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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Boyd Dawkins   29 January [1870]1

R. S. Evans Esq,2 | Belvedere Park, Lessness Heath | Kent.

29. Jan 1869.

My dear Sir,

I just write you a line about the skeletons in the Cave at Perth y chwari near Corwen, because I have lighted on a fact of considerable ethnological value. The human skulls are indisputably of the River-bed type (of Huxley),3 the tibiæ are strongly platycnemic,4 and thus the bandy-legged-ness of the River-bed race is established. The bandy-legged race occurs in Algeria, S. France, & Spain, as well as in the laterite of India (.— Last year Dr Oldham5 sent me a scrap big enough to swear by.) and now must be extended to Britain. I believe that once they occupied a large portion of Europe. Busk and I are laying our heads together, and I think that we shall make something out of the investigation.6 At Easter I am to have another dig in Denbigh, and after that the Craven caves are in hand as you will see by the enclosed.7

Wishing you a happy new year, I am Dear Sir | Yours truly | W. Boyd Dawkins

Charles Darwin Esq.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. B. Dawkins, 19 October 1869 (Correspondence vol. 17). Dawkins must have written ‘1869’ in error.
Robert Speke Evans was Dawkins’s father-in-law.
Thomas Henry Huxley had noticed common features in prehistoric skulls found mainly in river-bed sites in Britain and Ireland (T. H. Huxley 1862).
Platycnemia: flattening of the tibia (OED).
Thomas Oldham.
George Busk and Dawkins described the human remains at Perthichwareu in the Journal of the Ethnological Society (Dawkins and Busk 1870).
The Craven caves are near Settle, North Yorkshire. The enclosure has not been found, but probably related to the formation of a committee to undertake the exploration of the caves, beginning with the Victoria Cave; Dawkins made a preliminary report in Nature, 21 April 1870, pp. 628–9. On Dawkins’s research on the platycnemic bones, see also Lucas 2007.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Lucas, Peter. 2007. Charles Darwin, ‘little Dawkins’ and the platycnemic Yale men: introducing a bioarchaeological tale of the descent of man. Archives of Natural History 34: 318–45.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Discovery of skull of "River-bed" race of man near Corwen.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Boyd Dawkins
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 122
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6582,” accessed on 5 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18