Tag Archives: hair

EDAR Gene associated with Asian hair thickness

A scan for genetic determinants of human hair morphology: EDAR is associated with Asian hair thickness

Received September 11, 2007; Revised November 13, 2007; Accepted December 2, 2007

Hair morphology is one of the most differentiated traits among human populations. However, genetic backgrounds of hair morphological differences among populations have not been clarified yet. In addition, little is known about the evolutionary forces that have acted on hair morphology. To identify hair morphology-determining genes, the levels of local genetic differentiation in 170 genes that are related to hair morphogenesis were evaluated by using data from the International HapMap project. Among highly differentiated genes, ectodysplasin A receptor (EDAR) harboring an Asian-specific non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism (1540T/C, 370Val/Ala) was identified as a strong candidate. Association studies between genotypes and hair morphology revealed that the Asian-specific 1540C allele is associated with increase in hair thickness. Reporter gene assays suggested that 1540T/C affects the activity of the downstream transcription factor NF-B. It was inferred from geographic distribution of 1540T/C and the long-range haplotype test that 1540C arose after the divergence of Asians from Europeans and its frequency has rapidly increased in East Asian populations. These findings lead us to conclude that EDAR is a major genetic determinant of Asian hair thickness and the 1540C allele spread through Asian populations due to recent positive selection.

I read in a item about hair, that the Ainu show typically caucasoid hair in cross section, so it would seem possible that EDAR mutation was spread with mongoloid people in Asia (the people prior to 7,000 years ago looked very different). I tracked down an image of what this kind of mutation makes in a mouse analogue (GNXP site).


Ancient Egyptian hair and wigs.


Joann Fletcher

The hair of the ancient Egyptians has only relatively recently become the subject of long-term,  serious study after long being regarded as a rather “frivolous” subject when compared to the texts and chronologies pored over by generations of learned men. Unfortunately such an attitude  created something of an imbalance in Egyptology, and although of immense importance, literary  evidence is by no means the only way to understand a culture. And given literacy rates of less than 1%, it can hardly be the best way to study the lives of the ancient Egyptians themselves.

Yet this of course depends on whom one imagines the Egyptians to be. Certainly for many  scholars, ancient Egypt seems to have been populated by a literate male elite of kings, priests and scribes while the silent majority have simply been dismissed as little more than illiterate “peasants”.

But these same “peasants” who built the monuments and produced the wealth on which the  culture was based deserve to be the subject of serious study too, regardless of their ability to  produce convenient written evidence. As an alternative source of information the remains of the people themselves provide a wealth of evidence, with Egypt’s democratic climate preserving both  the artificially mummified bodies of the elite and the remains of the poorest individuals. Simply  buried in the sand, the hot dry conditions promoted natural mummification by allowing the fluids  responsible for decomposition to drain away while at the same time desiccating and preserving  the soft tissue of skin, hair and nails. Not only were these features subject to various forms of  adornment, they also contain a great deal of information which can be extracted using virtually  nondestructive techniques of analysis.

With scientific research becoming increasingly detailed, each part of the body is beginning to tell  its own fascinating story. This is particularly the case with hair, which Egyptians of all social  groups treated in a wide variety of ways for a wide variety of reasons. The way they chose to  portray it and the resulting development of hair styles can also be used to establish a useful  chronology for the whole dynastic period, which can then be compared to the various types of hair remains that have survived.

Yet it is clear from both the archaeological remains and the artistic and literary record that the Egyptians’ hair was not always their own, a choice dependent on personal preference, wealth and  social status and influenced by the fashions which inevitably changed over several millennia. The wigs and hair extensions worn as items of both daily and funerary attire combined the desire for  ornate and impressive styles with the practicalities of cleanliness. In Egypt’s extreme climate, the  coolest option of a shaven or cropped head could be shielded from the harmful effects of the sun with a wig, a choice preferable to a simple linen head cloth as it would allow body heat to escape  through its net-like foundation base while keeping the head protected. The removal of the natural hair and subsequent adoption of wigs was also a hygienic measure and greatly reduced the healthrisks associated with parasitic infestation, particularly head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis).

Indeed, the Greek historian Herodotus stated that “Egyptian priests shave their bodies all over every other day to guard against the presence of lice, or anything else equally unpleasant, while they are about their religious duties.”

The hair used in the construction of wigs and hair extensions was human, and was either an individual’s own hair or had been traded for, hair itself being a valuable commodity ranked alongside gold and incense in account lists from the town of Kahun. Once the required amounts of hair had been collected, it would be sorted into lengths and any tangles removed with fine-toothed combs which also removed any  lice eggs, traces of which can still sometimes be found between their teeth. Using an impressive array of hairdressing tools, the wigmakers would then work the prepared lengths of hair into an assortment of braids, plaits or curls depending upon the style required, with each piece coated in a warmed beeswax and resin fixative mixture which would harden when cooled. Since the melting point of beeswax is 140°–145°F, this method of securing the hair would have been effective even in Egypt’s extreme climate.

Hairdressing scene of Queen Nefru, 11th Dynasty, Deir el-Bahari, Brooklyn Museum.
Photo copyright Dr. Joann Fletcher.

The individual locks or braids could then be attached directly to the natural hair in the form of extensions, or alternatively they could be used to create a whole wig by fastening the individual sections of hair onto a mesh-type foundation base manufactured on a head-shaped wooden mount. Although linen strings or leather strips were occasionally employed in its construction, the base was most often made from fine lengths of plaited or woven hair. The separate locks could then be attached by weaving them directly into wefts of hair which in turn formed part of the net base, or alternatively knotting them into position.

A further method was to attach each lock by looping its root end around a part of the net and pressing it back on itself, securing it by winding a smaller substrand of hair around it and applying  a further coating of the beeswax and resin mixture. Such construction techniques and the obvious skill of the wigmakers themselves produced wigs of a standard often equivalent to  modern examples, and despite continued speculation that their weight might be sufficient to  cause parietal thinning of the skull(!), their lightweight construction would have made them as  equally easy to wear.

Our recent discoveries at the manual workers’ cemetery at Hierakonpolis reveal the use of hair  extensions as early as 3400 BCE5, with the earliest fragments of actual wigs dated to the very  beginning of the dynastic period. These have been found in relatively large numbers at the Umm el-Qa’ab necropolis at Abydos and, despite their fragmentary nature, nevertheless reveal highly  complex construction techniques that involved lengths of hair weft to which a wide variety of curls, ringlets and plaits were attached.

