BBC Radio 3: “Caucasian Roots”

The BBC Broadcasting house in London, UK., Apr 17, 2015, Tbilisi, Georgia

Historian Bettany Hughes is on a journey through the Caucasus, the land that sits on the boundary of Asia and Europe, to understand its mythologised and pivotal place in Western history.

In part two of the Sunday Feature series on BBC Radio 3, Hughes digs deep into history’s legends and myths to find out the influences of the Caucasus on the Western imagination, and why white people are called ‘Caucasian’.

For the Ancient Greeks, the Caucasus was home to the Golden Fleece, the Amazons and Prometheus. In the Christian tradition it was thought to be the resting place of Noah's Ark after the flood. In this series, Bettany travels to the region to find the roots of these stories and test how far the myths are backed up by reality.”

Hughes quotes the work of German physician, physiologist and anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who in 1795 published a new edition of his most famous work on the ‘natural varieties of mankind’ after reviewing his extensive collection of human skulls from around the world.

His findings state: "The Caucasian variety – I have taken the name of this variety from mount Caucasus, both because its neighbourhood and its southern slope produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian, and because all physiological reasons converge to this: that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place … the original people of mankind.”

Listen to the full radio piece here: