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Dermatoglyphics in negroes of West Africa.

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DERMATOGLYPHICS I N NEGROES OF WEST AFRICA
HBROLD CUMMINS
Department of Anatomy, Tulane University
FOREWORD
The following account forms a supplement to mTilder7s
study of “Palm and sole prints of Liberian natives” ( ’13),
which was based upon a series of prints collected by Frederick
Starr in his expedition of 1912. Through the kindness of
Professor Starr,l a duplicate series of these prints has been
placed at the disposal of the present writer.
Several considerations prompted the restudy of the collection, and it may be mentioned that Professor Wilder encouraged this extension of his original paper. First of all,
it is desirable to have, for comparative purposes, a complete
analysis of all the dermatoglyphic features accessible in the
prints, namely, palmar main lines, palmar patterns, apical
finger patterns, and the plantar configurations. Wilder’s account is concerned chiefly with the palmar dermatoglyphs,
more especially the main lines, and but incidentally with
apical finger patterns and plantar configurations. On account of deficiencies of the prints, Wilder was able to make
complete and positive determinations of the main lines in
but 101 of the 200 palms in the collection. It was expected
that the list of complete formulae could be enlarged by the
duplicates, since there is a chance that at least some of these
might admit the study of features which were wanting o r
illegible in ninety-nine palms of Wilder’s set. A serial number had been attached by Starr to the prints of each man;
these numbers are employed by Wilder in his table of palmar
‘ F o r the privilege of the material I am iiidebted not oiily t o Professor Starr,
but also t o Dr. Charles Midlo, through whose interest the collection came t o my
hands.
9
AMERICAN JOURNAL O F PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, VOL. XIV, NO.
JANUARY-MARCH, 1930
1
10
H h R O L D CUM&fINS
formulae and in comments on individual prints, making it
possible to identify the duplicates with his records. Wilder 's
table 1carries, in addition to the 101 complete and dependable
formulae, a number of tentative formulations of the doubtfiil
prints. When my own determinations were checked against
the formulae in Wilder's table, it was found that some of
the questioned interpretations could be verified. extending
the reliable determinations to a total of 133 palms. Lastly,
an advantage is to be obtained by translating the palmar
determinations t o terms of the revised system (Cummins et
al., 'as), and with particular guard against errors which have
been sliown to exist in palmar interpretation and formulation
(Cummins et al., '28).
The material is derived from one hundred soldiers, natives
of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Since the individuals are all
males, the element of possible sexual variation cannot be
considered. The tribal composition is a matter of record
(Wilder, '13, list on p. 191), though a division of the results
according to tribes is not warranted, in view of the small
size of the collection. Data regarding the occurrence of racial
admixture are lacking. Whether there are any closely related
individuals in the series is unknown.
The prints are contact impressions, made by the common
printers '-ink method. Each individual is represented by
prints of tlie palms, finger tips, and soles, though many of the
impressions, particularly those of the palms, are incomplete
01- only partially decipherable. Calculations of the incidences
of the various features are thus based upon varying numbers
of individuals, the total being indicated in each instance. -4
loupe magnifying about 2f diameters was employed in tracing
the main lines and in other observations demandiiig magnification.
This account does not aim to make exteiisire comparisons
with the dermatoglyphic traits of other peoples. Its objectivc
is t o make the findings available, in full tabulations, for the
benefit of future comparath-e studies in which they may be
of service. The literature cited prorides sources for detailed
DERMATOGLYPHICS IN NEGKOES
11
comparisons, and only certain seemingly noteworthy characteristics are mentioned.
METHODS O F FORMULATION
The interpretation and formulation of palmar main lines
and patterns follow the methods recently described by Cummins et al. ('29). These methods constitute a revision of
Wilder's procedures (Wilder, '16, '22 ; Wilder and Wentworth, '18). I n comparing results obtained by the use of the
revised and the original methods, allowance must be made for
certain differences in the two systems, both in procedure and
the significance of symbols (Cummins, '29). Discrepancies
between the incidences of palmar features recorded f o r the
present collection in Wilder's paper and in this report are
due, however, almost wholly to the addition of thirty-two
palms to the series formulated.