Although there are relatively few “hair finds” from the Old Kingdom, the 11th Dynasty necropolis  at Deir el-Bahari has produced a wealth of fascinating examples relating to the court of  Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE). Several of the king’s wives were discovered in a wonderful state of preservation, including his 20-year-old “Great Royal Wife”, Ashayet, whose own short,  bobbed hair had been set in numerous fine plaits. The ends of each had been secured with a drop of resin fixative and her natural dark brown colour had been enhanced with an application of dark  brown vegetable colorant. Yet perhaps the most interesting example was found in the mass grave  of the king’s soldiers, one of whom was found to have supplemented his own hair with short  curled extensions of false hair. Since his burial seems to have been hastily carried out following  battle, this cannot be explained as a post-mortem feature and must have been worn in life,  supporting the theory that hair was the soldier’s only protection prior to the introduction of  helmets.

The oldest intact wigs also date from this period, the earliest of which would appear to be that  found in the tomb of the priestess Amunet. Wigs were also discovered within their wooden  storage boxes in a number of 12th Dynasty tombs around the cemetery site of el-Lisht, and  despite their poor state of preservation they all appear to have been made of human hair coated  in a resinous fixative substance.   By the New Kingdom, the range of wigs and false braids that have survived reflect the large number of styles fashionable at the time for both men and  women. A particularly fine example from Thebes and now in the British Museum Man’s  double-style wig, New Kingdom, Thebes, British Museum,is composed entirely of human hair set in  two distinct sections: an upper part of light brown curls set over an undersection of several  hundred dark brown plaits which originally measured up to 38cm (14.96 inches) in length.

This is clearly an example of the “double” (or “duplex”) style so favored by male officials and  noblemen of the period, but repeated references to “a noblewoman’s wig” reflect a tendency to  assign anything vaguely decorative as having belonged to a woman.

A similar unprovenanced example of slightly later New Kingdom date, now in Berlin, again features  this arrangement of curls and plaits set on a net base, with a further fragmentary example of the  same double style formed by the portions of Yuya’s wig found in his tomb (KV 46) in the Valley of the Kings. An intriguing sample of “artificially curled ringlets”, suggestive of a shorter  wig, was discovered in a small calcite chest among the funerary equipment of Yuya’s probable  great-grandson, Tutankhamun. The Nubian fan bearer, Maherpra, was also buried in the Royal  Valley, but in contrast to the previous highly artificial styles he wore a unique coiffure of short tight  spirals of his own heliotrichous (Negroid) hair set over his shaven head, creating the impression  of a totally natural style.

It is also quite apparent that women’s wigs were considerably less elaborate than those worn by  men and consequently appear more natural. The best preserved example of the long full style so  favored by New Kingdom women was found inside the tall wooden wig box of Meryt in the Deir el-Medina tomb she shared with her husband Kha. It is made of numerous wavy braids of dark brown hair a little over 50cm (19.68 inches) long, set by means of complex knot work around the narrow plait which forms a central parting. A similar wig of long plaits was found on the head of the mummy of the princess Hontempet who had also been provided with a second wig, made up of artificially curled locks complete with a fringe of small ringlets.

The wig of Hontempet and the mummy of Nofretari.

In addition to complete wigs, individual braids were employed to create wider and longer dimensions. The hair of a man buried at el-Mustagidda had been artificially lengthened with human hair attached to his own hair with thread, while the wavy brown hair of Queen Meryet-Amun had been filled out around the crown and temples with numerous tapered braids to produce the “top-heavy” effect fashionable at the time. She had also been buried with a duplicate set of braids as part of her funerary equipment, and similar sets of false braids were found in the burials of the female relatives of Hatshepsut’s great official Senenmut. A large number of tapered plaits of dark brown human hair had been attached to the short grey curls of his mother, Hatnefer and, arranged in two thick masses at each side of her head, the ends had been set in two rounded sections to create the so-called “Hathor” curled, bouffant style featured in artistic representation.

False braids could also be worn to denote religious affiliation, with devotees of the goddess Hathor sometimes attaching a triple strand of braids at the back of the head. And on a more practical level, such braids could also be used to disguise areas of baldness most often caused by old age. The mummy identified as Queen Tetisheri was found to have substantial plaits of brown hair woven into her own sparse white locks, and a similar technique had been employedby the hairdressers of Queen Ahmose-Nofretari and Hontimihou.

Wigs clearly remained high status items during the Third Intermediate Period, with the double style well represented by the enormous wigs on display in the Cairo Museum that were discovered in the Deir el-Bahri cache of priests’ mummies discovered in 1881. One such wig was found inside a box bearing the seals of High Priest Menkheperre, and despite its huge double-part structure of curls and plaits, it was assumed to have belonged to his wife, Istemkheb. Yet the wig that was recently identified as hers is much smaller, a simply creation of curls and typical of the short, feminine styles of the time. A further seven huge examples of the male double style from the same cache again exhibit the two-part construction of curls and plaits of human hair, although small bundles of date palm fiber were used as an internal padding in order to create impressive dimensions while economizing on hair.

The same trend can be found in the construction of many of the women’s wigs of the period, the dark brown plaits of Queen Nodjmet’s wig being described as being “tied to strings” to form the foundation base. Linen was also employed as the base for the plaited hair which made up the wig of Nany, Chantress of Amun-Ra, while a wig composed entirely of “black string” set in narrow  spirals was found at the head of Queen Hentawy.

Despite losing popularity during the Late Period, the fashion for wigs was revived during Roman  times. Although the most elaborate examples were again made entirely of date palm fibre or grass,  hair was still used in the production of other wigs and smaller hairpieces. A section of plaited hair set in a rigid crescent shape and supported by 62 bronze pins was found at the settlement site of  Gurob, and known as an “orbis”, was described as “probably the only example surviving of a  well-known hairdressing of the period of Trajan”.

Short curled wig of Istemkheb, 21st Dynasty,Deir el-Bahari cache (DB 320), Cairo Museum.
Photo copyright Dr. Joann Fletcher.

Despite such wonderful examples of the hairdresser’s art, it seems surprising that hair had never  received the detailed treatment it so obviously deserved. When not ignored altogether, it had  tended to be misinterpreted, as exemplified by the way in which many archaeologists and curators often assume that all hair fragments are “wigs” when closer examination can reveal that this is  simply not the case.

Rather more disturbing are the attempts to use hair to prove assumptions of race and gender,  one of the most extreme examples involving the 1888 Gurob excavations of Sir W.M. Flinders Petrie. Having discovered a body of unspecified sex, he noted that the head was covered by “a copious wig of black hair, reaching down to the waist, but beneath this on the scalp was yellow or light brown hair”. He goes on to conclude that “the person was light-haired during life, and wore a wig of black, hiding the foreign token” … an interesting comment given Petrie’s attempts to find evidence to support his theories of Aegean settlers. Yet our analysis of the “black wig” has shown that it originally formed part of a dark blue woollen head cover, and far from disguising his or her fair hair, the individual in question had actually accentuated its lightness with a yellow vegetable colorant.

