(Chapter XII, Section 6)


Switzerland and Austria


To the south of the South German ethnic region lie Switzerland and Austria; the former contiguous to Baden and the latter to Bavaria. Northern and central Switzerland form an extension of the Alemannic settlement area already studied in Baden and the Swabian Alps, while western Switzerland is old Burgundian territory. The southeastern cantons lie on the periphery of the Germanic advance, and contain linguistic and cultural vestiges of the old Romanized Rhaetians.

In a geographical sense, Switzerland is almost entirely composed of three great valleys, forming the head waters of the Rhine, of its tributary the Aar, and of the Rhône. Each of these rivers includes a large lake in part of its course; the Rhône has Lake Geneva, the Aar Lake Neuchatel, and the Rhine Lake Constance. The main chain of the Alps lies on the southern Swiss border; thus most of the country is open only to the northward and westward. However, part of the Grisons empties into the Danube, and the canton of Ticino lies in the drainage of the Po. The waters of Switzerland, therefore, empty into the North Sea, the western Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and the Black Sea; Switzerland truly forms the nucleus of the continent of Europe.

Four languages are spoken in present-day Switzerland, of which three - French, German, and Italian, have long been official. The fourth, a provincial Latin derivative, spoken by the descendants of the Romanized Rhaetians, includes the dialects of Ladin and Romansch, and has only recently acquired its legal status.59 Other groups speaking this language live in the Tyrol and in northeastern Italy. Of the four million Swiss, 71 per cent speak German, 21 per cent French, 6 per cent Italian, and slightly more than 1 per cent speak Ladin and Romansch. French predominates in the west, in the cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel, Geneva, Freiburg, and Valais; Italian in Ticino; and German elsewhere. Ladin is spoken in the Engadine, and Romansch in the Bünder Oberland, both in the canton of Grisons.

The country is likewise divided on a religious as well as linguistic basis, with 58 per cent of Protestants, and the rest mostly Catholic. Protestants are most numerous in the north and west, Catholics in the south and center. In general, the French-speaking territory is prevailingly Protestant, the Italian-speaking territory Catholic, while both persuasions are evenly partitional among the German speakers. There is no clear correlation between language and religion. Divided by language and by religious belief the Swiss likewise preserve strongly differentiated local cultural traits, which vary greatly from canton to canton. Despite these differences, Switzerland, owing to geographical and historical causes, remains a very closely integrated nation. As Montandon has remarked, its very diversity in these respects has without doubt done much to inculcate in the Swiss their neutral and international character.60

The present-day Swiss are also divided to a certain extent in a racial sense. Those living in the northern and western valleys resemble the populations found in southwestern Germany, where a combination of moderately tall stature, low brachycephaly, and moderately light pigmentation indicate a Nordic survival of racial elements in Alpine-Dinaric racial territory. The southern and eastern Swiss, on the other hand, are darker and rounder-headed and show less of this northern lowland influence.61

The mean stature of 35,000 recent Swiss recruits is 168.6 cm., a figure comparable to that of southern and western Germans. It has risen greatly in recent years, since the mean for the 1884-91 period was 163.5 cm. There are three areas in which tall stature is commonest; the country around Geneva and Lake Neuchâtel, and western Valais; the very north, from Basel to Lake Constance; and the eastern Grisons. Elsewhere local variability is great; the shortest stature occurs in parts of Bern, and in Appenzell-Innerrhoden in the northwest. In the 1880's the stature in the two Appenzells was at the 160 cm. level; by 1930 it had risen to 165 cm. in Appenzell-Innerrhoden and to 166 cm. in Appenzell-Ausserrhoden. Areas of depression, taches noires in the French sense, seem to have been ironed out; low stature in Switzerland is directly environmental and not racial.

In the 1927-32 survey the mean cephalic index of 81.3 was found for all of Switzerland. This low figure comes as a surprise to the majority of anthropologists, who have long considered Switzerland to be the center and homeland of the Alpine race in Europe. The Alpine race, however, is much more concentrated today in France, in northern Italy, in Bavaria, and in southern Albania than it is in Switzerland. The cantons range from 79.6 in Basel city to 83.7 in Ticino; in general a line drawn from the western end of Lake Constance to the eastern end of Lake Geneva will divide the mesocephals and near-mesocephals of the northwest from the sub-brachycephals and brachycephals of the southeast.