Galton's ( '92) arch-loop-whorl classification is employed
in the formulation of apical patterns.
The formulation of plantar configurations follows Wilder's
method, of ~vhiclithe most complete account is presented in
Wilder and Went w o ~11t.
THE PALM
,Vain. limes
Of the one hundred prints of right hands, only fift;v-two are
complete in every respect. Of the remaining prints, sixteen
are unsuited to the tracing of main lines, owing usually to
incomplete printing of the distal zone wherein are located
the digital triradii from which the lines arise. The remaining thirty-two prints are only partially decipherable, but one,
two, or three main lines being traceable in each. Curiously,
the prints of left hands are more complete. Eighty prints
are formulated in their entirety; thirteen prints lack the
formulation of one or more lines, and seven prints are so
incomplete that not one main line can be traced.
Line A . Following the principles of formulating main
lines, there result in this series several varieties of symbols
12
HAROLD CUMMINS
iiivolving line A which required special attention in the counting of its terminations. First, the dual formulations 11/3,
11/5', and the like, of which there are several examples, are
recorded when the line joins a triradius of a second interdigital pattern, with the consequence that the line is traceable both to a distal termination and to a position on the
ulnar-proximal borders of the palm. I n the counting of the
terminations (table 1) the distal termination was ignored
in every case. The ground for this selection is that the generalized slant of the palmar ridge courses is indicated by the
latter element of the symbol, while from the standpoint of a
comparative treatment the distal termination is an unimT-4BLE 1
Tervziiiations of liize A , giving the percentile occurrence of each position for the
right hand (compiled f r o m eighty palms), for the left hand (cornpaled
from ninety palms), and the average of the two percentages
POSITION
i
RIGHT
Per cent
3
3
4
5'
5"
35.0
21.2
42.5
1.2
1
&EFT
1
AVEBAGE
Per cent
Per cent
1.1
57.7
23.3
17.7
0.5
46.3
22.2
30.1
0.6
portant local detail. The single example of the closely related
11-5' was treated in the same manner. Two examples of dual
terminations on the ulnar border (4/3 and 4/2) were entered
in the count of positions as 3 and 2, respectively, with the
belief that the lower termination represents the significant
generalized slant of the palmar configuration. When the
line enters a hypothenar pattern (giving here several symbols
of 3h and 4h) the entrance into the pattern is ignored, the
terminations being entered in the count as if the line actually
reached the margin. The alternative position in several alternative formulations, such as 4(3), is ignored, with reasonable
confidence in the validity of the interpretation given prscedence in the symbol. The remaining terminations of line A
are unequivocal.
13
DERMATOGLYPHICS IK NEGROES
Perhaps the most striking feature of line A is the want
of terminations in position 1 and the represeiitatioii of position 2 by a single instance (which is a left hand). Terminations on the proximal border are thus exceptionally rare.
Notwithstanding the extreme reduction of the proximal
positions, which are recognized to have a differential incidence
in right and left hands, a bimanual distinction is quite evident in the apportionment of termiiiations among the levels
of the ulnar border. Position 4, it will be recalled, sigiiifies
a termination at an intermediate level in the length of the
ulnar margin, while positions 3 and 5 (with its divisions 5”
and 5’) embrace terminations estending over the proximal
TABLE 2
Terminations of h e B, giving the percenttle occurrence of each positton f o r f h e
right hand (comptled f r o m seventy-one p a l m s ) , f o r the left Land (concptlrrl
f r o m ninety-one p a l m s ) , and the average of the two percetilnges
POSITION
5’
5w
6
LEFT
AVERAGE
Per cent
Per cent
Per cent
14.0
67.6
4.2
34.0
61.7
24.0
64.6
2.1
3.1
RIGHT
~
_
_
_
_
and distal halves, respectively, of this margin. Position 4 is
about equally represented in the two hands. In left hands
the remaining terminations are concentrated in the lower
half of the ulnar margin, while in right hands the terminations are more concentrated, though not so much proportionately, in the distal half.
