Some people think that ancient Iranians (unlike Iranians today) were white and had green/blue eyes and blonde hair.

I am myself an Iranian and I do not look white; I do not have blue/green eyes and do not have blond hair.

I was wondering if there is any evidence how Cyrus the great looked like and if he saw the Iranians of today, would he be surprised that the majority of Iranians do not share his eye/hair/skin color?

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    Have you tried searching Google Images for pictures? Remember that the 2500 years between the time of Cyrus and the present leaves a lot of room for movement & intermarriage between peoples. As for instance the Islamic conquests, and the subsequent importation of African slaves. Also, just for what it's worth, all of the dozen or so Iranian immigrants to the US that I've known would certainly be considered "white", even if not blond & blue-eyed. – jamesqf May 15 '15 at 6:30
  • @jamesqf: The google images show Cyrus the great same as me but I guess that is not reliable. Yes, we are mixed with Arabs and Mongols and so is any other nation; no single race can claim that they stayed pure. My father is white but I am not; even more interesting, my mom's sister (my aunt) is blonde and has green eyes. – user77791 May 15 '15 at 6:49
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    There are no contemporary portraits of Cyrus. Hence, searching Google Images is pointless. – fdb May 15 '15 at 7:50
  • There are portraits of Cyrus the great. Unfortunately they do not show colors:-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great#/media/… – Alex May 15 '15 at 17:05
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    I never noticed "skin color" as we understand it now mentioned in the ancient sources. What color was Hannibal's skin, for example? Perhaps they did not find this relevant. – Alex May 15 '15 at 17:09

For Cyrus specifically, the closest to a contemporary image I could find is this bas-relief found at Pasargadae. I think the best we can really draw from it is that he most likely had a beard. There isn't really any other racially identifying characteristics, and its monochrome so you can't really guess at the hair or skin color that is being portrayed.

enter image description here

As for the ancient Iranians, our first record of them moving into their ancestral homeland is around 800 BC. At that point they likely physically resembled other early Indo-Europeans. The question is what that was.

It is surprisingly difficult to find references to studies of physical appearance outside of sketchy sites pushing racial agendas. What I did dig up tended to agree that skin and hair color appears to have undergone a surprising amount of selection pressure, meaning that these would be among the absolute first features to evolve to match what works best at the latitude a people are living. So skin color is actually about the worst thing to look at to ascertain relations between peoples.

The best I was able to dig up was this Science story. I could be misinterpreting, but it appears to be saying that the PIE people who moved into Europe carried multiple light-skin traits, one of which nearly disappeared in central Europe, but later came back into prominence amongst those that proceeded into northern Europe. The PIE people also appeared to have a tendency to be a bit taller.

Exactly how fast this process evolves I'm not sure. However, Cyrus was only about 2 centuries removed from the Iranian descent into their homeland, so I'd think it fairly likely he was a bit fairer than your typical human being living in the subtropics. But we really don't know.

  • Based on that stela I can confidentally state that Cyrus' skin color was "stone" and his eye color was also "stone". – Tyler Durden May 16 '15 at 15:13

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