One reason why the discovery that the Swiss as a nation are only subbrachycephalic is so surprising is that most of the published cranial series have mean cranial indices varying from 82 to 87. With few exceptions these are drawn, however, from the southern and eastern cantons, from small local populations in the roundest-headed part of Switzerland. Still, Pittard's total mean for several hundred crania from Valais is 84.5, as contrasted with a cephalic index of 82.2 on the living. This discrepancy may be partly technical and partly due to regional selection,62 but one is tempted to believe that the great increase in stature in recent times has been accompanied by a lowering of the cephalic index.

The mean cranial and facial diameters of the living Swiss strongly suggest that the non-Alpine, non-Dinaric elements in the population are Nordic and Mediterranean, especially the former, and not Brünn or Borreby, as in northern and much of western Germany. The mean head length for Swiss males is 189 mm., the breadth 154 mm.; the total face height is 122 mm., the bizygomatic 137 mm. The facial index mean is 89, that of the nasal index 63.63 Fifty-eight per cent have straight or wavy nasal profiles, 16 per cent concave, and only 25 per cent convex. Thus the Alpine and Nordic nasal forms outweigh the Dinaric.

The Swiss are on the whole as blond as most West and South Germans, and less so than North Germans. About 50 per cent of recruits have dark brown hair (Fischer #4-5) while the rest have for the most part medium to light brown shades. Brown and dark-mixed eyes are found in one-third of the group.64 On the whole central and northern Switzerland are the blondest, and in these regions small localities may be extremely blond; light pigmentation is geographically associated with German speech. Italian and Romansch-speaking centers are the most brunet, while the French-speaking cantons are intermediate. In the northern cantons ash-blond hair (Fischer #22-26) is common, and is largely identified with Noric and sub-Nordic types.65

The principal results of this survey of Switzerland are: the discovery that the Alpine-Dinaric racial complex is centered to the south and to either side of the Republic; the determination that a large Nordic element has survived here in solution, only partly brachycephalized by Alpine and Dinaric mixture; the further determination that Switzerland has been entirely or almost entirely free from Brünn-Borreby intrusion.

Austria, which lies to the east of Switzerland, and which is now politically a part of Germany, is almost wholly contained within the drainage of the upper Danube. Vorarlberg, however, forms part of the uppermost segment of the Rhine basin, while the southern Tyrol, at present under Italian sovereignty, lies over the Alpine watershed in the drainage of the Adige. Austria in the political sense is entirely Germanic in language, except for the presence of a few Slovenes in the Bürgenland; in the Italian Tyrol there are German, Italian, and Ladin-speaking communities. Like Switzerland, Austria faces northward, with the Alpine watershed at her back; this northward exposure is largely responsible for the retention of Austria's Germanic character from the days of the Völkerwanderung. While Switzerland's face is turned more specifically to the northwest than to the true north, Austria's orientation is rather to the northeast; thus in a sense the two upland areas, with the Rhine-Danube watershed between them, are isolated from each other. While the first Neolithic civilization of Switzerland came up the Rhône from the western Mediterranean and Spain, that of Austria was derived from the east by way of the Danube. These differences have been obscured by some subsequent events, and strengthened by others; still the ultimate distinction remains.

The present Austria consists of seven provinces; Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Carinthia, Styria, Upper Austria, and Lower Austria; to these will be added for present purposes the Trentino, or Italian Tyrol. All of these regions have been subjected to anthropometric study, and the racial situation in Austria may be stated without ambiguity.

Lower and Upper Austria, which are both situated directly in the Danube Valley, and both of which include the southern foothills behind the alluvial plain, stand on a highroad of migration and occupy one of the most fertile and desirable areas of Europe. They lie within the probable area of development of one branch, at least, of the Nordic race; Danubians, Corded people, Bell Beaker folk, all contributed to the racial amalgam of the ages of Bronze and Iron; the Germanic and Slavic invasions of the present era have furnished additional increments. Slavic influence has been greater in Lower than in Upper Austria, but secondary to the Germanic in both.

The population of the two Austrias belongs, with that of Switzerland, in an Alpine-Dinaric-Nordic category.66 The mean cephalic indices of the various districts range from 80.8 in Hernals, just west of Vienna, to 84.8 in Waidhofen, also in Lower Austria. In general, the districts lying north of the Danube in both provinces have higher means than those on the southern bank; they approach the higher brachycephaly of Bavaria and of Bohemia. Lower and Upper Austria form a relatively long-headed interlude between the brachycephalic nucleus just mentioned and that of the Tyrol.