Unfortunately, such attitudes have by no means disappeared and there is still the tendency to assume that bodies with short or shaven hair are male and those with long or intricately styled hair are female, when again this is simply not the case. Human hair was treated in a wide variety of ways for an equally wide variety of reasons, and so all aspects should be carefully considered.

First and foremost it is necessary to ascertain the precise nature of the hair in question and decide if it is the natural scalp hair, albeit desiccated and possibly separated from the scalp itself. Alternatively, the hair could be described as “false”, i.e. originally part of a wig or separate extensions. There is also the possibility that the hair could be one of the many votive or funerary deposits buried separately from the body, a practice found from Predynastic to Roman times despite its frequent omission from excavation reports.

Once the nature of the sample has been established, it is then possible to undertake examination  using a variety of techniques, all of which can provide some incredible details about the individual  in question, from their general state of health and quality of diet to their social status and even profession. A simple visual examination can establish basic facts such as condition, color and length,  evidence of styling techniques and any parasitic infestation, particularly the presence of head lice capable of transmitting diseases such as typhus and relapsing fever and so useful in the study of  disease transmission, we have found evidence for lice in the hair of kings and commoners alike, demonstrating that lice are no respecters of social status. And contrary to popular belief, they much prefer clean short hair which gives easy access to the scalp’s blood supply on which they must feed five times each day in order to survive. Their presence in hair samples can also be used to confirm the identification of natural hair rather than a wig, since lice can only thrive in the natural hair rather than in a wig which could be removed at any time and thus proving a totally unsuitable habitat. Such parasitic infestations can be examined in greater detail using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) which is also used to look at the surface of the hair shaft to identify and   distinguish  between animal hair of different species and human hair of varying ethnic types and individuals.

The hair of the mummified “Elder Woman” found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35) has been identified as Queen Tiy after scanning electron microprobe analysis and ion etching were used to compare a sample of the mummy’s hair with a lock of the queen’s hair found in an inscribed coffinette in the tomb of her probable grandson, Tutankhamun.

Further examination of the hair’s surface structure can also help to ascertain the original hair color which may have faded over time, been changed by environmental conditions, the process of mummification or by the use of dyes which we have found in a number of samples and extracted and identified by absorption spectrophotometry and thin-layer chromatography. Microscopic examination of the hair ends can also reveal details of specific styling techniques, with recent analysis having revealed the use of very sharp blades to cut the hair as early as c. 3000 BCE. SEM can also indicate the individual’s health, with specific areas of interest followed up using trace element analysis to provide information regarding diet and nutritional deficiencies, diseases, levels of environmental pollution and even the use of drugs and poisons which remain in the hair shaft long after they have left the rest of the body. And almost all of this is possible using a single hair as a biopsy material or a sample size of <0.1mg, literally the size of a pin head.

Over the past few years, careful examination of various hair samples has provided much  fascinating information. In 1998 the plundered burial of a middle-aged woman from the predynastic workers’ cemetery at Hierakonpolis proved particularly revealing after numerous scattered fragments of skull and hair were reconstructed to allow us to recreate her original hairstyle. This was clearly the result of many hours’ work undertaken by someone other than the lady in question, her natural hair of slightly more than shoulder-length having been turned into an imposing crest-like coiffure using numerous hair extensions, providing the earliest evidence of false hair yet found in Egypt.

The find was even more significant when we discovered that the woman’s graying brown hair had been dyed either shortly before death or as a post-mortem treatment, the dye turning the brown parts auburn while transforming the unpigmented white hairs bright orange. Those familiar with the vegetable dye henna (Lawsonia inermis) will recognize its characteristic effect, and indeed henna shrubs still grow at the site and continue to be used for the same purpose by the local population. They kindly showed us where the best leaves were to be found and, allowing us to help ourselves, they demonstrated the heavy stone they use to grind them to a fine powder which is mixed with water to color the hair, skin and nails. Inspired, we decided to undertake comparative tests using modern hair samples kindly supplied by members of our team, and our tests  eplicated exactly the effects observed in these ancient samples.

Our most recent field season, earlier this year at the site of the mysterious royal tomb KV 39 in the Valley of the Kings, revealed more wonderful hair finds, with the remains of at least four carefully plaited wigs of early 18th Dynasty date demonstrating a range of shades from the darkest brown to a mid-brown, almost blond color which may once again be the result of vegetable dyes.  Although we have only just begun our work on these finds, the ongoing results are continuing to provide clues to previously unanswered questions, not only regarding the hair but also the nails, soft tissue and indeed the linen mummy  wrappings and mummification materials which are being studied in detail.

As the most modern analytical techniques are starting to reveal the secrets of these ancient people, it is well worth remembering that what at first may appear as nothing very special can often have an interesting tale to tell, if only we pay such material as much attention as the ancient Egyptians themselves so obviously did.

Dr. Joann Fletcher has a B.A. in Egyptology and Ancient History from University College London and a Ph.D. in Egyptology from Manchester University. She specializes in human remains which she has studied in museum collections around the world and on site in Egypt, Yemen and South America. She is Egyptologist at Harrogate Museum and field director of York University’s Mummy Research Project. As well as her own publications, Dr. Fletcher writes regular features for the Guardian newspaper and the BBC’s History Online Web site.

Mummies and mummy hair from ancient Egypt.

Warning! This post contains a lot of images of dead people. I’ve edited out the scarier ones, but it’s not for the squeamish.

Fairly recently, a very well qualified lady called Joann Fletcher carried out a very thorough study of just about all the mummy hair found in Egyptian tombs. In an interview she said..

As the ancient nits on their tiny-toothed combs will attest, real Egyptians were plagued by infestations of scalp-biting bugs. Real Egyptians cropped their curls and even shaved their heads for the sake of hygiene: specifically, to remove the habitat of lice. And quite clearly, they also loved elaborate hairstyles, and went to great lengths to adorn themselves with wigs, false braids and hair extensions.”

“Quite often, the more elaborate and ornate styles were worn by men.” The shaven-headed bodies are not always men, as some would suspect. Ancient Egyptians didn’t use hair length to distinguish gender.”

“Nor was the practice of creating fancy ‘dos restricted to elites. In excavations of manual laborers, we found elaborate styles that couldn’t be created by the wearer alone; amazingly elaborate hairstyles.”

