Beijing, 15 November 2012
My wife and I have one fundamental difference: I notice people’s looks and she notices people’s characters. One result of this is that after living in a part of the world where everyone has black hair and dark eyes, I have become intensely aware of differences in hair and eye colouring, whereas my wife is quite indifferent to it. So it was that yesterday, when my wife and I were sitting at our favourite café and we found ourselves sitting across from a European expat, I was transfixed by his blue eyes while she didn’t notice. After spending a suitable moment marvelling at the sight, I began to ask myself some questions. Questions which my wife’s iPad, which I commandeered, and the café’s wifi allowed me to find answers to.
Perhaps the most amazing fact is this. Every person in the world with blue eyes (and the closely linked grey and green eyes) has one single, common ancestor! A mutation occurred in some corner of this person’s DNA and that little mutation has been passed on down the generations ever since. Up to that point, the colour of all humans’ eyes had been dark. And then, some ten thousand years ago somewhere in the north-western part of the Black Sea region (geneticists have managed to pinpoint the source that accurately), someone was born with blue eyes. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Was the person treated as a wonder or as a dangerous freak, I ask myself? I have to think the former, since this person was able to sire children who passed on the mutation.
I suppose blue eyes are most associated with Europe: blondes or the red-heads with blue eyes.
But actually, according to very recent research, the original Ol’ Blue Eyes was probably dark skinned and dark haired. And in fact blue eyes are found everywhere:
Central Asia …
Even China! (although more green than blue) …
Even Africa!! …
But most basic of all, why are eyes blue? Because the irises lack melanin. It’s melanin which makes the human eye – and skin, and hair – dark. But why aren’t blue eyes colourless then? Because of the same effect that makes the sky blue: “longer wavelengths of light tend to be absorbed by the dark underlying epithelium, while shorter wavelengths are reflected and undergo Rayleigh scattering in the turbid medium of the stroma. This is the same frequency-dependence of scattering that accounts for the blue appearance of the sky” (1). So eyes are blue because the sky is blue. Now how cool is that …
Links for the pix:
Little European blonde girl: http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=I.4963638661679662&pid=1.7&w=237&h=155&c=7&rs=1
Little European red-headed girl: http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=I.4615243792843710&pid=1.7
Algerian old woman: http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/algeria-aures-mountains-facial-tattoos-culture-portrait-series
Palestinian man: http://i56.tinypic.com/2vao8av.jpg
Syrian man: http://www.hobotraveler.com/123_07baghdadistanbul/0077.JPG
Jordanian man: http://www.lurvely.com/photo/4259694961/A_face_from_Jordan/
Little Iranian girl: http://www.worldisround.com/articles/73022/photo653.html
Afghan woman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuristani_people
Afghan man: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4041/4696088197_24f3ecf0c4.jpg
Little Indian girl: http://i2.asntown.net/h3/fun/12/beautiful-eyes/asian-people-with-blue-eyes05.jpg
Indian woman in Sari and Indian boy: http://www.asiafinest.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t8178-100.html
Indian man with green eyes: http://i.images.cdn.fotopedia.com/flickr-4833454489-hd/Countries_of_the_World/Asia/Portrait-Asia-Demographics_of_Asia-Demographics_of_India-Human-India-Portrait_photography-Rajasthan-Rajasthani_people-hd.jpg
Central Asian man: http://anthrocivitas.net/forum/showthread.php?t=7853
Chinese woman: http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=I.4981686084830908&pid=1.7
African girl: http://korraisnottan.tumblr.com/post/21640006035/anonymous-asked-korra-is-not-tan-korra-is-not
14 thoughts on “BLUE EYES, BLUE SKY”
hi can you please send me full picture of that little girl like her full heads with blue eyes I am doing a project and I need it for that please. Do you more pictures of Indian dark skin girls with blue eyes or light brown eyes also. It will be very helpful thanks so much
Hi Nishani, the links for all these pictures are at the bottom of the post. Go to the link for the picture you liked and press. Good luck on your project!
I know for a fact that the little girl in the very first photo is mixed. She isn’t fully European at all. She has a mixed mother of African American Decent and her father is white. The baby has lighter skin than both of her parents and has white blonde hair even though her mother and fathers hair are dark. She is very similar in looks and ethnic make-up to Robin and Paula Patton-Thickes son.
Thanks for this! I take up blue eyes in mixed families much more explicitly in a recent blog, https://theheartthrills.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/little-maria/, about Maria the little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who was found in a Roma family in Greece.
For your information, in case someone is interested to read: It will not surprise me many of the people with blue eyes in Algeria are related to Dutch people (blue eyed men and women) who were were caught by the Algerian pirates in the 17th century, while the Dutch sailed to their colonies like Dutch Indies, South Africa and Suriname. I don’t make this up myself. I found this information in a book that mentioned that 9000 (!) Dutch people were sold on the market In Algeria as slaves. Even in Holland most people don’t know about this. The word ‘barbarian’ comes from Berber. If you look back in history jot is for a good reason. I hope someone will make a study of this part of forgotten history. Kind regards from a Dutch guy.
Thanks for the comment! I’m sure the slave trade was one mechanism for introducing the blue-eyed gene into populations that didn’t naturally have them, in Algeria and elsewhere. For instance, the Romans had a fondness for Slavic people as slaves (which is where the English word “slave” comes from), many of whom had blue eyes; this must have helped to introduce the blue-eyed gene in those parts of the Roman Empire which didn’t otherwise have them.
Presumably, another mechanism for the introduction of the blue-eyed gene was the sexual relations in all their forms (marriages, but more commonly common-law wives, mistresses, concubinage, prostitution, rape, etc.) that blue-eyed Europeans had with native women as they colonized the rest of the world. I have to think that it was this mechanism which introduced blue eyes into Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance. To my knowledge, Europeans were never slaves there.
Reblogged this on White Lies and commented:
Thanks! Glad you liked it, thanks for reblogging it
The chinese woman is mixed (Russian border or Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan regions) where Chinese and Russians mix.
Pure blooded orientals never have blue eyes.
Thanks for the comment! Yes indeed, the blue-eye genes being carried by this woman must have come from somewhere outside of China at some point. Your suggestion that the entry point could be the Central Asian or Siberian areas bordering China make sense. (I suppose it could also have been seaport areas, through sailors.) Thanks again!
Nice article. I had some awareness of the spread of so called recessive gene traits. I was just looking at the blog navigation. We both started blogging around the same time, but I stopped. How is it that you keep it up through the years?
Hi there Coach! 🙂
It’s interesting, I think my post on blue eyes has been the most read ever of my posts. It is clearly a source of some fascination to many people.
As for how I’ve managed to keep blogging, I don’t know really. My subject matter is very broad in scope, which helps; there’s always something new which is beautiful in its own way and which I haven’t written about. But I also put it down to my wife, who is my most faithful reader!
I found your blog to an image search for Palestinians with green eyes. So, your wife’s advice about using pictures is how I found your blog.
I can also see that you started you blog for the joy of writing. I started my blog with the intention of creating an income stream. So, that is why I burnt out after two years. It was in a particular niche as well, not varied.