L i m e B. The terminations of line B are assembled in table
2. The proportion of terminations in the distal half of the
ulnar margin is rather uncommonly high in both hands. The
left hand, as is usual, displays more terminations on the
ulnar border than does the left.
L i m e C. The positions of line C are shown in table 3. The
large proportion of terminations in 5” seems noteworthy.
14
HAROLD CUMMINS
Line D. In interpreting line D, a number of dual formulations appear, in these prints invariably represented by the
symbol 9/7. Such terminations result from the fusion of
the line with an accessory triradius of the fourth interdigital
pattern. As pointed out by C u m i n s and Midlo (’as), the
more radial position provides the significant indication of
TABLE 3
Terminations of line C , giving the perceatile occurrmce of each position for the
right Ramd (compiled f r o m f i f t y f o u r p a l m s ) , for the left hand (compiled
f v o m eighty-oiie p a l m s ) , and the average of the t w o percentages
~POSITION
RIGHT
LEFT
Per c e n t
Per cent
3.7
3.7
33.3
5.5
14.8
38.8
3.7
6.1
53.0
0
X
.i”
G
7
9
AVERIDE
___Per ceibt
3.7
4.9
43.1
2.7
19.1
26.1
23.4
13.5
~-
TABLE 4
Teimwiatioiis of 1%neD , gzvzng the percentzle occurrence of each posztzon f o r the
right lmad (compz.led f r m szxty-two p a l m s ) , f o r t h e left hand (compzled
froin ctglity-seven p a l m s ) , and the avo-age o f Ihe t w o percentages
- - ___ - -.-POSITION
RIGHT
~-
LEFT
1
~
7
8
9
10
11
-
Per c a n t
Per c e n t
37.1
4.8
33.8
4.8
19.3
63.5
-
25.7
2.3
3.4
1
~
~
~
AVCR.4GE
____..
Per ceiil
51.3
2.4
31.2
3.5
11.3
________-.
generalized ridge alignment, and in all such cases it is accordingly chosen in counting the terminations for the makeup
of table 4. I n the instance of several alternative formulations, such as 11(10), 7(8), and the like, the alternative position is ignored in the count, with the belief that the first
formulation is reasonably dependable.
The extremely low incidence of positions 11 and 10 is
worthy of mention. Positions 7 and 9 are the characteristic
DERilIATOGLPPRICS I N NEGROES
15
terminations in this collection, and, as usual, are more common in left hands. Reference should be made also to the
grouping of terminations in modal types (table 5).
Conaplete main-line formulae. Table 6 presents the occurrences of formulae in accordance with the treatment adopted
by Wilder ('22). The abundance of 7.5.5.- formulae is iioteTABLE 5
T h e termanations of line D grouped according t o the
and Midlo ( ' 2 6 )
IlLOdd
1clpes of Cwni I I I I ? I S
TYPE
P e r ceiLt
Per
41.9
38.6
19.3
7
I,
11
c'iit
I
Pcr rent
53.7
34.8
11.3
65..5
31.0
3.4
TABLE 6
Pel centde d t & t b ~ t l ~ ?of~ the mawa-line fonioulae nccot &ng t o t h e y i oiipr?ig
suggested by Wzlder ( ' 3 3 ) . Percentages are cnlculated o u the basas o f
the ?oiimber of pa1in.s L ~ wkich
L
the mawt lznes a?-e contplelely foi ~ittilated
(fifty t w o r z g 7 ~ t ;eighty l e f t )
_ _-
RIGHT
-
-
-
I
P e r cent
7.5.5.34.6
9.7.5.17.3
11.9.7.17.3
~ l l o t l i e r s 30.7
-~
______
LEFT
'
1
~
e eei,t
i
55.0
26.2
2.5
16.2
__
1
,
AVLR4GE
1
-
1
__
Pel ceici
44.8
21.7
9.9
23.4
worthy. 9greater variabilit,y of riglit liands is reflected in
a higher iiicideiice of formulae which are unrelated to the
t h e e characteristic forms. The main-line formulae may be
assorted in accordance with modal types (table 7). With this
assortment the 7 and 9 types are shown t o be strikingly in the
ascendancy. Bimannal distinctions may be summarized by
the relative abundance of the types: in riglit liands 9>7>11,
while in left hands 7>9>11.
