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V. 2(23 

Return this book on or before the 
Latest Date stamped below. 

University of Illinois Library 


L161 — H41 




Volume XXVI 

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Anthropological Series 

Field Museum of Natural History 

Founded by Marshall Field, 1893 

Volume XXVI 






BY 3E:C2 9|937 

Wilfrid D. Hambly^wversjty of /ufiyofs 


111 Text Figures, 5 Maps 

Paul S. Martin 


Publication 394 


Anthropological Series 

Field Museum of Natural History 

Founded by Marshall Field, 1893 

Volume XXVI 

SOURCE book 


AFRICAN anthropology 



Wilfrid D. Hambly 






111 Text Figures, 5 Maps 

Paul S. Martin 


Publication 394 





Part I 


List of Illustrations 7 

Foreword 13 

Preface 15 


I. Physiography and Nature Notes 19 

Physical Features 19 

Climate 30 

Vegetation Zones 32 

Animal Life 51 

II. History 72 

Kinds of Evidence . • 72 

Datable Events 73 

III. Prehistory 91 

Fossil Man 91 

Stone Implements 99 

Archaeological Technique 99 

Europe 101 

North Africa 106 

East Africa 118 

South Africa 123 

The Congo Region and West Africa 132 

Rock Paintings and Engravings 137 

Stone Monuments and Buildings 152 

IV. Physical Anthropology 161 

Technique 161 

Negroes 163 

Western Negroes (Table 1) 165 

Central Negroes (Table 2) 172 

South and Southwestern Negroes (Table 3) 175 

Eastern Negroes (Table 4) 177 

Nilotic Negroes (Table 5) 180 

Semites, Hamites, Half-Hamites (Table 6) 186 

Hamites (Northern) 194 

Hamites (Eastern) 194 

Half-Hamites 202 

Pygmies (Table 7) 202 

Khoisan People (Bushmen and Hottentots) (Tables 7, 8) 210 

Comparison of Physical Types 220 

Stature 220 

Head Form 222 

Nose 222 


4 Contents 


Human Origins and Migrations 226 

Paleontology 226 

Dispersal of Physical Types 227 

The Concept of Race 229 

Differentiation 231 

Environment 232 

Hybridization 233 

Quantitative and Qualitative Differences 234 

African Migrations and Mixtures 240 

Pygmies and the Khoisan 240 

Negroes 243 

Hamites and Semites 248 

V. Congenital Anomalies, Deformation, Ornaments, and 

Clothing 255 

VI. Psychology 276 

VII. Languages and Literature 288 

Language and Culture 288 

Classification of Languages 289 

Bushman Languages 291 

Sudanic Languages 293 

Bantu Languages 296 

Hamitic and Semitic Languages 299 

Writing (Table 9) 302 

Proverbs 309 

Folklore 311 

Songs and Poetry 316 

Sign and Whistling Languages 318 

, Drama 319 

Symbolic Messages and Drum Language 320 

Field Records 322 


I. Topography and Culture 325 

II. Hunting Cultures 329 

Bushmen 329 

Pygmies 341 

III. Pastoral Pursuits 349 

IV. Camel Keepers of the Sahara 361 

The Tuareg 361 

The Tibesti Plateau 372 

The Libyan Oases 375 

V. Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 379 

The Arabian Background 379 

TheKababish 380 

Mohammedanism 387 

Arab-Berber Culture 393 

VI. Agriculture 398 

Contents 5 


Part II 


Introduction 407 

I. Sexual Life 409 

Courtship and Marriage 409 

Polygamy 417 

Divorce 419 

Other Sexual Relations 424 

II. Education of Children 429 

Pregnancy and Infancy 429 

Home Influence, Games, Dancing, Music 442 

Initiation into the Tribe 45g 

III. Social Organization 469 

Kinship Terms (Tables 10, 11) ' 469 

The Family 475 

Clans and Totems 434 

The Village and the Kingdom 495 

IV. Social Controls 49g 

Secret Societies 493 

Age-Groups 502 

Law 506 

V. Social Conflicts 52i 

Warfare and Head-hunting 52i 

Slavery 533 

VI. Religion 541 

Difficulties of Study 54]^ 

The Idea of God 542 

Sacred Kings 548 

Survival after Death, and Ancestor Worship 556 

Religion and Conduct 565 

Sacred Animals 567 

Medicine-men 57O 

VII. Economic Life 586 

Agriculture 586 

Domestic Animals 594 

Hunting 596 

Fishing 602 

Nature Lore and Collecting 604 

Commerce 609 

Arts and Handicrafts 613 

Ritual and Occupation 642 


I. Exploration 649 

Maritime Enterprise 649 

The Sahara and the Niger 654 

The Congo and Zambezi Rivers 661 

South and East Africa 666 

The Nile and Northeast Africa 668 

6 Contents 


II, European Governments 672 

The Partitioning of Africa 672 

Independent Territory 673 

Britain 674 

France 681 

Belgium 684 

Portugal 684 

Italy 685 

Spain 688 

III, Welfare of Africans 690 

Health and Population 690 

Labor Laws 696 

Education and Administration 698 

Anthropology and Government . 710 

IV, Suggestions for Research 720 

History of Anthropology 720 

The Present 722 

The Future 725 


Periodicals 728 

Authors 733 

Political Areas 836 

Sources by E. V. Prostov 840 

General Index 867 

Bibliographical Index 921 

Text Figures 



1. Unloading natron, Baya Seyarum, Lake Chad 27 

2. Types of landscape, a. Parkland scenery near Sokoto, Nigeria, river 

bed in drought, b. Dense forest bordering a river, Cameroons . . 33 

3. Parkland scenery on high plateau, Abyssinia (from photograph by 

A. M. Bailey). Field Museum-Chicago Daily News Abyssinian 
Expedition 35 

4. Sandy Pliocene desert southwest of Dahshur Pyramids, Egypt (cour- 

tesy of Oriental Institute, University of Chicago) 36 

5. Gebel Rakhmaniyyah with Pliocene platform, Wadi Madamud, 

Egypt (courtesy of Oriental Institute, University of Chicago) . 37 

6. Semi-desert with thorn bush, near Hawash, Abyssinia (from photograph 

by A. M. Bailey). Field Museum-Chicago Daily News Abyssinian 
Expedition 39 

7. Baobab tree and semi-desert scenery (from painting by Field Museum 

Staff Artist, Charles A. Corwin) 40 

8. a. North African oasis with date palms. Phoenix dadylifera (from 

painting by Field Museum Staff Artist, Charles A. Corwin). b. Oil 
palm, Elaeis guineensis 43 

9. a. Borassus palm, Borassus flabellifer. b. Dum palm, Hyphaene 

thebaica 45 

10. a. Raffia palm, Elende, Angola. 6. Climbing a palm, Cameroons . . 47 

11. a. Euphorbia menelikii, Abyssinian plateau, desert type of vegetation, 

15 meters high (after F. Rosen, from G. Karsten and H. Schenck). 

b. Termite hill, Cameroons 49 

12. African water-hole, southern Abyssinia. Black rhinoceros. Grant's 

zebra, common eland on extreme left. Grant's gazelle (from group 

in Field Museum) 53 

13. Domestic animals, a. Fat-tailed sheep, b. Long-eared Syrian goat. 

c. Fat-rumped sheep, d. Keltic breed of long-snouted pig .... 57 

14. Hyrax, Abyssinia. Scale about 1:20 (from group in Field Museum) . . 60 

15. African cheetahs. Scale about 1:36 (from group in Field Museum) . 61 

16. African hyenas, a. Spotted, b. Striped. Scale about 1:24 (from 

groups in Field Museum) 63 

17. Mongoose, southwest Africa. Scale about 1:3 (from specimen in Field 

Museum) 65 

18. a. Aardvark. Scale about 1: 15. b. Pangolin. Scale about 1 : 8 (from 

specimens in Field Museum) 66 

19. Catfish, Clarias senegalensis. Scale about 1:3 67 

20. African weaver-birds and nest. Scale about 1:6 (from specimens in 

Field Museum) 69 

'"21. African paleoliths. Scale about 7: 12. a. Paleolith of brownish tinge, 
plano-convex, worked on convex side. Ormiston, East Griqualand. 
b. Paleolith of gray stone, trimmed with coarse flakes both sides, 
ridges well worn, Vaal River Gravel, Barkly West, on bed rock 
under 24 inches of gravel, c. Paleolith, Mousterian type, Somali- 
land. Presented by H. W. Seton-Karr. d. Paleolith, Mousterian 
type, of white quartzite, Somaliland. Presented by H. W. Seton- 
Karr. e. Paleolith, Mousterian type, brown quartzite, Somali- 
land. Presented by H. W. Seton-Karr. /. Paleolith, chisel 
shaped, grayish color, Taungs, South Africa 105 


8 List of Illustrations 


*22. African stone implements. Scale about 2:3. a. Stone celt of reddish 
color, Neolithic, Ashanti. b. Gray stone implement, Mousterian 
type, Glen Grey Hills, Queenstown, Cape Province, South Africa. 
c. Brown stone implement, Mousterian type, provenance same as 
(6). d. Gray stone implement, Smithfield culture, Mousterian 
type, flat one side, De Keil Oost, Orange Free State, South Africa. 
e-j. Crescentic implements and core (g) of the Wilton type. 
Western Free State, South Africa 107 

*23. African implements of stone and bone. Scale about 2:3. a, h-k. 
Collected by Miss Caton-Thompson and presented to Field 
Museum by British School of Archaeology in Egypt, a. Flint 
implement with serrated edge, Qasr Sagha, Faiyum Desert, Egypt. 

b. c. Flint point, Cap Blanc, French Mauretania. d-g. Bone 
awls, Wilton culture, Robbery Cave, South Africa, h. Long 
flint flake retouched at point, Faiyum Desert, Egypt, i. Neo- 
lithic javelin point of flint. Old Lake Basin, Faiyum Oasis, Egypt. 
j-k. Neohthic arrowheads of flint, Faiyum Desert, Egypt, l-n. 
Flint arrow heads, NeoHthic, Cap Blanc, French Mauretania . . . 113 

24. Rock paintings and engravings, a. Paintings from Ennedi, Sahara, 
after Passemard and Saint-Floris. Size not given, color red. b. 
Rock engravings, Sahara, after Barth. Size about 3 by 4 feet. 

c. Engraving of white rhinoceros. South Africa, after Oilman. 
Technique furrowing and pointing, lightly pecked. Scale 1:8. 

d. Painting, South Africa, after Stow and Bleek. Rhinoceros 
hunt, hunters wearing hartebeests' heads. Painting on rocks at 
Kareefontein on Caledon River, Ladybrand District. Color 
black, size 18 by 35 inches 139 

2-5. Negro types, Ogbomosho, Nigeria, a. Bini man. b. Jekri youth . 166 

26. Negro types, Ovimbundu, Angola, a. Modified Negro type. b. Typi- 

cal Negro features 167 

27. Bari man, near Juba. Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (courtesy of Marvin 

Breckinridge, copyright) 182 

28. Bari man, near Juba. Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (courtesy of Marvin 

Breckinridge, copyright) 183 

29. Bedouin Arab of Tunis, North Africa 185 

30. Bedouin Arab of Tunis, North Africa 187 

31. Well-educated, Arabic-speaking type, Tunisia, Berber features . . .189 

32. Bedouin Arab woman, Tunisia, North Africa 191 

33. Bedouin Arab woman, Tunisia, North Africa 192 

34. Pure Saharan Berber (Tuareg) type (after M. G. Grandidier) . . . .193 

35. Egyptians of Luxor, a. Hamitic type. b. Showing Negroid and 

Hamitic mixtures (after photographs by H. Field) 195 

36. Amharic-speaking Abyssinians, Addis Ababa (after photographs by 

A. M. Bailey). Left, hair-dressing indicates that he has killed 
a lion. Right, Amharic-speaking Abyssinian, Addis Ababa. Field 
Museum-Chicago Daily News Abyssinian Expedition 196 

37. Eastern Hamitic types, a. Hadendoa, sword on back (courtesy of 

Sudan Government Railways), b. Somali (courtesy of Th. T. 
MoUison, Anthropologisches Institut der Universitat Munchen) . 197 

38. Abyssinian (Amharic-speaking, left). Black Falasha (right), and Abys- 

sinian ibex (from photograph by A. M. Bailey). Field Museum- 
Chicago Daily News Abyssinian Expedition 200 

39. Masai warriors, Kenya, Half-Hamites 203 

40. Pygmy chief, northeast Aruwimi River. Stature 4 feet 2 inches. 

Wears strip of okapi skin round waist (from photograph by Mrs. 
Delia Akeley, copyright) 205 

List of Illustrations 9 


41. Bambuti Pygmies, Ituri Forest, a. Male. b. Mother and child 

(from photograph by E. Heller) 207 

42. Bambuti Pygmies, Ituri Forest, a. Female, b. Male (from photo- 

graph by E. Heller) 209 

43. Bushman, Cassinga, Angola 211 

44. Bushmen, Gomodino Pan, Kalahari Desert (courtesy of Arthur S. 

Vernay, copyright) 218 

45. Bushmen, Gomodino Pan, Kalahari Desert (courtesy of Arthur S. 

Vernay, copyright) 219 

46. Bushmen, Gomodino Pan, Kalahari Desert (courtesy of Arthur S. 

Vernay, copyright) 221 

47. Bushwoman, near Gemsbok Pan, Kalahari Desert, wearing forehead 

band of ostrich-eggshell beads (courtesy of Arthur S. Vernay, 
copyright) 223 

48. Hottentot man, front and side views (after G. Fritsch) 225 

49. Albinos, a. Albino woman, Vachokwe, Cangamba, Angola, b. Partial 

albino, Akikuyu tribe, Kenya 257 

50. Scarification, a. Munshi woman, Katsina Ala. b. Angas man, near 

Pankshin, Nigeria 259 

51. Dental mutilation, a. Esele man, Angola, b. Sara man. Lake Chad . 261 

52. Personal ornament, a. M'Bunda woman, teeth mutilated, Cangamba, 

Angola, b. Esele woman wearing nose-pin, Angola 263 

53. Negrillo and dwarf, a. Batwa, cross between Negro and Pygmy, 

Kasai, Congo, a somatic type. 6. Dwarf, Kano, Nigeria, con- 
genital malformation 264 

54. Personal ornament, a. Distension of ear lobes, Kikuyu boy, Kenya. 

b. Cranial deformation and tooth mutilation, woman, Ruwen- 
zori (from photograph by E. Heller) 265 

55. Berg Damara woman, with Herero headdress, South West Africa (from 

photograph by Arthur S. Vernay, copyright) 267 

56. Unclothed types, a. Luvando girls, southwest Angola, b. Angas 

women wearing leaves, near Pankshin, Nigeria 268 

57. Personal ornament, a. Bolewa girl, Potiskum, Nigeria, b. Shuwa 

Arab girl, Maiduguri, Nigeria 269 

58. Fulani clothing and ornament, near Shendam, Nigeria 271 

59. Hausa types, male and female, of Kano, Nigeria 272 

60. West African clothing, a. Yoruba children, Ibadan, Nigeria, b. Fulani 

chiefs, near Shendam, Nigeria 273 

61. Mohammedan education. a. Mallam of Bida, Nigeria, writing 

Koranic texts, b. School in Kano market, Nigeria 307 

62. Bushman kneeling to shoot, Koatwe Pan, Kalahari Desert (from 

photograph by Arthur S. Vernay, copyright) 331 

63. Bushwomen, Gomodino Pan, Kalahari Desert, filling ostrich eggshells 

with water (from photograph by Arthur S. Vernay, copyright) . 335 

64. Bambuti Pygmies, southern border Ituri Forest (from photograph by 

E. Heller) 343 

65. Huts of Bambuti Pygmies, Ituri Forest. Built near place where ele- 

phant was killed by Pygmies (courtesy of Mrs. Delia Akeley, 
copyright, 1930) 344 

66. Cattle-keeping Vakwanyama, Angola, a. Woman with hide skirt 

and leather belt. b. Man wearing omba shells and hide loin- 
covering 353 

67. a. Cattle of the Ovimbundu, Elende, Angola, b. House of cattle- 

keeping Vakwanyama, Angola 355 

68. a. Transport by cattle, Maradi, French Niger Territory, b. Portu- 

guese riding an ox, Elende, Angola 357 

10 List of Illustrations 


69. Tuareg caravan, near Zinder, French Niger Territory 363 

70. Tuareg of Timbuktu (from photograph by John F. Jennings). Straus 

West African Expedition 365 

71. Ba'ij Bedouin, near Kish, Iraq (from photograph by H. Field) . . . 378 

72. Bedouin tent, typical of Arabia and north Africa (from photograph 

by H. Field) 380 

73. North and west African architecture, Kano, Nigeria 381 

74. a. House in Kano, Nigeria, north African Mohammedan style. 

b. Musicians at Ilorin. On left player of algaita a north African 
instrument ■ 389 

75. African horsemen, a. Dejazmatch Ayalu, ruler in Simien Mountains, 

Abyssinia, b. Horseman with mail shirt, Potiskum, Nigeria (from 
photograph by A. M. Bailey). Field Museum-Chicago Daily 
News Abyssinian Expedition 391 

76. Houses of agricultural Negroes, a. Village scene, Cameroons. b. House 

with painted walls, near Bailundu, Angola 399 

*77. Musical instruments from Angola, a. Dumb-bell basket rattle, 
Vachokwe, Cangamba. b. Wooden flute, Ovimbundu, Elende. 

c. Gourd instrument played by rubbing grooves with a stick. 

d. Ankle rattles made from seed pods, Ovimbundu, Bailundu. 

e. Instrument with iron keys on a wooden board, Ovimbundu, 
Elende. /. Musical bow, Ovimbundu, Elende. g. Strip of 
rattan; can be bent to form a musical bow. h. Frictional instru- 
ment, played by rubbing a stick on the grooves. One end of the 
bow is placed against the performer's teeth 449 

78. Initiation rites, a. Newly circumcised boys, Vachokwe, Cangamba, 

Angola, b. Vachokwe boys confined after circumcision, Can- 
gamba, Angola 461 

79. Initiation ceremonies, a. Whipping ceremony, Fulani tribe, Shendam, 

Nigeria, b. Women in charge of novices, Vanyemba, Ngongo, 
Angola 463 

80. Village defence, a. Door in palisade, Ovimbundu, Ngalangi. b. Stra- 

tegic site on hill-top, Vasele, Angola 523 

81. Vakwanyama warriors with tufted spears, bows, and throwing-clubs . . 525 

82. Funeral rites, a. Bearers of a corpse, Ovimbundu, Elende. b. Grave 

near Caconda, Ovimbundu 559 

83. Sacred reptiles, a. Python which has swallowed a goat, eastern Congo. 

Photograph by E. Heller b. White crocodile, Ibadan, Nigeria. . 569 

84. Sacred groves, a. Priests of Ife, Nigeria, in charge of terra-cotta heads. 

b. Terra-cotta heads in sacred grove, Ife 573 

85. Curing the sick. a. Vachokwe tribe, Cangamba, Angola, b. The 

cupping operation, Vachokwe, near Ngalangi 577 

*86. Magical figure studded with nails, Loango Coast, mouth of Congo River . 579 

*87. Head-piece of wood covered with skin, to be sewn to a medicine-man's 

costume, Balessing tribe, Cameroons 581 

88. Granaries, Angola, a. Near Ngalangi, a clay and wattle structure. 

b. Vakwanyama, a basket under a thatch 589 

89. Long-horned ox, Kukawa, Lake Chad 594 

90. Negro hunters, a. Ocimbundu near Elende, Angola. b. Munshi 

near Katsina Ala, Nigeria 597 

91. a. Hunter's trophies, Ovimbundu. b. Hunter's tomb, Ovimbundu, 

Luimbale 599 

92. Wandorobo, hunters of Kenya. Houses are like those of Ituri Pygmies . 601 

93. Food collecting and fishing, a. Beehive, eastern Angola, b. Fisher- 

man in bark canoe, Vachokwe, Cangamba 605 

List of Illustrations 11 


94. a. Ukwanyama man preparing hides by treading, b. Fishing by a 

weir at Maiduguri, Nigeria 607 

95. Canoe of papyrus reeds, Buduma, Lake Chad 608 

96. Carved wooden drum, Bamendjo tribe, Cameroons. Scale about 1:8. . 615 

*97. Wood-carving, Nigeria, a. Stool, Nupe, Bida. Scale about 1:10. 
b. Stool, Munshi, Katsina Ala. Scale about 1:7. c. Adze and 
knife for carving stools, Bida. Scale about 1:10. d. Figure of 
Elebiti, deceased medicine-man, Yoruba, Ife. Scale about 1:4. 
e. Modern wood-carving, Benin. Scale about 1:4. /. Doll, Yoruba, 
Ogbomosho. Scale about 1:6. g. Sandal, Buduma woman. Lake 
Chad. Scale about 1:6 617 

*98. Carved wooden boxes for kola nuts, Benin. Scale about 1:2 618 

*99. Carved wooden staffs and clubs, Ovimbundu and Vachokwe, Angola. 
Scale about 1:10. a. Ovimbundu, Elende. b. Vachokwe, 
Cangamba. c. Ovimbundu, Elende. d. Vachokwe, Kuchi. e. 
Ovimbundu, Elendi. /. Staff of dead king, from hut in which 
relics of kings are kept, Ngalangi. g. Vachokwe workmanship, 
obtained from an Ocimbundu, Elende. h. Staff of office, a cere- 
monial paddle, carried by headman of Lioko, a village of Ngalangi. 
i. Throwing-club for killing game, Ovimbundu, Elende. j. 
Swagger stick, Ovimbundu, Elende 619 

*100. Wood-carving, Ovimbundu, Angola 621 

*101. Ornamented gourds, Nigeria. Scale about 1:7. a. Gourd dyed indigo, 
Bida. b. White incised gourd, Ogbomosho. c. Black wooden 
bowl, Potiskum. d. Gourd dyed red, scraped to form patterns. 
e. Gourd with incised and burnt patterns on a yellow surface, 
Maiduguri. /. Gourd, incised and burnt on yellow surface, 
Nupe, Bida 623 

102. Wood-carving, Angola. a. Medicine-man's figurine, Ovimbundu, 

Cuma. 6. Head of club, Vachokwe, Cangamba. c. Hair comb, 
Vachokwe, Mona Quimbundo. Scale about 1:2 (from sketch by 
LucileWard) 625 

103. Grove, Ife, sacred to Ogun, patron of blacksmiths. Contains first 

hammer and anvil of Ogun. Remains of a sacrificed dog are on 
the anvil 627 

*104. Bronze-casting from Benin. Scale about 1 : 4 628 

*105. Beaten brasswork, Nupe tribe, Bida. Scale about 1:5. a. Round bowl. 
b. Ewer for water, used by Mohammedans for washing hands 
before prayer, c. Oval tray. d. Woman's copper anklets, 
Buduma, Lake Chad. e. Round tray, Bida. /. Arm dagger and 
brass scabbard, g. Vessel for kola nuts 631 

106. Making pottery, Ogbomosho, Nigeria, a. Polishing a pot with a pebble. 

b. Firing insides of pots 633 

107. a. Winding cotton, Iseyin, Nigeria, b. Making the base of a pot by 

pounding clay, Kano, Nigeria 637 

108. Weaving by men. a. Weaving cotton, Kano, Nigeria, b. Weaving 

raffia fiber, Cameroons 638 

109. Woven Kabyle rug (presented to Field Museum by Mr. Homer E. 

Sargent) 639 

*110. Beaded gourds for holding palm wine. Scale about 1:5 640 

*111. Beaded wooden stool, central Cameroons. Scale about 1 : 5 641 

♦From objects in Field Museum. 

Objects from Angola were collected by the Frederick H. Rawson-Field Museum Ethnolosical 
Expedition to West Africa, 1929-1930. 

12 List of Illustrations 

MAPS ^^^e" 

1. Approximate positions of principal tribes and places mentioned in the text. 

Scale: 1 inch=804 miles 16 

2. Climatic and vegetation zones. Scale: 1 inch= 1130 miles 32 

3. Tentative scheme for distribution of language families. Scale: 1 inch= 

804 miles 288 

4. Culture areas shown approximately by shaded boundaries and broken 

lines. Arrows indicate Mohammedan influence. Scale: 1 inch=880 
miles 324 

5. Approximate political boundaries of European possessions. Scale: 1 

inch=804 miles 672 


Dr. Hambly and I fully realize that this source book is far from 
perfect; yet an industrious and unbiased attempt has been made 
to bring together within the covers of one book a summary of all 
the most important facts that are known about Africa. This alone 
is a meritorious task, since the book contains more information about 
Africa, and a better bibliography of the literature for that continent, 
than any other work in English with which I am acquainted. 

Possibly the linguist, the physical anthropologist, and the 
archaeologist will hoist the flag of battle, will bear down on the 
section about which he knows most, and will utter loud protests. 
The charge will be that the section under fire is not adequately 
treated and that Dr. Hambly is not a "specialist" in that field. 

We freely admit that more might be written concerning any one 
of the many topics that are treated herein, but excess of detail 
would obscure the main issues and would add greatly to the cost 
of production. This source book merely attempts to assemble and 
discuss the significant results of anthropological work in Africa, 
and for this reason meets an urgent need. 

Paul S. Martin 
November 1, 1937 



In a recent presidential address to the Royal Anthropological 
Institute the Reverend E, W. Smith asked, "What do we know of 
Africa? The answer can be summed up in a few words: Very little 
as yet. Whatever department we examine, the tale is much the same. 
We have only scratched the surface of things hitherto. But it is 
something to see the immensity of the task confronting us if we are 
to gain sure knowledge of Africa and its inhabitants." 

The truth of this statement m.ight at first glance discourage 
the idea of preparing a general survey. But there is a strong argu- 
ment in favor of summarizing information gleaned up to the present, 
co-ordinating this knowledge, interpreting the data as far as possible, 
pointing out the unsolved problems, and so providing a basis for 
further research. 

No attempt has been made to compile an encyclopedia. Rather, 
an introductory textbook has been prepared, because experience has 
proved that students too often begin a study of some specific and in- 
tricate African problem without a groundwork of geography, biology, 
history, and general ethnology. To disarm the criticism of experts in 
linguistics, physical anthropology, and prehistory, it is necessary to 
emphasize the purpose of the book. The work is a general elementary 
introduction, which aims at presenting African people and their 
.problems briefly, simply, and as a whole. 

In the address quoted, the President urges breadth of view in 
anthropological treatment. He advises that we "lift our eyes from 
the tasks in which we are engaged and take a glance at what our 
fellow workers are doing on the other side of the hedge, remembering 
that no one problem is solved until all problems are solved." 

Section I is a broad introduction to the salient facts of physiogra- 
phy, biology, archaeology, physical anthropology, and the distribu- 
tion of language families. 

The second section views the continent in the light of culture 
area concepts, with emphasis on the fact that these zones, though 
characterized by specific traits, are not isolated. The overlapping of 
zones is fully recognized, so as to avoid a false impression of simplicity 
and clear demarcation. 

In the third section the division of the great forest zone and its 
periphery into cultural subdivisions has not been attempted. The 
object has been merely to summarize and to classify the factual 


16 Source Book for African Anthropology 

material with which students will have to deal, since the time is not 
yet ripe for plotting the zones of distribution with precision. A task 
of this kind cannot be successfully attempted until additional field 
work has been done. Nevertheless, an approximate distribution of 
some traits is given, and certain broad areas of characterization are 
recognized, but in general the section is limited to a discussion of 
social, religious, and economic traits that can fairly be called funda- 
mental to Negro culture. 

Finally, the European period is introduced, with an account of 
exploration, partitioning among European powers, and a summary of 
the problems affecting the welfare of Africans under a foreign 

The greatest danger arising from an attempt to condense is the 
tendency to leave a false impression of simplicity and finality. But 
a large bibliography is provided and fully used in the text to point 
the way to further exposition of debatable themes, whose expansion 
would make too great a demand on the space available. 

During the preparation of the Bibliography of Authors I have 
frequently had the advantage of advice and assistance from my 
librarian colleague, Eugene Victor Prostov, who kindly prepared the 
final bibliographical section dealing with sources for African research. 
These sources Mr. Prostov classified according to the political 
divisions of Africa. Maps and line drawings have been prepared 
by Staff Illustrator Carl F. Gronemann. 

For assistance in preparing the chapters on physical features 
and nature study I am indebted to my Field Museum colleagues. 

Dr. B. E. Dahlgren and Mr. Paul C. Standley, botanists; Dr. 
Wilfred H. Osgood, Mr. Karl P. Schmidt, Mr. Rudyerd Boulton, and 
Mr. A. C. Weed, zoologists; also Mr. Sharat K. Roy, geologist, all 
assisted in choice of literature, selection of photographs, and read- 
ing of proofs. 

Wilfrid Dyson Hambly 

D7, 162 

les, F7, 174 

Sahara, A2, B2, C2, D2, E2 
Salisbury, F6, 227 
Sandawe, F5, 292 
Sanga, E4, 228 
San Salvador, D5, 229 
Sao Thom6, C4, 230 
Segu, B3, 231 
Sekondi, B4, 232 
Semi-Bantu, C4, D4 
Semliki, E4, 233 
Senegal, A3, 234 
Sennar, F3, 111 
Senussi, El, E2, E3 
Serer, A3, 235 
Shari, D4, 236 
Shendy, F3, 237 
ShiUuk, F4, 238 
Shire River, F6, 208 
Sierra Leone, A4, 239 
Sinai, F2, 240 
Siwa. E2. 241 


0^ ^^^ \vu«'i\^ 


' 1. ApproxiiiKite positions of principal tribes and places mentioned in the text. 
Scale 1 inch=804 miles. 

Abeokuta, C4, 1 

f Domey, C4, 2 

Abydos, F2, 3 

Abyssinia, F3, F4, G3, G4 

Accra, B4, 4 

Acholi, F4, 5 

Adowa, F3, 6 

Agades, C3, 7 

Ahaggar (Hoggar), C2, 8 

Air (Asben), C3, 7 

.\kamba, F5, 9 

Akikuyu, F5, 10 

Albert Edward Nyanza, F4, U 

Albert Nyanza, F4, 12 

Alexandria, El, 13 

Algeria, CI 

Algoa Bay, E8, 264 

Angas, C4, 15 

Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, E3, F3 

Angola, D5, D6 

Arabs, HI, CI, Dl, El, A2, E2, E3, F3, 

Arkenu,E2, 16 

Asben (Air), C3, 7 

Ashanti, B4, 17 

Asmara, F3, 18 

Assuan, F2, 19 

Atakapane, C4, 20 

Atbara, F3, 21 

Atlas Mountains, Bl, 01 

Auen Bushmen, D7, 22 

Auled Ziane, CI, 23 

Aurta Mountains, CI, 24 

Azande, E4, 25 

Bagesu, F4, 27 

Baggara, D3, E3 

Bahima, Fo, 28 

Ba-ila, E6, 29 

Bailundu, D6, 30 

Bakongo, D5, 31 

Bakuba, E4, 32 

Baluba, E5, 33 

Bambala, D4, 34 

Bambara, B3, 35 

Bambata Cave, E7, 36 

Bammako, B3, 37 

Bamum, D4, 38 

Bangala, E4, 39 

Bangweolo, E6, 40 

Bantu, D4, E4, G4, D5, E5, F4, F5, 

D6, E6, F6, D7, E7, F7 
Banyankole, F5, 41 
Banyanzi, E5, 50 
Banyoro, F4, 42 
Bapidi, F7, 43 
Bari, F4, 44 
Baringo, F4, 45 
Barotse, E6, 46 
Basuto, E7, 47 
Bathonga, F7, 48 
Batwa, D5, E5 
Bavenda, E6, 49 
Bechuana, E7, 51 

Bedouin Arabs, Bl, CI, Dl, El, E2, E3 
Beira, F6, 52 
Beja, F3, 63 

Belgian Congo, E4, D5, E5 
Benghazi, El, 54 
Benguela, D6, 55 
Benin, C4, 56 
Benue, C4, 57 

Berbera, 03, 58 

Berbers, Bl, CI, Dl, El, A2 

Beri Beri, D3, 59 

Bilma, D3, 60 

Bingerville, B4, 61 

Bini, C4, 62 

Blantyre, F6, 63 

Blue Nile, F3, F4 

Bolewa, C4, 64 

Boloki, E4, 65 

Bornu, D4, 66 

Boskop, E7, 67 

Brazzaville, Do, 68 

British East Africa (Kenya), F4 

Broken Hill, E6, 69 

Buduma, D3, 70 

Bulawayo, E7, 71 

Busa, C3, 294 

Bushmen, D7, E7 

Bushongo, Do, 72 

Buzu, B3, C3, D3 

Cacorula, D6, 73 
Cairo, E2, 74 
Calabar, C4, 75 __ 
Cameroons, D4, 76 
Cangamba, D6, 77 
Carthage, CI, 78 
Casablancji, Bl, 79 
Cavally Kivcr, B4, 80 
Chad, D3, 81 
Chamba, C4, 82 
Congo, D4, E4, D6, Eo 
Cyrenaica, El 

Dahomey, C4 
Dakar, A3, 83 

Damaraland, D7 
Damergu, C3, 84 
Danakil, 04, 85 
Dar-es-Salam, Fo, 8G 
Darfur, E3 
DeAar, E8, 87 
Dinka, F4, 88 
Doko, F4, 89 
Durban, F7, 90 

Efik, C4, 91 
Egba, C4, 92 
Egypt, E2, E3, F2, F3 
Ekoi, D4, 93 
Elende, D6, 95 
Elisabethville, E6, 96 
Elmenteita, F5, 94 
Elmina, B4, 97 
El Obcid, F3, 98 
Eritrea, F3, 99 
Ethiopia, F3, F4, 03, 04 
Ewe, C4, 100 

Falashas, F3, 101 

Fan, D5, 102 

Fashi, D3, 103 

Fernando Po, C4, 104 

Fez, Bl, 105 

Ftons, C4, 2 

Freetown, A4, 106 

French Guinea, A3 

French Niger Territory, C3, D3 

French Sudan, B3 

Fulani, A3, B3, C3 

Galla, F4, 107 
Gambia, A3, 108 
Oambos, D6, 109 
Oanawuri, C4, 110 
Oebel Moya, F3, lU 
Ohadames, CI, 112 
Ghana, B3, 113 
Ghat, D2, 114 
Gibraltar, Bl, 115 
Oondokoro, F4, 116 
Grahamatown, E8, 117 
Grootfontein, D7, 118 
Guinea Gulf, C4, 119 

Hadendoa, F3, 120 

Hamites, Bl, CI, Dl, El, Fl, A2, B2, 

C2, D2, E2, F2, A3, B3, C3, D3, E3, 

F3, 03, F4, G4 
Hausa, B3, C3, D3 
Heikum Bushmen, D7, 121 
Herero, D7, 122 
Hiechware Bushmen, E7, 123 
Hoggar (Ahaggar), C2, 8 
Hottentots, D7, 124 
Huambo (Nova Lisboa), D6, 126 
Huila, D6, 125 

Ibadan, C4, 127 
Ibibio, C4, 128 
Ibo, C4, 128 
Ido, C4, 128 
I!6, C4, 62 
liaw, C4, 129 
Ijebu, C4, 92 
Ilorin, C4, 130 
Ituri Forest, E4, 131 
Ivory Coast, B4, 132 

Jagabub, E2, 134 
Jagas, D6, 133 
Jebba, C4, 135 
Jibu (Jukun), C4, 136 
Jibuti (Djibuti), 03, 137 
Jos Plateau, C4, 15 
Jukun, C4, 136 

Kababish, E3, 138 

Kabylea, CI, 24 

Kaduna, C4, 139 

Kagoro, C4, 140 

Kalahari, E7, 141 

Kanembu, D3, 142 

Kano, C3, 143 

Katanga, E6, 144 

Katsina, C3, 143 

Kenya, F4 

Kharga, F2, 146 

Khartum, F3, 147 

Khrumirs, CI, 148 

Kilimanjaro, F5, 150 

Kimberley, E7, 151 

Ki™, E5, 162 

Kona (Jukun), C4, 136 

Konakry, A4, 163 

Konkomba, C3, 154 

Kordofan, E3, 155 

Kotonou, C4, 156 

Kowar Oasis (Bilma), D3, 60 

Kpelle, B4, 157 

Kru, B4, 158 

Kulra, E2, 159 
Kuka, D3, 160 
Kumasi, B4, 161 
Kung Bushmen, D7, 162 
Kuruman, E7, 163 
Kussassi, C4, 164 

Lagos, C4, 156 
Lango, F4, 165 
Latuka, F4, 166 
Liberia, B4, 167 
Libyan Desert, E2. 14 
Limpopo, F7, 168 
Loanda, D5, 169 
Loango, D5, 170 
Lobito Bay, D6, 171 
lokoja, C4, 172 
Lome, C4, 173 
Lourenco Marques, F7, 174 
Lualaba, Eo, 175 
Luderitz Bay, D7, 176 
Lumbwa, F5, 177 
Lunda, Do, 178 

Maiduguri, D3, 179 
Makalanga, F6, 130 
Makurdi, C4, 181 
Mandingo, B4, 182 
Maradi, C3, 184 
Masai, F5, 186 
Massawa, 03, 186 
Matabele, F6, 187 
Matadi, D5, 188 
Mauretania, A2, B2, 189 
Midgan, F3, 190 
Mombasa, F5, 191 
Monbuttu, E4, 183 
Monomotapa, E6, 192 
Morocco, Bl, CI 
Mossamedes, D6, 193 
Munshi, C4, 136 
Murzuk, D2, 194 
Mweru (Moero), E5, 195 

Nairobi, F5, 195 

Naivasha, F5, 196 

Nakuru, F6, 196 

Nama Hottentots, D7, 124 

Namib Bushmen D7, 197 

Nandi, F4, 198 

Naron Bushmen, E7, 200 

Natal, E8, 199 

Ngalangi, D6, 201 

Ngami, E6, 202 

Ngongo, D6, 201 

Niger, B3, C3, C4 

Nigeria, C3, D3, C4 

Nile, F2, F3, F4 

Nilotic Negroes, F4, 44, 38, 207 

Nova Lisboa (Huambo), D6, 126 

Novo Redondo, D6, 203 

Nuba, E3, 204 

Nubia, F2, 205 

Nuers, F4, 207 

Numidians, CI, 206 

Nupe, C4, 130 

Nyasaland and Nyasa Lake, F6, 208 

Obongo, D6, 170 
Ogbomosho, C4, 130 
Ogowe, D5, 102 
Okavango, E6, 202, E7, 141 
Old Calabar, C4, 75 
Omdurman, F3, 209 
Onitsha, C4, 210 
Orange Free State, E7, 151 
Ouenat, E2, 16 
Ovambo, D6, 211 
Ovimbundu, D6, 126, 201, 73 

Pankshin, C4, 15 
Parakou, C4, 212 
Pietermaritzburg, E7, 213 
Pillars of Hercules, Bl, 115 
Pokomo, 05, 214 
Port Elizabeth, E8, 264 
Port Florence, F4, 215 
Port Harcourt,C4, 216 
Port Herald, F6, 217 
Portuguese Africa, F6, F7 
Portuguese O linea, A3, 218 
Portuguese W. Africa (Angola), Do, I 
Potiskum, D3, 221 
Pretoria, E7, 119 
Principe, C4, 220 

Pygmies, se-. Batwa, Doko, Itu 
Obongo, ^ ^mbuti 

Quilimane, Fl, 149 
Rabat, Bl, 2^2 

Red Sea Pro 
Rhodesia, F6 
Rift Valley, ' 

Rilt valley, ; 4, fo 
Rio de Oro, i 2, 224 

Rovuma Riv 
Rudolf, Lakf 

nee, F3, 53 


4, F5 

F6, 225 
F4, 226 

Sahara, A2, B2, C2, D2, E2 

Salisbury, F6, 227 

Sandawe, F5, 292 

Sanga, E4, 22S 

San Salvador, D5, 229 

SSo Thora^, 04, 230 

Segu, B3, 231 

Sekondi, B4, 232 

Semi-Bantu, C4, D4 

Semliki, E4, 233 

Senegal, A3, 234 

Sennar, F3, 111 

Senussi, El, E2, E3 

Serer, A3, 235 

Shari, D4, 236 

Shendy, F3, 237 

Shilluk, F4, 238 

Shire River, F6, 208 

Sierra Leone, A4, 239 

Sinai, F2, 240 

Siwa, E2, 241 

Sokoto, C3, 242 

Somali, 04, 243, 244 

Somaliland, British, 04, 243 

Somaliland. French, 03, 137 

Somaliland, Italian, 04, 244 

Songhai, B3, 245 

South West Africa, D7 

Spanish Guinea, D4, 246 

Stefani, Lake, F4, 247 

Suakin, F3, 250 

Sudan, B3, C3, D3, E3, F3 

Suez Canal, Fl, 261 

Suk, F4, 252 

Swahili, F5, 248, 249 

Swakopmund. D7, 253 

Swaziland, F7, 254 

Tabello, C3, 7 

Tabora, FS, 266 

Tafilet, Bl, 256 

Tahoua, C3, 267 

Tanganyika, Lake, and Territory, F5 

Tangier, Bl, 269 
Teghaza, A2, 260 
Temne, A4, 239 
Teso, F4, 262 
Tete, F6, 263 

Tibbu, (and Teda), D3, 261 
Tibesti, D3, 261 
Timbuktu, B3, 265 
Timgad, CI, 266 
Togoland, B4, 267 
Transvaal, E7, 268 
Tripoli, Dl, 269 
Tripolitania, Dl 
Tsavo, F5, 270 
Tshi, B4, 4, 97 „ ^„ 

Tuareg, B2, 02, D2, B3, 03 
Tuggurt, CI, 271 
Tunisia, CI, 272 
Turkana, F4, 273 
Tyipungu, D6, 125 

Uganda, F4, 274 
Ujiji, F5, 276 
Umpata, D6, 125 

Vaal River, E7, 276 
Vai, B4, 167 
Vakwanyama, D6, 211 
Vanhaneca, D8, 109 
Vascle, D6, 277 ^^^ 
Victoria Falls, E6, 278 _ 
Victoria Nyanza, F4, 21o 

Wachagga, F5, 150 
Wadi Haifa, F2, 279 
Wahehe, F5, 280 
Waikoma, F6, 281 
Walflsh Bay, D7, 282 
Wambuti, B4, 233 
Wandorobo, F6,_283 
Wanyamwezi, F6, 284 
Wayao, F6, 285 
White kile, F2, F3, F4 
Windhoek, D7, 286 

16 Yalala Falls, D5, 288 

Yaunde, D4, 287 

Yola, D4, 289 

Yolofs, A8, 290 
■i, Yoruba, C4, 291 

Zaire (Congo), D5 
Zambezi, E6, F6 
Zande, (Azande), E4, 2o 
Zanzibar, F6, 293 
Zaria, 03, 294 
Zimbabwe, F6, 295 
Zinder, C3, 296 
Zulu, E8, 297 
Zumbo, E6, 298 



Section I: Outlines of Africa 



Physical Features 

Although the primary aim is a description of the cultures of Africa 
it is impossible to understand the great migi'ations and the modes of 
life, together with the distribution of languages and physical types, 
without a preliminary survey of the continent itself. The size, shape, 
and position of the land mass, the mountains and valleys, the river 
systems and lakes, and the distribution of minerals and types of soils 
have profoundly affected the history and development of Africans 
and Europeans. 


Since theories of continental connection (Wegener, 1922, trans, 
by Skerl, 1924; and Perrier, 1925) relate to periods before the advent 
of man, they may be omitted. But the question of African-European 
land bridges in the early Pleistocene is of importance to anthro- 
pological study of Africa. Sollas (1924, p. 132) describes bridges by 
way of Malta and Sicily in the Chellean culture period of the Pleisto- 
cene, but these assumptions have been challenged recently (Wood- 
ward, 1935, p. 130). Students of African archaeology will therefore 
have to reserve their final judgments respecting human migrations 
in the early Pleistocene. 

Unless the geological time of subsidence of a land bridge is 
ascertained, a hypothesis for explaining the wanderings of people is 
extremely unreliable, but fortunately some land connection between 
Africa and Asia is known. The peninsula of Sinai in northeast 
Africa connects that continent with Arabia and farther Asia ; and the 
justifiable assumption is that this land bridge has existed throughout 
the whole development and wanderings of man. At the southern end 
of the Red Sea the narrow strait of Bab-el-Mandeb separates Arabia 
from Africa, and ready transit between Arabia and Africa at this 
point was no doubt possible during a long prehistoric period even 
without a land bridge. 

The probability of such communication will be seen when we 
make a comparative study of the physical measurements of Arabs 
of southwest Arabia with anthropometric data for inhabitants of 
the opposite coast. 


20 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The latest discoveries of fossil mammals in the caves of Palestine 
and Syria, as interpreted by Miss Dorothea M. A. Bate, show that 
during the early half of the Pleistocene period, Asia and North 
Africa were much more closely connected than they have been since. 
The country was comparatively well watered, with luxuriant vegeta- 
tion and forests, and mammals could readily migrate both east and 
west. Even an animal so characteristic of Africa as the warthog 
(Phacochoerus) was then living in Palestine. The connection of Asia 
with Africa was thus as definite as the connection of Asia with 
Europe; and the explanation of the partial identity between the 
Pleistocene mammals of Africa and Europe is probably that they 
had a common source in Asia and diverged west in two different 
directions, one southwards, the other northwards (Woodward, 1935, 
p. 131). 


The area of Africa is twelve million square miles, four times that 
of the United States of America. The distance from north to south 
is about five thousand miles, and the breadth a few hundred miles 
less. Such great dimensions are best appreciated by remembering 
that the distance from New York to San Francisco is about three 
thousand miles. Africa is situated on the hottest part of the earth's 
surface. The continent is almost bisected by the equator; hence, the 
greater part of the land lies within the tropics. 

Africa has a coast line that is short and unbroken in relation to 
the great surface, and this fact is important in relation to climate, 
exploration, and commerce. The sea always has a moderating 
elfect on land temperatures because water is more constant in 
temperature than a large mass of land. Consequently, proximity of 
the ocean tends to warm the land in winter and to cool it in summer. 
But the coast of Africa has inlets which are small in size and number 
compared with the surface area; hence the moderating effect of the 
sea on inland temperatures is not appreciable. In early days of 
exploration, journeys were made more difficult by the absence of 
inlets, and even as late as 1870 Stanley's name of the "Dark Conti- 
nent" was well chosen, since most of the interior was at that time 

In addition to retarding exploration, the absence of natural 
harbors is an obstacle to commerce. At some ports on the west 
coast vessels anchor almost a mile from the shore to discharge 
passengers and cargoes into surf boats which are paddled ashore by 
native crews. But this natural disadvantage of the west coast is 

Physiography and Nature Notes 21 

yielding to engineering skill, which has been directed toward building 
breakwaters and dredging natural inlets. 


In addition to location, shape, and coast line the biological 
importance of internal features should be considered. Deep depres- 
sions and high mountains affect climate, natural products, and the 
culture of the inhabitants. Mountains form barriers to communi- 
cation, while depressions like that of the Rift Valley in northeast 
Africa have determined the direction of migratory peoples. 

Volcanic disturbances have affected the survival and distribution 
of human and animal life, though doubtless many great cataclysms 
occurred before man had established himself in Africa. Yet Leakey 
(1936a, pp. 25-26) offers the hypothesis that a convulsion resulting 
in the formation of the Rift Valley led to the extinction of a very 
large number of species of animals that formerly flourished in Kenya, 
and he adds, "If my view is correct, it is not impossible that man too 
was wiped out in the regions round the Great Rift Valley, Certainly 
we know that whereas four distinct culture groups were in existence 
in Kenya before the formation of the Great Rift Valley, only two are 
present in the deposits which represent the period immediately 
following it." 

Africa is a plateau with an average height of two thousand 
feet above sea level. In east Africa the mountains Ruwenzori, 
Kenya, and Kilimanjaro are the principal elevations. Kilimanjaro, 
which is capped with snow throughout the year, attains a height of 
19,321 feet, while Ruwenzori (16,800 feet) is an important elevation 
between lakes Albert and Albert Edward Nyanza; but Ruwenzori, 
unlike some adjacent mountains, is not an ancient volcano. 

Traveling from low to high altitudes gives a convincing demon- 
stration of the effects of elevation on temperatures. In a few hours 
the heat of the coast region of Portuguese West Africa can be 
exchanged for cold winds of a high plateau four thousand feet 
above the sea, where nightly temperatures fall almost to the 
freezing point. 

In Nigeria a journey northward from the coastal belt of dense, 
moist forests having a high temperature combined with great 
humidity leads to a plateau region whose nightly cold approaches 
freezing point. When the journey northward is continued for a 
few hundred miles the dry heat of the desert forms a sharp con- 
trast with the moist heat of the forest belt. In flat, open desert 

22 Source Book for African Anthropology 

great extremes of temperature are experienced between day and 
night, especially in the period from October to December when the 
Harmattan wind is blowing. This wind causes an exceptionally 
rapid fall of temperature after midnight. 

Before studying human life the basic fact has to be grasped that 
Africa, owing to vast area and differences in elevation, has many 
and varied ranges of temperature and moisture, with consequent 
diversity of plant and animal life. There exist, however, definite 
climatic zones which will be described later. 

Geological formation has affected climate, not only by determining 
elevation but by the formation of great lakes. Victoria Nyanza, 
which is twenty-six thousand square miles in area, also Mwero and 
Bangweolo, do not belong to the Rift Valley system, but occupy 
depressions in the general level of the plateau. 

On the contrary, lakes Tanganyika and Nyasa, both of which 
are valuable aids to communication, lie in the Rift Valley. Lake 
Tanganyika is of particular interest because of a rich fauna. Animal 
life includes many fish and mollusks peculiar to this lake, a fact 
which proves long isolation from other fresh-water systems. Geologi- 
cal factors have been responsible for the formation of lakes with 
their riverine connections, and these lacustrine features have 
influenced climate, communication, and food supply (J. W. Gregory: 
1896; 1920, pp. 13-47; 1921. E. B. and S. Worthington, 1933). 

Willis (1936) in a section "Historical Retrospect" has surveyed 
theories of rift formation advanced since 1825. He compares the 
views of Beaumont, Suess, Gregory, Wayland, Krenkel, and others 
who have attempted to explain the way in which force may be 
exerted to cause a parting of the earth's crust, in such a manner that 
two or more adjacent strips become displaced and a rift valley is 
formed. The bearing of these geological arguments on human life 
will be fully realized in reading chapter HI, which deals with culture 
sequences of the stone age. 


Formative influences which determined the height of the plateau 
regions, the position of valleys, and the direction of inclines also 
marked out the courses of four principal rivers, the Nile, Niger, 
Congo, and Zambezi, for the details of which Fitzgerald (1934) 
should be consulted. 

Of these the Nile is the most familiar because of its Biblical 
connection and the mystery which surrounded its source and annual 

Physiography and Nature Notes 23 

rise. So far back as A.D. 60 the Roman Emperor Nero sent two 
centurions on a journey of discovery, and their record shows that 
the expedition penetrated the marshes of the upper Nile, where live 
the tall Nilotic Negroes, Dinkas, Shilluks, Nuers, and Anuak, The 
impressive stature of these tribes was described, and in addition to 
this the centurions mentioned their difficulty in cutting a way 
through the floating vegetation of the marshes. 

In the year 400 B.C. the Greek philosopher Aristotle guessed at 
the cause of floods along the course of the Nile, when he stated that 
the annual rise of the river was due to the melting of snow combined 
with summer rains in Ethiopia (Abyssinia), where the tributaries 
Blue Nile and Atbara have their origin. Usually the Nile rises at 
the end of June and continues in flood until the end of September, 
when a height of twenty-five feet above low level is generally recorded 
at Cairo. Should the rise exceed this there is danger to life and 
property, but an abnormally low rise means famine and poverty. 

The civilization of Egypt, which is one of the most impressive 
instances of the growth of a complex culture, has depended on this 
annual overflow of the river, which left a deposit of mud and a sur- 
plus of water that could be conducted for long distances through 
irrigation canals. Modern engineering, especially the dam at 
Assuan, is an apt instance of man's successful effort to make himself 
less dependent on natural phenomena, for the waters can now be 
impounded and released at will. 

That the Egyptians themselves fully realized their dependence 
on the flooding of the Nile Valley is clear from their mythology and 
sacred texts. The old Egyptian word quern refers to the deposit of 
black mud left by the receding waters, and the ta-mera of ancient 
Egyptian literature describes the inundation. The following brief 
paragraph will serve to illustrate the influence of geographical con- 
ditions on economic welfare and spiritual beliefs. 

Egyptians of 3500 B.C. had certainly no accurate knowledge of 
the true source of the river and the cause of its floods. Sacred texts 
refer to the Nile god as the "hidden one" whose "secret places" were 
a matter for conjecture. Mythology taught that the Nile surrounded 
the whole world, and that the river was part of a celestial ocean on 
which sailed the boats of the Sun god. Egyptian pictures show the 
source of the Nile as a cavern guarded by a hippopotamus-headed 
goddess who is armed with a large knife. Another illustration por- 
trays two gods wearing papyrus and lotus blossoms respectively; 
one of the deities represents the northern and the other the southern 

24 Source Book for African Anthropology 

part of the river. One picture shows a Nile god in his cavern pour- 
ing out the waters of the White and Blue Niles. A hymn to the 
Nile god has been translated from a papyrus in the British Museum. 

Thou waterest the fields which Ra hath created. Thou givest life unto all 
animals. Thou art the friend of bread and drink. Thou fillest the storehouse 
and makest the granaries to overflow. 

The River Congo, though shorter than the Nile by a thousand 
miles, has a greater volume of water than any other African river. 
The length of the Congo is three thousand miles — about the breadth 
of the United States. The river is not straight, however, but makes a 
large northward curve which acts as a drainage system for the for- 
ested area of central Africa. The wide estuary is situated about the 
middle of the west coast. Far from the shore the sea is yellow in 
color, and at the point where the incoming tide clashes with the out- 
ward rush of the river a bar of foam, seaweed, and driftwood has 
been formed. 

The Niger, with a length of 2,600 miles, makes a great horseshoe 
formation in west Africa. For more than two thousand years the 
location of the estuary was unknown, and no river, with the excep- 
tion of the Nile, has been of such great historic interest. The Niger 
and its tributary Benue are the principal water highways for the 
whole of west Africa. The Zambezi, 1,600 miles long, drains a large 
area in the southeast of the continent. 

The process of differential erosion is of importance in connection 
with a study of river systems, because the unequal hardness of the 
strata has led to formation of cataracts that have impeded explora- 
tion and commercial development. On the Nile are four cataracts. 
The Niger is obstructed by the Busa Rapids. The Yalala Falls 
obstruct the Congo. Narrowing of the River Zambezi at the Vic- 
toria Falls provided crossings above and below the cataract, and over 
these constrictions of the river passed human migrations from the 
east side of the continent. 


The early geological processes, including tilting of strata, have 
been responsible for the outcropping of mineral deposits that have 
affected human activities both ancient and modern, from the time 
when stone-age man sought beds of flint, until the recent rush for 
gold and diamonds. 

The oasis of Kharga is situated a hundred miles west-by-south of 
Abydos on the River Nile. Airplane photographs taken by Lady 
Bailey indicate that the part of the Libyan desert in which the oasis 

Physiography and Nature Notes 25 

is situated is a scene of complete desolation, though the oasis itself 
contains wells and the remains of conduits cut by Romans and 

Miss Caton-Thompson (1931a, 1931b, 1932) states that Kharga 
shows one of the most remarkable flint-chipping areas that it can 
ever have been the lot of man to see. Here are querns and hand- 
rubbers for grinding grain, flint flakes, and chipped axes. A more 
advanced technique is illustrated by translucent flint arrowheads, 
and there is evidence of a stone-age industry which in some of its 
aspects antedated the historical period (4000 B.C.) by thousands of 
years. Evidently the early sites of stone-age man were geologically 
determined by the presence of suitable material. 

During millions of years the mineral wealth of Africa lay 
untouched, until at last man discovered the economic importance of 
metals and made them play a part in his culture. The mining and 
forging of iron by Negroes has given rise to several hypotheses 
respecting the origin and dispersal of these industries. But, what- 
ever the history may be, the fact remains that iron ore is abundant 
near the surface, and the blacksmith's art was well developed among 
Negroes before the arrival of Europeans. 

The origin of the bronze-casting industry of west Africa is un- 
known, but the art flourished before the European period began, 
and the making of the alloy depended on the occurrence of tin and 
copper. Again, the copper mines of Katanga in the southern Belgian 
Congo have been important in human affairs in both ancient and 
modern times. The eagerness of Europeans to exploit these mines 
has led to the development of new railways and river-boat services. 
Before the use of European currencies became general, copper from 
Katanga was made into large units of exchange shaped like a letter 
X, and this currency was carried far and wide by native caravans. 

Mungo Park (1799, p. 285) described native methods of washing 
the soil for gold in west Africa. Some of the valuable metal was 
fashioned into personal ornaments, but much of it in the form of 
gold dust was traded across the western Sahara to Teghaza in ex- 
change for salt from that region. The native gold industry lured 
Europeans, who finally explored and annexed the country. 

History of the Union of South Africa is concerned with the 
cupidity of prospectors and company promoters who have coveted 
the gold and diamond mines. In this scramble for wealth the inter- 
ests of native Africans have generally been neglected. Negroes have 
gathered from long distances in response to demands for labor in the 

26 Source Book for African Anthropology 

mines, and not infrequently they have failed to understand the nature 
of the labor contracts to which they agreed. Moreover, work under- 
ground and the life in compounds have proved physically and morally 
injurious, while native social organization has been disrupted at its 
source by withdrawal of the male population. For a time Chinese 
labor was introduced into the mines, but the resulting complications 
of a social and political kind led to the discontinuance of this practice. 
Clearly, the presence of gold and diamonds, a geological factor, has 
determined the course of south African history, and in Lunda, 
northeast Angola, the social conditions of Africans are deeply 
affected by the presence of diamond mines. 

Although Gautier (1928) doubts the maritime formation of the 
Sahara (p. 5) he rightly insists on the biological and historical impor- 
tance of salt deposits. Teghaza in the northwest Sahara has through- 
out historical times been important for production of salt, an industry 
which has proved a stimulus to caravan trade, and a cause of com- 
mercial rivalry and warfare. From Bilma in the southern Sahara 
salt cakes are traded east, west, and south, and the supplies are still 
responsible for annual caravan trade on a large scale between Bilma 
and the southeast side of the Air Mountains. Buchanan (1926, 
p. 73) describes the concourse from the great trade centers of Kano, 
Katsina, Sokoto, and Zinder, until a caravan of seven thousand 
camels was assembled at Air. Another valuable deposit that influ- 
ences human activities is the beds of natron on the shores of Lake 
Chad. The oval cakes are traded for long distances since the 
potash is a valuable ingredient in the drinking water of domestic 
animals (Vischer, 1910, p. 301). Fig. 1 shows the unloading of cakes 
of natron at Baya Seyarum on the western shore of Lake Chad. Trade 
in minerals resulting directly from geological factors, has been 
responsible for great physical, cultural, and linguistic interchanges. 

Without dogmatic acceptance of a theory of geographic deter- 
minism the control of geographic factors over human life can clearly 
be demonstrated for the continent of Africa. Our future studies of 
culture areas will illustrate the adaptability of man, but the data 
will likewise stress his limitations. Advances in engineering and 
biological science will profoundly affect the present status of human 
communities in Africa, solving old problems of adjustment and 
creating new ones. But throughout this flux nature will play a 
part, perhaps capriciously by climatic changes, and the picture is one 
of unending battle to secure a series of temporary adjustments 
between man and his environment. 





28 Source Book for African Anthropology 

future research 

To prepare the way for future anthropological study better maps 
of Africa are needed. I thought when traveling in Angola in the year 
1929 that available maps were astonishingly incomplete and inaccu- 
rate. For many parts of Africa revision of the spelling of place 
and tribal names is urgent. The confusion and difficulty likely to 
arise from preparing a gazetteer of tribal names will be realized by 
consulting J. Maes and 0. Boone (1935), whose excellent summary of 
Belgian Congo tribes shows that certain tribal names may be spelled 
in a dozen different ways. Sometimes the names are entirely differ- 
ent though they designate the same people. 

In topographical research there is need of great endeavor; for 
example, on the subject of soil erosion (Hobley, 1933; Champion, 
1933), and the utilization of underground supplies of water (A. B. 
Thompson, 1933). The local geological researches of E. J. Wayland 
(1934) in Uganda are typical of the concentrated surveys necessary 
to explain human prehistory in geological terms. E. B. and S. 
Worthington (1933) have directed attention to the geological and 
biological importance of the lake systems of east Africa, but many 
more studies of this type are required. 

To expand these introductory remarks and to prepare the way 
for intelligent comprehension of Africa as a whole several types of 
literature are available. 


For one beginning a course on Africa I would recommend as 
preliminary general reading a few of the older books (Drummond, 
1899; W. Reade, 1864, 1872), outmoded, perhaps, yet of human 
qualities, humor, and insight that preserve their value. 

The summary of E. W. Smith (1935) should be carefully read, 
and as elementary textbooks C. G. Seligman (1930) and Hambly 
(1930a) will provide useful introductions. In German, Buschan 
(1922) has provided a digest of African ethnology. Both Hambly 
and Buschan are concerned principally with the material cultures of 
geographical zones. Huxley (1931a) has given in "Africa View" a gen- 
eral survey of the geological and biological factors entering into 
human life in east Africa, together with an appraisal of educational 
and social problems. R. R. Marett's "Anthropology" (1912) is a 
bright and stimulating introduction, touching on the antiquity of 
man, race, environment, language, social organization, law, religion, 
and morality. 

Physiography and Nature Notes 29 

The general theory of geographic determinism is expounded by 
Huntington (1907, 1914, 1915, 1926), Semple (1914), C. E. P. 
Brooks (1925), Forde (1934), Pomfret (1935), and Bowman (1934). 
The most comprehensive modern work in French is "La g^ographie 
humaine" in three volumes by Brunhes (1925). W. M. Davis (1911) 
has contributed a helpful discussion showing the role of geographical 
factors in the development of South Africa. Dixon (1928) has 
provided valuable summaries of the geographical and many other 
important factors that are instrumental in building a culture pattern. 
Dixon is not specifically concerned with Africa but with general 
principles that can be applied to African study. As an example of 
the detailed study of local conditions in relation to human life 
Hudson's (1935) survey of a district in Northern Rhodesia is 

Among works of reference of an encyclopedic kind various hand- 
books are available. The "South and East African Year Book," with 
atlas (S. and G. G. Brown, 1935), also "Uganda" (Thomas and Scott, 
1935), are typical source books available in preparation for regional 
research. Other thesaurian works of value in African research are 
Keane (1907), Gsell (1913), Krenkel (1925, 1928), and Haughton 
(1935). E. Torday's revision (1930) of Herbert Spencer's "Descrip- 
tive Sociology of African Races" contains a map with tribal locations 
designated by numbers, a key to which is provided. Roome (1925) 
has published a tribal map that will prove of service, though great 
improvement is necessary when further study has given tribal 
taxonomy a sure foundation on somatic, linguistic, and cultural 
grounds. We need some logical tribal grouping. 

A large folding orographical map published by the National 
Geographic Magazine, Washington (1935), gives political divisions, 
railways, and motor roads. Sources of information respecting maps 
are the National Geographic Society, South Kensington, London; 
E. Stanford, 43 Whitehall, London; H. M. Stationery Office, Kings- 
way, London; the Royal Anthropological Institute; and the Inter- 
national Institute of African Languages and Cultures, London. 
Fitzgerald's compendium of African geography (1934) contains 
ninety maps, and the work is an indispensable companion for African 
study. Of these sources for cartography perhaps Stanford is the most 
valuable, since his catalogue contains lists and specimens of maps 
in great variety. Use also the Times Atlas. 

With this equipment a beginning may be made in the study of 
climatic and biological conditions in relation to human development. 

30 Source Book for African Anthropology 

cultural changes 

Anthropologists are primarily concerned with African climatic 
zones as they exist today, and with the climatic changes that have 
affected human development since the beginning of the Pleistocene 
period; hypotheses relating to more ancient changes are only of 
theoretical interest (Skerl, p. 22). Geological and climatic changes 
have resulted in a discontinuous distribution of fossils and living 
animals. Lakes have dried up, and forests once continuous are now 
separated by hundreds of miles of parkland and semi-desert. 

The principal geological events of the Pleistocene period, with 
which our study of human life begins, were the alternating advances 
and retreats of the polar ice sheets in the northern hemisphere, and 
there is the possibility that these Pleistocene glaciations were con- 
temporaneous throughout the world. Present research seeks to 
correlate European glaciations with changes of humidity in Africa, 
and a scheme of synchrony between European glaciations and east 
African pluvial periods has been prepared (E. W. Smith, 1935, p. 16) 
from the data of E. J. Wayland (1934), Leakey (1935), and C. E. P. 
Brooks (1931). 

As an illustrative study of the relationship between climate and 
man in south Africa an article by Smuts (1932) may be quoted as an 
example of the regional research which is only in its infancy. The 
author uses the events of the Pleistocene as a general framework for 
geological and climatic events both in Europe and south Africa. He 
points out that "we have now reached a stage in our south African 
archaeology when we may fairly use the Pleistocene as a working 
hypothesis, testing it with the geological and archaeological knowl- 
edge we have already gathered." Table I (Smuts, 1932, p. 101) 
enumerates Pleistocene periods and climates in Europe; then follows 
a description of European terminology from pre-Chellean through 
Mousterian and Aurignacian to Solutrean phases, thence to Magda- 
lenian, Azilian, and Tardenoisian cultures. Table II, headed 
"European Pleistocene," gives a sequence of hypothetical dates with 
their associated climates, stone cultures, and types of fossil man, 
and a similar table (p. 108) is given for east African climates. Table 
VI makes chronological comparison between European Pleistocene 
glaciations, south African pluvial phases, and the occurrence of the 
lower, middle, and upper stone-age artifacts in south Africa. 

Doubtless, geologists and archaeologists might find herein much 
for contention, and a student must accept the schemes as tentative. 

Physiography and Nature Notes 31 

The actual degree of accuracy in correlation is not the important 
point; we are concerned chiefly with a method whose extension to 
parts of Africa other than the north, east, and south may ultimately 
lead to a better understanding of the relationship between geological 
events, climatic change, and cultural sequences. 

General Smuts emphasizes the logical connection between the 
sciences. Speaking of south Africa he says (p. 112), "Our inadequate 
geology is now impeding our further progress in archaeology," but 
he points out that the necessary advance is being made by C. van 
Riet Lowe, who is collating evidence of pluvial periods in the Pleisto- 
cene from study of the terraces of the Vaal River. 

In connection with the subject of climatic changes, and their 
effects on human and animal life, L. S. B. Leakey's chapter entitled 
"Glimpses of Kenya's Past" (1936b) provides a non-technical intro- 
duction. For another area, the Sahara, Gautier (1928, Mayhew's 
translation, 1935, pp. 54, 60-61, 109) affords an excellent summary 
of geological and climatic changes with emphasis on the relation of 
these to human, plant, and animal life. 

Gautier states (p. 61), "The facts which we have established then 
are these : that the Sahara appears to have been a desert during very 
remote and diverse geological eras. But in the Quaternary age, 
which was the geological period immediately preceding our own, a 
sharp change of climate in respect to humidity was experienced in the 
Sahara as well as in Europe and other parts of the world. During 
this period portions of the Sahara were furrowed by mighty rivers, 
and for the desert was temporarily substituted the steppe, thus 
opening to the tropical fauna a route to the Mediterranean." The 
Saharan rivers were not, however, powerful enough to reach the sea 
and to establish normal drainage. During the moist period the 
Atlas Mountains became the home of a residual fauna, some of which 
remained in existence even into our own historical times. The 
Carthaginian elephant was one of the last relics of this fauna, and 
the animal might have survived longer but for the depredations of 
Roman ivory hunters. 

climate and population 
In studying human settlement in relation to humidity and tem- 
perature some figures collated by Westermann (1934, p. 303, quoting 
R. Uhden, 1931) deserve consideration, and these should be studied 
with reference to Fitzgerald's maps (Figs. 8, 9, pp. 34-35; Fig. 10, 
p. 41; and Fig. 14, p. 108), showing distribution of temperatures, 
rainfall, population, and types of vegetation. 

32 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Westermann states, "The present population of Africa according 
to recent census figures is about 130 millions, possibly less, making a 
density of four persons per square kilometer. In the steppe lands, 
most of which do not allow of agriculture but are fit only for cattle 
nomads, as, for example, in the region south of the Sahara, there is 
scarcely one person (in French Equatorial Africa 1.5) per square 
kilometer. Even in the forest district of the Congo where there is an 
abundant supply of rain the population reaches only 1-1.5 per 
square kilometer. The savannah lands show a relatively dense 
population. In northern Nigeria the density rises to almost 46. 
The greatest congestion is found in the oases of the Sahara and in a 
few favored places, as on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro, where 
125 persons live on one square kilometer. Kavirondo is also a densely 
populated country. The greatest density is reached in Egypt. The 
valley of the Nile has 400 persons per square kilometer, and the purely 
agricultural Egyptian province Menufie 684." 

Vegetation Zones 

For our present purpose a simplified diagram (Map 2) will 
suffice to indicate the climatic zones that are of primary importance 
in the study of plant life and culture areas. 

Zone 1 is equatorial forest, which occupies a broad belt north 
and south of the equator. A narrower, westerly continuation of this 
belt stretches along the coastal region, which comprises the political 
divisions of Cameroons, Nigeria, Dahomey, Ashanti, the Ivory Coast, 
Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This dense forest region is one of great 
humidity combined with a fairly high but constant temperature. 
Near Lagos, for example, the average temperature is about 80° 
with little variation either seasonally or by day and night. This is 
not an exceedingly high temperature, but owing to excess of moisture 
the heat is oppressive (Fig. 2, b). At Kano in northern Nigeria a 
dry heat of even 150° is not so enervating. 

Zone 2 is modified equatorial forest. The rainfall is less and the 
vegetation is more sparse than in Zone 1. 

Zone 3 is parkland having adequate moisture, scattered forest, 
and open plains with tall grass that gives shelter to herds of antelope. 
In the eastern parkland zone are the largest herds of big game, and 
many regions within the zone are suitable for raising cattle (Fig. 2, a, 
Fig. 3). 

Zone 4 is true desert of stones or billowy sand interrupted by 
high plateau some of which is volcanic and attains a height of eight 



Dense. £QuQf-o^t9f fof^esf-^ 

Mocfffie(y E^quat-ofi&i ror-esr 


Tr-ue Deae^r-f 


S^mi - ct^3€.^f- 

W»/'/7» Tlt/npe^ot-^ Z-Ontat 

Map 2. Climatic and vegetation zones 
Scale: 1 inch=1130 miles 






Fig. 2. Types of landscape. a. Parkland scenery near Sokoto, Nigeria, 
river bed in drought, b. Dense forest bordering a river, Cameroons. 


34 Source Book for African Anthropology 

thousand feet. The chief elevations are Air (Asben), Hoggar Moun- 
tains, and Tibesti. Fertile oases depending on permanent under- 
ground water occur at wide intervals. Rainfall is either non-existent, 
or heavy rains may occur locally at long intervals and for veiy short 
periods (Figs. 4, 5). 

Zone 5 is a grassland area of moderately high temperature and 
seasonal rainfall, sometimes with droughts. The region is transi- 
tional from parkland to semi-desert. 

Zone 6 is semi-desert with high temperature and scanty rain- 
fall, somewhat uncertain in time and quantity. The chief vegetation 
is thorny scrub, euphorbias and areas of coarse grass (Figs. 6, 11, a). 

Zone 7 is of a warm, temperate, Mediterranean type with local 
variations of heat and moisture due to differences in elevation. 

Examination of Map 2 shows a repetition of climatic zones 
north and south of the equator. Modified forest and parkland, also 
grasslands, are to be found surrounding the dense equatorial forest. 
In the southwest is a strip of coastal desert and semi-desert, and 
warm temperate zones occur in the extreme northwest and southeast 
of the continent. The comparisons of temperature, rainfall, and 
vegetation in these zones, which have somewhat similar locations 
north and south of the equator, are only approximate. 

Similar climates have not, however, imposed a uniformity of 
human modes of life. In the Kalahari Desert Bushman hunters 
have met conditions in their own itinerant way, but without any 
livestock. On the contrary, nomads of the corresponding semi- 
desert region north of the equator keep horses, cattle, and possibly 
camels. In the dry steppes of Kordofan, the whole organization is 
seasonally changed by splitting a tribe into small bands, each of 
which under its sheikh settles near a waterhole for the dry season. 


It is undesirable to give here statistics of rainfall, since these are 
readily available in the works of Fitzgerald (1934) and Knox (1911), 
but two extremes are portions of Cameroons, with an annual fall of 
300 inches, and the region of Walfish Bay in the southwest, with an 
annual record of 0.3 inch, an almost negligible supply. The wet 
seasons are reversed north and south of the equator. Thus in Angola 
the dry season extends from April to the end of September, then in 
the period September to March rains come from the northwest. 
North of the equator, for instance, in Nigeria, heavy rainfall occurs 
between April and October, but following the final tornadoes of 

Fig. 3. Parkland scenery on high plateau, Abyssinia (from photograph by 
A. M. Bailey). 




















38 Source Book for African Anthropology 

November the dry season sets in. In some areas of Africa the 
distribution of rainfall is more complicated than that described, 
for in addition to the two main seasons, wet and dry, periods of the 
"little rains" are important (F. Jung, 1932; W. Koops, 1935). 

Since mountains and plateaus intercept moisture, rainfall depends 
on elevation. In Angola the wet winds originating in the northwest 
are bereft of moisture before they reach the coast; consequently, a 
strip of seaboard has in some years a fall that is scarcely measurable. 
The dryness of the Sahara Desert is due to deflection of moisture- 
laden winds whose direction is determined by the shape of the Gulf 
of Guinea. The forest region of the Guinea coast has a heavy fall, 
but by the time the winds have reached the southern Sahara they 
are dry. 

In the far northwest of Africa westerly winds bring moisture to 
Algeria and Morocco, but the Atlas Mountains intercept the greater 
part of the downpour. Hence, the winds are dry when they reach 
the northern Sahara, and that area is screened from a supply of rain 
on both its southern and northern extremities. The Kalahari 
Desert in the southwest of the continent results from similar causes. 
Southeast trade winds bring a heavy fall of rain to Zone 7 at the 
coast, but after crossing the high country they reach the Kalahari 
as dry winds. These facts are of primary importance in studying 
section II, "Culture Areas." 

introduced plants 

The history of each plant provides a theme for inquiry that leads 
into a wide field of literature, especially that relating to early voyages 
of discovery. If a plant is not indigenous to Africa, research tries to 
discover the first dependable date of introduction, the country of 
origin, and the point at which it was introduced into the new habitat. 
If botanical, linguistic, and historical research is successful, there is a 
possibility of tracing the routes along which the plant was dispersed, 
the agencies of dispersal, the reasons for acceptance or rejection, 
and the part played by the innovation in modifying cultures. 

B. Laufer (1919) emphasizes a point of distinction between the 
introduction of a plant itself and the adoption of a custom associated 
with the plant. For example, indigo plants are indigenous to Africa, 
but the custom of making dye from them may have been introduced 
by Arabs who recognized the plants and knew how to utilize them. 
A similar argument applies to the henna plant and its use as a cos- 
metic. Cotton plants and gourds (Cucurbita) are of doubtful origin. 








40 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Castor-oil plants are possibly indigenous and coffee is a native of 
Africa. Probably Africa is indebted to Asia for the banana, jack- 
fruit, coconut palm, date palm, fig, flax, millet, olives, sugar cane, 
and rice. But most recent research makes it doubtful whether rice 
cultivation began in China, India, or Africa (Nature, vol. 138, 
1936, p. 1104, Editorial note). The evidence supporting such 
hypothesis is viewed in detail by A. de Candolle (1890) whose work 
remains a classic, and more recently by B. Laufer (1919) in "Sino- 
Iranica." Alldridge (1901) has published a very useful and well- 

FiG. 7. Baobab tree and semi-desert scenery (from painting by Field Museum 
Staff Artist, Charles A. Corwin). 

illustrated book describing cultivated products and forest timbers, 
not from the historical but from a practical point of view. 

Some of the most important food plants of Africa were introduced 
from America during the period of slave trade between the west 
coast of Africa, Brazil, and the West Indies. At present millions of 
Africans use as their staple crop maize, which was introduced into 
west Africa by Portuguese voyagers, probably early in the sixteenth 
century. This grain is grown in forest clearings, but it thrives best 
of all in upland regions where tropical heat is tempered by elevation. 
The plateau regions of central Angola provide ideal situations for 

Physiography and Nature Notes 41 

cultivation of maize in large quantities. The history of the intro- 
duction of maize and a note on the slow acceptance of the grain as a 
food for human beings is given by Hambly (1934a, p. 118) from 
unpublished notes supplied by the late Dr. Laufer. 

From America came groundnuts (peanuts), Arachis hypogaea, 
which are now widely cultivated for food by Negro tribes and in 
some localities for export. The nuts were brought in slave ships 
to serve as food on the return voyage. In northern Nigeria during 
November the groundnut crop for export stimulates an extensive 
caravan trade near Kano. Another valuable contribution from 
America is manioc, a root crop, several species of which are cultivated 
in forest clearings over an enormous area in the forest and parkland. 

The New World contributed sweet potatoes {Ipomaea Batatas), a 
tropical vine of Convolvulaceae. Yams (genus Dioscorea), of which 
Dioscorea saliva and Dioscorea alata are the most common varieties, 
are cultivated in Africa. Probably all the cultivated yams of 
Africa are of Old World origin. Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), probably 
American in origin, are somewhat widely cultivated in open country 
such as that of central Angola. The papaya {Carica Papaya) and 
the guava, a shrub of the genus Psidium, have been introduced from 
America, but though appreciated by Europeans, the fruits of these 
trees cannot be said to form an important item of native diet. 

The introduction of tobacco from America has had an important 
influence on African culture, trade, and social customs, with which 
the use of this narcotic has become associated (Laufer, Linton, 
Hambly, 1930). This leaflet summarizes historical evidence for 
introduction and diffusion of the commodity, and information is 
given respecting cultivation, preparation of smoker's tobacco and 
snuff, the associated habits, and types of apparatus used for smoking. 

A few brief notes on plants of economic importance which are 
characteristic of Zones 1-7 may now be added. 


In Zone 1, the central equatorial region of great heat and mois- 
ture, the most important products are the palms and the banana. 
The wine palm, Raphia vinifera, sometimes called the bamboo palm, 
produces a sap that yields an intoxicating drink when fermented; 
from the base of the leaf a fiber named piassava is obtained. The 
oil palm, Elaeis guineensis (Fig. 8, h), the raffia palms (Fig. 10, a), 
and the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, are all of great economic value. 

In the forest zones of west Africa men mount the trunks of oil 
and wine palms by placing their feet flat against the trunk of the 

42 Source Book for African Anthropology 

tree and leaning backward on a fiber rope that supports the body. 
The climber advances upward by a series of jerks until he nears the 
head of the tree. He then uses his machete to cut slits to which small 
gourds are attached for collection of the sap, in case of the wine 
palm (Forde, 1937b, p. 43). From an oil palm he cuts off clusters of 
nuts (Fig. 10, 6). Sarbah (1908, pp. 232-250) has given a useful 
account of the oil palm. The thick, reddish juice is a staple ingredient 
in vegetable stews, and large quantities of the oil are exported for 
making soap. 

Coconut palms thrive in the east and west coastal, equatorial 
regions, and the dried kernels, known as copra, are exported for 
making soap and candles. In Sierra Leone the cores from clusters 
of oil palm nuts, when burned, yield potash for use in making soap 
(Alldridge, 1910, p. 336). From the leaves of the raffia palm many 
Negro tribes make fiber skirts, mats, and baskets. Raffia fibers 
are dyed and woven into colored patterns with simple looms. The 
raffia weaving of the Bushongo in the southwest Congo region and 
of some tribes of southern Nigeria is of great artistic merit. 

