(Chapter V, section 5)

The Copper and Bronze Age in the Western Mediterranean


In early Metal Ale times influences from Crete and the Aegean, including those from the second city of Troy, spread westward to Sicily, Sardinia, Italy, and Spain, reaching also the smaller islands of the western Mediterranean. This maritime diffusion was probably carried by seafarers in search of new sources of metal as well as markets for their products, and the traders and adventurers followed the old Megalithic routes. In the beginning the bringers of metal and the Late Megalithic colonists may well have been the same people.

The evidence of the racial composition of the Copper Age sailors who reached Italy and the Italian islands is simple and direct. The moderately tall, long-headed, mid narrow-nosed Megalithic people who were implanted, during the Late Neolithic, upon the smaller Mediterranean type which had preceded them, were followed, during the Aeneolithic by other, of the same kind, in the company of equally tall brachycephals. The latter resembled the people of the same Dinaric head form in Cyprus, Crete, and the Aegean, and without doubt formed a westward extension of the same movement.

In Sicily, which probably received metal earlier than most of the mainland or the islands farther west, Copper Age skulls of one series from Isnello28 are all of general Mediterranean type, with the Megalithic variety predominant, as shown by excessive skull lengths, moderate vault heights, and narrow noses. The mean stature for twenty-four males, presumably of this type, was 169 cm. Other Sicilian series, however, do include brachycephals, as at Chiusella and Villafratti, with cranial indices ranging as high as 91.29' These form, however, no more than one-third of the total Aeneolithic series from Sicily. In the true Bronze Age which followed, the incidence of these brachycephals increased.

In Sardinia a large series of sixty-three Copper Age skulls from Anghelu Ruju30 includes sixteen per cent, or ten individuals, of the new brachycephalic type, while the others resemble the long heads of Sicily. The group as a whole, irrespective of head form, was tall.31 The racial composition of Corsica during these periods is known only through the presence of one small, short-statured, long-headed female skeleton of either Neolithic or Aeneolithic age, and two brachycephalic crania from the Bronze Age.32

It would be interesting to supplement this survey of the Italian islands with a study of the crania found in the elaborate burial chambers of Malta, of late Neolithic or early Metal Age date, but the excavators of these vaults, professional and otherwise, literally threw away what was probably the longest unified series of human crania ever found, numbering over seven thousand. We are told that these early Maltese were "Mediterraneans," and know little else about them.33

On the mainland of Italy, Aeneolithic skeletons, which are found mostly on the western side of the central portion of the peninsula, belong to the same types found on the islands, but brachycephals are more abundant, being equal in number to the dolichoand mesocephals.34 Some of the Aeneolithic Italians of the Campagna and of Latium were very tall and large headed, with both mesocephalic and brachycephalic fortes.35 In Istria, at the head of the Adriatic, the Dinaric population which is dominant in that peninsula today had begun to arrive in the Copper and Bronze Ages,36 judging by a series of six female crania which bear definite indications of this type, such as flattening of the occiput, narrow face, and projecting nasal bones. The new invaders may, therefore, have travelled up the Adriatic as well as over the Tyrrhenian Sea.37

Reviewing the Italian material, on both metrical and morphological grounds we may determine that the round-headed racial type which came into the middle Mediterranean with the introduction of metal was of a general Dinaric character, and without doubt came from Asia Minor and the Aegean, where it first appeared in the last centuries of the third millennium B.C. Since the metal ages of the middle and Nvestern Mediterranean were later than those farther east, the chronological aspect of this theory presents no contradictions.

The Balearic Islands, Spain, and Portugal were, of course, the next stops in the westward spread of the metal-carrying seafarers through the Mediterranean. During the Early Copper Age in Spain, the distinctive Bell Beaker culture arose, which was soon to spread northward and eastward into central Europe, and eventually to Britain, as an important racial movement; and another culture of equal local importance, that of Los Millares in Almería, developed from eastern beginnings, with an emphasis on the importation of Egyptian and Near Eastern materials, such as hippopotamus ivory, ostrich egg shells, and actual Near Eastern pottery.38 The center of Early Bronze Age civilization again lay in AImeria, with el Argar as the principal site, and began about 2000 B.C. During this period, which lasted until the Iron Age, there was again much Egyptian and Aegean influence.

Unfortunately, in the Iberian Peninsula, as elsewhere, the human record is not sufficient to support the complexity of the cultural. The craniologist cannot keep pace Nvith the archaeologist; we cannot, without more numerous and more accurately correlated skeletons, tell in all cases what physical types went with each archaeological entity.