The stature of these two provinces, Lower and Upper Austria, ranges about the mean of 167-168 cm., with little regional variation. Brown hair occurs in over 40 per cent of the group, and one-third have been classed as blond. Eyes are for the most part blue or gray with accompanying mixtures, and browns account for some 24 per cent of the total. Fair or light-mixed complexion types are commoner than brunet ones. The ash-blond hair with gray or mixed eyes combination is frequent, and is associated not only with a few phenotypically pure Nordics, but also with the much commoner Noric form. The Dinaric type emerges, in sorting, as the tallest but not the most brachycephalic element. Of the four most easily recognizable types in these provinces, Noric, Alpine, Dinaric, and Nordic, the first is probably the commonest. Thus altered and unaltered Nordics must account for well over half the population. The Nordic element must be derived as much from a local Hallstatt as from a Germanic source.

In the three provinces of Salzburg, Carinthia, and Styria, the racial situation is much the same as in Lower and Upper Austria.67 In Salzburg there are fewer brown eyes (20 per cent) and the Noric element appears particularly important; unaltered Nordics are common only in Lower Austria. In South Styria and in Carinthia the stature approaches the 170 cm. level, blondism slightly decreases, and a Dinaric type becomes commoner.

On account of its reputation as a Dinaric racial center, the Tyrol has been the subject of many special investigations.68 The Tyrol in the geographical and ethnic sense includes the upper valley of the Inn, which served historically as a highroad of Germanic invasion over the Alps, and the smaller mountain valleys on either side of the Alpine chain. A branch of the Inn, the river Wipp, leads directly to the Brenner Pass and down into Italy. The Tyrol was not settled until the Metal Age; the first inhabitants who came in any numbers were Atlanto-Mediterraneans from northern Italy, and Dinarics both from southern Germany and from Italy. In Hallstatt times, however, the population increased, and the Rhaetians, later to become Romanized, developed as an ethnic unit under Hallstatt cultural tutelage. The Ladin speakers of the side valleys of the Italian Tyrol are today in most respects good representatives of the pre-Roman Rhaetians, while the Germanicizing and Italicizing of the others has been only partial in all respects other than in language. The Dinaric racial type has had, in the Tyrol, a complete continuity from the Bronze Age to the present.

The living Tyrolese are moderately but not extremely tall; valley means range from 167 cm. to 172 cm. They are brachycephalic, with means varying between 82 and 87. On the whole the Italian speakers are the least brachycephalic, and the Ladin speakers and some of the German speakers the most so, while the greatest brachycephaly lies on the Italian side of the divide. The Tyrolese are typically intermediate in pigmentation; brown hair is commonest, although on the German side a large minority is blond; among Italian speakers black hair rises to over 20 per cent. Among German speakers brown eyes run to roughly 20 to 30 per cent; among Italian speakers they approach 40 per cent. The Ladiner, who are among the roundest-headed, are definitely the darkest; with over 45 per cent of dark eyes, and over 75 per cent of black and brown hair. There is, in all the Tyrol, a strong minority of brunet or swarthy skin color, which rises to 50 per cent among the Ladiner.

The cranial and facial dimensions of the Tyrolese69 resemble those of the Swiss, except that the vault lengths are shorter and the facial breadths greater. The head length mean for brachycephals with a mean cephalic index of 85.8, is 185 mm., the breadth 159 mm.; the minimum frontal, bizygomatic, and bigonial diameters are 109 mm., 142 mm., and 109 mm.; the face height is 126 mm., and the nasal dimensions are 58 mm. by 36 mm.; the facial index 87, the nasal index 63. The only real differences between the Tyrolese and the rest of the Austrians lie in a shorter head length mean and a broader jaw.

Toldt,70 in a study of 710 modern Tyrolese crania, of which 83 per cent are brachycephalic, finds 47.5 per cent of the whole, or over half of the brachycephalic specimens, to be planoccipital; the ratio for the different valleys inhabited by German and Italian speakers varies from 23 per cent to 54 per cent, but it rises to 70 per cent in the crania from the Ladinspeaking districts.