The use of the banana (Musa) in the forest zone is well exempli- 
fied by Kollmann (1899, p. 12) who describes the place of this fruit 
in the domestic economy of the Waganda tribe. "He cooks the 
banana in large earthen pots covered by banana leaves. He roasts 
it at the fire; crushes meal from it; uses the fibres for all kinds of 
wicker work, and for tying up and fastening his work; the leaves 
serve him as table cloth; from the viscous sap of the trunk he pre- 
pares a kind of soap ; and a valuable drink somewhat like lemonade, 
and greatly liked by Europeans, is obtained from the fruit." Not 
everywhere in the tropical zone does the banana function so impor- 
tantly, but the account is typical of the way in which domestic 
economy focuses about one or more principal vegetable products. 

Rice flourishes in hot moist regions, but it has a sporadic and not 
a general distribution in Africa. Rice is grown in Sierra Leone, along 
the upper Niger, near Lake Chad, in the Nile Delta, near the sources 
of the Congo and the Kasai, in Tanganyika, especially in a coastal 
strip south of Zanzibar, and over a large part of Madagascar. 

Production of sugar cane in a strip on the west coast north and 
south of the equator, sporadically in the Nile Valley, in southeast 
Africa, and in northeast Madagascar is principally a European enter- 
prise employing native labor. 

The distribution of maize in Zone 1 is very wide, since the plant 
can be cultivated in forest clearings, although it grows better still 

Fig. 8. a. North African oasis with date palms, Phoenix dactylifera (from 
painting by Field Museum Staff Artist, Charles A. Corwin). b. Oil palm, Elaeis 


44 Source Book for African Anthropology 

in more open country bordering the denser forest. The grain thrives 
in fairly high plateau regions to an elevation of 4,000 feet. Generally 
the grain is grown by natives for their own consumption as a staple 
food and for brewing beer, but a large area in south Africa is devoted 
to production of maize for export. Fitzgerald (1934, Fig. 30, p. 192) 
shows the most intensive cultivation to lie north and south of 
Basutoland. Before 1820, maize (Indian corn), which is known in 
south Africa as mealies, was little known in Cape Colony and not 
until 1880 was its production of any consequence. Maize, though 
little used as food by Europeans in south Africa, is the staple of 
native diet, and in 1928 more than half a million tons was exported. 

Manioc (cassava), Manihot utilissima, is very commonly used 
as food in the forest area and a broad periphery of that region. 
The Ovimbundu distinguish five varieties by name and have for 
each a specific method of cultivation and preparation for food 
(Hambly, 1934a, pp. 146-147). Yams and sweet potatoes, together 
with maize and manioc, are the four staples of a mid-section of 
Africa covering more than a third of the total area. They are all 
rich in starch, but in regions where the oil palm thrives the oil is 
added to crushed yams, so giving a mixed diet. 

The wealth of timber in forests of Zone 1 is to a great extent 
unexploited but research goes forward at schools of forestry such as 
that established at Ibadan in Nigeria. Negro wood-carving in hard 
mahogany and ebony has attained maximum development in the 
Ivory Coast, Ashanti, Dahomey, Nigeria, Cameroons, and the 
southwest Congo. Study of trees, their properties, and the extent to 
which the timbers are utilized has been too frequently neglected by 
ethnologists. Hambly (1934a, pp. 138-140, 161) has given a list of 
Umbundu names for trees, together with notes on the economic 
values of the timbers to the Ovimbundu. Unwin (1920) and H. 
H. Johnston (1906) have prepared descriptions of west African forests 
and forestry; the former is technical, the latter pictorial and popular. 
A useful technical work on west African forestry has been compiled 
by J. Hutchinson and J. M. Dalziel (1931). 


In Zone 2, which is a region of attenuated forest and parkland, 
and in Zone 3, which is a transition area from thin bush to semi- 
desert, several staple grains are produced. Here a student will 
encounter difficulties in nomenclature. 

Some clarification of naming is given by Robbins and Ramaley 
(1933). "Sorghum is related to some of the common American 







46 Source Book for African Anthropology 

prairie grasses of the genus Andropogon, and indeed sorghum is 
sometimes considered as belonging to that genus, but at present it is 
more often designated as Holcus Sorghum. The plants require high 
temperatures and are sensitive to cold ; they can resist drought since 
they have a low water requirement and are not readily injured by 
hot winds. The sorghums have relatively few diseases and insect 

Durra is a sorghum widely cultivated in the eastern Sudan and 
northeast Africa under climatic conditions that give no rainfall from 
September to May. In west Africa durra is locally called Guinea 
corn, and in south and southeast Africa, Kafir corn. 

"The term millet does not refer to a definite botanical group 
(species, genus, or tribe). Agriculturally speaking, the word 'millet' 
now embraces a number of annual cereal and forage grasses which 
have comparatively small seeds, abundant foliage, and fibrous root 
system. Most millets belong to the genera Chaetochloa, Echinochloa, 
Panicum, Pennisetum, and Eleusine. The water requirement of 
millets is less than that of the sorghums." (Robbins and Ramaley, 
1933, pp. 90-92.) 

Eleusine is a genus which is composed of grasses with many- 
flowered spikelets. Eleusine coracana is a valuable edible grain 
cultivated in India and east Africa. Sesame (simsim) is an East 
Indian herb; Sesamum indicum has flattish seeds which, owing to 
their oil content, have a nutritive value. K. Schumann (Editor, A. 
Engler, 1895, pp. 31-87) has given a section of his compendium to a 
description of maize, millets, eleusine, sorghums, and other nutritious 
grasses of east Africa, and a key to cultivated varieties of durra in 
this region is added. 

In the western part of Zone 2, where the forest becomes more 
sparse, several trees are of great economic importance. Borassus 
flabellifer var. aethiopum (Fig. 9, a), a variety of the Palmyra palm 
of India, is known in Liberia as the fan palm. This palm has 
large round fan-shaped leaves which are used by the natives for 
thatching, for basketry, and as writing tablets. Sugar and wine are 
made from the sap. The fruits can be eaten either roasted or pre- 
served, and when ripe they yield a yellow dye. The dum palm 
(doum, or dom), Hyphaene thehaica (Fig. 9, b), provides pliant straw 
for making mats, hats, baskets, and bags. These palms can thrive 
in somewhat arid areas of Zone 5. 

The shea-butter tree, Butyrospermum Parkii, of the dry savanna 
lands, has a variety of uses. A solid white fat is obtained from the 










48 Source Book for African Anthropology 

seeds, and this can be used either as food or as an illuminant. Meek 
(1925, vol. 1, p. 143) and M. Park (p. 203) have described shea-butter 
and the manufacture of soap from this fat. Another conspicuous 
tree of the dry zone and one which extends into semi-desert regions 
is the baobab (Fig. 7), Adansonia digitata (Verdoorn, 1933). Accord- 
ing to Meek (1925, vol. 1, p. 146) the flour crushed from the fruit is 
used in making porridge known as kunu, and the leaves are a season- 
ing for soup. The Fulani frequently add baobab pod juice to their 
milk, and the bark fiber is used locally for door curtains, knapsacks, 
string, and ropes. 

The name kola is applied to a large genus of African trees of the 
chocolate family (Sterculiaceae) having capsular fruits containing 
large seeds. Cola acuminata, often known as Cola vera, furnish most 
of the kola nuts of commerce. In west Africa the nuts are cere- 
monially handed at receptions. Their caffeine content gives them 
value as a stimulant. 

In the Nupe country of Nigeria, north of the denser forest zone, 
groves of kola trees are cultivated and nuts are produced for 
export. Further research would be of interest in collating infor- 
mation about the customs associated with the use of kola nuts. 
Thus, in establishing a blood brotherhood between two men a nut is 
divided, and each of the men eats that part of the nut which is 
smeared with the blood of his "brother." 

The distribution of the indigo plant and its uses have been dis- 
cussed by Laufer (1919, pp. 370-371, 585) and some notes on the 
subject of dyeing with indigo in west Africa have been collated by 
Hambly (1935a, pp. 415-417). Meek has described the routine of 
work on a present-day indigo farm (1925, vol. 1, p. 123). 

In the dry regions throughout Zone 6 acacias yield various 
gums of commerce. Bartholomew (1912, p. 38) indicates on an 
economic map of Africa a distribution of gum-exuding trees in 
Mauretania and in the hinterland of Morocco and Algeria. The 
region of distribution extends across Africa in the dry Zone 6, border- 
ing the southern Sahara and extending through Kordofan, to the 
east of the Nile and into Abyssinia. Throughout this long but 
narrow belt the gathering of gums, bringing them to local markets, 
and packing them for export are of great economic and social im- 
portance, since the industry determines native modes of life. 

ZONE 4 'I 

In the oases of Zone 4, which is the true desert, and in the Nile 
Valley, date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) are of primary importance 



<Xi CO 
. O 

m if 
-^ S 

<1 S3 

•2 5 
. c 


50 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Dates are dried and carried as human food on long journeys, and as 
food for camels in the region of Kufra and other eastern oases. 
Notes on the cultivation of dates, their grades, domestic use, and 
preparation for export from Siwa have recently been given by Cline 
(1936a, p. 24). The account, which contains many important 
historical references, is an excellent example of the aggregation of 
social and economic traits about a single staple plant (Fig. 8, a). 
Among wild produce of the true desert (Zone 4) and the arid 
region (Zone 6), the thorny acacias are of first-rate importance since 
they afford almost the only browsing for camels, and such browsing 
is essential for maintenance of health, even though the animals are 
fed with dates or with durra. 


In the temperate zones (Map 2, No. 7) cereals of the European 
type are grown. Wheat, barley, and oats are important crops in 
lands having climate of the Mediterranean type; so also are grapes, 
olives, figs, lemons, and peaches. The Kabyles of northwest Africa 
show great industry in terracing the hillsides and in carrying water 
from the valleys. Wheat is an ancient crop in the Nile Valley. The 
grain is important in Algeria and in the eastern Basuto highlands. 
Fitzgerald (1934, p. 261) remarks on the increase of wheat pro- 
duction in Kenya since the World War, yet transport to the coast is 
too costly to make export profitable. Rodd (1926, p. 131) gives a 
description of agriculture and irrigation at Auderas in Air, southern 
Sahara, where, in addition to date and dum palms, some wheat, 
millet, guinea corn, and vegetables are grown with much labor; 
wheat, however, is a luxury. 

Bartholomew (1912, p. 52) shows a narrow barley zone along the 
length of the Mediterranean, in the Nile Valley, and at the extreme 
southern tip of the continent. There is also a barley-producing 
district marked on the middle course of the Niger and in the region 
of Lake Chad. 

The natural resources of Africa have been briefly discussed by 
Melland (1932, pp. 111-132) who surveys transport, minerals, 
timber, grasses, mammals and fishes, soil, rivers, irrigation, water 
power, cattle, and future possibilities of development. 


So far as anthropological work is concerned research should be 
connected with the subject of plant ecology. From available data 
the detailed local distribution of essential food plants could not be 

Physiography and Nature Xotes 51 

plotted, though Schimper vlS9S. 1903 > has written an introductory 
treatise. Travelers and residents have failed to bring home or to 
send from Africa varieties of beans, millets, sorghums, manioc, 
groundnuts, and other flora, in quantities which will allow of plotting 
detailed topographical distributions, while analysis to determine 
food values is only in its infancy (E. B. Worthington and other 
contributors, 1936\ 

This does not mean that work of collation from ethnological 
researches would have no present value. Some notes on food 
plants and their domestic preparation and use are given in the 
majority of ethnological monographs. The Bulletin of Kew Royal 
Gardens, London, is important Jor example, Xo. 1. 1937^. Many 
valuable articles dealing with plant ecology' in south Africa are to 
be found (,SAJS. and Journ. S. Af. Botany). In the pages of Mem- 
oires de la Societe des Sciences Xaturelles du IMaroc botanical 
information for north Africa is given, and for this area Chevalier's 
work (1932^ is ser\'iceable. Xorton's article il923'i describes plants 
of Bechuanaland and their uses to Africans. J. M. Dalziel (,1916) 
published a Hausa botanical vocabulan,'. Shantz and Marbut i,1923) 
have \\Titten on vegetation and soils of Africa. The pictorial survey 
of plant life by Karsten and Schenck .1904> is excellent. Much 
valuable material is to be found in the Bulletin du Musetmi d'Histoire 
Xaturelle, Paris, especially in articles by A. Chevalier. The Im- 
perial Forestry Institute. Oxford, publishes lists of African flora. 
Putnam's "Economic Atlas" helps v^ith the study of distribution, 
and X'ewland 1 1922 1 is a valuable source for information on plants 
of economic value in west Africa. 

But, in relation to the size of the continent, the subjects of plant 
ecology and ethnobotany, with regard to both the latitudinal and the 
vertical distribution of plants, have not advanced beyond the pio- 
neering stage. The t^-pe of research needed is one which secures the 
cooperation of ethnologists and ethnobotanists for the preparation 
of a compendium with topographical maps. 

Anim.\l Life 

Studj' of the fauna of Africa should be carried out in close con- 
junction with that of climate and plant life. The three taken to- 
gether, and considered in relation to the ecological regions on Map 2, 
prepare the way for study of culture areas (section II). With 
regard to ecological study Bartholomew's "Atlas of Zoogeography" 
(1911) is of primary importance, since the work permits of a detailed 

52 Source Book for African Anthropology 

comparison between distribution of animals and such human occu- 
pations as hunting, fishing, herding cattle, and breeding camels. 

Without attempting a complete survey, a summary of the princi- 
pal forms of animal life will be made with a view to showing the 
importance of these in native economy, occupation, religion, and 
folklore. Beginning with Mammalia, to which most of the large 
domesticated animals belong, we pass to Aves, Pisces, Amphibia, 
Reptilia, and Orthoptera. 

For purposes of scientific reference the Cambridge Natural 
History (Harmer and Shipley, Editors, 1895) will be of great general 
service. For popular reading and excellent photographs, G. T. 
Hutchinson (1922-24) will be found serviceable. Another work of 
general botanical and zoological importance is edited by Schouteden 
(1928), and issued periodically. P. A. Buxton (1925) has produced 
an informative regional study, "Animal Life in Deserts," and for 
biological study of the Sahara, of a non-technical kind, Buchanan 
(1926) will be found useful. I would advise, also, the reading of 
Carpenter (1925), who gives a regional survey of the natural history 
of east Africa. An excellent regional survey of the fauna of Liberia 
and parts of the Belgian Congo is given in a report of the Harvard 
Expedition (1926-27), for which Strong (1930) is the editor of 
numerous articles contributed by specialists. Sudan Notes and 
Records contains many contributions of zoological interest, and the 
Journal of the Uganda and East Africa Natural History Society is 
valuable for both ethnology and biology. 

For giving a biological background which will lead to an intelli- 
gent understanding of African beliefs and customs and the association 
of these with animal life, the following works are of value: Selous 
(1895), one of the greatest of African hunters, Bland-Sutton (1911), 
Statham (1922), Roosevelt and Heller (1915), Akeley (1923), and 
de Ramecourt (1936). 


Among the fauna of Africa no animal has been of greater 
importance than the elephant. Ivory has been a source of wealth 
for native chiefs, who buried the tusks in their compounds and 
regarded the cache as a reserve which at any time could be converted 
into other forms of wealth. Ivory has also played an important role 
in African art and religion. European demand for ivory gave an 
impetus to exploration, the slave trade, and the desire to acquire 
African territory. Masudi, an Arab geographer (A.D. 983), states 




< g 

O 0) 

+^ 2 


= c-hS 



54 Source Book for African Anthropology 

that Arabic ships brought ivory from Africa to Arabia, whence it 
was transported to India and China (Laufer, 1925). 

The African elephant, which differs from the Indian genus in 
formation of the skull, shape of the teeth, and size of the ears, has 
a distribution from 10° north of the equator to 20° south of that 
line. The belief prevails that the African elephant, unlike his Indian 
relative, is untamable. This is untrue, for at Api in the northeast 
Belgian Congo domestication has been achieved. A wild herd is 
stampeded so that the calves may be roped. These are kindly treated, 
fed by hand, washed, and fanned with leaves. In six weeks the 
captives are so tame that they are allowed to accompany the domestic 
herd to pasture. 

Finally, the elephants are harnessed to carts and made to draw 
heavy loads of timber. But this kind of transport does not justify 
the time and expense required for the capture and training. The 
Roman historian, Livy, gives an account of the use of elephants by 
the Carthaginian leader, Hannibal, about the year 217 B.C., and 
there is no doubt that the Carthaginians tamed the African elephant. 
Blunt (1933) has collated useful information pertaining to African 
elephants, their distribution, and the past and future of the ivory 
trade. Other authorities on the African elephant are Marius Max- 
well (1924) and Marcuswell Maxwell (1930). 

The history of the camel in Africa has been a debatable subject. 
Bones of camels found in the Pleistocene strata show that these 
animals were part of the ancient fauna of Africa at the time of early 
stone-age man, but proofs of the use of camels even in the early 
historical periods of Egypt are lacking. The camel was known in 
Egypt possibly as early as 3500 B.C., for an earthen figure of this 
animal has been found in a predynastic grave at Abydos. But the 
camel does not play any part in Egyptian mythology; neither have 
Egyptians left drawings of camels, though Egyptian murals give 
numerous representations of cattle, horses, and donkeys (Erman, 
1894, p. 493; Caton-Thompson, 1934, No. 24; Flamand, 1906). 

Gautier (Mayhew's translation, p. 124) states that the camel 
was first imported into Egypt during the Persian conquest of 525 B.C., 
but for several centuries the camel did not make its way westward. 
Archaeological evidence occurs in the form of Saharan petroglyphs, 
whose grouping, according to Monod (1932), shows pre-cameline and 
cameline cultures of the Sahara in the central region of Adrar Ahnet. 

Rodd (1936, pp. 206-208) describes the nomadic and sedentary 
life of the Tuareg of the present day, and shows how both modes of 

Physiography and Nature Notes 55 

life are dependent on the rearing of camels. He reviews the historical 
testimony of Roman writers who described north Africa, and he 
arrives at the conclusion that the camel was not used for transport 
in Africa until the Arabian camel was so employed about the second 
century of the Christian era (see also A. E. Robinson, 1936). 

The camel is used as a draft animal and a beast of burden in 
some of the dry regions of southwest Africa, but introduction of the 
animal into that area is an instance of modern European enterprise, 
and as such is unimportant compared with the typical camel cultures 
of the Sahara. 

The use of horses in Africa (Figs. 70, 75) is of importance, since 
the breeding of horses, the manufacture of their accouterments, and 
employment of them in warfare, have affected Negro culture through 
Arab influence. Horses were known in Egypt in Dynasty XII, 
about the year 2466 B.C., but the animals were not bred there until 
several centuries later; by that time the Egyptians had learned 
the use of horse-drawn chariots in warfare. In Dynasty XXII horses 
were plentiful in Egypt, and in I Kings 2 : 28, there is the statement 
that King Solomon had horses brought from Egypt; this would be 
about the year 966 B.C. In Egyptian warfare horses were harnessed 
in pairs for drawing chariots, but there is no evidence that they were 
used for riding (Erman, 1894, pp. 490-493). Hannibal used horses 
for his cavalry, and he took Numidian horsemen from north Africa 
to Italy for his campaign against the Romans. These historical facts 
show that horses were part of a north African culture more than four 
thousand years ago, and from that time onward there has been dis- 
persal with introduction of new breeds intermittently. 

Horses are used chiefly in the region of north Africa between the 
desert and the forest ; namely, the semi-desert and parkland country 
which extends across the continent. Although dryness is a general 
characteristic of this region, and droughts may be prolonged, wells 
are sufficiently numerous to enable horses to make the journey. 
An African warrior named Rabeh (Von Oppenheim, 1902) crossed this 
territory with thousands of horsemen about the year 1895. He 
harried the country around Lake Chad, until he was defeated and 
killed by the French in the year 1900. 

A remarkable journey made by horses was that of Mansur's 
troops, who marched from Morocco across the western Sahara about 
four centuries ago. His objective was the Songhai empire in the 
northern bend of the River Niger, and his success was due to the 
feeling of security of his enemies, who never anticipated a column 

56 Source Book for African Anthropology 

from the direction of the desert. Thousands of camels were used for 
transport of water supplies, and the attacking force was divided so 
that not too great a demand was made on the wells of one route 
(Bovill, 1926). 

Up to the year a.d. 1900 horses were commonly used in the 
campaigns of northern Nigeria, where each of the rulers had a large 
body of troops. British conquest ended this internal strife in the 
year 1903, when the Fulani and Hausa were subdued, but there yet 
remain troops of horse which are ceremonially used by native chiefs. 
Fig. 75, b shows a horseman of the bodyguard of the Emir of Fika. 
The rider is clad in a coat of mail and a metal helmet. Fig. 75, a 
illustrates the equine accouterments used in Abyssinia. 

Horses quickly contract disease from the bite of the tsetse fly; 
therefore, their distribution is limited by the occurrence of this pest. 
Horses are bred near Sokoto in northwest Nigeria, and in Bornu in 
the northeast of the country. In every marketplace blacksmiths 
and leather workers produce iron bits, hobbles, stirrups, saddles, 
bridles, and ornamental saddle-covers. 

The most handsome cattle are the long-horned animals of Bornu 
in Nigeria (Fig. 89) and Damaraland in southwest Africa, and later 
it will be possible to show that many tribes of east Africa are so 
organized that every aspect of their lives is closely related to their 
herds. These are tribes of a true cattle culture (section II, chap. 
III). Other divisions of cattle breeders have to be considered; 
namely, nomad tribes of Kordofan, and the Fulani of west Africa, 
whose cattle are used for transport. In addition to these functions of 
cattle, there are important instances of the use of riding oxen by 
Europeans. Lindblom (1931) has mapped the distribution of this 
practice. Dutch farmers of south Africa use ox-carts, and this kind 
of transport may also be seen in Angola. In Angola and elsewhere a 
European may be seen riding an ox which is guided by reins attached 
to a brass rod passed through the septum of the animal's nose. A 
saddle is provided, and to this are attached broad, brass stirrups 
(Fig. 68, 6). The rate of travel is about three miles an hour, the same 
pace as that of a baggage camel. In Egypt and north Africa oxen 
are used for turning wheels which pump water for irrigation. 

The historical arguments relating to breeds of cattle in Egypt 
have been summarized by Erman (1894, p. 443). He points out that 
in addition to the old long-horned race there appears to have been an 
introduction of the short-horned humped variety about the period 
of the New Empire. Recent discussions of the historical aspects of 

Fig. 13. Domestic animals, a. Fat-tailed sheep, b. Long-eared Syrian 
goat. c. Fat-rumped sheep, d. Keltic breed of long-snouted pig. 


58 Source Book for African Anthropology 

domestication of animals in Africa have been offered by Kroll (1928, 
pp. 177-290), and Hilzheimer (1930, pp. 472-483). Crossing of 
principal breeds has occurred, and Meek (1925, vol. 1, p. 118) dis- 
tinguishes five main types of cattle in Nigeria. H. H. Curson (1935, 
1936) has described some parent breeds of African cattle. 

Donkeys, overloaded and distressed with sores, are used in 
Egypt, where the ass was a beast of burden more than five thousand 
years ago. From the north coast of Africa to within a few degrees 
of the equator donkeys are used for transport. In some parts of the 
eastern Sudan and Abyssinia are wild asses that introduce new blood 
into the diminutive stock owned by natives. The female asses are 
left at night in places where they are visited by wild asses. The 
donkey, like the ox, is used for purposes other than transport. In 
the Atlas region of Algeria and Morocco may sometimies be seen a 
primitive plow to which are harnessed a woman and a donkey, for 
among the Kabyles women perform all the heavy agricultural work. 

Pigs are widely kept except by Mohammedan tribes. A slim, 
long-snouted pig is described by Europeans as a Keltic breed, and, 
in addition to this, strains of every European variety of pig may be 
seen. Sheep of Syrian origin, and also goats, are widely dispersed. 
Hutchinson (1922-24, vol. 1, pp. 469-470) pictures breeds of sheep 
domesticated in Africa. The Egyptians had a domestic sheep at a 
remote period, while other breeds have been introduced by way of 
the Sinai peninsula at unknown periods (Fig. 13). 

Although the history of domestic animals is difficult to unravel, 
several truths can be accepted. The African buffalo has never been 
domesticated ; therefore the breeds of cattle now found in Africa are 
not the descendants of African buffaloes. Domesticated pigs are not 
descended from wild pigs of African forests, since these animals 
have not been domesticated in any part of the continent. Domestic 
dogs which are present in all villages are not bred from wild dogs. 
These hunt in packs and in appearance they bear some resemblance 
to hyenas. Cats were domesticated, worshipped, and mummified 
locally in ancient Egypt, but they are not commonly found in African 
villages today. Instances of the domestication of feral cats by 
African natives, and the distribution of domesticated cats among 
Bantu Negroes are subjects discussed by H. Kroll (1928, p. 183). 
Hahn (1896) published an early standard work on the domestication 
of animals, containing many references to African animals. 

Chief among wild animals which are of importance to African 
hunters are antelopes of many species. These abound in the park- 

Physiography and Nature Notes 59 

land region which surrounds the central forest zone. In the grass- 
land, too, and even in semi-desert the grass is high enough to shelter 
herds of antelope, while gazelle may be seen in true desert country 
where expanses of waterless desert are broken by rocky hills. In 
Africa the only deer (Cer\idae) are Cervus elaphus harhanis and 
Cervus dama, in the extreme north. The antelope (Bovidae) should 
not be described as deer since anatomical differences exist. 

Deer shed their horns, but this is not characteristic of antelopes. 
The largest African antelopes are the eland (Fig. 12, extreme left) 
and the roan, while the smallest is the dik-dik, only twelve inches 
high at the shoulders, with a body no larger than that of a rabbit. 

The giraffe (Laufer, 1928), rhinoceros, hippopotamus, zebra, and 
okapi have all been important in hunting communities, and with the 
exception of the okapi and the hippopotamus, all find their natural 
habitat in the open country on the fringe of denser forests, especially 
in Kenya and Tanganyika Territory. The white rhinoceros, which 
has really little claim to the name "white," occurs with very local 
distribution in the Upper Nile region and in south Africa. The 
pygmy hippopotamus is found only in Liberia. 

The gradual spread of civilization, together with the depreda- 
tions of hunters, both European and African, has restricted the range 
of many animals (Hobley, 1929-30). In a later chapter dealing with 
archaeology it will be possible to show that rock engravings of giraffe, 
ostriches, and other animals indicate their former presence in regions 
where they have not been seen within the memory of living people. 
In addition to rock engravings and pictographs in colors, the evidence 
of past distribution is based on osteological discoveries, and the 
observation of Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. From the ethno- 
logical point of view the migration of animals is important, for when 
such movements occur, possibly as a result of changing climate, the 
activities and migrations of human beings are also affected. 

The okapi, a name given by the Bambuti Pygmies of the Ituri 
Forest in the northeast Belgian Congo, has special claims to interest. 
Pygmy hunters showed the skin of an okapi to the German explorer 
W. Junker, in 1878, though Junker did not see a living okapi, and 
the animal was at that time unknown to zoologists. The okapi, an 
entire skin of which was sent to England in 1901 by Sir H. H. John- 
ston, is a member of the giraffe family. Affinity with giraffes is 
shown by the structure of the skull and teeth. Some Pygmy tribes 
hunt this animal, whose skin is valued for making belts which are 
worn by men only. 


Source Book for African Anthropology 

The hyrax (Fig. 14), also known as the coney and rock rabbit, 
appears to belong to the order of rodents, but the outward form is 
deceptive. Examination proves that the hyrax belongs to the order 
of ungulates or hoofed animals which we have been considering. 
The creature is so exceptional as to require a zoological division of 
its own, namely, the Hyracoidea. Zulu tribes of southeast Africa 
are exceptionally skilled in sewing together skins of hyrax to make 

^ ^-3^g%^ 

Fig. 14. Hyrax, Abyssinia. Scale about 1:20 (from group in Field Museum). 

long fur cloaks called karosses. Leakey (1936b, pp. 36-39) gives 
informative notes on the habits of this animal. 

Chief among the carnivorous animals are lions, leopards, hyenas 
(Fig. 16, a, b), wild dogs, foxes, and jackals. Bears have been seen 
rarely and only in the extreme northwest, where the fauna approxi- 
mates that of Europe. Most of the carnivorous animals play a part 
in native stories, hunting, and beliefs of a sacred kind. Lions and 
leopards are sometimes the sacred emblems of chiefs, and in describ- 
ing Negro religion, beliefs in the reincarnation of human souls in 
these animals will be described. Some medicine-men assert that 
they are able to send their souls into leopards or hyenas, so tempora- 
rily controlling the creatures. Or the belief may be maintained that 


Physiography and Nature Notes 61 

a man can turn himself into an animal, or that he may by magical 
means inflict this metamorphosis on an enemy. A leopard has been 
the symbolic animal of the most important secret society of west 
Africa. Members of the society dressed themselves in leopard skins 
and armed themselves with claws. So equipped they slew a victim 
and ceremonial cannibalism followed. 

The ingenuity of Bushman and Pygmy hunters, and the ritual 
that accompanies hunting among Negroes make the study of animal 

Fig. 15. African cheetahs. Scale about 1:36 (from group in Field Museum). 

life of deep interest. The fauna of Africa has affected art and handi- 
crafts by providing motifs for wood-carvers, metal workers, and 
rock sculptors. When considering ideas of a totemic kind the 
importance of animal emblems will be observed. These zoomorphic 
symbols have a religious and a social significance; therefore, a mysti- 
cal relationship exists between a totem animal and the members of 
the clan, or between a person and his individual totem (chap. III). 

In some parts of Somaliland and Abyssinia cheetahs (Fig. 15), 
which are similar to leopards in appearance, are used for hunting, 
just as they are in parts of northern India and Persia. A hooded 
cheetah is taken to the chase, and when in sight of a gazelle the hood 

62 Source Book for African Anthropology 

is removed. This form of hunting is not common in Africa and the 
region of occurrence suggests diffusion from Asia. 

The civet, which is closely related to the mongoose (Fig. 17), 
has a restricted commercial use. It is sometimes kept in captivity 
and made to discharge from its caudal glands a musk-flavored 
substance used in manufacturing a perfume (Meek, 1925, vol. 1, 
p. 149). 

Among carnivorous animals should be mentioned the striped, 
the spotted, and the brown hyenas, which are typically nocturnal 
scavengers that feed on the kill of other carnivores. But hyenas 
at times enter camp and steal living animals. The jaws and shoulders 
are extremely powerful, yet the hind quarters slope with a suggestion 
of weakness in comparison with the fore quarters (Fig. 16). 

Gnawing animals (rodents) are numerous in Africa. The order 
includes large forest rats, small rats and mice of many species, ground 
squirrels and tree squirrels, the jerboa (in desert regions), the porcu- 
pine, and the hare. The last-named is a great favorite in Negro 
folklore because of his cunning, which is directed toward deceiving 
the larger and stronger animals. The jerboa is common in Egypt 
and the Sahara, where it is easily recognized by its method of hopping 
on its long hind legs in kangaroo fashion. Porcupines are widely 
distributed south of the Sahara; the Ovimbundu use the quills of 
these creatures for making a special head ornament for medicine-men. 

Among the insectivores, moles and shrews are of common occur- 
rence; the former range over almost the whole of Africa south of 
the equator. The bats (Cheiroptera) are distributed over the whole 
of Africa, and there are also flying foxes with a more limited dis- 
tribution just north and south of the equator. The true vampire, 
which is a blood-sucking bat, is limited to South America. Allen, 
Lang, and Chapin (1917) have written a monograph on African 
bats with a section on native beliefs and customs connected with 
these creatures (pp. 493-494). 

Creatures belonging to the Edentata or toothless animals are 
the aardvark and the pangolin (Fig. 18, a, h). The former, whose 
name is a Dutch word meaning earth pig, is found in no part of the 
world except Africa, where it is fairly common in the east, south, 
and southwest. The body of the aardvark is about five feet in length, 
the ears are long, and the hide is scantily covered with hair. With 
strong claws the aardvark digs in the sides of termite hills, and licks 
up the ants with a whiplike tongue that shoots out from a tubular 



J \ 

ns1n'F;-.lfi(l:f"^Jr^- «• Spotted. 6. Striped. Scale about 1:24 rf rem 

groups in Field Museum). 


64 Source Book for African Anthropology 

mouth. Recent research indicates that resemblances of the aardvark 
to the anteaters and pangolins are superficial. The aardvark is now 
separately classified as Tubulidentata. 

The pangolin, Smutsia temminckii, which is sometimes called 
the scaly anteater or manis, is somewhat similar in appearance 
to the armadillo of South America. The points of comparison are 
the long tapering snout, the armored covering, and the strong claws 
used for digging in termite hills. The scaly covering of the pangolin 
is, however, distinctly different in structure from that of the arma- 
dillo. The pangolin has a wide geographical range in Africa, from 
10° N. Lat. almost to the southern extremity of the continent. 


Frogs and toads are numerous among the amphibians. The 
most important reptiles are crocodiles and pythons. The African 
crocodile is regarded by some tribes as a sacred reptile, and today 
at Ibadan in southern Nigeria a sacred white crocodile is kept in 
the custody of a priest (Fig. 83, 6). In former days food offerings, 
including human sacrifices, were made to white crocodiles. The 
whiteness is genuine albinism which occurs in reptiles, though some- 
what rarely. Useful works of reference are Ditmars' "Reptiles of 
the World" (1910), and reprint (1936). 

Pythons have a general distribution everywhere in Africa south 
of the Sahara, and although they thrive in a moist habitat and swim 
freely, they are equally adaptable to open and fairly dry country. 
There are several species, of which Python sehae, the largest (Fig. 
83, a) may attain a length of twenty-five feet. The vertebrae are 
supposed by several tribes to be a cure for rheumatism. A village 
chief in Angola presented me with a necklace of these bones, which 
he declared to be a certain cure. The fat of the python is thought 
by some tribes to have curative properties, and sometimes the gall 
bladder is used for magical practices. The section dealing with 
African religions shows how important the python has been in a 
system of python worship which was carried on in Uganda, and 
in west Africa at several centers (Hambly, 1929a, 1931a). The con- 
strictor snakes of Africa must, by zoological classification, be called 
pythons. Those constrictor snakes designated as boas have their 
habitat chiefly in South America, and there is a species in 

The spitting cobra is not a figment of the traveler's imagination. 
These spitting snakes are widely distributed in Africa, and they do. 

Fig. 17. Mongoose, southwest Africa. Scale about 1:3 (from specimen in 
Field Museum). 



Fig. 18. a. Aardvark. Scale about 1:15. b. Pangolin. Scale about 1: 
(from specimens in Field Museum). 


Physiography and Nature Notes 67 

as often reported, rear themselves to squirt their venom at human 
beings. Many authentic records attest the effect of the poison, 
which causes severe ocular inflammation. African tales of fire- 
spitting serpents may be founded on this fact. There is also good 
zoological ground for folklore stories of double-headed snakes. Some 
snakes taper at both ends, and in addition to this peculiarity they 
have a habit of raising the hinder part when approached ; therefore, 
casual observation suggests the presence of two heads. Serviceable 
works of reference are Ditmars (1932), K. P. Schmidt (1923), and 
Loveridge (1936). The last-named gives a list of African reptiles and 
amphibians in the collections of Field Museum of Natural History. 
Tortoises are mmierous in Africa, and there is no creature so 
well described in folklore tales. The tortoise is generally represented 


Fig. 19. Catfish, Clarias senegaknsis. Scale about 1:3. 

as using great cunning to outwit the larger and faster animals. In 
the market of Ibadan, Nigeria, large tortoises are sold as food, and 
snakes are eaten by many Negro tribes. 


In African rivers and lakes live many species of edible fish whose 
capture by nets, weirs, spearing, poisoning, drag-baskets, and lines 
provides an extensive study relating to the economics of food supply. 
Beliefs in the sacredness of catfish survive in Liberia and Nigeria. 
At If^ in the latter territory I was taken to a pool of sacred catfish 
(Fig. 19). At first no movement could be seen; then, as my guide 
agitated the water and threw in a little meal, the pond became alive 
with catfish, some of considerable size. Because of its sacred 
character the catfish was often a design on bronze plaques made 
in ancient Benin, where religion and art were closely connected. 
Boulenger (1909-16) has a standard work on the fishes of Africa. 

68 Source Book for African Anthropology 


Birds are too plentiful and widely distributed to discuss in detail. 
To the Egyptians the ibis was a sacred bird which was mummified 
and buried ; there was also the sacred hawk of Horus, and at present 
many religious beliefs center in bird life. I found among the Ovim- 
bundu that three birds were reverenced. Esuvi is a bird with power 
to catch spirits of the dead, so making them die a second death. 
It flies by night. Other sacred birds of the Ovimbundu are one onduva, 
the plantain-eater, Turacus livingstonii, whose feathers are used by 
kings and medicine-men, and another onjimbi, an owl. Bubo 
maculosus, whose cry is a premonition of death. 

The bird life of Africa includes vultures, which are protected 
by law because they are efficient scavengers. In some villages they 
may be seen associating themselves with poultry and remaining 
near human habitations. Among common birds are hornbills of 
great size, kingfishers, parrots, nightjars, egrets, hawks, eagles, 
flamingoes, and weaver-birds (Fig. 20). The secretary bird, some- 
what larger than a stork, plays a useful part in devouring snakes. 

Of all birds, perhaps the ostrich has been the most important 
in the economics of African hunters, and the bird has been domesti- 
cated in south Africa, where ostrich farming for the sake of the plumes 
is a notable industry. Laufer (1926) has discussed the importance 
of the ostrich in ancient and modern times. Bushmen of the Kalahari 
Desert use the eggshells as receptacles for water (Fig. 63) either in 
transport or for storing in a cache. Eggs and ostriches are a valuable 
source of food supply, while the shells are made into disk-shaped 
beads that are highly valued as personal ornaments and trade objects 
by Bushman tribes. 

In ancient times engraving ostrich eggshells was a form of art 
in Egypt and north Africa, and this practice the Bushmen still 
follow, though the engravings are of an elementary geometrical 
kind. In many Negro tribes collecting eggs is part of the routine 
work of women and children, and feathers for decorative head- 
dresses are valued by some tribes, for example, the Suk and the 
Masai (Fig. 39), who use ostrich feathers. But feathers of small 
birds are sometimes equally important for decoration and as sacred 
emblems. The pink tail feathers of the African parrot, Psittacus 
erithacus, are sold in Nigerian markets. 

Poultry is important over the whole continent, though the breeds, 
except where crossed with European importations, are diminutive. 
The future offers great opportunity for improving the weight of the 

Physiography and Nature Notes 


birds and increasing their egg production. Domestication of the 
Guinea fowl has formed the subject of a brief article by D. Newbold 
(1926). European ducks may be seen in many parts of west Africa. 
For reference a student has several standard works. Reichenow 
(1900-1901) has produced several volumes on the birds of Africa, 

Fig. 20. African weaver-birds and nest. 
Field Museum). 

Scale about 1 : 6 (from specimens in 

and one of the volumes is an atlas of distributions. Stark (1900) 
has described the birds of south Africa, and Ramsay (1923) has 
provided a "Guide to the Birds of Europe and North Africa." 
Bannerman's volumes (1930) describe birds of tropical west Africa. 
Other authorities are Meinertzhagen (1930) for Egypt; Belcher 
(1930) for Nyasaland; Priest (1933) for Southern Rhodesia; and 
Chapin (1932) for the Belgian Congo. 

70 Source Book for African Anthropology 


The locust is the most destructive of the Orthoptera, to which 
order crickets, grasshoppers, and the praying mantis belong. The 
mantis is important in the folklore and religious beliefs of Bushmen 
and Hottentots. At present there is no effective means of suppressing 
the swarms of locusts which appear periodically in almost all parts 
of Africa. Digging ditches to trap the creatures during the 
crawling stage of their existence, inoculation with disease, and the 
use of sodium arsenite fumes (Illustrated London News, 1934, p. 561) 
have all been tried as remedies, but with only a measure of success. 
H. B. Johnstone (1924, pp. 91-101) has described the structure and 
habits of the family Acridiidae, to which most of the destructive 
locusts belong. He mentions various species and their phylogenetic 
relationships. From the egg stage the "hoppers" pass through 
several skin-castings before attaining the mature winged condition. 
The occurrence of solitary and swarming phases for many species 
of locusts has now been definitely established. Locusts are an article 
of diet in regions as far apart as Morocco, Angola, and the Kalahari 
Desert. They are roasted and eaten at once, or preserved in fat 
and salt. 

The small animal life of Africa is most important of all, because 
these are pestiferous forms that determine the welfare of human 
beings and animals. The most detested of these pests used to be the 
mosquito Stegomyia Jasciata (formerly Aedes aegypti), because it is 
the carrier of yellow fever, which still breaks out periodically along 
the coast from Sierra Leone to Cameroons. The female Anopheles 
mosquito carries the germs of malaria fever, which may attack mildly 
or fatally. Africans are by no means immune from malaria, and 
repeated attacks are serious because of the lowered resistance they 
induce. Almost as deadly are the tsetse flies, Glossinia palpalis and 
Glossinia morsitans, which are carriers of trypanosomes of sleeping 
sickness. These pests have an important influence on the distribu- 
tion of human settlements and the keeping of cattle. The jigger, a 
word derived from the West Indian chigoe, is a flea, which was 
introduced into Africa from South America. It bores under the toe 
nails, where the egg sac sets up a severe inflammation. Failure to 
remove the sacs leads to pedal deformity and loss of toes. There 
are many species of parasitic worms that breed in water and spend 
part of their life cycle in the bodies of human beings or animals. 
Some of these worms affect the lymph system, so causing elephantia- 
sis, while other forms attack the bladder and intestines. 

Physiography and Nature Notes 71 

Imm's "General Textbook of Entomology" (1924) is perhaps 
the most useful compendium for reference. For understanding the 
nature of tropical diseases and their menace to native and European 
welfare, Strong (1930) should be consulted. The volumes edited by 
R. P. Strong are reports of the Harvard expedition to Liberia and the 
Belgian Congo (1926-27), and perusal of the notes on malarial and 
yellow fevers, filariasis, yaws, syphilis, leprosy, and sleeping sickness 
will prepare the way for understanding of problems of native welfare 
and European survival (section IV). 

Simpson (1912, p. 353) brings out clearly the way in which 
trypanosomiasis in horses and cattle affects human endeavor and the 
distribution of cultures. Near Lokoja 60 per cent of the horses 
brought into the town develop this disease within a year, and of 
these 50 per cent die of the disease within the same period. 

In conclusion of a brief study of animals in relation to man, one 
more instance, and this an example from entomology, may be quoted. 
Dicke (1932, pp. 792-796) has discussed the influence of the tsetse fly 
on the history of south Africa. He advances the hypothesis that the 
central movement of Bantu migration into south Africa was checked 
by the tsetse-fly belt which stretched across the northern Transvaal, 
and the territories north of it. In addition to the probable effect 
of tsetse-fly belts in native migration and cattle-keeping, the fly has 
influenced the course of European history by determining the 
direction of roads and railways. In 1847 the Boers defeated Umsili- 
katsi in Southern Rhodesia, and in 1851 they were victorious over 
Sechele in Bechuanaland, yet they took no advantage of the situation, 
because the tsetse fly prevented immediate occupation of territory. 
But, by the time the fly-infested areas had diminished and passages 
had opened through these Boer territories, British influence had 
secured a footing in Bechuanaland and Southern Rhodesia, so check- 
ing Dutch expansion. 


Kinds of Evidence 

The data available for study of African history and prehistory 
fall into two main divisions: (1) Direct evidence afforded by datable 
writings; (2) indirect evidence, or inferential testimony. 

Direct evidence is available for Egypt from 4000 B.C. onward 
through the early dynasties, the Middle Empire and the New Empire, 
through Persian, Greek, Roman, and Arab occupations. Datable 
evidence can be given for the activities of Carthaginians from about 
900 B.C. and a chronology of Arab incursions from A.D. 700 onward 
is fairly reliable. This is written documentary evidence, the oldest 
form of which is Egyptian papyri of hieroglyphs, thence through the 
demotic and hieratic forms to Coptic. Latin and Greek histories, 
Punic inscriptions, and a large body of Arabic texts form the 
remainder of the direct evidence up to the fifteenth century, at which 
time European exploration began with voyages of the Portuguese. 

These documents taken collectively furnish a foundation of fact, 
but the period they cover is short in relation to the prehistory of man 
in Africa, and inquiry is soon forced backward into an undocumented 
period of indirect evidence that accumulated before 4000 B.C. 

Indirect evidence includes the following studies: Valuable among 
the data available for prehistoric research are those of archaeology. 
Working in conjunction with geologists, archaeologists study stone 
implements, rock carvings, paintings in caves and on exposed rocks, 
stone monuments, and the remains of human habitations. 

The physique of African races has been studied to a limited extent 
by anthropometric methods. Human skeletal material, especially 
that which is deeply buried, undisturbed, and ancient, has been 
examined for evidence concerning early types of man. This paleon- 
tological evidence is so far very meager. 

African languages are now demanding a thorough scientific study 
with special reference to their structure and interrelationship, and 
the fact is encouraging that, despite the absence of written languages 
for the bulk of the population, traditions of historical events have 
been orally transmitted from one generation to another. Old people 
are often valuable informants, while mythology and folklore preserve 
records of historical events and exalted individuals who appear as 
culture heroes. At the courts of Negro kings are to be found officials 


History 73 

whose principal duty is to memorize tribal history and genealogical 

The outline of African languages demands a separate chapter, 
while the distribution of different modes of life and the study of 
somatic traits also need individual consideration. Therefore, the 
present chapter is restricted to a review of the facts of datable 
history, and of prehistory examined in the light of archaeological 

Splitting a problem into component parts does not mean that the 
sections are not logically connected. On the contrary, the data that 
are classified under different headings are actually unified; the 
subjects merely represent different angles from which historical 
problems can be reviewed, and the synthesis will be made later when 
sufficient data have been accumulated. In this chapter examination 
of historical and prehistorical evidence proceeds from datable events 
to the less clearly interpreted facts of archaeology. 

Datable Events 

egypt and asia 

There is no part of the world whose ancient history has been 
more thoroughly studied than that of the Nile Valley. The results 
of concentration on archaeological and historical research in Egypt 
during a century at least are particularly helpful, since Egypt is 
connected with Asia, which was the original home of some present- 
day African people, languages, and customs. The history of Egypt 
from the earliest times to 500 B.C. has been compressed into one 
volume with a detailed scheme of chronology (Breasted, 1910; in 
German by Erman, 1923). 

The workmanship of stone implements from Egypt attests the 
fact that some predynastic Egyptians had mastered the difficult art 
of flint knapping. In Neolithic times these skilled lapidaries made 
slender flint armbands, while the finely serrated edges of sickles, 
and ripple-flaking that is done by pressure, were well executed. 
Flint arrowheads were of the best workmanship. Moreover, there 
were implements of copper in some of the predynastic graves, and 
bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin, was known in Egypt at 
an early date, but iron work was rather late in making an appearance. 

Flinders Petrie's work "Arts and Crafts of Ancient Egypt" shows 
the high standard of workmanship attained in weaving with the verti- 
cal cotton loom, leatherwork, making beads of stone and glass. 

74 Source Book for African Anthropology 

ivory-turning, wood-carving, basketry, pottery, and jewelry of gold 
and silver. 

In addition to the evidence of skilled handwork, many examples 
of which have been recovered from royal tombs such as that of Tut- 
Ankh-Amen, the Egyptians are known to have had a complex 
religion and philosophy. Sacred writings, notably the "Book of the 
Dead," explain the Egyptian outlook on life, death, and the journey 
of the spirit to the judgment halls of Osiris. There the heart was 
weighed in the balance, and the deceased had to recite the negative 
confession before forty-two judges, denying the sins of adultery and 
false witness, and in substance abjuring all the human weaknesses 
which are proscribed by the Ten Commandments; these are possibly 
a derivative from the Egyptian code (Petrie, 1923). 

The journey to the land of shades was not an easy one, a fact 
which is attested, not only by sacred writings and pictures describing 
the combats of the spirit with serpents and other monsters, but also by 
the wrapping of amulets in the swathings of the mummy. In order 
to avoid damage to mummies the contents of the wrappings are now 
studied at Field Museum by means of X-ray photographs which 
indicate the nature and position of amulets and the technique of the 
embalming process. The photographs also indicate the presence of 
fractures and methods of reducing them, while diseases of bone are 
in some instances clearly shown (Moodie, 1931). The spread of the 
practice of mummification from Egypt has been discussed by the 
late-G. Elliot Smith (1929) but his belief in a world-wide diffusion 
from Egypt has been freely criticized and is not generally accepted. 

Egyptian mythology was particularly rich in explanatory stories. 
Thus Toth is described and pictured as a scribe who stands by the 
god Khnemu. The latter is molding men on his potter's wheel, 
while the former marks off the span of each life by cutting notches 
on a palm stem. In this way human origins and destinies were 
accounted for by etiological stories. 

The communal life of the Egyptians was complex, for in addition 
to a hierarchy of priests, who were the custodians of documents 
that they themselves compiled, there were sacred kings, tax-gatherers, 
military organizations, corv^es of labor for public works, and a 
commercial system that sent caravans south to the Sudan and east 
to the Red Sea. National life was focused in the king, whose strength 
and longevity depended on spiritual power, which was ceremonially 
renewed in a temple by laying the royal hands on an image of Ra, 
the Sun god. 

History 75 

Art and sculpture were closely associated with religious belief, 
mythology, and handwriting, which progressed from a system of 
hieroglyphs to a cursive hand. The importance of handwriting can- 
not be overestimated, since the social and religious structure, together 
with the material progress, is described in documents that cover a 
period from about 3500 B.C. up to the Greek and Roman occupations, 
and beyond them to the period of Arab conquest of Egypt in the 
seventh century of the Christian era. 

That some diffusion of beliefs and customs from Egypt has taken 
place is certain, but no comprehensive study has yet shown the 
effects of culture contacts of the Nile Valley on social systems of 
Africa. Several anthropologists have, however, called attention to 
some arresting similarities between certain traits of Egyptian and 
Negro culture (Delafosse, 1900; Meek, 1931a, passim; Talbot, 1926, 
passim; C. G. and B. Z. Seligman, 1932, p. 34; H. R. Palmer, 1936b). 
G. E. Smith (1929) and Perry (1926) present the broadest possible 
views of the world-wide spread of Egyptian or Heliolithic culture. 
The number of traits that spread from the Nile Valley, the distance 
they traveled, and the degree of modification they experienced are 
uncertain. But the following may be instances of the spread of 
cultural traits from Egypt to other parts of Africa. 

The Egyptian idea of the king as a sacred being, on whose vigor 
national welfare depended, led to the custom of killing decrepit 
kings, so that the prosperity of the country might not be impaired. 
Up to recent times this custom of killing the king prevailed in 
Uganda, among the Shilluk of the Upper Nile, and in west Africa 
among the Yoruba (C. G. Seligman, 1933). The Bahima, a Hamitic 
tribe of Uganda, practiced the Egyptian custom of brother and 
sister marriages within the royal family so that the dynasty might 
be preserved. 

The fact that Hamites penetrated the Nile Valley, advanced down 
the eastern side of Africa, and exerted an influence on Negro west 
Africa, should not be forgotten when attempting to explain the 
distribution of these apparently Egyptian customs, which might 
perhaps be more correctly described as Hamitic rather than specifi- 
cally Egyptian (C. G. Seligman, 1913, pp. 593-704). 

The Egyptians believed in a spiritual double, which after death 
visited the tomb where offerings and material comforts were pro- 
vided, and to this ethereal counterpart of the body the name ka was 
given. In Ashanti a similar belief exists, for the kra escapes from the 
body of a dying person, whose gasps are said to be due to the exertion 

76 Source Book for African Anthropology 

of the kra in an uphill journey to the spirit world (Rattray, 1927a, 
pp. 153, 318). 

Use of a funeral boat by the Jukun of Nigeria and the digging of 
shafted burial chambers resemble Egyptian practices. The hierarchy 
of gods, the elaborate priesthoods, and the worship of sacred animals 
among the Yoruba and the Ashanti may perhaps be added to traits 
that may have been derived from the Nile Valley. Personal observa- 
tion and reference to the writings quoted suggest that Ashanti, 
Dahomey, and part of Nigeria have similar cultural traits relating to 
kingship, theology, and art, and that these coordinated traits show 
resemblance to the Egyptian system, though there is always the 
possibility of independent development. Much more detailed com- 
parison is necessary to make a demonstration. 

Egypt has acted as a cultural gateway to Africa from Asia, and in 
the Nile Valley many Asiatic traits have been absorbed, utilized, 
perhaps changed in form, and then passed on. Reference has been 
made to the cultivated plants and domestic animals which may have 
entered Africa by way of Egypt, and to the observations already 
made should be added data from an article by H. H. Johnston (1913, 
pp. 375-417). This writer believes that humped cattle came from 
India, and that the short plump goat is a native of Syria, while the 
same country is mentioned as the probable home of the Roman- 
nosed goat with long hair and pendent ears. Domestic fowls were 
probably introduced from India, Syria, and Persia. Some breeds of 
horses, Arabian camels, long-horned cattle, and fat-tailed sheep are 
probably Asiatic in origin, and there is a possibility that rice and 
wheat first came from Mesopotamia. 

As the story of African contacts with Asia is unfolded, and the 
function of early Semites, and later Arabs, as culture carriers is 
made clear, there is a natural tendency to examine African cultures 
with the purpose of isolating the borrowed elements. Da Barros 
(1777-78) is a standard work of consultation for the history of Arabs 
in east Africa. Hirschberg (1931, pp. 272-275) has discussed Arabian, 
Persian, and Indian influences in east Africa, and Stuhlmann (1910) 
called attention to east African methods of working in iron and 
brass that show Arab and Persian influence. Hirschberg demon- 
strates similarity between systems of time reckoning near Lake 
Victoria and those used in early Arabian and Persian times. Schoff 
(1912) has written a valuable commentary on an ancient document, 
"The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea" (circa A.D. 60), giving an 
account of Arab voyages on the coast of India and lower east Africa. 

History 77 

The Midgan hunters of Somaliland use a bow resembling the 
sigmoid Asiatic form, and in Abyssinia there are in use round shields 
whose prototypes are Asiatic. Two musical instruments, not of 
African origin, are widely used in north and west Africa. One of 
these is a pottery drum having a piece of hide as a tympanum, and 
the other instrument, which has a variety of forms, is a kind of 
fiddle provided with horsehair strings. A small bow strung with the 
same kind of material is used for playing the instrument. L. Frobe- 
nius (1922) has described and plotted the distribution of these and 
other alleged Asiatic traits, which he has discussed more fully in 
"Kultur-Geschichte Afrikas" (1933). 

Contacts between Egypt and Persia have been frequent and 
prolonged, and in view of the early manufacture of chain armor 
(Fig. 75, h) in the latter country, there is almost a certainty that this 
form of protection for man and horse entered Africa by way of Egypt. 
In addition to a Persian origin of chain mail (Laufer, 1914) there 
may be truth in the statement that the Crusaders on their way to 
and from Palestine, from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, 
introduced some of the chain mail. 

Making silver wire, beating out vessels of brass, also casting in 
bronze, are not usual and indigenous handicrafts of Negroes, and all 
the evidence suggests migration of these traits over north Africa, and 
into the western part of the continent. In Ashanti cloth is orna- 
mented with designs stamped on the material by wooden blocks, 
which is a well-known Persian method. 

The shaduf , a lever for raising water from wells, is used in northern 
Nigeria and this is known to be a device used in ancient Egypt. H. 
Ling Roth (1917, pp. 113-150) offers the opinion that the vertical 
cotton loom of Egypt may have migrated along the north African 
shore, across the Sahara, and into Nigeria. The reed canoes and 
harpoons used by the Buduma of Lake Chad are definitely like those 
pictured in ancient Egyptian drawings. Almost everywhere in 
Africa coiled basketry is made by a technique that was employed in 
Egypt five thousand years ago. 

Those who favor independent invention as an explanation of the 
occurrence of like forms would point out that the similarities might 
occur through convergence as a result of similar needs, the presence 
of identical materials, and existence of certain obvious ways of 
manufacture. Yet adoption is easier than invention, since creative 
genius is rare, and a detailed examination of the subject might prove 

78 Source Book for African Anthropology 

that the cultural influence of Asia and Egypt has been widely diff iised 
in north Africa. We need, however, an accurate time scheme. 

In the 18th dynasty (1600 B.C.) Egypt founded an empire in 
western Asia, and about this time Egyptian armies occupied the 
Sudan south of Egyptian territory, where Negro kingdoms exercised 
considerable power. Rameses III invaded and conquered the south 
of Palestine several centuries later, after which exploit he marched 
through Syria and returned to Egypt laden with spoil. 

But in 680 B.C. the Egyptians encountered misfortune when their 
country was invaded by Esarhaddon, King of Assyria, who con- 
quered Memphis. A century and a half later, the Nile Valley was 
under the dominion of Persian rulers. 

In addition to acknowledging Egypt as a focal point for the 
reception and distribution of Asiatic traits, the importance of 
Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs should be considered in 
chronological sequence, for each of these influenced the culture of 
Egypt and other parts of north Africa. A valuable summary of his- 
torical events in north Africa with special reference to the eastern 
Libyans has been prepared by Bates (1914), who presents an exten- 
sive bibliography of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and modem French 
sources. The history of the Libyans is considered in two main 
periods: namely, from protodynastic times to 1000 B.C., and from 
that date to the Arab conquest in the seventh century of our era. 
From Egyptian texts and sculptures inferences are drawn respecting 
the dress, tattooing, material culture, religion, and social life of the 
Libyans. For modern history of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan see 
MacMichael (1934). 


The date at which the Phoenicians separated from the Semitic 
matrix to which they belong is unknown, but a thousand years before 
the Christian era the Phoenicians were a thriving commercial nation 
occupying a narrow strip of seaboard at the eastern end of the 
Mediterranean Sea. This territory, about three hundred miles long 
and thirty miles wide, was named Phoenicia by the Greeks. 

Expansion on the landward side was checked by the mountains 
of Lebanon, and by hostile tribes, the Philistines, to whom the Phoe- 
nicians paid tribute. Although of such small size, Phoenicia con- 
tained twenty-five cities, of which Tyre and Sidon were the most 
important. Of the former city Zechariah said, "Tyre did build 
herself a stronghold and heaped up silver as dust, also fine gold as 
the mire of the streets." 

History 79 

The language of the Phoenicians was a Semitic tongue having 
affinities with other Semitic languages, namely, Hebrew and Arabic. 
Punic is the name given to the Phoenician dialect spoken at Carthage, 
and though a dead language it has been studied from inscriptions 
near Carthage and other Phoenician settlements of north Africa. 
Some of the signs employed in Punic survive as elements of the 
T'ifinagh alphabet, which is still written by a few Tuareg (Table 9, 
p. 303). The religious beliefs of the Phoenicians recognized a pan- 
theon of gods, one of which was Moloch, to whom human sacrifices 
were offered. M. A. Levy's "Phonizische Studien" (1856-70) is an 
old but standard work on Phoenician history and customs. 

The Phoenicians were concerned chiefly with trade, and war- 
fare formed no part of their ambition. The Carthaginians were 
satisfied with local conquests and the enlisting of mercenary troops 
from Berber and Negro tribes in the neighborhood of Carthage, but 
no subjugation of the far hinterland was attempted. Cultural 
influences spread through the agency of trade, which was carried on 
round the west coast as far as territory now known as Sierra Leone. 
In view of early Phoenician enterprise, there is no difficulty in 
believing that some cultural traits from north Africa reached the 
coast of west Africa, either by sea or across the Sahara. Bovill (1933a, 
chap. 2, pp. 13-22) gives a summary of Phoenician discovery and 
states that possibly Hanno reached Gabun River, north of the Congo 
estuary. He believes that the historical evidence is sufficient to 
suggest an overland trade from Carthage to the western Sudan. 
The archaeology of Carthage has been described by Ehrenberg 
(1927), Gsell (1913-28: vol. 2, pp. 1-92; vols. 1-4, passim), and 
Hard (1934). H. R. Palmer (1931) has discussed the west coast 
voyage of Hanno, a Carthaginian. 

The Phoenicians were expert makers of purple dyes, linen, 
woolen goods, cotton fabrics, silk, glass, and pottery. Copper was 
obtained from the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, 
while longer voyages were made through the Strait of Gibraltar 
to the Scilly Islands near the coast of Britain, where tin was obtained. 
The amalgamation of tin and copper forms bronze. The Phoenicians 
were well acquainted with the method of terracing hillsides, a process 
which was necessary in their homeland in order to increase the area 
of cultivation. To what extent these factors of Phoenician culture 
were transmitted to west Africa will possibly remain undetermined, 
for cultural resemblances are only suggestive and not conclusive. 

80 Source Book for African Anthropology 

J. L. Myres (1901) presents a photograph of pottery in the 
market at Khoms or Lebda in Tripoli, the modern representative 
of Leptis Magna. The pots illustrate in a remarkable way the 
extent to which successive cultures may flood an area without 
extinguishing old cultures. The pots definitely preserve bronze age, 
Phoenician, Graeco-Roman, and early Arab types. 

Among the Yoruba of Nigeria certain forms of art, including 
terra cotta heads and stone figures of human beings, bear some 
resemblance to Phoenician style (Delattre, 1896; Cagnat, 1909; 
Kelsey, 1926). Monolithic pillars and stone circles of Gambia and 
other parts of west Africa may also be due to Phoenician influence. 
At If^ in Nigeria (Fig, 84) priests in charge of a certain sacred grove 
where terra cotta heads are preserved have robes and mitered head- 
dresses resembling those shown in some Carthaginian sculptures, 
and these factors, combined with the Phoenician traits previously 
mentioned, may be intrusions into Negro culture (Hambly, 1935a, 
pp. 464-468). 

During eight centuries Phoenician power was consolidated in 
the Mediterranean, but about two centuries after the founding of 
Carthage the state of Rome came into existence (753 B.C.). At first 
the Romans struggled for independence against the Etruscans of 
northern Italy. Later they consolidated their power and defeated 
the Greeks, but for a long period the issue of the struggle between 
Rome and Carthage was doubtful. 

Hannibal, Carthaginian statesman and general, crossed from 
north Africa into Spain, thence by Alpine passes into Italy, where 
he dominated the situation for thirteen years. He was finally 
expelled (Livy, XXI, XXii). The Romans, who were not originally 
a maritime people, built a fleet, and from that time onward they 
took aggressive measures against Carthage. A series of conflicts 
known as the Punic wars ended in the utter destruction of Carthage 
in the year 146 B.C. 


From this period Roman power in the Mediterranean was 
extended and stabilized, and today roads, aqueducts, and remains 
of cities such as Timgad and Tebessa attest the thoroughness of 
the Roman occupation. Cyrenaica became a Roman province, as 
also did Egypt, which, on the death of Cleopatra, about thirty years 
before the birth of Christ, was ruled by a Roman prefect. Bovill 
(1933a) shows a map of the Roman Empire extending about four 
hundred miles inland from the Mediterranean. The tribes known 

History 81 

as Garamantes occupied territory now called the Fezzan. The 
Gaetuli lived in northwest Africa, and the Nobatae and Blemmeys 
in the Nile Valley. Bates (1914) has brought together a series of 
ethnographical maps of north Africa according to data from Herod- 
otus, Scylax, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny, Ptolemy, and Arabian 
geographers. Newbold (1928) has discussed these classical sources, 
and Milne (1898) has prepared a "History of Egypt under Roman 
Rule," Boissier (1899, 1901) has written descriptions of the archae- 
ology of Roman Africa in Algeria and Tunis. Bunbury (1883) 
has published a compendium on the Greek and Roman period in 
Africa. Gautier (1937) has made an important contribution. 

Under Roman dominion Christianity was founded in Egypt, 
and tradition says that St. Mark preached the gospel in Alexandria 
about A.D. 69. Despite persecution, the new religion became en- 
trenched, though often under debased forms which incorporated 
the deities and magical rites of the religion of ancient Egypt. In 
desert monasteries the scriptures were translated into Greek and 

The spread of Christianity (A.D. 50-400) is important when 
studying the ethnology of Abyssinia at the present time. Actuated 
by religious zeal, and to some extent compelled by persecution, Coptic 
monks carried Christianity into Abyssinia in the fourth century, 
from which time the Abyssinian church has existed. The schisms 
of the early church led to the formation of sects known as Gnostics, 
Monophysites, and Nestorians, whose views differed respecting the 
theological background of Christianity. Divergent creeds evolved 
respecting the divinity of Christ, the nature of the Holy Ghost 
and the Trinity, and the extent to which factors of Egyptian religion 
might be incorporated in the Christian faith. 

Three centuries before our era Greek rulers named Ptolemies 
administered the region of the Nile Delta (Mahaffy, 1899), and 
before this the Greeks, and their forerunners the Aegeans, had made 
daring voyages, in rivalry with Phoenician competitors. Ptolemy I 
founded the Alexandrian Library and Museum, and his successor 
built the Pharos Lighthouse at Alexandria, a beacon which was 
regarded in ancient times as one of the seven wonders of the wo?:ld. 

Pending further archaeological work in the hinterland of north 
Africa, an estimation of the inland spread of Greek culture would 
be premature, but linguistic research by H. R. Palmer (1932, p. 305) 
has shown the existence of Greek words in Kanuri, a language 
spoken north of Lake Chad in central Africa. Some characters 

82 Source Book for African Anthropology 

of the Greek alphabet have been incorporated into T'ifinagh, a script 
known to a few Tuareg. Notwithstanding the importance of Greek 
maritime enterprise along the north coast, the conquest of Egypt 
by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., and the rule of the Ptolemies, 
the Greek period bears little relation to the history and ethnology 
of Africa as a whole. 

Although the Roman Empire had completely annihilated her 
Phoenician rival, Roman power in north Africa was not uncontested. 
Berber tribes, who are part of the northern Hamites, revolted, 
notably under Jugurtha. To the Romans this man was a rebel; 
to his countrymen he was a patriot. The defeated Jugurtha fled, 
only to be betrayed to his Roman enemies, who, according to custom, 
paraded him through the streets of Rome, and then allowed him to 
perish in a dungeon. 

Opposition to the Roman Empire was not confined to the northern 
coast of Africa. Warlike Libyan tribes of the desert west of the 
Nile, and Hamitic and Negro tribes on the eastern banks of that 
river demanded constant alertness on the part of Roman garrisons. 
Latin names for these tribes occur repeatedly in the works of Roman 
historians, but the identification of the ancient names with present- 
day tribes is not always certain (Bates, 1914, p. 132; Palmer, 1936b). 

Mention has been made of the journey of Roman centurions to 
the Upper Nile, and it seems probable that Julius Maternus crossed 
the Sudan through Kordofan to the oasis in which Bilma is situated. 
From this point he appears to have returned to Fezzan in Tripolitania. 
Roman explorers of two thousand years ago returned from Saharan 
exploration with stories of a great river, the Niger, which drains the 
greater part of west Africa. Reports of this river were in circulation 
even in the time of Herodotus in the fifth century before Christ, 
and the information brought back by Julius Maternus, A.D. 150, 
served to stimulate geographical interest, until at last the mystery 
of the Niger's course was solved by the Landers in the early part of 
the nineteenth century. 

After several centuries of sovereignty in north Africa and Egypt, 
Rome experienced shattering defeat such as she had inflicted on the 
Phoenicians and Greeks. From northern Europe came Teutonic 
tribes, the Vandals, who wrested the north African provinces from 
Rome and sacked the city of Rome itself in the year A.D. 455. 

Cultural traits of the Romans are not known to have penetrated 
far inland, but the Yoruba of Nigeria have a structure for collecting 
rain, and this bears a resemblance to the Roman impluvium. Some 

History 83 

horsemen of the Bauchi plateau, Nigeria, wear protective metal 
shin-guards which are not unlike Roman greaves. Yet, on the 
whole, the influence of the Roman conquest appears to have been 
confined to the northern littoral. Contact with Negroes influenced 
the literature and art of Greece and Rome (Beardsley, 1929). 


The importance of Byzantium should be recognized, since a cer- 
tain architectural style and many works of art are described as 
Byzantine (Diehl, 1890). The adjective is derived from the name 
of the town Byzantiimi, which was founded about 657 B.C. on the 
shores of the Bosporus, where now stands the Turkish city of 
Istanbul (Constantinople). From the time of its cultural maturity 
under Justinian in the sixth century of our era, the city of Byzantium 
spread an influence that affected the art and architecture of eastern 
Europe and north Africa until the twelfth century. 

The Byzantine style, which is exemplified by the mosque of 
St. Sophia in Constantinople, and St. Mark's in Venice, is highly 
ornamental, having elaborate carvings, mosaic work, floral decora- 
tions at the heads of columns, lofty domes, and vaulted arches. 
The Byzantines (Dalton, 1911) worked in gold, ivory, textiles, and 
silver with a skill that has certainly affected the crafts of north 
Africa, and possibly even those of west African Negroes. 

The Tuareg of the Sahara use the design of the cross for the 
hilts of their swords and daggers. They have this design on the 
wooden posts of their camel saddles, and as a neck ornament some 
persons wear an Agades cross. An art form of this kind might 
arise independently, but on the contrary there may be truth in the 
suggestion that these designs are derived from a Christian motif 
which was common in Byzantine decoration. 


The part played by Jews in this complex history of north Africa 
is not one which is important for the continent as a whole, yet the 
presence of colonies of Jews in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Tripolita- 
nia, Egypt, and Abyssinia is of sufficient interest to call for comment. 

After becoming detached from the Semites of southwest Asia, 
the Israelites, who evolved a written language called Hebrew, at a 
later date settled for a period in Egypt. The story of their serfdom 
under the Egyptians, their exodus, wandering, and consolidation in 
Palestine are matters of Biblical history, which also gives a clear 

84 Source Book for African Anthropology 

account of their social organization under a patriarchal system in 
which the oldest male ruled the family. The Bible makes clear a 
gradual evolution of religious thought, moral codes, laws of inherit- 
ance and succession, along with anthropological data describing 
taboos, omens, magical practices, and witchcraft (J. G. Frazer, 1927). 
Much of the lore of the Old Testament is recognizable as Semitic, 
and as such was shared by Phoenicians, and later by Arabs. We 
should therefore recognize that wherever Jews settled in Africa they 
tended to establish Semitic customs, as, for example, circimicision 
and use of the scapegoat, which were of remote antiquity among 
the Semites of Arabia (W. Robertson Smith, 1889, p. 296; 1907, 
pp. 57, 61). 

Three centuries before Christ large settlements of Jews existed 
in Lower Egypt, where Alexandria was one of their chief centers of 
commerce. Gradually these Jewish colonies extended along the 
north coast of Africa, through Cyrenaica, and even to Mauretania 
in the far west. The destruction of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70 
no doubt added to the population of these African settlements, and 
it is certain that Jewish immigrants were numerous when the Jews 
were expelled from Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century. 

The most important southward migration of Jews was probably 
that of about A.D. 115. Two routes were followed, one by way of 
Air, Niger, and Senegal, and the other from Morocco through 
Mauretania. In the oases of the Sahara the Jews preserved their 
identity, but in the Sudan they were absorbed into the native 
population (Bovill, 1933a, p. 27). 

The origin of the Jews in Abyssinia is unknown. Evidently the 
Jews, named Falashas (Fig. 38, right), have mingled with some dark- 
skinned strain, possibly Negroes of Abyssinia, for they are darkly 
pigmented; hence the name Black Jews. The Falashas segregate 
themselves from all other sects, including Christians, and in church 
organization, belief, and ritual they jealously guard many Old Testa- 
ment beliefs and practices. The part which Jews have played in 
the history of south Africa has been described by L. Herrman (1930). 
"Hebrewism of West Africa," by J. J. Williams (1930), is a com- 
pilation that should be critically consulted. There are therein some 
informative data relating to infiltrations of ancient Semitic beliefs 
and customs. These are, however, treated as being specifically Jewish. 


More important than any of the historical facts yet mentioned 
is the part played by Mohammedan culture. Mohammed, who was 

History 85 

born early in the seventh century of our era, added traits of reHgion, 
government, law, and art to the fundamentals of early Semitic life. 
Then, under an impetus of religious fervor, the Arabs, with Semitic 
background now carrying the new factors of Koranic teaching, swept 
into the Nile Valley, which they conquered in a.d. 641. Gibb (1926) 
has provided a useful synopsis of Arabic literature together with a 
bibliography, and Lane-Poole (1901) has given a succinct account 
of the Arab dynasties in Egypt. 

From the Nile as a focus the Arabs spread along north Africa 
and established Kairwan near the site of the ruined Carthage. Then 
they continued westward and crossed into Spain, where the archi- 
tecture of southern cities such as Granada attests Arabian influence. 
Under Tarik the Omayyad caliphs of Egypt ruled north Africa 
from the Nile to Morocco until the middle of the eighth century. 

About this time the Omayyad dynasty was overthrown by the 
Abbasids, of whom the well-known Harun-al-Rashid, a famous 
caliph of the "Arabian Nights," was a distinguished ruler. Through 
Arab rule, which extended to north India and Persia, cultural con- 
tacts between north Africa and the middle east were effected. In 
the eleventh century there spread along north Africa and across 
the Sahara into the Sudan a wave of Arab conquest, carrying 
Mohammedanism and cultural adhesions that have been summarized 
by Hambly (1935a, pp. 462-463). The influence of the Mohammedan 
expansion on arts and handicrafts has been well described by Dimand 
(1930) in a beautifully illustrated guide to these works of art in the 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This second invasion was 
far more important than that of the seventh century, the effects of 
which were somewhat transient. The later Arab invasion imposed 
the Mohammedan religion on the Tuareg and other Saharan tribes, 
and in addition the kingdoms of the Niger were affected by religious 
and other cultural influences of the Arab conquerors. Further, the 
rule of Arab dynasties in the Nile Valley gave an impetus to tribes 
of Hamitic culture, who traveled westward and imposed their 
physique, language, and culture on some Negro tribes of west 
Africa. The most important of these, tribes traveling westward 
were the Zagawa, who penetrated the western Sudan where they 
stimulated the Mali Empire and the Soninke Dynasty (Bovill, 
1933a, p. 48; MacMichael, 1912b, pp. 288-344; Palmer, 1928). 

Following the Beni Hillal and Soleim Arab invasions of north 
Africa, the Mohammedanizing of west African Negroes proceeded 
steadily. The process of overlaying Negro and Hamitic culture 

86 Source Book for African Anthropology 

with Mohammedan beliefs and practices continues at the present 
time, and although local resistance has occurred, notably among 
the Mossi of the middle Niger and the pagan tribes of the Bauchi 
plateau, it may be said that Islamic influence has profoundly affected 
Africa north of the equator. It is true that some Negro tribes have 
no more than a superficial acceptance of Mohammedanism, for the 
converts do not pray, observe the festivals, or know the precepts 
of the Koran. But, on the contrary, a further study of physical 
anthropology, languages, and modes of life will prove the deep 
penetration of Arab influences in some regions. 

In this connection the different possibilities of miscegenation 
should be borne in mind. Physical mixture of Arabs and Negroes 
has occurred, for Arabs had concubinage with their Negro slaves, 
and some persons of Negro physique will describe themselves as 
Arabs because they or their ancestors were honored slaves in an 
Arab household. Language may be adopted without physical mix- 
ture or the transmission of culture; or, again, a cultural trait, for 
example, the Mohammedan religion, may be accepted by tribes which 
still retain their own languages and other cultural elements. The 
Tuareg, for instance, have taken Mohammedanism as their religion, 
but they have not intermarried with Arabs; they retain their own 
language, Tamashek; and they regard Arabs as their enemies. 

Mohammedanism advanced across the Sahara into the Negro 
kingdoms of west Africa not only by conquest. Large numbers of 
Mohammedan ascetics, named the almoravides or marabouts, preached 
the tenets of their faith and organized their followers on a military 
basis. Under Ibn Yacin the almoravides were consolidated, and when 
he was killed in A.D. 1057 control passed to Abu Bakr, then to Yusuf, 
his nephew. In 1062 Yusuf founded Marrakesh and captured Fez. 
He then entered Spain and took Granada, but the almoravides were 
finally expelled from Spain and defeated by Berber tribes of north 

From the bend of the River Niger to Lake Chad a succession of 
empires was founded by tribes of Negro blood, with some infusion 
of Hamitic elements of physique, language, and culture. An outline 
of historical events in the western Sudan has been given by Maurice 
Delafosse (translation by, 1931), and H. R. Palmer (1928) 
has made many important contributions to our knowledge of this 
period. At present only a small amount of archaeological work has 
been done on sites of west African Negro civilizations, and further 
research among documents of the period A.D. 1050-1500 is necessary. 

History 87 

Yet the outline of events is known. At intervals new documents are 
acquired, or some of those which have been in European archives 
for many years are translated (Palmer, 1936b). 

The powerful kingdom of Ghana on the Niger was mentioned 
for the first time by Masudi, who died A.D. 956. Ibn Haukal visited 
the site a few years later, and El Bekri gave a fairly detailed descrip- 
tion of the city in the eleventh century. Archaeological excavations 
by Bonnel de Meziered in the year 1914 have confirmed the descrip- 
tion of El Bekri (Monteil, 1932). 

For several centuries the states of Ghana and Songhai flourished 
simultaneously. The history of Songhai is intimately connected 
with the powerful kingdom of Melle, which was built up by the 
Mandingo. Melle reached its zenith in the period 1308-31, at which 
time the empire covered the western Sudan, including the state of 
Songhai and the Tuareg town of Timbuktu. Ibn Batuta, who 
visited Melle in 1352, makes clear that the Melle Empire was the 
most important political, religious, and commercial center in the 

By the end of the fifteenth century Melle had been overthrown 
and succeeded by Songhai, which in turn was devastated by El 
Mansur of Morocco in 1591. The writings of Ibn Edrisi (1099-1154), 
Ibn Batuta (1325-54), and Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) were all 
valuable historical contributions. In the sixteenth century Leo 
Africanus described his travels across the Sahara, and from the bend 
of the Niger to Lake Chad, thence across the desert again to north 
Africa. This exploration provided data which were all that historians 
and geographers had for guidance during the following two hundred 
years (for translations see W. M. Slane, El Bekri, Ibn Batuta, Ibn 
Haukal, Ibn Khaldun, and Leo Africanus). 


In connection with Arab penetration of Africa the Zimbabwe 
ruins of the southeast should be briefly described. The ruins, which 
are built on the site of ancient gold mines, are historically connected 
with the trading activities of Arabs on the lower east coast of Africa, 
about A.D. 1000, but the racial identity of the builders and the date 
of construction are unknown (see also A. T. Curie, 1937). 

For many years the Zimbabwe ruins had a romantic reputation 
based on an alleged connection with King Solomon, circa 1000 B.C., 
whose supplies of gold were said to have come from this region. The 
name Zimbabwe is used by the Makalanga tribe of Southern Rhodesia 
for the dwelling of a principal chief, and it is natural that such a 

88 Source Book for African Anthropology 

name should be transferred to any well-built structure. The Ellipti- 
cal Temple has a circumference of 830 feet, and the enclosing wall is 
15 feet thick and 32 feet high. The structure is built of stone blocks 
made from material that is abundant on the surrounding kopjes, 
and the blocks have been trimmed to fit with accuracy, even though 
no mortar has been used. It could not be said that Negroes never 
build with stone, but the Zimbabwe structures suggest a foreign 
influence for the planning and supervision of the architecture. 
C. G. Stevens (1931) has suggested a clironology for the several types 
of architecture which he illustrates in detail. 

European interest in Zimbabwe began in the year 1867, when 
Phillips and Renders discovered the ruins during bush travel. Four 
years later, Karl Mauch stated that the ruins were a copy of King 
Solomon's temple, an unwarranted statement, but one that aroused 
popular interest and imagination. 

In 1892 T. Bent collected many of the objects which are now in 
the South African Museum, and in the course of his observations 
came to the conclusion that the site had a Syrian origin. Following 
the work of Bent considerable damage was done by curio hunters, 
who are said to have taken a thousand ounces of gold ornaments. 
The site was subsequently examined, though not completely, by 
R. N. Hall (1895-1903), and a little later by Randall Maclver (1906), 
who expressed the opinion that the ruins were not of great antiquity. 

Arabian geographers of the ninth and tenth centuries of our era 
describe a land of Zendj in the hinterland of the present port of 
Beira in Portuguese East Africa, where African natives had supplies 
of gold. A trade in gold between Africa and India is also mentioned 
in these chronicles. Da Barros, writing in 1552, spoke of a fortress 
of dry walling called Zimbabwe, already old, and the source of super- 
stitions and folklore among Negroes and Arabs. As early as 1721 
Da Costa suggested that King Solomon obtained gold for his temple 
from Zimbabwe, and the belief was perpetuated for more than two 

In the neighborhood of Zimbabwe soapstone is found, and this is 
readily worked into ornamental forms; for example, Bushmen of 
today make it into bowls for tobacco pipes. It is not surprising, 
therefore, that excavations at Zimbabwe should yield objects of 
soapstone. These include columns, bowls, birds, and objects said 
to be an imitation of the phallus. Carvings of the male sexual organ 
have suggested the former presence of fertility cults and phallic 
worship as part of the religious exercises of ancient inhabitants. 

