(Chapter XI, section 3)

Iraq and the coastal regions of
the Persian Gulf

The physical anthropology of the Arabic-speaking inhabitants of Mesopotamia has been extensively studied;14 and we have adequate series to indicate that this population is reasonably homogeneous throughout the middle and lower courses of the Tigris and Euphrates. The stature of these modern Mesopotamians is higher than that of the Arabs of Arabia proper, with means ranging from 168 cm. in the Kish area south of Bagdad to 171 cm. in the region of Kirkuk. The Iraq army, which is a selected group, has a mean stature of 172.6 cm. Like the Arabs however, the Mesopotamians are long legged, and their body build is predominantly linear. The cephalic index of various series approximates 76, and only a small minority is brachycephalic.

The dimensions of the head are very similar to those of the Arabs but with a mean length of approximately 190 and a mean breadth of 142 to 146 mm. in various series. The total face height is moderate except in the north, where it rises to a mean of 128 mm. The upper face height is in all regions great, and the bizygomatic diameters are moderate, with means of 130 to 133 mm. in the Kish region and among Iraqian soldiers, but run as high as 138 mm. in the Kirkuk region. Both facial and upper facial indices of the Iraqians show leptoprosopic tendencies, but the accent is upon the length of the upper face and not on the total face height.

Nasal dimensions are somewhat larger than in Arabia; the noses are both longer and broader, with leptorrhine nasal indices. The bigonial breadth of 102 mm. is comparable to that of most Arabians. From the standpoint of regional distribution, the most important anthropometric differentiation in the Iraqian area is the increase in face length and breadth found in the upper part of the valley. A heavier, deeper jaw and a broader face, characteristic of the people of northern Iraq, serves as a transition to the facial form of mountaineers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The hair form of the Mesopotamians is usually low waves, and it is on the whole straighter than that of Arabs. It is prevailingly dark brown or black, with a small minority of some 5 per cent with blond or reddish hues. The head hair is usually thick, while the beard hair is very strong and, in at least one-half of the group, it is much heavier than the beards in Arabia. The body hair is also on the heavy side, and 50 per cent is recorded as excessive. As in Arabia, the eye color is prevailingly dark brown, and one finds 25 per cent of mixed light hues. The eyebrows are thick, concurrent in all but 12 per cent of the series, and extend widely beyond the orbits in a lateral direction.

In the morphology of the nose the Mesopotamian population differs considerably from that of Arabia. The nasal profile is usually straigt, but convex forms are more numerous than concave. The tip is thick in 75 per cent of the group, and depressed in 70 per cent. The wings are rarely compressed, usually medium, and in 25 per cent flaring. Photographs of Iraqians shown in Dr. Henry Field's monograph show that the faces are larger, the noses much more prominent and thicker-tipped, the beards much heavier, the browridges heavier in Iraq than among either the Yemeni Arabs or the pure northern Bedawin. There is a strong Irano-Afghan element here as well as the Atlanto-Mediterranean, and many transitional forms, while small, fine-featured Arab Mediterranean types are rare.

The Iraqian population is without doubt much the same today as it was in Sumerian and Babylonian times; the post-Islamic acquisition of Arab blood has made very little difference in the racial constitution of this country, while the infiltration of Armenoids from the north has also been negligible. There are, however, some unabsorbed tribes of northern Arabian Bedawin, living in the heart of Mesopotamia, as a study of the extremely dolichocephalic and narrow-faced Ba'ij Bedawin, who pasture their flocks in the so-called “island” between the Tigris and Euphrates, will make clear.15

At the head of the Persian Gulf, on the western side just below Basra, is a small, independent kingdom called Kuwait. Kuwaitis are noted navigators, and sail their large dhows full of dates down the Persian Gulf past Oman and around to Aden, and even cross over to Dar es-Salaam and Mombasa. A small series of 40 Kuwait sailors measured in Aden harbor,16 show closer relationships, in many respects, with Mesopotamia than with the rest of Arabia. However, the stature of 165 cm. is not great, but the bodily build is frequently heavy and thick-set. The shoulders are especially broad, the sitting height great. A mean relative span of 106 far exceeds that of all other known Arabs, and the relative sitting height of 52.5 approaches average European proportions.

There are two chief differences in the anthropometry of the head and face between the Kuwaitis and the normal Mediterranean Arab type as exemplified by the Yemenis; in the first place, the Kuwaiti head, while about the same size as that of the Yemenis, is usually both shorter and broader, with a mean cephalic index of 79.6; in the second place, the faces and noses of the Kuwaitis are much larger. A total face height of 128.2 mm. is as long as any in Mesopotamia, and the upper face height of 73.5 varies accordingly. This excessive length does not apply particularly to the nose, which has a mean length of 56 mm. and a mean breadth of 36 mm. The facial index of the Kuwaitis, 96.4, is extremely leptoprosopic, and the upper face index of 56 extremely leptene. A nasal index of 64.7, while still leptorrhine, is higher than that of most Arabs.

