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Thread: What did the Early Slavs look like?

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    What did the Early Slavs look like?

    I am curious what the Early Slavs looked like. When I say Early Slavs, Im referring to the Prague-Penkov-Kolochin complex.

    I've read about ancient writings from the Byzantines and Arabs that say the Slavs were "ruddy" or "white" with fair complexion and hair. But that is about as much as I know.

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    There's a small section on it here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early Slavs
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nibelung View Post
    There's a small section on it here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early Slavs
    I wonder how accurate ancient testimony is compared to anthropological/Genetic research on the subject?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Domen View Post
    I've just found this article (in Polish):

    http://www.archeo.uw.edu.pl/swarch/S...B-s205-212.pdf

    "Phenotype of old Slavs, 6th to 10th centuries", by Łukasz M. Stanaszek.

    I. Byzantine sources:

    1. Procopius of Caesarea (6th century):

    - "(...) Valerian chose one of the Sklaveni who are men of mighty stature. (...)"

    - "(...) Nay further, they do not differ at all from one another in appearance. For they are all exceptionally tall and stalwart men, while their bodies and hair are neither very fair or very blonde, nor indeed do they incline entirely to the dark type, but they are slightly ruddy in color. (...)"

    2. Theophilact Simokatta (describing events from year 595):

    "(...) The Emperor was with great curiosity listening to stories about this tribe, he has welcomed these newcomers from the land of barbarians, and after being amazed by their height and mighty stature, he sent these men to Heraclea. (...)"

    3. Theophanes the Confessor (describing the same event from year 595):

    "(...) The Emperor was admiring their beauty and their stalwart stature. (...)"

    4. Pseudo-Maurice (Strategikon) - late 6th century / early 7th century:

    "(...) Tribes of Sclaveni and Antes (...) are very resistant to hardships, they easily endure both heat and cold, rain and lack of garment. (...)"

    5. Constantine Porphyrogennetos (10th century):

    About ancestors of Balkan Croats and ancestors of Balkan Serbs:

    "(...) their ancestors were Pagan Croats and Serbs, known also as White [Croats and Serbs]. Great Croatia, called also White [Croatia], until today is still Pagan, just like neighbouring [Lusatian] Serbs [Sorbs] (...)"

    II. Muslim and Sephardi Jewish sources:

    6. Al-Baladuri (late 7th century):

    "(...) Slavs are a tribe of ruddy complexion and fair hair. (...)"

    7. Ibn Qutajba (describing events from years 691 - 694):

    "(...) If only Prince wanted, outside of his doors would be black Sudanians or ruddy Slavs (...)"

    The same information is repeated also by 8. Al-Baladuri (9th century).

    9. Al-Ahtal (late 7th century):

    "(...) Birds of the desert saw in those people a crowd of fair-haired Slavs. (...)"

    10. Jaqut (13th century, but using much older primary sources):

    "(...) Slavs are a tribe of ruddy complexion and fair hair. (...)"

    11. Ibn Al-Kalbi (late 8th century / early 9th century):

    "(...) Slavs are a numerous nation, fair-haired and of ruddy [pink] complexion. (...)"

    12. Al-Gahiz (early 9th century):

    "(...) Among Slavs, abominable and ugly are their smoothness of hair [as opposed to curly hair] and delicateness, as well as blond or ruddy colour of their hair and beards, and also whiteness [bright blond colour] of their eyelashes (...)"

    Al-Gahiz:

    "(...) Tell me friend, after how many generations a Zang became black, and a Slav became white? (...)"

    13. Abraham ben Jacob (years 965 - 966):

    "(...) What is peculiar [when it comes to Slavs], most of Bojema people [Bohemians / Czechs] are of swarthy complexion and dark hair, while fair colors are rare among them [compared to frequencies among other West and East Slavs]. (...)"

    Abraham ben Jacob:

    "(...) Slavic people are often haunted by two diseases (...) these are two types of rash: redness and abscess (...)"