History 89 

The site has yielded fragments of Chinese porcelain, dark blue 
glaze of Persian make, Arabian glass, gold bangles, crucibles and 
furnaces for smelting gold, spindle whorls of soapstone and clay, 
and types of black pottery and red ware that resemble present-day 
products of potters in the neighborhood. Ingots of copper in the 
form of a letter X and molds of the same shape have been discovered. 
Bronze was used from the earliest period of the site, and analysis of 
the alloy, which contains 12 per cent of tin, indicates considerable 
metallurgical ability. The tin and copper could have been obtained 
locally. Iron and evidence of its manufacture occur at the lowest 
levels of excavation. 

A recent survey of Zimbabwe has been made by Miss Caton- 
Thompson (1929) who has published a summary of the historical 
facts, the conflicting hypotheses of archaeologists, and the results 
of personal excavation. Another summary and bibliography has 
been compiled in Italian by Cipriani (1932), who gives an extensive 
bibliography. The presence of imported beads in bed-rock levels is 
crucial evidence for fixing an approximate date for the earliest 
foundations. Experts are of the opinion that the beads are of a type 
made in India in the ninth and tenth centuries of our era, and any 
date earlier than a.d. 200 for the origin of the buildings is improbable. 
A period of four centuries, probably a.d. 900-1300, is allowed for the 
rise, prosperity, and collapse of the civilization that existed at 
Zimbabwe. This, however, should not be regarded as a final judg- 
ment, for the ruins are still under investigation. Lowe (1936, pp. 
282-289) reports that at Mapungubwe in the northern Transvaal 
excavations have yielded gold beads and gold ornaments, colored 
beads, Chinese porcelain, ivory, copper, bronze, and iron. Some of 
the objects resemble those discovered at Zimbabwe, and there is 
evidence of a widely spread medieval culture. 

In the year 1517 Arab dynasties in Egypt were overthrown by 
the Turks, who had taken Constantinople in 1453, and the Ottoman 
Empire became a power in north Africa. But in 1584 a Turkish fleet 
was defeated by the Portuguese near Mombasa, and Turkish 
suzerainty slowly succumbed before attacks of the English and 
French, until Turkish rule in north Africa was definitely ended during 
the World War of 1914-18. 

The foregoing summary of datable events has brought our 
historical survey up to the European period of exploration and con- 
quest, which will be described in section IV. The historical review of 
Egyptians, Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, and Arabs has peeled 

90 Source Book for African Anthropology 

off only a surface layer of the cultures of man in a restricted part of 
Africa, and the period we have dealt with is almost negligible com- 
pared with the total lapse of time since Pleistocene man first made 
his appearance in Africa. Prehistoric evidence has, therefore, to 
attempt a reconstruction of African history over a long era extending 
from early Pleistocene times to 4000 B.C. The duration of the 
Pleistocene period is a matter of conjecture and controversy, but 
according to Schuchert and Dunbar (1933, p. 432) "all students of 
Pleistocene history now agree that the entire duration of the Pleis- 
tocene was at least several hundred thousand years. It probably 
exceeded a million years." There is uncertainty, too, as to when the 
Pleistocene ended and the Recent period began, but perhaps a 
duration of 25,000 to 30,000 years is a fair estimate of the length of 
the Recent period. 



Fossil Man 

In the "Descent of Man" Charles Darwin (1892, p. 155) writes: 
"In each region of the world the living mammals are closely related 
to the extinct species of the same region. It is, therefore, probable 
that Africa was formerly inhabited by apes closely allied to the 
gorilla and the chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's 
nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early pro- 
genitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere. But it is 
useless to speculate on this subject; for two or three anthropomor- 
phous apes, one the Dryopithecus of Lartet, nearly as large as a man, 
and closely allied to Hylobates, existed in Europe during the Miocene 
age; and since so remote a period the earth has certainly undergone 
many great revolutions, and there has been ample time for migration 
on the largest scale." 

Of the anthropoid apes perhaps the gorilla has attracted most 
attention popularly and scientifically. The distribution of this ape 
is limited to a belt of equatorial Africa north and south of the 
equator, but the chimpanzees are more widely distributed. The 
interest of physical anthropologists has been specially concentrated 
on the anatomical characters of chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans, 
and gibbons (the two latter not found in Africa). All these 
anthropoids are regarded as members of a primitive primate stock 
which ultimately produced Homo sapiens, though anthropologists 
are not fully agreed on the lines of evolution. A simple exposition of 
the phylogenetic relationship of the anthropoids to man will be 
found in the works of Coolidge (1929), Keith (1929), and Hooton 

In addition to the tailless apes of Africa there are many species of 
monkeys with tails, which are not, however, used for hanging from 
the branches of trees. This prehensile habit is followed by monkeys 
of South America, but not by African monkeys. Dogfaced baboons 
are common in rocky hills of Africa. Baboons play a prominent part 
in Negro folklore, and they entered into the mythology and spiritual 
beliefs of the Egyptians, who represented them pictorially. But 
the gorilla and the chimpanzee are the two extant African forms 
that are of primary interest in a scheme of human evolution. 

Hooton (1931, p. 381) states that "Africa's contribution to the 
history of higher primate evolution is already generous." The 


92 Source Book for African Anthropology 

principal items are Parapithecus, the eariiest fossil monkey yet 
known; Propliopithecus, the first anthropoid ape; Dryopithecus 
moghareTisis, most ancient of the giant primates; Australopithecus, 
alleged to be a humanoid ape of the Pliocene ; and Homo rhodesiensis, 
the gorilla-browed specimen of the Broken Hill mine. 

Yet, despite Hooton's optimism respecting this evidence from 
Africa, a glance at a map prepared by E. W. Smith (1935, p. 31) 
indicates that very few sites have yielded remains of ancient man. 
Of the nineteen sites marked on the map, nine are clustered east of 
Lake Victoria Nyanza, four in a narrow area in the extreme south- 
east of the continent, and only three in the north, leaving most of 
the twelve million square miles with no evidence whatever. Hooton 
(1931) and E. W. Smith (1935) have provided a summary of these 
discoveries, but to use the words of the latter "there is as yet not 
much to be told," and one might add that the little which is known 
is controversial. Let us see how debatable points arise, and how the 
conclusions of experts differ. 

Since several accounts of fossil man have stressed the writings of 
Keith (1929, 1931) and G. E. Smith (1927), we will glean our data 
from an article by Hrdlicka (1926, pp. 173-204), who in 1925 
visited the site where Homo rhodesiensis was discovered in 1921. 
At once Hrdlicka touches on the circumstances of discovery, and 
these were of the kind that are bound to lead to differences of opinion 
when fragments are examined. "The lack of precise information on 
certain important points was soon felt by students of the subject; 
and it now seems that even what was known at first suffered some 
subsequent confusion. There was a desire for more data regarding 
the position of the skull, its surroundings, the cave itself, and its 
fillings. The nature of the animal bones in the cave, and other 
points were not sufficiently well documented." Hrdlicka then 
reviews the literature that had accumulated from the time of the 
first newspaper reports, and, during all this, "errors of a serious 
nature have crept into the accounts of the circimistances of the 
discovery, and these have already materially affected important 

' "Five months after the discovery the skull, a number of human 
as well as other bones were brought to England by the manager 
of the mine." Here again we see from Hrdlicka's narrative how 
discussion and divergent views arise. Quoting Hrdlicka (p. 102), 
"Above all, it became an accepted idea that several human bones 
brought to England with the skull were found with the cranium 

Prehistory 93 

and belonged to the same individual or the same people, and from 
the characteristics of these bones deductions were made as to the 
morphological and even chronological status of the Rhodesian man." 

Of Rhodesian man Hrdlicka says, "The skull itself is positively 
not the skull of any known African type of man or their normal 
variants. Neither is it any known pathological monstrosity such 
as giantism or leontiasis. It is a remarkable specimen, of which the 
age, provenience, history, and nature are still anthropological 
puzzles. Morphologically, the skull is frequently associated with 
the Neanderthal type of Europe. This may be fundamentally 
correct, but only to that extent. In its detailed characteristics the 
specimen is in some respects inferior, in others superior, to anything 
known as yet of the Neanderthal man." 

Hrdlicka continues with a record of his interrogation of persons 
connected with the find, and when eyewitnesses were not available 
for questioning, some information was gained through correspondence. 

For the views of Pycraft (1928), we must turn to a report on 
"Rhodesian Man, and Associated Remains" (p. 46). "Highly 
specialized in some particulars, the skull must nevertheless be 
regarded as of a relatively low type, having a definite resemblance 
to the skulls of Neanderthal man, with which race it has affinities." 

Some criticism of Pycraft's work is given by Hrdlicka (p. 117), 
and one point to which exception is taken is Pycraft's recognition 
of a new genus, Cyphanthropus, for the Rhodesian skull. A protest 
from W. E. Le Gros Clark (1928) shows how cautious one should be 
in accepting a single report, even from competent authority. Pro- 
fessor Clark's criticism reads: "Mr. Pycraft has given a description 
of the skeletal remains and, basing his evidence on these, has seen 
fit to create a new genus of Hominidae — Cyphanthropus. There are 
a number of points in his description which call for criticism, but 
since the evidence of the pelvis has been so remarkably misinter- 
preted, and since this bone is the most important indication for the 
creation of a new genus, I will confine my remarks to this part of 
the skeleton." The criticism then points out that the evidence for 
regarding a portion of the left ilium as belonging to the Rhodesian 
find is not convincing. The account continues to expose alleged 
errors that led Pycraft to reconstruct a pelvis with an acetabulum 
which "bears no resemblance to any Primate." Pycraft's orienta- 
tion of the pelvis is questioned, and in conclusion the critic states: 

"When these curious errors are rectified, it will be seen that, 
according to the diagnosis given by Mr. Pycraft on page 49 of his 

94 Source Book for African Anthropology 

monograph, the genus Cyphanthropus depends entirely on certain 
features of the skull. I find it impossible to believe that a comparison 
between the Rhodesian skull and the skulls of Neanderthal man 
will justify the creation of a separate genus for the former." 

Keith states (1931, p. 117) that in brain and skull Rhodesian man 
is so primitive that were we moved by anatomical evidence alone we 
should place him at the very beginning of the Pleistocene series of 
cultures, but if we give geological evidence full weight, it does seem 
possible that he may have survived long enough to become con- 
temporary with Neanderthal man in Europe. Keith then turns to 
discussion of the criticism passed on his conclusions by Hrdlicka and 
by Pycraft. 

Sir Arthur thinks that "in the case of the Rhodesian find there 
should not be any hesitation in assigning the tibia to the skull; in 
texture, preservation, conformation, and colouring the tibia answers 
to the skull." The question of associating the limb bones with the 
skull is of primary importance, for, in Keith's opinion, "did we know 
only his skull we should regard him as a possible ancestor of Nean- 
derthal man; his limb bones separate him widely from Neanderthal 
man and reveal his close relationship to neanthropic or modern man." 

After recapitulating the observations of Pycraft and the criticism 
offered by Le Gros Clark, Keith concludes with the verdict that 
there is no need for a new genus named Cyphanthropus, or "stooping 
man"; the original name Homo rhodesiensis given by Sir Arthur 
Smith Woodward is appropriate. Furthermore, "Rhodesian man 
has certain points of kinship to Neanderthal man, but stands in his 
major characters nearer the ancestral line of modern man." 

Keith (1931, p. 53) thinks that Australopithecus, the Taungs 
skull, recovered from a matrix by Professor Dart, is in all essential 
features an anthropoid ape. "It shares so many features with the 
two surviving African anthropoids — the gorilla and chimpanzee — 
that, to account for their common heritage, we must suppose that 
all three have come from the same stem. The features wherein 
Australopithecus departs from living African anthropoids and makes 
an approach toward man cannot be permitted to outweigh the pre- 
dominance of its anthropoid affinities." 

Minute examination of the evidence, and especially of that relat- 
ing to teeth, size of brain, and endocranial cast, leads Keith to the 
conclusion (1931, p. 116) that the evidence is best explained by 
supposing Australopithecus "to have sprung as a branch of the phy- 
lum which gave us the gorilla and the chimpanzee, and not, as 

Prehistory 95 

Professor Dart contends, from the root of the human phylum. That 
Australopithecus should manifest humanoid characters more promi- 
nently than either the chimpanzee or the gorilla need not astonish us; 
the great anthropoids and man have a common inheritance drawn 
from the same stem. In brief the discovery at Taungs has given us 
not a human ancestor but an extinct cousin of the gorilla and 

Dr. P. Alsberg (1934, No. 179) has presented some criticism of 
Sir Arthur Keith's comments relating to the geology, biology, and 
morphology of the Taungs skull, which Alsberg regards as possibly 
human. He concludes: "If we were to paint a theoretical picture 
of the first stages of man, we should necessarily arrive at a form such 
as the Taungs child presents: the jaws are beginning to recede, the 
brain is about to increase. If Dr. Broom's opinion is correct that 
the Taungs creature belonged in the time of the Lower Pliocene, then 
the geological antiquity would also not bar the supposition that the 
being was human. The Taungs race would then represent a human 
stage far older than the Trinil (Java) race, and correspondingly 
much more primitive." 

Past experience has emphasized the need for caution in drawing 
conclusions from fossilized fragments of bone. But a written report 
by R. Broom (1936) establishes the importance of a recent discovery 
at Sterkfontein near Krugersdorp in the Transvaal. The fossils 
consist of the base of a skull, part of the face, and a good maxilla 
with three teeth. Apparently these fragments represent the skull of 
a large-brained anthropoid ape belonging to the same genus as the 
Taungs ape. 

Probably these fossils represent a skull which had a length of 
145 mm. from glabella to occiput, a maximum parietal width of 96 
mm., and a capacity of 600 cc. The brow ridges are moderately 
well developed, and there are two fairly large frontal sinuses. The 
skull is clearly that of a fairly large anthropoid, more closely allied 
to the Miocene and Pliocene species of Dryopithecus than to the 
j living chimpanzee and gorilla. The skull may have been of the same 
' genus as the Taungs ape, but of a different species. 

Dr. Broom concludes: "It seems moderately certain that during 

I the greater part of the Pleistocene and possibly during the Pliocene, 

' large, non-forest-living anthropoids flourished in south Africa, and 

not improbably it was from one of the Pliocene members of this group 

i that the first man was evolved," We must, however, await further 

discussion before accepting these statements as final. 

96 Source Book for African Anthropology 

If we accept Homo rhodesiensis as somewhat Neanderthaloid, and 
Australopithecus as possibly simian, there remains the important 
Boskop skull, which is definitely himian, for inclusion in the phylo- 
genetic tree. 

The finding of the Boskop skull in 1913 has been followed by 
more recent discoveries that help to establish the relationship of the 
Boskop type to other races of south Africa. Keith (1931, p. 123) 
states that F. W. Fitzsimmons has discovered more than fifty burials 
of the Boskop type "and it has been demonstrated that the Boskop 
type merges into a later people, the Strandloopers. The Strand- 
loopers in turn merge into the smaller-headed Bushman and Hotten- 
tot types. The Boskop type (length 205 mm., breadth 154 mm., 
capacity 1630 cc), if not a direct ancestor of the Bushman, yet stands 
near the line which evolved into this type. Occasional Bushmen 
possess large heads of the Boskop type." Keith (1931, p. 117) states 
that on the information available Boskop man may be regarded as 
Late Paleolithic in date, practicing a culture corresponding to the 
Aurignacian in Europe. 

Fish Hoek Bay is situated about fifteen miles due south of Cape 
Town, and in Skildergat Cave on the shore of the bay B. Peers and 
his son, assisted by A. J. H. Goodwin and M. R. Drennan, have 
unearthed skeletons of Bushman type. According to Keith (1931, 
p. 132) a skull from a deep stratum is that of a Bushman of primitive 
and remarkable kind having a cranial capacity of 1600 cc. Keith 
(p. 139) is of the opinion that all recent evidence points to south 
Africa as the evolutionary cradle of the Bushman type. This view 
of the Bushman type as being evolved in south Africa is, as our 
archaeological evidence will show later, contrary to a somewhat 
general opinion of prehistorians, who think of the Bushman type as 
having migrated from north Africa. 

We may not, however, dismiss the phylogeny of the Bushman 
with ease and assurance; there are too many conflicting hypotheses. 
These have been collated and discussed by Dreyer (1931) in what he 
calls "The Bushman-Hottentot-Strandlooper Tangle." In this 
article the author compares the views of Drennan, Stow, P^ringuey, 
Shrubsall, Broom, Vedder, Spannus, Lebzelter, Hirschberg, and 
Bayer, of whose writings he gives a bibliography. There is no con- 
clusion concerning the genetic relationship of Bushmen, Hottentots, 
Strandloopers, and Boskoids, but the article is useful in giving the 
outline of a complex problem and in showing how far we are from 
a solution of that problem. 


Prehistory 97 

Before we leave the subject of fossil man of south Africa, the dis- 
covery known as Springbok man, from eighty miles northeast of 
Pretoria, should be mentioned. Keith (1931, p. 146) has provided 
an illustration of the skull and mandible as restored by Dr. 
Broom, and after discussing details of the measurements Keith 
concludes that "he was a tall strong fellow with a big brain, a long 
and wide head, and a drawn out face, great mandible and small 
teeth, a type which we cannot fit into any African racial type known 
to us. He was cast in a mould altogether different from the Boskop 
and Fish Hoek men — big-brained and small-faced type." 

Keith (p. 152) concludes that Springbok man "represents a 
Negroid or Hamitic type which made its way southward in pre- 
historic times probably carrying with him the Aurignacian culture 
of his time." This Springbok man serves as a geographical though 
not an anatomical link between the discoveries in lower south Africa 
and those of Tanganyika and Kenya. 

The work of Leakey has aroused much interest and criticism, 
but at the moment there is no final judgment on several important 
points. The alleged antiquity of some of the fossil human bones is, 
however, dubious. 

In "Adam's Ancestors," Leakey (1934b) has given a succinct 
account of his work in east Africa in the past decade, and this is a 
simple introduction to his more technical works which have been 
listed in the bibliography. 

Beginning with Dr. Hans Reek's discovery of a human fossil at 
Oldoway, Tanganyika Territory, in 1914 (Reck, 1931), Leakey 
summarizes the data relating to human fossils since discovered 
in Kenya. After considerable controversy, it is now generally agreed 
that this skull can be assigned to the period of the Upper Pleistocene, 
at about the same period that the Cro-Magnon race flourished in 
Europe. At one time (Leakey, 1934b, p. 203) thought the Oldoway 
skeleton was associated with tools of the cultures known as Chellean 
and Acheulean, very early European stone-age periods, but later 
research indicated that the Oldoway skeleton was not nearly as 
ancient as the fossil animals and the stone-age implements found in 
the same deposit. The skeleton is really to be associated with the 
later Kenya Aurignacian culture, and to this culture also belong 
human skeletons found (1928-29) in a rock shelter known as Gamble's 
Cave II in the Elmenteita region of Kenya Colony. Leakey (1936a, 
pp. 172-173) plainly states what he means by the Negroid affinities 
of these fossils. The skulls from Gamble's Cave had straight faces 

98 Source Book for African Anthropology 

instead of the prognathous faces of tjrpical Negroes, but in shape of 
the forehead they represented the Negro type. 

Before considering the skeptical views that now prevail, let us 
take a statement of Leakey (1934b, p. 206). He summarizes the 
evidence relating to the Kanam mandible found near Homa Moun- 
tain, Kavirondo Gulf, Lake Victoria Nyanza. "The various animal 
remains from the same stratum have also been examined with a view 
to determining the age of this fragment of ancient man. As a result 
of our studies we can say now that the Kanam mandible represents 
the oldest yet discovered true ancestor of modern man." Leakey 
calls attention to details of the teeth which led him to separate his 
specimen from Homo sapiens and to create a new species Homo 
kanamensis. The evidence of geology, fossil animals, and stone tools 
dated the Kanam mandible as Lower Pleistocene. 

The first skull fragments found by Leakey at Kanjera led to 
further research and the discovery of fragments of a human skull in 
an undisturbed stratum near the place where the first fragments had 
been unearthed. Leakey (1934b, Plate X) shows the two reconstructed 
Kanjera skulls and the Kanam mandible fragment. A study of 
associated fossil animals and implements of Chellean type, together 
with the geological evidence, supported the view that the Kanjera 
men belonged to the early part of what Leakey calls Middle Pleisto- 
cene (Lower Pleistocene of other classifications). In "The Stone Age 
Races of Kenya," Leakey (1935) gives a detailed account of Lower 
Pleistocene man. Homo kanamensis, also of Middle Pleistocene man 
of Kanjera, and of Upper Pleistocene man, whose remains are 
associated with the Upper Kenya Aurignacian culture, phase C. 

From Leakey's expression of his own opinions, we may turn now 
to some damaging criticism of his evidence. Boswell (1935) says, 
"The chief object of my visit was to study the geology of the deposits 
from which the Kanam mandible and the Kanjera No. 3 skull frag- 
ments were obtained, for Dr. Leakey had come to the important 
conclusion that these remains of Homo sapiens type occurred in situ 
in beds of Lower Pleistocene and Middle Pleistocene Age, respec- 
tively. Unfortunately, it has not proved possible to find the exact 
site of either discovery." The criticism calls attention to some con- 
fusion of photographic records, and states that "the date of entomb- 
ment of human remains found in such beds would be inherently 
doubtful. — In view of the uncertain location of the Kanam and Kan- 
jera sites, and in view also of the doubt as to the stratigraphical 
horizons from which the remains were obtained, and the possibility 

Prehistory 99 

of disturbance of the beds, I hold the opinion that the geological age 
of the mandible and skull fragments is uncertain. It is disappoint- 
ing, after the failure to establish any considerable age for Oldoway 
man (of Homo sapiens type) that uncertain conditions of discovery 
should also force me to place Kanam and Kan j era man in a 'sus- 
pense account.' " For an answer to this criticism, see Leakey (1936a, 
pp. 155-156; 1936c). 

The osteological data collected by Bertholon and Chantre (1912, 
pp. 234, 239, 243) for Neolithic people of north Africa, and for the 
dolmen builders of that region, will be given in connection with 
archaeological data for north Africa. 

From the small amount of evidence relating to fossil man in 
Africa, a few examples have been chosen to illustrate the need for 
intensive and coordinated research in geology, archaeology, and 
paleontology. The existing osteological evidence is far too slender 
to support any theory of the origin of man in Africa, and divergent 
views respecting the phylogeny of the skeletons and fragments so 
far discovered indicate that much methodical excavation has to be 
done before we can support a hypothesis for the origin and genetic 
relationship of the divergent physical types now inhabiting Africa. 
These brief notes have touched only the most startling discoveries, 
and the aim has been to avoid details of measurement and description 
which can be derived from the works quoted. A student must realize 
firstly the paucity of data, then the equivocal nature of the evidence. 
It would be misleading, however, to give the impression that the 
literature on this subject is small, for though discoveries of major 
importance are few, excavation is always in progress, and recent 
publications of Galloway, Drennan (1935), Wells (1935a, b), 
Schepers (1935), and Goodwin and Malan (1935), are typical of 
present research which may at any time lead to a discovery of primary 

Since the fossilized remains of man and his precursors are at 
present so inadequate as prehistorical evidence, we must turn to the 
facts of geology and archaeology in the hope of illuminating the 
dark pages of the Pleistocene. 

Stone Implements 

archaeological technique 

The successful work of Egyptologists, and the wide publicity 
given to their discoveries — often of a spectacular kind — has brought 
to archaeology a deep interest and romance. But success in the 

100 Source Book for African Anthropology 

reconstruction of Egyptian history has perhaps aroused too great 
optimism respecting possible application of the same technique in 
other parts of Africa. 

Systematic excavating has been done in Algeria, Kenya, and 
south Africa, but owing to the remoteness of the stone-age periods 
concerned, and the absence of writing, the precision of the Egyptol- 
ogist in giving not only sequences, but dates, can never be attained. 

The work of a professional archaeologist is a skilled occupation 
which should never be confused with the efforts of treasure hunters 
who have ruined sites by indiscriminate digging for the sake of 
amusement and publicity. Scientific excavating is a slow, system- 
atic process involving a survey of the ground by use of a theodolite 
and a plane-table. Not only should an archaeologist be a surveyor; 
he must in addition have a knowledge of geology and cartography. 
Trial pits and trenches are dug, and if an undisturbed stratification 
exists the excavator considers himself fortunate. Geological knowl- 
edge leads to an estimate of the relative ages of the deposits and the 
probable lapse of time required for the formation of each stratum, 
but the actual dating in terms of years is always hazardous. 

An excavator is particularly careful to ascertain whether the 
deposits have been disturbed either by man or by natural agency, 
for, if the strata have been mixed, objects such as pottery, stone 
implements, and human and animal bones which now lie together 
may not have been contemporary. It may be that objects have 
been washed from one stratum to another, and, if this possibility is 
not recognized, confusion and incorrect inferences are inevitable. 

Archaeology is becoming more and more the work of specialists. 
A zoologist or paleontologist may be asked to identify existing genera 
and species of wild or domesticated animals whose bones are dis- 
covered. Physical anthropologists report on human fossils, their 
sex, race, and antiquity. Potsherds, beads, and porcelain are arti- 
facts requiring special study, while dendrochronology (estimation of 
the age of timber from consideration of the rings) is again a recent 
and special development of technique. A botanist is asked to identify 
grains and plants, which he is sometimes able to do by microscopic 
examination of fragments of food in pottery vessels. Among the 
specialists are chemists and metallurgists, whose analyses are sought. 
In recent years the airplane has been used in archaeological surveys 
of the Zimbabwe ruins and the prehistoric sites on the oasis of 
Kharga in the Libyan Desert. In Egyptology astronomical observa- 

Prehistory lOl 

tions have been important in relation to chronology. Thus, almost 
every branch of science has made some contribution to archaeology. 
The technique of excavating naturally depends on the nature 
of the site. An ancient cemetery may be divided into squares, each 
side of which measures twenty meters. Each of these large squares 
is then divided into five-meter squares, and plans of each square are 
drawn so that an excavator can record the exact position and level 
of each object that is found. Photographs of skeletons and other 
objects are made in situ, and the objects are numbered and stored, 
with samples of the matrix soil, in cabinets bearing the numbers of 
the squares and the level from which they were taken. The aim is 
to secure a permanent record of the site so that an accurate recon- 
struction on paper is possible after the excavations have been 

In this way an archaeologist often obtains a sequence of cultures. 
In the lowest layers he may have found stone implements and pottery 
of a particular type, and these may be associated with human and 
animal remains of a specific kind, which do not occur in quite the 
same form and frequency in upper layers. Perhaps the higher levels 
yield more elaborate stone implements and more ornate pottery, 
and it may be that examination of human bones indicates that a 
racial intrusion modified the physical type of those whose bones 
were discovered in the lower strata. 

This digression concerning the method and function of archae- 
ology is necessary for the understanding of prehistoric problems of 
Africa, but it should be understood that very seldom does an archae- 
ologist have the opportunity of studying ideal stratifications, each 
of which contains all the kinds of evidence described above. Often 
he has to allow for distortion of strata and washing of objects from 
one level to another. More often than not, an excavator is handi- 
capped in his theories by paucity of evidence, so that wide scope 
for conjecture is left, and hypotheses are difficult to establish or 
refute. Or conflict may exist between the geological, osteological, 
and archaeological testimony. 


Some preliminary consideration of the European Pleistocene 
glaciations, fauna, types of implements, rock paintings, and remains 
of fossil man is necessary for understanding the terminology and 
discussions now current in similar African studies. Research workers 
in north Africa, Egypt, Kenya, and south Africa make comparative 

102 Source Book for African Anthropology 

studies of African and European stone implements for which the 
same terms, for example, Chellean, Acheulean, and Mousterian, are 
often used. In addition to this, stylistic affinities of European and 
African rock paintings and engravings are compared. 

In our survey of the archaeology of Africa only the main themes 
and the most important bibliographical items will be mentioned, 
but these references will lead farther afield, for each book and article 
has its own bibliography. In addition to the individuals mentioned, 
the following sources are of importance: Ebert (1924-32) has edited 
a "Reallexikon der Vorgeschichte." Much periodical literature 
exists in Revue Anthropologique, Revue Arch^ologique, Bulletins 
et M^moires de la Soci^t^ d 'Anthropologic de Paris, L'Homme 
Pr^historique, M^moires a I'lnstitut d'Egypte, Journal of Egjrptian 
Archaeology, and the publication of L'Institut de Pal^ontologie 

L'Anthropologie has an index volume (1932), containing a list 
of contributors to the subject of European and African archae- 
ology. In the list of articles published by Abb^ H. Breuil, and by 
Breuil in collaboration with Obermaier, Peyrony, and other archae- 
ologists, a student will have a reliable guide to the most important 
prehistoric problems of Europe, and many for Africa. In the pages 
of the South African Journal of Science, Transactions of the 
Royal Society of South Africa, and Proceedings of the Rhodesian 
Science Association, are numerous archaeological reports which, 
taken alone, are inconclusive. Collated, as they must be in years to 
come, they will collectively explain many geological, archaeological, 
and osteological problems that are at present obscure. I feel sure, 
however, that a beginner will derive the greatest profit from a few 
textbooks before setting out on the task of summarizing periodical 
literature, which, for the main part, deals with specialized problems 
in a technical way. 

For studying European data many textbooks are available. 
W. J. Sollas (1924) begins his work "Ancient Hunters" with a descrip- 
tion of the great ice age in Europe and the way in which the climate 
of the whole world was affected by oscillations. Even on Mount 
Kenya near the equator the glaciers extended 5,400 feet lower than 
they do today. Similar evidence is afforded by other east African 
mountains, Ruwenzori and Kilimanjaro. The great ice age, and 
periodic changes of temperature during genial epochs between 
glaciations, profoundly affected flora, fauna, and the racial history 
of man. Sollas' study of the formation of glacial terraces (p. 22) by 

Prehistory 103 

denudation and deposition is one which is intimately connected with 
the chronological sequence of types of implements found in these 
regions. "The great ebb and flow of temperature was at least four 
times repeated; four times have the glaciers enlarged their bounds, 
and four times have they been driven back into their mountain 
home (the Alps)." 

Useful notes on terminology are given (p. 118) when Sollas 
divides the Paleolithic series into two groups, an upper and a lower. 
In the Upper Paleolithic, starting from the most recent, are the 
Azilian, Magdalenian, Solutrean, and Aurignacian. Then, at 
the top of the Lower Paleolithic is the Mousterian, and below that 
the Acheulean and Chellean, all of which terms, together with 
several others, are constantly used in the terminology of African 
archaeology. A student should be familiar with forms of 
implements of these periods, and in this connection the British 
Museum "Guide to the Antiquities of the Stone Age" (Read, 1911, 
1926) will be found serviceable, for in addition to European types 
many African paleoliths are sketched. 

At the end of the Paleolithic periods occur the Azilian and 
Tardenoisian, which are transitional from the last period of the 
Paleolithic (Magdalenian) to the Neolithic, or age of polished stone, 
with accompanying evidence of pottery-making and domestication 
of animals. 

Consideration of the river terraces of the Somme (Sollas) should 
not be neglected, for early in the study of African paleoliths the 
importance of such eroded terraces will be seen when comparing 
relative ages of paleoliths discovered in the Nile Valley, and along the 
Zambezi. Sollas' maps (1915, Figs. 74, 132) showing the geographical 
distribution of Mousterian and Aurignacian settlements in Europe are 
of importance in relation to the study of archaeology in north Africa. 

Engravings of the mammoth, of reindeer, and of convention- 
alized human forms, should be carefully considered, since constant 
reference is made to these in literature bearing on African picto- 
graphs. But a more extensive and clearer series of European Paleo- 
lithic art forms is given by Burkitt (1921), and a volume, "The Art 
of the Cave Dweller," is devoted to that subject (G. Baldwin Brown, 
1928) ; Cartailhac and Breuil (1904) were among the first to publish 
excellent illustrations of paintings and engravings from the walls 
of caves in the Pyrenees, and a large tome of such mural art has been 
published by H. A. del Rio in conjunction with H. Breuil and R. L. 
Sierra (1911). 

104 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Burkitt (1921, pp. 33-60) has an extremely useful chapter describ- 
ing man in relation to geology in which he gives types of imple- 
ments that enable archaeologists to subdivide major Paleolithic 
periods into upper, middle, and lower sections; such nomenclature 
will be found in descriptions of African stone implements. Burkitt 
discusses paleontological evidence of climatic conditions and tabu- 
lates the lists of animal bones associated with arctic, steppe, and 
warm conditions. Burkitt (p. 23) states that "the question of the 
periodicity of the Ice Age, that is, of the recurrence of glacial and 
inter-glacial periods, has been a matter of heated controversy. 
There are those, chief of whom are Dr. Albrecht Penck and Dr. 
Hugo Obermaier, who affirm that there were four glaciations. Others, 
including M. Boule, are content with three, whilst others again, 
especially geologists in the north, claim that there was only one 
glacial period. As has been suggested it may be merely a question 
of latitude, and further north where the mean annual temperature 
is obviously lower, the inter-glacial period would necessarily be 
shorter and cooler. — These four glaciations have been named after 
four little rivers that flow from the northern slopes of the Alps: 
Wurm (the latest), Riss, Mindel, and Giinz. Between each of these 
periods there were warmer inter-glacial periods ; these were the Giinz- 
Mindel between the Giinz and the Mindel glaciations according to 
the Penckian scheme, then the Mindel-Riss between the Mindel 
and the Riss glaciations, and the Riss-Wiirm between the Riss and 
the Wiirm glaciations." Familiarity with these fundamentals of 
European geology is necessary for understanding the tentative 
schemes suggested by archaeologists working in east and south 

In connection with this preparatory study MacCurdy (1924) 
will be of great service. In archaeology, as in other new sciences, 
terminology grows rapidly, and this difficulty MacCurdy has met 
by providing a glossary of archaeological and paleontological terms. 
It should be noted that the word Capsian (Vaufrey, 1933) is the 
equivalent in northern Africa of the Upper Paleolithic period, named 
from Capsa, the Latin for Gafsa (Tunis). The word Levalloisean 
is sometimes used in African archaeology; the adjective is derived 
from European terminology used in describing a flint implement 
occurring in certain late Acheulean and early Mousterian deposits. 
Maglemosean is the Scandinavian equivalent of the Azilian. 

MacCurdy (1924, vol. 1, p. 27) provides a table of the "Chro- 
nology of Prehistory," which is more detailed than the tables previ- 

Fig. 21. African paleoliths. Scale about 7:12. 

106 Source Book for African Anthropology 

ously mentioned. Thus he divides the Neolithic, from more recent 
times backward, into Carnacian, Robenhausian, Campignian, 
Maglemosean, and Azilian-Tardenoisian. An account of the ice age 
and the types of Paleolithic implements found in Europe is followed 
by a well-illustrated section on Paleolithic art, and a summary is 
given of the discoveries of fossil man in Europe, 


With this European terminology and an outline of European 
geological and archaeological data in mind, we may now turn to 
the systematic archaeology of north, east, and south Africa. Then 
we can consider the less developed investigations in west and central 
Africa, where surface finds, and not excavations, are the chief sources 
of archaeological information. Our studies may be centered about 
stone implements, rock paintings and engravings, and megalithic 
monuments. For terminology of north African archaeology see 
Leakey's comments (1936a, pp. 99-110). 

A useful starting point for the study of paleoliths of north Africa 
is C. G. Seligman's article (1921a, with bibliography) in which he 
describes his attempt "to obtain definite stratigraphic evidence as to 
the antiquity of implements exhibiting a technique which in Europe 
would be classed as Chellean, Acheulean or Mousterian." The sites 
visited were Abydos, Thebes, Tel-el-Amarna, Meir, and the Wady 

Seligman states (p. 117), "The implements themselves may be 
classified as follows, the 'period' given in the second column being 
that to which they would be assigned if they were of European 
origin. The hand-axe with borer point, crescents, and the tortoise 
point have no European parallels." Seligman's list includes hand-axes 
of Chellean and Acheulean form and finely worked ovates of Acheu- 
lean type; of Mousterian pattern are points, side-scrapers, borers, 
concave scrapers, tanged spear- and arrowheads. The forms desig- 
nated Mousterian are not specially typical of the Mousterian but 
are so grouped because of the localities in which they were found, 
stratigraphy, and patination. As Capsian or transitional to that 
type are mentioned concave end-scrapers, nose end-scrapers, and 

"From a morphological standpoint the River-drift types are 
unmistakable. The Mousterian types, as far as the points, scrapers, 
and borers go, are equally typical and can be paralleled precisely 
by west European forms. A certain number of specimens cannot 







Fig. 22. African stone implements. Scale about 2:3. 

108 Source Book for African Anthropology 

readily be referred to either a Chelleo-Acheulean or Mousterian 
technique. If the west European forms be taken as standards, some 
of these would be regarded as Aurignacian of the coarser type." 
Seligman is inclined to regard some Egyptian forms as highly devel- 
oped Mousterian types that have been modified by Capsian 
influences from North Africa. 

The geological argument to show that some of Seligman's material 
is Pleistocene and Paleolithic is given (p. 136). In conclusion (p. 142) 
he states that, although the majority of the implements, River-drift, 
Mousterian, and Capsian, show a patina due to long exposure on the 
desert, there are implements of a highly developed Mousterian type 
which do not show the Paleolithic patina. These are found in situ 
in undisturbed gravels geologically of Pleistocene age. Some imple- 
ments of Mousterian type and a few of River-drift and Capsian 
pattern are not patinated. They resemble specimens found in un- 
disturbed gravels and appear to have been weathered out of the cliff 
in geologically recent time. 

The illustrations of paleoliths of the eastern Egyptian desert 
shown by Sterns (1917a) are useful for comparison with the types 
discussed by Seligman. Sterns' article is, however, mainly a cata- 
logue with notes on patination. After discussing the resemblance 
of Egyptian types to such European forms as the Chellean, Acheu- 
lean, and Mousterian, he remarks that "type alone is no safe criterion 
for the correlation of specimens from widely separated areas. It has 
been clearly demonstrated that similarity of form does not necessarily 
mean proximity in time." When making comparative study of 
Paleolithic implements from Europe with similar types from north, 
east, and south Africa, typological resemblances alone will not suffice 
to establish contemporaneous development of similar industries in 
different areas. An archaeologist should be able to show that the 
fossils associated with each type are of the same period. In each of 
the areas under comparison the same types of implements should 
occur in the same sequence, and evidence of this kind ought to be 
obtained from the intervening area. Then the spread of a succession 
of cultures over the whole area, probably by human migrations, 
becomes a tenable hypothesis. 

In Egypt at Kharga, stratigraphy of Paleolithic discoveries is a 
subject to which Miss Caton-Thompson and Miss E. W. Gardner 
have contributed. Their report of 1933 refers to discovery 
of Neolithic implements of Faiyum type between the Kharga 
Oasis and the Nile Valley, and the oasis itself offered an opportunity 

Prehistory 109 

of studying the stratigraphical succession of stone-age industries. 
A large number of specimens of a specialized Mousterian industry- 
was obtained. Caton-Thompson's report (1932) examines the geo- 
logical evidence and shows a sequence in situ of Acheulean, 
Levalloisean, Middle Paleolithic (Pre-Sebilian), At^rian, Capso- 
Tardenoisian, and Neolithic. The report of 1933 showed that the 
third season materially enlarged the evidence for greater vertical and 
horizontal distribution of the types of artifacts described in the 
report of 1932. 

When studying the geology of Egypt and the types of implements 
in relation to stratigraphy, three comprehensive reports (1929, 1933, 
1934) of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, are available 
under the authorship of K. S. Sandford, and of Sandford and Arkell 
in collaboration. 

In his foreword to the first volume (1929) Professor James H. 
Breasted emphasizes the need for continued geological work in the 
Nile Valley and points out that without the cooperation of geologists 
archaeology can make no substantial advance. The objects of the 
expeditions, therefore, were " to search the geological formations for 
imbedded human handiwork or other traces which would date in 
geological terms the earliest human occupations of the Nile Valley; 
and to follow such traces as far down toward the historic epoch as 
possible; and second, to investigate the geological background of 
prehistoric man in northeastern Africa, so that all natural formations 
containing human artifacts might be geologically dated and their 
genetic place in the geological sequence determined within as narrow 
limits as possible." 

There is no evidence of Pliocene man in Egypt but there is ample 
stratigraphical testimony of a succession of stone-age cultures 
throughout the Pleistocene. In this period, when rainfall was copious, 
Paleolithic man hunted along the banks of the Nile and over the 
surrounding hills and plateaus. Instead of dry wadies, there existed 
plentiful streams and the landscape was covered with vegetation. 

Of great interest to archaeologists are the terraces showing where 
the Nile flowed above its present level, and in many of these terraces, 
bordering both the main river and its one-time tributaries, are the 
artifacts of Pleistocene man. The succession of implements in the 
various terraces is briefly summarized (Sandford and Arkell, 1933, 
p. 86) and a map (p. xvii) showing localities of investigation is given. 

In the 100-foot terrace in Nubia and Upper Egypt, Chellean and 
Chellean-Acheulean implements have been found, but not in the 

110 Source Book for African Anthropology 

older beds, and again in the 50-foot terrace these forms occur. "The 
Mousterian technique reached an exceedingly high standard at the 
time of the 10-foot terrace, and the beautiful workmanship seen in 
the implements here figured (Plate XXXII) represents the typical 
Mousterian of Upper Egypt at its best." 

During the following period of silt accumulation, the previous 
high standard was not maintained, and almost imperceptibly the 
flakes became thicker and lost their fine edges and retouch. The 
shape also changed from a broad-based leaf to a rectangle or a point. 
To these changes in Mousterian forms the term Sebilian has been 
applied (Sandford and Arkell, 1933, Plate XLII; Vignard, 1923). 

"Distinct from the Lower or Middle Sebilian is the Upper Sebil- 
ian, which has essentially neanthropic character of workmanship, and 
suggests the introduction into this part of the Nile Valley of Capsian 
or Capsian-like influences from north Africa or elsewhere. The 
apparent hiatus between Middle and Upper Sebilian industries, 
reflected in their geological positions, suggests that some event of 
considerable importance to humanity took place at this time. At 
present there is insufficient evidence to judge what it was, but we 
suspect that the growth of deserts here and elsewhere had set in 
motion those migrations which continue at the present day among 
the desert population." 

In the third report, which is devoted to wider archaeological and 
geological surveys and a correlation of the results, the Lower Paleo- 
lithic stage of the Pleistocene is described (Sandford, 1934, pp. 53- 
65), then the Middle Paleolithic (pp. 66-80) and finally the transition 
to Late Paleolithic and Neolithic times. Bibliographically this 
volume is of great service in a survey of the contributions of A. 
Pitt-Rivers, C. G. Seligman, W. M. F. Petrie, J. de Morgan, E. 
Vignard, G. W. Murray, Miss E. W. Gardner, Miss G. Caton- 
Thompson, H. Breuil, and Bovier-Lapierre. Seligman (1921a) is 
regarded by Sandford as the originator of modern work on prehistoric 
archaeology and stratigraphy in the Nile Valley, though half a 
century ago A. Pitt-Rivers (1881) found implements in situ at 
Thebes in gravels now recognized as of Mousterian age. 

With regard to the transition from Middle to Late Paleolithic 
times Sandford states (1934, p. 81) that Egyptian archaeology is in 
need of a term to describe the cultures that followed the Mousterian, 
or Middle Paleolithic, industry. "Upper Paleolithic" suggests the 
European, Aurignacian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian, none of which 
seems to be normally represented in Egypt, though Vignard has dis- 

Prehistory 111 

covered an industry which he considers to have Aurignacian affinities, 
and he associates the Upper Sebilian with the Tardenoisian industry. 
Sandford decides on using the term "Late" Paleolithic as corre- 
sponding to "Upper" in Europe, and to late Mousterian, Mousterio- 
Capsian, and Capsian in north Africa. 

Sandford (1934, p. 81) refers to a gradation of implements which, 
in their earlier stages, may be grouped together as "Late Mous- 
terian and Early Sebilian," and this group merges into Middle 
Sebilian. The term Sebilian is derived from the village of Sebil on 
the Kom Ombo plain. The typology of the Upper Sebilian artifacts 
in flint and other hard rock is dominantly microlithic, with affinities 
to the Capsian culture. 

With regard to human bones associated with implements from 
Kau and Kom Ombo, Sandford (1934, p. 86) states that examination 
by Arthur Keith, D. E. Derry, and G. Elliot Smith indicates that 
the people whose bones were discovered were "more akin to the pre- 
dynastic Egyptian than to any other race of which we have full 

A summary of the stratigraphy of archaeological discoveries, 
which is given in tabular form (Sandford, 1934, p. 126), begins with 
primitive implements of Chellean and Chelleo-Acheulean types in the 
100-foot terrace, and traces the refinement of these forms through the 
50-foot and 30-foot terrace to the Egyptian Mousterian types of 
the 10- to 15-foot terrace of Upper Egypt and the 25-foot gravels 
of Middle Egypt. This Mousterian culture is then traced out in the 
silts and degradation gravels of Upper and Middle Egypt, through 
Lower, Middle, and Upper Sebilian, to the Neolithic period. 

For study of the Neolithic period in Egypt the following works 
are of importance: E. W. Gardner and G. Caton-Thompson (1926, 
1933); Caton-Thompson (1927); Brunton and Caton-Thompson 
(1928); Reisner (1923); and (in German), Junker, who summarizes 
a considerable amount of periodical literature relating to Neolithic 

G. Caton-Thompson (1926, p. 315), after completion of her 
inventory of the Faiyum culture, quotes the belief of Flinders Petrie 
that in studying the Faiyum culture we are dealing with the arti- 
facts of a people of Solutrean kinship and northeastern origin. 
Petrie postulates a trek of Solutrean people about 15,000 B.C. from 
perhaps the region of the Caucasus into the Nile Valley, bringing 
their advanced civilization with them. He believes the Faiyum and 
Badarian people are offshoots of these Solutreans, Miss Caton- 

112 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Thompson regards the Faiynm culture as a late stage of Neolithic. 
"The Badarian is still more advanced; he makes beautiful fine 
pottery, uses copper, and employs glazes." The Badarians were 
of ordinary predynastic type with a slight Negroid admixture. Miss 
Caton-Thompson examines the Solutrean theory (pp. 316-318), but 
does not find support in typology, in distribution of the types of 
implements, or in geological stratification. The flint forms of the 
Faiyum industry extend to Siwa Oasis and to Kharga Oasis and "there 
is little doubt that when these oases are examined a similar general 
culture will be revealed." Caton-Thompson is certain (p. 322) that 
the Badarian, Faiyum, and Nubian groups have a common origin, 
and that this origin will prove to be an autochthonous proto-Libyan 
element whose ancestral home is yet to be discovered (for Neolithic 
Egyptian implements see Fig. 23, a, h-k). 

With the manufacture of pottery in Egypt and the association 
of sherds with Neolithic implements, a new branch of archaeological 
work opens up. An excellent approach to ceramics is given by 
Frankfort (1924) in a well-illustrated discussion of "Mesopotamia, 
Syria, and Egypt, and Their Earliest Interrelations," for which a 
large bibliography is provided. This work is indispensable for 
students who wish to begin their archaeological studies with the 
Neolithic period in north Africa, and such studies lead directly into 
the dynastic and datable period, circa 4000 B.C. 

With regard to Lower Paleolithic man in the region of what is 
now Morocco and Algeria, there is abundant evidence. Siret (1925) 
gives many illustrations of typical forms of coup de poing from 
Morocco, and of side-scrapers and end-scrapers from the same 
region. Notes on stratigraphy are wanting, and the objects appear 
to be surface finds that have weathered out from their original gravels. 

Further information on Paleolithic north Africa is given by 
Arambourg (1934) and by Zoli (1935). The two journals, M^moire, 
Archives de I'lnstitut de Pal^ontologie Humaine, and Bollettino 
della Reale Societa Geografica Italiana, in which these articles 
respectively occur, are two valuable sources of information. The 
latter often supplies data about a part of north Africa where research 
is now conducted by Italians. 

When, however, we approach the study of Middle and Upper 
Paleolithic discoveries in northwest Africa there is abundant evidence 
of stratification and a succession of types; these are related at least 
morphologically to European Mousterian and Aurignacian patterns. 
Burkitt (1921, p. 106) says: "Nor is the profound alteration in 

Fig. 23. African implements of stone and bone. Scale about 2:3. 


114 Source Book for African Anthropology 

industries the only change that we find when we come to Upper 
PaleoHthic times. Man himself has changed; we have to do with a 
new race far more elevated in the scale." Burkitt agrees with the 
hypothesis that when Neanderthal man disappeared in Europe his 
place was taken by a true Homo sapiens, the Cro-Magnon race, 
which probably came from north Africa. 

Of the Aurignacian (Capsian, or Getulian) stone culture in 
north Africa, Vaufrey (1933) has recently written a well-illustrated 
article showing many types of Capsian points, and he has provided 
a map on which are plotted stations of Upper Paleolithic culture 
near the north African littoral from 10° W. Long, to 10° E. Long. 
In summarizing the data relating to the Capsian industry, Vaufrey 
(p. 480) distinguishes three chronological groups: namely, (1) Cap- 
sien typique; (2) Interg^tulio-n^olithique and Capsien supdrieur; and 
(3) N^olithique de tradition capsienne. For all of these types, he 
provides numerous illustrations. The third stage shows a develop- 
ment of microliths, and the intrusion of arrow points of Saharan type 
is to be noted. To the third phase of the Capsian also belong polished 
axes and pottery sherds (Fig. 23, 6, c, l-n). 

Despite the difference of types, the industries of the Capsian form 
a homogeneous block, the climax of which is reached in the fine 
microlithic points of trapezoidal and triangular form. From the 
typological point of view, the Capsian appears to Vaufrey as an 
industry of Mesolithic or perhaps final African Paleolithic character, 
and he deprecates any attempt to make this Capsian industry the 
ancestor of the Aurignacian in Europe, to which culture the Capsian 
is probably junior. 

According to Vaufrey (1933, p. 481), the geological evidence is 
not favorable to views demanding antiquity for the Capsian. "Where 
should we search for ancestral forms of the Capsian?" he asks, and 
states that typologically certain Sebilian forms from Kom Ombo in 
Egypt may be the prototypes. But though such affiliations of types 
exist in Tunisia and Kom Ombo, all the facts are in favor of a late 
introduction of this Upper Paleolithic industry into Africa, and the 
archaeological data are unfavorable to a hypothesis that describes 
Africa as the home of Homo sapiens. 

A brief summary of features of the Capsian culture may be 
obtained from Menghin (1931, pp. 177-188) who marks out four 
primary divisions: (1) A Mediterranean division that flourished in 
north Africa when the climate was moist and game was plentiful; 
(2) a European Capsian or Tardenoisian ; (3) an east African; and 

Prehistory 115 

(4) a south African Capsian culture. Later, in dealing with the 
archaeological literature for east and south Africa, we shall be 
better able to judge the legitimacy of applying the term Capsian so 

Menghin (1931, p. 48) recognizes two main divisions of the Neo- 
lithic age in north Africa. The older of these cultures is found in 
caves of Oran where Capsian implements occur together with arrow 
points of Neolithic form and crude pottery. In the younger division 
of the north African "Grotten Kultur," the Capsian type of imple- 
ment disappears and improved sherds of pottery are found. These 
Neolithic cultures exist in the southern and central parts of the 
western Sahara, where stone implements indicate the spread of a 
hunting culture from the north, and an agricultural culture from the 
south. The former contributed arrowheads and javelin points, while 
the latter culture gave axes and grinding stones. 

In pursuing further these north African studies. Collie (1928) 
will be of service in describing the European Aurignacian period 
and its alleged African parallels. The report deals chiefly with 
European geology, archaeology, and fossil man, but references to 
north African problems are numerous. Changes of climate in north 
Africa are discussed (p. 16), and the chapter on fauna of the Aurig- 
nacian age is a simple summary of paleontological facts showing 
that Aurignacian man had access to abundant animal life. Mechta 
man is described (p. 18) and Collie describes the first bearers of 
Aurignacian culture in Africa as a breed possibly of Mousterian and 
Negroid or some other parentage. Of the male skeleton from the 
Mechta site (Constantine, Algeria), Collie says, "The skull has 
very strongly developed and prominent supraorbital ridges which 
are not individualized but extend as a bar across the forehead. The 
head is dolichocephalic but not platycephalic; viewed from above 
the skull is pentagonal. The nose is fial, the eye orbits small. In 
respect to the brow ridges both the male and female skulls are 
Neanderthaloid, but the total resemblance is not close — yet on the 
other hand these people are not Cro-Magnons. They are an inter- 
mediate group and it seems best to classify them apart under the 
title of Mechta man or the Mechta race." 

Collie recognizes the need for caution in making any final pro- 
nouncement on fossilized human bones from Mechta, but (p. 29) 
he thinks that several types of people moved over the north African 
plateau in the Aurignacian period, but none of them were of the 
true Cro-Magnon type that is associated with the European Aurig- 

116 Source Book for African Anthropology 

nacian culture. Collie, supporting his views with testimony from 
Breuil and Obermaier, leans toward an African origin of the European 
Aurignacian culture and is inclined to agree that a pre-Aurignacian, 
or pre-Capsian, race seems to have come from Africa. According to 
hypothesis this race, which was not Neanderthaloid but approached 
the Homo sapiens type, entered southern Spain during the Chellean- 
Mousterian ages bearing a new-stone culture, which combined with 
the stone culture then in Europe to produce a culture that we now 
call Aurignacian. But caution is again necessary, for we have 
already seen (Vaufrey, 1933) a discussion of the Capsian cultures and 
a reluctance to accept them as a parental form of the European Aurig- 
nacian. Still less did Vaufrey favor the idea that north Africa had 
given birth to a new Homo sapiens. Collie continues to discuss the 
various views that have been held respecting types of Cro-Magnon 
men in Europe and the possibility that the types survive, with 
admixtures, at the present day (pp. 30-35). 

Information respecting the remains of prehistoric man in north 
Africa has been summarized by Bertholon and Chantre (1912, vol. 1, 
pp. 234-243), who find that Neolithic people in the region of 
Gafsa and Tebessa had small bones and a feeble muscular develop- 
ment. They were of medium height, long-headed, and mesorrhine. 
The orbits were microseme, the face was short and broad with a 
tendency to prognathism, and the cranial sutures were simple. Two 
main types are distinguishable: (1) a mesaticephalic Negroid type; 
and (2) a short, dolichocephalic, mesorrhine type, with a large 
glabella and a Neanderthaloid aspect. 

The fossil skull and skeleton from Asselar, 220 miles northeast 
of Timbuktu, has been discussed by Leakey (1936a, p. 177), who 
summarizes the evidence of Boyle and Vallois. Probably the skele- 
ton is a representative of the ancestral Negro stock of central Africa. 

Hooton (1925, pp. 192-207) discusses the relation of the Guanches 
and other ancient inhabitants of the Canary Islands to the so-called 
"Race of Cro-Magnon," and supports a belief in the hybrid character 
of the Cro-Magnons. In his introduction to anthropometric research 
on the Cap-Blanc skeleton of the Upper Paleolithic, G. von Bonin 
(1935) surveys the literature bearing on physical characters of the 
Upper Paleolithic populations of Europe. He asks (p. 18), "Are 
they really racially homogeneous or do they represent several dis- 
tinct races? Can they be traced in subsequent or perhaps even in 
modern races?" His answers to these questions (p. 51) are non- 
committal, but in view of his personal research and that of colleagues 

Prehistory 117 

the opinion is offered that "there is no statistical reason to regard 
the Upper Paleolithic as racially mixed." In answer to the second 
question, there is the possibility of an occasional manifestation of 
Cro-Magnon characters among modern populations. "But such 
observations might be explained equally well on another ground but 
that of atavism." 

Since the Canary Islands may be regarded as the most westerly 
extension of north Africa, there is reason to search there for soma- 
tological, linguistic, and cultural evidence of north African migra- 
tions that traveled westward to the utmost limit. The nearest of 
the islands is about sixty miles from the African coast. Hooton 
(1925, pp. 298-303) has given a "Tentative Reconstruction of the 
Prehistory of the Canary Islands." He believes that the first settle- 
ment of the archipelago probably occurred in the Neolithic period 
with the arrival of dolichocephalic, mesorrhine, short-statured 
brunets of Mediterranean race with some Negroid mixture. "These 
settlers probably came from the mainland of Africa south of Morocco 
or from the region of Wadi Draa. They brought with them domesti- 
cated sheep and goats, a chipped-stone and bone industry, but they 
probably had no knowledge of cultivated cereals and did not make 
pottery. They may have spoken some proto-Berber language." 

The second invaders were brunet whites with some Mongoloid 
features whose center of distribution in north Africa was the Gulf 
of Gabes and eastern Tunisia. "They introduced into the Canary 
Islands the cultivation of barley, the use of crude and usually 
unornamented pottery, the sling and pellet. This brachycephalic 
group survived in its purest cultural form in Gomera — these people 
mixed with the Mediterranean-Negroid carriers of the Archaic 
culture, in Gran Canaria, Teneriffe, and Gomera." 

Almost contemporary in arrival with the Alpine-Mongoloids 
were a tall, blond, dolichocephalic people, with long faces and 
narrow noses. Before arrival in the Canary Islands, these invaders 
had a strong admixture of the Alpine-Mongoloid type. These third 
invaders, who came from the Atlas ranges of Morocco and Algeria, 
formed a ruling caste. They probably spoke an early Libyan 

Mixture of these third arrivals with the broad-faced brachycephals 
of the second incursion produced a hybrid type with a long head and 
a broad face, often of large stature and probably of light pigmenta- 
tion, with brown, red, or blond hair. "This is the so-called Cro- 
Magnon type." 

118 Source Book for African Anthropology 

A fourth invasion affected chiefly the eastern islands, and to 
existing peoples were added dolichocephalic, leptorrhine brunets of 
the Mediterranean type. The people of the fourth invasion intro- 
duced much better and more elaborate ceramic forms distinguished 
by decoration in color. The intruders understood the cultivation 
of wheat, and they used pottery stamps for making designs on their 

A brief survey of the region of north Africa from the Canary 
Islands to Egypt has indicated that a sequence of stone-age periods 
can be traced backward from the Neolithic through culture phases 
that in broad outline resemble the Mousterian, Acheulean, and 
Chellean phases of Europe. From study of implements in the Nile 
Valley terraces, the Paleolithic age is known to recede far into the 
Pleistocene. Yet cultural changes did not always merge one into 
another, and in the Nile Delta region there is evidence of a new- 
stone-age culture imposed from without by people of unknown origin. 
The Canary Islands also afford an illustration of superimposed 
cultures contributed by a succession of peoples of different physical 
types. These immigrants traveled westward from the Atlas region, 
and study of skeletal remains in the western terminus of their 
migration indicates the presence of four main somatic types with 
their derivatives produced by mixture. Concerning the origin of these 
types, their exact line of migration, and their phylogenetic relation- 
ship to other African and European types, great uncertainty exists, 
and although a sequence of cultures is established, we have only the 
vaguest knowledge of the actual tim.e intervals involved. Yet the 
evidence from north Africa indicates a definite advance in archaeo- 
logical research, and we may say that at least the foundations of a 
sound technique have been established. A table of Leakey (1936a, 
p. 114) is a useful summary of north African stone-age sequences. 


In appraising the present position of archaeological work in east 
Africa, reference should first be made to Leakey (1931, pp. 1-4), who 
summarizes the archaeological data for Kenya, Uganda, and Tan- 
ganyika before the year 1926, and despite recent criticisms this 
is still our best source of information. Before that date no detailed 
archaeological investigations had been carried out in Kenya, but 
surface implements had been found and some stone tools had been 
discovered in situ. Distinct phases of culture had been recognized, 
but sequences had not been established. To this period of study 
belong the discoveries of Seton-Karr (1909), who found at Jalelo, 

Prehistory 119 

about ninety miles northwest of Berbera in Somaliland, a site where 
stone implements were manufactured. The collection included 
heavy Paleolithic forms, coup de poing of quartzite and chert from 
high ground, also Neolithic lanceheads, arrowheads, and scrapers 
from lower ground where flint occurred. For Paleolithic types of 
implements, see Fig. 21. 

But Leakey states that, despite the paucity of archaeological 
data from east Africa before 1926, E. J. Wayland had established 
a scientific basis of research in Uganda. Wayland's research had 
included the collection of stone implements of various periods and 
cultures, and he had produced evidence of three main culture groups 
which he called Kafuan, Sangoan, and Magosian. Wayland had 
anticipated present research by advancing the idea of a glacial- 
pluvial correlation as a foundation for studying the sequence of east 
African stone-age cultures. 

These preliminary researches led to the formation of an East 
African Archaeological Expedition, which in 1926 started work in 
Kenya, where investigations were concentrated on the lake basins 
of Nakuru, Elmenteita, and Naivasha. Here Leakey found evidence 
of three pluvial periods, separated from each other by arid periods. 
The vision of archaeological research was widened, and the objectives 
included not only the establishment of cultural, geological, climatic, 
and paleontological sequence, but the correlation of these with 
corresponding changes and phenomena in Europe, north Africa, and 
south Africa. 

Leakey (1931, p. 38) gives a list of terms applied to culture 
sequences in Kenya. Beginning with the most recent, these are: 
Njoroan, Gumban B (Nakuru culture), Gumban A, Kenya Wilton, 
Elmenteitan, Kenya Late Aurignacian and Kenya Still Bay (con- 
temporary), Kenya Aurignacian and Kenya Mousterian (contempo- 
rary), Nanyukian, Kenya Acheulean, and Kenya Chellean. Leakey 
then describes the typology of the cultures and the geological and 
paleontological evidence on which the arrangement is based. A 
table giving the hypothetical synchronizing of culture phases with 
wet and dry climatic phases is given by Leakey (1931, p. 33). A 
more detailed tabulation is offered by the same author (1934d, p. 146), 
and a revised table (1935, p. 6). The latest table given by Leakey 
(1936a, p. 75) shows an evolution of types of implements from the 
Kafuan or primitive pebble culture to the Njoran or Neolithic. 

This later tabulation works upward from the extremely simple 
Kafuan culture through the Oldowan to Chellean I, all of which are 

120 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Lower Pleistocene, corresponding to the European Chellean and 
pre-Chellean periods. On the left of the table is an indication of 
climatic changes in Europe during the advance from Kafuan to 
Chellean I. The scheme further shows that during the Middle 
Pleistocene a cultural advance was made from Chellean II to Acheu- 
lean V in east Africa, corresponding with similar culture periods in 
Europe during the Mindel and Riss glaciations. 

At the bottom of the Upper Pleistocene, the scheme shows Acheu- 
lean VI, Nanyukian, and other phases leading up through Basal 
Aurignacian to Aurignacian and Levalloisian. In the upper part 
of the Upper Pleistocene are the Upper Aurignacian and Kenya 
Still Bay cultures. The Elmenteitan and Magosian cultures are the 
uppermost of the Upper Pleistocene cultures. The Elmenteitan has 
replaced the Kenya Aurignacian and the Kenya Still Bay has changed 
to the Magosian. The climatic changes during this cultural evolu- 
tion in Kenya have been described by Brooks (Leakey, 1931, Ap- 
pendix B), who shows a parallelism between glacial periods in Europe 
and pluvial periods in east Africa. The most recent pluvial period, 
the Nakuran, he dates 850 B.C.; before this came a dry period. The 
Makalian pluvial is thought to have occurred from 10,000 to 2500 
B.C., and before the Makalian came a dry period. The Upper Gam- 
blian pluvial of east Africa possibly synchronized with the Wiirm 
glacial period in Europe, and the Lower Gamblian was contemporary 
with the Riss Glacial. A dry period in east Africa preceding the 
Lower Gamblian is correlated with the Mindel-Riss inter-glacial of 
Europe. And the most ancient pluvial, the Kamasian of east Africa, 
was contemporary with the Mindel glacial and the Giinz glacial 
periods of Europe. Brooks (1931, Appendix B) believes that this 
tentative scheme of synchrony has a high degree of probability. 

For continuing the study of archaeology, geology, and climatic 
change in east Africa, the contributions of E. J. Wayland (1930, 1934), 
of Wayland and M. C. Burkitt (1932), and of O'Brien (1936) are of 
primary importance. Taking these in chronological order, Wayland 
(1930, p. 475) states that the facts, as we know them in Uganda, 
favor belief in the occurrence of two pluvial periods in the Pleistocene. 
So far as dating goes, these appear to correspond with a pair of 
recognized glacial periods; Pluvial 1 was to some extent contempo- 
raneous with the Giinz and Mindel glaciations, while Pluvial 2 was 
approximately contemporaneous with the Riss and Wiirm glaci- 
ations. The pluvials were separated by a dry interpluvial period — 
all the evidence favors the view that these two pluvial periods 

Prehistory 121 

were true pluvials because they occurred at the same time over 
wide areas of the earth's surface. 

In continuing this inquiry, Wayland (1934) gives a historical sur- 
vey of archaeological and geological research in Uganda, and he 
provides a table giving further geological and climatic details of the 
pluvial periods and cultural phases in Uganda. A summary of 
archaeological types and sequences (p. 351) indicates that the pebble 
culture, which had possibly started in Late Pliocene time, developed 
slowly. "During Part I of the second pluvial period, though not at 
the beginning of it, Man began to use lumps of quartzite from which 
to fashion his tools; he soon became expert in cleaving his tough rock, 
and before long enormous flakes were being detached. Pebbles were 
not completely abandoned, however, and for some purposes they 
are used to this day. In Karamoja (N. E. Uganda), for example, 
the blacksmiths use hammer stones; and boulders, brought to an 
edge, provide a sort of anvil for shaping spears." 

Following the Kafuan "pebble" culture came a pre-Chellean 
phase of stone artifacts, some of which are Clactonian in technique. 
"The Chelleo-Acheulean and Sangoan cultures developed side by 
side, the former being a culture of the valleys and the latter of the 
hills." Present information suggests that the Sangoan developed 
into the Mousterian culture. The Homa evidence, which cannot 
be accepted as final, suggests that the local Mousterian developed 
into the Still Bay culture. 

"The Aurignacian appears to have been a foreign influence which 
came, presumably, from the north, or more likely north-east, for 
in that direction Aurignacian sites are commonest — indeed, they 
would seem to be decidedly rare elsewhere in Uganda. From the 
Aurignacian arose microlithic industries such as the Magosian and 
Wilton. In the Magosian a dying Still Bay influence is apparent." 
In Uganda no pottery is definitely known until the Wilton culture 
appears. But Leakey (1931, p. 103) states: "The question of the 
existence of pottery in Palaeolithic times has always been a vexed 
one, but there can be no doubt whatever of the presence of two pieces 
of pottery in the upper Kenya Aurignacian deposits in Gamble's 
Cave II." A student should, however, be very cautious in making 
deductions from this small amount of evidence. 

The Magosian culture in Uganda has formed the subject of an 
article by Wayland and Burkitt (1932), who describe and illustrate 
these artifacts in detail, classifying them according to the levels at 

122 Source Book for African Anthropology 

which they were found and commenting on their resemblance to the 
products of the Wilton industry in south Africa. 

A valuable resume of archaeological work in Uganda has been 
prepared by O'Brien (1936). He begins with the oldest culture, 
namely, the Kafuan; this he describes as a "pebble" culture which 
in every particular is "the most primitive recognizable in Africa," 
and definitely prior to the Oldowan of Leakey. In the Kafuan 
industry, the flaking of the pebbles was merely a reduction of the 
natural edges to produce small cutting and chopping tools. These 
Kafuan tools mainly occur in terrace gravels deposited by rivers 
of the first pluvial phase. Younger gravels yield evidence of early 
Oldowan types, the type tool of the true Oldowan being a crude 

Following a European nomenclature, O'Brien describes the Cro- 
merian culture characterized by the striking of large, crude flakes. 
The evidence implies that this Uganda Cromerian culture belongs 
to the interpluvial phase, and that the culture continued into Pluvial 
II (Kamasian) times, as part of the Sangoan mixture of types. "The 
true Chellean does not occur widely in Uganda. There appear to be 
several stages, however, which seem to conform to the normal succes- 
sion as seen in other parts of Africa." A worker of the Chellean 
culture carried out his chipping with the intention of producing two 
edges and perhaps a point. This technique is in contrast to the 
earlier single-edged chipping of the Kafuan-Oldowan cultures. 
Definite stages from the Chellean to the Acheulean have not yet been 
discovered in Uganda. 

For many years the Tumbian culture has been known in both the 
French and the Belgian Congo, and it is found also in Uganda. At 
present we do not know whether the Tumbian development was a 
lateral branch of the Acheulean, or whether the Acheulean at an 
advanced stage borrowed features of a Tumbian culture already 
existing in the Congo. 

The Levalloisian culture appears between Lower Acheulean and 
Upper Acheulean, and finally develops into the Still Bay phase. 
The important features of the Levalloisian culture are its longevity 
and wide distribution over Uganda. 

Possibly the lack of a Uganda Aurignacian culture in any way 
comparable to the Aurignacian of Kenya may be due to the rarity 
of suitable material. The Magosian culture is Mesolithic. The 
Neolithic culture of Uganda is a "widespread industry of microlithic 
type, without polished tools, occurring abundantly in caves and 

Prehistory 123 

shelters, and in the open. The tools include lunates, minute tapering 
backed-blades, and small scrapers. Pottery is always associated, 
at any rate in home sites, and is always well-made." The Neolithic 
industry is late, perhaps only a few centuries old. For a criticism 
of O'Brien, see Wayland (1937). 


The history of archaeological work in south Africa is in outline 
a repetition of the development of technique in the north and east 
of the continent. The literature may be conveniently grouped in 
four divisions: (1) discoveries of stone implements, chiefly surface 
finds of the period 1870-90; (2) early attempts to study typology, 
sequences of patterns, and stratification; (3) specialized articles 
dealing exclusively with one small site or one type of implement; and 
(4) recent articles and books summarizing the foregoing contributions, 
welding the information, and advancing theories respecting the 
relationship of stone-age cultures of north, east, and south Africa. 

J. Sanderson (1878) called attention to current tales of the Kafirs 
relating to a stone-using people who preceded them, and he notes 
the continued use of stone as weights for digging-sticks, hammers, 
and grinders. Sanderson states that the first scientific interest in 
stone implements from Natal may be dated about 1871. The imple- 
ments described by Sanderson are referred to as knives for cutting 
skins, scrapers for preparing skins, piercers of quartz for drilling 
holes, molding tools for making pottery, and chisels for cutting wood. 
Some of the implements were found near Durban from one to four 
feet below the surface, but on the evidence of W. D. Gooch (quoted 
by Sanderson) some of these forms were shown to have a very wide 

A few years after the publication of Sanderson's article, Gooch 
(1881) placed the study of stone implements on a scientific basis by 
taking cognizance of types of implements, their topographical dis- 
tribution, the character of the deposits in which they were found, 
and the nature of the material from which they were made. The 
topographical scheme of Gooch included the division of south Africa 
into districts "which the apparent grouping of types or forms of the 
implements found in them seemed to suggest." Various Paleolithic 
forms are illustrated, and the article concludes with a table giving a 
description of implements, geological position, and district where 

To this inaugural period also belong the contributions of Feilden 
(1883), Penning (1886), and Leith, Frames, and Penning, all of 

124 Source Book for African Anthropology 

whom wrote in 1898. Leith deals with cave deposits, shell mounds, 
and coarse stone implements, among which are eoliths traceable to 
high gravels. Leith sees a close typological correspondence between 
stone implements from the chalk of Kent and those from plateau 
gravels in the Transvaal. T. Rupert Jones (1899) described thirteen 
large paleoliths from Swaziland. He remarks on the impossibility 
of suggesting a chronology for these implements, for the relative 
ages of the gravels in which they were found are undetermined. It 
was known, however, that the implements were found in gravel 
terraces of different ages cut out by the River Embabaan. The 
illustrations show a large ovate form and two long, narrow specimens. 

Kingston (1900) explored some caves on the coast between Mossel 
Bay and Port Elizabeth. The excavation was not thorough, but 
the author states that "we arrived, by a series of soundings in various 
places, at a very fair idea of the. nature of the deposits and even of 
the manner of life of the former inhabitants." The objects found 
included long, narrow implements of flaked quartzite, arrowheads of 
stone, a bone scoop, a shell ornament, pounders, and heavy perforated 
stones. The caves had been occupied at different levels by Strand- 

Some stone implements found in the valley of the Zambezi were 
described by Lamplugh (1906) and by Balfour in the same year. 
The implements were lying on the bottom of the broad outer valley, 
and their occurrence in the high gravels assigns to them a great 
antiquity. With one exception the implements were discovered at 
the surface, and a geological section (p. 164) is given to show the 
position of the artifact which was found in situ at a depth of five feet. 
Lamplugh concludes that most of the implements, which are rude 
paleoliths, were left in their present position when the Zambezi 
flowed in the higher valley for some distance below the present falls. 

Balfour (1906) describes a Paleolithic type of implement from the 
Victoria Falls region. In type he compares this implement to those 
of the River-drift (Chellean) period in northeast Europe. The 
implement, though found on a road which was under construction, 
was traceable in origin to a sand pit near-by. The sand pit was in an 
ancient deposit of coarse gravels, laid when the river was running 
at a height perhaps 15 to 20 feet above its present level at this point. 
The site, patination, and abraded surface of the implement point 
to great antiquity, and the resemblance in type to some European 
River-drift implements led Balfour to remark that "the combined 
evidence seems to point strongly to a strict correspondence of con- 


Prehistory 125 

ditions in the two widely separated regions, to a like condition of 
culture, in both cases of great antiquity. Whether it is legitimate 
to assign to these Zambezi implements as remote a date as that 
given on geological evidence to the implements of our own River- 
drift must be determined by further examination of the older Zam- 
bezi deposits." (For south African Paleoliths, see Fig. 22, h-d.) 

The publication of P^ringuey's (1911) dissertation on the stone 
ages of south Africa marked the beginning of a really intensive study 
of south African archaeology. Moreover, there is a definite expan- 
sion of speculation respecting analogies of types from south Africa 
and Europe. Referring to coarse, heavy paleoliths, P^ringuey 
(p. 8) says of the south African forms: "The Chellean type is the 
Chellean form of the Palearctic regions. This is indubitable. But 
the types that might correspond with the Aurignacian, Solutrean, 
and Magdalenian cultures, especially the last, have an indescribable 
facies of their own which may be said to be South African. On the 
other hand the pygmy implements, and others with the bord abattu 
of the French, cannot be very readily distinguished from the English, 
French, and Indian implements of the same type, except, of course, 
by the material of which they are made; but they more closely 
approximate the Algerian and Morocco examples." 

After a brief review of European typology Peringuey (p. 17) 
begins his survey of the different types of south African Paleolithic 
implements and states that he has no difficulty in dividing the 
bouchers into several types, owing to their appearance or facies, 
or to the material of which they are made. He then describes the 
manufacture and probable uses of the bouchers. The geological 
evidence for establishing the relative antiquity of implements is 
said to be inadequate. The survey includes an account of a Neolithic 
period, though the term is perhaps not justified, and some description 
is given of pottery, ornaments, and craniology of the Strandloopers, 
all with a view to summarizing the information available in the year 
1911. But it is evident that the prehistorical studies are a long way 
from presenting a relevant and connected story of physical types, 
their succession, wanderings, and achievements. 

Among articles of importance dealing with special sites and 
specific types of implements are the following: N. Jones (1920) 
describes the evidence for four successive periods of prehistoric 
occupation at Taungs. From the earliest period are water-worn 
hand-axes of all shapes and degrees of workmanship; then, more 
recent, are some flakes and scrapers of diorite which are not water- 

126 Source Book for African Anthropology 

worn. A still more recent period produced specialized implements 
of chert with a careful secondary chipping. A final period is charac- 
terized by the presence of implements and chips produced by Bush- 
men. A stratification of stone cultures at Tiger Kloof is also 
considered in this article. Further examples of local studies are 
those by N. Jones (1924, 1930), Gardner (1928), Goodwin (1929), 
and Armstrong (1931). 

N. Jones (1924) states that the country between Bulawayo and 
the Zambezi River is particularly rich in stone implements, chiefly 
hand-axes, "strikingly similar to those of Chellean and Acheulean 
age in Europe." Similar types of early Paleoliths are found abun- 
dantly in British Bechuanaland. In addition to the river gravel 
implements, the Later Paleolithic is represented in Rhodesia by 
implements discovered in caves of the Matopo Hills and in super- 
ficial deposits. These flake-implements with Aurignacian facies are 
regarded as the work of Bushmen. But between the remote period 
known as the River-drift, and the Aurignacian period, there is a gap 
which is yet without an archaeological bridge. 

The peculiar interest of the Sawmills site, situated fifty-five 
miles northwest of Bulawayo, lies in the fact that "we have here two 
distinct periods of human activity, an older and a newer, both clearly 
separable by geological methods." The article gives illustrations of 
stone implements from the older terrace, of "fabricators," of cres- 
centic scrapers, and of microliths. The later implements as a whole 
show clear resemblance to Aurignacian forms of Europe, but such 
evidence does not permit the assumption that the Bushmen who 
fashioned these implements were of the race responsible for an Aurig- 
nacian culture in Europe. Possibly the Bushman derived his knowl- 
edge of stonecraft from an earlier race, "but so far as present research 
has carried us in South Africa, we are here in the realm of pure 

Father Gardner's article (1928), with numerous illustrations, 
gives a clear idea of the typology of the Wilton stone-age industry, 
which includes a variety of scrapers and crescents. N. Jones (1930) 
also describes a particular phase of stone-age culture, the rostro- 
carinate, a term borrowed from Reid Moir's nomenclature for some 
late Pliocene and early Pleistocene implements of East Anglia. 
Jones (p. 73) states, "The occurrence of this primitive form of 
implement is of special interest in that it points strongly to the 
identity of the race that evolved it both in Europe and South Africa." 
This is, however, a strong statement, which will, I think, have to be 

Prehistory 127 

regarded with great mistrust. Jones continues to describe the se- 
quence of implements from the site where the rostro-carinate imple- 
ments were found, at Hope Fountain, Rhodesia. He regards the 
Hope Fountain industry as a developing series extending from the 
Chellean to the early Acheulean. 

Armstrong's (1931) description of excavations in a Bambata cave 
emphasizes a development in archaeological technique, and the 
opening remarks indicate a broad outlook on the possible inter- 
relation of European and south African archaeological problems. 
Bambata Cave in the Matopo Hills south of Bulawayo contains 
deposits and a frieze of wall paintings (p. 240). "Two sections were 
systematically excavated to the bed-rock of the cave, a maximum 
depth of 20 feet 3 inches, and yielded a complete sequence of deposits 
varying from Lower Paleolithic (South African Acheulean), to a 
Microlithic culture [Fig. 22, e-j], believed to be ancestral to the 
Wilton culture of the Cape. The succession of cultures was found 
to be in close agreement with the European sequence." A careful 
investigation was made into the nature and age of alluvial deposits 
near Bambata Cave, and the artifacts of these deposits were used 
as a standard for correlating the deposits with definite stages in the 
occupation of Bambata Cave. "Implements from the Lower Palaeo- 
lithic horizon of Bambata Cave were correlated with those collected 
in numerous Rhodesian river valleys." The Zambezi gravels south 
of Victoria Falls were visited and evidence was obtained relative to 
the distribution of the Lower Paleolithic series of implements found 
there. The relation of these implements to stages in the erosion of 
the Zambezi gorge was studied. 

Armstrong (p. 248) cautions against a free use of European 
archaeological terms unless these are modified by prefixing the words 
"south African." One should be careful also not to assume that 
similar artifacts from Europe and south Africa are contemporaneous. 
In conclusion (p. 273), Armstrong states that the excavation of Bam- 
bata Cave has given the first south African example of a stratified 
sequence of cultures from Acheulean to Wilton; the latter is the 
African cultural equivalent of the European Tardenoisian. 