16
HAROLD CUMMINS
Axial triradii
Determinations of axial triradii are detailed in table 8. In
the absence of varied comparative data, on the basis of the
present formulation, it is impossible to state whether any
racially characteristic traits are present. I n the Central
American Indians ( Cummins, '29), however, there appears
to be a greater tendency for distal shifting of these elements
(with 58 per cent of the palms bearing a t, and 40 per cent,
a t').
TABLE 7
Percentile distribution of the maimline formulae according t o the modal types
of Cummins and Midlo. Percentages are calculated on the basis of the
number of palms admitting assignment t o t h e modal typcs (sixty-one right;
eighty-two l e f t ) ; it should be noted that several palms in which the main
lines are incompletely formulated can be so assigned
TYPE
7
9
11
RIGHT
LEFT
AVEBSGE
Per cent
Per cent
Per cent
36.0
44.2
19.6
57.3
39.0
3.6
46.6
41.6
ll.G
TABLE 8
Percentile occurrences of axial triradii (compiled f r o m seventy-one right palms
and seventy-three l e f t s )
1
RIGHT
______
t
t'
tt'
t"
1
LEFT
I
AVERAGE
Per cent
Per cent
Per cent
66.2
30.9
1.4
1.4
70.0
23.2
4.1
2.7
68.1
27.0
2.7
3.0
Patterns
The distribution of the varieties of hypothenar configurations is shown in table 9, and the total incidence of true patterns, as contrasted with pa.tternless configurations, is given
in table 10. The infrequency of hypothenar patterns (18.2
per cent for all varieties combined) is a conspicuous feature
of the collection. A source of possible error in the record of
patterns of the L' type should be recognized. Some of the
17
DERMATOGLYPHJCS IN NEGROES
palm prints are not adequately rolled over the ulnar margin.
and it is possible that an L' having its enclosed end well
extended beyond the area printed would not be correctly
identified, being then recorded as an A". Careful inspection
TABLE 9
Percentile occurrences of the varieties of hypothenar configurations (compiled
f r o m ninety-eight right palms and ninety-seven l e f t s )
TYPE
L"
L'
Lr/Ac
A"/L"
T'
A '/Lr
A"
RIGHT
LEFT
1
AVERAGE
Per cent
Percent
j
Percent
1.o
12.2
3.0
1.0
12.3
2.0
3.0
1.0
1.0
64.2
G3.9
I,
1i
2.5
2.0
0.5
0.5
64.0
15.8
1.5
1
I
__-
0.5
12.2
~--
TABLE 10
Percentile occurrences of true p a t t e r m and pattern vestiges o f the palm (not
including 'multiplications' in the interdigital areas or arches of the hypothenar
area). T h e separately li.?ted true hypothenar patterns of table 8 are here
combined. T h e numbers of palms f r o m which t h s figures are compiled follow:
H y p o t h a a r , ninety-eight right, ninety-seven l e f t ; thenur and first interdigital,
one hundred right, ninety-eight l e f t ; second interdigital, s i z t y right, seventynine l e f t ; third interdigital, fifty-two right, seventy-four l e f t ; f o u r t h interdigital, fifty-eight right, eighty-two left
~
PATTERN
RIGHT
LEFT
___
Per cent
Hypothenar
Thenar and first interdigital
Second interdigital
Third interdigital
Fourth interdigital
Per cen
AVERAGE
Per cent
18.3
22.4
6.3
18.9
93.9
18.2
9.0
13.3
40.3
84.5
~
18.2
15.7
9.8
29.6
89.2
--
of the prints leads to the conclusion that incomplete printing
of L' patterns proba.bly is an almost negligible source of
error. It appears, therefore, that the scarcity of patterns
may be accepted as a definite racial trait, especially since
similar low .figures are reported for two other collections of
18
HAROLD C U M M I N S
iiegroes (Wilder, '04, a small series of negroes in America;
Steggerda, '29, blacks in Jamaica).
