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Volume 31, 1898
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Art. LXIV.—Congenital Stigmata.

Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 20th April, 1898.]

Plate LVIII.

The subject of congenital stigmata as a race distinction has been lately brought before scientists in France by Dr. J. J. Matignon, and confirmed by the observations of other medical men who have practised among the Mongols and other allied peoples. It may be of interest to start inquiry among anthropologists resident in the Pacific Islands, because assertions are sometimes made that an invasion of men of Mongolian blood has been made at certain times and into widely separated localities of Oceania. If it is found that any of these ethnical birth-marks can be traced among the natives of islands supposed to have been occupied by races of Chinese or Japanese affinity, it might assist us to trace the evidence of such racial occupation.

Chinese children have frequently been noticed as having dark marks, more or less deep in colour, upon the lumbar region. Chinese doctors affirm that these marks are almost

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invariably to be found upon children of tender age. The marks disappear on most of the children about the age of four years, but on a few not until they are ten or twelve. Most of the observations have hitherto been made upon infants brought to the hospitals for medical attendance, or left at the orphanages established by religious persons.

The marks appear to be independent of sex; they are found on boys and girls alike. They present the following appearance : The colour is variable; sometimes greyish; sometimes black or bluish-black; sometimes of different-colours, like that of a healing bruise. The colour often varies according to the age of the child, being deepest when the infant is newly born, and growing lighter with years. The shapes of the stigmata are uncertain, but their outlines are generally rounded off, and the dimensions are equally variable, sometimes being only of the size of a sixpence, while in other cases it may be as large as the palms of the two hands. The size also varies with age, the surface of the patch gradually diminishing inwards from the exterior boundaries. Some of these marks have been seen that in the first few months of life covered the back of both thighs and the whole lumbar region. Parts of these blotches may remain black while others are getting greyish in process of disappearance, whilst in others different colours are mingled so that it looks like a pattern of mosaic. These spots are not raised in relief above the adjoining surface of the skin, although certain of the very small and very dark places appear slightly raised, as though such a mark was a nævus; but this raising of the discoloured portion is less sensible to the finger than to the eye. The spots often escape observation if not particularly looked for, because Chinese babies are thickly encrusted with dirt; but in doubtful cases it is advisable to press the suspected part, which becomes white when the blood is expelled, and allows the tints of greenish-yellow to appear.

The marks are absorbed by the blood, just as the extravasated blood in a black eye is absorbed.

These marks appear as a racial characteristic—viz., of congenital and transitory stigmata—in the Chinese people; but Dr. Nokagawa, the doctor of the Japanese Legation in Pekin, states that the same markings are visible upon infant Japanese. The Ainos, the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan, do not present the dark-blue mark which is to be found on Japanese children. The people that inhabit the interior of the larger Philippine Islands—that is to say, the aborigines driven into the mountains and forests by the tribes at present in occupation of the coastal portions—appear also to have this mark. Whatever the origin may be of the Negritos, the Igarotes, the Tinguanes, the Burik, the Ifuagos, the Guinanes,

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the Itetepanes, and the Gaddanes—all aborigines of the Philippines—their children are born with a patch of dark colour on the loins, which, as they advance to mature age, disappears.

I think it would be worth the while of explorers and scientists, particularly in Micronesia and Melanesia, to make further inquiries into the question as to the birth-marks peculiar to certain tribes, if such marks exist. It may be a much more subtle witness of race-origin or race-crossing than colour of the general skin or hair-texture, and may some day help to throw the light into a dark place.