Because the Moors occupied Spain for almost eight centuries, it is thought that they, along with African slaves, had a significant impact on the racial make-up of the country. Despite much speculation and hyperbole, anthropology actually finds Spaniards to be of pre-historic origin and quite distinct from the contemporary Mediterraneans of North Africa and the Middle East. Similarly, genetic research reveals the Moorish contribution to have been small, and the absorption of blacks even smaller.

"Two widely observed racial characters serve to differentiate the Spaniards from most of the living inhabitants of Arabia and North Africa: hair color and nasal profile. In Spain, as a whole, some 29 per cent of the male population has black hair, some 68 per cent dark brown, while traces of blondism are visible in 17 per cent. In most of North Africa and Arabia, the black hair is commoner than the dark brown. The nasal profiles of some 120,000 Spaniards are convex in 15 per cent of cases, straight in 72 per cent, and concave in 13 per cent. In Arabia and North Africa east of Morocco, the commonest profile form is usually convex, and concaves are very rare. The prevalence of these two features, dark brown hair and a straight nasal profile, indicates that the bulk of the Spanish population is derived from the earlier Mediterranean invasions of Mesolithic and Neolithic date. The Spaniards are more like the most marginal and fully sedentary of the brunet Berber groups in North Africa than like the more recently settled transhumant ones or the Arabs."

"The most striking results are that contemporary NW African and Iberian populations were found to have originated from distinctly different patrilineages and that the Strait of Gibraltar seems to have acted as a strong (although not complete) barrier to gene flow.... The Islamic rule of Spain, which began in A.D. 711 and lasted almost 8 centuries, left only a minor contribution to the current Iberian Y-chromosome pool.

"...the origins of the Iberian Y-chromosome pool may be summarized as follows: 5% recent NW African, 78% Upper Paleolithic and later local derivatives (group IX), and 10% Neolithic (H58, H71). No haplotype assumed to have originated in sub-Saharan Africa was found in our Iberian sample. It should be noted that H58 and H71 are not the only haplotypes present in the Middle East and that the Neolithic wave of advance could have brought other lineages to Iberia and NW Africa.

"A small NW African genetic contribution in Iberia is also detected with mtDNA, the female counterpart of the Y chromosome. ... [North African] haplogroup U6 is found at very low frequencies: it has been found in 3 of 54 Portuguese and in 2 of 96 Galicians and is absent in Andalusians and in 162 other Iberians (Bertranpetit et al. 1995; Côrte-Real et al. 1996; Pinto et al. 1996; Salas et al. 1998)."
Two subclades of North African Y-chromosome haplogroup E3b and Middle Eastern haplogroup J (labeled E-M81 and J-M267) are considered unrelated to the Neolithic migrations into Europe, making them useful in detecting historical admixture from Berbers and Arabs or earlier Semitic peoples. These markers exist at combined frequencies of 3% in Catalans of Northern Spain and 6.4% in Andalusians of Southern Spain (for a total of between 1.5% and 3.2% admixture), confirming that gene flow from Phoenicians/Carthaginians and Islamic Moors was minimal.
(Semino et al. 2004)

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"An analysis of 11 Alu insertion polymorphisms...has been performed in several NW African...and Iberian...populations. Genetic distances and principal component analyses show a clear differentiation of NW African and Iberian groups of samples, suggesting a strong genetic barrier matching the geographical Mediterranean Sea barrier. The restriction to gene flow may be attributed to the navigational hazards across the Straits, but cultural factors must also have played a role. ... Iberian samples show a substantial degree of homogeneity and fall within the cluster of European-based genetic diversity."

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"Here, we present an analysis of a data set of 10 allele frequencies in 39 populations of the Mediterranean region. ... The main boundaries separate the northern and the southern coasts, especially in their western portions.... The comparatively high genetic differentiation across the western Mediterranean, where the sea distances between localities are shorter, strongly suggests that the sea distance by itself can hardly be regarded as a major isolating factor among these populations. ... The genetic boundary separating northern Morocco and Algeria from southern Spain appears as the zone of sharpest genetic change using Prevosti's distances and as the second most significant zone of change...using Nei's distances."

Racial Types

Small Mediterranean (Galician-Cuban)

Atlanto-Mediterranean (Northwestern Spain)

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Related Topics

Iberian Y-chromosomes: More data on Spaniards' distinctiveness from Africans and Arabs.

Portuguese: The similar racial make-up of the populations of Portugal.

Hispanics: Not a race but an ethnicity composed of the three primary human races.

Skin Color: Effects of sun-adaptation and tanning on Southern Europeans.