A patterned configuration of the thenar eminence, representing morphologically the thenar and first interdigital patterns, is fairly frequent. Second interdigital patterns occur
in almost 10 per cent of the hands-an unusual frequency
which is approximately that reported for Jews (Cummins
and Midlo, '27). Third interdigital patterns are relatively
infrequent, while patterns of the fourth interdigital area display a remarkably high frequency, unmatched by any race
thus far studied and approached only by the Central American Indians, where the average for both hands is 76.6 per
cent (Cummins, '29). There are 126 palms (49 rights and
77 lefts) bearing fourth interdigital patterns, as follows: L
occurs in 72 palms, 1 in 4, D in 37, d in 1, I,,% in 11, and
L/L in 1.
APICAL PATTEBNS
The finger-print sets are complete f o r only fifty-eight individuals. Calculation of the occurrences of the four basic
types of configurations is based upon these alone, the incomplete sets being useless for the purpose 011 account of bimanual and digital peculiarities in the incidence of the types.
The percentile distribution of types in the 580 patterns is :
whorls, 38.9; ulnar loops, 56.3; radial loops, 1.0; arches, 3.6.
While the series is small, it pielcls certain possibly significant indications of a racial trend, which will be of interest in
comparison with a tabulation of other racial studies, such as
Boiinevie's ('24) table 5. The most outstanding result is
the low incidence of radial loops, amounting to only 1 per
cent, in contrast to occurrences ranging from 2.7 per cent to
5.8 per cent in a number of peoples assembled for comparison
by Bonnevie. The figure of 1 per ceiit represents an occurrence of six radial loops among the 580 apical patterns.
Since it is so rare a pattern, the incomplete sets of prints
may be scanned to determine whether their addition would
appreciably alter the incidence reported for the fifty-eight
complete sets. Among the forty-two incomplete sets there
19
DERMATOGLYPHICS IN NEGROES
are four radial loops, digit I1 of right hands accounting for
three of them, a right digit 117 for the fourth example. Eadial
loops, it should be recalled, are practically confined to digits
I1 and IV in all peoples ; in this collection 376 of the patterns
of these digits are lmowii, out of an expected total of 400,
and it seems quite unlikely that the twenty-f our iiidecipherable prints could carry a coilcentration of radial loops sufficient to enlarge appreciably the percentile incidence of this
pattern.
In table 11 are collected the occurrences of pattern types
for each digit separately, of interest in comparison with Boiinevie's tables 6 to 9.
TABLE 11
Percrjrtile orcuwcnces of p a . t t w n t y p e s for each digit separately
I
Arches
Radial loops
Ulnar loops
Irnorls
I1
4.7
11.1
31.5
60.7
39.5
49.3
9.6
6.4
7.6
3.1
14.0 53.2
'
39.7 36.9
- .
111
1.0
80.2
18.7
~
IV
4.0 I
73.8
23.2
PLANTAR CONFIGURATIONS
An analysis of the hallueal aiid three interdigital coiifiguratioiis is carried in table 12. Of particular interest are the
large incidences of whorls in the liallucal area and of L
T patterns in the third interdigital area (compare Cummiiis and
Midlo, '27, table 14).
