News | Published:

Long Heads and Broad Heads in Germany

    Naturevolume 134pages803804 (1934) | Download Citation



    IT has always been a disconcerting fact to those who uphold the Nordic origin of German nationality that the predominant shape of head in the population is broad and flat, rather than of the long narrow Nordic form demanded by the favoured theory of racial origin. Various attempts have been made to explain away the anomaly; while some critics have not hesitated to say that the official figures of head measurements of the population were ‘edited’ before publication to eliminate the undue proportion of broad heads. Certainly Prof. F. G. Parsons, who measured German prisoners of war, found that they showed a greater breadth by several points than the figures accepted by German anthropologists as representing the German type of head. Some who admit the discrepancy invoke the Mendelian theory of inheritance and regard the broad head as a dominant masking the long-headed Nordic element. A new theory has been put forward, or rather an old theory revived, in Germany, making the shape of the head fortuitous and eliminating its significance for the Nordic theory. Prof. Kruse of Leipzig, according to the Times of November 19, argues that the shape of the head depends upon whether babies are laid on soft or hard pillows. On soft pillows they lie on their backs and hence, he maintains, although originally long-headed, come to have broad heads as they grow. A broad head, therefore, is no disproof of Nordic ancestry. In the middle of the sixteenth century, Vesalius noted the difference between the rounded head of the Turk and the broad flat head of the German. The former he explained as due to the swathing of the head and the action of the midwife, and attributed the latter to the fact that German babies slept on their backs in their cradles, while the Belgians, sleeping on their sides, had longer heads. It is interesting to note that in Dürer's representations of German peasants at about the same date, the broad flat head is very marked.

    About this article

    Publication history

    Issue Date



    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing