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One of Our Greatest Mysteries

What is the origin of fair skin?

It is generally thought that before 6000 BC, the human population was universally dark skinned. If the out of Africa theory were true and this has largely been dispensed with in favour of the development of local independent human populations in various regions, we would all have African features including skin colour.

Some argue that the development of fear skin represents a natural process of adaptation to enable the absorption of more vitamin D in temperate and cold climates. The most obvious drawback to this idea is that the peoples of the extreme northern latitudes living in and around the Arctic circle are rather dark skinned. If that adaptation as some sometimes claim, the further north one went, the paler the skin?

It's well known that birds change their behaviour and physiology including the colours of their feathers in a process of adaptation to climate and food sources yet this has yet to be observed in the human population. Therefore adaptation to environment remains a possibility but as yet it is unproven.

This question has bought origins of Europeans into sharp focus as researchers continue sequencing the genomes of ancient populations. By comparing key parts of the DNA across the genomes of 83 ancient individuals from archaeological sites throughout Europe, an international team of researchers have reported that Europeans today are a mix of the blending of at least three ancient populations of hunter-gatherers plus farmers moving into Europe over the past 8000 years.

Touching back to the out of Africa theory, despite the lack of African characteristics in the global population, it could be possible that albinism played some part. The albino person generally displays a complete absence of skin colour making them susceptible to sunburn and other maladies and this could play a part in the overall process or at least it would make for a simple explanation.

But simple explanations aside, let's turn back to the idea that those we refer to as modern humans who replaced Neanderthal man but retained some of the DNA as evidenced in our current population with independently arising human populations in India, Southeast Asia and Africa. We could also include the Americas and Australia but let's try to keep things simple.

Lets look at animal culture

Tigers have stripes and lions are more tan coloured yet these two species can interbreed to to produce what is commonly known as a liger with less stable patterning. Similarly, horses, zebras and donkeys can interbreed. Such cross breeds are most often incapable of independent reproduction but the process of reproduction is not impossible.

The study revealed that a massive migration of Yamnaya herders from the steppes north of the Black Sea may have brought Indo-European languages to Europe about 4500 years ago.

Of course we must also come back to the idea that researchers achieved some consensus on the idea that modern humans as in being fair skinned with blue eyes and blond hair originated somewhere in Central Asia. The description is vague enough to be anywhere from north India through to the black sea and north of the Caspian Sea.  So really we are left with the idea that there is yet another possibility as claimed by ufologists and believers in certain myths and legends.

The legends claim that the gods came down from heaven and mated with the daughters of man and giving rise to the white skinned population. Of course there is no proof of this therefore it must be left in the realm of speculation as with the idea that Earth in fact was seeded by an extra terrestrial human population.

Conclusion?

At the end of this tale we come back to the idea that we don't know and for the moment there is no way of knowing. Even though the human genome has been mapped and documented, interpreting the DNA evidence is not the most exact of sciences which throws up ideas and possibilities but no definite answers.

Therefore we come back to what I consider my thought that the mixing of different species of modern human as between African, Hindu, European and Asian peoples giving rise to a simple genetic mistake in passing on the code from one generation to the next. Albinism could well play a role or at least demonstrates the potential for such weakness.

What we have learned recently is that the out of Africa theory is incorrect. Modern humans developed independently around the world yet we still carry the DNA signature of those who walked before be they Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal, Peking man or others. Until such time that some truth on the matter presents itself, we can continue to celebrate our diversity and wonder at the abundance and majesty of our universe.

A previous post on this subject

Links:
Science Magazine - Common European traits like pale skin evolved relatively recently in central and southern Europe.
Times of Israel - DNA shows an anomalous blue-eyed people came to Israel 6,500 years ago from Iran,.
Wiki - a general overview
The Atlantic Sarah Tishkoff claims fair skin originated in Africa
Ucr.edu Caucasian origins

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