(From the book in Greek language of Aris Ν. Poulianos, 1993, p.170)

The Sarakatsani nomadic shepherds of continental Greece are mainly located along the ranges of the Pindos massif. Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia and Thrace are the provinces in which they are most numerous. Sarakatsani communities are also found further in the north. Their seasonal migrations had led many of them across the border to Bulgaria, Turkey, Albania and Yugoslavia. They α11 are Greek-speaking, wherever they live. The Danish scholar Carsten Hoeg (Hoeg, 1925-1926) has shown, that neither phonetically, nor in terms of grammatical structure, are there traces of foreign elements in the dialect spoken

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by the Sarakatsani. Further, he writes, the Sarakatsani material culture shows the trace of sedentary origins. On the contrary it follows with precision and simplicity from the conditions of transhuman life in α particular physical environment. The Greek ethnographer Angheliki Chatzimichali (Chatzimichali, 1957), who spent a lifetime among them, believes that they are α group of population, who in their pastoral way of life, social organization, and art, show forth certain prototypical elements of Greek culture. She is describing, for instance, the similarities between the Sarakatsani decorative art and those of the "geometric" style of pre-classical Greece. The English researcher J. Κ. Campbell (Campbell, 1964) arrives at the conclusion that the Sarakatsani "must always have lived in more or less the same conditions and areas as we find them today". They are, indeed, very endogamic, thus we may consider them, from the anthropological point of view, an isolate group. Ε. Makris (Makris, 1990) also believes that they are a pre-Neolithic people. He gives α full description of their material life in his book.

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Taking into consideration the above, the author undertook the study of physical anthropology of the Sarakatsani with the aim of utilizing these data as α historical source in the decision of this concrete ethnogenetic problem. At this point it must be emphasized repeatedly, that racial characteristics in no way predetermine the trend of historical events. But it is also true, that we proceed from the indisputable position that the physical type of α people, its area of distribution and its physical composition always reflect the process of its ethnic history.

Material and Methods.

In 1963, invited by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the author has studied among other groups α group of about 300 adult Sarakatsani of the Balkan Mountains. Half of them were men and half women. In the years 1967-1968 almost another 300 were studied in Greece along the Pindos Mountains. In every individual about 60 metrical and morphological traits were examined, while in α series of α couple of decades of contemporary Sarakatsani skulls, from Boeotia, were examined more than 70 traits. For comparison were used the tables previously published by Poulianos (1968, 1969, 1971) and unpublished, of more than 15,000 people examined from Central Asia, through Caucasus, to Spain. In elaborating the collected material the usual statistical techniques were applied.


From the morphometrical analysis it is apparent that not only historically, ethnographically and linguistically the two groups share common origin, but anthropologically too. Some differences must be accounted to the fact that the group of the Balkan area has been separated from the main group of Western Greece about 150 years ago. Besides, its population is very small in numbers (it does not exceed 4000 people). On the other hand the population of Pindos area is counted to be α few decades of thousands. Thus the Balkan group must be considered still more isolated than that of the Greek mainland. Both groups are characteristic of their big diameters of the head. But the biggest of α11 in comparison to other europeoid series is the bizygomatic breadth overlapping that of the mongoloids. The Boeotian skulls give us the same picture. There is nothing, of course, of the mongoloid complexity among Sarakatsani. Their wide bizygomatic diameter in α very few cases exceeds the head breadth. This, according to C. S. Coon (Coon, 1939), is an archaic trait found only among Upper Palaeolithic Europeans. Wide zygomatic arches sometimes combine with flaring gonial angles, and often the forehead is wider than the mandible and the face takes on the characteristic form of an inverted triangle. The morphological face height is quite small, in relation to the width, α trait also very distinctive for the Epirotics, as α11 the above, from the Aegeans (Mediterraneans). The women groups also give α 1οw face height. The plump cheeks of the Sarakatsani stand at the opposite European extreme than the drawn ones amongst Aegeans. Browridges are of moderate size, or do not exist. In most cases the frontal slope is straight. The skin color is also lighter among Sarakatsani, and the chest hirsutness is rare. Hairiness in this part of the world seems to be α trait of great taxonomic value. The lack of any prognathism is stressed by the great percentage of the opisthocephalic part of the face. These are only some of the traits.


