with well-substantiated means of 112 mm. for nasion-menton height. These may he compared with the means of 124-126 mm. usual among either Norwegians or Finns. In this the Lapps differ from known whites or mongoloids to an extraordinary degree, and an extreme absolute facial shortness must be considered a distinctive Lapp feature. Upon further examination, it may be seen that this shortness lies almost entirely in the masticatory segment of the face height; the alveolar borders of the maxillae are extraordinarily shallow, and the mandible is very low, weak, and feebly developed.19 The jaw is not, however, narrow at the rear, for the bigonial diameter is as great as 108 mm. on Norwegian Lapps, and greater even among "pure" Nomads.20 The jaw converges rapidly toward the chin, which is small, pointed, and frequently receding. The teeth are very small, and their roots short. Thus the Lapp face is distinguished by a reduction of jaw size and an oral shallowness extreme and perhaps unique among mankind. It must be considered as a Lapp specialization coincident with their extremely short stature, and especially with the shortening of the distal leg segment.

Otherwise the Lapp face takes a position midway, in many respects, between whites and mongoloids. The bizygomatic diameter, of 140 mm., or thereabouts, is in the white range; it is narrow in proportion to the vault, but it seems wide in relationship to jaw-and forehead. The malars, while not notable for lateral jut, project forward prominently. The nose is on the whole low and flattish; with a straight or concave bridge, low root, and a peculiar snubbed or pointed, up-turned tip. This prominence of the tip is retained characteristically in mixture. On the whole the nose is mesorrhine, and is in this respect not unlike those of many of the Finnish and Slavic peoples in eastern Europe. The eyes are widely separated, set in low orbits, and overhung in some instances with median or external folds, rarely with the mongoloid epicanthus.

On the whole, the Lapp crania, as the Lapp soft parts, take an intermediate position between mongoloid and white standard forms. In some special characters the Lapps are unique, as in the masticatory development, and in the orbit, where Hisinger-Jägerskiöld has found a curiously primitive bony conformation.21 The possession of these peculiar specializations and primitive traits should prevent the Lapps from being considered a hybrid mongoloid-white racial form. Compared to central Asiatic mongoloids, the Lapps are little specialized. The soft and often fine head hair, the absence of the blue-black hair pigment shade, the infrequency of the mongoloid eyefold, and the absence of an excessive lateral malar development or of great facial width, are evidence of this lack of specialization in a mongoloid direction.

There are many features which give the Lapps an infantile appearance which cannot be accidental; these include the body and limb proportions, the sparseness of body hair, the small genitals, the bulbous forehead with a smooth supraorbital region, the weak chin, and the low, child-like nose.22 Some environmental mechanism working upon the mineral economy of this peripheral human group has probably produced this size reduction and infantilism.23

Schreiner's opinion, based upon a detailed study of Lapp craniology as well as upon the living material, is simple and adequate. Translated into the terms of the present study, it signifies that the original ancestral Lapps represented a stage in the evolution of both the Upper Palaeolithic Europeans and the mongoloids, and that while "the mongoloids have specialized in their own characteristic way, and while the Ice-Age European strain was modified by mixture with and virtual absorption by the encroaching post-Pleistocene food producers, the ancestral Lapps were, in their turn, modified largely by a general size reduction and an increasing infantilism. The jaw reduction of the Lapps is their most easily identified specialization.

In view of the known history of Upper Palaeolithic whites and of mongoloids, this divergence of the Lapps from the others must have taken place as early as the Laufen glacial retreat. Their area of specialization was presumably western Siberia, where they found room in which to specialize with little interference. From here they must later have spread over Finland and northwestern Russia, whence they entered northern Scandinavia sometime during the first millennium of the Christian era, by a gradual trickling process. In their northern w4nderings they may have met the Samoyed, and from them acquired their domestic reindeer and the habit of reindeer milking. Since, according to both Laufer and Hatt,24 this last trait did not develop in its central Asiatic home much before the middle of the first millennium B.C., the Lapps could not have acquired this practice much before their arrival in Scandinavia. The acquisition of this superior economy must have given them an impetus for northward expansion, as it did, farther east, with the Tungus.

We must not look for Lappish ancestors, therefore, in the large-headed Borreby people of Mesolithic and Neolithic Denmark, nor in the occupants of the Stone Age sites of northernmost Norway; if we find Lapp-like physical traits, as do Czekanowski, Mydlarski, and others, among eastern European brachycephals, and even among western European Alpines, we must remember that some of the Lappish peculiarities, including perhaps their specialized nasal tip form, may have been common possessions of the Upper Palaeolithic peoples as well. As we shall see later, there may have been transitional forms between Lapps and Europeans, and this general class of humanity may be responsible for the wide-eyed brachycephals who, as we saw in our historical chapters, appeared now and then in southern Russia and Poland from the beginning of the Neolithic onward.


1. Wiklund, K. B., GR, vol. 13, 1923, pp. 223-242.

2. Schreiner, K. E., Zur Osteologie der Lappen.

3. Wiklund, K. B., loc. cit.

4. Schreincr, K. E., op. cit., vol. 2, p.279.

5. Schreiner, Alette, Anthropologische Untersuchungen in Norge; Hellemo.

6. Bryn, H., MAGW, vol.62, 1932, pp.1-74.

7. Schreiner, A., Die Nord-Norweger; Hellemo (Tysfiord Lappen).

8. Gjessing, R., Die Kautokeinolappen.

9. Geyer, E., MAGW, vol.62, 1932, pp. I63-209.

10. Kajava, Y., Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Rasseneigenschaften der Lappen Finnlands.

11. Zolotarev, D. A., Kolskie Lopari.

12. Bryn, H., MAGW, 1932.
Geyer, E., MAGW, 1932.
Gjessing, R., Die Kautokeinolappen.
Schreiner, A., Die Nord-Norweger; Hellemo.
Luther, M., unpublished data in Peabody Museum. Actual hair samples collected, and later matched in the laboratory.

13. Kajava, Y., Beiträge Zur Kenntnis der Rasseneigenschaften der Lappen Finnlands.
Zolotarev, D. A., Kolskie Lopari.

14. Schreiner, A., Die Nord-Norweger, Martin's numbers 2-4, total of 254 males.

15. Bryn, H., MAGW, 1932, finds 20 per cent to have von Luschan #3; the darkest shade which he records is #l2.

16. Schreiner, A., Hellemo, p.15.

17. For a complete bibliography of early Lappish series, see the lists of Bryn, the two Schreiners, Geyer, Kajava, and Zolotarev.
br> 18. Geyer, MAGW, 1932.

19. Schreiner, K. E., Zur Osteologie der Lappen.

20. Bryn, H., MAGW, 1932.

21. Kajava, Y., Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Rasseneigenschaften der Lappen Finnlands, p. 35, after Hisinger-Jägerskiöld, E., FFVS, vol.55, 1913.

22. This general estimate of the Lapp racial position is for the most part a paraphrase of K. E. Schreiner's conclusions in his Zur Osteologie der Lappen, by far the most erudite work yet to appear on the Lapp question.

23. Gjessing, R., Die Kautokeinolappen, pp. 90-95.
Marett, J. R. de La H., Race, Sex, and Environment.

24. Hatt, G., Notes on Reindeer Nomadism, MAAA, vol.6, 1919. This is one of the few points regarding the history of reindeer husbandry upon which these two authorities agree.
Laufer, B., The Reindeer and Its Domestication, MAAA, vol.4, #2, 1917; AA, vol.22, 1920, pp.192-197.