Planoccipital Tyrolese crania differ from their curvoccipital neighbors in but a few measurements, although the morphological differences are greater. In the planoccipital crania, the distance from glabella to inion is nearly as great as the maximum length; in curvoccipital skulls the difference between these two diameters is considerable. In the planoccipital crania, the mean post-auricular length is 75.9 mm.; the mean for the curvoccipital crania is 82.4 mm. An index between the nasion-basion length and the post-basion base length of the skull is approximately 60 to 70 in the planoccipital, and 88 to 100 in the curvoccipital, crania. Thus the differences between Alpine and Dinaric skulls lies not so much in total vault diameters or in facial dimensions as in the measurements which indicate that the ear hole and foramen magnum lie to the rear in the planoccipital crania, and that, owing to the steepness of the occipital bone, lambda stands relatively forward. The metrical peculiarities of the Dinarics are more easily determined on the crania than on the living.

Before leaving Austria we may mention the racial position of the inhabitants of the Walserthal in Vorarlberg, a high valley draining into the Rhine.71 The Walserthal is the scene of a Germanic thrust direcily from the north, of the same nature as those which affected Switzerland; the living Walser, who are blonder than the Tyrolese, are metrically comparable to the populations already studied in Baden and the Swabian Alps, rather than to the Alpo-Dinaric group in its purer form.


59. In June, 1938. See Lansel, Peider, The Raeto-Romans.

60. Montandon, G., L'Ethnie Francaise, pp.182-195. This contains an excellent summary of the physical anthropology of the living Swiss.

61. An extensive survey of Swiss recruits carried on between 1927 and 1932 under the direction of Dr. Otto Schlaginhaufen has at the time of writing received only preliminary publication. The survey cover 35,000 recruits from all parts of Switzerland, and includes detailed measurements and observations. Its final publication should supplant all previous studies of a general nature. Preliminary notices which present summaries and portions of these data include: Schlaginhaufen, O., BSGA, vol.13, 1936-37, pp.7-11; BIKB, 1936, pp.507-511.

62. As one moves up the Rhône Valley within the canton of Valais, the mean C. I. on the living increases, from 80 at Sion to 83 higher up. Bedot, M., BSAP, ser. 4, vol.6, 1895, pp.486-494; ser. 4, vol.9, 1898, pp. 222-236.

63. Regional data will be found in:
Schwerz, F., NDSN, vol. 45, Sec. 2, 1910.
Zbindcn, F., AFA, vol. 38, 1911, pp. 280-317.

64. Schlaginhaufen, O., BSGA, vol.3, 1926-27, pp.21-36.

65. Zbinden, F., AFA, vol. 38, 1911, pp.280-317. I am using "sub-Nordic" here in Montandon's sense, to designate a Nordic partially brachycephalized by Alpine admixture.

66. Brezina, E., and Wastl, J., MAGW, vol. 59, 1929, pp.19-38, 311-322.
Weisbach, A., MMSC, vol. 11, 1892; MAGW, vol. 24, 1894, pp.232-246.

63. Regional data will be found in:
Schwerz, F., NDSN, vol. 45, Sec. 2, 1910.
Zbindcn, F., AFA, vol. 38, 1911, pp. 280-317.

64. Schlaginhaufen, O., BSGA, vol.3, 1926-27, pp.21-36.

65. Zbinden, F., AFA, vol. 38, 1911, pp.280-317. I am using "sub-Nordic" here in Montandon's sense, to designate a Nordic partially brachycephalized by Alpine admixture.

66. Brezina, E., and Wastl, J., MAGW, vol. 59, 1929, pp.19-38, 311-322.
Weisbach, A., MMSC, vol. 11, 1892; MAGW, vol. 24, 1894, pp.232-246.

67. Keiter, F., MAGW, vol.43, 1933, pp.293-319.
Ploy, H., MAGW, vol.38, 1908, pp.324-347.
Weisbach, A., MAGW, vol.25, 1895, pp.69-84; vol.28, 1898, pp.195-213; vol.30, 1900, pp. 79-99.

68. Principal works on the living includes:
Knöbl, G., MAGW, vol.43, 1933, pp.320-325.
Lebzelter, V., MAGW, vol.59, 1929, pp.209-228.
Tappeiner, F., Studien zur Anthropologie Tirols, Innsbruck, 1883; ZFE, vol.12, 1880, pp.269-288.
Toldt, C., MAGW, vol.21, 1891, pp.69-78, also Supplement.
Much more has been done on the craniology of the Tyrolese than on the living population.

69. Frizzi, E., MAGW, vol.39, 1909, pp. 1-65.

70. Toldt, C., MAGW, vol.40, 1910, pp.67-100.

71. Wacker, R., ZFE, vol. 44, 1912, pp. 437-524.
Weidenreich, F., BSGA, vol. 4, 1927-28, pp. 5-6.