An important result of the work in Bambata Cave was the evi- 
dence of long occupation of the cave by Mousterian man, the entry 
of Homo sapiens, and the fact that these two races occupied the cave 
alternately, each preserving a pure culture. This discovery agrees 
with that of Leakey, whose excavation in certain Kenya gravels led 
him to conclude that the two races were contemporary there. With 

128 Source Book for African Anthropology 

regard to this statement, a student should be warned that the evi- 
dence for the occupation of Bambata by two races, Mousterian and 
Homo sapiens, is cultural and not osteological. The further conclu- 
sions of Armstrong will be quoted verbatim later in this chapter, 
since they are of importance in our summing up of the cultural 
relationship of stone-age man in north, east, and south Africa, and 
in Europe. 

The research of Armstrong has brought our inquiry to a point 
where a selection of recent literature (1927-32) should be made in 
order to continue the discussion of cultural sequences in south Africa 
and their possible external relationships, 

Goodwin (1927) refers to a new school of archaeological thought 
in south Africa, and a tendency of this school to take over the Euro- 
pean terminology, sequence, and even dating. "The result has 
been chaotic." Goodwin then outlines a scheme of classification, 
typology, and cultural sequence which has been adopted as a working 
basis by the South African Association for the Advancement of 
Science. It is extremely important that a student should memorize 
this scheme, since all discussions make use of the terminology. Two 
main divisions are recognized for south Africa, the earlier stone age 
and the later stone age. The earlier period lasted thousands of years, 
and the period ended possibly three thousand years ago, though 
precise dating is quite impossible. Dr. P^ringuey's term, Stellen- 
bosch, for the main culture of the earlier stone age has been retained. 
The main types of this culture are coups de poing of well-known 
forms, oval, almond-shaped, pear-shaped. A second culture of the 
earlier stone age is the Victoria West, and a third the Fauresmith. 

Following the earlier stone age, and probably overlapping, is a 
later stone age, of which the first industry is the Still Bay, somewhat 
similar to the Solutrean of Europe, with pressure technique produc- 
ing a lanceolate implement about two inches long. The Still Bay was 
followed by the Smithfield and Wilton cultures, which were probably 
contemporary and may have extended into modern times. The 
Smithfield culture consists mainly of duckbill-shaped end-scrapers, 
and with these are associated other forms of scraper, stone borers, 
bored stones, ostrich-eggshell beads, stone rings (armlets), pottery, 
also human bones. The Smithfield industry is similar to the Lower 
Capsian or Lower Aurignacian. The human bones are of that general 
type known as "Bushman." For a tabular statement of these south 
African culture sequences, see Leakey (1936a, p. 97). This table is 
Leakey's personal interpretation of the data. 


Prehistory 129 

The chief implements of the Wilton industry are the lunate 
crescent, end-scraper, horseshoe scraper, and thumb-nail scraper, 
and with these are associated pottery similar to that of the Smith- 
field culture, bone implements (Fig. 23, d-g), Bushman skeletal 
remains, and cave paintings. All evidence considered, the Wilton 
culture is identical with the last phases of the Capsian of Spain and 
north Africa, in which implements were all of the pygmy variety. 
The Wilton industry survived to the year 1870 at Kimberley. 

In conjunction with Goodwin's summary of the classification of 
stone cultures in south Africa, his "Handbook to the Collection of 
Stone Implements in the South African Museum" (1926) should be 
read. On page 24 appears a diagram illustrating the possible origins 
and interrelations of the stone-age cultures of Europe, north Africa, 
and south Africa. This guide summarizes the stone-age cultures of 
Europe and pictures Aurignacian man starting from the east and 
arriving at the Mediterranean Sea. There the migration split in 
two, one part following the northern shore while the other part 
continued along the north coast of Africa. "The northern branch 
took with them the true Aurignacian culture, which was to oust the 
lower culture of the less advanced Neanderthal race. The African 
branch carried the Capsian culture which was later to pass across 
Africa and from there into Italy and Spain across the great land- 
bridges which split up the Mediterranean Sea into three or four 
separate areas." 

Furthermore (p. 8), Goodwin pictures the culture of Capsian 
man of north Africa, and draws inferences of his physical appearance 
from paintings in the caves of Spain. In connection with the Capsian 
culture, Goodwin notes the introduction of the bow and arrow into 
Europe, the clothing of men and women, the physical trait of steato- 
pygy (large buttocks), the beginning of ceramics, and the piercing 
of large stones to serve as weights for digging sticks. "We now know 
that our own south African Bushfolk are culturally the same as these 
long-dead north Africans who spread into Southern Europe. Whether 
or not they are physically the same is so far impossible to say. His 
culture, however, can be traced in east Africa and Uganda, and 
reappears in the Union over the whole of the central portion. The 
technique of the 'Bushman' paintings is identical with the technique 
of Spain, the materials used are the same, the same attitudes are 
seen, and the same disposition to depict action rather than objects." 

These brief articles by Goodwin serve as an introduction to a 
comprehensive work by Goodwin and C. van Riet Lowe (1929), who 

130 Source Book for African Anthropology 

survey the whole classification of implements in south Africa from 
the Stellenbosch industry through all the periods mentioned by 
Goodwin (1926, 1927) to the Wilton and some Neolithic elements. 
For a brief summary, with appreciation and criticism of this work, 
Menghin (1933, pp. 370-371) should be consulted. A detailed 
summary of the prehistory of south Africa is Lebzelter's (1930) 
"Vorgeschichte von Slid- und Siidwestafrika." A geographical 
survey of sites is made and information is given concerning types of 
implements, their topographical distribution, and chronological 
succession. The work is amply illustrated with plates and text 

Our digest has now advanced from a period of preliminary 
observation, through an experimental stage of classification and 
speculation to evolution of a definite technique of excavation, strati- 
fication, and typology, thence to the wider hypotheses relating to 
the genetic relationship of cultures widely separated geographically. 
This broader archaeological view requires further discussion, since 
these hypotheses of wide outlook are the ultimate aim of many 
workers, whose separate observations and minor excavations are of 
little importance if left without coordination. 

Armstrong (1931, p. 274) makes generalizations that agree well 
with those of Goodwin: 

"The excavations [Bambata Cave] have also revealed the effect 
of fusion between elements of Mousterian culture and the Capsian 
culture of the Neanthropic immigrants, and the discoveries have 
indicated the possible origin, and line of evolution of the European 
Solutrean technique. Striking evidence has been obtained for the 
correlation of the early Rhodesian cave art with the culture of the 
Neanthropic immigrants, which, together with the Capsian character 
of the associated culture, establishes an important link with the 
Aurignacian culture of Europe and supports the evidence in favour 
of a common origin for the two cultures in the Capsian of North 

"In the light of the evidence, together with that derived from 
Mr. Leakey's discoveries in East Africa, I am inclined to the opinion 
that Homo sapiens evolved the Capsian culture in the region of the 
Sahara Desert, and that the increasing aridity and ultimate drying 
up of that region supplied the impulse which drove him out in suc- 
cessive bands, northwards into Europe and south-east, by way of 
the Rift Valley and Great Lakes of Eastern Africa, into Rhodesia 
and beyond. There he apparently found a population of Mousterian 


Prehistory 131 

culture and probably of a Neanderthaloid stock, over which, after 
an interval of dual occupation of the country, the new-comers became 
dominant. Possibly there was a fusion of blood, but there is clear 
e\'idence of a strong cultural fusion." 

Armstrong further points out similarity between the Wilton 
microlithic culture and that which is so widespread over east and 
north Africa. Both find expression in the European Tardenoisian, 
and these similarities imply a migratory movement from a center in 
northern Africa. The evidence for this migration in Africa from 
north to south is very strong; the route followed is that for the earlier 
spread of the Capsian. The discovery in the Bambata excavations 
of the presence of a pygmy burin in this Wilton culture, and its 
confirmation on almost every site visited, is an important one which 
establishes a closer link with the European pygmy cultures. 

A presidential address by Lowe (1930) is a valuable contribu- 
tion to our present summary of the development of archaeological 
work in south Africa. The address passed from historical develop- 
ment of archaeological interests to a choice of nomenclature. The 
need for caution in using such terms as Chellean was impressed, and 
the value of a south African terminology was defended. The speaker 
expressed the opinion that "the big problem in south Africa is the 
correlation of cultural and human remains, first with each other, and 
then with the various Pleistocene Pluviations and earth movements. 
Then the big problem for all prehistorians will centre largely on the 
Glacio-Pluvial correlation, for, until this is solved, it is impossible 
for us to recognize relative time horizons." The work of Leakey and 
Solomon in east Africa was referred to as "a great link in a great 
chain." Lowe (p. 104) expressed the opinion that paleanthropic man 
reached and inhabited Europe. He urged further study of geology 
and climatology, and the more numerous and thorough excavation 
of such sites as caves and rock shelters, river terraces, and raised 
beaches. In a somewhat later address (1932) he again justifies the 
departure from European archaeological nomenclature, but he 
recognizes resemblances between south African and European forms, 
and he tabulates the main divisions of the Lower Paleolithic cultures 
in south Africa with their European type equivalents. 

In completing a study of the three major regions of Africa where 
systematic archaeology has advanced appreciably, the generaliza- 
tions of Leakey (1931, pp. 238-239) should be read. He repeats the 
h>TDothesis with which we are already familiar: namely, that of a 
westward migration of Aurignacian man from Asia. On two main 

132 Source Book for African Anthropology 

lines the immigrants advanced, the one into western Europe by 
Palestine and the Caucasus, the other through Arabia into east 
Africa about the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, thence via Somaliland 
into the Sudan and north Africa. This hypothesis would account 
for the fact that the Aurignacians in Kenya are so much earlier than 
in north Africa or in Europe. There is, however, a rival hypothesis 
favoring the origin of the Aurignacians in the southeast Sahara. 

Professor M. C. Burkitt (Wayland and Burkitt, 1932, p. 378) 
demonstrates that the Magosian culture of Uganda has affinities 
with the Wilton and Still Bay cultures of south Africa. In both east 
and south Africa (p. 379) a cross-fertilization of cultures resulted 
from contacts of middle-stone-age people and the later Neanthropic 
arrivals. Burkitt suggests that the area now known as Uganda may 
have been the cradle of that modification of Neanthropic man who 
developed the Wilton industries of south Africa. The consensus of 
opinion favors cultural and also racial migrations from north Africa 
into southern Europe, and down the east side of Africa into the 
southern part of the continent. For a comparative table of all 
African stone-age cultures, see Leakey (1936a, p. 136). Consult also 
page 188 for discission of the part played by diffusion and parallel- 
ism in determining cultural resemblances. Leakey accounts for 
resemblances of Solutrean, Aterian, and Still Bay cultures on the 
grounds of "parallel evolution," and he explains the various micro- 
lithic cultures of Africa in the same way. Yet the truth often lies 
in allowing for a combination of the two processes. 


Archaeological work in these areas is definitely less developed 
than in the three regions, north, east, and south Africa, for which 
the data have been summarized. In fact, one may say that so far 
as stone implements are concerned the archaeological outlook for 
central and west Africa is in the primary stage of observation. The 
period of systematic excavation, and the formation of hypotheses 
respecting the internal sequence and outside relationships of the 
Congo and west African stone-age cultures, have not yet been 

In 1899, Stainier published in the "Annales du Muse^ du Congo 
Beige" a brief report on stone implements of the Congo, where the 
first specimens appear to have been found in 1885, and in 1891 a 
stone-age station was discovered by M. J. Cornet near Katanga. 
Since that time numerous specimens have been unearthed at localities 

Prehistory 133 

shown on Stainier's map. These localities are peripheral about the 
main Congo River and its affluents, and no stations are marked 
within the heart of the forest region. This may be due to absence 
of excavations in the densely wooded interior; naturally the greater 
number of discoveries were made in making railways and roads in the 
more accessible outer regions. Yet it may be that stone-age invaders 
did not reach the internal forest regions. 

Stainier (p. 13) is unable to date the objects with any certitude, 
but it is probable that they are Neolithic; some of them are indubit- 
ably so, as, for example, polished axes and arrow-points. But side by 
side with the neoliths are paleoliths of the same material and of 
Chellean form. Tradition is absent, and the temporal relationship 
of stone to iron is unknown, but iron and copper are abundant; 
therefore, transition from the use of stone to metals may have been 

Menghin (1925, p. 518) has prepared a bibliography of con- 
tributions to archaeology of the Congo from the year 1887, together 
with a list of the types of implements found, their provenience, and 
the institutions where they are deposited. In Menghin's compendium, 
"Weltgeschichte der Steinzeit," indexed references to the Congo 
stone age will be found under the word "Tumbien." 

Rakowski (1921) reports on a collection of Neolithic stone imple- 
ments from the Welle region of the Congo, now deposited in the 
Belgian Colonial Museum at Tervueren. A list (p. 155) details the 
provenience of these implements, and a map showing the sites is 
given. "Only four of the forty-six specimens have been found in 
the earth, all the others ha\ang been collected on the surface. Of 
these four specimens three happen unluckily to have been found by 
natives, who discovered them in the beds of small rivers, or embedded 
in the banks of dry water courses. One specimen only has been 
found in situ by a white man. No. 34, from Lubumbashi on the Upper 
Luapula. It was extracted from alluvial drift 13 feet below the 
surface." The majority of the implements are made of hematite 
iron ore; some are of greenstone (diabase), and others of a bright 
greenish rock, much weathered. The specimens may be divided 
typologically into seven categories which are illustrated by outline 
drawings. A short bibliography (p. 64) is appended. A collection 
of stone implements from the Congo, now in the Trocadero, Paris, 
has been described by Breuil and Kelley (1936). 

Apart from Menghin's speculation (1925, p. 553) regarding 
the possibility that the Tumbakultur in the lower Congo and west 

134 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Africa is part of the Graebnerian Kulturkreis, we have no theories 
of the origin of the Congo stone age. Archaeological work for this 
region is not much more advanced than that of south Africa fifty 
years ago. 

In west Africa the position of prehistoric archaeology, though 
backward, is more advanced than in the Congo region. Some of the 
principal discoveries of archaeological interest for west Africa have 
been summarized by Hambly (1935, pp. 379-388) who gives a 
short bibliography. 

Desplagnes (1907, pp. 22-38) describes workshop sites where 
stone implements were made in various localities notably near to 
Lotokoro and Gao. The types of instruments, varying from crude 
coups de poing to various burins, scrapers, and arrowheads (Des- 
plagnes, Plate XV), indicate that the technique ranges from rough 
Paleolithic forms to small Neolithic instruments of quartzite. Some 
typically Neolithic stations are distinguished by the presence of 
fragments of iron and abundance of well-ornamented pottery frag- 
ments. Desplagnes asks (p. 29) whether invaders from the north 
brought a knowledge of iron to primitive Niger fishermen of the 
stone age; such a suggestion is favored by the different types of 
tombs that may be seen near the workshops. Undoubtedly the age 
of stone persisted for a long time and was prolonged into the iron age. 
In tumuli of the Niger region under discussion are weapons of copper 
and of iron together with Neolithic stone implements (Desplagnes, 
Plates XVI-XVIII). 

A range of archaeological observations of this kind, showing a 
sequence of cultures, is definitely in advance of our knowledge of 
the Congo stone age. But for the main part, west African imple- 
ments are surface finds, usually celts, though Braunholtz (1926) has 
described both Paleolithic and Neolithic implements from Nigeria. 
To this list Balfour (1934a) adds a note on "cleavers" of Lower 
Paleolithic type. This is a pattern dominant in south Africa south 
of the Zambezi, and the further dispersal of this "cleaver" in Africa 
is of interest. 

Polished celts and their ceremonial use at the present day have 
been described by Dwyer (1903), and by Balfour (1903). Dwyer 
states that celts are connected with the reverence of the Yoruba for 
the Thunder God, Shango, who is said to use such stones as 

The antiquity of polished stone celts is discussed by Rattray 
(1923, pp. 322-331). Although the stones are of a sacred character 


Prehistory 135 

because of their association with Nyame, the Sky god, from whom 
they are supposed to have originated, many people know that the 
stones are of human manufacture, and that some of them were 
employed recently. Rattray is of the opinion that "transition from 
the Neolithic to the iron age was not sudden. The stone implement 
[Fig. 22, a] and the iron one that was eventually to oust it must have 
been for a time used side by side in forest and field." Meek (1925, 
vol. 1, pp. 51-56) notes a variety of paleoliths in west Africa gener- 
ally, and a few roughly flaked types of implements which might be 
regarded as being of early-stone-age type have been found in the 
Northern Provinces of Nigeria. Meek gives a list of early stone 
implements discovered in the tin mines of the Bauchi Plateau. Some 
of these are of the Paleolithic "river drift" type of Europe, and some 
could be described as Mousterian in form. A list of polished celts, 
arrowheads, and scrapers from Naraguta is given (p. 51). Meek 
remarks that primitive Africa probably passed directly from the 
stone age to the iron age, but Riitimeyer (1911) shows that stone 
and bone are used at the present day. He mentions a bone-pointed 
spear of the Shilluk, and a stone-headed club of the Ja-luo. Stone 
hammers, anvils, and grain pounders are today extensively used. 

In Cameroons, Migeod (1925, pp. 252-258) found polished stone 
axes and some paleoliths between Victoria and Yola. The imple- 
ments are classified by Migeod as Paleolithic-rough-hacked, 
Paleolithic-flaked, and Neolithic, Since the stones were not associ- 
ated with stratified beds, but were merely covered by a thin layer of 
soil resting either on granite rocks or on Eocene sandstone, the geo- 
logical formation does not aid inquiry into the antiquity of the 
implements. With further reference to the Neolithic age in Came- 
roons, Fourneau (1935, pp. 67-83) gives information respecting mate- 
rials used, sizes and shapes of the implements. Laforgue (1931, p. 463) 
attempts to classify prehistoric zones of west Africa into three 
main sites in each of which some distinguishing industry predomi- 
nates. The main zones are (1) Saharienne, which extends north 
of the 18th parallel; (2) Sahelienne, between 14° and 18° N. Lat.; 
(3) Soudanaise. Laforgue details what he considers to be the 
distinguishing types of artifacts for each of these regions, and con- 
cludes by pointing out the fact that most of the implements dis- 
covered in west Africa are without geological information. 

The obvious need is for systematic excavation of numerous sites 
with a view to determining stratification and the relative ages of the 
various types of implements. Prehistoric pottery has not been 

136 Source Book for African Anthropology 

carefully studied, though Laforgue states that in Zone 2 pottery is 
abundant and often artistic. Rattray (1927a, pp. 295-301) describes 
prehistoric pottery of Ashanti, which differs radically from that 
made today. Some of the ancient, highly ornate pottery was found 
with celts, and Rattray inclines to the view that this early pottery 
was made by unknown people to whom the present Ashanti were 
strangers. This pottery has been further discussed by Wild (1934b, 
pp. 203-215), who notes the occurrence of the pottery with stone celts 
of several forms, but no associated human bones have been dis- 
covered. Information is inadequate for dating the pottery, but 
certain historical considerations suggest that makers of the coarse 
red ware were carrying on their craft in the seventeenth century. 

A vast amount of skilled and organized research is necessary to 
bring the archaeology of west Africa to the level of attainment 
reached in the north, east, and south of the continent. The need is 
for more systematic excavation in many areas, together with accurate 
geological surveys, the two being an essential step toward the co- 
ordination of west African archaeological discoveries with those in 
other parts of the continent. 

Apart from the question of stone implements, their types, dis- 
tribution, and chronology, west Africa has some minor archaeological 
puzzles, though these have no known connection with the stone age. 
Curious statuettes of stone and clay from Sherbro Island and Liberia 
have been described by Neel (1913a, pp. 419-443). According to 
Joyce (1905), no information is available respecting the makers of 
nomori figurines such as are used by the Mende of Sierra Leone. 
Such statuettes are placed under small shelters in the fields and 
offerings of food are made to them, or the figurines may be chastised 
to make them comply with the wishes of their owner. Constant 
tribal incursions into this region where nomori figures are now found, 
but not made, might account for the rapid disappearance of the art 
of making them. The soft stone of the figurines wears quickly; 
therefore, the abrasions and weathered appearance may erroneously 
suggest antiquity. Addison (1934) provides excellent illustrations 
of nomori, and he explains that in Mende nu or no means a person 
and mori or moli means to ask a question. Nomori may contain 
good or bad spirits who will answer questions and fulfill requests. 
Approach to the nomori is usually made through a medicine-man. 

Terra cotta heads and the priesthood associated with them at If^, 
Nigeria, have been photographed by Hambly (1935, Plates CLIV, 
CLVI, CLVII), who summarizes (pp. 466-468) some of the views 

Prehistory 137 

respecting a possible Carthaginian or Egyptian origin of a craft 
which is unique. Other illustrations of these objects may be seen 
in Frobenius (1913, vol. 1, Plates VI, IX). These nomori of Sierra 
Leone, and terra cotta heads of Ife, with stone monuments of that 
region, cannot yet be shown as part of a general archaeological 
problem. And in west Africa, as well as in other parts of the con- 
tinent, are stone structures of unknown origin and age which will 
have to be considered later. 

Rock Paintings and Engravings 

Literature bearing on the regions of Africa in which stone imple- 
ments have been found should now be searched for evidence of 
artistic expression. The association of works of art with types of 
stone implements should be noted, and the testimony of paintings 
and engravings should be added to the other evidence bearing on 
migrations of lithic culture and of stone-age races. Examples of 
prehistoric art can be conveniently considered in northern, eastern, 
and southern divisions, though there are no clear geographical lines 
of demarcation between the northern and the eastern examples. 
The territory where rock sculptures and paintings are found extends 
from Algeria to Libya, through Nubia and Kordofan into Tangan- 
yika Territory and south Africa (for comparison of styles, see Fig. 24). 

As with the study of stone implements, we have in connection 
with primitive art a period of preliminary observation resulting in 
notes and short articles that evince a growing interest in the subject. 
The observations become extended geographically and the sites are 
more thoroughly described. Finally, there is an attempt to unify 
pictorial with other archaeological evidence, and hypotheses respect- 
ing the migrations of early cultures are formed, 


Barth (1857, vol. 1, pp. 197-200) portrays rock engravings in the 
Wadi Telisagh^ near Murzuk, where sandstone blocks were covered 
with drawings "made with a firm and steady hand, well accustomed 
to such work, and cut to a great depth." A sculpture (p. 197) 
represents a group of three individuals of the following character and 
arrangement. To the left is a tall human figure with a long, narrow, 
horned head. I could not agree with Barth that this is the head of a 
bull; the tapering head is m.ore like that of an antelope. This 
anthropomorphic person carries a bow and arrow in the left hand. 
On the right of the picture is a similar individual, and between them 
a horned animal. Barth observes that the sculpture has nothing 

138 Source Book for African Anthropology 

of a Roman character but some particulars call to mind the Egyptian 
sculptures, or again the sculpture may have been executed by some 
one who had been in contact with a civilized people, possibly the 
Carthaginians. Barth does not suggest that the sculptures may be 
due solely to the genius of a primitive people. Bates (1914, p. 94) 
gives the most feasible explanation of this petroglyph as a hunting 
scene in which the two males are disguised with the head skins of 
animals so that they may approach close to their quarry. Barth 
remarks on the absence of the camel from the sculptures, and the 
fact that at the time the sculptures were made oxen were used for 
transport in that region. Other sculptures show the ostrich and the 

These examples given by Barth are of great importance in further 
comparative study of prehistoric art in Africa. The technique of 
engraving, and above all the distinctive style show undeniable 
affinities with a phase of art, examples of which have been observed 
in southern Spain, north Africa, Kordofan and south Africa. 

Among early papers on the subject of rock engravings, Gautier 
(1904) should be consulted with regard to pictures from Zenaga. 
The antiquity of the drawings representing elephants, ostriches, 
and the extinct Buhalus antiquus is uncertain. These animals per- 
sisted until Carthaginian and Roman times, and the engravings are 
not necessarily extremely ancient, yet in the opinion of Gautier they 
are probably the work of prehistoric, stone-age man. For a summary 
of what is known of the north African Pleistocene animals, consult 
A. S. Romer (1928). 

A southwesterly extension of the art of rock engraving is noted by 
Desplagnes (1907, pp. 77-84) in the French Sudan, but many 
designs are painted, not sculptured, and they appear to belong to a 
late Libyan-Berber and Tuareg class of inscriptions. To this class of 
inscriptions belong the examples discussed by Bates (1914, pp. 73-85, 
160) and by Bertholon and Chantre (1912, vol. 2, pp. 503-518). 
Both works make a comparative study of Libyan, Punic, and 
Tamashek symbols. Bates (p. 85) states that no inscription in 
Libyan characters has yet proved older than about 400. B.C. 

The early observers are agreed that on stylistic ground alone the 
engravings such as those recorded by Barth are sui generis, and 
despite our ignorance of origins and chronology two classifications 
can be made: (1) rock engravings of animals, probably made by 
prehistoric, stone-age man to represent the game he followed; and 
(2) relatively recent engravings of camels, together with Libyan and 


Fig. 24. Rock paintings and engravings. 


140 Source Book for African Anthropology 

T'ifinagh symbols. Excellent examples of the second class are given 
by Zeltner (1913, pp. 171-184). He points out that the evident use 
of a sharp engraving tool of stone for making incised drawings does 
not assure the antiquity of the sketches. Some of the drawings, 
which were clearly made with a sharp stone point, include designs of 
camels and of a man clad in trousers. 

At an early stage in the observation of designs, Zeltner (1911, 
pp. 11, 12) remarks that those he illustrates from the French Sudan, 
though in some superficial details homologous to European and 
Algerian works, are completely separate from these in their general 
character. Zeltner summarizes the nature of the Sudanese cave 
paintings. These are always at easily accessible altitudes near the 
entrances to caves. The colors used are specified in detail, and 
Zeltner is convinced that the paintings were made by the artist's 
fingers. Geometric ornament dominates, and realistic representa- 
tions are few. Conventional representations of men and of animals 
recall the rock engravings of Hadjra-Mektouba in the Sahara, and of 
Egypt. The early work of Zeltner makes clear that further study 
will have to be strictly typological and technological. Schools of 
art have included incised sculptures, often on exposed rocks, and 
paintings in caves. Of the relative chronology of these, nothing defi- 
nite is known, but the changes of style and type suggest the work of 
different peoples and separate periods. 

The name of Flamand is prominent among students of rock 
sculptures of north Africa. A brief account of his views may be 
found in a short article (1914) describing two new sites of engraved 
rocks in south Algeria. The principal engravings belong to the 
prehistoric period, and among these the most notable are an antelope 
(bubale), a lion, and an ostrich. This paper is, however, only an 
introduction to a comprehensive work (1921) which is the most help- 
ful survey yet published. The author divides his thesis into five 
parts, the first of which is historical from about the year a.d. 1800. 
He then deals with techniques of prehistoric, Libyo-Berber, and recent 
engravings. The distribution of sites is discussed, and a separate 
section is devoted to pre-Libyan (Neolithic), and to Libyo-Berber 
and Mohammedan engravings, respectively. The illustrations, 
indexing, and discussion make the work preeminent. 

The collection of Saharan rock engravings and paintings (Fro- 
benius and Obermaier, 1925) shows a great advance in the technique 
of publishing the rock engravings and paintings, many of which are 
reproduced in their natural colors. For the main part, these rock 

Prehistory 141 

engravings are of the Barth type, including excellent representations 
of horned cattle, ostriches, antelope, hyenas, lions, elephants, and 
wild asses, which show true affinity with some south African examples 
both in style and the subjects chosen, as well as in the technique of 
engraving. The text accompanying the pictures describes the 
phases of stone-age culture in north Africa. But there does not 
appear to be sufficient evidence to associate each of these phases 
with some specific form of art. The evidence produced is in the 
nature of a general comparison of the Paleolithic art of southern 
Spain and the art of north Africa, which on stylistic grounds is 
reasonably assumed to be the work of stone-age hunters. Ober- 
maier (p. 41) speaks of the necessity for grouping these north African 
rock pictures according to their styles and periods of production. 
He recognizes three main styles: (1) the realistic portrayal 
of animals; (2) a combination of this art with use of conventional 
forms whose meaning is not clear; (3) more modern Libyan and 
Tuareg art, with etchings sometimes superimposed on the old-stone- 
age engravings. 

During the past five years a new impetus has been given to the 
study of prehistoric art in north Africa by Monod (1932), Reygasse 
(1932, 1935), Passemard and Saint-Floris (1935), and Perret (1936). 
For further examples of African art, Frobenius (1930-31) and Breuil 
(1931) should be consulted. 

Selecting the more recent of Reygasse's publications, we have 
some excellent illustrations of the realistic school of prehistoric art 
from Tassili des Ajjers, situated west of the Tripolitanian frontier 
between Ghadames and Ghat. With the pictorial records of Rey- 
gasse should be compared those of Perret (1936) from the same 
region. Reygasse states that owing to the impossibility of associ- 
ating stone-age material with the engravings, which are exposed on 
rocks situated on high hills, a scheme of chronology for the works 
of art is at present impossible; neither can they be synchronized 
with similar works of art from prehistoric Europe. Yet these 
sculptures, in common with all rock engravings and paintings in the 
Sahara, fall into two main categories. On the one hand we have the 
ancient engravings, and in contrast to these the more recent Libyo- 
Berber art characterized by decadence of style and the appearance 
of the camel, which was not used in the Sahara until about a.d. 200. 

Reygasse, moreover, distinguishes two clear divisions in the art of 
Tassili des Ajjers. Firstly, there is the art of a primitive population 
of hunters and food-gatherers, and, secondly, there is the art of the 

142 Source Book for African Anthropology 

first pastoralists. The basis of this classification is the study of 
different patinations of superimposed drawings, consideration of 
techniques, of the fauna, and lastly of costume and ornament. The 
art of the earlier period is readily distinguished by the presence of 
such tropical animals as the hippopotamus, rhinoceros, elephant, 
giraffe, antelope (bubale), Bovidae,and ostrich, which flourished before 
profound climatic changes took place. The drawings of the first 
pastoral people depict horses, oxen, and goats. The paintings, which 
are always in rock shelters, all belong to a pastoral age, and in 
association with some of these are Neolithic stone implements. 
Reygasse accepts the stylistic affinities of north African art of the 
old type with that of southern Spain and south Africa, and no 
observer who compares the drawings from these areas can fail to 
agree that resemblances are fundamental. That such analogies 
could arise de novo in separate centers seems impossible, and the 
argument for migrations of cultures and peoples is considerably 
strengthened by consideration of these works of art from the Sahara. 

For critical notes on the views of Reygasse, see "Nature," vol. 
39, 1937, pp. 432-435. 

Beyond providing additional examples of the Bushman type of 
art, which are excellent, especially in the portrayal of human figures, 
Passemard and Saint-Floris (1935) have not attempted to solve 
stylistic and chronological problems. These observers have, how- 
ever, extended the geographical scope of observation by their careful 
records from Ennedi in the northeastern part of Chad Colony. In 
this region Tilho (1920) made some preliminary observations. The 
rock drawing he shows from the oasis of Yarda in Borku is of a 
somewhat recent type, with camels as the principal motif. 

Two papers dealing with the work of classification of styles, 
chronology of styles, and resemblances between art forms in north 
Africa and Europe have been published by E. S. Thomas (1926) and 
by Kiihn (1927). The former sets out to make a study of drawings 
from ancient Egypt, Libya, and the south Spanish caves, and he 
has summarized his results by tabulating a large number of drawings 
in parallel columns. The designs are geometrical, together with 
conventionalized forms of human beings and animals. The pictures 
are assembled from many localities and from the works of various 
observers (p. 387), and a series of notes on the more impressive 
resemblances is offered. 

Ktihn opens his synthetic article by observing that the most 
urgent question connected with research into Paleolithic art is that 

Prehistory 143 

of assigning dates to the north African pictures of the Sahara-Atlas 
region. The reasons for ascribing pictures to a Paleolithic or to a 
Neolithic age are analyzed (pp. 14-16), and the characteristics of the 
old- and new-stone-age patterns as given by Kiihn agree well with 
those we have just quoted from Reygasse. The evolution of style, 
the animals represented, the patination, the weathering of the 
incisions, the associated implements, and the introduction of figures 
of domestic animals, all aid in separating the older Paleolithic art 
from the Neolithic. Kiihn (p. 25) calls attention particularly to the 
resemblance between his illustrations (Nos. 15, 18) from Tiout and 
those of the Paleolithic period of cave art in France and Spain. 
Finally he gives a comparative series of drawings of animals from 
prehistoric Egypt, from the Sahara-Atlas region, and from French 
and Spanish sources, which support his argument for a widely 
diffused and specific form of Paleolithic art. 


Our r^sum^ must now make a geographical excursion into Libya 
where several observers of the past decade have copied rock engrav- 
ings. Newbold (1924, p. 64) portrays pictures of animals and 
human beings which he found incised on rock surfaces at Zolat el 
Hammad. Some of the engraved figures are indeterminable, but 
others clearly represent tailed and phallic men, elephants, giraffes, 
ostriches, oryx, and cattle. Newbold notes a distinction between 
the pictures of several sites of the region, namely, the presence or 
absence of engravings of camels. This is a factor which aids in 
determining the age of the pictures. Newbold is of the opinion that 
the drawings he saw were the work of southern Libyans known as 
Tamahu, who formed the ruling caste in Ethiopia about 300 B.C. 
The age of the drawings is at least 2,000 years, and may be as much 
as 4,500 years, since the Tamahu ranged over the Dongola and Haifa 
deserts as far back as 2500 B.C. The drawings are crude, and the 
style does not suggest close technical relationship with those north 
African rock pictures we compared with Bushman art. Some of the 
sketches (p. 76, Plate VII) are, however, a little suggestive of Bush- 
man style. A steatopygous human figure appears, and tailed human 
beings are shooting with bows and arrows. These pictures from the 
rocks at Gelti um Tasawir in Jebel Tageru might, I think, safely be 
classified with those we have previously relegated to a hunting stage 
of culture in the Paleolithic period. Taking Newbold 's pictures as a 
whole, they could perhaps, with further study, be grouped as (1) 
Paleolithic, (2) early historical, dealing with a Libyan culture of 

144 Source Book for African Anthropology 

500 B.C. and earlier, (3) the camel period from a.d. 200 onward. 
Newbold (1928, p. 263) impresses the difficulty of assigning dates to 
rock engravings in the Libyan Desert, since rock pictures and stone 
implements are surface finds, but he turns to Ptolemy and other 
geographical and historical sources to show the extension of a 
population of Garamantes, Mazices, and Nubae over wide territory 
now uninhabitable. Between one and three thousand years ago, 
there was much movement both vertical and lateral, in the Libyan 
Desert, and many oases now described as "lost" sheltered a popu- 
lation. So much is ascertainable from a study of place names in the 
writings of Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Arabs. From the data 
supplied by Newbold, we must learn to forget the present inaccessi- 
bility of desert regions when forming hypotheses of the migrations 
of peoples. 

The brief description of rock engravings at Ouenat given by 
Hassanein Bey (1924, pp. 353-366; 1925, pp. 203-205), and by King 
(1925, pp. 326-336) for other parts of Libya, should be supple- 
mented by Newbold's more detailed description (1928, p. 286). 
Newbold believes that, generally speaking, the pictures of Ouenat 
belong to the pre-camel era, and (quoting Abb^ Breuil) he indicates 
that the Ouenat series may be divided into several groups with a 
time sequence. Realistic ostriches and giraffes probably belong to 
the Upper Paleolithic age, and these are of the same style as the best 
Bushman drawings in South Africa. Among the other and more 
modern rock pictures of Ouenat, the incision of outline and the 
"pecking out" processes, both of which were used by rock engravers 
in south Africa, are distinguishable. Newbold remarks in conclusion 
that "until we can find associated and stratified implements or other 
remains on a rock-picture site, the chronology must remain vague." 
He offers a suggestion of four categories of Libyan rock pictures: 
(1) Bushman type, Late Paleolithic or Early Neolithic; (2) Early 
Libyan, Neolithic, predynastic, and Old Egyptian Empire; (3) 
Middle Libyan, Middle and Late Empire, down to the introduction 
of camels into the Sudan; (4) Roman, medieval, and modern. 

Among recent representations of ancient art from Ouenat north- 
east of Kufra are those described and illustrated in color by Murphy 
(1934, pp. 796-799) and by Calzoni (1933). These rock paintings 
were discovered by a Hungarian explorer. Count Almasy, whose 
contribution brings us closely in touch with Bushman styles at their 
best, and their technique supports the view of Newbold that Ouenat 
provides in general an example of the art of old-stone-age hunters. 

Prehistory 145 

Parker and Burkitt (1932) show rock engravings from Nubia, west 
of the Nile. Figures of ostriches and cattle are included, but the 
camel is the dominant design. 

At a place in Kordofan, 145 miles west-southwest of Omdurman, 
H. A. MacMichael (1909) made records of rock paintings, including 
designs of men on horseback, hyenas, and giraffes, some of which 
have a technique resembling that of Insalah in the northern Sahara. 
But this technique from Kordofan is not particularly like that of the 
Bushmen. A. E. Robinson (1934) introduces his pictures from 
Kordofan and Meroe by summarizing the different techniques. A 
petroglyph means a picture incised, pecked, or made by percussion 
on the rock, whereas a petrograph is a drawing made with charcoal 
or pigment. Graffiti (scratches) are included with petroglyphs. As 
a rule, petrographs are found in caves or rock shelters, but petro- 
glyphs are more frequently carved on exposed rocks. Some of the 
figures shown are Egyptian petroglyphs of the historic period, but 
several percussion types of petroglyph from southern Egypt and the 
Sudan show the ostrich, the elephant, and the giraffe very crudely 
represented. Judging by style alone, these latter could belong either 
to a formative or to a degenerate period of the Paleolithic school. 


The rock paintings of Tanganyika Territory form a geographical, 
and probably a definite cultural link also, between Bushman rock 
art of south Africa and pictures of the same style and technique 
in north Africa. Nash (1929) discovered rock paintings of reddish 
color near Kondoa Irangi. Some of the drawings are merely outlines, 
but others have been filled in with pigment. *'Most of the work is 
very crude and unfinished, yet in places quite skilful, especially 
where animals have been depicted, and that the artists were close 
observers of nature is shown by the perfect stance and curves which 
they gave, in particular, to the giraffes." Cul wick's (1931b) pictures, 
painted in white, on the slabs of rock shelters near Bahi, Tanganyika 
Territory, have a legendary history showing that the paintings were 
made by men who lived, according to Culwick's genealogy, about 250 
years ago. Therefore, the art is of a date too recent to be considered 
with any examples hitherto discussed. But the ritual, past and 
present, that Culwick describes in connection with these paintings 
is of the utmost importance, and it may well be that we have today a 
glimpse of the magical background that was an incentive to the 
Paleolithic art of south Europe and north Africa. The paintings 
function in ceremonies of prayer and sacrifice for producing rain. 

146 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The study of rock paintings in Tanganyika is continued by Cul- 
wick (1931b), who points out that peculiar objects of stone, not 
obtainable elsewhere in the neighborhood, were abundant in the 
shelters where the paintings occurred. The paintings from Singida 
and other sites cannot be placed in one group, and the chronology of 
the different styles is uncertain. But in the discussion which followed 
the reading of the paper, attention was drawn by Culwick and Burkitt 
to "a close resemblance in style and technique, between many of the 
Ilongero paintings and those of Rhodesia and south Africa, presumed 
to be of Bushman origin." My own opinion is that the paintings 
of animals (Culwick, Plates L-LIII) have in their realism and stance 
a very impressive resemblance to those forms of so-called Bushman 
art that we have assembled from north Africa. In type, the paintings 
are of the school of action and realism which Kiihn, Reygasse, and 
others have classed as Paleolithic. For further information on rock 
paintings of Tanganyika, see Arundell (1936). 


In reviewing the literature relating to rock engravings and paint- 
ings of south Africa, two points of primary interest are comparison 
of the works of art inter se with a view to establishing a chronology 
of style, and study of the petrographs and petroglyphs in relation to 
stone implements of various cultural levels, in the caves or other sites 
where the pictures occur. Then, more broadly, a comparison of 
south African art with that of the northern part of the continent, 
and with southern Europe, is a necessary coordination. 

Our historical study of south African paintings may well begin 
by reading H. Balfour's preface to Tongue's (1909) collection of a 
hundred Bushman rock paintings and engravings. Balfour states 
that the greater part of our first-hand information regarding the 
Bushman is derived from E. W. Stow's "Native Races of South 
Africa." According to Stow, there were two distinct branches of the 
Bushman people, who differed in their artistic methods as well as in 
their customs and language. Although both these groups are sup- 
posed to have reached south Africa from the north, they followed 
different routes. Stow refers to these groups as the Painters or 
Cave-dwellers and the Sculptors or Kopje-dwellers, respectively. 
Holub's scheme of four periods of art, three of gradual development 
and a fourth of decadence, is also mentioned by Balfour, who says 
that "the evidence upon which he bases his conclusions is not suf- 
ficiently clear to warrant acceptance without reserve. There is, 
however, valuable evidence afforded by patination of the rock sur- 


Prehistory 147 

faces, and this serves as a means of distinguishing the earlier examples 
from the latter, and emphasizes the fact that upon the whole the 
former are of a higher type than the latter." Balfour's preface, 
together with Tongue's introduction to the colored plates, gives a 
valuable r^sum^ of the information available about thirty years ago. 
Balfour concludes by mentioning the stylistic affinities of Bushman 
art and that of the cave period of the Paleolithic age in western 
Europe. He observes that archaeological excavation in caves of 
south Africa where paintings occur is necessary for investigating a 
possible cultural and physical relationship between Bushmen and 
cave dwellers of Europe. 

Since the publications of Tongue (1909) and of Moszeik (1910), 
several compendiums of Bushman art have been issued, and promi- 
nent among these is the album of Zelizko, who uses the petroglyphs 
collected by Holub about fifty years ago. Other albums are those 
of D. Bleek (1930), who reproduces the rock paintings collected by 
G. W. Stow, with introduction and descriptive notes; Obermaier and 
Kiihn (1930), whose work deals with rock paintings of southwest 
Africa; Lebzelter (1930); and Frobenius (1935). 

A recent work of conspicuous merit in this field is one by Wilman 
(1933), who has produced a book which will give the student a general 
survey of the problems to be solved and the methods that are being 
adopted. In addition to the representation of many engravings the 
work contains a large bibliography of 120 names, and a historical 
introduction which puts the reader in touch with the work accom- 
plished from 1824 to 1933. The distribution of the rock engravings 
of south Africa is then surveyed, and a map showing the occurrence 
of the sites is provided. 

Wilman's classification for south Africa gives four categories: 
Class 1 represents the oldest or "classical" styles, depicting animals 
with which the artists were familiar, as well as human beings, plants, 
and geometrical patterns. Class 2 contains the engravings which 
are derivatives from Class 1. In Division 3 the spoors of human 
beings and animals are represented, while Class 4 consists of scrib- 
blings of recent date. 

With regard to the chronological sequence of engravings, the 
majority of the "classical" styles are divisible into groups based on 
differences in technique, but misleading factors are found in the 
chemical composition of different rocks. On some surfaces rust and 
black oxide form readily, and lichens grow quickly, so that an un- 
warranted impression of old age is given. Differences of opinion 

148 Source Book for African Anthropology 

exist respecting the tools used by the engravers, but a feasible 
hypothesis states that the boart (a form of diamond used for indus- 
trial purposes) may have been used. 

Who were the engravers? And do the stylistic differences justify 
an assumption of successive migrations? On the whole, the engravers 
showed more stylistic diversity than did the painters, yet some 
resemblance between the products of the engravers and the painters 
is evident. There are areas where paintings predominate, and 
localities where engravings are more numerous than paintings. M. 
Wilman inclines to the view that the early Bushmen to whom the 
works of art are ascribed were the phylogenetic forerunners of Bush- 
men who have produced recent engravings, but the osteological 
evidence for support or refutation of theories is too meager to be 
convincing. The modern belief that artists were actuated by im- 
pulses of magic and religion has possibly been overstressed. 

A study of the relative ages of rock paintings — Wilman dealt 
chiefly with engravings — may be followed from L. H. Wells (1933, 
pp. 131-157), who describes petrographs in the Cathkin Peak area, 
Natal. He selects paintings from the cave of the Eland, since these 
examples adequately illustrate the evolution of style. The series 
found in the remaining shelters confirmed the sequence found in the 
cave of the Eland, where, on the evidence of superposition, the paint- 
ings may be divided into eight main stages with four minor varia- 
tions; these stages are then summarized from the earliest to the most 
recent. Wells finally compares these styles of art with those of the 
four large stylistic groups of paintings in southern Africa: namely, 
an eastern group located in Southern Rhodesia, a western group in 
South West Africa, a central group in the eastern part of the 
Orange Free State, and a southern group in the Cape Peninsula. 
Technically and geographically, the Cathkin Peak paintings belong 
to the central group. All groups, though widely separated geographi- 
cally and in technique, are the work of peoples having the same cul- 
tural background. Discoveries in the cave earth together with the 
motifs of the paintings indicate that the Cathkin paintings of stages 
2-8 were the work of a Bushman physical type, a purely hunting 
people, using the bow and arrow and practicing a late-stone-age 
culture. A later cultural factor is shown by paintings indicating 
the interests of a pastoral people. This distinction we have pre- 
viously observed in classifying the rock paintings and engravings 
of north Africa, where the pictures of hunters and game were 

Prehistory 149 

described as the oldest Paleolithic type, and those including domestic 
animals were classed as Neolithic. 

As early as the year 1910, J. P. Johnson sought to correlate types 
of rock petrographs and petroglyphs with specific types of stone 
implements. He states that "Solutric petroglyphs" and rock paint- 
ings are distributed through the length and breadth of south Africa, 
and that the kind of surface available seemed to determine whether 
the artists would make engravings or paintings. This statement is, 
of course, at variance with a theory that correlates each type of art 
with a definite migration of artists. Johnson describes a primitive 
series of petroglyphs in the neighborhood of Vereeniging, where 
characteristic Solutric scrapers of chert are of common occurrence. 
He gives instructive illustrations that aid our study of style, showing 
technique which varies from pecking only the outline of an animal 
to filling in the whole interior of the petroglyph with either fine or 
coarse pecking. Attention is called to the limitations imposed on 
the skill of an artist by the difficult process of pecking or grooving 
with stone tools on a hard rock surface. Painting on a smooth surface 
obviously gave greater freedom to the craftsman, and in the latter 
form of art the artist departed from the single object to portray a 
complex motif, such as a hunting scene. Johnson's work does not, 
however, reveal any very specific relationship between types of art 
and patterns of stone implements. 

Coordination of the two main branches of archaeological evidence, 
namely, stone implements and pictorial art, is not yet far advanced 
for south Africa as a whole, but Armstrong (1931, p. 252) considers 
the depths at which different pigments were found in the floor of 
Bambata Cave in Southern Rhodesia. The pencils of hematite and 
ocher used in making the paintings provide a link between the 
paintings and the artifacts. The lowest pieces of coloring matter 
were balls of yellow ocher found at a depth of five feet. Red ocher 
was not found lower than 3 feet 6 inches, and the brown and red 
hematites were absent after the 2 foot 6 inch level, though frequent 
above that datum. The order in which the colors were found corre- 
sponds with the superposition of the wall paintings, the oldest being 
of yellow ocher, the raw supplies of which were found at the greatest 
depth in the cave floors. "It is noteworthy that the horizon upon 
which coloring material first occurred and which, presumably, masks 
the beginning of art in Rhodesia, is the point at which a distinct 
improvement in the technique of burins was noticed and from which 
horizon upward they were increasingly abundant." Armstrong 

150 Source Book for African Anthropology 

attributes this improvement to a new wave of Neanthropic people, 
or influence, from the north. "If this correlation between the cave- 
paintings and the Upper Palaeolithic culture of South Africa is 
reliable, as I believe it to be, it provides a further and highly impor- 
tant link between it and the Upper Aurignacian of Europe, and 
supports the evidence for a common origin of both in the region of 
the Sahara of north Africa." 

The correlation of the Bambata cultures and cave paintings is 
further discussed by Armstrong (pp. 262-273), who finds from excava- 
tions near Bambata confirmatory archaeological evidence of the 
sequence of colors used in cave paintings, and this sequence agrees 
in color and style with that established for Bambata. The top cul- 
ture of the Maleme rock shelter was the Wilton, the implements of 
which prevailed to a depth of six inches; then followed a six-inch 
sterile layer, and below this an occupation layer containing typical 
Middle Bambata tools. Below twelve inches, the floor was sterile 
and the occupation by Neanthropic people appeared to be confined 
to the Middle Bambata phase. 

Following a general survey of stone-age cultures, Burkitt (1928) 
considers the pictorial art of south Africa (pp. 111-159). His work 
is one of compilation following a rather brief personal contact with 
south Africa, but as a general guide the book is of great utility. So 
also is a brief survey of Rhodesian archaeology by N. Jones (1926), 
who speaks from long personal acquaintance. He has a section 
relating to cave paintings and petroglyphs (pp. 66-73). These two 
works summarize an enormous amount of periodical literature and 
together they should be a student's vade mecum. 

With regard to the broader question of prehistoric south African 
art in relation to that of north Africa, P^ringuey (1906) expressed 
his opinion thirty years ago. He refers to the early records of Barth 
and reproduces the figures copied by that explorer near Ghadames; 
this picture P^ringuey interprets in the light of present-day Bush- 
man-Hottentot mythology. P^ringuey then summarizes some of 
the arguments in favor of an ancient Paleolithic origin of some 
north African pictures. He goes further: "The comparison of some 
of the rock-engravings of Southern Algeria and those of the Sudan 
with those of Southern Africa, the technique, the subjects reproduced, 
are strong evidences that the aborigines of the north and those 
inhabiting at one time South Africa were one race." Again, in both 
north and south Africa there is in the form of pygmy implements 

Prehistory 151 

and bored ostrich-eggshell disks evidence of a new culture — the 
Neolithic — which is similar in form for the extremes of the continent. 
Thirty years that have passed since the preliminary speculations 
of P^ringuey have served only to elaborate and confirm his hypoth- 
eses. Such corroboration is to be found in an article by Abb^ H. 
Breuil (1930a), who, following a comparative study of rock art in 
Spain, north Africa, and south Africa, observes that "one should 
therefore be prepared to admit a real relationship between the 
paintings of eastern Spain and those of south Africa." Dart (1925) 
goes further in his interpretation of the cultural significance of some 
south African art. Taking evidence of Otto, who copied Bushman 
paintings from rock shelters of the Kei River Valley in the eastern 
portion of the Cape Province, Dart finds new historical explanations 
of peculiar art forms in the hypothesis that certain head-dresses and 
other peculiarities are the portrayals of visiting foreigners, including 
Egyptians, Arabs, Mesopotamians. But Otto believes, in opposition 
to the general consensus of opinion, that Bushman art is indigenous; 
it was created in situ. 

In conclusion of the subject of prehistory in south Africa, a presi- 
dential address by C. van Riet Lowe (1930) may be quoted to in- 
dicate what has been achieved and what remains to be done. Some 
of his observations respecting the need for more systematic excava- 
tions, observation of stratification, and correlation of cultural and 
human skeletal remains with one another and with the Pleistocene 
Pluviations, have been previously noted. 

With regard to prehistoric art in south Africa, Lowe states that 
in no area of equal size is there such a wealth and variety of primitive 
artistic expression. So far as is known, the earliest artists were rock 
engravers who portrayed some animals, for example, Buhalus bainii 
and Equus capensis, which are now extinct. This early art is associ- 
ated with the Smithfield culture, which has Capsio-Aurignacian and 
Mousterian affinities. The engravings belong largely to the Lower 
Smithfield culture, the culture of a Neanthropic folk who replaced 
the middle-stone-age tribes of south Africa, whose technique was 
very like that of Mousterian Europe. In the petroglyphic art, in 
which probably four stages are discernible, there is the naturalistic 
expression of a hunting people. 

In the Union of South Africa, the first rock paintings are to be 
associated with the Middle phase of the Smithfield culture, and by 
the time of the Upper Smithfield culture the art of cave painting had 
expanded both geographically and technically. "Many of them are 

152 Source Book for African Anthropology 

indistinguishable from certain Capsian paintings of Eastern Spain. 
Correlation between this Eastern Spanish and certain phases of 
South African art is difficult, but there can be little, if any, doubt 
that these folk had a common origin." The order of succession is 
summarized: at first the engravers of the Lower Smithfield culture, 
then the engravers and painters of the Middle Smithfield, and, last 
of all, the true cave painters of the Upper Smithfield and Wilton. 
Lowe concludes by urging the necessity for preservation of existing 
engravings and paintings, and he stresses the need for copying 
pictures, to be accompanied by careful excavations of the cave floor 
or other adjacent ground so that the greatly needed task of correlating 
artifacts and paintings may be expedited. 

Stone Monuments and Buildings 
This general title has been selected to designate a great variety 
of constructions of stone, whose archaeological study has hardly 
begun. At present only a few miscellaneous notes can be offered 
respecting the occurrence of circles of upright stones, single megaliths 
(menhirs), tombs of stone, village enclosures, and hut circles. Topo- 
graphical distribution of these types, time sequence, associated stone 
implements, if any, are all matters for future research. Neither do 
the prehistorians know anything of the physique of the people who 
were responsible for an extensive use of stone in many areas where 
the Negro does not now build with that material. To a great extent, 
the stone builders passed away, leaving either no traditions or only a 
vague memory. 

Various publications give details of archaeological observations 
on the stone monuments of north Africa, Gambia in west Africa, 
Nigeria, Abyssinia, and Madagascar, But if the photographs and 
drawings of these are compared, there is no similarity of technique 
which suggests that these constructions were the work of immi- 
grants who were culturally similar. It is possible, however, that the 
intrusions were separated by long intervals, and that each migratory 
wave had a distinctive type of construction. In some regions, mono- 
liths have been erected, but in other localities the stones are arranged 
in circles. The stone monuments of north Africa are sometimes 
regarded as the work of the Mediterranean race, who were part of 
the Caucasian-Hamitic matrix whose successive intrusions affected 
Europe as well as Africa. 

Bertholon and Chantre (1912, vol. 1, p. 243) state that megalithic 
sepultures of north Africa have been constructed by a Berber popu- 
lation from the bronze age to advanced historical times. From 

Prehistory 153 

observations based on three groups of skulls, containing twenty, 
three, and three examples, respectively, two main types are dis- 
tinguishable; namely, a tall, dolichocephalic, long-faced, leptorrhine 
people, and a brachycephalic people. The human bones associated 
with megalithic sepultures indicate that the physical types prevailing 
when the sepultures were erected were much the same as extant types 
in the same region. 

Meek (1925, vol. 1, p. 55) notes a wide distribution of circular 
stone walls, which are specially abundant on the Bauchi Plateau. 
At Naraguta the circles are clearly the remains of huts whose builders 
used more stone than is commonly used by tribes today. Some of 
the larger circles were no doubt temporary granaries similar to those 
used by the Angas at present. Other enclosures were probably 
cattle kraals, and a stone enclosure on a hill may have been a fort. 
Meek also refers to an extant custom of the Gwari of Fuka, who sur- 
round their graves with circular stone walls having an upright 
monolith. In the Ba-Ron district of Bauchi Province, stone bridges 
occur, and of the origin of these the local residents profess ignorance. 
Meek thinks that stone walling may be the work of Jukun invaders, 
and that circular forts may have been built in the middle of the 
sixteenth century. 

Monteil (1932, pp. 27-29) reviews some of the observations of 
his compatriots in west Africa and quotes M. de Gironcourt as the 
discoverer of two types of primitive funerary monuments of stone. 
The first group includes lithic structures, each composed of four 
stones arranged in a square. Tradition speaks of one stone as male, 
the others as females. The second type of monument consists of three 
long steles with rounded extremities, almost two meters high. The 
material does not occur locally but can be traced to D^bo whence 
it was transported to Dj^nn^. These tombs of chiefs are probably 
not more than a thousand years old. 

Maxwell (1898) and J. L.Todd (1903) briefly referred to stone circles 
of Gambia, and more recently H. Parker (1923) calls attention to 
two distinct types of stone monuments in that region. In addition 
to menhirs (isolated upright stones), circles of stone pillars have been 
recorded. The rate at which the soil rises and tends to cover the 
fallen pillars is not known, but the general conclusion does not favor 
extreme antiquity. P. Laforgue (1931) pictures successive waves 
of stone-building immigrants from north to west Africa, and Parker 
favors a hypothesis of Carthaginian origin. 

154 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The Yolofs, a present-day tribe of Gambia, associate stone 
circles with the Earth Spirit, and resentment against excavation 
prevails. The statement that some of the builders of these monu- 
ments were acquainted with iron, rests on the single discovery of a 
barbed iron spearhead in undisturbed soil within one of the circles. 
Parker supports his Carthaginian hypothesis by mentioning the skill 
of the builders, the oval forms of the stones used, and the presence 
of holes in the tops of the upright stones. Possibly these holes were 
the containers of oil for primitive lamps such as the Carthaginians used. 

Hambly (1934, p. 207) records the existence of stone-built struc- 
tures in west-central Angola: 

"One of the sites has such a commanding view over extensive 
plains and valleys that the position would be almost impregnable. 
At the present day the line of fortifications is well marked by stone 
walls three feet high. These are composed of boulders to which the 
builders had ready access on adjacent hillsides. Large stones were 
no doubt rolled from the slopes to the small plateau chosen as a 
building site. This small plain lies midway between the hill crest 
and the valley. 

"At present this old site, which is enclosed by lichen-covered 
walls, is overgrown by tall grass and trees attaining twenty feet in 
height. Photography would be uninstructive unless a preliminary 
clearance were made — a formidable task owing to the density of 

"In the center of the enclosure is a group of transported boulders 
possibly marking the site of a place of assembly. A search among 
the long grass reveals stone slabs and cylindrical crushers which were 
used for grinding grain over a very long period, as may be seen by 
the wear on the base stone; some thick stones are so worn as to be 
almost perforated. Weather-worn stones that were probably used 
as scrapers are to be found. Surface potsherds are of the material 
of which present-day Ovimbundu women make their cooking pots. 
These sherds mark the places now used by small nomadic bands, 
hence the surface pottery may have no connection with pre- 
Umbundu culture. 

"In the vicinity of this walled stone village are hillside cairns 
marking the sites of graves. These have been robbed by medicine- 
men in search of material for their charms. 

"The Ovimbundu have no traditions regarding the site, neither 
is there legendary or other evidence to show that the Ovimbundu 
ever made their villages of stone. The raising of a cairn of stones 

Prehistory 155 

over the body of a hunter is, however, a present-day practice near 
Ganda and in the Esele country." 

At present, one can do no more than call attention to recent 
records of building in stone, and the recording of the instances to- 
gether here carries no implication of cultural connection. The data 
available represent the primary stage of observation, merely the 
recording of some archaeological puzzles, a stage through which 
prehistorians passed in their first contacts with stone implements 
and with rock pictures. 

Megalithic monuments of Abyssinia have been discussed by 
Neuville (1928), who refers to the researches of Verneau, Pottier, 
Kammerer, and Chudeau. The article shows how purely speculative 
are the classifications according to designs, and there is no sure 
foundation of archaeological or paleontological evidence on which 
to build a chronology; local tradition is almost entirely lacking. A 
comprehensive work by Azais and Chambard (1931) gives data of 
interest concerning the outward forms and the geographical dis- 
tribution of such megalithic monuments as dolmens, remains of 
ancient towns, tumuli, menhirs, and anthropomorphic stones, but 
historically a reader is left where he began. Azais (p. 179) gives 
the views of M. B^n^dite, who ascribes some of the stones to a cul- 
tural period of Egyptian origin, and of M. M. Pottier, who regards 
the Abyssinian lithic structures as part of a megalithic culture that 
spread from Asia to north and east Africa, and to western Europe, 
but whether to Africa first is unknown (p. 241). Evans-Pritchard 
(1935) has made a study of megalithic grave monuments in the 
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and it is possible that some of these are 
historically and culturally allied to some of the Abyssinian types. 

This question of the migration is an old, unsolved archaeological 
problem which was to the fore at the meetings of the British Associa- 
tion in 1912. Here G. Elliot Smith gave some points in favor of a 
migration of culture carriers with a tendency toward megalithic 
construction. Such a view, he argues, is more reasonable than that 
which postulates that every society has, at some stage of cultural 
development, a tendency toward megalithic building. Peet (1912) 
again stresses Elliot Smith's contention that the megaliths are often 
of like form and that they follow the natural routes of migration 
along littoral regions and not in the interiors. Peet thinks that the 
theory of trade relationships in the Neolithic period is inadequate to 
account for such a widely distributed method of megalithic build- 
ing, which was often associated with burial. He concludes: "There 

156 Source Book for African Anthropology 

remains the explanation that megalithic architecture was practiced 
by some great race which at the end of the Neolithic age spread over 
parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, carrying this method of building 
with it." 

Supporters of such a theory of migration might find evidence 
in a paper contributed by A. L. Lewis, who describes stone monu- 
ments found in Madagascar. He summarizes the views of several 
archaeologists who have diverse opinions on the origin and function 
of Madagascan megaliths. Baudoin, quoted by Lewis, thinks that 
some stones are of great antiquity, and that they were erected by 
sun worshipers. 

On the contrary, certain local traditions point to the erection 
of the monuments only a few centuries ago in order to commemorate 
tribal victories. A large stone with a small one at the side is said to 
represent a conqueror and his vassal; other stones are regarded as 
tokens of gratitude to a chief or were erected to mark the founding 
of a new village. To assure fertility and easy parturition women 
grease the stones and rub against them. Stones placed as grave 
markers are connected with a cult of ancestors, and a person seeking 
ancestral protection rubs his hands on the effigy or sucks the breasts. 
Linton (1933, pp. 180-184, 197, 199) adduces some evidence respect- 
ing the erection of memorial stones and tombstones. This is a 
present-day practice for which are given some valuable details show- 
ing the method of transporting a heavy menhir. All the Menabe 
clan memorial stones are used as places of sacrifice, but sacrifice to 
the gens ancestors as a group is not the purpose of their erection. 

In Madagascar, as elsewhere, megaliths have no doubt served 
various purposes and no single statement will suffice to describe the 
periods, the types of stones, and their several functions. A very 
ancient uniform practice would probably give rise to diverse forms 
of building, and to the origin of new ideas in association with these. 
One may be assured that the historical explanation of existing 
megaliths with attendant beliefs and ceremonies is not a simple one. 
Linton has, however, made a valuable contribution in recording 
extant customs, since these, though perhaps recently revived, may 
be a recurrence of ancient traits. 

Within the past few years, several observers have called attention 
to building with stones that are placed together without cement. 
The Negro does not often build with stone today, and he seldom has 
any clear tradition of his forebears who brought together large 
boulders to form hut circles and village walls. Data relating to these 

Prehistory 157 

are so meager that no estimate of age is possible, and there exists no 
evidence to connect utilitarian building in stone with the erection 
of megaliths which, so far as the evidence goes, were ceremonial. 

Records by Trevor (1930) of stone building in south Africa include 
a mention of stone-built villages which are found all over the Trans- 
vaal; in the Lydenburg district there are some stone-built kraals. 
With regard to the largest of these kraals, "neither the Boers nor the 
natives knew who had built it or what purpose it had served. It 
was there when the white man arrived — that is all that is known 
about it." The other items, all presumably relics of an extinct 
civilization, are dressed-stone building, conical towers, the use of 
curved batter, stone circles, terraced hills, and evidences of irrigation. 
A report on the stone huts of Vechtkop (Lowe, 1927) leads to the 
conclusion that these were built by the Leghoya or Bataung, who 
were Bantu invaders from the north early in the eighteenth century. 
This gives a very recent setting to the stone building of that area. 

A detailed study of terracing and irrigation of unknown date has 
been undertaken by G. E. H. Wilson (1932), who gives a map showing 
the distribution of these traits from Kenya to Nyasaland. The 
remains of these ancient works occur in Tanganyika, Abyssinia, 
Uganda, Kenya, and Northern Rhodesia, so forming a chain of evi- 
dence from north to south down a migratory route of the Rift Valley. 
But the question of construction of these works remains unanswered. 
The art of terracing is not lost, however ; it still survives in Tangan- 
yika in the neighborhood of Meru and Kilimanjaro. The Wambulu 
(Iraku) in the north and the Wabena of the south follow the practice. 
Tradition speaks of an alien and dominant race described by the 
words "tall," "bearded," and "enemy" or "stranger." A people 
called the Wamea are spoken of in connection with the ancient 
agricultural system and with the origin of rock paintings at Bahi. 
From the growth of large trees on the top of the terracing at Mufindi, 
Iringa Province, one may assume that the terrace was abandoned 
at least nine hundred years ago. Wilson attaches much importance 
to the fact that "wherever this ancient system of agriculture either 
exists or has not yet been forgotten, there are place-names beginning 
with 'Ru' foreign to the present nomenclature." Ex hypothesi, the 
old civilization came from the north and spread its influence along 
the Rift Valley and over the highlands surrounding the Great Lakes, 
until it perhaps reached Zimbabwe and "eventually developed into 
a great and separate nation, whose fame, reaching the seafaring 
peoples of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, caused them to establish 

158 Source Book for African Anthropology 

trade routes and build factories, such as Rhapta, in order to open 
up communication and exploit the East Coast trade." 

This civilization of east Africa has been more recently discussed 
by Huntingford (1933), who refers to substantial enclosures of stone, 
hut circles, revetted walls, properly engineered roads, and irrigation. 
This combination he refers to as the Azanian culture, in order to 
distinguish it from stone-age cultures and Islamic ruins. Following 
a description of these evidences of civilization come the questions, 
who were the Azanians and when did they flourish? No definite 
answer can be given, but Huntingford surmises that a civilization 
which flourished in the Horn of Africa at some time during the first 
seven hundred years A.D. was destroyed by Islam, that its makers 
retreated southward through Kenya (where Islam never penetrated), 
and that the culture came to an end somewhere about the fourteenth 
or fifteenth century, possibly earlier. That the civilization was of 
Hamitic rather than Bantu origin seems to be an unescapable con- 
clusion. Huntingford agrees with Wilson that the Azanians were 
probably connected with the establishment of seaports named Adule 
(modern Zeila), Aromatophora (spice market), and Rhapta, though 
the time of origin and the present locations of these sites are not 

Evidently the tentative dating of this well-developed stone- 
building culture of east and south Africa, if correct, does not justify 
the inclusion of the discoveries with prehistoric archaeology, since 
the time suggested for the building is well within our own era. 
Zimbabwe, which may represent the acme of this period of con- 
struction in stone, I have grouped with historical data, because the 
most recent pronouncement relegated the structures to a period 
between the ninth and thirteenth centuries of our era. 

With the exception of descriptions of Zimbabwe stone buildings, 
all important accounts of construction in stone have been written 
during recent years, so introducing a new field of inquiry into the 
antiquity, the somatic characters, the migrations, and the other 
traits of the culture carriers, much of whose work is now to be classed 
as a lost art. The details recorded indicate that any attempt to 
establish a cultural or chronological unity between the types of 
stone buildings, whether menhirs, dolmens, or walled enclosures, 
would be premature. On the grounds of typology, two major 
divisions, possibly representing two distinct incursions of stone-using 
people, are discernible. On the one hand, the dolmen-menhir type 
of structure may be ascribable to truly prehistoric and Neolithic 

Prehistory 159 

invaders who traveled along the north of the continent and dowm the 
east side as far as Madagascar. On the other hand, the miscellaneous 
remains of utilitarian building in stone may be the survival of an 
early kind of construction, discouraged and finally supplanted by 
other methods brought by later migrants. 

That utilitarian building in stone, as well as the erection of cere- 
monial stones, might have several independent centers of develop- 
ment is not impossible; but by inference from the general data of 
invention and diffusion as seen in both ancient and modern times, 
and with due regard to the nature of the African routes along which 
the principal stone erections occur, a succession of independent muta- 
tions is far less likely than a gradual penetration of cultures which 
assumed local variations as the immigrant waves advanced. The 
extent of country over which the traits are manifest, and the associa- 
tion of several traits in east Africa, definitely suggest human migra- 
tion on a considerable scale rather than the handing on of traits by 
casual travel. 


The foregoing summary has attempted to show that considerable 
progress, has been made in the study of African archaeology since 
the first observations of stone implements were recorded. Such 
knowledge as we have has been built up during half a century, but 
only in the past decade has there been methodical concentration, a 
visualizing of the problems, and an attempt to correlate the studies 
of geology, paleontology, and archaeology. 

More than a correlation of subjects is needed, however, and an 
attempt has been made to unify observations from southern Europe 
and from widely separated parts of Africa (Menghin, 1931, pp. 48, 
51, 53). 

The advance has been considerable, but an enormous amount 
of systematic excavation remains to be done everywhere, especially 
in west and central Africa. With the task of exploring sites, the work 
of correlating the evidence of climatic change, geological stratifica- 
tion, types of implements, rock pictures, and fossilized human bones, 
must advance pari passu. 

The weakest link in the chain is the paleontological evidence 
respecting the somatic characters of the creators and carriers of the 
cultures we have discussed. The total amount of evidence respecting 
the physical appearance of African races through the Pleistocene is 
woefully small, and if the ultimate aim of archaeological research 

160 Source Book for African Anthropology 

is to give definite information concerning human beings, their cul- 
tures and wanderings, we must regard the occurrence of human 
skeletons as being the crucial evidence for prehistoric migrations. 

The importance of typology has been stressed by Gorodzov (1933), 
and the necessity for classification cannot be denied. But, as 
Hooton says (1936, p. 104), the typological delusion can be "a sort 
of auto-hypnosis brought on by too concentrated and prolonged gaz- 
ing upon a single class of archaeological objects, as into a crystal. 
The archaeologist begins to see things which are not there." 

It is undoubtedly true that, despite the value of type studies of 
implements and rock pictures, and the association of these with one 
another and with the geological evidence, further anatomical material 
is essential. If the main purpose of archaeology is to give informa- 
tion concerning past races and their migrations, then the crucial 
evidence is the discovery of unchallengeable anatomical evidence. 
Until such testimony is forthcoming, we have to rely for our inferences 
on the indirect testimony of like stone-age cultures, their comparable 
geological sequences, and the stylistic affinities of prehistoric art in 
various regions. 

Leakey (1936a), "Stone Age Africa, "gives a summary of the archae- 
ology of the continent as a whole. Since my own compilation and 
that of Leakey were produced quite independently they should 
prove to be useful complementary studies. Leakey's work contains 
an extensive bibliography. 


In our endeavor to present a clear picture of the somatic traits 
of African peoples of the present day, many theoretical questions 
have been reserved until the final section of the chapter. There is 
one difficulty, however — that of nomenclature — that cannot be post- 
poned. We will at present avoid the use of the word race and speak 
of people, employing the word according to general everyday usage 
in the sense of persons or individuals. This will avoid the assumption 
that "race" has a clear connotation, and that definite biological ideas 
may be legitimately connected with the word. 

Unfortunately, there are in African ethnology some terms of 
unscientific origin which have been loosely employed with various 
biological, linguistic, and cultural implications. Our present concern 
is only with the use of the terms Hamitic, Semitic, Pygmy, Bushman, 
Hottentot, and Negro in their relation to physical anthropology. 

Further advances in anthropometry will no doubt provide an 
improved terminology, but until that is available the old nomen- 
clature, with certain explanations, may be made to serve our purpose. 
Let us for the present avoid the difficulty of precise definition, and 
of speculation respecting origins, by glancing at the series of pictures 
accompanying this chapter. If, in addition to making a careful 
inspection of these physical types, a student will turn to the following 
works, he will have in mind a clear mental picture of the general 
somatic traits that are associated with the terms used to designate 
people of different phylogeny and geographical distribution. 

Of considerable pictorial value and in some instances of statistical 
importance are the works of Weninger (1927), Fiilleborne (1906), 
Duggan-Cronin (1928-37), H. H. Johnston (1902a), and Weiss 
(1910). Bernatzik (1929) has published some remarkably fine studies 
of Nilotic Negroes. These references, in conjunction with Hambly 
(1934a and 1935a), will give a clear idea of Negro types in all 
parts of Africa. Barnard (1923) and Hambly (1930a) have brought 
together a variety of pictorial types in popular presentations. 

For Hamitic types of east Africa, C. G. Seligman (1913, 1917, 
1925) and Cerulli (1935) should be consulted, while the work of 
Paulitschke (1888) contains excellent photographs of eastern Hamitic 


162 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Bertholon and Chaijtre (1912), also Coon (1931), provide num- 
erous illustrations of Hamitic and Semitic types of north Africa, 
while Field (1935) has published a valuable statistical and pictorial 
source book for Semitic types, which may be regarded as the matrix 
from which African Semites were derived. 

Hoefler (1930) has produced some excellent illustrations of Ituri 
Pygmies, and more recently Schebesta and Lebzelter (1933) have 
supplemented their statistical study of Pygmies with a collection 
of photographs. For Bushman types, the best available are those 
taken by the Vernay-Lang Kalahari Expedition of Field Museum 
(Figs. 45-47). 

But more than a general mental impression of types is demanded ; 
therefore, to give precision to ideas of physical development some 
statistical work is necessary, and here another difficulty is encoun- 
tered. The fact is astonishing that, taking Africa as a whole, we 
have at our disposal very few series of anthropometric averages based 
on as many as one hundred individuals in the group. A series con- 
sisting of a hundred is usually considered to be a minimum for the 
working out of averages that can be safely regarded as a fair sample. 
When, in addition to this obstacle of paucity of data, we add doubts 
as to the method of sampling and the techniques adopted in taking 
the measurements, the data for comparative statistical study are 
small. Yet some legitimate samples of anthropometry exist, and 
other figures, if not relied upon too confidently, can be of value in 
showing general somatic trends. 

For understanding the data of this chapter, R. Martin's "Lehr- 
buch der Anthropologie" (1928) is of great service. Hrdlicka (1920), 
and Stibbe (1930) have produced elementary textbooks of physical 
anthropology, while L. H. D. Buxton (1932) and Buxton and 
Morant (1933) have written useful articles on the standardization 
of technique. For statistical work, Udny Yule (1912, 1924) is still 
sound, but Fisher (1932) and Gavett (1937) are regarded as the 
most useful of recent textbooks on statistics. So far as I am aware, 
no physical anthropologist has prepared a textbook of statistical 
method as applied to physical anthropology. At present, a student 
must learn his general principles and apply them to anthropometric 
data, but for the non-mathematical a textbook simplifying the erudite 
articles of "Biometrika" and translating some of them into clear 
arithmetical examples would be welcome. There is a great need for 
a textbook of statistics written entirely for the student of physical 

Physical Anthropology 163 

With regard to our tentative classification of physical types, which 
is based on pictorial study, the following divisions will serve as a 
basis for comparisons: 

(1) Negroes, western, central, eastern, southern, Nilotic. 

(2) Khoisan People (Bushmen and Hottentots). 

(3) Pygmies (chiefly of the Ituri Forest). 

(4) Hamites, northern (Berbers and Tuareg) and eastern 
(Somali, Beja, Hadendoa), Half-Hamites (the Masai). 

(5) Semites (Bedouin and other Arabs, Kababish of Kordofan). 
In connection with this research, an explanation of terms used in 

describing living subjects is necessary. Statures are given in milli- 
meters, and conversion to inches is readily made by taking 2.5 cm. 
to one inch. The cephalic index (C.I.) is a figure expressing the 
percentage relation of the maximum breadth of a head to the maxi- 
mum length. The nasal index (N.I.) expresses the relationship of 
the breadth of the nose to the length. 

In A. C. Haddon's tables (1925, p. 9), persons under 1480 mm. 
(58.25 inches) in height are said to be of pygmy stature. A measure- 
ment between 1480 and 1580 mm. (58.25-62.25 inches) indicates short 
stature. Persons of medium stature have height measurements 
between 1580 and 1680 mm. (62.25-66 inches). Tall people have a 
stature between 1680 and 1720 mm. (66-67.75 inches) or more. 

Head measurements made in many parts of the world show that 
most people have cephalic indices between 70 and 85. An index of 
75 and under indicates a long head (dolichocephaly). Indices be- 
tween 75 and 80 express a medium formation (mesaticephaly). 
Broad-headed (brachycephalic) persons have cephalic indices of 80 
and above. 

Nasal indices between 55 and 70 indicate narrow noses (leptor- 
rhine condition). Mesorrhine noses, that is, noses of medium breadth, 
have indices between 71 and 85. Platyrrhine noses have indices 
from 86 to 100. Seligman (1930, Appendix II, p. 252) gives a con- 
version table in inches and meters. 


Before considering the differences of measurement in topographi- 
cal groups of Negroes some attempt should be made to summarize 
the salient physical features of the Negro group as a whole. T. W. 
Todd (1928) in a search for specific bodily Negro features speaks of 
the proportions of the pelvis, the nose, the lips, and the interpupillary 
distance as "entrenched." American Negroes have long arms com- 

164 Source Book for African Anthropology 

pared with the whites, and arm length is the controlling factor for 
length and breadth of the hand. The Negro has a narrow pelvis 
expressed in terms of his torso; the pelvis is narrow absolutely and 
relatively. The forearm of the Negro is a little long, the upper arm 
a little short compared with the proportions in white people. 

Furthermore, T. W. Todd (1929, p. 67) states: "We have been 
forced to the conclusion that, in our Negro hybrids, some features 
are more stable or more firmly entrenched than others, and that these 
features are mostly to be found in the face. Shall we conclude that 
this is a result of differential stability of hereditary pattern, or are 
we to assume that increasing homogeneity of our Negroes [see Her- 
skovits, 1928] is bringing about this stability of African form? Both 
factors may be at work. But since traits cannot again be imprinted 
in a stock from which they have once been expunged, the features 
in question must belong to the hereditary pattern." 

Figures 25 and 26 illustrate the more important somatic traits 
of the Negro, which have been summarized by Hooton (1931, 
p. 512) . Stature, robustness of torso, and length of limbs, are variable 
from one topographical group to another. To take two extremes, 
the Kru of Liberia are thick-set and of medium height, while the 
Vakwanyama of south Angola are tall and slender. Nevertheless, 
Hooton's summary gives the more important traits which can be 
regarded as truly characteristic of Negroes. The hair is woolly, 
black, coarse in texture, short on the head and sparsely developed 
on the face and body. The skin color is dark brown' (Ovimbundu) 
or nearly black (Dinkas), and the eye is similarly pigmented. There 
is pronounced facial protrusion (prognathism), and the lips are thick, 
puffy, and everted. The bridge of the nose is low, broad, and short, 
while the alae of the nostrils are thick and flaring; the nasal index is 
always in the platyrrhine group. The profile is concave or straight, 
rarely convex. These facial traits are clearly shown in the picture of 
a Bini of southern Nigeria (Fig. 25, a). 

Since our analysis is concerned chiefly with modal values, as 
indicated by frequency distributions that illustrate general trends, 
mathematical averages with their standard deviations and standard 
errors are unnecessary. But for those who wish to make a more 
thorough comparison of arithmetic means, two formulae are of ser- 
vice. For comparing fairly large groups in a population in order to 
determine whether the observed differences are significant, or 
whether they might have arisen from random sampling, the formula 

Mi-Mj > 3 V (PEi)2 + (PE2)2 

Physical Anthropology 165 

is appropriate. For comparing the averages of small groups to test 
the significance of the difference of the means, Fisher (1932, pp. 120- 
124) uses the t test by use of the formula 

where A is the difference of the means, a the standard deviation of 
all the terms in the two series, and Wj, ?2j the number of terms in 
each series. 

Confining ourselves to the general class distribution of values 
for height, cephalic index, and nasal index of males only, we can 
compare these values for Negroes of different geographical regions. 
The terms "Bantu" and "Sudanic" Negroes should, if possible, be 
avoided in connection with divisions based on somatic traits, since 
the words have a definite linguistic connotation. Continued research 
may, however, justify the association of the terms "Bantu" and 
"Sudanic" with definitely different series of measurements, since 
somatic differences do exist between Negroes of the two main 
linguistic divisions, and within each of the groups. But paucity 
of anthropometric data prevents us from making definite statements 
that would at present correlate types of physique with linguistic 

{Table 1) 

Stature. — The longest series available are the 100 Bambara, 
Tukolor, and others measured by Weninger (1927), and the 100 
Hausa measured by Tremearne (1911). Weninger's subjects were 
sampled from several tribes representing a wide area, as his map 
shows. With regard to Tremearne's data, the word Hausa is lin- 
guistic, and both Sudanic and Hamitic elements are in the speech. 
Moreover, as Tremearne points out, his subjects were gathered from 
a fairly wide area. These are, however, the largest and most homo- 
geneous samples we have from the western Negro region. 