20
HAROLD CUMMINS
TABLE 12
Percentile occurvences of particular pattern types and open fields i n each of the
four distal plan.tar areas
AREA A N D NUMBER
COMPILED
Hallucal
(197 soles)
1
CONFIGURATION
TYPE
A
B
c
W
0
First interdigital
(191 soles)
0
U
n
m
Second interdigital
(188 soles)
0
U
n
w
Third interdigital
(189 soles)
0
U
n
1
1
OCCURRENCE
25.3
13.7
0.5
55.3
5.0
66.4
0.5
31.9
0.5
28.7
51.0
2.1
18.0
65.0
34.3
0.5
SUMMARY
Palmar main lines, palmar patterns, apical patterns, and
the configuratioiis of the four distal plantar areas are analyzed in one hundred male natives of Liberia and Sierra
Leone. The report forms an extension of Wilder’s study of
the same collection (Amer. Anthrop., XV, 1913).
The racially significant trends of variation are as follows,
the figures being percentile and stating the averages of the
occurrences of the respective features in right and left members: proximal terminations of line A (positions 1and 2) are
reduced (0.5); line D terminates commonly in positions 7
(51) and 9 (31) ; the most common formula is 7.5.5.- (45),
and next, 9.7.5.- (22) ; hypothenar patterns infrequent (18) ;
the thenar-first interdigital pattern fairly frequent (16) ;
second interdigital pattern fairly frequent (10) ; third interdigital patterns relatively infrequent (30) ; fourth interdigital patterns very common (89) ; among apical patterns
radial loops are reduced (1); hallucal patterns have an
DERMATOGLYPHICS I N NEGROES
21
abundant representation of whorls (55) ; the third, fibularmost, plantar interdigital area has a high incidence of U
pat,terns (34).
LITERATURE CITED
BONNEVTE,
KRISTINE 1924 Studies on papillary patterns of the fingers. Jour.
Geneties, XV, 1-111.
CUMMINS, HAROLDDermatoglyphics in Indians of southern Mexico and Central
America (Sta. Eulalia, Tzeltal, Lacondon and Maya tribes). (In
press.)
CUMXKINS,HAROLD,
AND CHARLES MIDLO 1926 Palmar and plantar epidermal
configurations (dermatoglyphics) in European-Americans. Am. J.
Phys. Anthrop., 19, 471-502.
1927 Dermatoglyphics in Jews. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop., X, 91-113.
CUMNINS, HAROLD,
H. H. KEITH,C. MIDLO, R. B. MONTGOMERY,
H. H. WILDER,
AND I. W. WILDER 1928 Study of error in interpretation and formulation of palmar dermatoglyphics. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop., XI,
501-521.
1929 Revised methods of interpreting and formulating palmar
dermatoglyphics. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop., XII, 415-473.
GALTON,FRANCIS
1892 Finger prints. Macmillan.
KEITH, HAREIETH. 1924 Racial differences in the papillary lines. Am. J.
Phys. Anthrop., VII, 165-206.
STEGGERDA,
INEZ
D. 1929 Palmar dermatoglyphics in negro-white crosses. (In
“Race crossing in Jamaica. ”) Carnegie Inst. of Wash., Publication
395, 229-252.
WILDER,HARRISH. 1904 Racial differences in palm and sole configuration.
Am. Anthrop., VI, 244-292.
1913 Racial differences in palm and sole configuration. 11. Palm
and sole prints of Liberian natives. Am. Anthrop., XV, 189-207.
1916 Palm and sole studies. Biol. Bull., XXX, 135-172, 211-252.
1922 Racial differences in palm and sole configuration. Palm and
sole prints of Japanese and Chinese. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop., V,
143-206.
WILDER,H W S H., AND BERT WENWORTH 1918 Personal identification.
Badger.
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