    14. Ibn Al-Faqih (10th century):

    "(...) There exist two kinds of Slavic people. First kind are people of swarthy complexion and dark hair. They live near the coast of the [Mediterranean] Sea. The other kind are fair people, who live inland. (...)"

    Ibn Al-Faqih:

    "(...) Inhabitants of Iraq are people (...) who are not born with hair colour intermediate between russet, blond, matt-white and white [bright blond], as it happens among children born from Slavic women. (...) People of Iraq are free from russet hair colour of Slavs. (...)"

    15. Al-Masudi (10th century):

    He writes that dominant complexion among Slavic people is fair, not dark.

    III. German sources:

    15. Saint Bruno of Querfurt:

    He wrote that in Poland having a beard is a common custom among men.

    ==============================

    Chart:



    English summary:


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    Thanks Waldemar.

    It is interesting that both the Byzantines and Muslim sources say the Slavs were typically fair. I wonder if this is relative to the people who wrote those descriptions? In other words, Byzantine and Muslim sources would have been dark haired and olive/dark complexion, so when they write that Slavs were fair, what are they comparing it to?

    Would The early Slavs have looked much different from Germans further west?

    I also read that Slavs typically had short/closely cropped hair. Do we know if this is true?

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    I wouldn't put too much trust in the ancient sources about pigmentation - the hair color is something relative - what we call blonde in the Balkans is seen as brunette in the Baltic states or Scandinavia. The ancient Hellens and Romans tend to have a stereotype for the barbarians - they imagined all the barbarians as red haired and blue eyed. It's because they were mostly southern people that imagined the otherness of the barbarians in every way - cultural, linguistical, physical. For them light hair could have been even light brown. On the other hand the red hair cannot be a Slavic trait because it's really exotic in Eastern Europe. I kinda think the ancient Slavs were something in between all modern Slavic people, maybe the Western Ukrainians and the Slovaks could be closer to them. Talking about phenotypes I think that Alpine, Nordic, Dinaric/Noric, Pontid and some Baltid/Carpathid were in the mix, although most of these phenotypes are not exclusively Slavic and their roots could be older than most of the ethnic divisions in Europe.
    Last edited by Velislav; 07-04-2017 at 09:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Velislav View Post
    I wouldn't put too much trust in the ancient sources about pigmentation - the hair color is something relative - what we call blonde in the Balkans is seen as brunette in the Baltic states or Scandinavia. The ancient Hellens and Romans tend to have a barbarian stereotype - red hair and blue eyes. It's because they were mostly southern people that imagined the otherness of the barbarians in every way - cultural, linguistical, physical. For them light hair could have been even light brown. On the other hand the red hair cannot be a Slavic trait because it's really exotic in Eastern Europe. I kinda think the ancient Slavs were something in between all modern Slavic people, maybe the Western Ukrainians and the Slovaks could be closer to them. Talking about phenotypes I think that Alpine, Nordic, Dinaric/Noric, Pontid and some Baltid/Carpathid were in the mix, although most of these phenotypes are not exclusively Slavic and their roots could be older than most of the ethnic divisions in Europe.
    Romans had Red hair??
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tz85 View Post
    Romans had Red hair??
    No, just the opposite - they were southern people that imagined all the barbarians in the north to be red haired and blue eyed. It is the same thing as some modern Europeans that imagine the Chinese people to be yellow...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brent.B View Post
    Thanks Waldemar.

    It is interesting that both the Byzantines and Muslim sources say the Slavs were typically fair. I wonder if this is relative to the people who wrote those descriptions? In other words, Byzantine and Muslim sources would have been dark haired and olive/dark complexion, so when they write that Slavs were fair, what are they comparing it to?

    Would The early Slavs have looked much different from Germans further west?

    I also read that Slavs typically had short/closely cropped hair. Do we know if this is true?
    Νot exactly. Not dark but not very fair and quite tall.

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