Taking first the stature, we find that 28 per cent of Weninger's 
subjects have a modal stature of 1650-1700 mm., and 41 per cent 
are in the tall and very tall classes; about 10 per cent are short. 
Among Tremearne's Hausa, the height frequently is as follows: 
Less than 9 per cent are short, 77 per cent are medium to tall, and 
14 per cent are very tall, giving measurements between 1750-1900 
mm. Both Weninger's and Tremearne's men have the same modal 
value for height, namely, 1650-1700 mm. In Cameroons, the stature 
seems to fall somewhat if we take the frequency distribution of groups 















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Physical Anthropology 171 

(not individuals) given by Montandon (1928) and by Malcolm 
(1925c). Montandon's data contain the figures of Malcolm and 
other observers. Malcolm gives forty groups (based on different 
numbers of measurements, all of them small), and eighteen of these 
groups, that is, nearly 50 per cent, are in the class interval 1600- 
1650 mm., that is, one interval lower than the modal value of Wen- 
inger's and Tremearne's samples. Considering sixteen groups 
(comprising 188 males), Montandon's figures show that seven of 
these groups, about 50 per cent, fall in the class interval 1600-1650 
mm. The Cameroons samples show a definite lowering of stature 
compared with more westerly groups of Weninger and Tremearne. 

Between Cameroons and the far west is the mid-course of the 
Niger, where Ruelle (1904) measured 100 Mossi and 78 Lobi. The 
former gave an average height of 1712 mm., and the latter 1754 mm., 
both definitely in the tall class. 

Figures given by Talbot (1916) show definitely a tall strain in 
the Kanembu, Buduma, and other tribes near Lake Chad. The six 
averages given are for five different tribes; there are two samples 
for the Buduma with 12 mm. difference. One sample for Buduma 
(32) gives 1742 mm. as the average, and the other sample (132) gives 
1730 mm. as the average stature. The range of averages is therefore 
1723 (Mundong tribe) to 1785 mm. (Banana tribe) ; all are definitely 

The general impression is that the Negroes of the west are 
upper medium to tall except in Cameroons, where the medium height 
1600-1650 prevails. 

Cephalic Index. — Let us consider the cephalic index for these 
western groups. Beginning again with our best samples, we find that 
50 per cent of Weninger's Negroes have a C.L of 70-75, and 39 per 
cent fall in the class interval 75-80 per cent. These two intervals 
account for 89 per cent of the sample. With an index lower than 70 
there are only 6 per cent, and with an index above 80 there are only 
5 per cent. The average C.L is 74.6. The sample is predominantly 
dolichocephalic (50 per cent) with a strong mesaticephalic (39 per 
cent) tendency. 

In Tremearne's (1911) sample 51 per cent are dolichocephalic 
(C.L 70-75) and 27 per cent mesaticephalic (C.L 75-80). This 
distribution is almost identical with that of Weninger's sample. 

In the Cameroons samples a change in the frequency distribution 
of head form can be observed, for in comparison with the populations 
sampled by Weninger and Tremearne, the Cameroons population 

172 Source Book for African Anthropology 

tends toward brachycephaly. Of the forty groups (not individuals) 
recorded by Malcolm, thirty-one (77.5 per cent) have averages that 
bring them into the mesaticephalic class (C.I. 75-80), Of nineteen 
group averages given by Montandon, seventeen are in the class 
interval 75-80. Therefore, despite the fact that the averages of many 
groups are based on small numbers, the general tendency toward 
brachycephaly cannot be doubted. Struck's (1922) data for cephalic 
indices in the Cameroons relate to sixty-one tribes, and 831 men con- 
tributed to the series; the number of measurements are not, however, 
distributed evenly among the sixty-one tribes represented. There 
are 61.6 per cent of the samples having the fairly high C.I. of 
77-81. The Mossi and the Lobi of the mid-west region have 
dolichocephalic indices of 74.6 and 74.4 respectively, and the Lake 
Chad tribes measured by Talbot have, with the exception of the 
Banana (C.I. 77.3), a range of average indices from 71.7 for the 
Kanembu to 74.1 for the Bagirimi. 

Nasal Index. — A large number (85 per cent) of Weninger's 
Negroes had a nasal index between 80 and 110. The most important 
class intervals are 90-100 with 33 per cent of the population, and 
almost as large is the 80-90 class interval with 32 per cent of the 
population. The figures for Tremearne's Hausa indicate that their 
noses are narrower than among Weninger's Negroes. A glance at the 
Hausa (Fig. 59) shows modification of Negro features as compared 
with the Bini (Fig. 25, a), who is a typical Negro. Whereas only 
7 per cent of Weninger's Negroes were in the 70-80 class interval, 
as many as 20 per cent, nearly three times as many, of Tremearne's 
Hausa have a N.I. from 70-80, which is low for a Negro population. 
There is no mistaking the change in the trend of the figures, for the 
shift of values in the Hausa curve is clearly toward the lower class 
intervals when compared with the Weninger Negro curve. 

The adequate samples of Ruelle give N.I. 104.6 for the Mossi 
and 102.7 for the Lobi; these tribes are therefore in the higher ranges 
of platyrrhine intervals. About 20 per cent of Weninger's Negroes 
were in the class interval of N.I. 100-110, but only 11 per cent of 
Tremearne's Hausa were in this hyperplat5rrrhine class. Talbot's 
series have ranges of tribal averages varying from N.I. 92.7 to 108.3. 

CENTRAL negroes 

(Table 2) 

Stature. — Inspection of the averages of stature for Belgian Congo 

tribes reveals the general prevalence of medium stature, and some 

tribe sshow an average close to the "short" division (1480-1580 mm.). 


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174 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The Basoko, Bangala, and Momvou are of medium stature, with 
averages of 1656, 1671, and 1638 mm. respectively. The tribes 
nearing the "short" class are the Babira (1605 mm.) and the Bakondjo 
(1592 mm.). Two tall groups are present; namely, the Azande in 
the northeast, with an average of 1701 mm., and the Bushongo in 
the southwest, with an average stature of 1747 mm. Possibly the 
explanation of this stature distribution may be that the Azande have 
inherited a trait of their near neighbors, the Nilotic Negroes. As 
for the Bushongo, their traditions refer to migration from the north- 
east, where the high statures occur. The medium to short statures 
of other tribes may be due to infusion of a Pygmy strain, for current 
hypothesis states that Pygmies were at one time much more widely 
distributed in the Congo region than they are at present. 

The most extensive figures available are those collated by Mon- 
tandon (1928), from whose data a series of 37 averages for different 
tribes can be obtained. The number of males contributing to these 
averages was 1834. The frequency distribution of these 37 averages 
shows that only two are in the "short" range (1500-1550 mm.), 
but 15 of the tribal averages fall in the "low-to-medium" class 
interval of 1550-1600 mm., and there are eight groups in the class 
of medium statures (1600-1650 mm.). The general trend of statures 
is from "short" to "medium." * a 

Cephalic Indices. — All definitely trend toward brachycephaly, the 
ranges of the averages for the first nine tribes quoted on the table 
being 76.8 to 80.3. When we turn to Struck's data, which are derived 
from 1,584 males, giving 119 averages for 117 tribes which are widely 
distributed, we have the same brachycephalic tendency emphasized. 
Of dolichocephalic groups (C.I. 70-75), there are only 15 examples; 
that is, 12.6 per cent of the groups are long-headed. In the mesa- 
ticephalic class intervals, there is a gradual increase in the number 
of averages falling in each interval, until we have a maximum of 
twenty-five groups in the interval C.I. 77-78, which is high mesati- 
cephaly. Of the 119 groups 65 are in the range 77-80, quite close to 
brachycephaly, and 16 groups are definitely brachycephalic, with a 
C.I. of 80-83. This brachycephalic tendency in the Congo region 
definitely agrees with that of the Cameroons, but is distinctly different 
from the preponderating dolichocephaly and low mesaticephaly of 
our western series. 

Nasal Index. — For the central area, the nasal index has a somewhat 
lower range than that in the western group. Since the averages for 
the western and central areas are based on widely different numbers, 

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Physical Anthropology 177 

to the upper range of mesaticephaly, but hardly any evidence of 
brachycephaly. Only 4 per cent of Stayt's sample of 168 men were 
in the brachycephalic class 80-85. 

Nasal Index. — Stayt's 168 Bavenda give the modal value of 95- 
100, which is in the higher ranges of the platyrrhine group, and 37 
(22 per cent) were hyperplatyrrhine (100-110). Cipriani's averages 
of 92.0 and 90.9 are near to the modal value of Stayt's large sample. 
The indices given by other observers are very consistent; all are in 
the 90-100 group. The Zulu and the Batonga have somewhat 
narrower noses than the Bavenda. In Angola the average nasal 
indices are mainly consistent, being 98.6, 98.5, 97.4, 96.6 and 87.9 for 
five tribes. The Ovimbundu (N. I. 87.9) have the narrowest noses. 

(Table i) 

Stature. — The samples of tribal averages show that statures 
in east Africa are nearly all within the medium group, 1580-1680 
mm. The Wanyamwezi (101) are very close to the tall class with 
an average stature of 1675 mm., which is close to that of Roscoe's 
(1911) estimate for 288 Baganda having a height of 1673 mm. The 
Landins are just within the tall group with an average of 1686 mm., 
but the sample (14) is too small to be reliable. 

Montandon's data of fifty-seven averages give a modal value for 
averages of 1650-1700, with nearly as many of the averages in the 
1600-1650 group. Only a few of the averages are definitely in the 
tall category of over 1700 mm. 

Cephalic Index. — The cephalic indices are remarkably consistent. 
Glancing down a column of eighteen averages, we find they range 
from 72.6 to 77.6 as absolute extremes. The clustering of the 
averages is around 74-75 according to Struck's (1922) data for 
68 tribes, in 57 groups, representing 916 males. Montandon's col- 
lection of data yields a frequency distribution having a modal value 
for averages of 75-76. Of the 57 gi'oup averages given by Montandon, 
40, that is, 70 per cent of them, have a value between 74-76, doli- 
chocephalic to slightly mesaticephalic. 

Nasal Index. — Noses undoubtedly are broader as we proceed to 
sample the east side of Africa from Uganda to Nyasaland. The 
Baganda and Akamba have noses close to the mesorrhine condition, 
with N.I. 85.4 and 86.5 respectively, but glancing down the column 
we find the N.I. value gradually rising as the figures for the lower 
east African tribes are quoted. In Tanganyika Territory and 
Portuguese East Africa, the indices range from 90-100, most of the 

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180 Source Book for African Anthropology 

averages being 94-95. Montandon's data for forty-four groups give 
a modal value of 85-90 for the N.L Only two of Montan- 
don's east African Negro groups have an index over 100, but 20 
per cent of Weninger's western sample of 100 were in the 100-110 
class interval. The Negroes with wider noses are on the western 
side of the continent. 

NILOTIC negroes 

{Table 5) 

Stature. — Out of sixteen tribal averages for the Dinka, Shilluk, 
Nuer, Bari, Turkana, Nuba, and Mandari, only one is below the 
1700 mm. mark, namely, one of the Nuba groups having an average 
of 1698 mm. All Nilotic groups measured are definitely in the tall 
class, whereas in all other topographical samples the tall class was 
small. Two of our Nilotic samples touch the 1800 mm. mark^ — as 
an average. 

Cephalic Index. — The twenty-four samples of average cephalic 
indices clearly illustrate the dolichocephalic tendency of Nilotic 
Negroes, since eighteen of the samples are below the figure 75, and 
the mode is 73-74. That these Negroes have longer heads than other 
groups is shown by Montandon's range of averages, which are all in 
the low category 69.3-73.4, lower than those of any other group. 

Nasal Index. — There are four out of seventeen averages with a N.I. 
of above 100; and though the averages agree with those of our other 
Negro groups in lying chiefly between 90-100, there is among the 
Dinka, Shilluk, and Nuer a tendency to the hyperplatyrrhine con- 
dition. (Figs. 27 and 28 show front and side views of a Nilote of the 
Bari tribe.) 


Measurements made on Negro crania are insufficient for a 
thorough comparison with data from the living. For both the living 
and the dead, the results are based on anthropometric samples which 
for the main part are too small to be reliable. Krum (1913, pp. 175- 
181) measured eighty-four male skulls of the Wachagga of Kili- 
manjaro in northeast Tanganyika Territory. The modal value 
(19 per cent of the skulls) is 1400-1450 cc. for the cranial capacity, 
but nearly as many (about 17 per cent) are in the 1450-1500 cc. 
group. About 28 per cent of the skulls have a C.I. in the 70-75 
category; the modal value is 75-80 C.I. for about 55 per cent of the 
skulls, and the remainder are brachycephalic, with a C.I. of 80-85. 
The modal value of the N.I. is 55-60, and in this platyrrhine group 
45 per cent of the instances fall. Widenmann's (1898) group of 


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Breckinridge, copyright). 


Fig. 28. Bari man, near 
Breckinridge, copyright). 

Juba, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (courtesy of Marv>n 


184 Source Book for African Anthropology 

thirty male and female skulls is too small to give reliable results. 
A. Hrdlicka's catalogue (1928b, pp. 107-127) gives some measure- 
ments for skulls of south African Negroes, Bushmen, and Hottentots. 

Benington's (1911-12) series of African skulls is too small to 
support an argument for racial differentiation. In his introduction 
to this article, Pearson also points out the possibility that skulls from 
one area may be heterogeneous. The minimum series ought to be 
100 adult crania of one sex. The male series included 50 crania from 
the Batetela tribe of the Congo and 50 from the Gaboon, collected 
in the year 1864 by Du Chaillu. A series of eighteen male skulls 
was acquired in Gaboon by the same explorer in 1880. Particulars 
are given for the groups of Zulu, Angoni and other crania (pp. 294- 
295), but the numbers are all small. Some general conclusions 
respecting the phylogenetic relationship of the samples, as revealed 
by the short series of measurements, are given (p. 33). The Gaboon 
and Congo series, despite differences, are regarded as "forming a fairly 
representative group which differs appreciably from the Kaffir- 
Zulu group." Formulae for calculating the capacity of Negro skulls 
from linear dimensions are given by Tildesley (1927), Isserlis (1914), 
T. W. Todd (1923), and Pearson (1904). Von Bonin (1934) has com- 
pared the results given by these formulae. 

Kitson's (1931) grouping, based on the coefficients of racial 
likeness, leads to the conclusions expressed on pages 298 to 300 of 
that article: 

"(a) Congo, Cameroons, Gaboon, Negroes from Egypt, Galla and 
Somali. The first three of these are from West Africa, which is 
generally supposed to be the home of the true negro; the Egyptian 
series probably came from the Sudan ; and the Galla and Somali are 
usually thought to be essentially 'Hamitic' in physical type. The 
first three, and possibly the fourth, represent Bantu-speaking 
peoples, but the Galla and Somali speak an Hamitic language. 

"(b) Kaffirs and Angoni. The physical similarity of these two 
southern Bantu-speaking peoples is not surprising. 

"(c) Tanganyika, Teita, and Hottentots. The close resemblance 
between the groups from Tanganyika Territory and Kenya Colony 
is to be expected from cultural evidence and from their geographical 
position, but it is surprising to find that they are linked up with the 
non-Bantu Hottentots, and that the last bear their closest resemblance 
to the Teita who are geographically further removed from them than 
are the peoples of Tanganyika Territory. 


Fig. 29. Bedouin Arab of Tunis, North Africa. 


186 Source Book for African Anthropology 

"It must be admitted that there are several unexpected features 
of this classification which has been reached by purely statistical 
means. There is no close correspondence between the affinities of 
the types and their geographical positions. The Congo and Came- 
roons series may be supposed to represent the most typical West 
African races, but they are connected with those of East and South 
Africa by the Gaboon series which came from a district 800 miles 
further west than that from which the Congo crania were obtained. 
Kenya Colony lies to the north of Tanganyika Territory, but the 
Teita have closer relationships to the southern Angoni and Hotten- 
tots, while the Tanganyika tribes resemble more closely the Negroes 
from Egypt and the Galla and Somali. The suggested relationships 
of the Hottentots would certainly not have been expected. It must 
be noted that the Bushman and Hottentot series are less well authen- 
ticated than the others, but they are clearly differentiated from each 
other and still more clearly from the Kaffirs. 

"The present classification is only claimed to be a preliminary 
one, and it should not be rejected merely because it does not accord 
closely with the generally accepted theories of the relationships of 
the African races. These theories have been based almost entirely 
on very inadequate data obtained from the living populations. The 
material used in the present paper is also inadequate, but the use of 
purely quantitative methods applied to cranial measurements, which 
have many advantages over those of the living, appears to offer quite 
the most hopeful approach for future research in this direction. 
The most pressing need is for more and, if possible, longer series of 
crania of Negroes, Bushmen, and Hottentots." 

Semites, Hamites, Half-Hamites 

When dealing with the measurements of Negroes, we were able 
to avoid use of the linguistic terms "Bantu" and "Sudanic" by 
substituting topographical terms. There appears to be no alternative 
to the use of the words "Semitic" and "Hamitic," which have definite 
linguistic and cultural connotations. We have no specific terms to 
express the aggregate of somatic traits associated with either the 
word "Semite" or "Hamite," though photographs and anthropo- 
metric data make the distinguishing physical features perfectly clear. 

{Table 6) 
A glance at Figs. 29 and 30, giving front and side views of an 
Arab of Tunisia, make clear the main features. Hooton (1931, p. 509) 

Fig. 30. Bedouin Arab of Tunis, North Africa. 


188 Source Book for African Anthropology 

describes Arabs as being mainly of "Mediterranean race with 
slight admixture of Armenoid and possibly Nordic. The nose is 
aquiline and very leptorrhine, with thin nasal tip, high bridge, and 
compressed alae. The head form is very dolichocephalic with pro- 
truding occiput." This statement needs modifying, since there are 
two main divisions of Arabs, a dolichocephalic and a decidedly 
brachycephalic division. According to Hooton, the stature is 
medium, averaging 1650-1680 mm., and the build is slender. The 
color of the hair is black or dark brown, and the color of the eye the 
same. The skin color is olive brown. The face is elliptical, long, and 
narrow. The hair is wavy or curly, with medium texture. 

Some of the data in this general description may be verified by 
consulting C. G. Seligman (1917) and refemng to Table 6. 

Seligman (1917, p. 214) states that anthropometric records of 
Arabs in Africa and elsewhere are few and often incomplete. This, 
however, was written twenty years ago and to some extent the gaps 
have been filled, especially for Arabia and Iraq, though the African 
records are still scanty. Seligman's examination of fragmentary 
data brings him to the conclusion that southern Arabia has a pre- 
dominantly brachycephalic population, while in the north there is a 
dolichocephalic population. 

Seligman then turns to a discussion of the Arabs in Africa and 
notes that many so-called Arabs are Arabized Berbers. Fig. 31 
gives an illustration of a man who, in my opinion, illustrates the term 
"Arabized Berber." Arabic is his natural tongue and he is a Moham- 
medan, but in physical type he corresponds well with the illustrations 
of Berbers shown by Coon (1931), Bertholon and Chantre (1912), 
and Bourrilly (1932). Seligman refers to the well-known westerly 
incursions of Arabs who have been absorbed into a Berber popula- 
tion from which they probablj^ differed little in stature and head 
form. In the hinterland of Tripolitania and Tunisia, however, there 
are many pastoral, semi-nomadic people, who are probably of 
predominatingly Arab blood. C. G. Seligman quotes Chantre (1904, 
p. 196) to show that some Eg^i^tian Arabs (Bedouins) have average 
cephalic indices ranging from 72.8 to 75.4, which agrees closely with 
Seligman's measurements of the Arab Kababish of Kordofan. The 
occurrence of brachycephalic skulls in ancient graveyards of Egypt 
and Tripoli, among predominantly long-headed populations, may be 
explained by regarding these as intrusions from southern Arabia. 





Fig. 31. Well-educated, Arabic-speaking type, Tunisia. Berber features. 


190 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Turning to Table 6, we have sufficient data to indicate what 
physical features might be expected in people of Arabized blood in 
Africa. For types of Tripolitania, see G. Miiller (1936). 

A report by H. Field (1935) shows that Arabs of Kish (396 
measured) have an average stature of 1677 mm., a C.I. of 75.3, and 
N.I. of 61.1. They are therefore of medium stature, dolichocephalic, 
and leptorrhine (Fig. 71). Evidently the Arabs of south Arabia are 
appreciably shorter than those of Kish. They are brachy cephalic 
according to all observers, and the groups showing the highest 
brachy cephaly (mode 86-87) are those measured by B. Thomas 

The Arabs measured by Coon (1931) in northwest Africa show 
close agreement with Field's Kish series. The Arabs of Kish, com- 
pared with those of northwest Africa, have 6 mm. more in stature, 
are one point higher in cephalic index, and have somewhat narrower 
noses. A small sample (24) of Kababish have the greatest stature of 
our Arab samples; they are distinctly dolichocephalic, and, as might 
be expected, owing to long contact with Negro slaves, the N.I. is 
higher than that of other Arab groups. 

Shanklin's (1934, 1935) trans-Jordan Arabs are mesaticephalic 
with a modal value of C.I. 76-77 for 791 males. The details of 
Shanklin's distribution indicate the mingling of broad-headed and 
long-headed stocks. Classified according to villages, the average 
C.I.'s range from 74.7-78.8, and for the tribes the range of averages is 

In Battara's (1934) review of the data of Aldobrandino Mochi, 
we have a classification of the figures relating to seventy-nine males 
of Eritrea and northern Abyssinia, who speak a Semitic language, 
Tigr^. If from the tables a frequency distribution is prepared, there 
is evidence that the stature is either tall or bordering on the tall class. 
There is a definite modal value between 1670-1730 mm., in which 
division 43 per cent of the individuals are classed. With regard to 
head form, 40.5 per cent are dolichocephalic, and 50.6 per cent are 
mesaticephalic; there is only one individual with an index above 80 
(brachycephalic) , and only five individuals have an index below 70 
(sub-dolichocephalic). The N.I. very definitely shows the leptor- 
rhine and mesorrhine condition prevailing. Of the total sample, 
43 per cent are leptorrhine, 50 per cent mesorrhine, and only 7 per 
cent platyrrhine. 

In the Semitic groups, we clearly have a people of medium stature, 
and sometimes in the lower ranges of medium values. There are two 

Fig. 32. Bedouin Arab woman, Tunisia, North Africa. 

Fig. 33. Bedouin Arab woman, Tunisia, North Africa. 






194 Source Book for African Anthropology 

distinct forms of head, namely, those that are definitely dolicho- 
cephalic and those that are brachycephalic. In all the groups tested, 
the nose is leptorrhine, but among the Kababish very close to the 
mesorrhine condition. We can find groups of Negroes with statures 
and cephalic indices similar to those of the Semites, but the narrow- 
ness of the nose among the Semites is a dependable distinction. 

HAMITES (northern) 
{Table 6) 

If we agree to accept the external origin of the Hamites, despite 
the views of Sergi (1901) and G. A. Barton (1934), who accord them an 
African origin, we have a picture of Hamitic incursions from south- 
west Asia. These incursions split into two main branches, a northern 
and an eastern. The illustrations of a Tuareg (Fig. 34) and of 
Egyptians (Fig. 35) show the features of the northern Hamitic group. 
Figure 37, portraying a Somali and a Hadendoa, gives an indication 
of the eastern Hamitic type. This type is also represented by two 
Amharic-speaking Abyssinians (Fig. 36). The measurements collated 
in Table 6 facilitate comparison of anthropometric data. 

Considering first the stature of the northern Hamites, the Tuareg 
(1725 mm.) are within the tall class, but all other groups, namely, the 
Berbers, are of upper medium height. The Tuareg are clearly dolicho- 
cephalic, with an index of 71.8, while the other groups are mesa- 
ticephalic, with average indices ranging from 75.0-77.3. In stature 
and in C.I., there is no definite distinction between these groups of 
northern Hamites and Negroes, except that the long-headed Tuareg 
are more dolichocephalic than any of the Negro groups, with the 
exception of some of the Nilotic Negro tribes. 

When, however, the nasal indices of the northern Hamites are 
considered, a condition fundamentally different from that of any 
Negro tribe is observed. All the northern Hamitic groups are 
decidedly leptorrhine and the averages of the N.I. for the several 
groups are remarkably close, with a range of only 63.5-66.5. 

{Table 6) 
In turning to the consideration of eastern Hamites, there is the 
difficulty of classification. Seligman (1930, p. 102) points out that 
the Ababda, who once spoke Bedawi, which is the Hamitic language 
of the Bisharin and the Hadendoa, have lost their old tongue and 
now speak Egyptian, while the Beni Amer speak a Semitic language 
called Tigr^. There is in the region between the Red Sea and the 



Fig. 35. Egyptians of Luxor, a. Hamitic type. h. Showing Negroid and 
Hamitic mixtures (after photographs by H. Field). 









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Physical Anthropology 201 

Nile an overlay of Semitic speech and customs upon the Hamitic 
foundation, so perhaps there is justification for including in the 
eastern Hamitic group those whose original Hamitic traits have 
been submerged. 

With the exception of the Somali groups, which are all definitely 
in the tall class, the eastern Hamites are of medium height, showing 
fairly close agreement with the Berber groups of northern Hamites. 
We have, according to these data, only two tall groups of Hamites, 
the Tuareg (northern) and the Somali (eastern). Among the 
eastern Hamites, head form has a definitely rounder tendency than 
among the northern Hamites, and this may be due to some phylo- 
genetic relation between eastern Hamites and an ancient brachy- 
cephalic Armenoid people. The eastern Hamites are decidedly more 
platyrrhine than the northern Hamites, for, glancing down the 
column of figures for the N.I. of the northern Hamites, all are in the 
60's, whereas the nasal indices of the eastern Hamitic groups are, 
with the exception of two Somali groups, all in the 70's. The eastern 
Hamitic groups are nearly all mesorrhine; the northern Hamitic 
groups are all leptorrhine. 

The measurements made by Sergi (1912) on sixty-nine male 
skulls of people he describes as modern Tigr^ give averages of 1501 
cc. capacity, which is higher than that of most Negro tribes, a N.I. 
of 50.3, and a cranial index of 74.2. Adding two points to the cranial 
index, we have a C.I. of 76.2, in very close agreement with the indices 
for all the eastern Hamites quoted on Table 6. 

To bring the average N.I. of the skull series into form with the 
N.I. of the living, we may use a formula of Buxton and Thomson, 
discussed by Davies (1932, pp. 349-351). The formula N.I. (living) 
= N.I. (crania) X 2.327-38.08, when applied to the N.I. 50.3, gives 
N.I. 78.96, which is higher than that for the living groups considered 
in Table 6. 

On the whole, there is a close resemblance between the African 
Semites and the two geographical groups of Hamites. Both the 
northern and eastern Hamites have tall groups, but generally speak- 
ing, the Hamites and Semites are of medium stature. With the 
exception of the low dolichocephaly of the Tuareg, all the Sem.itic 
and Hamitic groups have a short range of C.I. from the higher 
ranges of dolichocephaly to moderate mesaticephaly. There is a 
difference to be observed, however, between Semites and northern 
Hamites on the one hand, and eastern Hamites on the other. The 
eastern Hamitic groups are not so leptorrhine as the northern 

202 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Hamites and Semites. In fact, most of our samples of eastern 
Hamites have average nasal indices within the mesorrhine value. 


A sample of ninety-one Masai (Fig. 39) gives a tall stature of 
1700 mm., a rather low C.I. of 73.2, and a definite mesorrhine con- 
dition which is arrestingly different from that of Negroes. The 
Masai have a nasal index (76.2) which shows their intermediate 
position between Hamites and Negroes. The N.I. is, in fact, not 
much higher than that of the Ababda and the Bisharin, but the index 
is noticeably higher than that of the northern Hamites and the 


Tables 7, 8 

A thorough historical survey of the Pygmy question would begin 
with the writings of Aristotle and Herodotus; we are, however, con- 
cerned here with anthropometry, for which there is one incomparable 
source, that of Schebesta and Lebzelter (1933). The cultural pattern 
of Pygmy life is dealt with in section II, where references other than 
those bearing on physical anthropology will be found. 

Our modern study of Pygmies may begin with the writings of 
Du Chaillu (1867, p. 317), who explored the Gaboon region in the 
period 1865-70. He states that the Pygmies of that area were of a 
dirty yellow color, their foreheads were low and narrow, their legs 
were short in proportion to their trunks, and their eyes had a look 
of unutterable wildness. The average height of six women he meas- 
ured was 1400 mm., which is a little taller than that given by Sche- 
besta for Ef^ females. 

In the northeast Congo, the earliest observations that aroused 
anthropological interest were made by Schweinfurth (1874, vol. 2, 
pp. 140-143), Stanley (1891, vol. 1, p. 208), and W. Junker (1892, vol. 
3, pp. 81-86). All these observers agree in their description of 
physical traits, and all remark on the simplicity of the hunting cul- 
ture, skill in tracking game, vivacity, adept dancing, and emotional 
instability. The few casual measurements are of no present impor- 
tance. Stanley observes that, in distinction from the Ituri Bambuti 
Pygmies, the Batwa have long heads, long narrow faces, and an 
expression that is sour, anxious, and querulous. 

These field observations of the period 1867-87 aroused great 
interest in anthropological circles, and the works of Hamy (1879), 
Topinard (1885), and Quatrefages (1887) resulted. In 1888 Flower 
measured two skeletons of the Aka Pygmies of the northeast Congo, 



:*^;/' -i •.•-»' ^ 

Fig. 39. Masai warriors, Kenya, Half-Hamites. 



204 Source Book for African Anthropology 

and although his technique would no doubt meet with present-day 
criticism, his measurements are extremely valuable. The rarity of 
skeletal material from the African Pygmies is mentioned by Sche- 
besta, who states that he was unable to obtain such material. H. H. 
Johnston (1902, vol. 2, pp. 494, 565) gives some photographs of 
Pygmies, together with a few anthropometric tables which show the 
averages of six males to be: stature, 1452 mm.; C.I. ,78.7; and N.I., 109. 
Von Luschan (1906) describes the skin color of six Pygmies as a 
dull brown with a yellowish tinge. The hands and feet are delicately 
formed, the legs poorly developed, the eyes large and lustrous. 
Table 7 records the measurements supplied by von Luschan on four 
males and two females. The work of Czekanowski (1911, 1922) is 
well known for the excellence of the photographic studies and the 
measurements recorded. Cipriani (1933) has supplied measurements 
of a few Pygmies and has given photographs showing detailed struc- 
ture of their hands, feet, and the distribution of facial and corporal 
hair. Gusinde (1936) has illustrated a short article with several 

The Pygmy problem in its broadest sense refers, not merely to 
resemblances of African Pygmies inter se, but to a thesis that regards 
the African Pygmies, and Bushmen as well, as belonging to a Pygmy 
race that spread through the Andaman Islands into the Malay 
Peninsula, the Philippine Islands, and New Guinea. 

The chief exponent of this theory is P.W. Schmidt (1910). Another 
contributor is Von Eickstedt (1927), who gives a useful condensation of 
Schmidt's views. Haddon's encyclopedia summary (HERE, vol. 
9, 1919, pp. 271-274) is also a succinct formulation of the theory 
of Pygmy dispersal. Skeletal material is rare, but Kramer (1906) 
has compared two very small Pygmy skulls from New Guinea with 
measurements on Bushman skulls. 

Reviewing Pater Schmidt's "Die Stellung der Pygmaenvolker 
in der Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen" we find that the 
argument is almost entirely based on cultural evidence pertaining 
to simple hunting communities of people of small stature. He com- 
pares the head form, hair, and a few obvious bodily traits, but the 
bulk of the work is divided between the study of material culture 
and the few social and spiritual facts that are known. The account 
deals with ornaments, clothing, food supply, shelters, itinerant life, 
village planning, and making fire. Bows and arrows are also studied. 
The review of spiritual culture includes music, art, such points of 
social structure as marriage, the family, and chieftainship, also 

Fig. 40. Pygmy chief, northeast Aruwimi River. Stature 4 feet 2 inches. 
Wears strip of okapi skin round waist (from photograph by Mrs. Delia Akeley, 


206 Source Book for African Anthropology 

religion, mythology, and magic. A summary (pp. 280-284) states 
a hypothesis for origin of Pygmies in Asia whence they spread 
southwest and southeast. The African Pygmies represent old 
branches of the stem, while the Bushmen have traveled farthest and 
have probably departed widely from the original stock in culture, 
speech, and physique. A work by Trilles (1932) gives little help 
with anthropometry, but is a valuable survey of the social life of 
Congo Pygmies other than the Bambuti. 

The theory of Pygmy dispersal depends on a detailed study of 
physique and language, as well as consideration of cultural similari- 
ties. Now cultural similarities are bound to be numerous in hunting 
communities of rudimentary pattern, living in forest environment 
within the tropics. Even today, with the advantage of recent con- 
tributions to physical anthropology, we have far too little data to 
make a detailed comparison of widely separated Pygmy groups 
throughout the area of alleged dispersal. The linguistic situation 
also is obscure, and for African Pygmies the existence of a Pygmy 
language, preceding the use of present-day Bantu and Sudanic speech 
by Pygmy groups, has yet to be established. Therefore, though 
Schmidt's thesis of twenty-seven years ago may well be true, the com- 
parative material for demonstration is still meager. 

From these historical considerations we turn to the data of 
Schebesta and Lebzelter (1933) to extract a few quotations relating 
only to the physical attributes of central African Pygmies. A map 
(p. 7) makes the distribution of Pygmy and pygmaeform groups 
quite clear. Schebesta prefers the word "pygmaeform" to the term 
pygmoid, and instead of using the noun Pygmy as an adjective also, 
he employs the adjectival form pygmean. His map shows the 
principal Pygmy groups. In the northeast are the Ituri, Aka, Ef6, 
and Basua. There are Batwa groups in the east and southeast. The 
Bacwa Pygmies are on the mid-course of the Chuapa and Lomela 
tributaries of the Congo. Another group of Bacwa, sometimes called 
the Batembo, occupy an extensive region south of Coquilhatville. 
The Babinga are widely scattered between the Ubangi and Sangha 
rivers. Bekwi and Akoa Pygmies are located near the Ogowe River. 

Schebesta states that probably 25,000 Pygmies live in the Ituri 
region, and they are by no means on the decrease, despite high 
mortality of infants and young adults as a result of the strenuous 
forest life. The family is monogamous, and there are two living 
children to each married woman. 






208 Source Book for African Anthropology 

As an outward principle of classification Schebesta groups the 
northeastern Pygmies according to the languages they have adopted 
from surrounding Negroes. The Aka are a Sudanic linguistic group. 
The Basua, under which name there are many subdivisions living 
on the left bank of the Ituri, use an archaic Bantu speech. The Ef^, 
in the eastern forest region of the Ituri, are another linguistic division 
comprising the Mamvu, Mombutu, Balese, and Bambuba. 

The build of the Ituri Pygmies is heavy and clumsy, but there is 
no impression of stunted growth or malnutrition. The head is dis- 
proportionately large, the neck short, and the trunk long in propor- 
tion to the legs. The hands and feet are slender. In many men 
there is a powerful development of the thorax, and the breadth of 
the shoulders still further increases the appearance of disproportion. 
The gait is waddling and clumsy, and the toes are often turned 
inward. The skin color of a pure-bred Mombuti is grayish yellow, 
but mixture of Negro blood often gives a darker tint. The Bambuti 
are hirsute on face and body. Schebesta (p. 31) gives outline draw- 
ings of facial types, namely, the broad and the narrow. Despite 
the peculiarities of build one must distinctly understand that Pyg- 
mies are a specific human type, and not degenerative Negroes. The 
body odor is different from that of white people and Negroes, and 
must be regarded as a definite physical character of the African 
Pygmies. The Aka, who have felt the influence of the Mangbetu, 
deform the skulls of their infants by swathing the occiput. 

The Batwa of Kivu and Ruanda, when nomadic, resemble the 
true Ituri Pygmies, but the settled Batwa are taller and darker than 
the typical Pygmies. This modification will be discussed in more 
detail later when dealing with the effects of miscegenation. The 
Bacwa (singular Bocwa), of whom about 50,000 exist, are associated 
with the Nkundu Negroes. 

Lebzelter (p. 81) distinguishes six types of Pygmies and gives a 
list of the combined features distinguishing each. The purest breed 
is the Basua of the Babira, 82 per cent of whom are representative 
Pygmy types. The types are true Pygmy I, II, III; and Europoid, 
with narrower faces, narrower noses, and thinner lips. Other types 
are Negro I and II. 

Taking the Ef^ as a representative Pygmy group, we find that the 
stature of males is 1430 mm., the C.I. 79.4, and the N.I. 105.7. The 
list of measurements (Table 7) shows considerable variation in height, 
and some differences of C.I. and N.I. among the Pygmy groups, 
but all are of short stature, high cephalic index (about 80), and either 




210 Source Book for African Anthropology 

very platyrrhine or definitely hyperplatyrrhine. For the Pygmy 
groups Schebesta and Lebzelter (1933, p. 22) have prepared a fre- 
quency distribution curve, showing that all males have a modal 
value of stature in the class interval 1440 mm.; females 1360 mm. 
The curve for pygmean groups shows two modal values for males, 
one in the interval 1520 mm.,* and the other at 1640 mm.; females 
1480 mm. The C.I. for all true Pygmies is 80 for males and 78 for 
females. Again in the pygmean groups the females are a little 
more dolichocephalic than the males, the respectives indices being 
77 and 78. 

In summing up, Lebzelter states, "We may say that the Pygmies 
of central Africa to whom alone, according to P. Schebesta, the 
historical name of Pygmies should be applied, are composed in the 
main of one race, only the Bambuti race, with the addition of a small 
percentage of Negroid and European elements." 

A comparative study of physical types of Pygmies may be made 
by consulting Figs. 40-42, 64, 65. 

Khoisan People (Bushmen and Hottentots) 

{Table 7) 

Alleged physical resemblance between true Pygmies and Bush- 
men tribes of the Kalahari Desert, south Africa, tends to disappear 
when a comparison of somatic traits is made. 

The average height of Bushmen differs in various localities, and 
the fact that the average height increases in the northern and eastern 
regions may be attributed to mixture with taller tribes of the southern 
Bantu Negroes. Bushmen, whether pure or mixed, are on the aver- 
age taller than true Pygmies. The head form of Pygmies tends to 
brachycephaly, with indices 77-80, whereas Bushmen, with cranial 
indices of 75-76, approach a dolichocephalic condition. The nasal 
index for Bushmen is high, but so far as the inadequate data show, 
the noses of Bushmen are not so broad as those of Pygmies. Both 
Pygmies and Bushmen have a yellowish tinge of the skin. The cheek 
bones of Bushmen are prominent, so also is the jaw. The eyes are 
set far apart, the lips project, and often the ear-lobes are joined to the 
cheeks. The arms and lower limbs are short in proportion to the trunk, 
whereas the Negro has long arms. The hair of Bushmen (Fritsch, 
1916) differs from that of other Africans on account of the formation 
in small, closely coiled spirals that leave the scalp visible. The 
growth of facial and body hair is sparse, as it is with Negroes, but 
not with Pygmies. A comparison of Figs. 43-47, 62, and 63 shows 
the build and physiognomy of Bushmen. 






















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Source Book for African Anthropology 


Measurements of Bushmen (Living) of the Middle Kalahari Desert 

{Taken by Dr. Rudolf Poch, Vienna, and published by kind permission) 

Height of Body 


































Adult Males 


















Middle Kalahari 




Southern Kalahari 

































Adult Females 


















Middle Kalahari 




Southern Kalahari 












Comparisons of the somatic traits of Bushmen and Pygmies have 
been made by W. H. Flov^^er (1888) who says, "The pecuhar oblong 
form of the skull, its vertical forehead, straight sides, the wide flat 
space between the orbits, the extremely small and flat nasal bones, 
and the absence of prognathism at once distinguish the skull of the 
Bushman from that of the Akka." 

The physiognomy of Hottentots (Fig. 48) bears a resemblance 
to that of southern Bushmen, but the former are taller and there are 
differences in head form. The statures of Bushmen fall in the short 
category, while the stature of Hottentots (1624 mm.) lies in the 

Physical Anthropology 


TABLE ^—Continued 
Measurements of Bushmen (Living) of the Middle Kalahari Desert 

Brkadth of Head 





































129-140 . 


















Adult Males 














Adult Females 













Length of Head 


































medium group. The heads of Hottentots are longer and less flattened 
than those of Bushmen. For seventy- three Hottentots the C.I. 
proved to be 72.9, which is in the lower range of dolichocephaly 
(Schapera, 1930, p. 61, quoting Schultze, 1928). The jaws of Hotten- 
tots are more prognathic than those of the Bushmen. 

In both Hottentot and Bushman tribes the women show a con- 
dition known as steatopygia, that is, a disproportionate fattening 
of the buttocks, which is further emphasized by an inward curvature 
of the lower part of the spine. This condition is illustrated by 
Hooton (1918) who has reproduced some sketches of early travelers. 


Source Book for African Anthropology 

TABLE 8— Concluded 
Measurements of Bushmen (Living) of the Middle Kalahari Desert 

Length of Head 



4 170-175 



6 173-180 



15 171-194 



13 173-190 



10 176-185 
Adult Males 




27 174-196 



10 179-196 



46 176-200 
Adult Females 



10 171-188 



7 179-184 



22 173-194 

Length-Breadth Index 



Number Range 



5 69.63-77.65 



4 72.82-75.72 



17 72.02-79.55 



27 69.79-80.34 



20 71.66-81.76 



15 74.19-80.42 



14 70.16-81.82 
Adult Males 




27 70.16-81.82 



10 72.45-80.00 



46 71.43-83.52 



Number Range 



4 74.86-82.35 



6 71.75-81.76 



15 73.60-82.45 



13 72.53-80.85 



10 74.05-78.77 
Adult Females 




10 73.51-82.45 



7 74.44-79.89 



22 72.53-80.35 


The women of both Hottentot and Bushman tribes have their labia 
minora elongated. This is a congenital formation which is increased 
by manipulation. 

A summary of the meager anthropometric data for Bushmen and 
Hottentots is given by Schapera (1930, pp. 51-64). The figures 

Physical Anthropology 217 

show every possible defect — ^paucity of data, failure to state the 
number of persons measured, mingling of measurements for both 
sexes, and failure to make statements respecting purity of blood in 
the small examples chosen; but, judging from the low variability 
of physical traits among different groups of Hottentots, the Hotten- 
tot type was established at a remote period. When measurements 
are made among a population which represents a recent mixture, 
the coefficients of variability are high as a rule. But, despite mixture, 
there are sometimes among the original population certain entrenched 
physical traits which tend to stability, regardless of the physical 
mixture and the influence it has on other less strongly entrenched 
somatic traits. Apparently the bodily characters of the Hottentots 
have had time to settle to a fairly uniform type. 

Professor V. Lebzelter recorded an extensive series of measure- 
ments on groups of Bushmen and Hottentots, but at present the 
published data are insufficient for an adequate survey. The fact 
is astonishing that the early research of Fritsch (1872) is probably 
the best account we have of the physique of the Khoisan. Plate 49 
(Fritsch) gives shades of skin color, and Plates 30-48 show crania 
and skeletal details. Tables 1-4 (Fritsch) record cranial measure- 
ments. The Atlas accompanying the text contains a large number of 
artistic woodcuts showing the physiognomy of Bushmen and Hotten- 
tots. For data given in Table 8, I am grateful to Dr. Hella Poch 
who supplied the unpublished figures of measurements for Bushman 
males and females. Types of Bushmen are shown in Bantu Studies 
(vol. 10, No. 2, 1936). 

Shrubsall (1897) gives tables of measurements on the skulls of 
eight Hottentots and eight Bushmen. The method of testing cranial 
capacity, and probably other points of technique employed forty 
years ago, would, no doubt, be open to criticism, but the figures are 
among the best we have. 

Pittard has made a brief modern study of the craniology of the 
Griquas (1927) and of the Bushmen (1929), based on meager data, 
and he has, with Comas (1930), described the platymeric condition 
in Bushmen and Hottentots. 

Drennan (1932) has published an article on the order of eruption 
of permanent teeth among Bushmen. Weninger (1936) has made a 
comprehensive study of pigmentation of the skin in Bushman tribes. 

Broom's (1923) comparative study of the crania of Bushmen and 
Hottentots, though necessarily based on small samples, brings out 
some contrasts between the forms of Bushman and Hottentot skulls. 









220 Source Book for African Anthropology 

One arresting difference is the extreme dolichocephaly of a group of 
Hottentot skulls from old graves at Upington. The cranial indices 
of male skulls were 68.8, 68.4, 64.1, and 68.4. "The Hottentot skull 
differs from the Bushman type, not only in being extremely doli- 
chocephalic but in having a much greater height measurement." 

Comparison of Physical Types 


At the lowest end of the height scale are the Aka and Ef^ Pygmies 
with statures of 1429 mm. and 1430 mm. respectively. Then in 
ascending order are groups of Pygmy foundation plus Negro blood, 
with average group statures ranging from near the true Pygmy level 
to 1609 for the Balese. 

For Bushmen, tribal averages of statures range from 1477-1584 
mm. (Table, 8), but figures are biased by small samples and adultera- 
tion. The only average for Hottentots (Naman) is 1624 mm. These 
measurements fall within the classification of short statures. 

The averages for Negroes of the western, central, eastern, and 
southern groups are mainly medium (1580-1680 mm.). But some 
Negro tribes are exceptions, since they fall in the tall class (1680- 
1720 mm). Among western Negroes the tall people are the Kabila, 
Pepel, Ekoi, Hausa (just within the tall category), the Mossi, and 
the Lobi. 

Central Negro averages, with the exception of those for the 
Bushongo and the Azande (1747 mm. and 1701 mm. respectively), 
are all medium. 

In east Africa the only tall groups are a Mozambique sample 
(1686 mm.) and the Landins (1686 mm.); these are, however, only 
just within the tall category. The Baganda come close to the low 
limit of the tall group. 

South Africa has tall Zulu and Batonga groups, while the Bavenda 
are just outside the tall category. In Angola the Vachokue, Luena, 
Valuchazi, and Ovimbundu must all be classed as tall. 

Nilotic Negroes are all decidedly within the tall category; there 
are no border-line averages. Some groups have averages of more 
than 1720 mm. and must therefore be classed as very tall. The 
stature is lowest throughout the Congo region, so far as the averages 
for scattered tribes can be trusted. 

The Semites, with the exception of the Kababish (1709 mm.), 
are of medium height, and in the medium category most of the 
Hamitic groups have to be classified, with the exception of the 








222 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Tuareg (1725 mm.) and the Rif (1686 mm.). In the eastern Hamitic 
groups only the Somali are tall; the range of the averages of four 
Somali samples extends from 1707-1740 mm. 

HEAD form 

The Pygmy and pygmean groups have a rounded head form in 
the higher ranges of mesaticephaly, or actually above the 80 line of 
demarcation. Higher mesaticephaly of about 78 is common in the 
central African region, and this fact, combined with the somewhat 
lower ranges of medium stature in that region, lends support to a 
theory of wide dissemination of Pygmy groups and their mingling 
with Negroes. The tribal averages for C. I. of Bushmen range from 
74-77 (Table 8). 

For the main part the cranial indices of Negroes, no matter what 
their geographical situation may be, is in the higher ranges of dolicho- 
cephaly or in the lower ranges of mesaticephaly; generally the aver- 
ages are in the class interval 74-77. There is remarkable uniformity, 
except that the Nilotic Negroes definitely show a lower dolichocephaly 
than the other divisions of Negroes. 

Except for the brachycephaly of southern Arabia, which may 
have had some effect on African head forms, the Semitic groups 
have cephalic indices which differ little from the general trend of 
most Negro groups, and the same may be said of the cephalic indices of 
eastern Hamites. But the Tuareg (northern Hamites) are definitely 
long-headed. Together with Hottentots and Nilotic Negroes, the 
Taureg form a group in the ranges of low dolichocephaly (C. I. 71-73). 


The formation of the nose as expressed by the nasal index offers 
a distinction better than that afforded by either stature or head 
form. Pygmies are definitely hyperplatyrrhine and Negroes platyr- 
rhine. The Semites and Hamites are definitely leptorrhine, with the 
exception of the Ababda, Bisharin, Hadendoa, and Beni Amer, whose 
noses are just broad enough to bring them within the mesorrhine 

A few Negro tribes of northeast Africa, namely, the Baganda, 
Akamba, and Akikuyu, show a reduction of the platyrrhine condition 
which is characteristic of Negroes, especially the far western groups. 
Hamitic blood probably affected this trait, for in the Hamiticized 
Masai the nasal index is distinctly mesorrhine (76.2). 

In considering the value of stature, head form, and shape of nose 
as distinguishing criteria, we have to recognize that there is much 


Fig. 47. Bushwoman, near Gemsbok Pan, Kalahari Desert, wearing forehead 
band of ostrich-eggshell beads (courtesy of Arthur S. Vernay, copyright). 



224 Source Book for African Anthropology 

overlapping of groups. In extreme cases such as those of Pygmies 
and Nilotic Negroes, the factor of height marks off the groups in a 
decisive way, and some other groups are isolated by the height factor 
in unmistakable manner, but many Negro, Hamitic, and Semitic 
groups show similar averages. The same may be said of head form 
with the exception already noted. There is, however, a very definite 
value in the nasal index as a criterion for establishing somatic group 
differences. We do not find, for example, that any of the average 
nasal indices given for Hamites and Semites could be confounded 
with those for Negroes; there is no overlapping of values as there is 
when comparing average statures and average cranial indices. 

Yet with more measurements, taken according to approved 
technique by people who were agreed on what they wanted to 
measure, the coefficient of racial likeness (C.R.L.) would be a valu- 
able mathematical way of giving precision to our ideas of difference 
and resemblance (Pearson, 1926; and in simpler form Kitson, 1931, 
p. 296; and G. von Bonin, 1931, p. 253). 

Anthropometric data from Africa seldom satisfy the conditions 
for a legitimate use of the C.R.L., but perhaps in future there will 
be the possibility of comparing major groups and subgroups within 
each of the major groups, with a view to establishing a graded series 
of coefficients showing the degree of group similarity or divergence 
with respect to a large number of traits. 

Let us suppose that we have two groups, A and B, under com- 
parison, and that the C.R.L. of A and B is required. Let it further 
be assumed that for both the A and B groups we have an adequate 
number of observations giving reliable averages for stature, head 
length, head breadth, height of nose, breadth of nose, bizygomatic 
width, height of face, cephalic index, nasal index, and face index. 

Let a — j be the averages for these traits in the A group, and a' — j' the 

averages for the same traits in the B group. 
Let A — J be the number of observations in the A group and A' — J' 

the number of observations in the B group. 
We then require <r (standard deviation) of traits a — j for any reliable series. 

Then alpha = (- — — ) x -j 77 . Alpha is required for each pair of traits. 

V ffC / A + A 

^ jy T c alpha a alpha b — alpha j - 
C. K. L. = o T-^ — i. 

A close correlation of C.R.L. is expressed by a number less than 3. 

There is not much to be gained by working out one or two 
coefficients. The figures we have collated (Tables 1-8) and the 
photographs show that Pygmy groups are bound to give a low cor- 
relation with Tuareg, and that a high correlation is likely to exist 







226 Source Book for African Anthropology 

between subdivisions of Bushmen. But with adequate data we could 
establish as a datum line a series of coefficients for the most diverse 
groups, then proceed to compare the similar groups. In this way 
we could formulate concepts of likeness and divergence that are now 
so vague because they are based on pictorial study and insufficient 
data. Such use of the C.R.L. has, however, been recently criticized 
by R. A. Fisher (1936), but his judgment is by no means final. 

Human Origins and Migrations 

In the preceding pages consideration has been given to the 
physical types inhabiting Africa at the present day. But the broader 
question of the origin, miscegenation, and dispersal of these different 
branches of the human stock was postponed because of the many 
theories that are involved. 

Discussion of the prehistory of Africa (chap. Ill) included a 
summary of the types of fossil anthropoids and fossilized human 
bones that African soil has contributed to the total paleontological 
evidence. To summarize the whole of the geological and paleon- 
tological testimony is beyond the scope of this work, but a short 
course of reading will lead to the point where consideration of the 
dispersal of Homo sapiens can begin. 

Duckworth's (1911) "Prehistoric Man," and Buttel-Reepen's 
(1913) "Man and His Forerunners" were excellent elementary 
textbooks in their day, and they are still useful for their summary of 
the discoveries of fossil man up to the time of publication. But 
during the past twenty years much new evidence has come to light 
concerning the dispersal of ancient anthropoid and early human 
types. In particular, the Neanderthal type of man has been shown 
to exist far east from the original European site of discovery. The 
paleontological evidence, as it stands today, may be gleaned from 
Keith (1929, 1931) and G. Elliot Smith (1931). W. K. Gregory 
(1934) has a work of a different type, for he is not concerned with 
summarizing the discoveries but in arguing against the thesis of 
Professor Frederick Wood Jones that "man has been derived, not 
from any early ape at all, but from a far older and long-extinct branch 
of Primates; man is distinctly related to the Spectral Tarsier of 
Borneo and the Philippines." 

A brief summary of the paleontological evidence for the origin and 
dispersal of anthropoid ancestors and man is given by Hooton (1931) 
in an informative chapter entitled "Fossil Ancestors." The evidence 

Physical Anthropology 227 

s elsewhere summarized by Hooton (1927) in an article "Where 
Did Man Originate?" There he favors Africa as the probable home 
)f the Primates. But later (1931, p. 297) he states that discoveries 
lear Pekin in 1929 and 1930 call for a revision of opinion, 


As an introduction to this subject Haddon's (1911) "The Wander- 
ngs of Peoples" will serve admirably, since the text gives a con- 
densed account of a great field of literature, and several clear maps 
ire provided. But for perusal of current theories more advanced 
ivorks must be consulted. 

Professor Griffith Taylor (1930) has propounded a theory of 
tiuman origins and migrations, and in a later contribution (1936, p. 
567) he has given a bibliography of his writings on this subject. 

In this modern study of anthropogeography Taylor has followed 
a method adopted by distinguished zoologists and botanists, who have 
worked from a center of origin and differentiation to a periphery 
to which, ex hypothesi, the oldest and most primitive types have 
been pushed. 

Applying the general biological technique, including study of 
forms and natural corridors for expansion, the conclusion is that all 
dominant movements of mankind were centrifugal from central 
A.sia. And, according to Taylor (1930, p. 36) the occurrence of a 
primitive anthropoid or human skull in a peripheral region tells us 
where not to look for the cradle land of man. According to the 
scheme, migration of man to the Americas was blocked for a long 
time by adverse climatic conditions, so that internal pressure forced 
the migrations west and southwest into Europe and Africa, also east 
and southeast into Asia and Australia. 

The rise of physical types in the central region may have been due 
to physiological changes in the endocrine glands, as a result of 
changing climates following the alternating advance and retreat of 
the north polar ice cap. This recognition of climatic change as a 
dynamic factor in producing human movement corresponds with the 
theory set forth in Huntington's work, "The Pulse of Asia." 

Following to some extent the teaching of Biasutti (1912), and 
reproducing some of that author's maps, G. Taylor (1930, p. 41) 
plots out a series of zones in the Old World surrounding the south 
center of Asia. Taking skull breadth and hair texture as criteria, the 
zones lead from a peripheral distribution of frizzly-haired, narrow 
skulls, through an area of wavy-haired skulls of intermediate breadth, 
to a central area of straight-haired, broad skulls. 

228 Source Book for African Anthropology 

In applying the theory to Africa, Taylor is of the opinion that 
Pygmies and Negritos are derived from an early human stock, pos- 
sibly the earliest migrants, who followed, as it were, a biological 
cul-de-sac that led to no further phylogenic development. Another 
early branch from the phylogenetic tree is thought to have been 
somewhat like Neanderthal man, and this experiment gave rise tc 
Negroid and Australoid types. The Mediterranean and Alpine 
types evolved later. 

So far as Africa is concerned, the theory represents the Pygmies 
and the Bushmen as the earliest immigrants. Then followed the true 
Negro as exemplified by western Negroes of the present day. The 
Hamites and Semites are perhaps lateral branches of the Mediter- 
ranean stock. Possibly the Bantu Negroes came as a migratior 
from Asia long after the first arrival of true Negroes, or the Bantu 
may have arisen as a result of Negro and Hamitic mixture, in the 
region of the Great Lakes of Africa, whence they spread westward 
and southward. 

Professor G. Taylor follows very closely to the teaching ol 
Haddon (1911, p. 1), who states that a "migration is caused by ar 
expulsion and an attraction, the former nearly always resulting from 
dearth of food, or from over-population, which practically come tc 
the same thing." Taylor's "corridors," leading to the margins oJ 
habitable land, are what Haddon (1911, p. 5) calls "channels.'' 
Movements of men take the line of least resistance, but the word 
"barrier" is of relative meaning and few obstacles are completely 
prohibitive. Yet the picture of successive waves of migration should 
not be simplified too much, since the process involved much over- 
taking and the leaving of isolated "islands," as well as miscegena- 
tion and obliteration. 

Keith (preface to H. Field, 1935, p. 75) contributes to this con- 
cept of migrations from Asia by reminding us of the present belt oi 
darkly pigmented peoples which extends across the Old World. At 
one extreme of this "black belt" are the Negroes of Africa, at the 
other end the Negroes of the Pacific (Melanesians), and midway 
between are the brown peoples of India. Keith further pictures two 
areas of human origin to the north of this "black belt," one a Mon- 
golian center and the other Caucasian. The Mongol stock at times 
broke into the "black belt" and spread into the Pacific. This would 
account for a Mongoloid appearance of some Polynesians (Guide to 
Races of Mankind, British Museum, 1921, p. 20, Fig. 4). Keith 
does not say so, but I think his suggestion accounts for a Mongoloid 

Physical Anthropology 229 

appearance in some African people. Some Bushmen and Hottentots 
have such an appearance as a result of their Mongoloid eyes and high 
cheek bones. Meek (1925, vol. 2, p. 165) refers to a Mongoloid 
appearance of many Jukun and Nupe of Nigeria. C. G. and B. Z. 
Seligman (1932, p. 20) show men of the Mahdi and Bari tribes, with 
what are called pseudo-Mongoloid characters in their physiognomy. 

The Asiatic theory we have so briefly glanced at is simple com- 
pared with that of Montandon (1928), who speaks of ologenisme, 
which is a hypothesis accounting for the origin and dispersal of man. 
Montandon (p. 210) states that 'Tolog^nisme est un monog^nisme et 
un monophyletisme ubiquitaine," meaning, I take it, that the theory 
combines ideas of a simple origin of man, and a sending off of single 
lateral branches as the main trend of evolution continues. Mon- 
tandon's diagram begins with Homo sapiens, who as a first effort 
throws off the "pygmoides," then advances, and at an unknown time 
and place the "tasmanoide" branch is ejected. Then follow at 
intervals the "negroide," "armenoide," "esquimoide," and "mon- 
goloide," while the main stem continues triumphantly to the pro- 
duction of the "grand race europoide." The doctrine of ologenisme 
is said to absorb the two older theories of monogenesis and poly- 
genesis of man. Montandon illustrates these theories with maps, and 
compares the process to the opening of a hand from which fingers 
shoot out in all directions. Ologenisme, on the contrary, is the 
gradual closing of the hand, a condensing toward a center. But 
the diagram (Montandon, Map 13), showing how people originated 
and dispersed according to the theory of ologenisme, attempts to show 
so much that I fear the chart defeats its own purpose. 

If we do not allow our imagination to be too cramped by the 
physical argument, but take into consideration the spread of cultures 
and languages as well as somatic types, then there will be, I believe, 
a strong predilection toward the concept of an outward spread of 
succeeding waves from central Asia. The genesis of these somatic 
waves and their miscegenation leads to consideration of certain data 
from the fields of genetics, anthropometry, physiological observa- 
tions including tests of blood groups, and environmental factors that 
are usually compounded under the term anthropogeography. 


The word "race" has been much abused in an attempt to define 
some obvious somatic differences, and the present disrepute of the 
term as one unfit for scientific nomenclature was indicated at the 

230 Source Book for African Anthropology 

meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 

All are agreed that no single somatic trait can be taken as a 
criterion of race, but there is no agreement respecting the combina- 
tion of physical traits that may be fairly regarded as demarcating 
one so-called "race" from another. From one major somatic group 
to another there are infinite gradations, involving a mingling of 
physical factors, and so producing multiple types that are undefined 
except by such loose terms as Mongoloid, Pygmoid, Negroid, Cau- 
casoid, Australoid. 

Professor Garth (1931, p. 221), at the conclusion of his extensive 
studies in race psychology, states that the idea of "race" as some- 
thing permanent "becomes an artificial notion, a myth. What we 
call races are merely temporary eddies in the history of human kind." 

Despite the misuse of the term "race" biologically, linguistically, 
geographically, and sometimes with direct social and religious 
opprobrium, the physical anthropologist cannot afford to despair of 
finding some terms that adequately describe and demarcate an 
aggregation of physical traits. Hooton (1931, p. 397) states that 
"racial classification must be made upon the basis of a sum total of 
significant morphological and metrical features, according to the 
distinct variations of such features in large human groups." 

Hooton clarifies the desired process of classification by pointing 
out three major groups of somatic traits; these in his opinion have 
a claim to consideration as determinants in a scheme of human 

Of these groups of traits the first is the most important, since 
the factors are what might be called entrenched features. These 
traits, according to Hooton, tend to intensify themselves by the 
inertia of heredity. Such traits are the form, color, and quantity 
of the hair and its distribution in tracts; the color of the eyes and the 
form of the skin-folds of the eyelids. Another trait of like kind is the 
breadth of the head relative to the length. 

In the second group are bodily characters which may have 
originated in functional modifications, but such traits have become ! 
stabilized, and they tend to persist even after they have ceased to 
serve the biological purpose and conditions to which their origin was i 
due. Among such traits are pigmentation of the skin, height and 
breadth of the nose, and height of the head. 

A third and taxonomically less important group of factors which 
are easily modified by environment (including nutrition, gait, and 

Physical Anthropology 231 

occupation) are stature, weight, proportions of the hand, and the 
shape of the femur and tibia. To understand the discriminating 
value of these factors it is necessary to consider biological data having 
a direct bearing on the origin of somatic traits, their transmission, 
and persistence. 


Under this general heading the factors which are responsible for 
the origin of somatic traits and their transmission can be grouped. 
Some account can be given of the attempts that have been made 
toward definite measurement of the mechanism of heredity, and the 
results of hybridization can be studied by means of anthropometric 
measurements and physiological tests, including study of blood 
groups. Environment, too, is a factor that has to be considered in 
relation to the differentiation of types. There is no intention of 
dealing adequately here with these controversial subjects, but the 
factors should be mentioned to show the great complexity of our 
specific problem of accounting for the origin of physical types living 
in Africa today. 

Simple textbooks dealing with the subject of genetics will explain 
what is known today of the mechanism of heredity, and though the 
powers of the microscope are far too feeble to confirm the hypothetical 
function of genes and ids, the function of chromosomes in cell divi- 
sion and transmission of physical characters is fairly well understood, 
since chromosomes can actually be observed during process of cell 
division. Two simple textbooks. Gates (1930) and Hurst (1935), 
will serve to explain the biological mechanism which is responsible 
for preserving unchanged, or for mingling traits during fertilization. 

Hurst explains that the gene is the primary organizer and 
determiner of all structural and functional characters in living 
organisms. In a human being there are forty-eight groups of genes 
known as chromosomes, twenty-four of which are directly derived 
from the egg cell of the mother parent, and twenty-four from the 
sperm cell of the father. Hurst shows how recent experiment has 
explained the nature of evolutionary change. Under X-ray treat- 
ment two main types of alteration occur in the gene complex. 
These may be distinguished as (1) mutations, which are changes 
within the genes themselves, and (2) new distribution of chromosomes 
or parts of chromosomes which produce transmutations. 

From the time of Lamarck (1744-1829) and Darwin (1809-1882) 
biological argument has been focused on the subject of evolutionary 
change. Use and disuse of organs, the rise of small variations, and 

232 Source Book for African Anthropology 

the perpetuation of some of these by natural selection, for a long time 
held the field as explanations of the rise of new species. In the 
middle of the last century Mendel worked out a scheme of the 
transmission of characters in peas, and finally the mechanism of this 
transmission has been explained by observation of the chromosomes 
and by hj^Dotheses relating to genes within the chromosomes. How 
do these biological facts and hypotheses apply to the rise and per- 
petuation of different physical traits that mark off the varieties of 
mankind? And how shall such differences be accurately measured? 


The belief that some environmental conditions can bring about 
the rise of new varieties seems to be well founded in laboratory 
experiments, known sometimes as experimental evolution. No 
doubt, much of the knowledge so obtained can be applied to explain- 
ing the physical differences of man. To speak of a mutation as a 
"spontaneous" change in the germ plasm merely shelves the problem. 
What is the cause of the change? 

At present no satisfactory answer can be given, but J. R. de la 
H. Marett (1935) has summarized hypotheses relating to the biologi- 
cal and psychological effects of all kinds of environmental conditions. 
The endocrine hypothesis set forth by Keith in his presidential 
address to the British Association (1919) is examined, and con- 
sideration is given to the thesis that mineral deficiencies of the soil, 
and the resulting vegetable food, have influenced animal and human 
evolution. According to hypothesis many external factors may have 
affected the genes, and perhaps the cytoplasm of the cell as well, in 
order to produce those changes that give rise to new physical char- 
acters. Marett's argument has been discussed by Gates (1936). 
Bolk (1929) has further explained Keith's endocrine gland theory, 
and has advanced his own beliefs that some pronounced physical 
differences in mankind result from the fetal preservation of certain , 
ancient and elementary characters. 

Of the actual measurement of bodily change due to the operation 
of environmental factors we have two notable examples. Both the 
traits studied have generally been regarded as major distinctions 
of different human types. J| 

Thomson and Buxton (1923) studied man's nasal index in re- 
lation to climatic conditions and concluded that a platyrrhine nasal 
index is associated with a hot, moist climate, and a leptorrhine nasal 
index with a cold, dry climate. The later work of Davies (1932) in 


Physical Anthropology 233 

the main confirmed these conclusions. Boas (1912) has conveniently 
summarized his longer reports on changes in the bodily form of 
descendants of immigrants. The conclusions were assailed by several 
critics. Pearson and Tippet (1924) prepared an article on "Stability 
of the Cephalic Indices Within the Race," which led to the conclusion 
that the authors were unable to find any change of real significance 
in the cephalic indices for school children from five to twenty years 
of age. And "having regard to the fact that extraordinary environ- 
mental differences in this country (England) appear to make no 
significant change in the shape of the head, it is very difficult to 
accept Professor Boas' view that the child born to Jewish parents in 
Europe differs in head shape from the child born to the same parents 
after their arrival in America." 

The details of this controversy are discussed by Hooton (1931, 
p. 408). G. Taylor (1936, p. 352) points out several reasons, support- 
ing the opinion of Boas himself, why the changes in cephalic index, 
when slight and non-continuous, do not invalidate the index as a 
criterion of human varieties. Hirsch (1927, p. 89) concludes his 
measurements by offering the hypothesis that head length and head 
width are in great part determined by psychological factors operating 
by means of the ductless glands. Factors such as fear and anxiety 
exercise an influence on the glands, but when these factors are 
removed the relative glandular secretion is modified and a change 
in the cephalic index occurs. 


The effects of hybridization in Africa are plainly evident in a 
study of photographs of physical types from the continent, and 
later some consideration will be given to anthropometric evidence 
of hybridization, a subject we touched rather briefly in presenting 
data relating to the nasal index among Hamites and Negroes. 

For modern and instructive data relating to hybridization 
reference must be made, not to observations on African Negroes, 
but to comparative studies of the colored and white populations of 
America. The best of these studies have been published in the past 
ten years. 

Hooton (1926) reported on the study of race mixture with special 
reference to the work carried on at Harvard University. The studies 
included measurements and other observations of hybrid Hawaiian- 
Chinese and Hawaiian-European. The former hybrid is intermedi- 
ate in stature, and there is a clear dominance of the brachycephaly 
and straight hair of the Chinese. In the first-generation hybrids, 

234 Source Book for African Anthropology 

resulting from crosses with Europeans, the darker Polynesian pig- 
ment is dominant, and the more finely cut European features tend to 
assert themselves. 

Reference has been made to the inquiries of T. W. Todd (1928, 
1929) and Todd and Tracy (1931) into somatic features of the Ameri- 
can Negro and the stability of these traits during hybridization with 
the white people. Hrdlicka (1928) indicates the main traits of the 
full-blooded American Negro. Very comprehensive studies of racial 
crossing in Jamaica have been published by Steggerda (1928) and 
by Davenport and Steggerda (1929). The contributions of Hersko- 
vits (1928, 1930a) have been particularly helpful from the African- 
ist's point of view, for the social factors determining mating in 
American Negro groups have operated strongly in some African 
societies. It is possible greatly to underestimate the force of social 
customs and the prevalence of sociobiological standards in human 
mating. In Africa, for example, males of the ruling castes of Tuareg 
of Asben may have concubines of Negro origin. But, because of the 
reckoning of descent through the mother, it is difficult for even an 
influential man of noble caste to regard his son by such a mother as 
belonging to his own noble ancestry. 

Students of anthropology are all familiar with the regulation of 
marriage by caste in India, and by a great variety of exogamic laws 
in many parts of the world. Endogamy too is sometimes enforced 
by topography as well as by social sanction, but the effects of social 
restrictions on determining physical types and perpetuating them 
have not been adequately studied. An attempt has been made, 
Brownlee (1911), to analyze physical mixtures into their original 
elements by use of the Mendelian formula. 

Quantitative and Qualitative Differences 
Although it is impossible to frame a logical definition of race in 
terms of physique, there is no difficulty in getting a mental picture 
of the combined attributes which have hitherto roughly served to 
distinguish the principal varieties of mankind. And with further 
practice many subdivisions can be distinguished by inspection of 
photographs. Such a general knowledge, combined with definite 
measurable data, may be obtained from Haddon (1925) or from 
M. Schmidt (1926), both of whom made a world-wide and pictorial 
survey of the principal types of man. The nomenclature is, however, 
more troublesome, and ignorance of the physical type has to be con- 
cealed under such terms as pre-Hamite and proto-Hamite for 
Africa, while for South America the names of broad linguistic 


Physical Anthropology 235 

divisions are often used. Nevertheless, definite advance has been 
made in quaHtative and quantitative measurements by means of 
physiological and anthropometric methods. 


In superficial anatomy as in splanchnology an enormous amount 
of research remains in the field of comparative study. Expeditionary 
observers usually note some of the more obvious anatomical 
differences, but only a limited amount of material is available in 
dissecting rooms. 

Recent detailed examination of the anatomy of the foot among 
south African natives is an example of the anatomical work that 
needs to be done (Wells, 1931). The following quotation shows how 
productive such work may be in helping to establish physical criteria: 

"The foot of the South African native differs from that of the 
European in a large number of points, which affect the whole of its 
structure and are reflected in its action. 

"The sole of the foot, which in the European is hollow, in the 
Bantu is flat, with a greatly thickened epidermis and a dense pad 
of subcutaneous fatty tissue filling up the concavity. The muscular 
system of the Bantu foot is highly variable, with a tendency to a more 
primitive type of organization than is seen in the European. Certain 
muscles, however, are much more constant in the Bantu than in the 
European. These invariably show a primitive formation. The 
main blood vessels are very variable, whereas the nerves are remark- 
ably constant. The ligamentous system also is on the whole very 

"The bones of the Bantu foot show consistent differences from 
those of the European foot, and these are further exaggerated in the 
foot of the Bushman. In this last race the talus and calcaneus are 
more ape-like than in Neanderthal man. As a result of the dif- 
ferences in the individual bones, the architecture of the foot is 
different in the three races, the Bantu and Bushman having a less 
perfect arch system than the European. In association with these 
features, the feet of the African races are less rigidly constructed 
than those of the European, and retain traces of a former prehensile 


The pages of "Biometrika" and similar journals give evidence of 
considerable research on skeletal material, but the samples are 
usually small and the facts established are meager in relation to the 

236 Source Book for African Anthropology 

unsolved problems. With regard to measurements on living sub- 
jects, the scanty data we gleaned from African sources show how 
little systematic work has been accomplished in such a vast area. 


The contributions of physiologists to the study of human dif- 
ferences are not numerous when considered in relation to the great 
field of research, but some advance has been made. Benedict (1932) 
has reported the progress made in studying the basal metabolism 
of the Maya, who show a metabolism of 5.2 per cent to 8.4 per cent 
above that of white men. This high metabolism is combined with a 
phenomenally low pulse rate. In Madras twenty-seven female 
Tamils had a metabolism on the average 17.4 per cent below that of 
American women. A group of forty pure-blooded aboriginals of 
South Australia showed definite minus value in metabolism when 
compared with white men. The racial effect on metabolism may be 
complicated by the factors of climate and diet. "The climate in 
southern India and the climate in Yucatan, however, are not so 
strikingly dissimilar as to suggest that climate can play a dominant 
role in these marked differences in metabolism." Such work on 
metabolism is extremely important, not only for the improvement 
of our knowledge of physiological differences among human types, 
but for the scientific study of diets which has just aroused the 
interests of African ethnologists ("Africa," vol. 9, No. 2, 1936, many 

A contribution of Suk (1927, pp. 31-64) is a further illustration 
of the kind of physiological research that is needed to demonstrate 
differences and similarities between groups that have been vaguely 
classed as races or subraces. The research was carried out among 
Negroes of Natal and Zululand. Many lines of inquiry were under- 
taken, including observations of pulse, respiration, and temperature, 
and the investigator takes due cognizance of psychological factors 
that might affect the results. The pulse rates are close to those 
of white men, and investigation of this phenomenon is an apt illustra- 
tion of the careful technique which has to be followed in such inquiry. 
Pulse rate varies with sex, stature, posture, and time of day. The 
frequency of respiration has variations with age and sex, but the 
differences for the south African Negroes as compared with white 
men and North American Indians are not great. Observations were 
made on skin color — which is lighter in females — on menstruation, 
development of breasts, and many other factors. 

Physical Anthropology 237 

blood groups 

Recent advances have been made in testing blood groups, with 
a view to establishing both a qualitative and quantitative measure- 
ment of differences that have hitherto been called racial. The 
nature of these investigations may be illustrated by referring firstly 
to some general literature, then to specific inquiries, including obser- 
vations on Africans. 

A simple explanation of the technique and terms used is given 
by M. Young (1928), and notes on the historical aspect are added. 
Based on agglutinative reactions, bloods are divided into groups 
0, A, B, AB. Bloods of the division are those whose red cells 
carry neither of the agglutinative factors (agglutinogens). A bloods 
carry the A agglutinogen only, B bloods carry the B factor, and AB 
bloods have the two agglutinogens A and B. 

Anthropological interest in blood grouping goes back to the year 
1919 when L. and H. Hirschfeld found that the proportion of agglu- 
tinogen A predominated greatly over B in European peoples, but 
B predominated over A in Asia and Africa. Inhabitants of these 
regions were classified on the basis of a biochemical index or racial 
index which is the ratio of the percentage of the A factor to the 
percentage of the B factor (%A + %AB / %B + %AB). This 
procedure gave three groups of people: 

Europeans with an index higher than 2.5. 

Intermediate between 1.3 and 1.8. 

Asio- African less than 1.0. 

Later work showed that these divisions were arbitrary and many 
intermediate values of the index occurred. The factors A and B 
are inherited in a typically Mendelian manner. 

Millot (1935) deals with the subject of agglutinogens in the 
anthropoid apes. He also gives data for blood-grouping tests in 
Europe that seem to be consistent with generally accepted ideas of 
consanguinity. Germans of Hungary react like those of Germany. 
Gypsies of Hungary are of the Hindu blood type; Hungarians are 
like Turks. Millot refers to the fact that pure-blooded Indians of 
North America are of the group, and he asks whether they have 
lost the A and B factors, or whether separation from Mongoloid 
stock took place before the A and B factors had arisen by mutation. 
The statement is made that Australian aborigines have group A but 

Present-day discussion often refers to the work of Snyder (1926) ; 
this is a technical article with a large bibliography. Snyder gives 

238 Source Book for African Anthropology 

the following groups according to blood tests: European, Indo- 
Manchurian, Hunan, Intermediate, Africo-Malaysian, Pacific- 
American, and Australian. He gives a map (p. 255) showing the 
distribution of these types. 

Kroeber (1934) adopted a plotting device to show the strength 
of the factor on one axis and the A to B relation on another axis. 
He concluded that the current race classification would encounter 
about as many exceptions as corroborations of its scheme from blood- 
type classification. Kroeber also remarks that if the A and B factors 
are mutations, it seems likely they arose independently in more than 
one place, period, and population. Wyman and Boyd (1935, pp. 182, 
185) explain that in human blood cells there are two other factors, 
M and N, which are inherited in Mendelian fashion like A and B, 
except that the two cannot be absent, though one only or two to- 
gether can be present. Wyman and Boyd present two maps for 
showing the percentage distribution of the genes for A and B, respec- 
tively. An explanation (p. 186) is given to show how the frequencies 
are calculated. 

These maps are of interest in the study of blood groups in Africa. 
Map 1 indicates a line passing along north Africa and through north 
Arabia into central Asia, and a second line extends through the 
Sudan Negro belt, right across Africa at about 10° N. Lat. This 
line passes through northern India, then turns south through the 
Malay Peninsula. 

Map 2 indicates two north African lines, one of which passes 
from south to north through Italy to Scandinavia and beyond. The 
other north African line is plotted along the entire northern littoral , 
of Africa into north Arabia, then due north into Scandinavia. A 
line is plotted from south Africa across the Indian Ocean into Mela- 
nesia. Yet another line extends from central Africa through south 
Arabia, touches the north of Madagascar and then extends to Borneo. 
These lines indicating similarities of reaction for the A and B factors, 
respectively, do bear some resemblance to the lines of hypothetical 
migrations between Asia and Africa as shown, for example, in Had- 
don (1911, Maps I and III). 

In addition to these general articles dealing with the main facts 
of experiments in blood grouping, there are many papers dealing 
with specific areas. Gates (1934) has written on the subject of blood 
groups of Indians in British Columbia. Bijlmer (1935) has supplied 
some particulars of blood groups in the southwest Pacific. Field 
(1935, p. 460) quoting the researches of MacFarlane and Kennedy! 

Physical Anthropology 239 

with blood samples collected by a Field Museum expedition in 1934, 
gives the 0, A, B, and AB factors for Arabs and other peoples. The 
authors quoted give bibliographies which lead out into a very exten- 
sive body of literature. 

For beginning a study of the work done on blood groups in Africa 
the summary of E. W. Smith (1935, p. 42) is a useful starting point, 
and the bibliography given there names the principal contributions 
to the subject. Other articles that give a digest of the main points 
are Elsdon-Dew (1934), Parr (1931), and Pijper (1930). Parr's 
article gives a clear explanation of the Wellisch (1927) p.q.r. formula 
I and the method of plotting the values of these terms. The frequen- 
cies of A, B, are p, q, r, respectively. Parr states (p. 26) that 
studies of blood types of Egyptians show them to be unlike Arabs of 
western Asia and parts of north Africa. The original Egyptian 
strain seems to persist physically despite Arab conquest and occu- 
pation. That the experiments with Egyptians should indicate 
Mongol or Indo-Manchurian relationship is not explained. 

I Two of the most valuable tables for giving considerable informa- 
ition in small compass are those of Elsdon-Dew (1934) and Pijper 
1(1930). Often, as in dealing with anthropometric measurement, the 

results are based on samples too small to be reliable, but, on the 

contrary, several results are derived from examination of more than 
I the five hundred individuals considered necessary as a representation 

of the group. The indices for Negroes of Senegal, and for the Yoruba 

are 0.8 and 0.9, respectively, and for Negroes of the Belgian Congo 

J the index is the same as that for the Yoruba. For American Negroes 

ithe index is 1.3, the high index being due to an admixture of white 


' The Bushmen, with a high value, a low B value, and an index 

of 2.5, occupy a peculiar position in the blood-grouping scale. The 
, high value for leads to the suggestion that the Bushmen are the 
'earliest African inhabitants, and Jadin's table (1936, p. 183) shows 
; the Bushman index to be far removed from that of the Ituri Pygmies. 
I Moreover, the B element in Bushmen is small compared with that 
;of Pygmies. Pijper (1930, p. 314) finds the rather high index of the 

southeastern Bantu difficult to explain. The index is 1.3, which is 
Ihe same as that for American Negroes, though there was no mixture 
I of white blood with the Bantu samples examined. Pijper asks 

whether the Bantu have to be regarded as direct descendants of 
:Hamites with a slight admixture of Negro blood. There appears 

to be no Hamitic index for comparison, and at present there is no 

240 Source Book for African Anthropology 

satisfactory explanation of the fact that the index for the south- 
eastern Bantu is 1.3 while that of other Negroes (Senegalese, Yoruba, 
Belgian Congo, French Congo) varies from only 0.8 to 1.0. 

