Re: Chief Irritant
In Response To: Re: Chief Irritant ()

Well here is a letter that was written to Susan Anton an Anthropologist that did not know she had King tut.

Dear Dr. Susan Anton,

I know you have been swamped with lots of email
concering the Tut-ankh-amun reconstruction but could
you tell me why you chose the term ''North African
caucasoid'' You then were quoted in an article in
various print publications that Tut-ankh-amun had
European nose opening but a African crania. What
exactly did you mean by this?

When one make the statement ''North African
caucasoid'' I wonder what modern population in
northern Africa you are refering. In the region of
northern Africa there have been many population
movements that contributed to the hetrogenity of the
modern populations in these places. In areas like
Morocco you might find people that range from a very
fair apperance to the Haratin that are black in skin
color. When you say caucasoid are you reffering to the

Thanks for your email. I actually didn't choose the term "North
Caucasoid" that is the term used by another team (there were three that
worked on separate reconstructions). The French team was responsible
for the reconstruction that was on the cover of National Geographic
Magazine and they also used that term.

Our team, myself and Michael Anderson of Yale, were the ones that did
the plaster reconstruction without knowledge of whose skull we were
working on. I did the biological profile (assessment of age at death,
sex and ancestry), Michael made the actual reconstruction. Based on
physical characters of the skull, I concluded that this was the skull
a male older than 15 but less than 21, and likely in the 18-20 year
range and of African ancestry, possibly north african. The possibly
north african came mostly from the shape of the face including the
narrow nose opening, that is not entirely consistent with an 'African'
designation. A narrow nose is more typical of more northerly located
populations because nose breadth is thought to be at least in part
related to the climate in which ancestral populations lived. A narrow
and tall nose is seen most frequently in Europeans. Tut's head was a
bit of a conundrum, but, as you note, there is a huge range of
in modern humans from any area, so for me the skull overall, including
aspects of the face, spoke fairly strongly of his African origins - the
nose was a bit unusual. Because their is latitudinal variation in
several aspects of the skull (including nose size/shape), the
of the nose suggested that he might be from a northerly group. This is
also, I presume, what the French focussed on. I have not been in
contact with the French group, but my understanding is that by their
definition of 'caucasoid' they include Peoples from North Africa,
Peoples from Western Asia (and the Caucasus, from where the term
derives), and Eureopean peoples. So I don't think that they were
referring to a specific set of those peoples. I personally don't find
that term all that useful and so I don't use it. That it was
to me by the media is an incorrect attribution on their part. I also
never said he had a European nose, although I am sure I did say that
narrow nose was what led me to suggest North Africa as a possibility
that a narrow nose is more typically seen in Europe. Not a great
sound-bit that, so I guess it gets shortened to European nose.

As you also note, skin color today in North Africa can range from much
lighter than what they chose to much darker. And we don't know how
well today's range matches that of the past, although I suspect there
was also a range of variation in the past, as is normal for any
biological population. Michael's reconstruction did not include an
inference of skin color (or eye color), the French team's did and their
inference was, I understand, based on a 'average' skin tone for Egypt
today. I don't know the specifics of how they did that. I think,
however, it would have been as accurate to have had the same facial
reconstruction with either a lighter tone or a darker tone to the skin.
That said, skin and eye color will always be an inference.

I hope that helps explain.

Susan C. Antn
Joint Editor, Journal of Human Evolution
Director, MA Program in Human Skeletal Biology
Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Human Origins
Department of Anthropology NYU
25 Waverly Place,
New York, NY 10003

Dear Sustan Anton,

Many people from the horn of Africa have narrower nose
profiles than say a bantu. I feel that perhaps
forensic scientist should have used people from the
Horn of Africa as their model instead of such a narrow
consideration. Are you familiar with the ''Hamitic
myth'' that postulated that caucasoids from early
times came into Africa and civlized the more sedentary
''negriod'' population. Thus all narrow features found
in Nilotic types,Northern Africans,and eastern
Africans were atributed to these Hamitic immigrants.

You might want to consult the works of
bio-anthropologist Dr. Shomarka Keita and also Jean
Hiernax. Are you familiar with these groups.

Let me also point out that many modern Egyptians from
the area Tut-ankh-amun came from have features like
avelouar porgnathism. Was this taken into

Yes this is true and this is precisely why I felt (although I did not
know where the individual was from) that this was an individual of
African ancestry, and why I so stated. The problem, as you say, in
trying to fit an individual back into a population of origin is
two-fold. It is the problem of the range of variation available in any
given population and the problem of how you wish to define your groups
and what your comparative samples are. For my 'north african' I will
mean simply those peoples from north of the equator - rather than say
Morocco etc. I should also say that I don't see his narrow nose as an
indication that he is not african or that he or his people had any
genetic input from groups that were not african - it was only another
clue for me to try to narrow the scope somewhat (since I had an unknown
and 'African origin' is a pretty big designation), if imperfectly.

Yes, alveolar prognathism was taken into account (at least by me, I
can't speak for the other groups) and is another part of the reason for
my estimation of African ancestry in this individual. You should
that all the other groups that worked on this individual knew that this
was Tut's skull. We did not know either who this was particularly or
it was a forensic case or an archaeological case (I worked from the CT
reconstruction of the skull from which it is impossible to infer such
age clues as you might.) For part of the analysis I ran cranial
through FORDISC which has two alternative cranial comparative
One is a modern forensic database from individuals of known cases in
the states. The other is an archaeologically derived sample (the one
that W.W. Howells collected) which does include indviduals from Egypt
among a number of other wordlwide populations. Although I was
by the nonmetric data (e.g. the alveolar prognathism, the shape of the
cranial vault etc),
that this was an individual of African ancestry, the metric data -
whether compared with the modern sample or the archaeological sample -
not place him near any of the comparative groups.