Hair is invaluable in the study of general day-to-day living conditions, as well as supplying information on diet and disease. A cursory examination of its surface structure can provide a certain amount of information on general health, while more detailed analysis of the elemental hair concentrations can help to establish dietary intake, revealing traces of any nutritional deficiencies and/or diseases.

To begin with the most obvious factor, hair can be looked at simply in terms of its style, which may indicate the way it had been dressed during the funerary process, or, alternatively, how an individual had chosen to wear it in life. However, it is most important to bear in mind that both men and women (in ancient Egypt) adopted a wide range of hair styles, ranging from a shaven head to long flowing locks. Many an archaeologist has failed to realize that gender cannot be determined on hair length alone. This failure has resulted in some rather curious conclusions, comparable to the way in which an individual is automatically assumed to have held religious office simply on the grounds of having a shaven head!

In addition to its style, the color, texture, type, and general condition of the hair can also be examined. Hair color is a fascinating study in itself, and the wide range of shades portrayed in Egyptian art does, to a large extent, reflect the diverse range found in reality. The most common hair color then, as now, was a very dark brown, almost black color, although natural auburn and even (rather surprisingly) blonde hair are also to be found. With their great fondness for elaboration, the Egyptians’ skillful use of dyes has produced yet further shades for us to study, analysis showing many to be various forms of henna, which even an aged Rameses II had used regularly to rejuvenate his white hair.

The vast majority of hair samples discovered at the site were cynotrichous (Caucasian) in type as opposed to heliotrichous (Negroid), a feature which is standard through dynastic times . . .
Close inspection revealed that the natural hair (from the grave of a woman), of slightly more than shoulder-length, had been augmented with a considerable number of artificial lengths of false hair, very reminiscent of modern dreadlocks, meticulously worked into the natural hair to create an imposing high coiffure. The complex styling techniques made it clear that her particular hairstyle was the result of many hours of careful work carried out by someone other than herself. This particular discovery is therefore extremely significant as it is the earliest evidence for the use of false hair in Egypt (if not the whole of the ancient world), predating previous examples by at least 500 years.

And, if this wasn’t sufficient, the same lady also provided us with the earliest evidence for the use of hair dye. Indepth examination showed a contrast between the auburn cast of her dark brown hair and a smaller number of unpigmented white strands of hair associated with the aging process. The unpigmented hair had been turned the bright orange color typical of henna, a vegetable dye made from the powdered leaves of the shrub Lawsonia inermis. This shrub grows yet in the area and is still used for the same purpose by the local population, who kindly showed us where the best henna bushes were to be found

Although most of the hair found is the natural dark brown color, natural red hair was also discovered in association with male Burial No. 79, his hair originally falling in a wavy style ending in small ringlet-type open-center curls. Together with other burials, this reveals the great attention paid to appearance, the hair obviously of great importance to both men and women alike. There were clearly a great range of styles by this early date, from extremely short crops little more than I cm long as noted in Burial No. 76 (a female of c.25-30 years) to longer styles, as demonstrated by the large quantity of dark brown wavy hair set in partially twisted lengths recovered intact in association with Burial No. 91. Although the hair itself was discovered completely detached from the skull, it was possible to determine that it would originally have been set at shoulder length.

The best preserved hair, however, was found in the well padded Burial No. 85 (nicknamed Paddy), a female of c.20-25 years of age. Careful removal of the upper layers of matting and linen pads allowed the hair to be preserved intact on the head, particularly the delicate free-hanging hair ends around the shoulder area that give the most accurate idea of the original hair length. Further study back in the lab revealed an original shoulder length style of natural waves, extending c.22 cm from the crown, with a left side parting and an asymmetrical fringe made up of S-shape curls bordering the eyes. In addition to the excellent preservation of Paddy’s cranial hair, her right eyebrow had also survived intact beneath the layers of protective wrappings,

Further facial hair recovered in association with the redheaded man in Burial No. 79 appears to have been cut with a sharp blade, while analysis of one mass of hair discovered last season proved to be an almost complete beard, possibly the oldest surviving example yet found! Body hair was also found during both seasons, including underarm and pubic hair.

For the complete J Fletcher article on mummy hair go here

So I’ve decided to put a few images of mummy hair up for inspection. Firts of all Gingers hair… I shall try to post a better close up the next time I visit the BM.

He has sandy coloured lightly curly hair. SInce he was buried in the sand it is quite possible his hair has lightened somewhat.

You can get a decent look at Ramses II hair here. The L’Oreal institite plucked out one of hairs to examine the roots, and found it to be naturallyauburn when he was younger (even grey hair retains pigment in the roots). It was hennaed in his old age to match the colour of his youth. He is descibed as having cynotrichous wavy Caucasian red hair.

These are the mummies of Tuya and Yuya. The gold hair colour is as a result of the mummification process used, but you can clearly see they both have straight/wavy hair.

Queen Hatshetsut, again very fine wavy hair. The colour is probably due to henna on grey hair

This is ‘the elder lady’. As can be easily seen she has long slightly curly fine hair.

This is the Nubian prince Maiherpri, and the Lady Rai, both with more Afro hair. Maiherpri’s hair is actually a naturalistic wig

And here are some cropped images of mummy hair from the Cairo museum mummy catalog. I’m afraid names are a bit hit and miss, as they are named in French on the pages.

Saqnunri  (hair only) and Queen Anhapu. A close up shows that although her hair is very thick and tightly braided, it seem to be mostly wavy where it’s loose. It is mostly hair peices woven into hair own hair and tied with fine strings.

Nofretari (complete with overbite) also with an ornately braided hair. It seems to be interwoven with braided extensions, and the slight peice of her own scalp hair that can can be seen seems slighlty curly naturally.

This is Amosis and Hontimihu. The first has rather curly hair, The second has wavy hair.

Hontempet and wig. This mummy’s own hair appears to be straight, but she has a an impressively curly wig. This is one of the few mummies where you can clearly see the lighter skin colour in contrast to her hair colour. There’s a good view of the wig with its long curls

Sitkamos, with loosely curly hair, and again a good definition between skin and hair colour. Beside her is the hair of Thutmosis II, again curly/wavy.

Unknown male, with fairly straight hair. Thutmosis IV, very fine light wavy hair. It’s not seen from this view, but the mummy has a comb over to hide it’s bald crown.

Hair on a skull (the rest is a bit grim). Straight as a ruler, and fairly light coloured.

Unknown woman D, with very ornately coiffed curly hair of a lighter colour. Then Queen Nomit, with plentiful braids on her wig.

Queen Honitayu? wearing a very fussy wig. Cropped detail of a queen with tight black African curls.