In the Balearic Islands, for a beginning, a few dolichocephalic crania, and one brachycephal, have been found in the talayots, or corbelled stone towers resembling the Sardinian nuraghes and Scottish brochs, which were first built in the Copper Age but which were used until the advent of iron.39 Fifty-eight adult and five juvenile crania with long bones from a naveta, or long barrow, in Menorca, are said to have represented a homogeneous group of people with short stature, long-heads (all cranial indices being under 75), low faces, prominent, aquiline noses, and projecting chins. The form of the scapulae and humeri of the males showed that they had developed great shoulder and arm muscles from slinging, the activity from which the islands derived their name. Three other skulls from an ossuary at Biniatap are brachycephalic.40

In the Copper Age groups from mainland Spain and Portugal, the old long-headed types overwhelmingly prevail: out of one hundred and thirtyfour crania, which represent all that could be assembled for this survey, only fifteen, or nine per cent, were brachycephalic.41 If one includes Ariège, Basses Pyrenees, and Aveyron in the south of France, twenty-eight crania may be added, of which only two are brachycephalic.42 One of these, from a site near the city of Narbonne, possesses all of the cranial and facial features typical of the Bronze Age brachycephals of Cyprus, Italy, and the Italian islands. In few of the Spanish instances are extensive details given, but it is probable that the brachycephalic crania there are also of the same type.

Many of the dolichocephalic Copper Age skulls are of Megalithic or Long Barrow type, while others are of a smaller, less rugged, Mesolithic or Neolithic Mediterranean variety. Among the mesocephalic crania, some may again be small Mediterraneans, while others, with larger vault dimensions, may in many instances be mixtures between Megalithic and brachycephalic types. The statures of the large dolichoceplialic group average about 167 or 168 cm.; taller than most living Spaniards and as tall as the Neolithic Long Barrow population in Britain. Other dolichocephalic crania go with short stature, with a mean of about 160 cm. Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine the approximate proportions of Megalithic and Mediterranean types, but the former seem to be at least one-half of the total.

A special development of the Copper Age in Spain was the Bell Beaker culture, about which more will be said later, since its chief influence in the racial sense fell upon areas in other parts of Europe. It is at present the general belief of archaeologists that the Bell Beaker culture arose in central Spain, shortly before 2000 B.C., from local beginnings.43 A North African origin is rendered unlikely by the supposed absence of a Bronze Age south of Gibraltar, although recent work in Morocco has revealed some supposedly early metal.44 Where Bell Beaker burials are found in central Europe, the skeletons are almost always of the same tall brachycephalic type which we have already studied in the eastern Mediterranean and Italy. In Spain, however, they are frequently of the Megalithic race. The basis for the belief that the Bell Beaker people of Spain were Dinarics rests largely upon three cranial fragments from the type site of this culture at Ciempozuelos, near Madrid, and upon one complete mesocephalic skull from Cerro de Tomillo some forty miles away.45

The measurements of the three fragments are uncertain, and their allocation to a definite type impossible.46 However, all three fragments appear to be brachycephalic, and one to have a high vault. One has strong, another weak, browridges. One seems to have a slight lambdoid flattening. In the only fragment which possesses facial bones, the orbits are high and the nose narrow. The Cerro de Tomillo skull is not, however, a pure dolichocephal, and does resemble, in a partial sense, the Dinaric brachycephalic variety which was common in the Mediterranean at that time.

Although there seems to be little doubt in the minds of the archaeologists that the Bell Beaker culture developed in Spain, and although eastern Mediterranean brachycephals came there at about the same time, the manner in which the physical type and the culture became identified with each other is still obscure.

During the Early Bronze Age, after the efflorescence of the Bell Beaker people, Spain became a great center of metallurgy and trading activity, rivalling the Aegean in importance. The colonists from the east, who had originally located themselves in Spain merely as miners and forwarding agents of metal, now settled down to producing the finished products of the Bronze Age in Spain itself, for local sale, since disorders in the Mycenaean and Minoan realms had apparently cut them off from their homelands.47 Furthermore, the introduction of fresh cultural elements from the east suggests that new people had joined them.

The principal site of the Early Bronze Age, el Argar in the province of Almeria, is located near the silver mines of Herrerias, which were worked in ancient times. From some thirteen hundred flexed urn burials, seventy skulls have been recovered, of which twenty-nine are those of adult males, and forty of adult females.48 The el Argar series shows quite definitely that the Early Bronze Age people of Almeria were not descendants of previous inhabitants, but to a large extent a new population, with definite Near Eastern relationships, as one might suppose from the cultural indications.

The series as a whole is one of small people, with a mean male stature of 158 to 160 cm.; the earlier Copper Age immigrants, for the most part, were ten centimeters taller. The skulls gravitate around the indices of 76 and 77; for sixty per cent of male and fifty-eight per cent of female crania are mesocephalic. Of the remaining skulls, long heads outnumber round heads two to one. The series is not very homogeneous, and the cranial index and most other criteria of form show modalities which make it certain that the el Argar people included at least two types which had not become completely amalgamated.

The principal cranial element is a normal, rather small variety of Mediterranean, which seems to resemble, both metrically and in description, predynastic or early dynastic Egyptian forms, or at the same time, elements which entered Spain in the Neolithic. Prominence of the browridges at glabella, and a considerable nasion depression, make this type of Mediterranean rather unlike the Cappadocian variety common in Asia Minor, although metrically there is nothing to prevent such a relationship.

