The Myth of a “Lost White Tribe” That Created a Global Racial Caste System

Pseudo-Scientific Theories About a "Perfect" Race Still Drive Ethnic Violence Today

18th-century German anatomist Johann Blumenbach kept a collection of 250 human skulls, but he found one skull particularly enchanting. “My beautiful typical head of a young Georgian female,” he wrote, “always of itself attracts every eye.”

Blumenbach kindled scientific interest in whiteness when he claimed to have found five distinct varieties of humankind in his collection. While he thought these varieties—which he called “races” in 1795—were more or less equal in character and intelligence, Blumenbach ranked them in terms of what he saw as their physical perfection.

Taken from the body …