The description given above places the Sarakatsani population in the Continental, or Epirotic, type of the europaeoids, and not among the Mediterraneans (as supposed by Necrassova, Boev, 1962). It has been shown, that the Epirotic type is much older on European soil, than the Mediterranean one (Poulianos 1968). It is clearly related to the "Brunn-Przedmost-CroMagnon" type described by G.F. Debetz (1936). This same type is followed up by Ι. Ι. Gohman (1966) amongst the Mesolithic (Vassilievka ΙΙΙ) and Neolithic population of Ukraine. Due to this work by Gohman we now know that the "Cro-Magnon in the wide meaning of the word" anthropological type of Western Europe in the Upper Palaeolithic is the same in Eastern Europe and the steppes of the Russian Plain. Upper Palaeolithic skulls are not yet known in Greece, but there is α very interesting find of early Mesolithic (Jacobsen 1969). The physical type of the skull is classified by J. L. Angel (1969) as Basic White (Α3) and lies between Tιviec and Natufιans (less linear than the later). Our own study of the skull (Poulianos 1970) gave α 1οw face (68 mm) and quite wide (143 mm). The frontal width is rather small and the slope almost straight. Unfortunately it is yet only one skull and it would be difficult to come to general conclusions about the Mesolithic population of Greece. Still we can classify it among the Protoeuropaeoids, in a way linking anthropologically the territory of Central and Southern Europe in such an early period.

The Epirotic type described above is met, besides the Pindos massif, among the Epirotes of NW Greece, which we first studied in 1957, and after whom the name of the type was given. The same type is met in Montenegro, as it is described by K.W. Ehrich (1948), in NW Bulgaria, (Poulianos, 1966), in Romania (Milku, Dumitrescu, 1958-1961) and in Ukraine (Djatchenko 1965). It is not confined only to the Dinaric Alps, but extended to the west at least as far as Pyrinnes. It is a real epirotic (e.g. continental). The Palaeolithic Europeans could not vanish without a trace. Their descendants became the Epirotics, and the most representative group of them, the nucleus so to speak of the Epirotic type, is the Sarakatsani isolates.

Up to now in literature prevailed the opinion that the Basques, who do not speak an Indo-European language, were maybe the oldest people in Europe. Some refer to the Lapps as well too. Let us consider both cases: The Basques (Poulianos 1969b) as α whole are not very different in their physique from the rest of the population of Spain, which in its absolute majority is Mediterranoid. This is not meant to say that no Cro-magnon elements are met among the Basques, as we cannot say that no Mediterranoids are met among Sarakatsani. The relict language is only an indication of the antiquity of a population. The physical features are those which count more. On our case the Sarakatsani show themselves to be much older.

The Lapps of the North of Scandinavia are not any more an anthropological aenigma. The traditional point of view to seek among laponoids the ancient brachycephals of Europe has not any more any kind of foundation. Many anthropologists who have worked among them have shown, that the Lapps are the result of "inbreeding" with mongoloids, who came to Europe (Bounak 1956) at least much later after the Europeoids existed there. Thus the Lapps cannot be the oldest people of Europe either. The geographical differentiatίon of traits which we have described above for the Epirotics shows that they have persisted in their special geographical regions, and they are met in a more "compacted" form amongst the Sarakatsani of Pindos and Balkan mountains areas, despite other changes of a more clearly phyletic evolutionary nature. Thus the antiquity of the Sarakatsani type is, at the least extent indirectly established. The Sarakatsani are nothing more or less than a local Middle Palaeolithic survival, or, perhaps a reemergence. Being an ecological isolated group, they represent a local specialization, in which selection may have played a part, as well as possibly other factors associated with life in a mountainous area. Looking into the historical past of races in our continent, the Sarakatsani may be considered the most ancient population of Europe.

The data presented here once more verify the validity of the thesis taken by Oshinsky (1959) and Krogman (1964), that anthropometric and morphological traits must still be considered the nucleus of Physical Anthropology.