Yes, I'm familiar with the work of the groups you site - and concur
Keita that individuals from the whole of Africa should be included in
the construct of what is 'African' in terms of identifying skeletal
remains (rather than the categories which the French team uses) and
is why this skull ended up indicating to me its African Ancestry.

I am familiar with Howells database and this same
database has come under fire for correct examination
of individuals. What time period does the FORDISC have
these Egyptian sames. In the study by Dr. Keita it
meantions that it was a late dyanstic period ''Giza
E'' series. According to the study by Dr. Sonia
Zakrzewski the sample in the Howells database came
from the 26th dyansty. According to her study on
pre-dyanstic Egyptian remains there was slight change
in the crania from around the Late Dyanstic period.
This is to be expected because of the migration of
Greeks,Jews,Phonecians and Syrians into Egypt. What
is your opinion on this?

Although not related, I find that forensic
anthropologist and geneticist are often ignorant of
historical population movements in areas they study.
For instance, in modern Egypt there is a village in
southern Egypt called Marris where according to
folklore the local women were raped by French
soliders. These females are typically lighter than the
surrounding Egyptian population. What is your opinion
on this.

Yes, this is the problem with comparative databases. It is not
to include examples from every possible place and time and so you get
results, like I did in this case, where if you read the statistics
carefully, even though it is giving you an answer (in this case it said
that the skull I was looking at was most like a Berg Male) the specimen
in question doesn't really look like anything in the comparative sample
(recent or the archaeological). It is the case that the Howells
database egyptian sample is the Giza series you refer to and even if
that sample doesn't have influences from the groups that you mention,
there is clearly no reason to expect that a single series from a single
time should tell you about the entire range of variation in that
Since I didn't know where the skull was from there wasn't any way to
say, well, if I had more samples from X place, perhaps I would have a
better read - so all I could deduce from that comparison was that it
wasn't like anything in the comparative databse. But the nonmetric
traits were convincing enough to me that he was of African origin, that
this is what I went with and what Michael worked with.

I think that historic populations movements are only the tip of the
iceberg as to what makes determining ancestral origin from skeletal
remains extremely difficult in most cases and nearly impossible in
others. The biggest reason for this is that humans are all one
And beyond that discrete boundary (that we are humans rather than say
chimps) there are no other discrete boundaries among human groups. So
if boundaries aren't discrete, if there is more variation between than
within groups, then trying to put an individual back into a group is
really problematic. Biologically, there should be no reason you should
be able to do it 100% of the time. Biologically, the most you should
expect would be able to do it maybe 70 or 80% of the time, if there is
no operator error and if your comparative samples are good. There are
good evolutionary reasons why groups whose ancestors have lived in
certain kinds of climates over long periods of time might look, on
average, different than groups evolving in other areas - but there is
reason why any given member of either group will look like the 'mean'
that group. You see the problem. And that doesn't even address the
issue of trying to infer skin color for which there is no evidence in
the skeleton.

My real name is *****. The reason I don't use
> it in email is for security purposes. I don't trust
> yahoo enough to give out personal information.
> I appreciate you answering my questions about the
> identification of Tut-ankh-amun. One thing I did
> notice in a Ontario news paper about identification of
> a burn victim that according to forensic officals was
> a ''dark caucasian'' from Egypt,Sudan,Somalia,or
> Ethiopia? I am curious why would foresnic scientist
> use such terms for these following countries?
> Also do you know how I might contact the French
> examiner of Tut-ankh-amun? I would like to ask them
> also how they came to the conclusions they did.

Hi ****,
Thanks for your answer.

Not knowing the case I don't know the answer. The most straightforward
answer would be that they have unburned skin retained on the corpse and
I can imagine it might be because they have an unidentified person and
they are trying to jog someone's memory about who it might be and they
think that this might help. It could be they were using the same
definition of 'caucasian' as the French did (i.e., including parts of
Africa in the designation) or it could be that they had some other
of knowing that the victim was from one of those countries and they
specifying 'dark caucasian' based on skin color (from the corpse) to
differentiate from a darker skin tone that they think people might
assume for those countries (i.e., in the latter case they would be
caucasian to refer to a light skin color). So much of forensic
is not based on the skeleton that it's not even possible to know,
the article explicitly said so, whether evaluation of the skeleton had
anything to do with their assessment and categories. There are so many
possibilities it's hard to know. Sorry I can't be more help.

I don't know how to reach the French team, although from the Nat Geo
press releases I know they are Anthropologist Jean-Nol Vignal and
Sculptor Elisabeth Dayns. You might try searching the web - I've seen
her work in museums before so she may have a website. From the Nat Geo
I extracted the following information. There are also other links
to the reconstruction process.

"Led by Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, a
National Geographic Society team commissioned French experts to create
the lifelike bust. Using the CT scans (see "King Tut Mummy Scanned"),
French forensic anthropologist Jean-Nol Vignal determined the basic
measurements and features of Tutankhamun's face. Vignal deduced that
Tutankhamun had a narrow nose, buck teeth, a receding chin, and
Caucasian features. Such features are typical of European, North
African, Middle Eastern, and Indian peoples.

Paris-based forensic sculptor Elisabeth Dayns then created the bust
shown above. She used Vignal's estimates of skin thickness and other
data, plus wooden sculptures of Tut made in his youth. Soft-tissue
features, such as the nose and ears, had to be guessed at, though
a scientifically determined range. Dayns based the skin tone on an
average shade of Egyptians today and added the eyeliner that the king
would have worn in life."

btw there is no gag order for Scott Woodard's studies..they are all available online and he does not support your claims for Yuya.