In his book, Species with Amnesia, Robert Sepehr makes the claim that the Cro-Magnon man was “tall, fair haired, and blue eyed” and therefore most similar to modern northern Europeans. He mentions the rhesus factor in blood, the DNA of Cro-Magnon, and mummies with red and blond hair. He makes four clear statements in regards to Cro-Magnon (Sepehr 24):
Before I go into Sepehr’s claims, let’s review the history of "Cro-Magnon."
Cro-Magnon was first discovered in 1868 in France by Louis Lartet. It was one of the first fossils recognized as being part of our species, Homo sapiens.
This quote from the Smithsonian explains Cro-Magnon’s relationship to us:
“While the Cro-Magnon remains are representative of the earliest anatomically modern human beings to appear in Western Europe, this population was not the earliest anatomically modern humans to evolve - our species evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa. However, the skull of Cro-Magnon 1 does show traits that are unique to modern humans, including the tall, rounded skull with a near vertical forehead. A large brow ridge no longer tops the eye sockets and there is no prominent prognathism of the face and jaw.” (source)
The Smithsonian's website goes on to say that Cro-Magnon had an elaborate culture, as shown from various tools they used and their appreciation for art. They demonstrated their intelligence by developing a wide range of sophisticated tools, from blades to chisels. However, they also showed tremendous artistic skill by decorating their weapons and tools, creating stylized Venus dolls, and creating cave paintings. It is suggested that they also had a sense of community and group support and care, because many individuals discovered had survived traumatic injuries, such as fungal infections, neck injuries, and skull fractures.
Now let's return to Sepehr’s claim that Cro-Magnon is Nordic. That sounds like it might make some sense if the remains of Cro-Magnon were found in Nordic countries. Here’s a list of all the locations of Cro-Magnon remains from Wikipedia:
1.Grotta del Cavallo (Italy)
2.Kents Cavern (England)
3.Peștera cu Oase (Romania)
4.Gower, South Wales
5.Peștera Muierilor (Romania)
6.Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France
7.Předmostí (Czech Republic)
8.Mladeč (Moravia, Czech Republic)
Not one of those, of course, is a Nordic country. Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
So where does Sepehr get this idea that Cro-Magnon are Nordic?
For his claim that Dalarna, a county in Sweden, is characterized “by almost pure Cro-Magnons,” he cites the 1994-2002 editions of Encyclopedia Britannica.
“Particularly noteworthy are the Dal people from Dalecarlia (now Dalarna, Sweden.) and the Guanches of the Canary Islands, the latter of which is said to represent a relatively pure Cro-Magnon stock.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Encyclopedia Britannica is a reliable source, so this has to be true!
Well, here’s the fun part: it appears that Sepehr got his information from another paper titled “Reconstruction of Speech and Language of the Cro-Magnon Man,” suggesting that perhaps he didn’t actually consult the Encyclopedia Britannica. Here’s the sentence from the paper:
“In Encyclopedia Britannica we can read that the Sweden County Dalarna today is characterized by almost pure Cro-Magnons”
Here’s Sepehr’s sentence (page 24):
“The 1994-2002 editions of Encyclopedia Britannica say that the Sweden County Dalarna today is characterized by almost pure Cro-Magnons”
Aside from that, the source cited at the end of both the paper and his book is simply “Encyclopedia Britannica 1994-2002.” I could not find the information from the quote linked to any edition of Encyclopedia Britannica so the question remains of where this information actually comes from.
Now we move on to claim two: the Guanche left behind tall mummies with red and blonde hair, which is a characteristic of Swedes.
Guanche is the name given to the aboriginal people of the Canary Islands and they are believed to have come from the Berber tribes of northwestern Africa. They had blondish hair and were relatively tall for their time, with males measuring in at an average 1.7 meters and females averaging at 1.57 meters (see this book by C. Rodriguez-Martin). So in that respect, Sepehr’s claim seems reasonable: the Guanche mummies were relatively tall and had blonde hair, much like the average Swede today.
However, these two broad statements can be explained by a variety of different things other than "Nordic" heritage. The height, for example, could likely be explained by the fact that the Guanche only mummifed those of the upper classes, and there’s a trend throughout history of upper class people being taller than lower class people, which is usually related to nutrition. Another possible explanation is simply the natural variation that occurs when a species is isolated on an island.
In regards to the hair color, that can easily be explained by the fact that blonde hair is present in several populations outside of Sweden. The blonde hair that’s present in the Guanche people could have been a response to the environment or just a genetic mutation. The fact is, human variation does exist, and the observation that the Guanche had blonde hair and Swedish people have blonde hair does not prove they are connected.
The third and fourth claims can be explained more concisely than the previous two. Claim three states that Cro-Magnon’s DNA hasn’t changed in 28,000 years. This is almost certainly a reference to Paglicci 23, an individual discovered in Paglicci Cave in southern Italy. The mtDNA sequence discovered in this individual is in fact still common in Europe today (see this 2008 paper by Caramelli et al.). What Sepehr leaves out is that the mtDNA sequences of the other specimens found in Paglicci Cave, such as Paglicci 12, are most similar to mtDNA sequences present in Africa.
The last claim relates to the Rh negative factor originating in the blood of early Europeans around the time of Cro-Magnon. Quite simply, there is no evidence to support the assertion that Rh negative blood and Cro-Magnon are related.
Sepehr's lack of citation and citations of unreliable or ambiguous sources hurts his credibility. Beyond that, he appears to ignore basic scientific research and doesn’t seem to realize that his claims don't make much sense. None of these four claims about Cro-Magnon holds up to scrutiny.