The tests are of definite value, however, in showing a reliable 
series of distinctive 0, A, B, and AB values and a characteristic index 
for Pygmies, also a specific series for Bushmen, as well as for Negroes. 
The tests (Jadin, 1936) were successful in distinguishing Ituri 
Pygmies of pure blood from those having a mixture of Bantu Negro 
blood. All writers agree that in such tests we have something of 
definite value as a criterion of physical type, but at present the 
phylogenetic implications are not well understood. 

African Migrations and Mixtures 

A study of prehistory (chap. Ill) summarized the small amount 
of information available respecting fossil man in Africa. The section 
dealing with stone implements showed that Paleolithic man had a 
wide distribution far back in the Pleistocene, and considerable 
evidence was adduced to indicate that new immigrants introduced 
new stone-age cultures, which they distributed extensively. But for 
the main part of the continent little is known of the physique of these 
wanderers, and the discussion of migrations is carried on in terms 
of stone-age culture. 

With regard to present-day types, photography, anthropometry, 
and blood group tests are of service in establishing the presence of 
some distinct physical types of unknown history and phylogeny, and 
some plausible theories of origin and migration are advanced. But 
despite all this research anthropology can give no certain answers 
concerning the peopling of Africa, and the following summary is 
largely conjectural. 

Pygmies and the Khoisan. — In the absence of a better theory we 
have still to accept the idea of central or southwest Asia as a bio- 
logical laboratory and center of dispersal. The hypothesis has con- 
siderable support from paleontology, study of somatic types, and 
distribution of languages and cultures. 

According to this theory the Pygmies of central Africa must be 
regarded as a southwest migration of a stock which was one of 
nature's early experiments in differentiation. The picture of a tree 
trunk representing human stock is familiar, and from this primary 
stem lateral branches were thrown off at intervals. But when the 
diagram is drawn we do not know whether to sketch a branch 
depicting Negroes sending off lateral branches representing Pygmies 


Physical Anthropology 241 

and Bushmen, or whether to show these distinct types as arising 
directly and independently from the parent stem. Another possi- 
bility arises, for the Pygmies can be represented as an early direct 
branch, issuing from the parent stem before Negroes were produced, 
and later giving rise to the Bushmen. 

In brief, the phylogenetic relationship of Negroes, Pygmies, and 
Bushmen is unknown. That the Pygmies were an early and widely 
distributed African people is attested in several ways. Dr. A. 
Werner (1925, vol. 7, pp. 258-269) has collated legendary evidence 
from many central and eastern African tribes to show how widely 
spread are stories relating to the "little people." Further research, for 
example, that of Jacquier (1935) tends to extend the area over which 
Pygmy tribes once roamed. Stannus (1915) discusses some east 
African legends of Pygmies; so also does Schweiger. 

Moreover, the scattered groups of extant Pygmies, and crosses 
between Pygmies and Negroes, are proof of an extensive distribution 
in the central forest area. Anthropometry, as well as blood-group 
tests and general appearance indicate that Pygmies differ appreciably 
from Bushmen, whose blood-grouping factors are very unlike those 
of any other African people. Hirschberg (1934) has made a brief 
comparative study of Bushmen and Pygmies in which he has examined 
the validity of hypotheses with regard to their phylogenetic 
and cultural relationships. But the fact remains that very little 
evidence is available for study of a Pygmy language, though there is 
a suggestion that such existed. Neither are the anthropometric data 
for the Bushmen adequate for comparison with those of the Pygmies. 
As previously indicated, the evidence for wide distribution of Pyg- 
mies is satisfactory, and a picture of a centralized substratum of 
Pygmy peoples is permissible. But the hypothesis that Bushmen 
migrated from north Africa rests on cultural evidence of stone arti- 
facts and mural art, together with survival of a click language in 
Tanganyika. The absence of skeletal remains and of living Bush- 
man types in the alleged areas of migration still leaves valid the 
rival hypothesis of evolution of a Bushman type in south Africa. 

With regard to miscegenation of Pygmies with Negroes and the 
production of intermediate types there is conclusive evidence. Bush- 
men have likewise mixed with Negroes, and the Hottentot is probably 
a product of Bushman miscegenation with Negro, Hamite, or both. 

Some of the facts of Pygmy miscegenation with Negroes were 
adduced in discussing the low stature and the high mesaticephaly 
of certain Congo and Cameroons tribes. And to the data mentioned 

242 Source Book for African Anthropology 

other corroborative facts may now be added. The anthropometric 
data of Poutrin (1910, 1911, 1912, 1914) for the Sanga Pygmies is a 
clear demonstration of the hybrid nature of these tribes whose 
stature, cephahc index, and form of nose are intermediate between 
those of true Negroes and pure-bred Pygmies. The figures of Kuhn 
(1914) corroborate those of Poutrin. 

F. Starr (1909, p. 105) gives anthropometric data for a group of 
ten adult Batwa males. He finds that the average stature was 
1542 mm., or about five feet, considerably in excess of measurements 
for Bambuti Pygmies. The nasal index for this group is comparable 
with that of Bambuti Pygmies, though somewhat lower, that is to 
say, the noses of the Batwa are not quite so broad as those of the 
true Pygmies. The cephalic index Starr gives as 77.2, which is 
rather lower than that of the true Pygmies. 

Of the remnants of former Pygmy tribes in Abyssinia, A. D. 
Smith (1897, pp. 272-275) says the chief characteristics of the Dume 
Pygmies were a black skin, round features, woolly hair, small oval 
eyes, rather thick lips, high cheek bones, a broad but not remarkably 
receding forehead. Donaldson Smith believes that Pygmies in- 
habited the whole of the country north of lakes Stefani and 
Rudolf long before any of the other tribes now to be found in the 
neighborhood; but they have been gradually killed off in war and 
have lost their characteristics by intermarriage with people of large 
stature, so that only this one little remnant, the Dimie, remains to 
prove the existence of a Pygmy race. 

In conclusion of the subject of Pygmy admixture with Negroes, 
Schebesta's (1934) "Vollblutneger und Halbzwerge," should be 
consulted for an expansion of the facts relating to crossbreeding given 
in his statistical data (1933). Lebzelter (Lebzelter and Schebesta, 
1933, p. 69) sums up as follows: 

"Finally I wish to advance my opinion that basically the pygmi- 
forms are identical with the pure breed pygmies, but that they have 
acquired new racial features different from those of the Pygmies 
by mixing with different Negro races, and partly perhaps also under 
the influence of a different environment." Fig. 53a gives a clear 
impression of the Batwa type of Pygmy, who has been produced by 
the crossings of true Pygmies and Negroes. 

In the absence of sufficient anthropometric data for Bushmen 
and Hottentots, no definite statement of their similarities can be 
made. In physiognomy they ere much alike, but differences in 
skull form and stature have been noted. Broom (1923a, p. 142) 

Physical Anthropology 243 

describes the Hottentots as being one of the most long-headed of 
all peoples, with a cephalic index of under 70 and sometimes as low 
as 64. In the pure Bushman the C.I. is 76-80. Broom further states 
(1923b, p. 288) that physically the Korana seems to be a Hotten- 
tot with an appreciable Bantu or other Negro strain, and also blood of 
the Australoid race. Vedder and Fourie (1928, pp. 39-78) discuss the 
hypothesis that the Hottentots were sheep and cattle herders who 
migrated down the east side of Africa, and that on their way they 
enslaved the Berg Damara, a people of Negro appearance who 
now speak the Hottentot language, which has Hamitic elements. 
E. Fischer (1913) has written a comprehensive work describing 
the miscegenation of Hottentots and Dutch; to the crossbreeds he 
gives the name Rehobother Bastards. His map (p. 6) shows the 
topographical distribution of five' main groups southwest of Wind- 
hoek (Windhuk) in southwest Africa. Fischer gives several tables 
to show the intermediate values of anthropometric measurements 
of Bastards between those for Dutch and pure-bred Hottentots. 
Table 3 (Fischer) shows the cephalic index of the Bastards to be 
about 75-76, in between 80.3 for the Dutch, and 73.4-74.8 for 
Hottentots. The same merging of traits is indicated by the inter- 
orbital width, the bizygomatic, and height of the face, because Bas- 
tards have intermediate measurements. But from Table 8 (Fischer) 
the Hottentot form of nose appears to be dominant. The N.I. for 
pure Hottentots is given as 91.5, for the pure Dutch as 65.7, and 
for the hybrids as 85.5, which is much closer to the pure Hottentots 
than to the Dutch index. The measurements, geographical tables, 
and photographic plates constitute one of the most detailed sources 
available for the study of crossing of types in Africa. For the social 
and economic results of race mixture consult editorial notes in 
"Africa," vol. 10, 1937, p. 115. There a brief summary is given of the 
views of the Congres International. 

Negroes. — The place of origin, the time of branching from the 
primary stem, the wanderings in Africa, and the differentiation in 
language and physique among Negroes are open questions. That 
African and Melanesian Negroes have had a common origin in the 
hypothetical Black Belt of south-central Asia is feasible enough, 
but we do not know. 

M. Delafosse (1931, p. 5) says, "It appears then that one may, 
until proof to the contrary be forthcoming, admit as established the 
theory according to which the Negroes of Africa are not, properly 
speaking, autochthonous, but come from migrations having their 

244 Source Book for African Anthropology 

point of departure toward the limits of the Indian Ocean and the 
Pacific." Delafosse means that the ancestors of present African 
Negroes invaded Africa after separating themselves from a Negro 
matrix which included Negroes of a Melanesian type. This, how- 
ever, is mainly speculative, but corroborative evidence in the form 
of a kulturkreis theory seeking to establish relationships between 
Melanesia, Indonesia, and Africa will have to be mentioned later. 
The current belief is that true Negroes were forced westward across 
Africa, where they are now represented in physical type by the 
tribes of the Niger Delta, and by the Kru of Liberia. The Hamitic 
invaders are known to have mixed with the conquered Negroes, 
so producing an almost endless gradation of types, somewhere 
between the sturdy, platyrrhine, almost black Negro and the brown- 
skinned, mesorrhine or leptorrhine Hamites. 

The physical appearance of Negroes in widely separated areas 
has previously been discussed, with the result that, despite some 
obvious differences of build and physiognomy, and the existence of 
broad linguistic divisions such as Sudanic and Bantu, the similarities 
of types are more impressive than the differences. We found 
the Nilotic Negroes to be the most distinctive of the Negro types 
considered. "A Survey of the Ethnography of Africa" (Johnston, 
1913) is a useful summary of hypothetical migrations, and of some 
recent movements of Negro tribes that can be vouched for by docu- 
mentary evidence from the period a.d. 1500 onward. But some of 
Johnston's views need critical examination. He states, for example, 
that "the Congo Pygmy seems to be little else than a primitive and 
dwarfed form of the Forest Negro, perhaps representing one of the 
earliest types of Negro that invaded Africa." Recent research, as 
we have seen, establishes the Pygmies as something more specific 
than a degenerative Negro stock. 

There is no lack of reliable evidence of Negro migration during 
the historical period in west, central, east, and south Africa. And 
this evidence is to be sought in European records as well as in the 
genealogies and traditions of African chiefs. Moreover, there is 
the testimony of cultural traits and of languages. Beyond a doubt 
there has been a great ebb and flow of Negro tribes, with consequent 
mixture among themselves and with the conquering Hamites 
and Arabs. 

In the eastern Sudan the activities of the Mahdi led to depopula- 
tion of large areas by raiding for slaves. The victims were trans- 
ferred to Omdurman, from which center they were widely distributed. 


Physical Anthropology 245 

Slave caravans have crossed from the western Sudan to north Africa, 
and both Arab and Berber tribes have received an addition of Negro 
blood. The depredations of Rabeh toward the end of the nineteenth 
century caused shifts of population throughout the Sudan, and 
especially in the neighborhood of Lake Chad. Warfare between the 
great empires of the Niger, and between those of Nigeria have also 
been responsible for tribal mixtures. 

In east Africa the salient events affecting the physique of popula- 
tions are focused in caravan trade and warfare. Caravans of slaves 
from the far interior were brought to Zanzibar, where they were sold 
and widely distributed. The Baganda have within historical times 
extended their dominion round Lake Victoria Nyanza. The Masai 
have swept southward down the eastern side of the continent. 
Internal dissension among Zulu tribes caused independent leaders 
to march northward, so affecting the Bathonga of Portuguese East 
Africa, the Wayao, the Wanyamwezi, the Wahehe, and even tribes 
as far north as the southern shore of Victoria Nyanza. 

Movements of Negro tribes in the interior of Africa have occurred 
on a large scale within historical times. Migrations of the Bushongo 
from the Shari River to their present location in the southwest of 
the Congo Basin probably took place about the sixth century of 
our era. The Baluba, who are a part of the Bushongo, journeyed 
from highlands north of Lake Tanganyika. The Fan, who now live 
north of the mouth of the Congo, crossed to their present position from 
the northeast of the Congo area. In a.d. 1600 the Jagas, a predatory 
tribe, were moving over wide ranges of territory in northern Angola, 
raiding for slaves and carrying these for long distances. The Ovim- 
bundu have formed long-distance caravans that have ranged across 
Africa, returning with slaves and ivory, and this traffic continued 
until late in the nineteenth century. These are but a few of the 
instances of events that have led to the mixture of physical traits, 
languages, and cultures, but the examples indicate the nature of the 
migrations that have been accessory to the main mass movements of 
physical types. 

The following authors have made contributions to the study of 
recent movements of Negroes. Wild (1934) quotes Reindorf (1895), 
who has contributed a "History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti." 
Urvoy (1936) produced a study of the "History of the Population of 
the Sudan." A. E. Robinson (1929) has contributed to our knowl- 
edge of Arab and Negro contacts in the Province of Sennar, eastern 

246 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Sudan. Johnson (1921) and Dalzel (1793) should be consulted for 
the history of the Yorubas and Dahomeans respectively. 

Beyond a doubt many important movements of laborers and 
traders have occurred within recent times. But our ideas of the 
amount of miscegenation due to this influx must be modified by 
Migeod's (1919) study of "Tribal Mixture on the Gold Coast." 
He states: "The ethnological influence of foreigners, whether Euro- 
pean or African, on the original population of the colony is very 
small indeed, and were any financial change to take place so that 
trade and industries declined, it would be found that the majority 
of strangers would return to their homes, with the result that their 
past sojourn in the country in so many thousands would be scarcely 

This applies, however, only to voluntary and indentured labor 
introduced for specific purposes into various parts of Africa. It is 
conceivable that mine laborers might be introduced from many 
different regions and that they would represent several distinct 
physical types. Yet they might return at the end of their contract 
without having made any appreciable difference to the physique of 
the people among whom they temporarily resided. This, however, 
does not minimize the importance of warfare, slavery, and secession 
among ruling families, as factors in miscegenation. 

In dealing with the history of several Congo tribes, Torday (1928) 
has condensed considerable information into small compass. He 
attaches great historical value to the clan songs of the Bakongo and 
the Batetela, and he gives instances of the chronological use of oral 
traditions of eclipses of the sun, Bushongo tradition, which is a 
compound of fact and mythology relating to the great ruler, Shamba 
Bolongongo, is examined, and Torday's bibliography includes refer- 
ences to the works of early Portuguese explorers and priests. 

Young's (1933) study of "Tribal Mixture in Northern Nyasa- 
land," with an excellent map, is an example of the kind of local study 
that is really illuminating. Portuguese sources as far back as A.D. 
1616 are consulted, and a study is made of the distribution of tribal 
groups before they were disturbed by intrusions. Examination of 
present traditions indicates the value of place names in determining 
migrations. The cultural effects of intrusions are examined, and a 
summary is given of the major conflicts, including those with southern 
intruders who came north about A.D. 1845. The data provide 
instructive instances of cultural and physical miscegenation arising 
from trade and warfare. 

Physical Anthropology 247 

Before undertaking a detailed study of tlie migrations of Bantu 
tribes in south Africa there are introductory articles that should be 
consulted. Fantham (1936), with the aid of a tribal map (p. 154), 
discusses the entry of Bantu into south Africa from the eastern side 
of the continent. He postulates a series of waves of invasion from 
east-central Africa and states that there can be no doubt of the 
northern origin. 

"In the eighth century, the Bantu were known to Arab and 
Persian traders on the East Coast under the names of Kafir (infidel) or 
Zeng (black). Probably at this time they were living in the area 
now known as Northern Rhodesia. As recorded by El Masudi in 
the tenth century, the Bantu tribes were known to be around Sofala, 
having crossed the Zambezi but not the Sabi River. The Hottentots 
or Wakwaks were then to the south of them. 

"Apparently there were three main streams of Bantu migrating 
southwards, by the west coast, the east coast, and more or less central 
routes, conquering and mixing with their predecessors as they went, 

"The Bantu migrating by the western route became known as 
the Hereros. They settled south of the Cunene River and around 
Lake Ngami and extended to the Atlantic. They included the 
modern Ovambos or Ambos and sub-tribes. Under European rule, 
especially during the German domination in South West Africa, 
some became scattered and a few entered the Waterberg district of 
the Transvaal. 

"The most important streams of migration were those by the 
East Coast. Of these, four linguistic groups of Bantu can be dis- 
tinguished, and these seem to correspond to some extent with waves 
of invasion. These four groups are the Makalanga and the Bech- 
wana traveling inland and more central, and the Bathonga or 
Baronga and the Zulu-Xosa or Zulu-Kafir along the coast. The 
Bechwana and the Zulu-Kafir are especially important." 

The notes of Fantham on hybrids are particularly germane to 
our present subject. He points out that during intertribal warfare 
conquerors killed the vanquished males and absorbed the conquered 
women into their own tribes. As examples of hybrids Fantham 
gives the Korana, who are Hottentots with some Bushman admix- 
ture, and the Berg Damara, who are early Bantus with Bushman and 
Hottentot blood. The Ba Tamaha, near Potchefstroom, are mixed 
tribes of Ba Lala and Bushman origin. The Ma Sarwa or Vaalpeens, 
hybrids of Bushmen and Ba Kalahari, are the cattle herders of the 
Ba Mangwato. The Ba Thlaping are a Bechuana stock who 

248 Source Book for African Anthropology 

married Korana wives, and in this cross the Bushman and Hottentot 
characters are dominant to the Bantu. Many other mixtures are 

Some data are given by Fantham under the heading "Eurafrican 
Admixtures," two principal crosses being those between white men 
and Hottentot women, and between white men and Xosa, Tembu, 
and Fingo women. Diagrams are given to illustrate the progeny of 
a fair-haired, blue-eyed Belgian with a Zulu woman, of a Dutch- 
Xosa marriage, and other crosses, including those of Tamils and 
Zulus, Chinese and Xosa. The article concludes with a survey of 
the results of miscegenation, which gives rise not only to social and 
economic problems, but sometimes to physical deterioration of off- 
spring, and to family discord. The subject of miscegenation has also 
been treated by G. Findlay (1936). 

Dicke (1932, p. 793) gives a brief summary of Bantu migrations 
into south Africa and the routes by which they traveled. Portuguese 
records show that about a.d. 1500 the eastern branch of the Bantu 
migration, of which there were also central and western branches, 
had advanced southward along the coast to the region of Delagoa 
Bay. A century later the migration was south of Delagoa Bay and 
fifty years after that had reached Natal. Dicke does not describe 
the western migration into Angola and South West Africa, but he 
analyzes the causes that retarded the central migration while the 
eastern and western wings were advancing southward. 

These brief publications describing the migrations and misce- 
genations of the Bantu introduce two comprehensive works, "Olden 
Times in Zululand and Natal" (Bryant, 1929), and "The South- 
Eastern Bantu" (Soga, 1930). These are works of great detail, 
giving an account of tribal histories, genealogies, conquests, and 
miscegenation. See also Krige (1936, pp. 1-22). 

Hamites and Semites. — The origin and remote history of the 
Hamites and Semites is unknown, but both are offshoots from a 
greater stock termed the Mediterranean. The origin of this stock is 
unknown, but presumably it arose in Asia and certainly spread 
westward along the African and European shores of the Mediter- 
ranean Sea. Hooton (1931, p. 506) summarizes the physical char- 
acters that are typical of the Mediterranean stock. The head form 
is dolichocephalic, and the heads are either low or of medium height. 
The occiput protrudes, the forehead is vertical, and the development 
of brow ridges is slight. Hair and eye color vary from black to dark 
brown, and skin color is extremely variable, from pale olive brown 

Physical Anthropology 249 

to dark brown. The face is oval and narrow, and the nose leptorrhine 
with N.I. 65-69. The stature is about 1620 mm. 

Sergi (1901) gives full details of this Mediterranean stock and a 
list of European and African peoples derived therefrom. The popu- 
lations of Spain, Italy, and Greece are basically Mediterranean stock, 
and in Africa the Libyans (prototype of the present Berbers), Tuareg, 
Somali, and Arabs are regarded as specialized branches of Homo 

G. Elliot Smith (1911, pp. 49-51) gives a description of the Proto- 
Egyptian physique and speaks of these peoples as "kinsmen" of the 
Mediterranean group who were subject later to alien mixture. The 
skeletons of Proto-Egyptians with dried flesh adhering have been 
preserved from the pre-dynastic period, before 4000 B.C. The 
physical type was slender, almost effeminate. The stature was 
about 1650 mm., and the head was dolichocephalic. The hair, which 
sometimes had a reddish tinge, was similar to that of the brunet 
South European or Iberian of the present day. "It was a very dark 
brown or black colour, wavy or almost straight, and sometimes 
curly, but it presented no resemblance whatever to the so-called 
'woolly' appearance and peppercorn-like arrangement of the Negro's 
hair." Interments of the pre-dynastic period show that the Proto- 
Egyptians were buried on the left side with the knees flexed to the 
chin. Underneath the body was a mat, and near-by were flint imple- 
ments together with red pottery jars having black rims. 

Skeletal remains indicate that people of another physical type 
imposed themselves on the slenderly built people who inhabited 
Lower Egypt before the dawn of datable history. The bones of 
these new arrivals indicate that they were of sturdier build, also 
that their heads were rounder and their jaws more massive than 
those of the pre-dynastic Egyptians. The mixing of these types 
led to the establishment of an Egyptian type that has remained 
remarkably constant to the present day. 

With regard to the preservation of an ancient Egyptian type and 
the slight admixture of Negro blood, C. G. Seligman (1913, p. 606) 
states: "In stature the Beni Amer and the pre-dynastic Egyptians 
stand close together, the former measuring about 1.64 m. and the 
latter 1.63 m. It seems then that it is justifiable to regard the Beni 
Amer, the least modified of the Beja tribes, as the modern representa- 
tives of the old pre-dynastic Egyptian (and Nubian) stock, and it 
further appears that the modification undergone by the latter during 
a period of some 7,000 or more years is extremely small. 

250 Source Book for African Anthropology 

"An examination of a small series of Hadendoa skulls, now in the 
Royal College of Surgeons, affords nothing but confirmation of the 
view that these Beja tribes are closely related to the Proto-Egyptians. 
Although the Beni Amer are shorter than their northern congeners, 
there is no regular rise in stature as there is in cephalic index from 
south to north. The very considerable difference between Beni 
Amer and Hadendoa is no doubt to be explained as a result of misce- 
genation with the tall Negroes of the Nile Valley. It needs only a 
glance at any considerable gathering of Hadendoa to be convinced 
that as a people they have absorbed much Negro blood. My im- 
pression is that the Bisharin are less mixed." 

Morant's (1925) discussion of a long series of male Egyptian 
skulls, divided according to localities and dynasties, traces out the 
changes that took place during the evolution of the Egyptian type. 
His series extends from pre-dynastic to Ptolemaic times. The follow- 
ing quotations indicate the preservation of type and the absence of 
appreciable Negro mixture. 

"In early Pre-Dynastic times there were two distinct races of man 
living in Egypt; one in the Thebaid and the other, it is supposed, in 
the Faiyum. These may be called the Upper and the Lower Egyptian 
races. They were closely related to one another as two adjacent 
peoples are generally found to be, and there can be no doubt that 
they diverged from the same branch of the human tree at no very 
early date. 

"The Lower Egyptian type seems to have remained unchanged 
from Early Dynastic to Ptolemaic times except that a relatively 
small part of the population was modified very slightly, possibly 
by admixture with some unknown foreign race. 

"The Upper Egyptian type was slowly transformed from the very 
earliest times in which we have acquaintance with it, and by Late 
Dynastic times the population of Upper Egypt was of almost pure 
Lower Egyptian type. 

"It is very generally supposed that the population of ancient 
Egypt was sensibly affected at various times by the infusion of 
Negro blood. But in the series of which we have the mean measure- 
ments it is not possible to detect the slightest effect of any such 
admixture that can have taken place after early Pre-Dynastic times. 
Apart from isolated negroid skulls . . . the populations appear to be 
quite homogeneous and we have no reason to suppose that the mean 
type was affected in the slightest by admixture with any race foreign 
to Egypt." 


Physical Anthropology 251 

C. S. Myers (1906, p. 239) gives a list of regions where he made 
anthropometric measurements. The figures for nasal indices indi- 
cate that in living Egyptians of today there is a slight broadening of 
the nose among people living farther south. In the delta region 
the average group indices varied from 73.4 to 76.7, but farther 
south, near the Negro belt, the nasal indices became 77.8 to 78.9. 
Fig. 35 shows two present-day Egyptians of Luxor. One is a Ham- 
itic type, and the other shows Negro admixture. 

Analysis of the elements entering into the composition of north 
and northeast Africans at the present day is a complex exercise. If 
we visualize a Mediterranean stock with the branches previously 
mentioned, we have then to allow for miscegenations of the varieties 
of this stock with people inhabiting north Africa when Homo mediter- 
raneansis arrived. Moreover, later incursions have also to be 

Hooton's summary of the migration of physical types along the 
north African littoral has been quoted (chap. Ill, Prehistory). 
The colored maps of Bertholon and Chantre (1912) giving distribu- 
tion of statures, cranial indices, nasal indices, and pigmentation 
show how complicated the miscegenation, the wanderings, and 
isolation of types have been. For the main part distributions are 
discontinuous and certain types are left as islands. Bertholon and 
Chantre summarize the types thus: (1) dolichocephalic and small 
stature; (2) brachycephalic and small stature; (3) dolichocephalic, tall, 
and leptorrhine; (4) types of southern oases showing Negro admixture. 

The first group has a stature of 1630 mm., a C.I. of 73-75, and 
an N.I. of 70-74. Group 2 has a stature of 1640-1650 mm., a C.I. 
of 79-82, and an N.I. of 68-70. Group 3 has a stature of 1700 mm. 
or more, a C.I. of 73-76, and an N.I. of 66-68. With such main 
varieties a large number of subvarieties is possible. 

The same kinds of analyses have been made by Cerulli (1935) 
and Cotteville-Giraudet (1930). The latter distinguishes seven 
types that are still discernible in the present-day north African 
population. He gives the distinguishing traits of each and type 
photographs. According to Cotteville-Giraudet (p. 148) the com- 
position of the present population is Homo mediterraneansis 40 per 
cent, H. atlanticus 25 per cent (original Paleolithic people), H. 
semiticus 20 per cent, H. nordicus 5 per cent, H. negroidus 5 per cent, 
Niger africanns 3 per cent, H. asiaticus 2 per cent (Neolithic). 

Among the unexplained physical traits of north Africa are the 
peculiar skulls from the oasis of Siwa. Derry (1927), relying more 

252 Source Book for African Anthropology 

on the acroplatic index (100 B-H'/L) than the cranial index, finds 
traits, for example, the basi-bregmatic height, that do not occur 
elsewhere among African crania. For comparable figures the crani- 
ology of the English, German, and French have to be consulted 
(p. 204). The nasal index of Siwan skulls is near to that for Euro- 
peans. The cranial capacities for both males and females are lower 
than those for Europeans but much higher than those for Negroes. 
Derry states that the Siwan skulls are not Egyptian but does not 
definitely classify them. Siwa has always been remote and secluded. 
Is it possible that we have in these Siwan skulls a sample of the 
European branch of the Mediterranean stock, a branch which did 
not advance far into Africa, but became isolated at Siwa? 

Inquiring into the problem of blondness might conveniently 
start with an article by Kidder (1927), who discusses the pigmenta- 
tion of the skin, hair, and eyes of the Kabyles. Kidder criticises 
the vague use of the word blondness; terms are needed to describe 
degrees of this trait, which varies from complete blondness of three 
factors to one blond trait. Coon (1931, pp. 348-386) gives this 
subject a thorough investigation. He uses mathematical methods to 
describe the degree of association between each pair of blond factors, 
and between factors of blondness and anthropometric measurements. 

"In each of the three areas Rif, Senhaja, and Ghomara the blonder 
types segregate themselves out from the brunet types in a European 
direction." Coon (p. 386) speaks of one of the central types as being 
like a blond north European. 

Sergi (1901, pp. 61-69) surveys the history of discussion respect- 
ing the entry of these blond people, their mingling with a dark Mediter- 
ranean stock, and the possibility that these blonds (Homo nordicus) 
were the dolmen builders of north Africa. Sergi (p. 74) attributes 
the blond factor to altitude, but his theory, like the one attributing 
blondness to the Goth and Vandal invaders of A.D. 500, is not now 
seriously regarded. Hooton (1925, p. 76) gives references to show 
that the presence of blonds in north Africa, for example among the 
Libyans, was anciently observed and recorded. But we do not 
actually know the origin of the blond element unless it came from 
Nordic Europe ; or perhaps blondness was a trait of the north African 
brand of the Mediterranean stock. 

There are, however, problems of miscegenation that are explain- 
able by anthropometric measurements, especially the nasal index, 
as well as by general description such as that given by Delafosse 
(1894) for the eastern Hamites. Lester (1928) illustrates the effect 


Physical Anthropology 253 

of Negro mixture on the Galla. The Negro element is indicated by 
dark skin color, prognathism, and a high mesorrhine nasal index of 
77.5. But for twenty-two Somali of Hamitic type the N.I. was low, 
65.7, though there was a variability in width of nose and thickness 
of lips that indicated Negro admixture (Radlauer, 1914). 

Anthropometric studies of the Tibbu of Tibesti in the eastern 
Sahara illustrate the effects of Negro mixture with what appears 
from the photographs to be a Hamitic strain (Sabatini, 1936, 
pp. 253-269; Biasutti, 1933). The former reference gives the N.I. as 
78.1, which is mesorrhine, and the type photographs indicate varia- 
tion of Negro features; some individuals are more pronouncedly 
Negroid than others. The stature for 126 male Tibbu was 1665 mm. 
and the C.I. 76.1, but these traits are not distinctive since they can 
be matched by group averages found among Negroes, Hamites, 
and Semites. 

Leblanc (1934) measured thirty-one males of Zenata near Insalah, 
and these he considered in two divisions, the Ouled Souka who 
describe themselves as Tuareg, and the Ouled Dihamou who are of 
Moroccan origin. The Arabs hold these people in contempt, saying 
that they are half-breeds. Leblanc notes great variability in height, 
cranial index, and nasal index, which is often an indication of misce- 
genation. The nasal index is often highly mesorrhine— from 70 to 
80 — so bordering on the typical platyrrhine index of the Negro. 

When dealing with the more recent historical aspects of migration 
and miscegenation, anthropometry is sometimes aided by study of 
oral tradition. C. G. and B. Z. Seligman (1918, pp. 106-112) and 
MacMichael (1912) have given detailed histories of the Kababish of 
Kordofan. Seligman (p. 107) says the "Kababish are a congeries of 
divisions of various Arab tribes with a minority of Hamitic origin 
and a dash of Negro blood." The richest divisions, who possess most 
slaves, tend to show the highest proportion of individuals with Negro 
or Negroid features. Struck (1920-21) has analyzed the population 
of Kordofan from the anthropometric and linguistic point of view. 
He considers Hamitoid, Negroid, and Bantoid groups, for which 
he gives statures, cranial indices, and nasal indices. His summary 
of results (p. 168) indicates a correlation of linguistic elements and 
somatic traits. 

H. R. Palmer (1932, 1934) has studied historical data relating to 
the Tuareg, and in addition to weighing the evidence of oral tradi- 
tion, vocabulary, and cultural traits, he has made use of Arabic docu- 
ments from, the ninth century of our era onward. The Tuareg, a 

254 Source Book for African Anthropology 

typical camel-culture people, were probably not present in the north 
Sahara in appreciable numbers before the time when camels became 
numerous (A.D. 193-364). Not until the ninth century is clear 
information available to prove the presence of the Tuareg in the 
Fezzan. In Palmer's opinion (1932, p. 308) there is a probability 
that the "Tuareg, and their T'ifinagh alphabet, first came into the 
northern Sahara bringing camels with them from the eastern Sudan 
between the years 300 and 600 of our era." Historical research, no 
matter what the nature of the testimony may be, usually serves to 
whet the appetite; inquiries are pushed farther and farther, but 
always toward a horizon that fades into the distance as the explorer 

In conclusion of the section dealing with extant types, their 
wanderings and mixtures, attention should be called to the historical 
notes that are to be found in almost every tribal monograph. A 
great task of compilation awaits a student who will make a com- 
parative study of these references with a view to testing their 
accuracy one against another and finally synthesizing them into a 
more complete picture. 




Congenital anomalies of Negroes and other Africans have not 
formed the subject of a comprehensive work, and data are insufficient 
for wide study of family inheritance of abnormalities. Yet mmierous 
articles call attention to some common pathological conditions. 

One of the commonest aberrancies among Negroes is albinism, 
which is of interest in both its physiological and social aspects. An 
article by H. Stannus (1913), medical officer in Nyasaland, calls 
attention to the different forms of albinism occurring in that territory. 
Stannus quotes a classification of albinos offered by K. Pearson, and 
mentions the divisions as complete albinotic (Fig. 49, a), spotted 
albinotic condition, blue-eyed and white-skinned, yellow-eyed and 
white-skinned, xanthous (yellow), and piebald (Fig. 49, 6). With 
this classification Stannus is not in full agreement. He thinks that 
the pink-eyed condition if present at all is rare, and that observers 
who have seen the general albinotic condition have assumed the 
pinkish condition of the eye, since this occurs in European albinos. 
Categories of albinos given by Stannus differ somewhat from those 
suggested by Pearson. The incidence of albinism among Negro males 
and females respectively would be of interest to biologists, but I am 
not aware that any data have been published on the subject. 

Albinos have been of interest to ethnologists, and though evidence 
respecting the social status of these abnormal persons has not yet 
been fully collated, a few references indicate the trends of tribal 

A trader in the year 1860 states that at Onitsha in Nigeria two 
belligerent chiefs who were about to arrange terms of peace pur- 
chased an albino who sat between the chiefs while they were dis- 
cussing the terms of the treaty. Laying their hands on the albino 

I the former combatants solemnly declared that if ever they fought 

' again it should be as allies. Each agreed that if he broke the pledge 
his family should be sold into slavery. An executioner struck off 

, the albino's head while the two peacemakers held the body (Cole, 

1 1862, p. 14). 

, According to J. Weeks (1914, p. 238) the Bakongo require the 

j presence of an albino or some hair from one before they are able to 

form a new branch of a powerful secret society known as ndembo. 


256 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Father van Wing (1921, p. 159) speaks of an albino being regarded as 
the reincarnation of a chief. C. K. Meek (1931b, vol. 1, p. 143) states 
that among the Bura of Bornu Province several albinos were ob- 
served, and he discovered that they are regarded with disfavor, are 
refused the tribal marks, and that no girl will marry one. I was 
informed by Vachokwe people of east Angola that an albino found 
difficulty in obtaining a spouse. 

J. Weeks (1913, p. 325) notes a similar matrimonial disability 
among the Bangala. R. Burton (1860, vol. 1, p. 9) reports the 
occurrence of many albinos among the Wazaramo, and he states 
that no prejudice is directed against them. The few instances of 
albinism here considered indicate three possible social attitudes. 
The condition may be disregarded within the tribe, or the albinos 
may be sacred in the sense of something set apart because it is unusual 
and unexplained, and yet again the condition may be regarded as a 
definite cause for social disabilities. 

In a survey of abnormalities present at birth among several 
tribes of Nyasaland, H. Stannus (1914) has pointed out that obser- 
vations of this kind do not give a correct estimate of the frequency 
of congenital disabilities, since defective children are destroyed at 
birth. Stannus thinks that a child with a harelip would undoubt- 
edly be killed, and in general the more pronounced the abnormality 
the less the chance of survival. Contacts of Africans with Europeans 
either at mission stations or in government service tend to counteract 
infanticide; therefore with the further extension of European in- 
fluence observers may obtain a more accurate impression of the 
frequency of abnormalities. 

Infantilism was observed in a woman of twenty-two years, who 
had no breast development, no body hair, and had not menstruated. 
Dwarfism (Fig. 53, b) with normal mental ability was recorded, but 
no acromegaly (giantism) was noted. Examples of undeveloped 
zygomatic arches and a rudimentary lower jaw were photographed. 
The subject was an imbecile with impaired speech. H. Stannus 
observed a mongol idiot and two microcephalic (small-headed) 
idiots. Cysts of the face occur. Abnormal ears were seen. Super- 
numerary nipples were observed. 

Reduplication of teeth, humeral micromely (short upper arm), 
and malformations of hands and feet were noted and photographed. 
The records include the presence of supernumerary fingers and 
toes, and the joining of digits (Polydactyly and syndactyly). 













258 Source Book for African Anthropology 

More properly within the scope of ethnology is the subject of 
artificial deformations. Perhaps the words "artificial modifications 
of the body" would be preferable, since the changes are not con- 
sidered as deformations but as embellishments by those who make 
them. The reasons for these artificial modifications are the grati- 
fication of esthetic taste; the preservation of tribal and social 
distinctions; the marking of differences of age and sex; designation 
of membership in a secret society; and desire to comply with certain 
religious and magical observances. 

Artificial modifications are carried out on the skin by several 
methods; namely, scarification, painting, and tattooing. The teeth, 
the lips, the ears, the nose, the head, body and sex organs, and the 
hair are subject to treatment. Often the changes are of an elaborate 
kind and specialists are employed to perform the operations. 


As a general introduction to the subject of body marking, Hambly 
(1925) should be consulted. The flesh of Negroes has a natural 
tendency to form large keloids or cicatrices after injury, and 
advantage has been taken of this fact to form elaborate geometrical 
patterns by making symmetrical cuts, the healing of which is some- 
times retarded by rubbing earth into the wounds. This mutilation of 
the skin may be merely ornamental, but usually the patterns have 
a tribal significance. Some idea of the great variety of distinctive 
patterns for tribes is given by Tremearne (1911), who describes 
scarification among Nigerian people, and by C. H. Armitage (1924), 
in his account of this form of decoration in the Northern Territories 
of the Gold Coast. 

According to S. Passarge (1907, p. 27) some Bushmen have a 
magical use for scarification. Into cuts made on the body a little 
flesh from an antelope is introduced; this procedure gives the speed 
of the antelope to the Bushman. 

Scarification in the Munshi tribe of southern Nigeria provides 
an example of variation of marking with sex. Women adopt an 
elaborate abdominal scarification (Fig. 50, a), but men have simple 
tribal marks consisting of a few round keloids on the cheeks. A sex 
difference in marking is observable among the Ovimbundu of 
Angola. Men are not much scarified, but women mark their cheeks 
with small circles into which burnt rubber is introduced, so that after 
healing the mark has a blue tinge. Degree of scarification among 
Negroes varies from complete absence to the cutting of designs 





260 Source Book for African Anthropology 

that cover the entire face and torso. Some of the most severe 
scarification is to be found among the tribes of the central Congo 
region. In Sierra Leone examples of body scars denoting member- 
ship of a secret society have been recorded. These instances are 
typical of the principal functions of scarification, and further colla- 
tion of examples could be carried out almost indefinitely, so numer- 
ous are the Negro tribes who mutilate the skin in this way. Body 
marking of this kind may be the result of therapeutic treatment; 
for example, the Vasele of Angola scar the chest to cure a cough. 
Making of keloids may be part of the rites of initiation into the 
tribe, yet on the contrary the scars may be made during infancy and 
for ornament only (Decorse, 1905b; Germann, 1933, p. 20; Buisson, 

Tattooing by making punctures into which indigo dye is rubbed 
is characteristic of light-skinned Egyptians, and Berber tribes of 
Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The practice has spread into Nigeria, 
and some tattooed persons may be seen in Kano. Body marking 
is forbidden by the Koran, but this injunction is disregarded by 
Mohammedans provided the operation is not performed during 

In the larger towns of north Africa, tattoo marks may be signs 
of prostitution. The designs may be merely decorative, or again 
they may have a magical import. Certain designs represent the 
lucky hand of Fatima, daughter of the Prophet, and other marks 
are supposed to preserve the eyesight. Certain symbols tattooed on 
the face or body are said to be a protection against snake-bite, or 
to give health to the lungs (Roth, 1905). Other important references 
to tattooing in north Africa are Lacassagne (1912, 1934, 1935), 
Gobert (1924), Van Gennep (1912), Gaudry (1929, pp. 43-46), Karutz 
(1909), Bertholon and Chantre (1912, pp. 478-493), and Herber 
(1923), who emphasizes the magical-religious significance of tattooing. 

Painting the body with colored earths is one of the most common 
forms of decoration, and the usage is widespread among Negro 
tribes in connection with initiation ceremonies and secret societies. 
Painting the face or body may have a therapeutic value; for instance, 
women of the Ovimbundu have their faces decorated with small white 
and red marks which are made by a medicine-woman during their 
pregnancy. Unguents for the hair and body are freely used by 
many tribes. Palm oil is a usual dressing for the skin and hair, 
while camwood powder is a reddish and aromatic dressing for the 
skin. In the south of Angola the Vakwanyama make powder from 







262 Source Book for African Anthropology 

red takula wood ; this dust is then freely rubbed into the greasy hides 
which are used as skirts for women. Kohl, a kind of antimony, 
was used for decorating the eyelids in Egypt in ancient times. This 
practice has spread over north Africa together with the custom of 
staining the finger nails with henna, and both embellishments 
have been adopted to some extent by the more advanced tribes of 
west Africa. 


Mutilation of the teeth is common among Negro tribes and the 
styles are usually indicative of tribal divisions. In Angola Ovim- 
bundu males remove a small V-shaped piece from between the two 
upper central incisors. The Babunda remove an oval piece from the 
same position. The Vasele chip all their teeth to points (Fig. 51, a). 
Numerous illustrations of different methods of mutilating the teeth 
in the southwest Congo region are given by F. Starr (1909, pp. 115- 
124). Instances of extraction of the two middle incisors of the lower 
jaw are given by A. C. HolHs (1905, p. 313). Fig. 51, h shows 
deformation of teeth of a Sara man near Lake Chad, and Fig. 52, a 
portrays an M'Bunda woman of Angola. 

Geographical distribution of the practice of boring the lips of 
female children during infancy, gradual enlargement of the holes by 
insertion of wooden plugs, and final introduction of a large disk, has 
been described and mapped by K. G. Lindblom (1925), while 
Muraz and Getzowa have also contributed to this subject (1923) in 
describing the extreme deformation of lips of females of the Sara 
tribe near Lake Chad. Extreme deformation of the ear lobes is 
practiced by the Masai, the Akikuyu (Fig. 54, a) and the Wandorobo 
of northeast Africa. Wearing of a small disk which is inserted in the 
side of the nose is not uncommon in Egypt and north Africa. Women 
of the Shuwa Arabs use this kind of decoration. Women of the Vasele 
tribe, Angola, used to pass a thin stick through the septum of the 
nose, but this custom is falling into desuetude (Fig. 52, b). 


The subject of artificial cranial deformation in all parts of the 
world has been discussed by Dingwall (1931) who is not satisfied 
that this custom was practiced in ancient Egypt. Today in Africa 
the practice is unusual, though not unknown. The Mangbetu of the 
northeast Congo region (Fig. 54, b) and the adjacent Madi bind the 
heads of infants to make their skulls slope backward. This is a 
custom among the socially superior, who also show their rank by 













O M 

«2 '^ 


Ph . 


P>H to 

























"5 "5 



266 Source Book for African Anthropology 

allowing their finger nails to grow to great length. This treatment 
of nails is a peculiarity of the Mangbetu; I have no other African 
instances of the practice. P. A. Talbot (1912, p. 38) states that 
among the Ekoi of southeast Nigeria members of a certain secret 
society may be recognized by their bulging foreheads, which have 
resulted from cranial pressiire applied during infancy. Bertholon 
and Chantre (1912, p. 89) have described three modern types of 
cranial deformation in north Africa. 


Operations on the sex organs of boys and girls are not uncommon ; 
especially are the mutilations carried out during initiation rites. 
The nature of these operations and some historical aspects of the 
rites will be discussed later. Lopping the finger joints is an African 
custom whose distribution has been discussed by Lagercrantz (1936, 
pp. 129-157); the rite prevailed among Bushmen and Hottentots. 
The former were in the habit of removing a joint from the little finger 
of boys and girls for the alleged purpose of protecting them, if 
previous children had died when young. Mutilation of the fingers 
was common among the Hottentots, but the statement that a woman 
was obliged to sever a finger joint before each marriage is not fully 
confirmed. The evidence for these mutilations among the Khoisan 
peoples has been discussed by I. Schapera (1930a, pp. 71-72). 

The practice of emasculation will be mentioned later in con- 
nection with slavery and punishment for adultery with the wife of a 
king. The practice has been both commercial and punitive. P. 
Kolbe, who was in contact with the Hottentots in the year 1719, 
refers to the excision of a left testicle during boyhood. Kolbe 
reported that Hottentot women were afraid that they would bear 
twins, but this, they believed, would be impossible if males were 
mutilated in this way. Some writers state that Hottentots believed 
that the operation increased swiftness in running. The evidence is 
not, however, sufficiently clear to establish the rites as a certainty 
(Schapera, 1930a, pp. 71-72). 


Depilation is a mutilation resulting in complete or partial removal 
of eyebrows, eyelashes, and body hair. Women of the Bakongo 
tribe remove their eyelashes. Females of the Masai, Dinka, Bari, 
and Latuka shave their heads and eyebrows. When a male of the 
Masai tribe dies, his warrior sons shave their heads. The head of a 
Masai woman is shaved when her child has cut four teeth. Women 


Fig. 55. Berg Damara woman, with Herero headdress, South West Africa 
(from photograph byArthur S. Vernay, copyright). 










270 Source Book for African Anthropology 

of the Suk and the Turkana tribes shave their heads, but men of 
those tribes build their hair into large chignons with the aid of 
grease, clay, and cow dung. At death this mass is cut from the 
head and divided among the sons of the deceased, who add it to their 
own chignons after washing and cleaning it. The bag of felted hair 
is used for holding a fire-stick, snuff, trinkets, and other small 
possessions. The chignon is ornamented with ostrich feathers, 
which are dyed yellow or red (Beech, 1911, pp. 13-14). 

Many remarkable patterns of hairdressing are shown by P. A. 
Talbot (1912, pp. 318, 319). Ekoi women shave their heads; then 
they allow the hair to grow to a uniform length of a quarter of an 
inch. Patterns are marked on the hair with white chalk, and these 
tufts are left on the shaven scalp. In the south of Angola several 
adjacent tribes, the Luvando, Vanhaneca, Gambos, and others, are 
readily distinguishable by their styles of coiffure. In the Bapedi 
tribe a widow shaves her head completely after the death of her 
husband. A woman shaves her head to some extent to observe the 
death of any relative, and the size of the shorn area corresponds with 
her degree of relationship to the deceased (Duggan-Cronin, Eiselen, 
vol. 2, Plate 52). 


There still exist in Africa several tribes who have no clothing. 
Males of the Nuer tribe are quite naked and their bodies are smeared 
with cow dung and ashes. On the Bauchi plateau of eastern Nigeria 
males of several tribes wear only a penis sheath of plaited fiber. In 
the Angas tribe of that region women are naked until they marry, 
after that a bunch of leaves is worn (Fig. 56, 6). 

In contrast with this nudity, clothing may be elaborately made 
from cotton woven by both men and women (Figs. 58-60). Many 
tribes from Sierra Leone to Nigeria are skilled in weaving their 
own cotton clothing and in making indigo and other dyes. Leather 
or hide clothing may be a simple pubic covering, as among Bushmen 
(Fig. 44); or hides may be soaked, trampled, pleated, and dressed 
with grease and red ocher, as among the cattle-keeping Vakwanyama 
(Fig. 66, a). Some Zulu tribes make elaborate fur cloaks called 
harasses by sewing together the pelts of hyrax and other fur-bearing 
creatures. Barkcloth is well made in Ashanti, west Africa, and 
among the Baganda of northeast Africa. Formerly this covering 
was widely used among Negro tribes, but the use is waning with 
importation of foreign cotton. Weaving of skirts from raffia bast 
attains a high degree of excellence among the Bushongo of the 


















274 Source Book for African Anthropology 

southwest Congo region, and raffia weaving is usual wherever 
the raffia palm is found (Fig. 108, 6). Descriptions of the technique 
concerned in the manufacture of clothing are given later in con- 
nection with handicrafts. Reference to the work of A. Jiinger 
(1926), who has mapped the distribution of all kinds of clothing worn 
in Africa, will give a comprehensive survey of the subject and so 
prepare the way for more detailed study in section III, under the 
heading "Economic Life." 


Personal ornaments of ivory, shell, or metal may be more than 
mere decorations. For example, among the Vakwanyama and some 
of the tribes of Huila, southwest Angola, disks of shell called omha 
are highly valued as heirlooms which are passed from mother to 
daughter. Such shells are sometimes worn by men (Fig. 66, 6). 
The new disks may be purchased for a small sum, but no offer will 
tempt the owner to part with disks that have become a family 

At the present time supplies of ivory are insufficient for personal 
ornaments, but a few years ago massive anklets and bracelets were 
worn. The most cumbersome ornaments are worn by women, who, 
as among the lower Congo tribes, wear heavy brass collars, some 
examples of which weigh twenty-eight pounds. Women of the 
Masai, Akikuyu, and other tribes of northeast Africa wear heavy 
coils of wire round their legs and arms. Similar ornaments are 
used by women of the Munshi tribe, Nigeria, and by females of the 
Luvando and other tribes of southwest Angola. Stone armlets are 
still made and worn by the Tuareg (Rodd, 1926, pp. 91, 285) and by 
some west African tribes (Cardinall, 1923). 

Charms for attaching to the neck, arms, or clothing are numerous. 
In regions north of the equator, where Mohammedanism has affected 
magical beliefs, mallams may be seen writing texts from the Koran. 
These are wrapped in small satchels of leather and are attached to 
the clothing, or they may be worn in groups about the neck or on the 
upper arm. Small charms for averting the evil eye and for avoiding 
snake-bite are commonly seen. The most widely used charms in 
Negro territory are small horns which a medicine-man fills with a 
concoction of fat, charcoal, pounded human bone, and other ingre- 
dients. Charms specially designed to give fertility, to ward off 
sickness, and to avoid the curse of witches are numerous. Wester- 
marck (1933, pp. 25-58) has supplied a valuable contribution to the 
study of charms and magic in north Africa, and much of the informa- 

Deformation, Ornaments, and Clothing 275 

tion applies widely to any part of the continent where Mohammedan 
influence has penetrated. 

No item of ornament, deformation, or dress is too insignificant 
to receive attention, for behind some of the most simple customs 
and objects lie beliefs of great ethnological interest. The tolerant 
and intelligent attitude which should be preserved by an ethnologist 
is well expressed by Mungo Park, who wrote (1799, p. 56), "They 
rallied me with a good deal of gaiety on different subjects, particularly 
on the whiteness of my skin and the prominence of my nose. They 
insisted that both were artificial. The first, they said, was produced 
when I was an infant by dipping me in milk, and they insisted that 
my nose had been pinched every day until it had acquired its present 
unsightly and unnatural conformation. On my part, without dis- 
puting my own deformity, I paid them many compliments on 
African beauty. I praised the glossy jet of their skins and the lovely 
depression of their noses." 


The word psychology is used here to mean a study of mentality, 
and therefore has a wide connotation which includes every aspect 
of mental activity. The study is consequently concerned with 
individual and collective traits, achievement, educability, emotions, 
and the general psychic background of beliefs and practices. Research 
of this kind is still tentative, and opinions of specialists are divided 
with regard to technique and the explanation of results that are 

The following outline summarizes the chief methods of approach 
to an understanding of mental activity and the various ways in 
which psychological processes are expressed by beliefs, institutions, 
and ritual. 

I. Physiological theories. These relate to race, size of brain, 
and the functioning of endocrine glands. 

II. The ethnological approach. 

1. General observations on conduct. 

2. Study of achievement and history. 

3. Recording of ethnological facts by: 

(a) A monograph on a tribe. 

(b) A functional study stressing particular traits. 

(c) An ethnological story. 

III. A psychological method which is intended to give an explana- 
tory background to the facts observed. 

1. Broad philosophical treatment of sociological facts 

derived from a study of the beliefs and practices of 
primitive man. 

2. Psychological study of children. 

3. Examination of the unconscious mind. 

4. Intelligence tests. 

5. Dreams, songs, and folklore. 


A popular belief that intelligence is a fixed concomitant of race is i 
probably fallacious. Professor R. H. Lowie (1923) says, "As to the 
existence of superior races I am an agnostic open to conviction. All 
evolutionists admit that at some point an organic change of funda- 
mental significance occurred. It is conceivable that the Bushman 
and Negrito, Pygmies and Negroes, are organically below the 



Psychology 277 

remainder of living human types, and that differences of one sort or 
another divide even more closely related stocks. But between what 
is conceivable and what is definitely established there yawns a 
chasm; and where the scientist has no proof he holds no dogmas, 
though dispassionately he may frame tentative hypotheses." 

Lowie discusses the difference between average intellectual 
capacity and variability of mental capacity in a race. Two races, 
or other biological groups, might coincide in their average mentality 
but differ in range, so that one group might produce far more remark- 
able individuals in both positive and negative directions. If this 
could be established, we could account for differences in cultural 
achievement without assuming that the average level of intelli- 
gence varies in different cultures. Dr. F. Boas (1911, 1928) has 
written a similar protest against the assumption that a certain mental 
potentiality is an innate accompaniment of the bodily features that 
are said to constitute a race. See also T. R. Garth (1931). 


The hypothesis that big brains imply great intellectual possi- 
bilities, and that small brains indicate impossibility of achievement, 
has to be abandoned. Weight of brain and cubic contents of the 
skull are closely correlated with height and weight of body, since a 
large part of the brain is concerned with directing motor activities. 
Moreover, there is little or no correlation between cranial capacity 
and examination marks. Reid and Mulligan (1923), Garth (1931), 
Willey and Herskovits (1927), Klineberg (1930), Aldrich (1931) and 
I Fick (1929), have all contributed to the discussion of theories of 
I racial mental endowment and alleged racial differences in mental 
I capacity. 

Certain observations recently carried out on 3,444 male subjects 
■ in Kenya have a bearing on the subject of cranial capacity and 
intelligence. The average cranial capacity was found to be 1316 cc, 
which is low compared with the cubic capacity of European 
! crania (1481 cc). During the period ten to twenty years of age, the 
, average yearly increase of cranial capacity for Kenya natives is 
; 8.5 cc. and for Europeans 17.7 cc, which is more than twice as great. 
' After puberty, the brains of Europeans increase in size and weight, 
I but the brains of Kenya natives grow scarcely at all (Nissen, 1935; 
! Fick, 1929). 

I Dr. H. L. Gordon (1934) who has worked in the laboratory of 

I Dr. F. W. Vint, pathologist to the Kenya Government, states that 

brains of 100 normal, adult male natives of Kenya weighed on the 

278 Source Book for African Anthropology 

average 150 grams less than the European average. Dr. Vint's 
research has shown that the cortex or gray matter of Kenya natives' 
brains displayed a 15 per cent quantitative deficiency when com- 
pared with the European cortex. The cortex cells of Kenya brains 
were smaller, not so well formed, and not so well arranged as those of 
Europeans. The Kenya cortex is notable for the large predominance 
of undifferentiated cells. 

Anthropologists have little definite evidence of this kind on which 
to build their theories, and even research of this nature does not 
touch the fundamental problem. Brains may be small and the 
cells may be undifferentiated when compared with European exam- 
ples, but what anatomical differences would take place in a few gen- 
erations of stimulating environment, if the mental outlook and all 
kinds of intellectual contacts were fostered? No one is able to say 
what improvement might take place in the size and efficiency of 
the central nervous system as a result of changed environmental 

The functioning of ductless glands and the addition of hormones 
to the blood stream is to some extent understood in relation to 
normal growth and the development of sex characters. A patho- 
logical study of the results of excessive or subnormal secretions from 
the glands is in progress, and many facts have been accumulated. 
The feasible suggestion that the activities of ductless glands deter- 
mine temperament and mental characteristics in individuals and in 
biological groups has been advanced. But at present such specula- 
tions are largely theoretical. A biological study carried out by 
anatomical and physiological observations at present gives no satis- 
factory explanation of mental differences. Other methods of approach 
through the data of sociology, ethnology, and psychology remain 
to be tried. 


Sociologists, stimulated by Herbert Spencer, have attempted 
comparative study of racial and tribal mentality by collating the 
opinions of travelers, traders, and missionaries. This method is 
entirely unsatisfactory for several reasons. According to personal 
impressions, which were often based on brief acquaintance and a 
misunderstanding of primitive customs, a tribe might be described 
as hospitable, cunning, ferocious, licentious, cruel, or stupid. Sacri- 
fice of human victims is not the result of a lust for blood, but rather 
a logical concomitant of religious beliefs. The victims themselves 
regarded the rites as necessary ceremonies for transferring their 

Psychology 279 

services from a ruler in the flesh to one in the spirit. Zulu and Masai 
warriors, though ruthless in warfare, were not an innately cruel 
people ; they were the inevitable product of a certain military system. 
Many tribes have been misjudged on the grounds of infanticide, the 
poison ordeal, or the practice of ceremonial cannibalism, while cer- 
tain customs such as polygyny and the lending of wives have led to 
an assumption of promiscuity. This kind of sampling cannot give 
any dependable data. 

Another fallacious m^ethod of assessing mentality and intelligence 
is the comparative study of achievement in industries, social organi- 
zation, and religion. At one time sociologists spoke of races and 
tribes as being high or low in the scale of humanity, and the judg- 
ment was passed after consideration of the arts and handicrafts. 
Therefore, according to this criterion, Bushman and Pygmy hunters 
were low because they have no knowledge of working in metals. 
Under this arbitrary system of classifying people as savage, bar- 
baric, or civilized according to their knowledge of iron-working or 
making pottery, certain confused social categories were established. 
These were artificial divisions without any basis in reality. Different 
environments have afforded different opportunities, and successful 
adaptation to conditions is a more valid test than consideration of 
absolute attainment. 


This desire to compare and place in categories according to some 
quantitative standard finds recent expression in the invention of 
intelligence tests. These investigations are supposed to assess 
inborn intelligence, apart from the mental condition that is a result 
of environmental factors. The results of the tests are expressed in 
arithmetical form as scores which enable comparisons to be made 
with precision. Thus Negroes have a certain intelligence quotient, 
and this can be compared with the quotient for other biological 
groups (Garth, 1931). 

In addition to objections of a technical kind relating to the test 
questions and the nature of the performance required, the erratic 
nature of living subjects is a further argument against the validity 
of the tests. The investigators are dependent on capricious, nervous, 
or perhaps apathetic beings on whose good will and concentration 
the results depend. 

When a psychologist asserts that his tests show that Negroes are 
inferior in intelligence to white men, and that this is true for groups 
of all ages in the two populations, opponents of the tests point out 

280 Source Book for African Anthropology 

that differences in social background must necessarily invalidate 
the results of all experiments that are designed to discover racial 
differences in intelligence. 

Moreover, argument against the validity of the tests as criteria 
of innate intelligence is pursued by showing that, despite the sup- 
posed low intelligence of the average Negro, great achievements have 
been made even by full-blooded African Negroes who have qualified 
in law, medicine, music, and literature. Born in bush villages, and 
educated at small mission schools, they have finally graduated 
in European or American universities, and have proved themselves 
equal to white competitors. All tests of a quantitative kind, both 
physiological and psychological, fail to prove an innate mental grad- 
ing of races and tribes according to intelligence, and so far as Africa 
is concerned we have little experimental knowledge to show the 
changes in average attainment which may be expected to follow 
an improved social and physical environment. 

Psychological tests of intelligence have been made at the Jeanes 
School, Kabete, Kenya. But the investigator, R. A. C. Oliver 
(1933, 1934), does not feel sure that these tests are valid for com- 
parative study of various east African tribes. Still greater is the 
uncertainty that such tests would be valid for comparing the intelli- 
gence of tribes whose social backgrounds and general cultures show 
great disparity. The average intelligence of the Kenya pupils was 
85 per cent of that of European children, but 14 per cent of the 
natives equaled or surpassed the average for Europeans. 

A student who does not dem.and quantitative measurements will 
find helpful psychological studies in Earthy (1933), Frahsle (1922, 
1923), Dougall (1932), and Herskovits (1935). R^mondet (1935) 
has made a valuable short study of child psychology among west 
African Negroes, and Sidib^ (1932) has analyzed the gaiety of 
African Negroes. 


Anthropologists who are concerned with a qualitative study 
rather than quantitative measurement have several practical meth- 
ods for investigating the mental life of a tribe. A well-prepared 
monograph gives an account of the social, religious, and economic 
life, all of which aspects are shown in their mutual dependence. 
The objection that such a method is too static, and that the divisions 
are too formal, is invalid provided the investigator stresses the inter- 
relation of the various factors of tribal life. A functional study may 
select some salient factor of communal life, for example, sexual 

Psychology 281 

relationships, or the quest for food, with a view to showing that vari- 
ous traits cluster round certain pivotal factors (A. I. Richards, 
1932). This method is effective, though the inquiry is liable to create 
misconceptions, for social life is usually a complicated assemblage 
of traits whose mutual dependence is so complete that the choice of 
some one pivotal trait or institution is misleading. 

Within recent years several ethnological stories have made a 
successful presentation of the inner working, that is, the psychology 
of African tribal life. The essential qualifications for writing ethno- 
logical stories are close personal acquaintance with the people 
described, and genuine sympathy and understanding of their points 
of view. 

In Donald Frazer's "The Autobiography of an African" (1925), 
a study of Bantu psychology and behavior is achieved by a descrip- 
tion of the life history of Mtusu, who abandoned his native faith 
and culture in favor of Christian environment. Here is an account 
of the effect of two conflicting cultures on the mind of an individual, 
whose mental disharmonies and attempts at adjustment are effec- 
tively described. 

A practical approach to a social and psychological study of Zulu 
life is to be found in "Chaka, an Historical Romance," by T. Mofolo 
(1931), an educated Mosuto, who wrote an account of his life in 
' Sesuto, the language of his people. The narrative gives a clear 
' insight into the reactions of an individual toward his own institu- 
tions, so that a reader without any technical knowledge of ethnology 
or psychology is made to understand the functioning of religion, 
[social obligations, and economic conditions, which unite to form a 
. social pattern. J. H. Driberg's (1930) account of the Dindinga, and 
Ntara's "Man of Africa" (1935) attempt a realistic portrayal of the 
psychology of tribal life by descriptions of events and persons, 
together with the use of direct speech in the form of dialogue. In the 
same category of books is Rattray's (1935) "The Leopard Priestess." 
Perham (1936) has made a psychological study by analyzing the 
' reactions of ten Africans to European influence. In French, Torday's 
1 "Causeries Congolaises" and R. Maran's stories are excellent. 

Since the Negro mind expresses itself in speech and action 
;the mentality cannot remain totally inscrutable, so states B. Huss 
; (1931), yet a fallacy may enter into this apparent truism. Thought, 
language, and actions are closely related in their development, and 
I so intimate are they that an attempt to translate into the English 
language may give rise to many conceptions which were never a 

282 Source Book for African Anthropology ^ 

part of the indigenous philosophy. In studying African religions, 
for example, English terms often fail to express the African connota- 
tions. Moreover, although the actions of persons and groups may 
be carefully studied, European interpretation of the motives behind 
the acts and institutions is likely to give rise to doubtful hypotheses. 
Europeans have been resourceful and ingenious in their explanations 
of indigenous African beliefs and ceremonies, but speculative phi- 
losophy is hazardous. 

J. A. Winter (1914) makes a practical approach to the study of 
native African mentality by considering trials in law courts accord- 
ing to the processes of Bantu law. He also deals with division of 
labor between the sexes, the effect of satirical songs, and the function- 
ing of a polygynous system. R. E. Dennett's "At the Back of the 
Black Man's Mind" (1906) is not a profound psychological study, 
but an approach to interpretation of Negro concepts by a detailed de- 
scription of rites and beliefs connected with the use of ceremonial 
objects, sacred groves, and magical practices. An explanation of a 
philosophical kind, which involves analysis and generalization, is 
given by Dennett in relation to certain religious concepts, but, gen- 
erally speaking, a reader is left to draw his own interpretations from 
the factual material. A very practical psychological study has been 
made by D.Crawford (1912), whose book, "Thinking Black," was 
written after twenty-two years of continuous experience in central 
Africa. W. M. Wundt (1916) is both practical and speculative. He 
considers numerous rites, beliefs, and material traits with a view to 
explaining origins and developments from the simple to the complex. 

In their practical analysis of the thought processes that underlie 
indigenous beliefs and the outward expression of these, B. Gutmann 
(1911) and P. Radin (1927) have examined folklore, songs, poetry, 
and proverbs. The former wrote of the Dschagga tribe of Kiliman- 
jaro, while the latter selected a broader basis for study, which 
included linguistic evidences of thought processes among North 
American Indians and the Maori of New Zealand. 


The psychological technique of L^vy-Bruhl (1922, 1927, 1931) 
is a method of investigation founded upon broad geographical and 
ethnological studies. In fact, the philosophy is concerned with 
primitive man in general and is not confined even to one race or 
continent. On the practical side consideration is given to primitive 
man's attitude toward birth, sickness, accident, death, dreams, 

Psychology 283 

omens, divination, ordeals, and the invention of myths as a rational 
explanation of natural phenomena. 

The researches of L^vy-Bruhl assert that the mental reactions of 
primitive man, when considered broadly, give evidence of the opera- 
tion of certain laws. For example, the Law of Participation, when 
operating, assumes a connection between two occurrences or condi- 
tions. These two factors, traits, or events, are regarded as cause 
and effect without there being any demonstrable connection between 
them. Linkage is of a magical kind due to the operation of forces 
and powers that cannot be understood, though they may be con- 
trolled to some extent by suitable ritual. Dr. R. R. Marett's 
(1907, 1911, 1935) consideration of the nature of taboos and the 
psychological content of religious experience are a part of the broad 
philosophical approach to social and psychological studies. 

E. Durkheim (1912) has sought a general philosophy which shall 
explain certain psychological and social phenomena, such as social 
cohesion, and man's attitude toward forces of nature that control his 
life. Durkheim has made generalizations respecting the psyche of a 
social unit. Individual ideas and the mentalities of persons are 

i united to form a psychic whole. This mental entity is a social force, 
a superorganic, which is strong enough to secure social cohesion and 
to dominate the lives of all the individuals who constitute a social 

[ group, such as the village unit or the tribe. 


A recent trend in psychological investigation has been the appli- 
I cation of methods, which were primarily therapeutic and concerned 
I with the content of the unconscious mind, to the explanation of 
I ethnological data. C. G. Seligman (1924, 1928) and B. Z. Seligman 
(1934), with acknowledgments of the initial work of Jung and William 
James, have called attention to the existence of introvert and extra- 
vert types of mind in normal individuals. Moreover, one of these 
mental types may be characteristic of a tribe or a still broader ethnic 
' division. The Dinka look inward, and they are absorbed in their 
j own cultural interests, to the exclusion of ideas resulting from con- 
; tact with foreigners. On the contrary, many Negro tribes are recep- 
' tive because of their extravert disposition, which, as the name implies, 
enables them to look outward and to be receptive of new ideas and 
I traits. But, even though such a classification may be explanatory of 
certain attitudes, one cannot be sure whether an innate type of 
: mind has made the social environment, or whether the mentality is 
merely a product of physical environment and historical events. 

284 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Undoubtedly, these external factors must have a potent effect in 
shaping mass mentality and social attitudes. 

The researches of E. Jones (1924) emphasize the similarity of 
data resulting from investigations of anthropologists and psycho- 
analysts. In exploring the unconscious mind, over which the con- 
scious mind acts as a censor, groups of ideas, implicit beliefs, and 
attitudes, represent a stratum of mind which is more archaic than 
the one which usually manifests itself through normal behavior. 
S. Freud (1918) has shown that mental processes go on without the 
conscious self having any idea of their existence. Research in folk- 
lore and mythology explores this unconscious mind with a view to 
showing stages in early mental development. The conscious 
thinking of primitive man is said to be more extensively influenced 
by unconscious factors than are the mental processes of sophisticated 

Psychoanalysis of the unconscious mind has led to the formation 
of hypotheses which help to explain certain sexual avoidances, 
religious concepts, methods of interpreting dreams, and the use of 
sexual symbolism by primitive people. Psychoanalysis has shown 
that in the minds of young children there exists a tendency toward 
sexual love for parents. This fact is thought by some psychologists 
to afford an explanation of the strict avoidance of certain relatives, 
and the existence of stringent marriage rules with definite prohibi- 
tions. In fact, the whole system of totemism and exogamy observed 
by many primitive tribes, who know the natural tendency toward 
certain forms of incest, is a striving to avoid incestuous relationships. 

Ideas of the extermination of self are inconceivable to the uncon- i 
scious mind, and conscious life will not tolerate them, possibly 
because the thought of annihilation of ego is offensive to pride, and 
destruction at death means permanent severance from kindred. 
Possibly this fundamental and ineradicable fear of the destruction 
of self has led to the invention of beliefs in reincarnation, salvation, 
and immortality. Burial, in pre-dynastic Egypt, for example, often 
shows that the position of the corpse was determined by a definite 
belief in rebirth, for the bodies are placed in a fetal position, so 
suggesting a return to the womb. Thus runs one line of argument. 

Psychoanalytical study has further shown that constant repres- 
sion of certain ideas, sexual and otherwise, contained in the uncon- 
scious mind may lead to psychoses and ill-health. Two ethnologists- 
have recently applied this idea to a study of anthropological data. 
R. S. Rattray (1928) has pointed out that in Ashanti an actor's 

Psychology 285 

license permits subtle raillery against powerful persons. In the 
presence of a chief a person who is aggrieved abuses a friend with 
invective that in reality is directed against the chief himself. This 
practice provides a safety valve for repressed emotions. The func- 
tion of collective obscenities as an outlet for sexual desires that have 
been suppressed has been described by E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1929). 
He shows that the existence of appointed periods of sexual laxity, 
perhaps accompanied by saturnalian feasts, which have been usual 
in all parts of the world and at all periods, may really be instances of 
a conscious effort to avoid the deleterious effects of constant sup- 
pression and censorship. Other contributors to the psychoanalytic 
method are Roheim (1932, 1933, 1934), Malinowski (1924), Hersko- 
vits (1934), and Bonaparte (1934). 

As a part of the psychoanalytic technique, dreams among back- 
ward people are now receiving attention, and the work done has 
been summarized by Lincoln (1935). This volume is a compre- 
hensive contribution to oneiromancy, a subject which will be referred 
to again in describing the functions of the medicine-man (section III). 
Lincoln makes a historical review of oneiromancy in which he 
distinguishes two main approaches to the study of dreams, (1) an 
animistic attitude, and (2) a rationalistic attitude, both of which 
have functioned jointly and separately in various times and places. 
He considers to what extent these attitudes prevail in existing 
primitive cultures. 

I There is a dearth of African dream material for analysis, and in 

I future such data should be collected with the following points in 

! (1) Study of two principal dream patterns, namely, the "indi- 

I vidual," "unsought," or "spontaneous" dream occurring in sleep, 
and the "induced" dream which is sometimes called the "culture 

' pattern dream." 

1 (2) The function of the dream in primitive society, and the 

j beliefs and theories about it. 

(3) The relation of the manifest content to the immediate culture. 

(4) The influence of dreams on primitive cultures, and the extent 
i to which culture items have originated in dreams. 

(5) The forms and symbols of primitive dreams, together with 
their distribution and their constant or varying meanings. The 
inquirer wishes to know whether analysis of primitive dreams and 
symbols, with their associations, shows the same latent motives 

286 Source Book for African Anthropology 

and meanings as among people of more complex cultures. So far as 
the evidence goes, the psychological structure of primitive dreams 
appears to be identical with that of non-primitive dreams. 

Lincoln discusses the relationship between dreams, myths, and 
folklore and in doing so makes use of the researches of Freud, Selig- 
man, Rivers, and Rank. Some of the concrete instances are selected 
from the writings of Rattray and other African ethnologists. A 
portion of the work is devoted to a survey of messianic cults and 
dreams, the medicine-man as a prophetic dreamer, and the inspira- 
tional dream as a creative force in literature, invention, art, and 


Widely distributed among primitive tribes, and common in the 
spiritual life of African Negroes, are animistic ideas which attribute 
a conscious life, and even a definite personality, to various animals, 
trees, and inanimate objects. M. Mead (1932) has reported her 
series of psychological tests among the Manus people of the Admi- 
ralty Islands. The tests were designed to inquire into the hypothesis 
that children have innate animistic tendencies, that are well pre- 
served and evident in primitive society until they are submerged 
by education and civilization, which substitute a knowledge of 
natural laws. Dr. Mead asks whether it is true that there survives 
in the thought processes and in the institutions of primitive man a 
type of mentality which is found to be characteristic of the minds 
of young children in civilization. Are there parallels between 
animism and the spontaneous thought of young children? 

The investigator observed children in ordinary social situations, 
collected drawings, asked for interpretation of the forms of ink 
blots, and asked questions that were designed to provoke animistic 
responses. The experiment failed to show that animistic thought 
could be explained in terms of intellectual immaturity. 

Another inquiry carried out by Mead is of great importance 
as a practical test of the psychological adjustments made during 
culture contacts, especially when there is a dominant and complex 
culture which is gradually submerging a simpler culture. 

The study of case records as carried out by Mead (1932) 
among an Indian tribe is one that would be of great service in many 
regions of Africa, where the new European culture is tending to 
submerge the old indigenous patterns. 

Case records should include an account of aged persons who have 
retained their own culture and are little affected by foreign intrusion. 

Psychology 287 

And as a contrast with these the psychological study of individuals 
should include those who have left their own locality and culture 
for service among foreigners, and have not returned. These records 
should be compared with those of young persons who have found 
only temporary employment with foreigners away from home. Then 
to complete the study the inquiry should include young persons who, 
without leaving home, are making an adjustment to foreign rule 
within their own village. This subject is dealt with in more detail 
in section IV, under the heading of administration and native 


This summary of the methods of research into mentality shows 
that the inquiry is new and experimental; the field is unexplored. 
The most practical methods, and those of greatest utilitarian value 
in administration, are concerned with functional studies, the prepa- 
ration of monographs on tribal life, and the writing of ethnological 
stories recording character studies of persons and analysis of the 
social ethos. Of less immediate practical value are methods which 
seek to establish psychological explanations of conduct, philosophical 
generalizations, and quantitative measurement of ability. Yet the- 
oretical approach is a necessary accompaniment of the practical 
type of investigation which is of definite benefit to teachers and 
administrators, although the observed facts may remain to a great 
'extent unexplained in terms of psychology and philosophy. 
I In our present state of knowledge all pronouncements concerning 
mentality, its origin and possibilities of change, are unreliable, yet 
two truths emerge. In the first place, it will be wise not to assume 
Icertain innate, fixed, ineradicable mental endowments for particular 
jpeoples and tribes, because anatomically and psychologically the 
brain and mind are extremely plastic. Secondly, for the present, 
and pending further development of experimental technique, the 
best clue to a comprehension of mentality, both individual and col- 
lective, is a practical approach by study of historical background, 
'modes of life, beliefs, institutions, culture contacts, and case records. 


Language and Culture 

Despite the tendency to speak of language and culture, a language 
is definitely part of a cultural pattern, perhaps the most important 
trait, since thought and language are so reciprocally related that 
they at once stimulate cultural growth and are in turn developed 
thereby. In the languages of tribes, no matter what their specific 
occupations may be, vocabulary is closely related to the mode of life. 

The value of linguistic evidence as an indication of physical and 
cultural miscegenation may, however, be overestimated. No cul- 
tural trait is more mobile than language; therefore, contiguous 
residence, trade, slavery, and warfare may lead to adoption of 
vocabulary, elements of grammar, proverbs, and folklore, without 
the mixing of physical characters by marriage, or the permanent 
exchange of cultural traits. It is important to note that climatic 
conditions may set definite limits to the use of certain elements of 
culture, such as camels, cattle, horses, canoes, weapons, wood carv- 
ing, and leather work. But the barriers against a mingling of linguis- 
tic elements are not so strongly operative. 

A few instances of the dissemination of a language through 
the agency of trade will serve to illustrate the mobility of language, 
and the fact that a transfer of linguistic elements may occur without 
extensive physical mixture or a general exchange of cultural traits. 

The Umbundu language, which belongs to the Bantu family, is 
understood in all parts of Angola and in places beyond the border, 
because the Ovimbundu were for several centuries renowned traders 
whose caravans were almost transcontinental. In east Africa Swahili 
is spoken over a wide area, and the language, which is a mixture of 
Bantu and Arabic (Werner, London, 1927, 1930b) is understood by 
many tribes who have their own languages and cultures. In west 
Africa Hausa is understood by many tribes in the region between 
Sierra Leone and Lake Chad. Mende, Efik, and Mandingo are 
other examples of "trade languages" that are widely used by tribes 
of different speech and culture. 

A modern problem that has recently engaged the attention of 
the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, and 
with some success, is the preparation of a phonetic script suitable 
for representing the sounds made in all African languages, and the 
selection of basic languages that can be used for purposes of instruc- 





Map 3. 

Map 3. Tentative scheme of distribution of language families. 
Scale: 1 inch=804 miles. 

Languages and Literature 289 

tion in schools where scholars who speak various dialects are assem- 
bled (Westermann and Ward, 1933; Meinhof, 1928). 

Practical aims of this kind are associated with many academic 
and theoretical studies concerning the history of African languages, 
and the two types of research are complementary. To understand 
the nature of historical problems bearing on linguistic change one 
has only to recall the English of Chaucer and to compare this with 
modern English in order to realize the changes in grammar, phonetics 
spelling, and meaning of words that have taken place during six 
centuries. Such changes are progressing rapidly in America today. 
Preservation of examples of archaic speech can be found in rural 
areas, and even in the city of London Chaucerian English is pre- 
served in Cockney speech, 
h In Negro Africa some blacksmiths preserve a speech that differs 
' from their ordinary tribal languages. Priests and priestesses in 
charge of sacred pythons in certain localities of west Africa and 
Uganda speak archaic tongues during ritual performances, and in 
west Africa at the present day archaic forms of speech are preserved 
for use at meetings of secret societies. Further study of these sur- 
; vivals will probably help to explain the nature of linguistic changes. 
' But changes in linguistic form do not necessarily imply a long period 
, of evolution, or devolution. R. S. Rattray (1932a, vol. 1, p. 50) says, 
I "I have myself noticed marked changes in a language during my 
twenty years in Africa. Every unwritten language spoken in Africa 
is in this state of flux." R. M. East (1937) has discussed modern 
tendencies toward linguistic changes in northern Nigeria, and 0. F. 
' Raum (1937) has made a somewhat similar study for east Africa. 
'; Further research may prove that Pygmies of the Belgian Congo, 
I who have great linguistic ability, had at one time their own language 
or languages which were gradually discarded in favor of various 
Bantu languages; the matter is at present undertermined (Ouzilleau, 
1911; Schebesta, 1933, pp. 26, 250). 

Clearly, therefore, the rapidity of linguistic changes gives rise to 
new forms of speech and to a mingling of parent types of speech, 
i Consequently each new formation leads farther away from the 
'parental stem, and so the historical problem of tracing origins and 
relationships is rendered more difficult. 

