(Chapter IX, Section 7)



Denmark, the smallest and most southerly of the three Scandinvian kingdoms, is also the most densely populated, being inhabited by two and one half millions of people. It consists of the peninsula of Jutland, the isthmus of Schleswig, acquired since the World War, and the Danish archipelago. These islands, the largest of which are Zealand, Funen, Laaland, Falster, Möen, Langeland, and Samsø, although smaller in total area than the mainland, contain the bulk of the population. The island of Bornholm, situated to the southeast of Skåne, is likewise Danish territory, as are the islands of Lessö and Anholt, which lie in the midst of the Cattegat. On the southwestern coast of Denmark the Frisian Islands begin their chain, which is only broken by the mouth of the Elbe in its stretch from Denmark to Holland. Some of these islands are Danish, some are German, and others are Dutch in nationality. Far separated from Denmark, but under its sovereignty, lie the Faroe Islands, between the Shetlands and Iceland, and Iceland itself is an autonomous state under the Danish crown, while Greenland, a restricted crown colony, is the home of a few thousand Danes.

Throughout the prehistoric period Denmark was the cultural center of Scandinavia, and likewise the center of greatest population. The profusion of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments and graves shows that before the Iron Age invasions both the mainland and the islands were densely inhabited; in view of this crowding, it is not surprising that the newcomers found greater room for expansion in Sweden and eastern Norway. From Ertebølle times onward the Danish Islands, and to a lesser extent the mainland, was the focal point in northern Europe for the settlement of the brachycephalic Borreby people. With them had mingled Megalithic seafarers in large numbers, while the Corded people had concentrated their activities on the mainland. It is not surprising, therefore, that a population so firmly attached to its milieu as that of pre-Iron Age Denmark should have survived the vicissitudes of centuries and eventually have reëmerged in considerable strength. That this is exactly what has happened is the sense of the present section.

During the Iron Age Denmark continued in its cultural leadership of Scandinavia, owing largely to its greater proximity to the source of civilized influences farther south, for Denmark was greatly affected by the repercussions of Roman civilization. In the Völkerwanderung period, Denmark, furthermore, contributed heavily to the stream of migration southward; the Cimbri, the first Germanic people to come under the eyes of Rome, were natives of Jutland; the Jutes and the Angles who settled England with the Saxons from Schleswig-Holstein again came from Denmark. The later inroads of Danes into Britain strengthened the earlier contingents. Hence, Denmark played an even greater part in the settlement of the British Isles than did Norway.

In contrast to Norway and Sweden, existing documents which cover the physical anthropology of the living Danes are scattered and incomplete. It is not possible to study the distribution of characters from village to village and county to county, nor to examine the special racial attributes of individuals. It is possible, however, to make a few general observations, and to supplement these with deductions based on common knowledge. In the first place, the Danes are not as tall as the Swedes and Norwegians, although their king is the tallest monarch in Europe. The mean stature of twenty-one year old recruits in 1925 was 169.4 cm., which varied between 172.3 cm., on the island of Anholt in the middle of the Cattegat, and 167.1 cm. for Fanø, the northernmost of the Frisian Isles. In general, Jutland and Schleswig are comparatively tall, with mean statures of 170 cm., while the island population is a centimeter or two shorter, especially on Samsø, southern and eastern Zealand, Laaland, Falster, and Möen. Copenhagen and the adjoining Counties of northern Zealand are, by contrast, quite tall.

Aside from stature, there is no metric character in which all of Denmark has been regionally studied. In other measurements and indices one is obliged to refer to material which covers the country as a unit, or certain sections of it only. Data referring to bodily build indicate that the Danes are longer armed, wider spanned, longer trunked, and, in general, more heavily built than the common run of other Scandinavians, and resemble in these respects the western Norwegians more than any other group. Several series show that the mean head lengths of Danes in various parts of the kingdom are uniformly 194 mm., as long as the Swedish national mean, and comparable to that of the mesocephalic population of western Norway; variations in cephalic index are dependent rather upon variations in head breadth, which ranges from 154.7 mm. on the island of Bornholm to 158.8 mm. in the northern part of Samsø. That the higher cephalic indices in Denmark result from greater breadths instead of from lesser lengths, is a sure indication that we are dealing with a Borreby form of brachycephaly.