The princess Nsikhonsu, with long wavy brown hair. A young prince with a ‘child lock’ of hair, which appears to be brown not black, probably a juvenille trait. 

Unknown mummies, the first from the British museum morgue, one from the Hancock museum. The first is a woman from about 700 BC, and she has dead straight hair, probably hennaed. The second male head from 600 BC has short wavy fair hair.

These are two mummies from Egypt, currently in Australia. The red colour is thought to be in part due to resin, but upon close examination the head with a lot of hair appears to have naturally fair or light auburn straight hair.

Another mummy head from 2000 BC. Again fine straight hair. The second head seems to have straight hennaed hair thats been heavily braided.

This head is currently in Naples. It has long slightly wavy brown hair.

There are several studies of mummy hair, they’ve all concluded mostly European with some African influence. Even Nubian hair studies seem to be half Eurasian in the North, the same as modern Nubians.

For anyone curious, I’ve a page on racial differences in hair . It’s pretty easy to tell African and caucasian hair type apart by the shape of the cross section, colour pigment distribution and other factors. The oldest study of the Badarians ( Southern predynastic) by Eugen Strouhal concluded the hair was a mix of European and African, with overweight to the European. It seems to work well for the FBI, at any rate.

The hair differs in the upper and lower Kingdom, with the Lower Kingdom showing much less African influence than The Upper Kingdom, the same as modern Egypt.

Mummy wigs

And some images of Egyptian wigs to finish the item off. Some of these  wigs were made of wool, and not human hair. The last one is a hair weave from a mummy made form the lady’s own hair. Apparently she had it cut off and woven back in again later on. It’s also coloured with henna. She seems to have had fine straight hair, proabaly a dark brown naturally.

The bust here is of Meritamun, Nefertiti’s daughter, wearing a ‘Nubian’ style wig made up of of very short tightly woven and curled braids of hair. This came into fashion about the time of Nefertiti and is seen frequently on the Amerna reliefs.


Edit to post..

To the Afrocentrists who are spamming this entry with outraged comments along the line of  ‘you don’t understand African diversity’,  ‘Malcolm X had red hair’, ‘some Africans have Caucasian hair,’ and ‘you’ve never been to Africa’…

The average black American is about 1/5 European, which explains why black Americans occasionally crop up with blue eyes and ginger hair (although Malcolm X only went reddish in summer, not a proper ginger).

The same goes for Caucasian textured hair in Africans. The anthropologists who’ve studied the hair came to the conclusions of mostly Caucasian (Fletcher) to almost half negroid (Eugene Strouhal called it sterotypically mulatto) of the Southern oldest samples, the Badarians. Afrocentrists please note, those Strouhal and Keita studies do not include Northern Egyptians in any way. That Strouhal study is badly misquoted from in the Keita study of Badarian crania: he claimed Strouhal observed the hair to be 80% negroid, but the Strouhal study itself says no such thing, and makes it quite clear that the Southern Egyptians were of mixed ancestry. The Keita study this quote is from even states that the North Egyptian crania are different to the Southern, a fact often ignored once the words ‘80% negroid’ are spotted. Also, try reading the other Keita work properly, it places Caucasians all over North Africa from the Oranian paleolithic onwards.

Curiously, these hair studies match the current Egyptian population, nearly half negroid at the South, Caucasian to the North. Coincidence or what?

And yes, some Africans have ‘typically Caucasian’ hair, but they are very uncommon. Lets just say the last time I was in Kenya it was Afro all the way, and the large number of Somalis I saw there didn’t show much difference either. Caucasian hair is only seen occasionally in populations with Eurasian ancestry, like the Ethiopians, Somalis and other populations. This is also a quirk from that Keita paper you are all so busy quoting… the populations Keita gives as examples of ‘all African’ diversity have Eurasian ancestry ranging from 13% to 40%. Anyone wanting to prove otherwise, send me a link to a crowd scene of black Africans showing mostly caucasian hair.

The only African populations to display a majority of Caucasian hair are Caucasian populations. Get over it. Again, if you feel you can prove different send me a link to a crowd scene with multiple Caucasian haired Africans (it doesn’t have to be straight, most Caucasian hair is curly to wavy).

I would also like to comment that Negroid hair doesn’t magically transform into typically Caucasian hair as a result of the mummification process, as is often claimed. ALL the anthropologists that examined the hair have described the hair as Caucasian overall; you’ll just have to assume that a bunch of highly trained professionals might actually know what they are talking about.

And finally, the comments on this board have to be approved by me to be posted up. You can keep spamming me with the same brainlessly parroted/abusive crap, but it won’t get through so you may as well save yourself the effort. Intelligent comments and arguments do get through, so if you want to argue with me try to be original and polite.

Racial differences in scalp hair.

The types of hair are pretty easy to tell apart, not due to width measurements, but due mostly to the cross section shape and pigment granule distribution.

Negroid hair…

is thin and almost flat in cross section (tape like), with a tendency to very tight curls. Sometimes it grows in tiny clumps, called peppercorn hair. African hair grows the slowest, at about 0.9cm a day. It’s angle of growth is very small, nearly parallel to the scalp. In colour, it is nearly always black in Africans. The only time you’ll see negroid hair of a different colour is if the individual is an albino, or has European ancestry, or if they dye it. Naturally coloured African hair has densely distributed pigment granules (hair shaft may be opaque) that are arranged in prominent clumps. The hairs also twist irregularly about their longitudinal axis, it has been described as a twisted oval rod.

Caucasian hair..

is a slightly irregular oval shape in cross section. It can to ruler straight, curly as an Africans, and every degree of curl between. It has the widest range of colours; black, auburn, shades of fair and brown to a near white blond. The hair grows out of the skull at an oblique angle, at a rate of about 1.2cm a month. the pigment granules are sparse to moderately dense with fairly even distribution .

Mongoloid hair..

grows the fastest at an average of 1.3cm a month. Its is more circular in cross section, although not perfectly regular. It grows out of the scalp at a right angle. The pigment granules are densely distributed and often arranged in large patchy areas or streaks. it is nearly always black.

Various links on racial variations of hair.

What is human hair. A light and scanning electron microscopy study

HAP Forensics Human Hairs Identification

Microscopy of Hair Part 1: A Practical Guide and Manual for Human Hairs


All three hair types under an electron microscope. The shape difference between  African and European hair doesn’t show well here though.

An interesting exception to the Asian hair average is Ainu hair, which I have seen described as Caucasian in cross section. it’s also reputed to come in dark brown and a reddish brown colour.

Study finds new genes that affect hair, eye and skin colour.