Classification of Languages 

{Map 3) 

I C. Meinhof (1906, 1929, 1932) expressed the idea that the 
linguistic unity of Bantu languages could be most easily understood 

290- Source Book for African Anthropology 

by presupposing a common origin for all the members of the large 
group. Research was directed toward the establishment of charac- 
teristic features of this original or Ur-Bantu, and attention was paid 
to both grammatical structure and phonology. A map of Bantu 
tribes and the distribution of language families is given at the 
end of Meinhof's (1932) "Introduction to the Phonology of the 
Bantu Languages." 

W. A. Crabtree (1917) states that he has found undoubted traces 
of Semitic influence in Bantu formatives and Bantu roots. He first 
noticed this coincidence when studying Hebrew. Crabtree gives phil- 
ological reasons for his belief that some of the roots and formative 
elements peculiar to Bantu were employed in a similar sense in the 
Sumerian tongue. Therefore, as in physical anthropology, or in 
studying the history of cultural traits, historical research in relation 
to languages becomes more and more retrospective in an attempt to 
establish phylogenetic relationships. 

For a junior student of African languages there are two books 
eminently suitable as a general approach to linguistic study. 
These are Sapir (1921) and Bloomfield (1933), both of whom discuss 
general problems of structure, historical relationships, and phonetic 

As an introduction to the languages of Africa, the textbooks of 
A. Werner are to be specially recommended because of their clarity. 
Werner's (1930b) "Structure and Relationship of African Languages" 
and (1925a) "Language Families of Africa" might well form the first 
step to more difficult reading. 

Several contributions in German are particularly helpful in 
relation to the problem of linguistic classification and the study of 
changes. Von Koppelmann (1934) has dealt in some detail with the 
possible relationship of climate and speech, while Hestermann 
(1912-13) and Drexel (1925) have very thoroughly reviewed the 
tentative groupings and probable migrations of speech in Africa. 

As source material Werner (1930a) has produced a useful article, 
"English Contributions to the Study of African Languages," and 
Struck's bibliography (1908b) is of great value for those interested in 
the gradual evolution of linguistic study in Africa. In the bibli- 
ography of Struck one will find references to many early standard 
works and dictionaries, such as W. H. I. Bleek (1862, 1869), Cust 
(1883), Van der Burgt (1903), Stapleton (1903). Struck's bibliography 
is of great service in familiarizing a student with the names of 
African languages and the localities in which they are spoken. 

Languages and Literature 291 

A contribution by Mainguard (1934) is of service in outlining the 
nature of language and the various aspects that should be included 
in linguistic study. The main approaches to the understanding of 
the history and structure of a language are by way of phonetics, 
morphology, syntax, and vocabulary, Mainguard then deals very 
lucidly with the linguistic changes due to an impact of Bushmen and 
Hottentots, and of Hottentots and Bantu. 

For periodical literature three valuable sources in English, 
German, and French respectively are "Bulletin of the School of 
Oriental Studies," London; "Mitteilungen des Seminars fiir Orienta- 
lischen Sprachen," Berlin; and "Bibliotheque de I'EcoledesLangues 
Orientales Vivantes." Since the year 1928 bibliographies have been 
published regularly in "Africa," the organ of the International 
Institute of African Languages and Cultures. These bibliographies 
are invaluable as a guide to all recent textbooks, dictionaries, and 
academic studies. An inquiry addressed to the secretary will bring 
expert advice on choice of books if the needs of the student are 
explicitly stated. 

Before proceeding to a further survey of African languages 
reference to Map 3 will be helpful, though the scheme is only tenta- 
tive; in the present state of knowledge there are differences of 
opinion. Yet the map serves its general purpose of showing the 
main linguistic areas and the hypothetical flow of Bantu languages 
from the Lakes region. 

Bushman Languages 

In the year 1837 Arbousset, a French missionary who came into 
contact with Bushmen, compared their speech to the clucking of 
turkeys because of the occurrence of numerous clicks. Clicks occur 
in Zulu and in Sandawe (D. F. Bleek, 1931 ; Dempwolff, 1916), but such 
sounds are more characteristic of Bushman languages than of any 
other speech. Early travelers have often shown a tendency to 
regard the languages of primitive tribes as simple and elementary, 
but the following brief analysis will show that, despite the simplicity 
of cultural patterns when compared with those of Europeans, the 
vocabularies, syntax, and phonetics of African tribes are complex. 

Bushman languages comprise several distinct divisions, a 
northern, a central, and a southern, all of which are related. Hot- 
tentots and Bushmen have a close resemblance in physique and 
language; but according to hypothesis certain linguistic and somatic 
traits of Hottentots are due to Hamitic admixture. The Nama Hot- 
tentots speak a language that has been affected by Hamitic forms. 

292 Source Book for African Anthropology 

In Bushman languages five significant tone levels occur, and one 
word may have five distinct meanings according to the use of a high, 
middle, low, falling, or rising tone. This semantic value is not 
peculiar to Bushman speech. Tonal values are extensively used in 
the Sudanic Negro languages, and to a much smaller extent in Bantu. 

In Bushman languages a dental click is made by pressing the tip 
of the tongue against the front teeth and withdrawing it suddenly. 
The cerebral click is produced by pressure of the tongue against the 
palate, followed by sudden removal. When making a lateral click 
the tongue is quickly withdrawn from the side of the mouth as in 
making the click that urges a horse. In addition to these clicks 
there are the palatal and the labial (see Anders, "The Clicks," 1937). 

Consideration of Bushman languages of the southern group 
shows that the plural of a noun is formed by repetition of the word, 
and the meaning of a word may depend, not only on its tone, but on 
position in the sentence. In the language of the Naron Bushmen 
there are three genders, masculine, feminine, and common, each of 
which is indicated by a suffix. Thus, the word kwe means a human 
being, and the gender is common since no sex is indicated. But if 
the speaker wishes to mention that the human being was a man he 
uses the word kweba. The last syllable, ha, is a suffix indicating 
masculine gender. Similarly, by adding the feminine suffix sa to 
make the word kwesa, a woman is indicated. In Bushman languages 
other than Naron there is no sex gender, and the word for man or 
woman is used to qualify the substantive. 

Two forms for expressing number are recognized in the southern 
and the northern Bushman languages, and in Naron and the Hotten- 
tot languages there is a form to express duality. The idea of number 
is applied to substantives, to pronouns, and, in a few languages, to 
adjectives. The verb usually remains unaltered in form irrespective 
of the number of the governing substantive. In Auen the plural 
suffix is si. The word !num means "a stone"; Inumsi is the plural. 
The sign .' stands for an initial click. In English transcriptions of 
Bushman languages each kind of click, dental, labial, etc., is repre- 
sented by a distinctive sign. 

Three classes of persons are recognized by all the Khoisan 
languages. There is the person speaking, the person spoken to, and 
the person spoken about; these forms are indicated by personal 
pronouns, both singular and plural. In the southern group of 
Bushman languages there are inclusive and exclusive forms of per- 
sonal pronouns; that is to say, a pronoun may include the person 

Languages and Literature 293 

addressed as well as the speaker, or the person addressed may be 
excluded. The Khoisan languages (Bushman and Hottentot) do not 
have verbal declension, and notion of time (tense) is expressed by 
use of the auxiliary particles. The rules affecting case, and the 
several usages affecting the order of words in a sentence are too 
complicated for enumeration here (Meinhof, 1930). 

The vocabulary of the Khoisan languages is very restricted with 
reference to abstract ideas. On the contrary, an extensive vocabulary 
is used to describe veld lore, wild animals, birds, trees, herbs, roots, 
and the technique of hunting. Comparison of vocabularies of Bush- 
man tribes shows that they have many words in common, and 
Nama Hottentot shares a large number of root words with one or 
another of the Bushman languages. Schapera (1930a, pp. 417-438; 
1926, pp. 833, 866) quotes evidence to indicate that Hottentot 
languages are shown by recent research to have closer affinities with 
Bushman than with Hamitic languages, though the Hamitic elements 
are undeniable. 

SuDANic Languages 

Sudanic Negro languages are distributed over a large zone 
extending from Gambia in far west Africa to a region west of the 
River Nile. To the north of the Sudanic area are the Hamitic and 
Semitic tongues of north Africa, and to the south are the Bantu 
languages; this juxtaposition has resulted in a mingling of different 
grammatical elements, to a greater or less degree according to 
locality. D. Westermann (1930) states that the relationship among 
the Sudanic languages themselves is less obvious than the inter- 
relation of the Bantu languages, whose affinities to one another can 
be readily recognized. The phylogenetic relationship of the Sudanic 
and Bantu Negro languages has been discussed by Westermann in 
detail (1927). In four groups of the Sudanic languages the affix 
system is well developed for dividing nouns into classes as in Bantu 
languages, but this feature may be of independent development, 
and the classes are not necessarily a proof of phylogenetic connection 
with Bantu. 

The main groups of the Sudanic languages (Westermann's 1930 
classification) are given below: 

(1) The Kwa group is spoken from the middle of Liberia to the 
lower Niger. This group includes Ewe-Akan, Kru, Yoruba, Igara, 
Okpoto, Nupe, Ibo, Edo, Bini, and I jaw. Ewe is spoken in the 
extreme southeast corner of the Gold Coast, in the southern half of 
Togo and Dahomey up to 8° N. Lat., and along the coast as far east 

294 Source Book for African Anthropology 

as Badagri. Kru is a Liberian language. The names Yoruba and 
Ijaw are descriptive of large tribes and linguistic divisions in 
Nigeria. The Ibo and the Ijaw can be regarded as the oldest repre- 
sentatives of true Negro stock. 

(2) The Benue Cross-River languages, with Efik and Ibibio as 
two representatives of the group, are located in eastern Nigeria. 

(3) The third group is in central Togoland. 

(4) Gur languages are spoken in northern Togoland and the 
Northern Territories of the Gold Coast. Subgroups in this division 
are Mosi, Dagomba, Kusai, Mamprusi, Gurundsi, and many others. 

(5) The West Atlantic group includes languages spoken in 
Senegal (Yolof and Serer tribes), in Portuguese Guinea, and by the 
Temne and Bulom tribes. 

(6) The Mandingo and Mande languages comprise a large number 
of subdivisions that have been described in detail by Delafosse (1929). 

(7) At the eastern end of the Sudanic zone the most important 
languages are Shilluk, Dinka, Nuer, and Zande. 

The division of African languages into Hamitic, Semitic, Sudanic, 
Bantu, and Bushman is convenient for the present. Such classi- 
fication is justifiable since each main group has distinguishing and 
definite characters, yet the possibility of remote generic relation- 
ship of all the languages should be kept in mind when the character- 
istic features of any one group are under discussion. With further 
research the terminology may be improved. 

The Sudanic languages have traits that serve to give definiteness 
of character, and they have a recognizable morphology in which 
the following features are prominent though not invariable. 

In the first place, the Sudanic languages are monosyllabic and 
isolating, and in this they differ fundamentally from Hamitic and 
Semitic, which are highly inflectional. Sudanic languages are built 
up from certain basic units of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, 
adjectives, and adverbs. Some parts of speech, instead of being 
inflected to express gender, number, tense, and degree, are actually 
changed in form (not merely inflected). Or the unit of speech may 
preserve its form but receive another position in the sentence in 
order to mark a change of meaning. Finally, the high, middle, and 
low tones are used to distinguish differences in meaning of words 
that are otherwise alike. Tonal values are well developed ; but word 
stress is absent. In showing the genitive (possessive case), the 
name of the possessor precedes the name of the thing possessed. 

Languages and Literature 295 

Since there are no relative pronouns, complex sentences are not 
constructed; the arrangement is said to be coordinative. The 
sentence, "He jumped from the ship into the sea," would be rendered, 
"He jumped, he left inside of ship, he fell to sea." Despite this 
apparent simplicity of structure and the absence of inflection, fine 
shades of meaning can be conveyed in some Sudanic languages. 
R. S. Rattray (1932a, vol. 1, pp. 61-63) mentions the expression of 
various conceptions of past and future in the Dagbane language. 
The particle de denotes immediate past, sa refers to events of yester- 
day, and da conveys the idea of a past more remote than today or 
yesterday. In the same way an immediate future, a future limited 
to tomorrow, and a vague future can be expressed. No passive voice 
can be expressed in Sudanic. "The horse was killed by Musa," 
becomes, "It is Musa; he killed the horse." 

The following examples will illustrate the way in which changes 
of meaning are achieved in Sudanic languages, despite the absence 
of inflections. 

In Ibo, which is spoken in several dialects near Onitsha in 
Nigeria, the syllable hu means "carry" and da means "fall." Then 
by combination of these the word buda, "bring down," is made. A 
few examples from Ewe and Yoruba will indicate the dependence 
of meaning on tone. An acute accent indicates a high tone, and a 
grave accent shows a low tone. In Ewe, da means "throw," da, 
"crawl." D6 means "say," and do, "be sad"; do on a level tone 
means "sleep." 

In Yoruba agba on a level tone means "rope"; dghd means an 
"elder," and dgba, "cannon." The meaning of dpo is "a post"; opo 
is "a window," and opo is "to be busy." Gender may be shown in 
this way : ako means male, and aba means female. Therefore, ako-esin 
is a stallion, and abo-esin is a mare. In the Ga language china-nu 
means "bull," and china-yo means "cow." Plurals have usually 
to be judged by the context, but in Nuer singulars and plurals of 
nouns are known by different tones. 

In the Tshi group syllables are brought together to change verbs 
to nouns. Wu means "to die," from which the word awu, 
"murderer," is obtained. Bo means "to worship," and abo is "a 

The Lautbilder described by D. Westermann are sound pictures 
that frequently occur in the Ewe language. Zo-ka-ka means "to 
walk upright"; zo-boko-boko refers to the heavy walk of a fat man; 
and zo-lumo-lumo describes the pattering run of small animals. 

296 Source Book for African Anthropology 

For the further study of tones in Sudanic speech the articles of 
A. L. James (1923, 1928) are important for Yoruba, those of Schober 
(1933) for Ewe, and I. C. Ward (1933) for Efik. Herzog (1934) 
should be consulted for an article on "Speech Melody and Primitive 
Music," and these contributions should be read in conjunction with 
those of Nekes (1911a, 1911b, 1928) on the subject of musical tones 
in Bantu speech. 

For general study of the character of Sudanic speech con- 
tributions by I. C. Ward (1935, 1936), Migeod (1913), N. W. Thomas 
(1920a), and Westermann (1935a) are of great service. Delafosse 
(1929) made a noteworthy study of the Mandingo language, and a 
bibliography of the writings of Delafosse will be found in Fligelman 
(1931, pp. 283-286). Lukas (1936) has written on the "Linguistic 
Situation in the Lake Chad Area." Hambly (1935a) has a bibli- 
ography containing many items of linguistic interest for Nigeria. 

For study of languages of the southern Sudan Struck (1928) has 
provided a bibliography, and A. N. Tucker (1934) has reported on the 
present linguistic situation in an article which includes a tribal map. 
For the Nilotic languages, which are still imperfectly known, G. W. 
Murray's (1920) article will prove useful. An English-Nubian Com- 
parative Dictionary by G. W. Murray (1923a) gives excellent examples 
of the mixture of linguistic elements in Nubian. The language is 
Sudanic, with Hamitic and Semitic elements. Some Greek words 
are present because Nubian was the language of the early Christian 
church of Nubia. Appendix II is a valuable bibliography of Semitic, 
Hamitic, and Nilotic studies. 

Bantu Languages 

The word Bantu, introduced by W. H. I. Bleek (1862-1869), is 
derived from 6a, a plural prefix, and ntu, meaning "a man." The 
name is given to a large linguistic family that includes at least two 
hundred and fifty languages and an undetermined number of dialects. 
Despite diversity of vocabularies, and some morphological differ- 
ences, considerable uniformity of structure exists among languages 
of the Bantu family. Similarity of root words in regions far apart 
may be observed in H. H. Johnston's "A Comparative Study of the 
Bantu and Semi-Bantu Languages." This work classifies Bantu 
languages into groups that are based mainly on similarities in roots 
and vocabularies. 

In addition to Meinhof 's (1932) map of Bantu languages a classi- 
fication of Bantu-speaking tribes has been made by Schapera (1929a), 
and by Van Warmelo (1935) for the Bantu of south Africa. Tessmann 


Languages and Literature 297 

(1932) has written an account of Cameroons languages and has 
prepared a map of distribution for that area. But CM. Doke (1933, 
1935b) states that up to the present time the Bantu languages have 
been classified geographically rather than philologically, and that 
further study is required to give a more satisfactory grouping 
according to structure. 

Some of the main characteristics of the Bantu languages are 
as follows: 

Nouns are divided into classes which vary in number according 
to the particular language under consideration. A noun class can be 
distinguished by a typical singular prefix which is changed to another 
prefix to form a plural. These prefixes form alliterative concords 
with their associated adjectives and pronouns. Bantu nouns have 
no grammatical gender. The genitive requires that the name of the 
thing possessed shall precede the name of the possessor. There 
is distinct word stress; for example, on the penultimate syllable in 
the tribal name Oyimbundu. Tones, which are high, middle, and 
low, have a semantic value; they distinguish the meanings of words 
which are otherwise alike. Bantu has formative elements to express 
case and tense, and the Bantu languages are said to be agglutinative, 
whereas Sudanic is isolating, and Hamitic and Semitic are inflected. 

A few examples from Umbundu, the language of the Ovimbundu 
of Angola (Hambly, 1934a, pp. 234-261) and from Zulu (Doke, 1931b) 
will indicate the structural devices that are used to convey ideas of 
gender, tense, and number. 

In Umbundu the word omunu means "a person." This is a class 
I noun which requires the prefix oma to form the plural; omanu 
means "persons." In class I. a is the word ufeko, "girl," which is 
changed either to afeko or to ovafeko in the plural. In class II the 
word uta is "a gun," which becomes ovota in the plural. 

Alliterative concord between a noun and the qualifying adjective 
is seen in utima utito, "a small heart," which has in the plural 
ovitima vitito. Concord must be observed between a noun and the 
possessive pronoun; therefore, ocitunyu cange, "my pit," or literally 
"pit of me," becomes in the plural ovitunyu viange. Uti wove, "tree 
of you," becomes in the plural oviti viene, "your trees," literally 
"trees of you." 

Verbs and pronouns illustrate further points of syntax. The 
stem of a verb is seen in the imperative singular; for example, tunga 
means "build." "I shall build the house" is translated by ndi 
tunga onjo. "You will build the house" is o tunga onjo, and "They 

298 Source Book for African Anthropology 

will build the house" is va tunga onjo. Merely the personal pronoun 
is changed. The sufRx isa is causative; therefore one might say va 
tungisa onjo, "They caused the house to be built." The prefix oku 
is a sign of the infinitive, as in the forms oku lia, "to eat," and oku 
tunga, "to build." 

The semantic value of tones is not so prevalent in Bantu lan- 
guages as in the Sudanic, nevertheless Bantu tonal values are 
important (Hulstert, 1934; Nekes, 1911a, 1911b, 1928). In Um- 
bundu the following words depend on tone for their meaning. The 
word omhambi (low tone) means a "cold" or "fever," but on a high 
tone the word means "bush buck." Onjila can mean a "bird" or a 
"path." Omhumbi is a "gateway" or a root used in brewing beer. 

Tones shift in bringing a noun into concord with a qualifying 
adjective. The grave accent shows a low tone, and the acute accent 
a high tone. The word uti means a "tree," uti unene is a "large 
tree;" dlweyo, "broom," becomes olweyo luwa, "good broom." 

In the introduction to his Zulu Grammar C. M. Doke (1931b) 
points out that Bantu languages may be classified in two main 
groups: (I) with dissyllabic noun prefixes, and (II) with mono- 
syllabic noun prefixes. Zulu belongs to the former group. Zulu is 
not a pure language, for clicks have been adopted from Bushman 
languages. The three clicks in Zulu are the dental, palato-alveolar, 
and lateral. In Zulu two types of stress exist, a main and a secon- 
dary. If emphasis is required on a particular word, a change in the 
order of the words is usually made. In Zulu, tone is semantic and a 
nine-tone system exists; that is, the range of speech covers nine 
different pitches. The tones are of two main types ; level, and gliding. 
In the following examples the highest tone is marked (1) and the 
lowest tone (9) : 

8 2 9 3 3-i 8—3 

umuzi, kraal umuzi, grass for mats 

In Zulu, tone has a grammatical significance: 

6 6 6 6 3 9 

ngihlanza, I wash ngihlanza, I washing 

Tonal change expresses emphasis: 

6 3 9 4 11-2 

mkhulu, he is big mkhulu, he is very, very big 

Zulu has eight class genders, each of which has its own charac- 
teristic prefix which requires a certain change to mark the plural. 
In proto-Bantu each class of nouns had a definite significance which 
is still recognizable in certain classes of modern Zulu, Class I is 
the personal class. Class VII is the abstract class, and the division 

Languages and Literature 299 

contains nouns expressing collectivity. In Class II the singular 
prefix is umu, and the plural is imi. In Class III the singular prefix 
Hi becomes ama in the plural. 

Gender is indicated by addition of a suffix: imbuzi, "goat," and 
imbuzihaze, "she goat"; inja, "dog," and injakazi, "bitch." In 
addition to the substantive, Doke describes pronouns, adjectives, 
adverbs, verbs, conjunctions, and interjections. 

Each pronoun is itself a complete word which may stand instead 
of a noun, or it may be used in apposition to a noun, either before or 
after the noun without inflection. Adjectives qualify substantives 
with which they are brought into concordial agreement. Adverbs 
indicate time, place, and manner. Many nouns are used as adverbs 
without any inflection. Except in the imperative and the infinitive 
a verb is composed of two parts: (1) a verb stem which may undergo 
various inflections; (2) subjectival verb concord, which may alter 
for certain classes in different moods and conjugations. A verb in 
Zulu is divided into two conjugations, a positive and a negative. 
Each conjugation has seven moods: infinitive, imperative, indicative, 
dependent, situative, potential, and intentional. The indicative 
mood has tenses dividing time into remote past, immediate past, 
present, immediate future, and remote future. 

Hamitic and Semitic Languages 

The Hamitic and Semitic problem, with special reference to 
origins and lines of dispersal, has been discussed by G. A. Barton in 
"Semitic and Hamitic Origins." In opposition to prevailing hypoth- 
esis which makes Arabia the home of an ancestral Hamitic-Semitic 
group, he arrives at the conclusion that philological evidence favors 
a hypothesis of Hamitic origin in north Africa. There is great 
variation in the vocabulary and structure of Hamitic languages as 
a result of Hamitic migrations. On the contrary, Semitic languages 
resemble one another so closely that it is clear that the ancestors 
of those who spoke them must have dwelt for a long time in close 
association and isolated from foreign influence. Hamitic languages 
are older than Semitic. Barton (p. 26) postulates that ancestors of 
Hamites and Semites developed in north Africa, and that Semites 
are derived from a Hamito-Semitic stock that entered Arabia from 
Africa by the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb. 

The ancient Egyptians and Libyans spoke Hamitic tongues, and 
at present the Tamashek language of the Tuareg, and the Berber 
speech which is widely used in north Africa, are based on ancient 

300 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Hamitic languages. Differentiation has taken place unceasingly, 
with the result that several distinct forms of Berber and Tuareg 
languages have been formed. These languages are similar, and both, 
in varying degree according to locality, have been affected by 
Arabic (Semitic). 

Oric Bates (1914, p. 74) gives a list of forty Berber dialects, and 
he provides a useful summary of the views of Basset (1921), Renan 
(1873), Hanoteau (1896) and many other linguists respecting the 
relationship of ancient Libyan to modern Berber and Tamashek 
languages. A comparative study of the symbols of Libyan, T'ifinagh, 
and Punic is made (Bates, pp. 87-89). 

Bertholon (1912, vol. 2, pp. 503-518) speaks of the Hamitic sub- 
stratum of ancient Libyan, Egyptian, modern Berber dialects, and 
Tamashek. The present-day Berber tongues show traces of Negro 
vocabulary, Arabic, Nordic, Greek, and Latin. Destaing (1920) 
has published a vocabulary of Berber dialects. "Berber" is a cor- 
ruption of a Greek word that was originally applied to persons who 
were neither Greek nor Roman. The word has no relation to the 
terms Berberines, or Barabra, which are applied to certain inhabi- 
tants of Nubia, an area to the east of the middle course of the Nile. 
The Berberines speak a Sudanic language. 

Hausa, for which F. W. Taylor (1922) has written an elementary 
grammar, and Bargery has published a standard dictionary (1935), 
is widely spoken in west Africa. Hausa is primarily Hamitic, though 
it has tones like those of the Sudanic Negro languages, and some 
Semitic roots are present. C. Meinhof (1912) classes Fulani as 
proto-Hamitic, and the position of this language has been discussed 
by Drexel (1928). A further example of linguistic mixture may be 
observed in the oasis of Siwa (Basset, 1921), where descendants of 
ancient Libyans preserve elements of old Hamitic speech corrupted 
by Arabic and Tamashek (W. S. Walker, 1921, Cline, 1936a, p. 8). 

In northeast Africa, Hamitic languages are spoken by the Somali, 
Galla, and Danakil. Masai also is Hamitic, and some Hamitic 
elements have affected the speech of the Shilluk, the Dinka, and the 
Nuer, who have languages that are primarily of Sudanic Negro stock. 
In south Africa the Hottentot languages, for example, Nama and 
Korana, have both Hamitic and Bushman elements. In connection 
with the study of Hamitic languages, articles by Vycichl (1935) 
and Brockelmann (1932) will serve to introduce the problem of 
the relationship of Hamitic to other African languages. 

Languages and Literature 301 

Modern Arabic is the most important of the Semitic languages 
of Africa, but some forms of old Semitic tongues are still in use. 
The Beni Amer of the Red Sea Province, who are Hamites, physically 
and culturally, speak Tigr^, which is a modern representative of 
Ge'es (Ethiopic), a relative of the ancient Sabaean of southern 
Arabia. Ge'es is still used for liturgies in the Abyssinian church. 
Amharic is a written language which is a descendant of Ethiopic 
(Semitic) modified by Hamitic (M. Cohen, 1936). 

Arabic, which has spread in Africa since the seventh century, 
has many local forms. In Morocco there occur a shortening of 
vowels, a clipping of terminations, and omission of syllables, when 
compared with standard Arabic. But some of the changes are not 
corruptions; they are rather survivals of archaic forms. A consider- 
able amount of bastard Arabic is spoken in the eastern Sudan 
(A. N. Tucker, 1934). Swahili of the east coast is a Bantu Negro 
language with many Arabic words in the vocabulary. A. and M. H. 
Werner's "First Swahili Book," 1927, 2nd Ed. 1930, is an excellent 
introduction to the study of Swahili; a bibliography introduces the 
student to more advanced works. 

Of practical importance to those beginning a study of Arabic 
language and literature are Willmore's (1927) "Handbook of Spoken 
Egyptian Arabic," and Gibb's (1926) "Arabic Literature." The work 
of Gibb provides a bibliography, and he surveys Arab literature from 
pre-Koranic times to the year a.d. 1800. The book gives a brief 
summary of the history of the Arabs in Africa, Persia, and India. 
Renan's (1863) "Histoire des langues s^mitiques" is a well-known 
classic. Cohen (1924), and others in "Bibliotheque de L'Ecole 
des Langues Orien tales Vivantes" have made contributions to the 
study of Semitic languages. 

The Semitic languages are fully inflected by prefixes, suffixes, 
and vowel changes, and Semitic, unlike Hamitic, has triliteral roots. 
As the name implies, these triliteral roots consist of three parts, 
examples of which are seen in the Arabic qatala, "he killed"; nasara, 
"he helped." 

In the Hamitic languages semantic tones are not usually present; 
but Hausa, Nama Hottentot, and Masai are exceptions, for in these 
tongues certain words, which are otherwise alike, have different 
meanings according to tone. In some Hamitic languages, for 
example, Shila and the Rif dialects of Morocco, stress thrusts out 
vowels and makes harsh guttural sounds. 

302 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Hamitic languages are inflected to give grammatical gender, 
which is not so with Bantu languages, and in Hamitic, inflections are 
used to give tense and number; generally these inflections take the 
form of suffixes rather than prefixes. 

In Hamitic, case relations are usually expressed by a suffix. 
There are masculine and feminine articles, and also a form to express 
common gender. The two plurals are "collective" and "universal," 
both of which are shown by terminal inflections. Polarity is a 
feature of Hamitic languages; that is to say, nouns that are masculine 
in the singular take feminine terminations in the plural, and vice 
versa. The verb usually precedes its subject. The genitive (posses- 
sive) is the same as in Bantu; the name of the thing possessed is 
mentioned before the possessor, for example, "house of you," instead 
of "your house." 

The chief characteristic of the Hamitic and Semitic languages 
in comparison with the Bantu, Sudanic, and Bushman, is their 
high degree of inflection for the expression of number, gender, tense, 
and voice. A few examples of inflection are given below. 

Inflection for number is seen in leslema, "a Mohammedan," 
leslemen, "Mohammedans," and leslemen-t, "the Mohammedan 
world." This example is from Khamir, a Hamitic language of north 
Abyssinia. In Hausa the word sariki means a "king" or "chief." 
The "chief's wife," or "the king's wife" is sarikya; the feminine has 
been expressed by a change of termination. Similarly in Hausa 
yaro means "boy," and yarinya means "girl." In the genitive, a 
change from masculine to feminine is seen in the words "king's son," 
expressed by yaro-n-sariki, and "the king's daughter," which has the 
feminine form yarinya-t-sariki. In Arabic, a change of voice is 
shown by internal inflection. Thus qatala, "he killed," is active 
voice, while qutila is the passive voice, "he was killed." 


{Table 9) 

I. Egyptian hieroglyphs: (A) pennu, mouse; (B) sma, to slay. 
II. Libyan. III. T'ifinagh: (A) naught but good. IV. Amharic: 
(A) river; (B) island. V. Arabic: (A) a game; (B) fifteen. VI. Vai, 
each character is a syllabic sign. VII. Nsibidi: (A) Very great love 
between husband and wife. The center star denotes a warm and 
loving heart; (B) A slave with his hands tied together; (C) The sun. 
VIII. Seven symbols that were added to Greek characters for the 
writing of Coptic. 


■H O 







^ — ^ 






















S^ o^i^ 





a N N s 


304 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The Hamitico-Semitic languages — Egyptian, Arabic, Libyan, 
and Amharic — have written characters, but the only attempts of 
Negroes to invent a script are those of the Vai in Liberia, the Bamum 
in Cameroons, the Efik near Calabar, and a tribe of Sierra Leone 
(Sumner, 1932). Of these scripts, Egyptian and Arabic are the 
most important. The former, first as hieroglyphs, then as cursive 
writing, gives a detailed history of social and religious development 
in Egypt from at least 3500 B.C. onward. Arabic later takes up 
the story of events in north Africa, the Sudan, and the east coast 
from A.D. 700 to modern times. Events of Abyssinian history are 
recorded in Amharic, while Greek, Roman, and Coptic have preserved 
historical records for late Egyptian and north African history. Yet 
these chronicles leave by far the greater part of African history- 
unrecorded. As a general introduction to a study of African script 
Hoffman (1895) and Mason (1920) will be found useful. 

The beginnings of Egyptian writing are unknown, but six 
thousand years ago pictures were used to represent words, and this 
cumbersome method evolved into a cursive hand called hieratic, 
which in turn gave way to demotic. Each change represented a 
simplification and a further conventionalizing of the original hiero- 
glyphic characters. 

In the hieroglyphic system, a draughtboard set with pieces meant 
a game of draughts, but at a later stage in the development of 
Egyptian writing the same drawing conveyed the idea of "being set." 
The pictograph had developed into an ideograph; then came a 
phonetic stage in which the written character appealed to both the 
eye and the ear of the reader. Thus, a picture of a human arm 
primarily meant an arm; later, the syllable heh, "arm," could be 
represented by the picture of an arm to stand for the sound heh 
in any word in which that sound occurred. 

An ingenious use of symbols known as determinatives was 
combined with the use of phonograms, and at the end of the word 
a picture was added. For example, at the end of the phonograms 
giving sounds for the word "woman" a kneeling figure of a woman 
was drawn, to avoid making mistakes in the interpretation of the 
phonetically spelled word. At the end of the phonograms for the 
word "eating," a picture showing a man with his hand to his mouth 
was added. In Table 9, example I A, a hide with tail attached is a 
determinative for the word "mouse." 

By the second century of the Christian era the Egyptian language 
was represented in Greek characters, though some demotic signs 


Languages and Literature 305 

were retained, and two hundred years later, Coptic, in which parts 
of the Bible were written, was generally used (Table 9, example 
VIII). The Egyptians themselves attributed the origin of their 
writing to the god Thoth, who is represented with a pen and a 
writing tablet. Rationalizing by means of explanatory myths is 
usual among people who wish to explain the presence of certain 
important cultural elements. The Egyptians had stories to explain 
not only the invention of writing, but the apparent journey of the 
sun, eclipses of the moon, and other phenomena. 

No reason exists for supposing that Eg5rptian writing was imported 
from outside Egypt, though the speech contains triliteral roots, which 
are characteristic of Semitic tongues, and there are Hamitic features 
as well. Decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and other forms of 
writing did not begin until the year 1802, when a trilingual inscrip- 
tion in Greek, hieroglyphs, and demotic was deciphered from a slab 
known as the Rosetta Stone. Since that time scholars have con- 
centrated on the translation of inscriptions from monuments and 

Oric Bates (1914) states that no inscription in Libyan characters 
has yet proved older than the fourth century B.C. The chief center 
of Libyan culture was west of the Nile, and the dispersal of culture 
was westward to the Canary Islands. 

Study of Libyan inscriptions (Table 9, examples II and III) leads 
to the conclusion that the Libyans adopted characters from Phoeni- 
cian script, and to these signs they added enough owners' marks to 
make an alphabet, which despite its crudity was adequate for their 
needs. Libyan inscriptions are read from below upward, beginning 
usually with the right-hand column. More rarely the inscriptions 
are horizontal; then they are read from right to left (M^lix, 1892; 
Bertholon and Chantre, 1912, vol. 2, pp. 503-518). 

Bertholon and Chantre have prepared a tabular statement in 
six columns showing the similarity of some symbols used in T'ifinagh, 
Libyan, Cretan-Egean, Cypriote, Archaic Greek, and Etruscan. 
Chantre points out that the most ancient traces of Libyan writing 
are rock inscriptions, possibly funerary, and some of these are per- 
haps as early as the Neolithic period in north Africa. According 
to Chantre, the history of our study of Libyan characters is traceable 
to the discovery of a bilingual inscription on a stone found at Dougga 
in the seventeenth century. As a source book for the study of 
Libyan and Punic, Chantre gives the "Revue Africaine" (especially 
Tome 4, pp. 154-237), published by the Soci^t^ Historique d'Alger. 

306 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Some Libyan characters have been incorporated in T'ifinagh, the 
script in which Tamashek (Temajegk), the language of the Tuareg, 
is written. F. R. Rodd (1926, p. 267) states that Ifadeyn Tuareg, 
both male and female, still read and write Tamashek. They use 
the script for messages and for inscribing records of visits on trees 
and rocks. Some present-day writing of the Tuareg (Table 9, III) 
is composed of personal or tribal marks grouped together; but the 
difficulty of deciphering inscriptions in T'ifinagh is due to the fact 
that they may be written to read up or down, from left to right, or 
from right to left. H. R. Palmer (1932) connects T'ifinagh script 
with the Sabaean characters of south Arabia and those of the 
Ethiopic alphabet. He believes that the Tuareg first entered the 
Sahara, A.D. 300-600, bringing camels from the eastern Sudan. 

Amharic, an ancient Semitic tongue, has been the official written 
language of Amhara, the central province of Abyssinia, since A.D. 
1300. Amharic is written in Ethiopic characters (Brauner-Plazi- 
kowski, 1914, Cohen, 1936), but the use of this language has been 
too restricted to assist with general problems of African history 
(Table 9, IV). 

Arabic (Table 9, V A and B) is now the official language of Egjrpt 
and many parts of north Africa. The history, philosophy, religion, 
poetry, and folklore of the Arabs are contained in many books and 
manuscripts, and Arabic is used in modern newspapers of Egypt. 
Historical documents and correspondence in Arabic show an ornate 
style. The former begin with, "In the name of Allah, the com- 
passionate, the merciful," and the latter have a complimentary 
introduction, "To the Great and Glorious Governor, peace be unto 
thee, and the mercy of God and his blessing." On the outside of the 
folded paper may be written, "To reach, if it please God, the hand 
of . . . ;" then follows the name of the recipient. 

In Mohammedan schools children may be seen seated on the 
ground before their mallam, who instructs them in writing Koranic 
texts on smooth boards with ink and reed pens, after which the 
texts are chanted in unison (Fig. 61). Arabic is used for writing 
Hausa, Mandingo, and Swahili, but E. Steere (1908) states that 
Arabic characters will never be able to express the sounds of Swahili. 
The reason for this is that Swahili has five vowels and Arabic has 
only three. Arabic supplies no characters for the Swahili con- 
sonants ch, g, p, or v. 

The Vai of Liberia, who are ethnologically part of the Mandingo 
people, have a script that Koelle of the Church Missionary Society 

T L , ig^ 

Fig. 61. Mohammedan education. a. Mallam of Bida, Nigeria, writing 
Koranic texts. 6. School in Kano market, Nigeria. 


308 Source Book for African Anthropology 

traced to the independent invention of Bukere, a Vai who died in 
the year 1850. Bukere stated that he had a dream in which a white 
man appeared and explained to him the use of writing. Bukere then 
noted all the sounds in the Vai language and gave to each sound a 
sign. Inspection of the 160 characters indicates that these are of 
independent origin; the script does not appear to be related to any 
system of calligraphy, African or otherwise. An editorial note in 
HAS, vol. 1, 1917, p. 292 gives important data relating to the 
history of the Vai script, and a facsimile of the first published script 
is shown. 

The Vai signs have changed in form and munber to some extent 
since their invention, but they still provide a script that has been 
used for writing parts of the Bible and the Koran. The characters 
are mainly geometrical, but some pictographs exist. A circle with 
dots for eyes and a stroke for a mouth represents a human head, 
while a stick and twisted lines symbolize fire (Migeod, 1909; Mas- 
saquoi, 1911; Klingenheben, 1933; Johnston, 1906, vol. 2, pp. 1116- 
35). For a sample of Vai characters see Table 9, example VI. 

When the chief Njoya of the Bamum tribe of Cameroons was a 
youth of sixteen years, his father became interested in books, chiefly 
the Koran, carried by Hausa traders. In later years Njoya instructed 
his officers to invent signs to express sounds in their language, and 
from this collection he chose the most useful symbols. 

Njoya purchased slates and made himself a teacher of the script, 
and Malcolm (1920b), quoting Goring (1907), states that six hundred 
natives were able to read and write the new characters. Njoya kept 
a record of events in this script, and he used it for keeping tally of 
purchases. H. H. Johnston, in his preface to Malcolm's article, 
states that the Bamum script resembles Vai writing, and that some 
of the signs are trade-marks from packing cases, and with this 
opinion L. W. G. Malcolm agrees (Malcolm, 1920; 0. G. S. Crawford, 
1935; Labouret, 1934b). 

In the year 1905, T. D. Maxwell, District Officer at Calabar in 
east Nigeria, discovered a secret primitive writing among the Efik. 
The characters are to some extent pictographic, though the signs 
have become so conventionalized that their meaning is not apparent. 
The script takes the name of a powerful secret society, Nsibidi, 
to which only chiefs might belong. Messages were sent in Nsibidi 
(Table 9, example VII), whose characters were cut or painted on 
palm stems. The characters of this script are painted on the faces 
of girls by their female relatives. P. A. Talbot (1912, p. 320) states 

Languages and Literature 309 

that "sometimes a girl's life history is proclaimed in this manner." 
The Ekoi assert that the script was taught by monkeys who sat 
round their campfires. Certain signs represent a trial before the 
courthouse, which is shown as an oval, while the executioners are 
indicated by five symbols, each formed like a letter T. This script 
is used for writing complete stories, some of which are shown by 
Talbot in pictures of Nsibidi accompanied by translations. Articles 
by Macgregor (1909) and Dayrell (1911) give further information 
about the script Nsibidi. 


The wit and humor of brief sententious sayings can be illustrated 
by examples from Hamitic and Negro languages. These aphorisms, 
riddles, and proverbs are used to point out a moral, to impress 
children, or to give point to an argument, and in addition there may 
be some latent content that gives veiled expression to sexual or other 
ideas which are usually suppressed. 

The Tuareg, whose lives have been associated with raids and 
reprisals, express mistrust in the proverb, "It is better to see than to 
believe." Other aphorisms that are relevant of their mentality are: 
"It is better to conceal than to refuse"; and "Noise and the chase do 
not go together." 

The following are proverbs collected from a district west of the 
Cavally River, which divides Liberia from the Ivory Coast. These 
and many similar ones are used by five tribes collectively known as 
the Gweabo (Sapir and Blooah, 1929; Herzog and Blooah, 1936). 

The palm tree says, "We do not know the child of wealth by his 
size." The meaning is that the largest palm does not necessarily 
give the greatest weight of nuts; the appearance of a person is not a 
reliable indication of his wealth. If a stranger is presumptuous, he 
is reminded of his position in the village by the proverb, "A stranger's 
feet are small," a sentence that refers to the bartering of chickens. 
These birds find themselves in new places among strange and 
possibly hostile poultry; therefore, the new arrivals have to step 
warily. Impecunious people express optimism in an expression which 
is attributed to a frog who said, "I possess nothing, but I have my 

R. S. Rattray (1928, p. 304) asked some people of Ashanti whether 
they did not protest when the king used false weights to his own 
advantage when weighing gold dust. To express the danger and the 
futility of protesting against royalty the people quoted their proverb, 
"One does not rub bottoms with a porcupine." 

310 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The Ibo of Nigeria say, "When a traveler reaches a land where 
men cut off their ears he cuts off his own." This is equivalent to 
the English, "Do in Rome as the Romans do." The proverb, "Charity 
begins at home," has a parallel in the Ibo saying, "It is the place a 
man lives in that he repairs." The proverb, "When you play with a 
puppy, he tears your clothes," means that "familiarity breeds con- 
tempt." (Basden, 1921, p. 283.) 

From the Ovimbundu of Angola, Hambly (1934a, pp. 253-254) 
collected a few brief sayings, some of which are quoted below: 

"You cannot tie a buck's head in a cloth; the horns will stick out." 
This means, "Murder will out." 

"A turtle cannot climb on a tree stump; someone has to put it 
there." The saying refers to inheritance of kingship which usually 
descends to the oldest son of the deceased chief's principal wife. 
But if this youth is foolish, another successor is chosen. Yet influen- 
tial persons may see their own advantage in aiding the foolish heir 
to gain office — the "turtle has been placed on the tree stump." 

In order to deride a person who makes threats or promises that 
he is unable to fulfill, the Ovimbundu say, "Hot water does not burn 
a house," or "Cold water does not make mush." The proverb, "A 
sleeping dog does not catch a hare," has a similar meaning. 

If two persons have a secret, the fact is expressed by saying, "They 
uncovered the pot, ate a little honey, and covered it again." 

As a warning not to be foolish through good fortune, the Ovim- 
bundu say, "If you are full of food, do not climb on a leopard's back." 
The implication is that, although you yourself are not hungry, the 
leopard may have a good appetite. 

Understanding of some proverbs depends entirely on a knowledge 
of local customs. The aphorism, "That which destroyed the buck 
came from its own head," may appear meaningless until we recall 
the custom of blowing a horn to attract the attention of antelope. 
If the curiosity of the animals is aroused they will stand still or even 
approach the sound. 

"I caught some fish but lost my bracelet," is quoted when a loss 
in some transaction exceeds the gain. The saying would be appropri- 
ate if a man gave up his occupation and accepted work for lower pay. 

In a riddle which asks what object in the hut is like a human life, 
a certain philosophical trend may be seen. The answer is, "The log 
that is gradually pushed into the fire." Like a human life, the log is 
being consumed while it lives. Considerable material for study will 


Languages and Literature 311 

be found in the pages of Gutmann (1909) ; Lindblom (1935) ; Meinhof 
(1911); Schapera (1932a), and Junod and Jaques (1936). 


Although stories are told for amusement among all Negro tribes, 
no African tribe, Negro or otherwise, is without mythology, folklore, 
and fables. These expressions of thought and emotion cannot be 
regarded as mere diversions. Careful study of story and myth 
shows historical facts, makes a revelation of ordinarily concealed 
mental processes and attitudes, and gives evidence of the relation 
of culture to literary expression. Let us consider a few tales 
which exemplify some of these points. 

Stories most commonly heard among Negroes are those relating 
to the adventures of animals, and although these may be primarily 
concerned with quaint humor they bring out clearly several main 
principles connected with the growth of folklore. 

In addition to their agricultural and pastoral pursuits the Ovim- 
bundu retain important elements of a hunting culture. The close 
observation of animal life which is necessary for successful hunting 
has resulted in the acquisition of a large and specialized vocabulary 
relating to nature lore of all kinds. Stories distinguish species of 
mammals, birds, and reptiles with great precision. 

A second point of importance is the didactic nature of stories 
revealing the results of conceit, cowardice, and selfishness, while 
extolling the virtues of hospitality, bravery, and modesty. The 
tortoise constantly plays the part of one who is despised and ignored, 
yet he frequently proves more than a match for adversaries who 
underestimated his ability. The hare is symbolical of persons who 
exercise their wits to the detriment of others, but he overreaches 
himself and is frequently punished. 

The origin of etiological tales may be associated with the opera- 
tion of curiosity and fear. Naive stories take the place of natural 
science and of explanations that are based on the known sequences 
of causes and effects. As a consequence of differences in the premises 
of primitive man and of modern science, the respective conclusions 
are at variance. An excellent series of explanatory myths relating to 
earthquakes has been published by B. Struck (1908a). These stories 
clearly show the curiosity of Negroes who desire to explain natural 
phenomena, and the reasoning applied is in harmony with a general 
background of beliefs in ancestral spirits who influence the lives 
of the living. 

312 Source Book for African Anthropology 

why the bat flies by night 

The story of why the bat flies by night is of the simple explana- 
tory type. The tale is widely told in Africa, though local versions 
differ, for example, in Angola and Nigeria. Yet all the different 
tribes who use the tale find in it an amusing explanation. Undoubt- 
edly some of the explanations were at one time believed, as, for 
example, in ancient Egypt, where a dignified mythology explained 
the origin of the Nile, the rising of the sun, and other natural phe- 
nomena. But one does not suppose that African Negroes of today 
believe implicitly in tales that satisfied their forefathers. We still 
speak of "the man in the moon," but without any faith in the 
existence of that interesting person, hero of juvenile stories. 

The Ovimbundu say that the child of the Sun was sick. The Bat 
was an ocimbanda (medicine-man), so the Sun sent for him to cure his 
child. The Bat arrived without delay, effected his cure, and returned 
home. At the time, the Sun was grateful, but his debt to the Bat 
was soon forgotten. Presently the son of the Bat fell ill with a 
sickness for which the Sun was a clever ocimbanda. The messengers 
from the Bat, who asked the Sun for help, arrived after the Sun had 
arisen. "Go! Tell your master I cannot help anyone after I have 
started my journey across the sky," he said. The messengers returned, 
only to find that the young Bat was dead. The Bat declared, "I'll 
never look at the face of the Sun again," and for this reason he hangs 
his head downward in a dark place all day. 


The story of the cricket which is told in Angola is of the amusing 
type of animal fables having no didactic, explanatory, or other 

The Cricket was very quiet ; he did not talk too much or quarrel 
with other people. One day he invited several animals to dig in his 
field and promised that he would give them some beer. The first 
helper to arrive was the Rooster, who drank a pot of beer. While 
drinking the beer, the Rooster looked out and saw the Wild Cat 
coming toward the Cricket's home. The Rooster was so afraid of 
the Wild Cat that he hid under the bed. 

The Wild Cat received a pot of beer, but he had hardly consumed 
it when he saw the Dog coming toward the house, so he hid under the 
bed. While the Dog was drinking, he saw the Hyena of whom he 
was afraid, so he joined the Wild Cat and the Rooster under the bed. 

Languages and Literature 313 

No sooner was the Hyena comfortably settled than he saw a man 
with a gun approaching, so he disappeared under the bed with the 
other animals. For a long time the man sat drinking beer and talk- 
ing to the Cricket; meanwhile the animals under the bed were safe 
so long as they kept quiet, and they were too frightened to quarrel. 

Suddenly a cockroach fell from the ceiling to the floor of the hut, 
and this so excited the Rooster that he dashed out and gobbled 
the cockroach. The Wild Cat then forgot that he was hiding and 
attacked the Rooster. The Dog followed the Wild Cat, and then 
the Hyena attacked the Dog. There was a terrible noise as the 
animals fought in the middle of the floor. The Wild Cat killed the 
Rooster. The Dog killed the Wild Cat. The Hyena killed the Dog, 
and the man shot the Hyena. 

When the Tortoise arrived he was alarmed at the sight of the 
dead bodies so he sent for the Hare named Kandimba. The Hare 
dug up the Cricket from the hole where he was hiding, and he was 
killed by the Hare and the Tortoise, who blamed him for the death 
of all the animals. 

These stories from Angola are excerpts from Hambly (1934a, 
pp. 248-252) and many others for the same region may be found in 
Chatelain (1894). 


Some of the most instructive examples of historical mythology 
occur among western Negroes, for example, the Yoruba of Nigeria. 
Officials of the royal household orally preserve records of historical 
events and genealogies, which are handed down for centuries. Con- 
sequently, at the present time a combination of fact and fable exists, 
not merely for amusement but for the welding together of social 
and religious institutions. 

At If^ in southern Nigeria, I obtained three well-carved wooden 
masks which are ritual objects linking past events and dead heroes 
with the present life of the Yoruba. The masks represent Jogbo, 
Elebiti, and Fopo, about whom are grouped many important his- 
torical events, mingled with exaggerated tales of their personal 
prowess. These wooden masks function annually in a festival known 
as the Egungun, at which these and other national heroes are sup- 
posed to revisit the living. This type of active, functioning mythol- 
ogy is abundant in both Ashanti and Dahomey. A. B. Ellis (1890) 
relates stories combining historical facts with legends which must 
be pure invention. The elements relating to wars between Dahomey 
and Abeokuta are substantially true, but other factors relating to 

314 Source Book for African Anthropology 

a python god, who caressed the faltering soldiers with his tail and 
encouraged them to victory, represent the accretions due to lapse of 
time and the constant repetition of the story. 

The religious system of the Shilluk of the upper Nile is a living 
example of the energizing power of myth, history, and extant ritual, 
all of which are brought to bear on the economic life, which centers 
in pastoral pursuits. Nyakang is now a culture hero who must be 
regarded as historical, though the period at which he reigned is not 
known. Tradition states that he did not die, but vanished in a 
wind, and divine honors are now accorded to him; Nyakang has 
become a god with whom rainfall, welfare of cattle, and other marks 
of prosperity are associated (Westermann, 1912; Hofmayr, 1925). 

The manner in which mythology is created may be seen by 
studying the life of Mohammed, a historic person about whom 
many stories accumulated. Some relate to the Prophet's interviews 
with the angel Gabriel, who communicated the teachings of the 
Koran; other stories tell of Mohammed's conquest of jinns and 
affrits (Irving, 1911). 

Disentangling the elements of a myth is often an ethnological, 
psychological, and historical study, but zoological considerations 
may help in explaining the origin of some tales, especially those 
relating to serpents (Hambly, 1931a, pp. 68-73). 


Some examples of mythology, especially from north and west 
Africa, give evidence of the combination of two distinct cultural 
backgrounds, the Negro and the Semitic. The Semitic elements 
relating to jinns, bori, and affrits may be studied from the writing 
of Robertson Smith (1901, pp. 120, 133, 168), and the combination 
of these traits with those originating among Negroes is observable in 
stories collated by A. J. N. Tremearne (1914). In "Der schwarze 
Decameron" (Frobenius, 1910) are tales of the Semitic, Arabian 
Nights type; but in these occur elements that have originated in the 
Negro culture of west Africa. 

The folklore of the Hoggar Tuareg (Haardt and Dubreuil, 1926) 
provides another example of the relationship between history, 
ethnology, and literary expression. The Tuareg are of Hamitic 
extraction, and much of their cultural history has been associated 
with that of Semites and Mohammedan Arabs. But Negro slaves 
have been imported from the Sudan, and their entry into Tuareg 
society has had both social and literary effects. Tuareg stories relate 

Languages and Literature 315 

on the one hand to jinns, and on the other hand to simple stories of 
animals and their adventures, such as are told by Negroes. The 
jinns are usually invisible, but they may appear anywhere at will. 
On some occasions jinns are the invisible guests at a meal, and they 
may enter a house to substitute their children for those of mortals. 
A woman who is loved by a jinn will never find satisfaction in the 
embrace of a mortal man. Negro elements in Tuareg folklore are 
seen in the story of the lion and the jerboa; and in the tale of the 
jackal, the goat, and the hyena. 


Various theories have been advanced to account for the creation 
of myths and folklore stories. Occupation and ethnological back- 
ground, historical events, curiosity, sense of humor, fear arising from 
disturbing phenomena such as eclipses and earthquakes, have all 
played a part in the building up of an unwritten literature. Mythol- 
ogy is not always allowed to degenerate into a form of literary 
amusement, though it tends to do so with the advance of education 
and scientific knowledge. Yet in Africa at the present time instances 
can be found of mythology that plays an indispensable part in the 
social and religious life of a tribe. To some extent myths result from 
mental processes, sexual and otherwise, in the working of human 
minds that are functioning at a juvenile level. Incestuous tendencies 
may find expression in the creation of characters who play a promi- 
nent part in stories. 

The theory that some tales result from an expression of wishes 
that cannot be fulfilled contains elements of truth. Suppressed 
factors may relate to sexual desires, injustices suffered at the hands 
of powerful persons, and failure to attain wealth or position. The 
invented story may be a means of escape from the unhappy result 
of these suppressed elements. 

But no one theory will account for all types of stories, and in 
making analysis of some particular myth or group of myths that 
conform to a type, all the historical, ethnological, and psychological 
factors should be considered before a hypothesis is formed. A 
balanced view of the relative importance of all these factors that 
govern the creation of literature can be preserved only by consider- 
ing the theories of several exponents, each of whom is prone to lay 
too much emphasis on his own explanations. 

Among the names of those who have studied folklore, fable, and 
mythology from different points of view are Marett (1920); Lang 

316 Source Book for African Anthropology 

(1897, 1901); Rank (1914), who gives a psychological interpretation 
of mythology; Ehrenreich (1910), whose theories lean to an ethnologi- 
cal explanation of the contents of mythology; and Freud (1918), 
whose theories of the suppressed mental content and indirect escape 
from this suppression have many adherents (chap. VI, Psychology). 
Von Baumann (1936) treated African myths of the creation and 
origin of men in a valuable contribution to the study of etiological 
and historical stories. E. W. Smith (1932) refers to African tales 
told for amusement and for oblique expression, such as satire on 
important persons, as explanatory of natural phenomena (etiological), 
and as a means of indirectly forming moral attitudes (see also 
Rattray, 1928, pp. 1-11). 


As further sources of folklore, of which there is now enough for 
psychological analysis and classification, the following will be found 
useful. The selections have been made to cover a large area, and 
in addition to these specific contributions to folklore, a few stories 
will be found in almost every ethnological monograph mentioned in 
the bibliography of authors' names. 

Two principal contributions to the folklore of the Bushmen are 
those of W. H. I. Bleek (1864), and of W. H. I. Bleek and L. C. 
Lloyd (1911). Well known writings on Bantu folklore are those of 
R. E. Dennett (1898), E. S. Hartland (1914), E. Steere (1906), 
G. M. Theal (1882), J. Torrend (1921), and A. Werner (1925b, 1933). 
Semitico-Hamitic folklore may be studied in the works of C. G. 
Howard (1921), who has produced a book of Shuwa Arabic stories, 
in two volumes of Hausa folklore by R. S. Rattray (1913), and in 
a substantial contribution entitled "Wit and Wisdom in Morocco," 
by Westermarck (1930). The folklore of Sudanic (western) Negroes 
is presented in the contributions of R. C. Bundy (1919) for Liberia, 
A. W. Cardinall (1931) for Togoland, E. Dayrell (1910, 1913) for 
Nigeria, and by R. Prietze (1911) for the mid-western Sudan. 

Songs and Poetry 

Songs, which are often improvised and spontaneous, are an 
important form of literary expression. Negro carriers, canoe pad- 
dlers, and women who take part in village dances are remarkably 
gifted in making extemporaneous verses to which all respond in 
choruses. On some occasions the verses are satirical and corrective 
in their attack on the adulterous, the dishonest, and the greedy. 
But these legitimate social functions of the songs are at times abused, 

Languages and Literature 317 

for instance, in ridiculing those who are sexually impotent. Men 
have their war songs, women their refrains which are chanted as 
they pound grain, and children have ditties appropriate for their 
games. The value of songs may be considered from three points of 
view: as social controls (sanctions), as esthetic, and as historical. 

The song quoted below, which is an example of esthetic expres- 
sion, was composed by a Pokomo woman of northeast Africa, when 
her imagination was aroused by the sight of a fish eagle. 

Hear him calling there on the tree 
Flapping his wings and shaking his head! 

A brave and comely bird is he 

With his shining plumes so bright to see. 
As I went down to the river bed 
Bearing my water jar on my head, 

I saw him on the kurubo tree. 

Another Pokomo composition recorded by Werner refers to the 

flight of a flock of birds: 

Wheel and shine, 
Wheel and shine, 
Bird of mine. 
Over the plains 
My black cranes, 
Fish in the waters 
After the rains. 

Herons also all in a row 
All among the lilies, 
See where they go 
White flowers ablow. 
Blue flowers ablow, 
All in Shaka Babo 
After the rains. 

A war song of the Acholi, given by Driberg (1930, p. 38), has 
some stirring passages and the composition is rich in figures of 

We are poured on the enemy like a mighty torrent; 

We are poured like a river in spate when the rain is in the mountains. 

The water hisses down the sands, swirling, exultant, 

And the tree that stood in its path is torn up quivering, 

It is tossed from eddy to eddy. 

We are poured on the enemy and they are bewildered; 

They look this way and that, seeking escape. 

But our spears fall thick about them, 

Our spears cling to their bodies and they are routed. 

They look this way and that for deliverance. 

But they cannot escape us, the avengers, the great killers. 

A selection of poetry and songs for comparative study of style, 
meter, purpose, and latent content should include Rattray (1934) 
for Hausa poetry, and Haardt (1926) for Tuareg verse. Norton 
(1918-19) and Seidel (1896) have given information about African 

318 Source Book for African Anthropology 

melodies in general. For Negro songs and poetry of west Africa, 
Witte (1906) has provided examples in Ewe, and Bufe (1914) has an 
article on poems of Negroes of Duala in Cameroons. As examples 
of songs and poetry from east Africa Von Hornbostel's (1909) Wan- 
yamwezi songs are important, as are those of Kidney (1920-21) 
from Nyasaland. As representative of Bantu expression in South 
Africa, Winter's (1912) "Hymns in Praise of Famous Chiefs" should 
be read. Norton (1919, pp. 122-137) has analyzed some South 
African tunes and has transcribed them in tonic sol-fa. 

The place of music in the education of children and as a form of 
social expression is dealt with in more detail in section III, chap. II. 

Sign and Whistling Languages 

In ethnological literature, references to whistling languages in 
Africa are rare. A. W. Cardinall (1927a, p. 273) describes the way 
in which a man whistled for his tobacco pipe and told the messenger 
in whistled tones exactly where the pipe could be found. Cardinall, 
quoting H. Labouret (1924), states that a whistling language is 
used by men of Lobi and Builsa. Rattray (1932a, vol. 1, p. 173) 
mentions a whistling language in the Ashanti hinterland. 

Most Negro tribes have some form of sign language which 
they use for expressing numbers that are indicated by various posi- 
tions of the fingers. Gestures to denote anger and contempt are 
common, while certain actions are used to communicate with deaf 

Hand signs to express number among the Ovimbundu are typical 
of similar systems among Bantu and Sudanic Negroes. The num- 
bers from two to ten are shown as follows: (2) Turn the little finger 
and the one next to it into the palm. (3) Turn three fingers into the 
palm. (4) Turn four fingers into the palm. (5) Turn four fingers of 
the left hand into the palm, then tap the left thumb with the index 
finger of the right hand. (6) Extend the left hand and place the 
little finger of the right hand on the thumb of the extended left 
hand; this action adds one to five. (7) Proceed as for the number 
six, but touch the thumb with the little finger and the next one to 
it. (8) Place the little finger, the third finger, and the middle finger 
on the thumb of the extended left hand; this adds three to five. 
(9) Lay four fingers of the right hand on the thumb of the left 
hand. (10) Clap hands. 

An insulting sign is made by holding up the left arm with the 
fist closed, while the left wrist is grasped with the right hand, and 

Languages and Literature 319 

the left hand is shaken. My interpreter said, ''This is done when a 
man is so angry that he can't find words." Bending forward the 
head and protruding the tongue means, "You're a fool." If the 
right hand is shaken in front of the face with the index finger ex- 
tended, a negative is implied. A nod of the head is affirmative. 
Drawing the index finger of the right hand across the mouth signifies 
completion, and rubbing the palms quickly has the same significance. 
"Go away" is signaled by extending an arm and flipping the fingers 
outward. To say "Come here" a scratching motion of the fingers 
would be made with the arm extended. 


Among Negroes of Africa as a whole, stage entertainment is not 
well developed as a form of dramatic art. But among the Mandingo, 
the Hausa, and the Ibibio the public is entertained by marionettes, 
and the Mandingo have plays of a type that constitute a legitimate 

The Mandingo stage play as described by H. Labouret and M. 
Trav^l^ (1928) is performed by a troupe which gives a ballet over- 
ture, a prologue, and a presentation of the artists, followed by a 
comedy of intrigue that involves humor, satire, and sarcasm. 
Labouret states that marionette shows were probably brought into 
west Africa from the north by caravans. In the year 1878, 
P. Soleillet saw a marionette show performed near Segu on the 
Niger, and Labouret states that Hausa showmen usually give 
marionette entertainments at Mohammedan festivals. 

P. A. Talbot (1923, pp. 72-86) describes marionette plays among 
the Ibibio of Nigeria, who have carved wooden dolls worked by men 
who hide behind a blanket screen. The dolls are supposed to be a 
mystery to women, who are not allowed to know the cause of the 
puppets' movements. Women are also supposed to be ignorant of 
the fact that ventriloquism accounts for the speech of the dolls. 
Talbot states that in former days these secrets were so jealously 
guarded that a performing troupe which inadvertently exposed the 
mechanisms of the marionettes was slain. The spectators who were 
responsible for the murderous attack were outraged by the revelation 
of these secrets to women. 

The Akan play performed by Ibibio showmen was one in which 
twenty wooden puppets took part. The manipulators and ven- 
triloquists were concealed behind a screen of blankets. An element 
of magic was introduced, for, "as each fresh mannikin appeared a 


320 Source Book for African Anthropology 

black cock was lifted up to touch it in order, so it was explained, to 
confer on the puppet the power of speech and movement." 

The puppets departed, with the exception of a father and his 
daughter-in-law. Talbot states, "The latter was dressed in a scanty 
garb of beads and bells, supplemented by only a dark green cloth, 
well above the waist line. In spite of a flirtatious manner and pro- 
vocative air, the person described above, after regarding the male 
performer in silence for some seconds, addressed him in a tone of 
reproof. 'Why,' she said, 'do you excite yourself? I know that I 
am beautiful but you must remember that I am not your wife.' " 

Dr. B. Laufer (1923) states that in the third century of our era 
story-tellers recited in the public squares of Chinese towns, and their 
narratives were illustrated by transparencies. In this way arose the 
shadow plays that spread among Persians, Arabs, and Turks, then 
finally to western Europe. The first literary mention of marionettes 
was made about A.D. 630, at which time Turkestan swarmed with 
jugglers, mimes, and actors; and there is evidence to show that these 
performers knew the use of puppets. Figures of marionettes have 
been found during archaeological excavations on ancient sites in 
Egypt, Greece, and Rome. For Africa, Spies (1928) has described 
the shadow plays of Tunisia, and D. Alexander (1910) gives a brief 
note on a Punch and Judy show in Bornu. 

Symbolic Messages and Drum Language 
The Yoruba of Nigeria formerly used an elaborate system of 
messages. These were expressed by the use of cowrie shells com- 
bined with a variety of small objects, each of which had a symbolic 
meaning. One cowrie shell with a small hole at the back meant 
defiance. Two cowrie shells fastened face to face had the meaning, 
"I want to see you," but if the two shells were placed back to back, 
the message read, "Go away and stay away." 

The powerful Ogboni league, which still functions, used cowrie 
shells as symbols whose meanings were known only to the members 
of the league. Up to forty cowries the meaning depended on the 
niunber of shells used, the method of stringing, and the nature of the 
objects placed between the shells. 

A piece of charcoal meant that, as the substance was black, the 
prospects of the sender were gloomy. In the year 1852, when the 
Dahomeans captured Abeokuta, a Yoruban prisoner sent his friends 
a message in the form of a piece of wood such as Negroes use for 
cleaning their teeth. This message had the interpretation, "As I 
remember my teeth in the early morning, and during the day, so I 

Languages and Literature 321 

remember you as soon as I get up, and often afterwards." (Bloxam, 
1886; Gollmer, 1884.) 

A kola nut means welcome and peace, with good health. A 
morsel of sugar sent as a message means, "There is no enmity 
between us." In Dahomey a gift of parrots' eggs to the king was an 
invitation for him to resign, since his powers were felt to be inade- 
quate for sustaining the vitality of the state. Carved wooden sticks 
and ornamental paddles have been used by many Negro tribes as 
symbols of authority to be carried by messengers. 

Among Negroes two main types of drums are used for transmit- 
ting messages. The cylindrical drum, hollowed from a log and pro- 
vided with one or more rectangular slits at the top, is used by 
Sudanic and Bantu Negroes. This drum has no membrane and is 
best described as a signaling drum (R. T. Clarke, 1934, p. 34). 

Talking drimis, male and female, provided with membranes, are 
of less frequent occurrence, and the best examples of the type are 
to be found in Ashanti (Rattray, 1923, Figs. 101-102) and in 
Togoland (Witte, 1910). Elaborate ritual is observed when wood 
and membranes are obtained for the drums used in Ashanti, and 
whenever the drums are used a preliminary rite is necessary to 
invite the spirit of the tree whose wood was used, and the spirit of 
the elephant whose ear was made into a tympanum, to enter the 
drum. The language conveyed by these drums is of the Sudanic 
family in which different tones alter the dictionary meaning of words 
that are otherwise alike. The phonographic records taken by R. S. 
Rattray (1923, pp. 242-286) indicate that the sounds transmitted 
are divided into groups of tones with clearly defined stops at inter- 
vals of varying length. Rattray's simplest description of the drum 
language is contained in a brief article (1922-23). A. N. Tucker 
(1936) has described "African Alphabets and the Telegraph Sytem." 

Transmission gives the tones, the number of syllables, and the 
punctuation, but the vowels and the individual consonants cannot 
be transmitted. Drummers make use of holophrases which are 
familiar to both senders and receivers. There are holophrases for a 
declaration of war, an outbreak of fire, and the approach of Euro- 
peans. In Liberia drum talking of this kind is used, and in Nigeria 
the Yoruba have drummers in the royal compound. When the king 
rises in the morning the drums announce the fact, and when the 
king is ready to leave his palace another holophrase is sounded. 

Exaggerated accounts have been given of the distance that 
messages can be sent. Undoubtedly messages can be heard several 

322 Source Book for African Anthropology 

miles away under favorable atmospheric conditions, but even 
though the message is relayed it must soon come to a borderline 
where a language differing from the one in which the message origi- 
nated is spoken. The holophrases are conventions that are under- 
stood in a limited area, and tonal languages differ so much that the 
sounds used for first transmission and subsequent relays would have 
no meaning when picked up by people speaking another language. 

Field Records 

Perusal of C. M. Doke's "A Comparative Study in Shona Pho- 
netics" shows that investigation of linguistic problems is the work 
of specialists, who are aided by delicate instruments in addition to 
specially constructed phonographs, or dictaphones. Apparatus is 
used for studying the function of the lips, palate, tongue, pharynx, 
throat, epiglottis, and larynx. To analyze the sounds of Shona 
dialects, Doke used vulcanite palates which are too thin to inter- 
fere with normal pronunciation. The palates are dusted with powder, 
and the marks (palatograms) made by the speaker's tongue are 
examined. For studying throat movements X-rays have been used. 

But without elaborate apparatus an investigator may accomplish 
useful work in field research by following the instructions contained 
in a "Short Guide to the Recording of African Languages," pub- 
lished by the International Institute of African Languages and 
Cultures. The Guide begins with a brief outline of phonetic symbols 
and conducts the inquiry by giving lists of key words and phrases, 
with blanks to be filled by the investigator. Even if unqualified 
as a linguist, a student can readily learn the use of a dictaphone for 
recording, and, given a little practice in technique by an expert, he 
will be able to bring home records of language and music that can 
be transcribed by specialists. But for really competent investigation 
the observer should have a natural aptitude and a trained ear, and 
should as a minimum be familiar with the theory and practice of 
phonetics as expounded by D. Westermann and I. C. Ward (1933). 
I. C.Ward (1937) has published a pamphlet of "Practical Suggestions 
for the Learning of an African Language in the Field." 

The amount of field work to be done is so extensive that one 
fails to see how the task can be accomplished by specialists only; they 
are so few in number. The quality of the records is far more im- 
portant than the quantity. Yet interested administrators, teachers, 
and missionaries, willing to take short courses in phonetics and the 
use of recording instruments, might supply the data which after labo- 
ratory analysis would clarify the linguistic problems now unsolved. 


Section II: The Culture Area Concept 


Map 4. Culture areas shown approximately by shaded 
Mohammedan influence. 

Scale: 1 inch=88i 

Map 4. Culture areas shown approximately by shaded boundaries and brol<en lines. Arrows indicate 
«liammedan influence. 

Scale: 1 inch=880 miles. 


Map 2, showing division of Africa into zones of desert, forest, 
parkland, and intermediate types of surface, should be compared 
with Map 4, illustrating the distribution of modes of life. No 
difficulty will be experienced in understanding these culture areas, 
since their demarcation depends primarily on all the geographical 
facts that control human, animal, and plant life. 

In each of the zones described, an impressive cultural homogeneity 
prevails, but the margins of typical cultures are not clearly defined, 
and each useful trait tends to extend itself so far as conditions per- 
mit. Within each cultural zone somatic and linguistic differences 
occur, and the characteristic culture itself has local variations. 

Division of Africa into cultural zones was first attempted by A. 
de Pr^ville, and his scheme was prepared to show causal relation 
between environment, products, and modes of life. De Pr^ville 
(1894) considers the different regions occupied by camel keepers, 
pastoral tribes, and agriculturalists, who produce maize, durra, rice, 
bananas, or other crops according to local climatic conditions. 
Dowd (1907) applied and misapplied the teaching of De Pr^ville. 
Dowd made some extremely broad generalizations concerning cor- 
relation between food and mental attributes. One would be led to 
believe that bananas engender a pusillanimous spirit, but a diet of 
millet fosters courage. That warlike tribes inhabited the millet 
zone is true, but the diet was not to blame. Many of those tribes 
are of Hamitic extraction, having a predatory military organization. 
Moreover, military expeditions are encouraged by the type of open 
country which favors the cultivation of millet. R. Thurnwald (1929) 
and M.J. Herskovits (1926, 1930b) have followed the lead of DePr^ville 
in dividing Africa into cultural zones, but with somewhat different 
divisions and with additional explanations of the ethnological data 
involved in the scheme. Map 4 combines the schemes of these 
authors but makes additions and modifications. I have preferred 
to show the indefinite nature of boundaries by shading rather than 
straight lines. 

Explanation of Map 4 

Area 1 . — The Nile Valley, in which a highly specialized civilization 
was built up on a basis of Hamitic and Semitic culture. The civili- 
zation was affected by Persian, Greek, Roman, and Arab conquests. 

Area 2. — A region of migration of northern Hamites. Some of 
these were named Libyans, and later the name Berbers was given. 


326 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Into this region, Phoenician, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Moham- 
medan-Arab influences have penetrated. Cultural traits from area 
(2) have affected regions (3), (4), (5) and have extended into area 

Area 3. — The Saharan region of camel-keeping cultures is 
divisible on the grounds of physique, languages, and minor cultural 
differences, into (3A), Tuareg; (3B) Tebu Tibbu and Teda of 
Tibesti; (3C) Arabs of the Libyan oases. 

Area U- — A region of pastoral nomads possessing cattle, sheep, 
goats, horses, and perhaps camels also. Semitic and Mohammedan 
traits prevail. At the eastern end of the area the Kababish are a 
tribe whose culture shows a linkage between true Saharan culture 
and that of grassland steppes where cattle are reared. 

Area 5. — Parkland area uniting semi-desert country (4) with 
f crest. countiy (6A and 6B). The region is pastoral, but seasonal 
migrations are made to keep in touch with the rainfall. Horses are 
used, and formerly they were extensively employed in warfare. 
Camels are used seasonally for transport, but the area is not one in 
which breeding camels and organizing long-distance caravans are 
fundamentally important. Region 5A contains Nilotic Negro tribes 
of the true cattle culture; compare with area 7A. 

Areas 6A, SB. — These are forest regions of Negro culture. The 
areas have many important cultural traits in common, but somatic, 
linguistic, and cultural differences are important. Area 6A is 
inhabited by Sudanic-speaking Negroes, and area 6B by Bantu- 
speaking Negroes. Area 6B includes groups of Pygmies who have 
a type of hunting culture. These Pygmies live in a state of social 
and economic symbiosis with Negroes. 

Region 6A includes Ashanti, Dahomey, and southern Nigeria 
where there is a specialized development of religion, art, and social 
organization differing from the general pattern of Negro culture. 
The course of the Congo may be divided into thirteen minor regions: 
(a) Maritime; (b) Cataracts; (c) Stanley Pool; (d) Kwango; (e) Lake 
Leopold; (f) Kasai; (g) Eastern Region; (h) Equatorial; (i) Haut- 
Ubangi; (j) Bangala; (k) Aruwimi; (1) Welle (Uelle); (m) Lomami- 
Lualaba. This scheme is given (with no author's name) in periodical 
AMCB, Series III, Tome I, Ease. I, p. 4. The classification is 
that on which ethnographical collections are arranged in the Mus^e 
Congo Beige, Tervueren. Presumably this classification is based on 
differences in material culture, but doubtless these are accompanied 
by other and more important distinctions. 

Topography and Culture 327 

Area 7. — This area has many cultural patterns whose predominat- 
ing trait is the breeding of cattle, which are important in religious 
belief and custom, in social structure, and in economic usage. Agri- 
culture is sometimes carried out by a class of people who are regarded 
as socially inferior to the aristocratic Hamitic population, which is 
pastoral to the exclusion of agriculture and industrialism. Regions 
7B-7D are extensions of the typical cattle zone 7A, but agriculture 
without social stigma of those who till the soil, becomes important, 
and in some regions, for example, in central Angola, agriculture is 
primary and keeping cattle is secondary. Area 5A is a highly 
specialized center of the pastoral culture. 

Area 8. — The Kalahari Desert is the home of Bushman tribes 
having a type of culture in which hunting is the dominating factor. 
Agriculture is not practiced, and no domestic animals except the dog 
are kept. Development of handicrafts, social organization, and 
religious institutions are elementary. Most of the activities have to 
be concentrated on obtaining food and water. 

The arrows indicate a strong overlap of Mohammedan religion 
and its accessory traits along north Africa, across the Sahara into 
Negro west Africa and northern Cameroons. The Mohammedan 
complex of traits affects the whole of the Nile Valley, Kordofan, 
Abyssinia, Somaliland, and the east coast southward to Louren^o 

In view of the criticisms that have been advanced against a study 
of culture zones (Carter A. Woods, 1934) one cannot too strongly 
emphasize the factor of miscegenation. A culture area scheme is 
chiefly useful as a preliminary sifting and grouping of data. 

There are areas of concentration for camel-keeping, cattle- 
raising, agriculture, and hunting, but each major factor tends to 
peter out and to become mingled with others. Then, superimposed 
on several types of culture is a widely spread Mohammedan influence, 
varying greatly in intensity from one region to another. Hambly 
has analyzed the culture areas of Nigeria (1935a) and of Angola 
(1934a), and Herskovits (1926) has dealt in this way with the pastoral 
culture. But too many ethnographers lose sight of regional grouping 
and merely present unconnected factual material. 

Subvarieties of Negro culture could be further defined by a re- 
arrangement of the data in Spencer (1930, Editor, E. Torday). The 
"Descriptive Sociology of African Races" has a wealth of material, 
but the arrangement is not in accordance with modern ethnological 

328 Source Book for African Anthropology 

method. A helpful memorandum in the study of cultural mixture is 
that prepared by Redfield, Linton, and Herskovits (1935). Thescheme 
is too condensed to allow of summarizing, but a student will find 
there many helpful suggestions for the analysis of cultures, and for 
study of the social and psychological processes involved in what 
the authors call "acculturation"; an alternative term would be 
"cultural adjustment." 

A warning should be given against the assumption that study of 
a culture area consists mainly of enumerating the characteristic traits. 
The prevailing traits, and exchanges of these with traits from other 
areas are important, but the subject should be regarded from the 
social and psychological point of view, as in Benedict's "Patterns 
of Culture" and Mead's "Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive 
Societies." The aim should be to give what Durkheim called the 
"superorganic." Perhaps a better term is the "ethos," meaning the 
dynamic or driving force; the character, sentiment, and disposition 
of a community, the spirit which actuates moral codes, ideals, 
attitudes, magic, and religion. The ethos may be the Mohammedan 
religion, cattle and rain-making, or agriculture with fertility rites and 
other ritual. But no matter what the focus may be, this pivotal 
point must be understood; then all subsidiary factors fall into line. 

The following chapters explain the main types of culture, the 
ethos and subsidiary traits of each area, also the mixtures which 
have occurred. 



Present-day Bushman hunters of the Kalahari Desert are but 
a fragment of the numerous Bushman tribes which extended over the 
region south of the River Zambezi a few centuries ago. This gradual 
restriction of habitat has resulted from the aggression of British and 
Dutch settlers, and an intermingling of Bushman tribes with Bantu 
Negro neighbors. 

The Kalahari Desert, having an area of 140,000 square miles, 
is not the barren expanse that has sometimes been pictured by those 
who have crossed in the dry season. Lack of moisture is the pre- 
vailing characteristic, and there are large areas of sand dunes, some 
of which attain a hundred feet in height; yet many depressions exist, 
and grass flourishes in these hollows where water may be obtained 
long after the season of rains has ended. In the Lake Ngami region 
and in the Okavango marshland game thrives. 

Bushman paintings and rock engravings testify to a varied 
supply of animal life. Among big game are kudu, wildebeest, buffalo, 
zebra, and elephant. These are not all generally distributed, but 
each has a peculiar locality and season which is known to the nomadic 

Bushmen rely for food, not only on big game, but on many forms 
of small animal life, such as snakes, geckos, termites, and locusts. 
Honey, various kinds of larvae, and edible roots also contribute to 
the regular diet. After the rains acacias attain a size sufficiently 
large to shelter game, and baobab trees (Fig. 7) harbor water in their 
spongy tissues (Verdoorn, 1933). Schultze (1907) gives an excellent 
description and pictorial survey of the Kalahari. 

The range of temperature from day to night is a wide one, from 
120° or more in the sun almost to freezing point in the hours of early 
morning. Rain falls chiefly in October and November, with heavy 
precipitations, after which there is a long drought of ten months. 
Fitzgerald (1934, pp. 170-176) gives the rainfall as varying from 
5 to 29 inches according to locality. The climatic conditions, there- 
fore, necessitate constant trekking to keep in touch with game and 
water. In the driest part of the season, tribes break up into small 
family groups of not more than six persons as a rule. A separation of 
this kind aids the location of food and water and therefore increases 
the chance of survival. 


330 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Habits of life have to accommodate themselves to environmental 
conditions, and among Bushman hunters mobility is a primary 
necessity. But in former years, when game was more plentiful 
and no pressure was exerted by white settlers, Bushman life may 
have been more sedentary. At one time tribes living in the south 
and east made use of caves and rock shelters, in which wall paintings 
and stone implements still testify to the development of a stone-age 
culture and an advanced technique in art (chap. Ill, Prehistory). 