The mean cephalic index of Denmark, however, is but 80.6;63 and this sub-brachycephalic mean condition is not subject to much regional variation. Although Denmark is the least long headed of the three Scandinavian kingdoms, nowhere in it may be found a regional population as round headed as that of Jæren. Denmark, like Sweden, is flat and lacks natural barriers; one must expect a great national uniformity. The highest means yet recorded are 81.8 for northern Samsø, 81.4 for western Jutland, and for the isle of Anholt. No regional mean is under 80.

Facial measurements on Danes are extremely rare; what there are show breadth diameters high for Scandinavia. Hannesson, in a small series of Danish sailors, finds a minimum frontal of 106.5 mm., a bizygomatic of 139.5 mm., and a bigonial of 107 mm. In northern Samsø, an unusually brachycephalic area, the bizygomatic rises to 142.5 mm. Thus the Danish facial breadths resemble those found in coastal Norway, especially the rounder-headed districts, and in Iceland.

Data on the hair and eye color of Danes is as extensive as that on stature, and covers the entire kingdom. Although no scales were used, the categories employed seem clearly defined and there can be little doubt as to the character of Danish pigmentation. Hansen found that "fair" hair decreased from 52 per cent at the age of 6 years to 33 per cent at 14, and fell to 16.6 per cent at the recruit age of 20 years. This "fair" category must, therefore, include pronounced degrees of blondism only, and exclude the light brown hues often designated as blond elsewhere. On the island of Samsø, Bardenfleth found only 7,5 per cent of hair which he was willing to call light, and 40 per cent of medium, 43 per cent of dark, and 9 per cent of black. Samsø is one of the darkest-haired regions of Denmark.

Judging from the distribution of the school children material, the southern part of the Danish mainland, toward Schleswig-Holstein, is the blondest section of the country; two regions are darkest: Thirsted, the northwestern county of Jutland, and the islands.

What appears to be the most accurate division of eye colors is that of Bardenfleth, who finds 38 per cent of light, 59 per cent of mixed, and 3 per cent of dark eyes on Samsø. This is comparable to the eye color situation elsewhere in Scandinavia. Samsø is one of the darker-eyed sections of Denmark, and regional eye color variations, though not great, follow those of hair color.

In its available form, the Danish material is not so arranged that many correlations and regressions can be made from it. In Samsø, light-haired individuals are a half centimeter taller than dark-haired ones, and slightly higher in cephalic index. This regression runs counter to the slight geographical association between darker hair, shorter stature, and rounder heads, from which racial inferences have been deduced. The associations noted in Samsø, however, agree with the similar correlations found in southern Sweden, which would point to the presence on both sides of the Cattegat of a special tall, blond brachycephal, particularly common among Swedish immigrants to the United States where the vulgar term "square-head" is used to designate it. Popular, subjective labels in the designation of races, used among persons ignorant of the existence of physical anthropology, are often truer than the hesitant results of erudite wanderings in the labyrinth of numbers.

Aknowledge of the racial history of Denmark, and a familiarity with the appearance of modern Danes, makes the interpretation of existing data, however fragmentary, possible. On the whole, the Danes form, as Burrau feels, a composite type which is inextricably blended, but which shows in individual variations leanings toward different ancestral forms, as well as toward new combinations. The blond "square-head" noted above is an important type, heavy-boned and sturdy, basically Borreby in inspiration.

The minority of brunet pigmentation, in Denmark not associated with brachycephaly, reminds one that the Danish Islands held the greatest concentration of Megalithic people in the whole north, and that these Megalithic people blended with the Borreby aborigines before the arrival of either Corded folk or Iron Age Nordics. On the whole, Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, may be called a Nordic country, but Nordic only in the modern Scandinavian sense.

Before leaving the description of the living Danish people, two special problems remain, the racial character of the island of Bornholm, to the east of Denmark proper in the Baltic, and that of the Faroes. Ribbing, in a study of the Bornholm people, finds them taller, fairer, and somewhat longer headed than most of the Danes, and considers that they are most closely related to the southern Swedes inhabiting the island of Gotland.