Scientists at deCODE genetics and colleagues in Iceland and Holland have reported the discovery of variations in the human genome that influence pigmentation of hair, eyes and skin.  By studying more than 300,000 SNPs (single-letter variants in the human genome) across the whole genome in close to seven thousand individuals of European origin, the deCODE team discovered several novel SNPs influencing hair, eye, and skin pigmentation, at the same time refining earlier findings influencing these traits.
The findings help in the understanding of the molecular basis for and evolution of these most visible of characteristics, and may be useful for teasing out the biology of skin and eye disease as well as for forensic DNA analysis. The paper, entitled “Genetic determinants of hair, eye and skin pigmentation in Europeans,” has been published online in Nature Genetics.
It is known that pigmentation characteristics such as freckles and hair and eye colour run in families. However, only few genes have been strongly linked to normal variation of these characteristics. Skin pigmentation in human populations tends to be darkest near the equator and to lighten with increasing latitude. This variation has a generally accepted dual biological function: heavier pigmentation affords protection against ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, protecting against sunburn and skin cancer but also reduces the body’s capacity to synthesize vitamin D. By contrast, there is no clear functional role for hair and eye color. The vast majority of variations in these two traits is confined to populations of European origin, with most populations around the globe with only dark hair and brown eyes.
Most of the novel variants presented in this study demonstrate signs of positive evolutionary selection in people of European origin, and those contributing to lighter pigmentation of the skin appear to have been under the strongest selective pressure. Intriguingly, some variants contribute to variation in just one trait; others to two or three. Among the findings of the deCODE group is a SNP on chromosome 14 in the SLC24A4 gene that is associated with increased likelihood of blond as opposed to brown hair and blue as opposed to green eyes. A SNP on chromosome 6p25 is associated with an increased likelihood of freckles and skin sensitivity to sunlight, as well as to brown hair. A sequence variant near the KITLG gene on chromosome 12 is associated with an increased likelihood of having blond rather than brown hair. One SNP in the tyrosinase gene is associated with freckling, and another associates with the likelihood of having blue as opposed to green eyes, as well as to skin sensitivity to sunlight.
The deCODE team has also provided detailed support for the previously reported association in the MC1R gene with red hair, freckling and skin sensitivity to sun. Similarly, the well known association of variants near the OCA2 gene with eye and hair colour, was replicated but also substantially refined. Taken together, the variants described in this report enable prediction of pigmentation traits based upon an individual’s DNA.
According to deCode, this study has significantly improved the accuracy of predicting green eyes (SLC24A4, TYR), hair shade (SLC24A4, TYR, KITLG) and freckling (TYR, 6p25). Some of the novel association patterns differ in unexpected ways from previous findings. The variant in SLC24A4 is important for gauging likelihood of blue versus green eyes, but, in contrast to variants in OCA2, has only marginal impact on likelihood of blue versus brown eyes. The completely novel SNP discovered on 6p25 associates with freckles and brown hair, whereas the SNPs in MC1R associate with freckles and red hair. The multitude of genes affecting pigmentation and their varied effects are reflected in the great degree of diversity of pigmentation seen in Europeans.
 We conducted a multi-stage genome-wide association study of natural hair color in more than 10,000 men and women of European ancestry from the United States and Australia. An initial analysis of 528,173 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) genotyped on 2,287 women identified IRF4 and SLC24A4 as loci highly associated with hair color, along with three other regions encompassing known pigmentation genes. We confirmed these associations in 7,028 individuals from three additional studies. Across these four studies, SLC24A4 rs12896399 and IRF4 rs12203592 showed strong associations with hair color, with p=6.0×10−62 and p=7.46×10−127, respectively. The IRF4 SNP was also associated with skin color (p=6.2×10−14), eye color (p=6.1×10−13), and skin tanning response to sunlight (p=3.9×10−89). A multivariable analysis pooling data from the initial GWAS and an additional 1,440 individuals suggested that the association between rs12203592 and hair color was independent of rs1540771, a SNP between the IRF4 and EXOC2 genes previously found to be associated with hair color. After adjustment for rs12203592, the association between rs1540771 and hair color was not significant (p=0.52). One variant in the MATP gene was associated with hair color. A variant in the HERC2 gene upstream of the OCA2 gene showed the strongest and independent association with hair color compared with other SNPs in this region, including three previously reported SNPs. The signals detected in a region around the MC1R gene were explained by MC1R red hair color alleles. Our results suggest that the IRF4 and SLC24A4 loci are associated with human hair color and skin pigmentation.
The genetics of hair, skin and eye colour are very intertwined, and I won’t even pretend to understand the intricacies of of it.

Seventies Nubian mummy hair study.

KEY WORDS Hair analysis . Hair form Mummy hair .
Nubia – Meroitics

Hair samples from 76 burials at Semna South (Sudanese Nubia) were examined using a variety of techniques. Electrophoresis and fluorescence microscopy indicated some oxidation of the cuticule and keratin protein had taken place. However, the cuticular structure and the lack of fluorescence
of the cortex indicate that the low humidity and non-alkaline conditions preserved the physicaland chemical properties of the hair well. Pigmentation, even allowing for oxidation of melanin, showed a higher proportion of lighter samples than is currently associated with the Nubian area. Hair form analysis showed medium diameter and scale count; the curling variables were intermediate between European and African samples. There was a high ratio of maximum to minimum curvature (a measure of irregularity), approached only by Melanesian samples. Meroitic and X-group burial types were not statistically significantly different (largely due to sample sizes), but the X-group, especially males, showed more African elements than the Meroitic in the curling variables. Principal components analysis showed the Semna sample to be significantly different from seven populations examined earlier.

Though several studies have been conducted on ancient hair, because of small sample sizes, few have allowed adequate statistical quantification, and none has dealt with Nubian material. Egyptian mummy samples have been examined in the past for color and structure by Pruner-Bey (18771, Virchow (18981,
and reportedly by Minakow (18993. Woodbury and Woodbury(’32) and Trotter (‘431 have examined ancient Peruvian material using metric techniques; they found the ancient hairs to generally fall in the range of modern variation. Brothwell and Spearman(’63) studied North African and other material using a
variety of techniques, including microscopic examination, fluorescence microscopy, and reflectance spectrophotometry; they found the state of preservation of the samples closely related to environmental factors of the burial sites. More recently, Chiarelli et al. (’70/’71) studied ancient Egyptian samples with scanning electron microscopy, finding significant loss of cuticular scale edges. Using microscopic and macroscopic techniques, Titlbachova AM. J. PHYS. ANTHROP. (1978) 49: 277-262. and Titlbach (’77) studied Egyptian mummies in Czechoslovakian collections; they found generally good preservation, with the samples resembling modern European populations with significant African admixture.