The second type is the new brachycephalic element, which seems to have been the dominant one politically, in that two female skulls found wearing silver crowns both belonged to it. It was apparently some form of Near Eastern brachycephal with which we are already in a General way familiar - the skull is short, rather than broad; the vault is medium or low; the forehead is narrow, the lambdoid region often flattened, while the greatest breadth of the vault comes well to the rear. The nose is high and narrow, and the nasal bones join the frontal with little depression, while a smooth glabella heightens the impression of a high-bridged Near Eastern type of nose. Although the units are high and rounded, the face is rather low, but the mandible is surprisingly broad, often with everted gonial angles. There is also a perceptible amount of alveolar prognathism.

Although this is not exactly the brachycephalic type which we met in the Copper Age, and which became identified with the Bell Beaker people, it is, nevertheless, definitely a Near Eastern variety of brachycephal which is familiar in Asia Minor and Syria today. The el Argar people represent a mixture of elements which could be duplicated in the modern Near East, but not one with which, in our ignorance of most of that end of the Mediterranean, we are already familiar. Some of the Mediterranean racial contingent may well have been of earlier Spanish derivation, but if so the absence of Megalithic and Copper Age forms is surprising.

In other parts of Spain no such change of population as that of Almeria is manifest. Mediterraneans, both large and small, are carried over from the Neolithic and Copper Ages, while the larger variety of brachycephal also continues." Out in Mallorca and Menorca, the dolichocephalic element seems to remain as the exclusive or predominant one, for the most part tall and of Long Barrow vault form.50

The westward migrations of peoples from the Aegean and the eastern end of the Mediterranean, during the Late Neolithic, the Aeneolithic, and the Early Bronze Age, must have affected the populations of Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearics, and the Iberian Peninsula to a considerable degree. These were real colonizations which added new racial elements to the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic Mediterranean sub-stratum. By the middle of the Bronze Age, the central and western N-fediterranean lands had assumed the racial characteristics which they still, for the most part, bear. Except for northern and central Italy, later migrations were to bring little that was new.


28 Giuffrida Ruggeri, V., ASRA, vol. 11, 1905, pp. 56-103.
Zaborowski, S., BMSA, ser. 5, vol. 6, 1905, pp. 196-199.

29 Sergi, G., Crani Preistorici della Sicilia: Europa, pp. 270-289.

30 Sergi, G., Crani Antichi della Sardegna.

31 Bruni, E., RDAR, vol. 26, 1921-25, pp. 235-250.

Bloch, A., BSAP, ser. 5, vol. 3, 1902, pp. 333-363.

33 Tagliaferro N. Man, vol. 11, 1911 pp. 147-150.

34 Sabatini, A., RDAR, vol. 29, 1930-32: pp. 577-582.
Sergi, Europa, loc. cit.
Mochi, A., APA, vol. 42, 1912, pp. 330-347.

35 Genna, G. E.., PICP, 1932, pp. 60-64; RDAR, vol. 30, 1933-34, pp. 235-262.

36 Battaglia, R., PICP, 1932, pp. 57-60.

37 Unless these particular Dinarics came overland from central Europe.

38 Childe, The Bronze Age, pp. 146-153.

39 Aranzadi, T. de, BAC, vol. 1, 1923, pp. 134-140.
Cameron, John, The Skeleton of British Neolithic Man.
Comas, Juan, Aportaciones al Estudio de la Prehistoria de Menorca.

40 Cameron, John, PICP, 1932, p. 60.

41 Aguilo, Juan C., AMSE, vol. 1, 1922, pp. 23-36.
Aranzadi, T. de, BAC, vol. 3, 1925, pp. 177-206.
Barras de Aragon, F. de las, AMSE, vol. 12, 1933, pp. 90-123; vol. 9, 1930, pp. 59-64.
Batista i Roca, J. M., BAC, vol. 1, 1923, pp. 104-133.
Mendes-Correa, A. .A., Os Povos Primitivos da Lusitania.
Tormo, I. Ballester, APL, vol. 1, 1928, pp. 44-53.

42 Helena, Th. and Ph., BAC, vol. 3, 1925, pp. 1-35.
Lapouge, G. V. de, Anth, vol. 2, 1891, pp. 681-695.
Vallois, H., Anth, vol. 37, 1927, pp. 277-303, 473-489.

43 Bosch-Gimpera, P., Real, vol. 4, pp. 345-362.

44 Ruhlman A., Hespéris, vol. 15, 1932, No. 1, pp. 79-119.

45 Childe, The Danube in Prehistory, Chapter X, pp. 190-201.

46 Anton, M., BRAH, vol. 30, 1897, pp. 267-283.
Deslaers, M. H., BRAH, vol. 71, 1917, pp. 18-38.

47 Childe, The Bronze Age, p. 146.

48 Jacques, V., BSAB, vol. 6, 1887-88, pp. 210-236.

49 Aranzadi, T. de, Excavacio de Sepulcres Megalitics, pp. 31-39.
Barras de Aragon, F. de las, various articles in AMSE, 1921, 1926, 1930.

50 Barras de Aragon, F. de las, AMSE, vol. 9, 1930, pp. 38-51.