The exposed skin color of the Kuwait sailors is usually darker than that of Yemenis, reaching in half of the series the brown shade represented by Fischer #21 to #25. The unexposed skin color is also dark, and ranges, in most cases, between #10 and #18 in the Fischer chart. Thus the skin color of these people is characteristically light brown. It is, at the same time, however, frequently vascular.

The hair is straight in half of the series, and in the rest low-waved. It is thus much straighter than the hair of the normal Mediterranean Arabs. The beard and head hair are usually heavy. The head hair is characteristically black, while the beard shows hues ranging from brown to gold and red in one-third of the entire series. The high ratio of 18 per cent of red beards was found in this small group.

The usual 25 per cent of mixed eyes occurs here, while the rest are mostly dark brown. The eyebrows are in all cases thick, and usually concurrent; the browridges are medium to heavy. The morphology of the nose is different from that of the Yemenis, for the nasion depression is frequently great, the nasal root and bridge somewhat broader than among most Arabs, and the profile more often straight than convex. The tip is medium to thick, and usually horizontal or inclined upwards. The nasal wings are medium and seldom compressed. The nostrils are wider than those of the Yemenis, and set at a more oblique axis. The lips are, as a rule, thicker and more everted, and the chin more frequently strongly developed. This straighter-haired, darker-skinned, heavier-nosed, and longer-faced type seems at variance with the rest of Arabia, and has its connections rather with Mesopotamia and regions to the east.

We know little about the population of Oman, except that it is of medium stature, with a mean of 164.8 cm., and the heads are of moderate size, with a mesocephalic index of 78.17 The Omanis, the greatest sailors of all Arabia, include brachycephals as well as Mediterraneans, and through their centuries of dominance in East Africa and their monopoly of the slave trade, have acquired much African blood. Although all Omanis are by no means negroid, there is a large negro and negroid population in the farming villages and date groves of Oman, as there is on the Yemen coast.

On the other side of the Persian Gulf colonies of seafaring Arabs have settled at various points. One of the most important colonies of this region is at Lenja. A small series of sailors from this port was also measured at Aden.18 These Lenja men are shorter (161 cm.) than the Omanis, and built like the Kuwaitis; they are, for the most part, sub-brachycephalic, with a mean cephalic index of 81; in facial dimensions they are not unlike Yemenis, and they seem to bear a strain of the same brachycephalic maritime element found along the Yemen coast, as well as in Oman.

They are somewhat lighter-skinned than the Kuwaitis; they are exclusively straight-haired, tend to baldness and very heavy beards, and to have black hair and reddish-brown beard color. The eyes are dark brown in 75 per cent of the series, and the other fourth includes some pure lights. These Lenja people seem to have more than the usual fourth of partial blondism, especially in reference to beard color.

It is a curious fact that in three ships’ crews studied, two from Kuwait and one from Lenja, in each ship the officers, who belonged to ship-owning families, were partial blonds, the crew was mostly brunet, and the cook was a negro.

The Lenja sailors have, almost without exception, extremely thick concurrent eyebrows and heavy browridges. Their noses are characterized by considerable nasion depression, a much lower bridge than is usual among the Arabs, and a greater bridge breadth. The nasal profile is convex in 43 per cent of the group, straight in most of the others. The nasal tip is of moderate thickness and usually horizontal. The wings are frequently flaring, the lips are thicker than those of most Arabs in the integumental sense, but thin membranously, and of relatively little eversion. The general character of the face is the same as that of most Arabs—compressed malars and only moderate gonial angles. As is usual with the coastal brachycephalic type, the ears frequently show an extreme slant. Extreme occipital protrusion is not found, and occipital flattening occurs in one-fourth of the series. The body build is broad and stocky.

On the whole the seafaring Arabs who occupy both sides of the Persian Gulf conform but slightly to the Mediterranean Arab prototype. Mesopotamian influence is apparent particularly in Kuwait, while it seems likely that the coastal maritime brachycephalic people, who are found in the fishing and seafaring villages of the Hadhramaut and Yemen, came from the Persian Gulf region. Present information is not yet sufficiently complete to permit a careful analysis of this maritime Persian Gulf population, but it is very urgent that Bahrain Island and Oman in particular should be carefully studied in the future.



14 Field, Henry, Arabs of Central Iraq; further publications in preparation.
Ehrich, Robert, a series of 33 Mesopotamian Arabs published in Coon, C. S., Tribes of the Rif.

15 Field, Henry, Arabs of Central Iraq, pp. 448-456.
16 This is part of the hitherto unpublished Arabian series measured by the author.

17 Leys, N. M., and Joyce, T. A., JRAI, vol. 43, 1913, pp. 195—267.

18 Part of the author’s unpublished Arabian series. Only 21 Lenja men were measured.