This study analyzes hair samples from Semna South in Sudanese Nubia using several biochemical and metric techniques. The samples contain Meroitic( First Century A.D. to Fourth Century A.D.), X-group (Fourth Century to Sixth Century A.D.), and Christian period (Seventh Century to Tenth Century A.D.) material. Strouhal has pointed out (’77) that the physical relationship of Meroitic and Postmeroitic
populations is not clear. It is still not known whether X-group burials represent a migration of an ethnically distinct people or change in situ of the Meroitics. It is more generally accepted that Christian period inhabitants were the descendants of the X-group.

Hence this study adds perspective to the physical anthropology of the area. ‘ Current address: Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical SchwI, Boston, Massachusetts 021 15.
277 The hair samples were analyzed by quantitative hair form analysis (Hrdy, ’73), electrophoresis of hair keratins (Hrdy and Baden, ‘731, qualitative hair pigmentation analysis (Martin and Saller, ’62), and  fluorescence microscopy (Brothwell and Spearman. ’63). The findings of the quantitative hair form analysis were compared to four populations examined by Hrdy (’73).

The sample consisted of 56 Meroitic, 15 X group, and 5 Christian individuals from Semna South collected between 1966 and 1968 in the course of the excavations of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago directed by L. V. Zabkar (Zabkar, ’73/’74, “78). Specific information on individual burials is located in Zabkar(’78). There was no embalming; mummification resulted from burial conditions alone. Burials  were either of a simple pit grave type, or of more complex types, including separate burialchambers, ramps, and vaults. The hair was either attached to the skull or associated with the remains in the fill. Hair from infants under six months, and samples of insufficient size for measurement were excluded from the analysis. Age and sex determinations and burial type were according to the criteria of Zabkar (’78).
Electrophoretic studies were carried out as outlined in Hrdy and Baden (‘731, with the addition of soaking the samples overnight in 0.05 M EDTA and 0.05 M Tris buffer at pH 9.6 to chelateheavy metals that interfere with chemical extraction of keratin. Fluorescence microscopy was done using the method of
Brothwell and Spearman (‘631, using 0.1% Acridine Orange dye at pH 4.9. Qualitative hair color analysis was performed with a Fischer-Saller hair color standard (Peabody Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts) (Martin and Saller, ’62).

Quantitative hair form analysis was carried out by the method of Hrdy(‘731, using the principal components analysis variables: diameter (in microns, an average of several determinations); scale count (the number of curicularscale ridges per 0.52 mm); average curvature (the inverse of the radius of curvature); ratio of maximum to minimum curvature (a measure of regularity of hair curling); crimp (number of reverse twists along the hair shaft per unit distance); and ratio of natural to straight length (a measure of functionalhair shortening due to curling). Principal components analysis was performed using scores standardized on the seven population sample (Hrdy, ’73) and the Semna sample.

Electrophoresis of alpha SCM-keratin protein from three samples (identification numbers: Meroitic N224-B, N455; X-group M107) showed similar patterns for all samples. There was a large band at the origin and a large band at the buffer from which represented SCMKB. This aberrant pattern indicates that the fibrous protein had aggregated at the origin, probably from cross linking of the protein chains.

Fluorescence microscopy on modern controls showed a greenish fluorescence throughout the cortex and cuticle, with areas of bright orange associated with fractures in the shaft, as reported by Brothwell and Spearman (’63). These fractures and areas of orange were more pronounced on hairs that had been bleached. Of nine Semna samples, all had a completely orange cuticle, with brighter orange highlighting
the cuticular structure, which was intact on all samples. Debris clinging to the shaft was also bright orange. The cortex on all samples was greenish, except where the shaft was broken, which was orange. Hair which was blond or “bleached” appearing (M048, M061, M205, M228) fluoresced identically to the brown samples (M069, M098, M107, M188, M246). Macroscopically the hair was in generally good condition, with approximately one percent of the shafts damaged. Eight of the 76 samples had debris clinging to the shafts; the remainder were relatively clean. Two of the samples were braided.

Qualitative grading of the samples on the Fischer-Saller scale is shown in table 1. Samples that were graded on the red scale (I-VI) for degree of red pigmentation were also graded on the blond-brown-black scale (A-Y) for degree of black pigmentation. Twenty-six percent (29% of the Meroitic, 13% of the Xgroup) of the total sample had some red pigmentation, and 10.5% (8.9 Meroitic, 13% Xgroup) had “blond” pigmentation (Fischer- Saller category G or less). The crude variables of the quantitative hair form analysis are presented in table 2. The results are also broken down for subpopulations of Meroitic,  X-group, and Christian; male and female; and simple burial type and more complex. Results from Hrdy (’73) for Northwest European, East African, Bougainville (Melanesian), and Japanese populations are presented for comparison. In no variable was the Meroitic significantly different from the X-group, male from female or simple burial type from non-simple. However, the X-group sample showed higher curling variables than the Meroitic, especially in males (the Christian group is too small to make valid comparisons).

The sample as a whole was significantly different from the other populations in average curvature, ratio of maximum to minimum curvature, crimp, and ratio of natural to straight length. Diameter was significantly different from Japanese and Bougainville, and scale count significantly different from the European,
Bougainville, and African populations.

Principal components analysis (Hrdy, ’73) results on the first three components (accounting for 80% of the variance) are shown in table 3 for the total population, with comparative populations from Hrdy (’73). In
component I, which is heavily loaded on general curling variables and scale count, the total sample centroid was significantly different from European and African samples, though it was definitely more European than African.Component 11, loaded on diameter, was not significantly different from the comparison populations. Due to the large amount of irregularity (high ratio of maximum to minimum curvature values), the Semna sample had a higher score on component 111, which was heavily loaded on that variable, than the African and European samples. Only Melanesian samples had a higher score on this

 Hair keratin is remarkably stable due to cross-chain disulfide linkages. However, prolonged exposure to harsh conditions will alter the keratin. The Semna samples were in contact with sand for over a thousand years, and hence were at risk for oxidation of the protein molecules. There undoubtedly was some oxidation, as shown by the aggregation of the protein on electrophoresis and the orange fluorescence
of the cuticle by fluorescence microscopy.