The Faroes, isolated in the northern seas between the Shetlands and Iceland, preserve a picturesque and mediaeval Danish population of fishermen.64 These islands were first inhabited by the Scotch, who may or may not have left before the coming of the Vikings, which took place shortly before the settlement of Iceland. The Faroe males are as tall as Danes (169-170 cm.), and about the same in head form. (C. I.-79.6.)65 The faces are distinguished by a considerable breadth of the mandible,66 found also in Iceland and among the northernmost Norwegians. Until more extensive information appears than that at present available, we may consider the Faroe Islanders typical descendants of Viking Age Danes and coastal Norwegians.

In all three Scandinavian kingdoms, changes have been observed in stature during the last century. The normal amount of increase in young men draughted for recruiting has been somewhere between 6 and 8 cm. It would appear that one hundred years ago Danes of military age were only 164 cm. tall, on the average, while Swedes and Norwegians varied regionally between 166 and 168 cm. If one recalls the statures of the inhabitants of these countries before and during the pre-Christian Iron Age, it will at once appear that this increase has been actually a process of returning, under new stimuli, to an older condition. The depletion of these countries during the Völkerwanderung and the adverse climatic conditions of the Middle Ages must have had in the first instance a selective, in the second a depressing, effect upon national stature.

In all three countries comparisons between city and country populations show that there is a tendency for the Iron Age Nordic type to be drawn to the cities, and to be, in general, the most restless element in the population; undoubtedly because it was the last to arrive and because it formed in many regions the upper social stratum. For these reasons again it is not inconceivable that the Völkerwanderung drained off this element in disproportionate numbers, and that the reëmergence of older forms has been a result of this process, especially in Denmark, in western Norway, and in southern Sweden, where the older forms were originally most numerous. The three Scandinavian kingdoms, and especially eastern Norway and Sweden as a whole, remain the greatest single reservoir of the Iron Age Nordic race, but it is conceivable that that race was numerically more important in Scandinavia at the time of Christ than it is today.


62. The principal sources for the physical anthropology of the living in Denmark are:
Bardenfleth, K. S., MODA, vol.3, 1929, pp3-49.
Burran, C., MODA, vol.1, 1907-11, pp243-260, 277-284.
Hannesson, G., op. cit.
Hansen, Andreas M., NMN, vol.53, pp.202-266.
Hansen, Søren, MODA, vol.1, 1907-11, pp.69-81, 204-220, 222-240, 287-307; vol.2, 1920-28, pp.363-389.
Hansen, Søren, and Topinard, P., RDAP, vol.3, 1888, pp. 39-41.
Heiberg, P., MODA, vol.2, 1920-28, pp.296-300, 353-360.
Mackenprang, E., MODA, vol.1, 1907-11, pp. 11-68.
Ribbing, L., MODA, vol.1,1907-11, pp.193-202.
Steensby, H.P., MODA, vol.1, 1907-11, pp.85-148.
Westergaard, H., MODA, vol.1, 1907-11, pp.353-391.

63. Hansen has 80.6, Burrau 80.69.

64. Chief works on the Faroes are:
Annandale, N., TRSE, vol. 25, 1906, pp.2-24. Arbo, C. 0. E., DOT, vol.12, 1893-94, pp.7-14.
Hansen, Søren, JRAI, vol.42, 1912, pp.485-492; DGT, vol.21, 1912, pp.251- 256; vol.25, 1920, pp.53-54.

65. Considerable confusion is extant concerning the head form and stature of the Faroe Islanders. Arbo (1893) measured a series of 20 men from the northernmost and 20 others from the southernmost island. He found that the stature and C. I. of the first group were 169.5cm. and 75.2; of the second, 165.2cm. and 83.2. His series of 60 men from Thorshavn fell into an intermediate position, approximating the means above given. These latter are taken from Hansen's series of 493 males from Suderø, and from Arbo's Thorshavn series. The startling regional differences of Arbo's work may be attributed partly to the small size of his samples, partly to the chance selection of isolated family groups.

66. Annandale's mean bigonial diameter on 20 men is 111.8 mm.