However, the cortex did not have this oxidized pattern, unlike samples from Egypt examined by Brothwell and Spearman (‘531, which fluoresced orange throughout. Since hair form is probably determined by physical arrangements of the alpha helical proteins within the cortex (Hrdy and Baden, ’731, the
apparent limitation of oxidation to the cuticle in the Semna sample argues for the maintenance
of hair form in the samples in spite of their age. In line with this is the large variability in hair form (rather than the uniformity that one would expect if a uniform environmental force was acting on the sample),
and the lack of macroscopic cuticular and shaft damage. Also arguing for intact keratin is the large number of samples with intact cuticle, as opposed to the ancient Egyptian sample analyzed using scanning electron microscopy by Chiarelli et al. (’70/’71). In general, low humidity and non-alkaline conditions
are optimal for preservation of keratin; both conditions were met in the Semna samples.

As Brothwell and Spearman(‘63) point out, reddish-brown ancient hair is usually the result of partial oxidation of the melanin pigment. This color was seen in a large proportion of the Semna sample, and also noted by Titlbachova and Titlbach(‘77) on Egyptian material, where it also may have resulted from the mummification process. However, the large number of blond hairs that are not associated with the cuticular damage that bleaching produces, probably points to a significantly lighter-haired population than is now present in the Nubian region. Brothwell and Spearman (’63) noted genuinely blond ancient Egyptian samples using reflectance spectrophotometry. Blondism, especially in young children, is common in many dark haired populations (e.g., Australian, Melanesian), and is still found in some Nubian villages(J. Zabkar, personal communication).Only one sample (M197) showed cuticular damage and irregularities definitely consistent with bleaching, although bleaching could not be ruled out in some of the blond samples.

The average diameter of the Semna sample was close to both the N.W. European and East African samples, which are of medium thickness. Of the variables that best distinguish European and African samples, the total Semna sample was closer to the European on average curvature, crimp, and ratio of length. The ratio of curvature, however, was higher than either, indicating a degree of irregularity approached only by Melanesian samples. Obviously the sample has a greater degree of African admixture than the Egyptian hair sample described by Titlbachova and Tiltbach (‘771, which had three of 14 samples showing “Negroid elements.” Although there is not a consistent statistically significant difference between the X-group and Meroitic samples, it is interesting that the X-group sample, especially the males, had higher curling variables, indicating more of an African element. Although larger sample sizes are needed for statistically significant results, the results here are consistent with the evidence summarized by Strouhal (‘77) for skeletal material, which shows X-group very similar to Meroitic, but having increased negroid elements.

The principal components analysis showed the Semna population in a unique position on the three component space when compared to seven other populations (Hrdy, ’73). The combination of high ratio of curvature with moderate diameter and curling differentiates the sample from the Melanesian, European, African, and Mongoloid groups.

The Semna sample had high coefficients of variation compared to four other populations, especially in scale count, average curvature, and ratio of curvature. This high intra-population variability undoubtedly reflects the heterogeneous nature of the Nubian population during the Meroitic and Post-meroitic periods.

If I read this correctly, the conclusion is that the Nubian samples are showing a mix of European and African hair, with a few natural blondes in their number. This study doesn’t seem to be recent, but as I understand there hasn’t been any real change in the study of hair over the last few decades. This tallies with the Mt DNA study of Nubian mummies that shows them to be about 60% non Sub Saharan African.

I would just like to add that the blond Melanesian gene isn’t found in Africa anywhere, it’s an in situ mutation in the Australoids. The only known blond gene known in Africa and Europe is traceable to Northern Europe, and is only about 10,000 years on, which makes it pretty specific to European ancestry.

There’s a tendency for Afrocentrists to include Melanesians into their calculations. They shouldn’t, Melanesians and Australoids aren’t even closely related to Africans, and are the people on the planet least related to them. Also, no Australoids were ever in Nubia or Egypt.

Percentage genetic distances among major continents based on 120 classical polymorphisms
  Africa Oceania East Asia Europe
Oceania 24.7      
East Asia 20.6 10    
Europe 16.6 13.5 9.7  
America 22.6 14.6 8.9 9.5

As you can see from this Africa shows the most genetic distance from Australoids (Oceania). Chart from a study by Cavalli-Sforza using 120 blood polymorphisms provides information on genetic distances of the various continents. This chart also matches the work of geneticist Niell Risch, who has shown that the people most closely related to the Aborigines are Asians. You’ll note, Europeans are significantly more closely related to Aborigines than Africans. The people most closely related to Africans are… Europeans.

So what did the first Europeans look like?

Were they all red haired? 

It’s claimed the mutation on the  SLC24A5 gene that gives Europeans very pale skin dates to between 6,000 and 12,000 years old. This would give the first immigrants into Europe an Asian tan colour skin. However, the dating of at least two variants of the European red hair gene go back to about 80,000 years.

 “Both African and non-African data suggest that the time to the most recent common ancestor is ~1 million years and that the age of the global 314 variant is 650,00 years. On this time scale, ages for the Eurasian-distributed Val60Leu, Val92Met, and Arg163Gln variants are 250,000-100,000 years; the ages for African silent variants—Leu106Leu, Cys273Cys, and Phe300Phe—are 100,000-40,000 years.  For the European red hair-associated Arg151cys and Arg160Trp variants, we estimate an age of ~80,000 years; for Asp294His, and Ser316Ser, we estimate an age of <= 30,000 years. “ (Harding et al, 2000, p. 1357 )

The red hair genes generally produce a somewhat lighter skin tone, even if you aren’t homogeneous for ginger hair genes (ie, red haired). I should know, I have one pale ginger gene from Granny, and I’m porcelain skinned and burn very easily, even with the dark hair. Red haired individuals are a lot lighter skinned and don’t tan, and prone to sunburn. Alos, genes that cause lighter eye colours also lighten skin colour.

Leaving aside the Neanderthal date of this gene, this would make the first Europeans pretty much the same skin tone wise as modern ones, as the red hair MC1R mutations affect skin as well as hair colour, almost like a mild form of albinism. This would have meant there probably wasn’t much difference between Cro Magnon and Modern European skin tone.

My hypothesis is, that the recent light skin colour mutation is a recent improvement on the mutations to the MC1R that cause ginger hair, as they allow skin light enough to allow vitamin D synthesis, but it also allows the carrier to tan to a limited degree, giving some UV protection as well. This could mean that the MC1R ginger hair genes are slowly being replaced by the light skin gene, and ‘gingerness’ was probably carried by the majority of early Europeans.  The red hair mutation is fine if the base skin colour is an Asian tan, but add it to European pale skin and you’ve got a recipe for sunburn. I expect the frequency of red heads has been decreasing ever since the skin lightening mutation came along.

So different gene, similar effect on skin tone.

As an after thought, I’ve found a picture of an Indian boy with Caucasian features and light coloured eyes. He’s probably a good approximation of what the first Europeans looked like, about 35,000 years ago. Not including the shirt.