In accordance with the requirements of nomadic life, shelters are 
usually of a temporary kind. At present, the Namib build homes 
of brushwood and bark whenever they camp for more than two days. 
This work is relegated to women, who erect the shelters a few miles 
from water holes, so that game will not be disturbed. The Naron 
(D. F. Bleek, 1928) build semicircular huts in the wet season, but are 
content with lighter buildings of sticks and grass when trekking. 
Reference to the works quoted will call attention to the cultural 
differences of various Bushman tribes, yet there is sufficient uni- 
formity of essential elements to warrant a general description of 
the modes of life. 

material culture 

Garments of skin are simple and scanty, but complete nudity 
is rarely seen. The usual dress for a male consists of a triangular 
piece of hide, two corners of which are made fast by a string about 
his waist while the third corner is passed between his legs and 
fastened to the waist string (Fig. 62). In addition to this pubic 
covering he may have a skin cloak (kaross) suspended from his 
right shoulder. A skin bag rests on his left hip, so providing a handy 
container for food, fire-sticks, and tobacco pipe. The covering of a 
woman includes a small skin apron that hangs from a belt; beadwork 
ornament is the usual form of decoration for females (Fig. 47). 
Perhaps the equipment includes a kaross, which forms a pouch for 
an infant when the garment is tied at the waist, and the fold of the 
garment may also contain ostrich eggshells for holding water, edible 
roots, firewood, and dry grass. 

Strings of ostrich eggshell beads manufactured by women are 
the most valuable personal ornaments. Small pieces of eggshell 
are softened in water, pierced with a borer of iron or stone, threaded 
on sinew, and chipped to remove rough edges. Finally the beads 
are rubbed smooth with a soft stone, then they are threaded to make 
head-bands, girdles, and waist-strings. Both sexes wear arm- and 
leg-bands of leather (see bead forehead band, Fig. 47). 

Hunting Cultures 


As a rule supplies of water are insufficient for washing the body; 
therefore, a smearing of fat is given, and this is followed by a dusting 
with huchu powder, which is made by pounding vegetable matter. 

Bushmen have excelled in pictorial art (chap. Ill, Prehistory) 
but little time is now spent on esthetic expression, and an inventory 
of personal possessions, all of a simple kind, is therefore brief. 
Each woman has a digging stick tipped with horn and weighted with 


/^ • 


Fig. 62. Bushman kneeling to shoot, Koatwe Pan, Kalahari Desert (from 
photograph by Arthur S. Vernay, copyright). 

a perforated round stone. With this implement she digs up wild 
roots and edible bulbs, since agriculture is not practiced. 

Wood fiber is twisted into cord for making snares and string bags, 
while the wood itself is manufactured into vessels, pestles, and 
mortars for the pounding and preserving of vegetable food. Fiber 
is also used in making mats for sifting ants' eggs. Water is generally 
carried in ostrich eggs some of which are engraved, but if these are 
not available the stomach of an animal will serve the purpose. 
Skins of animals are made into cloaks, loin coverings, sandals, caps, 
and bags. The carapace of a tortoise is often used as a spoon or 
scoop, and there appears to be no object or material too insignificant 

332 Source Book for African Anthropology 

for a useful purpose. Hammer-stones of rounded form are used for 
pounding seeds, and pointed borers of stone serve for perforating 
eggshells and engraving ostrich eggs. 

Smoking of tobacco, which is usual among men, women, and 
even children, calls for some ingenuity in making the equipment. 
Tribes of the northwest Kalahari make tobacco pipes of serpentine 
stone, and the Cape Bushmen used a water-pipe for smoking a 
mixture of tobacco and hemp. The pipe consists of a horn perforated 
at the tip, which is the mouthpiece, while the wide end is plugged 
with clay; from the side of the pipe a tube projects, ending in a 
stone bowl. The horn is filled with water; consequently, when the 
smoker sucks the pointed end of the horn he draws the smoke from 
the bowl through the water in the horn. Pipes and pipe bowls of 
serpentine are fashioned with a stone drill, or with the point of a 
knife or spear. Hiechware Bushmen practice ground-smoking, for 
which they prepare by making a hole for the tobacco which is covered 
with a dome of clay. From this bowl a narrow tunnel is made. The 
smoker has to lie prone to apply his lips to the tunnel leading from 
the tobacco (Laufer, Hambly, and Linton, 1930, Plate V, Fig. 2). 
The only Bushmen who know how to make intoxicating drink are 
the Namibs, who prepare liquor from honey, but drunkenness 
among Bushmen is said to be exceptional. 

Owing to the simplicity of life in Bushman tribes, division of 
labor cannot be so highly specialized as among more advanced 
tribes which have developed arts and industries to a high degree. 
Bushman males are hunters and preparers of hides. ' They are 
responsible for making weapons and fire-sticks, one of which is 
twirled on the other to produce fire by friction. 

Women build shelters, gather wild vegetable produce, fill ostrich 
eggshells with water, collect firewood, cook, care for children, and 
make their own personal ornaments. Some men and women are 
more skillful than others, but all understand these tasks, and special- 
ization is primarily on a sex basis and not according to special 
aptitudes or hereditary right, as among some Negro tribes. 

Iron is neither smelted nor forged, but iron tips for arrows are 
procured from neighboring Bantu Negroes and Hottentots. In time 
past the Cape Bushmen, also some Hottentots, made pottery (Laidler, 
1929), but this is now a lost art. Some Bushmen may be seen with 
spears and throwing clubs, but these weapons have been obtained 
from Negro neighbors. Acquisition of objects such as weapons and 
pottery is not the only instance of adoption of elements from another 

Hunting Cultures 333 

culture. Bushmen, who circumcise their boys and practice clitori- 
dectomy on their girls, as do the Hiechware, have borrowed the rites 
from Bantu Negro neighbors. 

If possible, Bushmen practice fishing, and for this purpose they 
make funnel-shaped traps of reeds, weirs, and stone dams. In the 
Okavango basin live Bushmen who use boats and spears for fishing, 
but these are special local developments that are not characteristic 
of Bushmen in general. Most Bushman tribes have to combat a 
deficiency of water by filling ostrich eggshells and caching them, or 
by sucking moisture from the ground through a reed, the lower 
end of which is plugged with grass to prevent the entry of sand. 
Fig. 63 is an excellent illustration of Bushman women filling 
ostrich eggshells at a pool. 

The shafts of bows, which are short and round in cross section, are' 
usually bound with sinew, and two strands of the same substance are 
twisted together to form a bowstring. Arrows vary considerably 
in different localities but the following are well-known types. The 
simplest arrows are made from hollow reeds about fifteen inches 
long and notched for reception of the bowstring. The arrowhead 
is made of wood or bone from the leg of an ostrich. Arrow- tips, 
which may be of stone, bone, glass, or iron, are inserted into hollow 
shafts from which they readily become detached on entering an 
animal. The northern Kung and the Heikum feather the wooden 
shafts of their arrows. Schapera (1927a) and Logie (1935) have given 
descriptions and classifications of Bushman bows and arrows. 

Poison is smeared on arrow-points, or, in the instance of flat 
bone arrowheads, it is dabbed in spots over the surface. For killing 
game, reliance is placed on the poison and not on the severity of 
the wound. Poison is prepared from substances derived from both 
vegetable and animal sources; thus, the juice of euphorbias, the 
venom of the puff-adder, and the crushed bodies of trap-door spiders 
are ingredients. These substances are used according to locality, 
but the resulting poison is generally a thick brown paste that is 
liberally smeared on the point and its junction with the arrow-shaft. 
After a quantity of the poison has been prepared by allowing it to 
simmer in a tortoise shell, a portion is at once applied to the arrow- 
tips, and the remainder is carried in a skin bag. 

A wounded animal may travel as much as forty miles before suc- 
cumbing to the effects of the poison, but the hunter follows untiringly 
until he comes up with his quarry. Sometimes game is captured by 
running it down in open chase, or animals may be pursued by a 

334 Source Book for African Anthropology 

hunter disguised after the manner shown in Bushman paintings. 
Disguise of this kind is aided by the hunter's skill in making the calls 
of animals, and in imitating the cries of birds to arouse the curiosity 
of the quarry. The Naron hunt the jackal, leopard, lynx, hare, and 
small buck, with dogs. In the southern Kalahari, pits with pointed 
stakes at their bases are dug, and toward these traps animals are 
driven through a gap in a fence. The Namib fence a spring to 
prevent animals from drinking there; then a channel of water is 
made to flow to a pit that is poisoned with branches of euphorbia, a 
poison to which zebras are said to be especially susceptible. 

In the dry season, snares are made in the form of cords with 
running nooses. To prepare such a trap one end of the cord is 
made fast to a bent sapling, while the bait is so arranged that in 
seizing it the animal is caught in the noose, which tightens as the 
sapling springs upward. Fall-traps are made so that interference 
with the bait releases a heavy stone. 

Success in hunting is not thought to depend entirely on the 
prowess of the hunter; on the contrary, charms are used to ensure 
good luck in the chase. Some of these are permanently carried in 
the form of cuts on the arms, cheeks, or belly of the hunter. These 
incisions are usually made soon after a boy begins to hunt, and the 
instance of rubbing a wound with the flesh of a springbok to give the 
swiftness of that animal to the hunter is an example of contagious 
magic. The shadow of a hunter should not be allowed to fall on 
dying game, and when in pursuit of an animal a hunter must eat the 
flesh of a creature that moves slowly, for to consume the flesh of a 
swift animal would give speed to the quarry. 

Collection of wild vegetable produce, a task in which men some- 
times assist, is not without ritual observances. The Heikum Bush- 
men have a ceremony of the first fruits at which fire is made and 
food is consumed in ritual fashion. Once a year at the beginning of 
the rainy season, when edible plants are expected to appear, the 
!Kung pray to Huwe, a supernatural being, saying, "Father, I come 
to you, I pray to you, please give me food and all things, that I 
may live." 


Music and dancing should not be regarded solely as amusements. 
Some dances are primarily social functions, but, on the contrary, 
other dances are of a ritual kind; for example those connected with 
hunting may have a magical significance for increasing the supply of 












CO >> 

S 8 

Pm - 

336 Source Book for African Anthropology 

game, and some rock paintings suggest that in former times dancing 
and magical rites existed for this purpose. 

Professional musicians are unknown, though some men are more 
skilled than others. Musical instruments are of a simple kind. A 
skin stretched over a calabash or across a tortoise shell may serve as 
a drum. Southern tribes play reed pipes to accompany their dances, 
and in several localities the musical bow and the goura are used. The 
former is an ordinary bow to the string of which a gourd is attached, 
so that when pressed against the body of the musician the gourd acts 
as a resonator and amplifies the sound made by plucking or tapping 
the bowstring. The goura is also a bow having at the end of the 
stave a flexible quill that the performer causes to vibrate by his strong 
inspirations and expirations. 

Social organization and religion are not so easy to study as the 
material factors. In no Bushman tribe is there a complex tribal 
organization with a supreme governing body or person having legis- 
lative and judicial functions. Each tribe is a mobile and divisible 
unit consisting of an indefinite number of hunting bands, each of 
which splits up into small family groups who wander independently 
but later rejoin their main units. A hunting band probably contains 
about fifty persons. The leader of such a band holds his position 
in a non-elective and informal way as a result of prowess in the chase 
or success in combat with a rival band. In the northwest Kalahari, 
each band has, in addition to a leader who is spontaneously chosen, 
a formal chief whose office is hereditary, and though his authority 
may be slight in everyday life he regulates movements of his band and 
leads in war. 

The hunting territory of each band and the tribe formed by these 
bands are defined by natural features. A row of dunes, a water-hole, 
or a tree may serve as a boundary mark, and within the confines of 
its own territory a hunting band has exclusive rights to the game 
and water, together with wild vegetable produce. The infringement 
of hunting rights is a main cause of conflict. 

Within a family there is a permanent relation of husband and 
wife with their unmarried children, and these persons usually con- 
stitute a traveling unit, especially in the dry season when the band 
has divided. The Bushman system of kinship is imperfectly known. 

Laws relating to hunting rights, private ownership of property, 
and possession of a wife are well defined. A man who finds a nest 
of ostrich eggs marks the site with his arrow, and leaves the spot 
with the intention of returning when the clutch is complete. The 


Hunting Cultures 337 

original finder would kill a man who robbed him, and with this object 
in view he would track the thief for a long distance. This personal 
revenge would be regarded as normal, but the relatives of the mur- 
dered thief would probably seek reprisal, and so a blood-feud would 
begin. Communal feeling respecting ownership of game, water, and 
wild produce does not extend outside a hunting group, and within 
the group itself common ownership is subordinated to a sense of 
individual possession of food, weapons, ornaments, clothing, and 

Obedience to customary law depends on conformity to precedents, 
since no formal codes exist. A father is the legal head of his family 
and in that capacity has rights of punishment. Among the Namib 
the eldest son becomes head of the family after the death of his 
father, and where tribal chieftainship exists succession to office 
descends to the eldest son. The available information, though 
inadequate, suggests that Bushman tribes generally favor succession 
in the male line. There is little property to dispose of, and the few 
personal possessions are generally buried with the dead. Burial 
rites have formed the subject of an article by Seyffert (1913). 

Formalities of courtship are observed among some tribes, who 
require a suitor to make presents to his future mother-in-law. During 
the year before his marriage he gives her game, skins, and beads. 
At marriage the groom provides his wife with a fur cloak, items of 
leather clothing, and bead ornaments. Among the Heikum Bush- 
men, parents say, "We are poor and cannot afford to give our 
daughter away." This message is carried to the suitor by a friend 
who has been delegated to make the first approach. 

The lover himself then sits near the hut of his prospective bride 
and calls to her mother, "I want your daughter." Again the protest 
of poverty is heard. The suitor calls, "If you die, I will bury you." 
Should the mother agree to the match, she takes the bow and arrows 
of the suitor and places them in her daughter's hut. If the girl fails 
to come to this hut within three days, her mother is expected to 
compel her to do so because acceptance of the weapons ratified a 
contract (Fourie, 1928, pp. 81-104). 

After consummation of the marriage the husband lives for several 
months with his wife's kin, but later he builds a hut among his own 
kin, and there he takes his wife. The marriage is first matrilocal, 
then patrilocal. Sometimes the wife's kin make a show of resistance 
when the groom prepares to take his bride away. The interference 
appears to be a formal and ritual protest against depriving the 

338 Source Book for African Anthropology 

wife's kindred of a woman who is a potential bearer of children, and 
therefore a tribal asset. Among tribes of the northwest Kalahari a 
woman returns to the home of her parents for her first confinement. 
Possibly these examples indicate a former matrilocal condition under 
which a woman and her children resided permanently with the 
maternal kin. If adultery occurs, an aggiieved husband is allowed 
to kill the seducer and to beat his wife, but he may not inflict the 
death penalty on her. Women of the Heikum practice abortion if 
unmarried, and children born out of wedlock are buried alive. The 
period of lactation is about three years. Polygyny is permissible, 
but among tribes who live for a great part of the year on the margin 
of subsistence plurality of wives is unusual. 

Religious beliefs are difficult to investigate, and valuable oppor- 
tunities were lost before ethnological interest was aroused, yet 
several writers have been able to give at least an outline of spiritual 
concepts and their expression by prayer and ritual. Lebzelter (1928), 
and P. W. Schmidt (1929) have dealt specifically with Bushman 
religion in short articles. Religious thought of the Cape Bushmen 
centered in reverence for celestial bodies, especially the moon. A 
crescent moon and certain stars were asked for food : 

O star coming there, 

Let me see a springbok; 
O star coming there, 

Let me dig out ants' food. 

Stars are thought to have been animals and people far back in 
the history of the Bushman race. In the northern Kalahari the 
Naron and the Auen still worship the moon, who is regarded as an 
old man having a wife, the sun (D. F. Bleek, 1929). In mythology the 
mantis is the most important symbol, and he is personified as a man 
who has a wife and three children. This mantis being is able to 
transform himself into the shapes of other creatures. He may be 
killed yet comes to life again. The mantis is a creator, a giver of rain, 
and a dispenser of good luck in hunting. He protects his people from 
illness and disaster (D. F. Bleek, 1923). 

Offering of first fruits which are ceremonially eaten at the begin- 
ning of the rains, and creation of sacred fire by use of a twirling stick, 
are possibly imported rites. The former is usual among agricultural 
Negroes, both Sudanic and Bantu, while the latter rite is one of the 
main features of ritual associated with cattle. Use of the sacred fire 
is widely known among pastoral tribes of east, south, and South West 
Africa (Eiselen, 1929). 


Hunting Cultures 339 

Magical ceremonies are of importance in connection with rain- 
making. Among the Cape Bushmen male or female rain-makers 
went out to catch the rain bull, which was then led over the land to 
produce rain. Some magicians could transform themselves into 
animals, and others were able to cause illness by shooting invisible 
arrows. The Naron medicine-men are said to shoot arrows of this 
kind, which kill their victims by magic and not by physical injury. 
The employment of little bows of bone which are used by the north- 
western Bushmen is not well understood. The bow carried by them is 
only a few inches in length, and the arrows are thorns. Some magical 
significance of this miniature weapon is probable. In some tribes 
the power of a medicine-man is thought to continue after his death, 
and to such a spirit prayers for rain and success in hunting are offered. 

A few persons who do not claim to be medicine-men among the 
Cape Bushmen assert that they have a "beating of the flesh" which 
acts as a warning of impending events. From this sensation they 
profess to be able to announce the arrival of strangers or to say 
what route should be followed to find those who are lost. Beyond 
doubt magical practices are general, but the information does not 
warrant classification of medicine-men according to their functions. 
There is some evidence to indicate that certain medicine-men 
specialize in curing the sick, but most of the medicine-men appear 
to be general practitioners. 

A medicine-man when treating a patient sucks the affected part, 
gives massage, and pretends to remove a small stone which he spits 
from his mouth. Treatment of the sick is sometimes carried out 
with juices that have been extracted from plants by boiling. The 
juices may be drunk or rubbed into cuts on the patient's body. A 
medicine-man of the Auen attempts the cure of snake-bite by suck- 
ing the wound and rubbing it with a powder prepared from pulverized 
gall, liver, and poison sacs of a mamba mixed with the fat of snakes. 
But evidence respecting the alleged cure of snake-bites and the 
preparation of antidotes against arrow poison cannot be accepted 
with assurance. 

In the eastern Kalahari, bodies are buried in a contracted position 
in anthills around which fences of thorn-bush are erected to keep 
away jackals and hyenas. Ghosts are feared because they are 
thought to wander at night, but beliefs are conflicting. 

Bushman tribes differ in physique, language, and cultural ele- 
ments; likewise in the extent to which they have been influenced 

340 Source Book for African Anthropology 

by Hottentot and Bantu Negro neighbors. In view of these dif- 
ferences, \V. Hirschberg (,193oa) has asked whether there is a Bush- 
man culture. The answer must be in the atfirmative. Funda- 
mental to the various forms of Bushman tribal life is a stone-age 
culture, a highly developed pictorial art, a paucity of material pos- 
sessions, a highly skilleti hunting technique, absence of agriculture 
and domestic animals, and the possession of rudimentary dwellings. 
Social organization is of a flexible kind which harmonizes with a 
nomadic hunting culture, while spiritual beliefs and magical practices 
are not welded into a coherent system. Religious beliefs and rites 
are not institutionalized with that dellniteness which is characteristic 
of many Negro tribes, but such rites and beliefs are clearly oriented 
toward the maintenance of food supply. The harshness of the 
climatic and ecological conditions make the factor of nutrition 
primarily important, and spiritual exercises are directed toward 
assuring adequate rainfall and pasture for the game on which the 
hunting community depends. 


In addition to references inserted in the text the following litera- 
ture is of primary importance since the reading makes a general 
survey of Bushman cultxires in several localities. In German, Pas- 
sarge's (,19071 study is still important, but the work is now supple- 
mented by the general studies of Lebzelter (,19o4a, h^. Immenroth 
(19oo') has produced a compilation work comparing F\-gmies and 
Bushmen, and this contains a large bibliography. Rodenberg (,1931) 
has prepared a general survey of like kind dealing with herders, 
hunters, and food gatherers of South West Africa in their relation 
to the land and its produce. 

In English the survey of Schapera (ISSOa") brings together in 
critical manner all the available e\idence for Bushman culture, and 
in a short article (,1926'> he discusses the cultural relationships between 
Bushmen and Hottentots. D. F. Bleek has published an article on 
Bushmen of Angola (,1927\ a short work on the Naron tribe 1,1928), 
and a series of articles on the !Xam Bushmen in Banru Studies 
(19ol-3o'i. 0. T. Crosby has contributed an article on the Bushm«i 
and Ch-ambo (,1931). Doman U^IT) made a study of the Tati Bush- 
men i,Masarwas\ and he has published an instructive travel book 
entitled "Pygmies and Bushmen of the Kalahari." A. W. Hodson's 
book "Trekking the Great Thirst," would form an entertaining 
introduction to more serious study. 

Hunting Cultures 341 


In a study of the hunting culture of Pygmy groups of the 
central forest region, the difference of their habitat from that of 
Bushman hunters is a factor of importance. The former live in the 
most densely wooded regions of Africa, while the latter occupy semi- 
desert country. In both cultures, the occupation of hunting leads 
to the formation of temporary encampments, a flexible social organi- 
zation, and a splitting up into small family groups. 


P. Schebesta (1932a) describes the Bambuti groups as a sub- 
merged class among Bantu Negroes, who regard the Pygmies with 
' disdain. A horde of Pygmies is attached to every Negro village, 
; and a Negro chief is patron over one or more groups of Pygmies 
whom he has inherited from his father, and whom in turn he will 
pass on to the custody of his son. This statement shows a fun- 
damental difference between the culture contacts of Bushmen and 
Pygmies with their respective Bantu neighbors. That Bushmen 
have adopted traits from Negro tribes has been recognized, but 
I Pygmies form a much more permanent cultural liaison with their 
i Bantu neighbors; in fact, the reciprocal duties set up a definite state 
of social symbiosis. Pygmies supply meat to Negroes and receive 
; in return agricultural produce. As with Bushmen, a certain amount 
i of miscegenation with Negroes takes place. Schebesta states that 
Negroes often take Pygmy women as wives, a procedure that upsets 
the sex ratio in Pygmy hordes; he does not state whether Pygmy 
men ever marry Negro women. 

Among the Bambuti, material culture has many points of close 
resemblance to the hunting culture of the Bushmen. Males are 
ihunters whose chief weapons are bows and poisoned arrows. But 
spearing animals, together with the use of nets and many ingenious 
traps, forms part of the regular technique. Dogs, which are used 
•in hunting, are the only domestic animals; this is also true of the 
j Bushmen. Women, as among Bushman tribes, collect wild vegetable 
produce, carry loads from Negro villages, build huts of a temporary 
kind (Figs. 64, 65), cook, care for children, gather firewood, and 
draw water. With respect to water supplies, Bushman ingenuity 
;is exercised to find supplies in a dry habitat, whereas the habitat of 
the Bambuti Pygmies has a heavy rainfall. Other important traits 
in the hunting culture of Pygmies and Bushmen are preparation of 
{arrow poison, making fire by twirling, and collection of honey. 

342 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Reference has been made to the Bushman method of preparing 
arrow poison from animal substances such as crushed spiders, scor- 
pions, and the poison glands of snakes. Pygmies appear to depend 
for their poison on the juice of a liana. The poison is prepared by 
the community for common use, and not by each individual hunter. 
Lianas containing the poisonous principle are pounded to pulp in a 
wooden trough, and the juice is squeezed out by twisting the pulp 
in a rattan press. The arrow-tips are smeared with the juice and 
dried, first over a fire, then in the sun. Pygmies tip their arrows with 
iron points as do some Bushman tribes, but, like the Bushmen, they 
obtain these from Negro neighbors since the blacksmith's craft is 
unknown to them. Pygmies do not feather their arrows as Bushmen 
do, but fix a split leaf to the butt of each shaft. Simple skin loin 
coverings are the typical clothing of both Pygmies and Bushmen. 

Hunting territories for bands including several families, and 
hunting territories for tribes are recognized by Pygmies as they are 
by Bushmen, and infringement of hunting rights is a cause of con- 
flict. Among Pygmies, as with Bushmen, the family group is the 
basic economic unit. Game is divided by an elder of the family 
group, who distributes a portion to each of the restricted families. 
Even the man who killed the animal has no authority in the division. 
A family outside the clan (group of related families) may claim a 
share in the spoil if kinship with the clan can be shown. As with 
Bushmen, the Pygmies have recognized individual ownership. If 
a man gathers nuts, these belong to himself or to his restricted family. 
If a woman kills a snake, she may cook it for her own restricted 
family, but when common effort has been made all the families of a 
clan group share the food. An example of this communal effort 
and communal sharing is found in the use of large nets whose han- 
dling requires all the males of the Pygmy clan to snare the game. 

Among Bambuti Pygmies the clan is a group of Negro origin; 
each clan has a definite camping ground, hunting territory which 
can be used by all families of the clan, and a clan totem. Each 
clan recognizes some taboos respecting the killing and eating of 
its totem animal. Tribal unity hardly exists, since a tribe is divided 
into clans, each with a chief, and according to Schebesta there is 
no cohesion or central authority for the clans. Theoretically, the 
Pygmies are polygynous, but perhaps only one male in a hundred 
has more than one wife. If a Pygmy woman is dissatisfied with her 
marriage either to a Negro or to one of her own tribesmen she will 
return to her own family, and her clan will protect her under these 











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Hunting Cultures 345 

circumstances. Exogamy in family groups is a binding regulation, 
and the rules of exogamy sometimes apply to clans, in which case a 
man or woman must marry outside his or her family and clan. Some 
of these social customs are undoubtedly due to Negro influence, and 
Schebesta states that among the Ef^ Pygmies circumcision has been 
adopted only recently as a result of contact with Negroes. 

There is more information concerning religious beliefs and magical 
practices of Pygmies than of Bushmen. In connection with hunting 
several ritual acts occur. The night before Efe Pygmies hunt ele- 
phants all the women give a magical dance, during which they squirt 
water from their mouths to bring good luck to the hunters. Hunters 
run out from the dense copses and spear an elephant in the hind 
legs, after which mortal spear thrusts are made. A honey gatherer 
utters a prayer for success, and from the tree he tosses part of a honey- 
comb into the forest. Part of the heart of a slain animal is thrown 
into the forest as a libation. Charms associated with witchcraft 
are obtained from Negroes, and sores on the body are attributed 
to witches' spells. Schebesta (1931a) has published an article dealing 
solely with religious beliefs of the Bambuti Pygmies. 

Definite religious ideas are few. Worship of the dead, so strong 
in ancestral cults of Negroes, scarcely enters into the lives of Pygmies, 
yet Pygmies have a definite impression of the human soul as an entity 
distinct from the body. They call the soul hukahema, and say that 
at death it departs from the body as breath. If a person has been 
wicked the soul is cast into a fire. Souls of the good go to Mungu, 
a god who has the appearance of a man. Possibly some European 
influence is reflected in these beliefs. Pygmies believe in visits from 
ghosts. Schebesta gives an account of Pygmies who throw leaves 
on a fire to create a smoke that will appease spirits of a thunder- 
storm. There is, however, no evidence of well-developed beliefs 
which are coordinated and centralized in persons or institutions. 


Schebesta's contributions are the most substantial we have for 
study of the Ituri Pygmies, but several brief descriptions of Pygmies 
ought not to be overlooked. In the section dealing with physical 
anthropology, reference was made to the first descriptions of Pygmies 
by early explorers, Du Chaillu for the Gaboon, Junker, Schweinfurth, 
and Stanley for the Ituri. In addition to these, several books of a 
semi-popular kind contain useful accounts of Pygmy life. Among 
these travel books and general accounts, which are really very 
serviceable, are those of H. H. Johnston (1902b), Verner (1903), 

346 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Powell-Cotton (1904, 1908), Christy (1915, 1924), Bergh (1922), 
and Wollaston (1908). Schumacher (1927, 1928) has contributed 
accounts of the Kivu Pygmies in the eastern Belgian Congo. The 
culture as well as the physique of these Pygmies seems to have been 
considerably affected by contact with Bantu neighbors. An illus- 
trated article by Maes (1911) deals entirely with the material cul- 
ture of the Bambuti. Trilles' (1932) social studies of Congo Pygmy 
groups, other than the Ituri, is important for comparative study 
with data relating to the Bambuti. 

scattered hunting groups 

In addition to Bushman hunting culture of the desert type and 
Pygmy culture of the dense forest, we have G. W. B. Huntingford's 
(1929, 1931) description of bands of hunters of the parkland country 
of northeast Africa. The racial affinities of these hunters are negroid, 
but the details of their phylogenetic connections and tribal history 
are unknown. They are, however, neither Bushmen nor Pygmies, 
though one group, the Dume living to the northwest of Lake Ste- 
fani, have some resemblance, somatically and culturally, to true 
Pygmies of the Ituri forest (A. D. Smith, 1897, pp. 272-275). 

The Okiek, commonly called Dorobo, live solely by hunting. 
They speak a dialect of Nandi and are hunters for the Masai. The 
Nandi and the Masai are Half-Hamites, with culture, language, and 
physique that are basically Hamitic. The Dorobo have features 
that are more negroid than those of the Masai, and presumably they 
have not been affected by Hamitic mixture since they are merely a 
servant class for the pastoral Hamites; yet, according to Huntingford, 
the Masai do not disdain their Dorobo hunters. 

In the coastal area of Kenya Colony live hunting tribes named 
Sanye, Boni, Ariangulu, all of whom are primitive and undeveloped 
in their culture pattern. The Boni, who call themselves Watwa, 
hunt for the Somali, and in Abyssinia there is a low caste of hunters 
whom the Galla call Watta (Cerulli, 1922, pp. 200-204). 

Houses of the Dorobo (Fig. 92) closely resemble those of the 
Bambuti Pygmies of Ituri, since the dwellings are made by placing 
the ends of supple sticks in the ground to form a dome which is 
thatched with banana leaves and other broad foliage. Other cul- 
tural traits of the Dorobo are in harmony with the general pattern 
of the hunting cultures already examined. The Dorobo have only 
recently practiced a little agriculture, and they have no domestic 
animals except dogs. Leather clothing is of a simple kind. Fire is 

Hunting Cultures 347 

made by twirling. In the practice of placing hives in trees the 
Dorobo are in advance of the Ituri Pygmies, who merely collect 
honey from the nests of wild bees. The Dorobo have few crafts, and 
they do not make objects of iron, though they possess iron arrow- 
points, spears, and swords; these, along with shields are obtained 
from the Nandi. A chief is elected, and the office is not hereditary; 
a council of elders is the responsible governing body. Following 
the system of the Masai and the Nandi, males are divided into boys, 
warriors, and old men. At the time of circumcision a boy enters 
the warrior class. These traits show, as we also noted for the Ituri 
Pygmies, an adoption of customs from neighboring tribes. The 
Dorobo do not practice burial but leave their dead in the forest to 
be devoured by hyenas. 


Among the hunting cultures considered, there exist several 
important differences, though the social and economic patterns are 
fundamentally similar. Bushmen, Pygmies, and Dorobo are all of 
negroid stock, but their physical differences are pronounced, and 
their languages are distinct. The Bushmen have their own peculiar 
click languages, which differ from all other African tongues. The 
Pygmies speak current Bantu languages which are employed near 
to them. The Dorobo speak the Nandi language. 

These hunters all adopt cultural traits from surrounding tribes; 
Bushman tribes have adopted some factors of southern Bantu cul- 
ture. Pygmies have well-established cultural liaisons with central 
Bantu tribes, and the Dorobo social pattern is modeled on that of 
the Hamitic Nandi. 

Common material traits are the use of bows and poisoned arrows 
along with many ingenious hunting devices. Hunters have few arts, 
and they are usually dependent on adjacent tribes for blacksmith's 
work, pottery, baskets, wood-carving, and ornaments. Bushman 
pictorial art is an exception, for the Bushmen are the only hunters 
who have specialized in this way. 

Hunting tribes have no agriculture, and they are dependent on 
wild vegetable produce dug up and gathered by their women. Dogs 
which are used when hunting are the only domestic animals. Dwell- 
ings are of a simple kind, quickly constructed and frequently aban- 
doned when the tribe has to follow game or find a new water supply. 
Clothing consists of simple pieces of hide or at the most a fur cloak, 
as among Bushmen and Dorobo. 

348 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The salient point of the social organization is simplicity, lack of 
cohesion, and absence of centralization. The functioning groups are 
those consisting of a few individuals comprised in a family. Families 
may be united into clans as among the Pygmies, and a loosely co- 
ordinated tribal unit may exist. Inheritance and succession are 
problems of minor importance; in fact, they hardly arise. Law and 
legal procedure depend on well-established precedents. Private 
feuds are recognized methods of redress, and the judicial system, 
like the social organization, is of a distinctly decentralized type when 
compared with the system of Bantu Negroes. 

Magical practices and religious beliefs are of an elementary kind, 
showing a lack of centralization in persons and institutions. The 
Dorobo have the most elaborate social structure of the hunting 
tribes, but this organization has been adopted from the Nandi, and 
it cannot be regarded as part of a primitive hunting culture. 

Possibly the hunting cultures examined here represent a type 
of life that was characteristic of a large part of the African continent 
before the intrusion of pastoral Hamites on a large scale, and before 
the elaboration of the complex social, religious, and legal systems 
that are now typical of agricultural and semi-pastoral Negro society. 

The hunting cultures that have been described are typical of a 
definite mode of life, with local variations. But the fact should be 
recognized that many Negro tribes with a complex culture, including 
pastoral pursuits and an agricultural system, still possess a flourishing 
hunting culture in which ritual observances are even more elaborated 
than they are among the tjrpical hunters. 

The historical truth seems to be that many Negro tribes, while 
acquiring a complex economic pattern, have held tenaciously to their 
hunting traits, partly on economic grounds, but to a great extent 
because of the sacred character of the rites associated with the 
hunter and his craft. 


The words "pastoral culture" may be used to describe the social 
patterns of numerous tribes inhabiting the northeast, south, south- 
east, and southwest regions of Africa. These tribes possess widely- 
divergent somatic and linguistic characteristics, and among them 
are to be found cultural differences, for example, in the degree of 
agricultural and industrial development, and in the extent to which 
social organization is focused in a central authority such as a king 
or chief. But, despite dissimilarities, a certain homogeneity of 
culture results from the rearing of cattle and the clustering of many 
fundamental social, religious, and economic traits about this one 


The geographical focus of the cattle-keeping culture is the region 
of Lake Victoria Nyanza (Roscoe, 1907, 1911, 1915 et seq.). Here 
the chief industry of the Banyoro is pastoral, and in the ranks of 
herdsmen may be found men of the highest rank. But, whatever 
their social status happens to be, all cattle owners disdain agriculture, 
handicrafts, building, and hunting as a means of making a living. 
Cattle are divided into herds according to their colors, each herd 
being kept apart from other herds which differ in this respect. Little 
regard is given to producing the breed of cows that gives most milk. 
If a cow suckles her calves well, and especially if she gives birth to 
cow calves, she is highly esteemed ; whereas a cow that usually bears 
bull calves is not so highly valued, even though her supply of milk 
is satisfactory. Herdsmen hold the bull responsible for the sex of 
the calves, so to remedy the birth of bull calves they change the 
mating. One bull is thought to be able to serve fifty cows, but in 
large herds several bulls are kept, and these fight for supremacy. 
Some bull calves are made impotent by crushing their testicles, and 
these animals are reared for killing purposes only. 

Among the Banyankole the king is owner of all cattle, but he has 
his personal kraal, herds, and herdsmen. The milk supplied to the 
king is consumed by the men, women, and children of the royal house- 
hold, but persons of the slave class are nourished on agricultural pro- 
duce. Vegetable food is considered unclean for strictly pastoral 
people, and if these persons eat vegetable produce they must observe 
a fast which is followed by purgatives and emetics. 

Women churn butter, but milking and herding cattle are exclu- 
sively the work of men. In the king's kraal is a sacred fire having an 


350 Source Book for African Anthropology 

attendant who keeps it burning perpetually, until the time of the 
king's death. Then the old fire is extinguished, and a new one is 
created by use of a frictional method. Portions of the new fire are 
distributed to other kraals and houses. At the fire in the king's 
kraal the war chief renews his skill and courage by rubbing himself 
with the ashes. 

When a king dies, his body is wrapped in the hide of a newly killed 
cow, after the royal corpse has been washed with milk. Bulls are 
killed at the graveside of the king, and even the cattle are made to 
participate in the mourning. Cows are separated from their calves 
so that both make a melancholy lowing, and the night before a bull 
is sacrificed at the king's funeral, the animal's scrotum is tied so that 
it cannot mate with the cows but keeps up, a mournful bellowing. 
Some cows are dedicated to the dead king, and from these milk is 
taken daily for his shrine. The cattle killed at the grave are said 
to become the king's herd in a ghost world. Milk is a sacred product 
which is offered to the royal drums, and to pythons kept as cult 
animals in a special temple near Mwanza, south of Lake Victoria 
Nyanza. A taboo against the consumption of milk by menstruating 
women is a further instance of the sacred character of this dairy 

Medicine-men and rain-makers are important because the former 
are expected to predict the future of the herd, to foresee calamities, 
and to provide remedies for sickness. Rain-makers to the king hold 
a distinguished though not an enviable position, since they are 
responsible for producing an optimum amount of rainfall. Should 
the supply of water be insufficient, the king feeds the rain-makers with 
salt and deprives them of water until their magic is successfully per- 
formed. On the contrary, if the rainfall is too heavy, the rain-makers 
are immersed to their necks in water, into which they are repeat- 
edly pushed until semi-suffocation causes them to check the down- 
pour of rain. 

In addition to the economic, magical, and religious aspects of the 
pastoral culture, life is socially dependent on the possession of herds. 
A man's social standing is judged by the size of the herds he owns; 
cattle are used for paying fines, taxes, and debts, and for securing 
brides. Roscoe points out that the use of cattle as a standard of 
wealth has led to a form of polyandry in which two brothers, who are 
unable to afford a wife for each, secure a woman who is a wife for 
both of them. Polygyny, that is, the possession of more than one 
wife, is a common African practice, but polyandry is rare. All the 

Pastoral Pursuits 351 

works of J. Roscoe treat of the importance of cattle as the warp and 
weft of the culture pattern of Uganda, and for Ruanda, Delmas 
(1930) produced similar evidence. The Nilotic Negroes, of whom 
the Dinka, Shilluk, and Nuer are typical, provide an apt illustration 
of the way in which every aspect of life, economic, social, and 
religious, centers round the possession of herds. Of the Dinka, H, 
O'Sullivan (1910) states that all the laws of the Dinka can be grouped 
in association with four main principles: namely, the possession of 
women and cattle; securing wives by payment to the kindred of the 
spouse; inheritance of women, children, and cattle; payment of fines 
by means of cattle. 

Many writers attest the basic importance of herds of cattle in the 
lives of Nilotic Negroes, with the exception of the Anuak (Bacon, 
1922). Among the Nuer, agriculture is almost wholly neglected, 
despite the fact that grain could easily be grown (H. C. Jackson, 
1923). Frequently the Nuer border on starvation since they, in 
common with the majority of pastoral tribes, refuse to slaughter their 
cattle for food. An excellent account of the daily life of the Nuer 
and their seasonal migrations has been prepared by E. E. Evans- 
Pritchard (1936b). 

The Shilluk also focus the whole of their religious, social, and 
economic life on care of cattle. The prosperity of the herds, which 
depends on rainfall and pasturage, is closely connected with magic, 
rain-making, and the ceremonial preservation of the vigor of the 
ruling king (Westermann, 1912; Hofmayr, 1925). 

J. H. Driberg (1922, 1923) shows that among the Lango of 
Uganda, also among the Didinga, care of cattle and preservation of 
the office of official rain-maker are intimately related by much ritual, 
prayer, and sacrifice. A brief description of the Didinga tribe has 
also been given by Molinaro (1935). A comprehensive account of 
the whole of the Nilotic cattle culture has been prepared by C. G. and 
B. Z. Seligman (1932). F. R. R. Somerset (Lord Raglan, 1918) has 
described the Lotuko, and Titherington the Raik Dinka (1927). 

The Bahr-el-Ghazal Dinka have been the subject of an article 
by Cummins (1904), and more recently Crazzolara (1934) and Cze- 
kanowski (1927) have contributed to the study of Nilotic Negro 
pastoral patterns. Consult also L. F. Nalder (1936), and the 
periodical Sudan Notes and Records. 

A Half-Hamitic tribe named the Suk, living northeast of Lake 
Victoria Nyanza, are divided into pastoral and agricultural sections 
(Beech, 1911). The former division is composed of the aristocracy, 

352 Source Book for African Anthropology 

while the other division is responsible for manufactures and tilling the 
soil. The pastoral Suk have individual names for their cattle, and a 
long vocabulary of adjectives for describing the colors in detail. 
Beech says, "The Suk live for their cattle and everything is done to 
make them objects of reverence." Examples of the ceremonial which 
is associated with cattle are numerous. Animals whose horns have 
been twisted as an embellishment are decorated with ostrich feathers 
and driven to the river, while warriors dance around them to give 
good luck in a raiding expedition. Once a month the animals are 
driven to a salt lick at the first appearance of a new moon. The 
herd is not allowed to proceed if no moon is visible, for there is a 
belief that this would produce sickness in the herd. 

Cattle are marked according to the clan to which they belong, 
but marks of personal ownership are unnecessary since each owner 
knows his animals so well that no confusion can arise. The Suk, like 
the Masai, follow the practice of drawing blood from the veins of 
bulls, for which purpose a special arrow is used and a ligature is tied; 
the blood is drunk with milk. 

The corpse of a commoner who owns no cattle is thrown in the 
bush, but the body of a cattle owner is buried in his kraal with three 
feet of cattle dung above him, and the site is abandoned. Grass is a 
sign of peace, and a man who wears a tuft of grass on his head will be 
spared by a victorious enemy. If raiders enter a kraal and women 
are able to pour milk on them, no killing takes place. 

If cattle are stolen and recovered, their blood plays an important 
part in the trial of the accused. Blood drawn from the cattle is 
thrown at the cattle, the accuser, and the accused, in the belief that 
a man who has spoken falsely will die. This is a form of trial by 
ordeal. Cattle are used as fines and compensation, and a murderer 
is expected to pay fifty cows as blood-money to the relatives of his 
victim. Ownership of cattle and the use of land for grazing are 
linked factors. Grazing land belongs to the whole tribe and no 
family or clan can claim the right to own or use a particular portion. 
But in practice, as a result of long-established custom, each family 
is restricted to the use of a definite area. 

The Masai of Kenya (Hollis, 1905; Merker, 1910; Leakey, 1930) 
esteem their cattle above all other possessions; they despise agri- 
culture, hunting, and manual labor. Masai lion hunters have great 
prestige, but the Masai will not hunt as a means of providing food; 
this work is given to the Dorobo, who are a serf class. Among the 
Masai, grass, milk, and the blood of cattle have important symbolic 








^ s 



354 Source Book for African Anthropology 

uses. Drinking of blood and milk is a form of covenant, a blood 
brotherhood. In legal procedure the accused drinks blood of an ox, 
saying, "If I have done this deed, may God kill me." When a boy is 
about to be beaten by a warrior he tries to pluck a tuft of grass, for 
this act will give him immunity. During drought, women fasten 
grass on their clothes and pray to the Black God who sends rain. 
The importance of religious belief and magical practice in relation to 
pastoral life among the Masai has been discussed by H. Fokken 
(1917) ;Huntingford (1933a) and Hollis (1909) have described customs 
of the pastoral Nandi. 

The value of cattle in the social and economic life of these tribes 
is shown in many ways. Presentation of cattle to a prospective 
father-in-law is a necessary part of a marriage contract. Cattle are 
used in payment of fines and as compensation for injuries inflicted. 
Testamentary bequests are in the form of herds, for there is little 
property of any other kind. At the death of an old person, a medi- 
cine-man, or a rich owner of cattle, an ox is slaughtered. Fat from 
the sacrificed animal is rubbed on the corpse, which is then wrapped 
in oxhide, and at a funeral feast the sacrificial meat is eaten. 

The typical pastoral culture is not confined to Hamites, such as 
the Bahima, to Half-Hamites (Suk, Masai, and Nandi), or to the 
Nilotic Negroes. The same type of cultural pattern, modified by the 
incorporation of an agricultural system maintained by the labor of 
women, is characteristic of many tribes of Bantu-speaking Negroes. 

modified pastoral cultures 

The Ba-ila of Northern Rhodesia value their cattle above all other 
possessions, and they are indignant with the idea of using cattle 
for transport or harnessing them to a plow. The Ba-ila think that 
cattle have melodious voices, and the natural beauty of the animals 
is enhanced by decorating them with necklaces, ruffles, and bells. A 
ceremonial element enters into milking processes, for the herding and 
the actual operation of milking are accompanied by drum music. 
Migration to a new pasture is an occasion for the ceremonial slaughter 
of an ox, and when cattle are killed at a funeral feast the hides are 
used to line the grave (E. W. Smith and A. M. Dale, 1920). 

The Bavenda (Stayt, 1931a) of the Transvaal are cattle keepers 
who use the animals for paying tribute, fines, and debts, for ritual 
meals, and as an offering to a deity. Cattle form the lobola, which 
must be paid to a bride's kin in order to legalize a marriage and to 
secure possession of the woman and her children by the husband. 
Among all the southeastern Bantu tribes, cattle have been important 

Fig. 67. a. Cattle of the Ovimbundu, Elende, Angola, b. House of cattle- 
keeping Vakwanyama, Angola. 



356 Source Book for African Anthropology 

in warfare, social life, law, and religion. I. Schapera has described 
the magic and medicines associated with cattle in Bechuanaland 
(Schapera, 1930b, 1934a). 

In South West Africa the Herero are a typical Bantu Negro tribe 
with pastoral pursuits as the most salient feature of their culture. 
H. Vedder believes that the Herero had contacts with pastoral 
Hamites early in the cultural history of these east African invaders. 
Vedder states that Herero traditions indicate their migration from 
east Africa to southern Angola, then across the River Kunene to 
their present location (Vedder, 1923). 

The chief work of men centers in herding cattle, but women and 
girls are allowed to milk the animals. A prohibition against the 
washing of milk vessels exists, and the utensils must be used and 
remain unclean until they fall to pieces. Meat is too valuable to 
be used as food, but milk is a staple diet. Agriculture and handi- 
crafts are considered menial. 

In religious exercises (Brauer, 1925) cattle play an important 
role. Cattle are sacrificed to ancestors, but no part of the meat is 
eaten until some has been offered to ancestral staffs which are care- 
fully preserved. The holy fire is situated between the calf kraal and 
the house of the chief's principal wife. The sacred fireplace is an 
altar around which the horns of sacrificed animals are piled. Extinc- 
tion of the fire would mean annihilation of the tribe, since the fire 
was a gift from the god Mukuru. A man who is setting out on a 
journey secures a blessing from his ancestors by carrying a brand 
from the sacred fire. The embers he carries form the nucleus of a 
new fire at his destination. The Ovambo, including the Vakwanyama 
of south Angola, have a pastoral culture which is similar to that of 
the Herero (C. H. L. Hahn, 1928; Irle, 1906, 1917). 

The Benguela Highlands of central Angola, which are occupied 
by the Ovimbundu, mark the southwestern limit of expansion of the 
Hamitic cattle culture. Primarily the Ovimbundu are agricultural- 
ists, but they have added certain factors of the pastoral system to 
their typical Bantu Negro culture. The head of a dead chief is 
severed and wrapped in oxhide, which is ceremonially renewed. 
Mourners of the chief's family wear bracelets of oxhide. Cattle are 
killed at the funeral feast and the horns are mounted over the grave 
(Hambly, 1934a). 

The foregoing summary gives the main outlines of the typical 
pastoral culture, which has been described in detail by M. J. Her- 
skovits (1926). But, in addition to this culture pattern, there exist 

Fig. 68. a. Transport by cattle, Maradi, French Niger Territory, b. Portu- 
guese riding an ox, Blende, Angola. 


358 Source Book for African Anthropology 

several tribes whose most valuable possession is cattle, yet the 
animals are not the focus of the social and religious life. The Bag- 
gara (Yunis, 1922; Lampen, 1933), the Kababish (C. G. and B. Z. 
Seligman, 1918) and other tribes of Kordofan and Dafur value their 
cattle, but the animals are used for transport (Fig. 68, a). The 
herds do not play an important part in ceremonial life. 

Study of life in Abyssinia affords many examples of the herding 
of cattle, which have great economic and social value. But the 
religious aspect of the true pastoral culture is in abeyance, perhaps 
because of the wide establishment of Mohammedanism, which has 
usurped the place of earlier Hamitic and Semitic veneration for 
cattle. There is no specific work on social attitudes toward cattle 
in Abyssinia, but data will be found in the following publications: 
Parkyns (1853), Cecchi (1885-86), Casati (1891), Paulitschke (1888, 
1893), and Ferrand (1903). Modern contributions to the life of the 
Galla and other Abyssinian tribes are given by Werner (1914), 
Bieber (1920), Puccioni (1931), CerulH (1933), and Jensen (1936). 

The Hottentots use oxen for riding and transport, and females are 
allowed to milk the cows. In these usages the Hottentots differ from 
truly pastoral tribes, yet a certain amount of ceremonial is recognized. 
Menstruating women must abstain from milking and afterwards be 
ceremonially reintroduced to the work. Girls who are passing 
through puberty rites are conducted round the kraal so that they 
may touch the male animals and so confer potency on them. Any 
breach with the traditions of the past, any toleration of slackness in 
carrying out the restrictions demanded for all contingencies in the 
life of the people, is bound to affect the stock adversely (Schapera, 
1930a, p. 298; Hoernl^, 1918, 1925; Lebzelter, 1933). 

Some of the nomadic, cattle-keeping Fulani of west Africa have 
an attitude toward cattle which is concerned with both economic 
and ceremonial requirements. On the one hand, bulls and oxen are 
trained to carry loads, but the Shuwalbe Fulani believe that cattle 
had a magical origin, for they are regarded as a gift from a water 
spirit. The owners are familiar with their cattle and are able to 
call each by name. The flesh of cattle is seldom eaten, and then only 
on ceremonial occasions such as naming a child, celebrating a wedding, 
or observing a Mohammedan festival. Women milk the cows and 
churn butter. Cattle are inherited in the male line from fathers to 
sons, and sharing of the cattle according to their colors is a feature of 
the system of inheritance. The oldest son takes all the black cattle, 
while the younger sons share the white animals. In time of drought 

Pastoral Pursuits 359 

a herdsman strips himself, then stands among the cattle and anoints 
their horns with milk. If disease threatens the herds, a Moham- 
medan mallam, who is a teacher and maker of charms, walks seven 
times round the kraal, repeating texts from the Koran. The traits 
described indicate a blending of factors of the true Hamitic pastoral 
culture with those of Mohammedanism (Brackenbury, 1923; L. N. 
Reed, 1932; Wilson-Haffenden, 1927, 1930; and Von Pfeffer 1936). 


In analyzing the social patterns that have developed in associa- 
tion with pastoral cultures, the following traits are found to be of 
primary importance, though they are not all present in every pastoral 
culture; neither do particular traits receive equal emphasis in each 
of the cultures in which they occur. 

The attitude of herdsmen toward their cattle is one of extreme 
solicitude; the care and affection lavished on the herds is one of the 
most impressive aspects of the culture. Religious and magical con- 
cepts associate cattle with life beyond the grave, with burial rites, 
and with the sacrificial use of meat, milk, and blood. Prayers and 
ritual for making rain are important, while the use of sacred fire is 
one of the most constant traits of the culture. References to this 
trait are numerous from Uganda to the extreme south, and southwest 
to the Ovimbundu. Eiselen (1929) has dealt fully with ritual 
connected with the sacred fire of the Bapedi of the Transvaal. 

At the head of a social system which is founded on pastoral pur- 
suits, the office of king or chief has sacred functions, and official 
rain-makers are the principal priests. Social status depends on the 
ownership of cattle; the larger the herds, the higher the rank of the 
possessor. Fulfillment of marriage contracts is dependent on owner- 
ship of stock. Inheritance and succession are usually in the male 
line from father to son or to a brother of the deceased. Blood 
brotherhood, which forms the most enduring of social ties, is effected 
by drinking a mixture of blood and milk from cattle. Typical 
Hamitic herdsmen, as among the Bahima and Masai, form a social 
aristocracy and a military caste, which is concerned with raiding for 
cattle and securing new land for grazing purposes. In some Hamitic 
social systems, namely, those of the Galla, Masai, and Nandi, age 
grades are fundamental for both males and females. According to a 
complex system, males pass from boyhood through the warrior class 
to the governing grade of old men. In the legal system, cattle are 
important as tribute, for payment of taxes, and as compensations. 

360 Source Book for African Anthropology 

In economic life, procedure varies among different pastoral 
tribes, but Nilotic Negroes, Hamites, and Half-Hamites who possess 
the typical cattle culture disdain agriculture and handicrafts, which 
are either neglected or relegated to a serving class. Meat is not 
eaten as an item of the ordinary diet, but it is consumed as a rite 
which is associated with some event of social and religious importance. 
Milk is a staple food. Some pastoral tribes make butter, and certain 
tribes drink the blood of cattle mixed with milk. 

A division of labor on a sex basis is evident in the true pastoral 
culture. Men are the usual herders and milkers, but local customs 
vary in this respect. Among some Bantu Negroes, for example, the 
Ba-ila, the Ovimbundu, and the southeastern Bantu, keeping cattle 
is combined with a well-developed system of agriculture which is in 
charge of women. Despite differences in social patterns among 
cattle keepers who inhabit the large areas of east and south Africa, 
the primary traits are well enough preserved to justify the general- 
izations we have made with regard to a typical pastoral culture. 


The Tuareg 

In order to illustrate the basic importance of the breeding of 
camels and the use of these animals in caravan trade, three areas of 
the Sahara are selected for study. These regions are the mountains 
of Air in the south-central Sahara, the plateau of Tibesti in the east- 
central Sahara, and the oases of the eastern Libyan Desert. The 
tribes inhabiting these regions differ in physique, in language, and 
to some extent in culture, but all are primarily dependent on the 
ownership of camels and on agriculture within very restricted fertile 
tracts. The chief spiritual factor is Mohammedanism. 

Enormous tracts of the Sahara are uninhabited, and the absence 
of regular water supplies over most of the area has caused human life 
to be concentrated either in high plateau regions or in oases, for in 
these areas permanent supplies of water can be obtained from wells. 
Between these habitable regions are two types of desert, the stony 
and sandy (Figs. 4, 5), which are so arid that communication can 
be maintained only by means of camel transport. This has been of 
primary importance in warfare and trade. The oases suffer from an 
incessant onslaught of sand that fills gardens, streets, and wells, so 
that in sedentary life as well as in trekking, the fight against des- 
ert conditions is continuous. Details of temperature and rainfall 
together with ecological information are given by Fitzgerald (1934, 
pp. 56-57, 59-60). Chevalier (1932) should be consulted for informa- 
tion relating to plant geography. 

The oasis of Kowar, with Bilma as its chief town, lies between 
the mountains of Air and the plateau of Tibesti. Of the desert 
region near Bilma, A. Buchanan says, "The Bilma Desert is desert 
at its worst, an absolute sea of sand destitute of the minutest object. 
Nothing relieves the eye, not even a morsel of vegetation, and there 
is no living creature whatever." 

Caravan routes follow the dried courses of ancient rivers that 
used to form a network of channels over the Sahara (Bourbon, 1933). 
The speed with which these depressions (wadis) can be converted 
into river beds is related by Buchanan (1926, p. 204): "The first 
warning of impending events came from a huge ominous cloud, lurid 
lightning, and a roar of thunder. The whole aspect of the country 
changed, while streams began to form and gurgle all round us; these 
grew at an alarming pace. A low murmuring arose in the hills behind 


362 Source Book for African Anthropology 

and drew nearer until we witnessed the remarkable sight of a foam- 
crested billow advancing down the hitherto empty river bed; so the 
stream was breast high." The water from such cloudbursts is wasted, 
with the exception of that which sinks through the sand and finds 
impervious strata. In such places wells are formed, and on these the 
long-distance caravans are dependent. 

In the mountains of Air (Asben), rains begin in early July and 
continue throughout August, by which time the customary routes 
have been converted into channels of water that render them im- 
passable. After the rains the valleys and hillsides are clothed with 
verdure, including many grasses, palms, and acacias. The thorny 
acacias are particularly useful as food for camels. Among these 
mountains, which rise to a height of 6,000 feet, live the Tuareg of Air, 
surrounded by both stony desert and dunes, whose crossing is 
attempted only under the leadership of a few renowned guides. Fig. 
69 shows a typical Tuareg camel caravan, and Fig. 70 gives a group 
of Tuareg horsemen. 

The journeys of Buchanan (1922, 1926), which were taken chiefly 
in the interests of zoology, demonstrated a distribution of animal 
life greater than had been anticipated. On the sparsely covered 
plains of Damergu between Lake Chad and Air, bustards and 
ostriches were found, while giraffe were occasionally seen. Antelopes 
included the white oryx, from whose hides the Tuareg make their 
large triangular shields, also the addax, which ranges as far north as 
22°, a point well within the desert area. In Air warthogs are rare, 
but they are seen at intervals, as also are jackals, wildcats, hyenas, 
foxes,' ground squirrels, jerboas, porcupines, and hares. Lions are 
rare in Air, but F. R. Rodd gives an account of the killing of one in 
recent times. Buchanan reports that his collection of birds from the 
Sahara included 134 different species and subspecies, many of which 
were migrants from southern Europe. In Air, and in the Hoggar 
Mountains north of Air, Barbary sheep live at high altitudes. 

In this habitat lives a section of the Tuareg, a word that is used 
by Arabs to designate many tribes who call themselves Kel Tagilmus, 
People of the Veil, in reference to the fact that all adult males cover 
their faces so that only their eyes and the upper parts of their fore- 
heads are seen (Palmer, 1928, vol. 3, p. 62; this work. Fig. 70). The 
veil is not removed under any circumstances; even during meals 
it is lifted when food is placed in the mouth. The origin of this 
custom of wearing the litham has not been explained. The veil is 
one of the insignia of manhood assimied by a boy who is ceremonially 


Fig. 69. Tuareg Caravan, near Zinder, French Niger Territory. 


364 Source Book for African Anthropology 

passed into the adult stage. The Tuareg are divided geographically 
into five main groups having some ethnological and linguistic dif- 
ferences. The Hoggar, Adzjer, and Iforas are the Tuareg of the 
north. The Tuareg of Air and the Niger are Tuareg of the south. 
The tribes of Air who have been selected for consideration here are 
physically, linguistically, and culturally similar to those of Hoggar. 

Among the best works dealing with the Tuareg are Palmer (1932, 
1934, 1936b), Rodd (1926, 1936), Abadie (1927),Duveyrier (1864a, b), 
Aymard (1911), Benhazera (1908), De Zeltner (1914 a, b), Chudeau 
(1909), L. Hall (1927), D'Armagnac (1934), and Schirmer (1893). 
D'Armagnac (1934) has discussed the subject of racial and cultural 
diffusion in the Sahara. In T. Monod's (1933-35) bibliography of the 
Sahara will be found a survey of the chief literature dealing with this 

The facts detailed under physical anthropology showed the 
Tuareg to be northern Hamites of aquiline features, with gray-blue 
or perhaps dark eyes, and curly hair unlike the woolly hair of Negroes. 
They are tall and slender, with dignified and graceful carriage. The 
skin color is often olive brown and many Tuareg, if suitably dressed, 
would not be incongruous among Europeans of the Mediterranean 
race. Physique, social organization, and economic conditions have 
been affected by acquisition of Negro slaves from the western Sudan. 


The main items of clothing for men are flowing robes and wide 
trousers, with perhaps a tanned goatskin or sheepskin worn round 
the loins below the trousers. Both blue and white colors are used by 
men; the former are the more common. Sandals of leather or palm 
fronds are worn. Charms include small leather satchels containing 
Koranic texts; these are fastened to the arms or are suspended round 
the neck. Steatite (soapstone) armlets of green color are worn above 
the elbow as an indication of rank. Some of these ornaments show 
neat repair work with small metal rivets. The rings are rubbed down 
from a round matrix, polished with sand, and baked in fat. A popular 
neck ornament is made from agate; this is of triangular shape, with 
a ring at the top formed from the one matrix. In the market at Kano 
tawdry imitations in glass are sold. The distinctive equipment of a 
man is, in addition to the veil, a broad, straight, cross-hilted sword, 
a barbed thro wing-spear, an oryx-hide shield, and a number of arm- 
rings of stone. 

The usual dress for a woman is a skirt of indigo cloth with perhaps 
a narrow white stripe in it, and a sleeveless coat. Silver bangles and 

Fig. 70. Tuareg of Timbuktu Straus West African Expedition (from photo- 
graph by John F. Jennings). 


366 Source Book for African Anthropology 

hair ornaments of the same metal are the customary decorations. 
Despite the injunctions of Mohammedanism, Tuareg women do not 
veil, but they draw their hoods across their faces in the presence of 
strangers. The henna plant, which grows in Air, is used for making 
a red dye for staining finger and toe nails. Kohl is employed for 
darkening the eyelashes. 

In some regions of Air stone-built houses are used, but dwellings 
are usually more temporary. A hut is quickly made by tying to- 
gether the tops of palm frond ribs that have been stuck in the ground. 
On this framework is laid a thatch of coarse grass, while mats provide 
the walls. In the city of Agades in southern Air many of the houses 
have vertical mud walls, and flat roofs which are drained by clay 
pipes. This is a type of architecture commonly found in Egypt, 
north Africa, and the western Sudan. The roof is reached by a 
flight of stairs built in the outer wall. In the interior are chambers 
and courtyards, some of which are reserved for females (Figs. 73, 
74, a). The most primitive house is one used by nomadic Tuareg, 
who make a portable structure by stretching ox-skins on poles. A 
bed, which accommodates the whole family, is made by placing 
poles on Y-shaped supports and covering the poles with mats. The 
family sleep on the ground in the dry season. The Tuareg some- 
times use tents of Bedouin type made of camel- or goat-hair rugs 
(Fig. 72). 

A Tuareg proverb states that "shame enters a family that tills 
the soil," nevertheless, agricultural produce is more important than 
meat in Tuareg diet, and grain is almost as staple as the milk of 
camels and goats. Negro slaves perform agricultural work, and 
even in sedentary communities Tuareg women do not till the soil. 
If force of circumstances makes agricultural interests inevitable, 
there is always the hope that such employment will be temporary, 
and that camels will ultimately be obtained. In this social distinc- 
tion between pastoral and agricultural pursuits among the Tuareg, 
there is a parallel with the lives of the eastern Hamites whose social 
standing depends on ownership of cattle. 

The principal grains used by the Tuareg are millet and wheat, 
which are both grown in Air, though a considerable quantity of millet 
is imported from the Sudan. Crushing in stone querns is the first 
stage in preparing wheat for cooking, but millet, a softer grain than 
wheat, is pounded in a wooden mortar. The Tuareg frequently 
travel where wood for fires is unobtainable; therefore, millet is baked 
into cakes that are carried on the journey, and for a short excursion 

Camel Keepers of the Sahara 367 

of two days a man provides no more than a mush of millet in water, 
which is conveyed in goatskin bags. If firewood is obtainable, 
ignition is accomplished by rubbing a piece of hard wood in a groove 
of softer wood. 

The Tuareg are indifferent potters who attempt no more than 
the manufacture of coarse red ware, but cooking pots of better quality 
are imported from Agades. The Tuareg employ a method of cooking 
which is widely adopted by Arabs and Berbers. A perforated pot 
is placed over the mouth of a lower pot containing water, which is 
boiled. The rising steam cooks the wheat or other grain in the upper 
pot, which contains, in addition to grain, some meat and salt, with 
seasoning. Meat is a luxury, since the milk of sheep, goats, camels, 
and cows is required for making cheese, and the animals are too 
valuable for slaughter. Meat is sometimes cooked under the hot 
embers of a fire, and, for use when trekking, meat is preserved by 
soaking it in brine and drying it in the sun. 

The Tuareg will eat the flesh of an animal that has died from 
injury, provided the creature's throat has been cut before it died. 
Flesh of camels is eaten if this rite has been performed. The custom 
of cutting the throat of an animal so that the flesh may be ritually 
clean is of ancient Semitic origin, and the usage has become a part 
of Mohammedan and Jewish procedure. 

Date palms which have been introduced into Air from regions 
farther north supply an important article of diet. Sometimes the 
dates are eaten while fresh, but more often they are soaked in water, 
then pressed into leather receptacles that are tightly sewn. During 
a journey, the main foods are powdered cheese, dates, cakes of 
cooked millet, and water; but some nomads can dispense with water 
for weeks, provided their camels and goats are giving an adequate 
supply of milk. Churning to make cheese and butter is an occupation 
for women, who use skin bags as churns. Women also grind grain 
and do the cooking. Young boys are trained in work of this kind, 
and to them such tasks are given during journeys. Men make 
saddles and other equipment, twist rope from palm fiber, and sew 
water-skins from goat-hide. 

Certain trades, for example, that of the blacksmith, are in the 
hands of specialists, and, no matter what the social standing of a 
blacksmith may be, he commands respect because of his occupation. 
With his iron-forging a blacksmith often combines the work of 
jeweler and carpenter. The former occupation is concerned with 
the manufacture of silver ornaments for women, while the latter 


368 Source Book for African Anthropology 

produces wooden spoons, ladles, bowls, and other domestic utensils. 
Men of the Tuareg are more skilled than women in making clothes, 
and this is also true among the Hausa of Kano, where men make the 
clothing for themselves and for their women. Men make hide shields, 
swords, arm-daggers, and spears. Shields and spears are falling into 
desuetude since the entry of modern rifles. Knives and swords are 
imported from Kano in northern Nigeria. A. Dupuis-Yacouba 
(1914, 1921), De Gironcourt (1914), and De Zeltner (1914b) all give 
well-illustrated accounts of Tuareg art and industries. Dupuis- 
Yacouba deals specifically with the art of Timbuktu. Personal 
ornaments have been described in detail by Arkell (1935a, b) . 

Animal life is not so plentiful as to encourage specialization in 
hunting. The distribution of a round, cane foot-trap used for catch- 
ing gazelle has been described by Lindblom (1928a). Horses are not 
generally seen except near Agades, and the chief beasts of burden, 
apart from camels, are pack-oxen and small donkeys, which are used 
for local transport. Cattle of the humped species are purchased 
from the Fulani, who are nomadic herdsmen of the western Sudan. 
The Hausa have introduced cats. Dogs are plentiful. Chickens 
are used as food. 

These domestic animals are less important than camels, whose 
ownership is a basic trait in the economic and social organization. 
Of the genus Camel dromedarius, which is the Arabian camel with one 
hump, many species are to be seen in Air. One conspicuous breed 
is a tall, sandy-colored camel having great height at the shoulder; 
these animals are bred in the plateau region of Tibesti, several hun- 
dred miles to the east of Air. The Ghati camel is reddish-fawn in 
color, and because of its massive build it can carry heavy loads. 
The rough-coated camels that are bred in the Hoggar Mountains 
are of great height and strength. The large white camels are reared 
in Air. The Tuareg are able to deduce an astonishing amount of 
information from camel tracks which give a certain clue to the breed, 
and every camel owner knows the spoor of each of his animals. 
Camel hactrianus, the shaggy, two-humped Asiatic camel, is not used 
in Africa. 

The resistance of camels to drought depends on the conditions 
under which they were reared. If accustomed to only small rations 
of water, the animals will be allowed to drink every third day, and 
they will go for much longer periods without serious suffering. Yet 
camels are delicate animals, requiring time for browsing slowly, and 
they are subject to several diseases. The feet are liable to develop 

Camel Keepers of the Sahara 369 

cracks, and saddle sores are readily formed. Baggage camels cannot 
travel more than three miles an hour without risk of injury. The 
care of camels, their breeding, the making of equipment, technique 
of loading, conduction of caravans, and organization of raiding have 
formed the core of Tuareg life. Changing economic conditions result- 
ing from European intrusion are militating against the caravan 
trade, while supervision by French camel corps patrols places a 
check on desert warfare. Leonard (1894) has written a standard 
work on "The Camel and Its Management" and useful notes are to 
be found in the works of MacMichael (1913), Hassanein Bey (1924), 
and King (1925). 

The object of the annual caravan journey from Air to Bilma, a 
distance of about three hundred miles, is to secure salt, which is 
traded everywhere in the western Sudan. The route is almost water- 
less, and since there is no fodder or browsing for the camels, bales of 
provender have to be carried. The food for the return journey is 
cached on the outward trip. At present the caravan numbers about 
five thousand camels, but in time past as many as thirty thousand 
animals have made the journey. A Tuareg who owns only one camel 
is anxious to join the caravan, while a wealthy man may have a 
hundred animals or more. The ambition of all Tuareg of Air is to 
join in this great enterprise, which is also accompanied by Hausa 
traders from Kano and Sokoto. For weeks in advance the caravan 
is assembling in Air, until at last the train of camels, perhaps seven 
miles long, sets out for Bilma. The daily journey is about forty 
miles, made at the rate of two and a half miles an hour. A record 
journey for riding camels was made in the year 1917, when Tuareg 
scouts who were faithful to the French carried news of an attack on 
Agades. The journey of two hundred and fifty miles from Agades to 
Zinder was accomplished in four days. 


In religion the Tuareg are Mohammedan, but they are lax and 
superficial toward their faith. Charles de Foucauld (Bazin, 1923) has 
said, "Although the Tuareg are Musulmans by faith they are very igno- 
rant of Islam and have not been spoiled by it." In this respect the 
Tuareg differ essentially from the Senussi Arabs of the Libyan 
oases, and the Teda of Tibesti. These Mohammedans have been 
evangelized by the fanatical Senussi Mohammedans, who observe 
the tenets of the faith strictly and have no tolerance of unbelievers. 
The Tuareg have a code of morality which to some extent is derived 
from Islamic teaching. Water is not denied to any enemy in the 

370 Source Book for African Anthropology 

desert, wells are not poisoned, and palms are not cut down. The 
Tuareg do not break their bond of peace; they keep their word to 
those who are permitted to travel through their country, and in 
warfare certain standards of conduct are observed. 

On the whole the life of the Tuareg conforms to the standard 
of austerity enjoined by the Prophet. The Tuareg do not smoke 
tobacco, but they chew green tobacco mixed with saltpeter. They 
are not addicted to alcoholic drinks. Mohammedan sects are divided 
respecting the permissibility of alcoholic drinks. The Senussi sect 
forbids coffee but sanctions the use of tea. Injunctions against 
tobacco are, of course, post- Koranic. 

The ceremonial life is not well developed, and rites are of a simple 
kind. No birth ceremonies are observed, but boys are circumcised 
in compliance with Mohammedan custom. Marriage ceremonies 
are performed in Mohammedan fashion, and at death a corpse is 
buried supine with the face turned toward Mecca. Music and danc- 
ing as adjuncts of ceremonies are of a primitive type. An improvised 
drum is made by floating a calabash in water, or by stretching a skin 
over a wooden mortar of the kind in which grain is pounded. An- 
other kind of drum is made by stretching a piece of scraped hide 
over the top of a pottery vessel. There is not much dancing, but 
solo sword dances are sometimes performed by men. 

Political organization comprises a hierarchy of tribal chiefs, 
village headmen, and headmen of sections within villages. The 
names of primary tribes begin with the letter "I," and subdivisions 
are denoted by words having "Kel" as a prefix. The prefix has a 
geographical significance meaning "the people of." For example, 
the word "Ikazkazan" denotes one of the main aristocratic divisions, 
and the names Kel Ulli and Kel Seliufet denote local subdivisions. 

The elective principle operates in tribal government, and the 
annual meeting for the caravan journey to Bilma is the occasion for 
electing rulers. In this way economic and legislative requirements 
are made to harmonize. Tuareg government is of the patriarchal 
Bedouin Arab type, in which a tribal leader is paramount in peace 
and war; his functions are military, legislative, and judicial. Heads 
of families unite to form councils, and in each extended family there 
are several patriarchal chiefs, each having authority over a house- 
hold. This is a Semitic, but not the oldest type of Semitic organiza- 
tion. Among the Tuareg, claims of personal ascendancy are strong, 
and individual initiative is often concerned in making or breaking 
alliances between tribes. Some political liaisons are formed only to 


Camel Keepers of the Sahara 371 

give strength in war but others are of a more permanent character; 
yet all are disturbed and curtailed by the superimposed European 
system of administration. 

In contrast with the patriarchal system are customs that are 
distinctly favorable to the prestige of women. Tuareg women are 
strong-minded, gifted, and intelligent; they have dignity and mod- 
esty. Contrary to Mohammedan practice, women may own property ; 
they take part in tribal councils, and, among the Kel Geres, they 
rule several villages. Polygyny is permissible, but monogamy is the 
more general practice. Among tribes who still preserve T'ifinagh, 
the script in which Tamashek, the language of the Tuareg, is written, 
women teach their children to write. Girls show great independence 
in making their own betrothals, and it is not unusual for a girl to 
take an all-night ride on a camel to see her lover. The traveler, Ibn 
Batuta (A.D. 1325-54), was shocked at what he considered to be the 
immodesty of Tuareg women, for on entering a house he came into 
the presence of a young and beautiful woman, who, regardless of the 
absence of her veil, "laughed at his embarrassment instead of blushing 
with shame." A Tuareg idea of the status of women is expressed in 
the saying, "Men and women are for the eyes and the heart, and not 
only for the bed." 

Divorce proceedings follow the Koranic precepts, but adultery 
is uncommon and prostitution is discountenanced in Air. In Agades, 
where Tuareg mingle with Hausa, Kanuri, and other tribes, irregular 
sexual relations are more usual than in a purely Tuareg community. 
At Bilma a guild of women is a band of professional prostitutes, but 
Bilma is a place of Tuareg caravan trade and not a place of Tuareg 
settlement. Infanticide does not exist, but the death rate among 
children is high ; there are no mid wives and no medicine-men. Female 
friends assist delivery by massage, and death in childbed is said to be 
rare. Children are well disciplined and industrious. 

The Tuareg say that because of the period of pregnancy, children 
belong to their mother by prior right, and the father's claim to his 
offspring is secondary. If a woman marries outside her tribe, the 
children belong to her kindred and not to the kindred of her husband. 
Moreover, if a man has married a woman from a tribe other than his 
own, and his wife survives him, she returns to her own tribe, taking 
her children with her. Motherless children are returned to the 
kindred of their deceased mother, and, if a woman is divorced, she 
returns to her own tribe, taking her children with her. If war breaks 
out between two tribes, some of whose members have intermarried, 

372 Source Book for African Anthropology 

the women and their children return to their own tribes until hostili- 
ties are ended. The position of a slave woman, who is usually of 
Negro extraction, is different. She and her children are permanently 
part of the tribe into which they enter, by sale or by marriage. 
Descent is reckoned through females, and if an aristocratic Imajegan 
has taken a wife from the slave class, or from a tribe inferior to his 
own, he will have difficulty in securing recognition of his children as 
part of the Imajegan. The offspring are usually classed as Irejanaten, 
that is, the "mixed people." 

Recognition of descent through females affects inheritance and 
succession. Ibn Batuta pointed out that the heir of the Sultan of 
Tekadda was the son of the ruler's sister, and the same law of suc- 
cession prevailed at Ghat. F. R. Rodd says (1926, p. 152), "It 
seems clear that before the advent of Islam, which has tended to 
modify the system, the Tuareg had a completely matriarchal organi- 
zation." The Tuareg resemble the Kababish in this combination of 
an old Semitic matriarchal system with a more modern Semitic and 
Mohammedan patriarchal regime. 

The Tuareg present a picture of nomadic life of the desert based 
on the rearing of camels and the organization of long-distance cara- 
vans. A complementary organization is seen in the lives of sedentary 
agriculturalists, but these constitute the lower social class. Arts and 
industries are only moderately well developed. Social organization 
combines distinct features of systems based on male and female 
primogeniture respectively, and the two systems are made to harmo- 
nize. The religion is a moderate form of Mohammedanism. 

According to F. R. Rodd, the Tuareg have fought with a losing 
hand. They have been driven from the north by Arabs and harried 
by everyone. At last, European force of arms has prevailed, and in 
wars with the French many Tuareg have perished, while others have 
been punished and reduced to poverty. Yet the pride of the Tuareg 
endures, and they console themselves with the adage, "It is wise to 
kiss the hand you cannot cut off." 

The Tibesti Plateau 
The Tebu (Tibbu) and the Teda are the principal tribes inhabiting 
the plateau of Tibesti; these tribes are hereditary enemies of the 
Tuareg. Their physique is Hamitic with a Negro mixture. The 
languages are ancient Berber (Hamitic) with some Sudanic Negro 
elements added, but no satisfactory record has yet been made, and 
the plateau is imperfectly known ethnologically and in other respects. 

Camel Keepers of the Sahara 373 

Buchanan (1926) gives excellent photographs of the Tibbu. R^quin 
(1935) has described the clans of the Teda, and Noel (1920) has given 
some ethnological notes on this tribe. MacMichael (1912b) has sup- 
plied information on the Zaghawa, who are related to the Teda and 

The Tibbu are camel breeders and caravan men whose journeys 
take them east to the Libyan oases of Kufra and Ouenat, and south- 
west to Lake Chad. Part of the population is sedentary, and between 
this section and the nomadic element there exists a complementary 
economic life, as among the Tuareg of Air. 

In Tibesti the usual dress of north African Mohammedans has 
been adopted. Men wear a turban wound several times round the 
head, passed under the chin, and sometimes made to cover the lower 
part of the face. The main articles of clothing are a loose, wide- 
sleeved smock, wide trousers, and sandals, with perhaps the addition 
of a sheepskin mantle. The plateau rises in places to a height of ten 
thousand feet, and this elevation, combined with a desert environ- 
ment, causes extremes of temperature between night and day. 
Amulets and charms are of the usual Mohammedan tjrpe, consisting 
mainly of leather satchels containing written excerpts from the 
Koran. These are worn on the upper arms or around the neck. The 
weapons are a barbed javelin, an arm-dagger, and a throwing knife. 

Women wear loose robes of blue cloth made fast at the left shoul- 
ders, and, like the men, they are well armed, since family blood-feuds 
of Tibesti are bitter and enduring. Men shave their heads, but 
women part their hair in the middle and allow it to hang low on each 
side of the head. Each plait ends in a ball of hard wax. Women 
perforate their ear-lobes and the sides of their noses to receive silver 
studs. Scarification is not extensively practiced, but between the 
ages of five and twelve months the shoulders, bellies, and breasts of 
females are ornamented with cuts. Scarification is a Negro custom, 
but the common Negro practice of mutilating the teeth is not fol- 
lowed in Tibesti. Finger nails of women are stained with henna, and 
kohl is applied to darken the eyelids and eyelashes. Both boys and 
girls have their heads shaved, and young girls go naked except for a 
waist-band and a small leather apron ornamented with cowrie shells. 

The dwellings ordinarily used are movable structures made of 
mats, but Denham and his companions reported the existence of 
rock shelters which were reached by ladders. These retreats proved 
useful during raids made by bands of Tuareg. • 

374 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The Teda and the Tibbu are strict Mohammedans, with a deep 
mistrust of foreigners. Burial is of the Mohammedan type with the 
face of the corpse turned toward Mecca, and a marabout (Moham- 
medan saint) is engaged to recite from the Koran during the 

Circumcision is practiced on boys between the ages of eight and 
fourteen years, and girls suffer the operation of clitoridectomy during 
infancy. Marriage ceremonies are intricate; the formalities include 
presentations from the groom to his parents-in-law, and arrange- 
ments are made for the bride to receive a dowry of camels from her 
father. Marriage rites begin with a fight, in which the bride's 
relatives attempt to prevent the groom from taking the bride from 
her kindred. P. Noel (1920) states that the fight is a real one, in 
which the bride's home is wrecked. The bride spends the first night 
of married life in the home prepared by her husband, but her 
spouse is not present. 

Next day the husband takes possession of his home. He kills a 
camel or a goat, according to his circumstances, and the meat is 
divided between the two families. The marriage is consummated 
that night, and next morning the bridal mat is displayed on the roof. 
During the following seven days the bride is secluded, without 
permission to see or speak with anyone. The levirate is practiced, 
and in compliance with this custom a widow who has completed her 
period of mourning is married by a younger brother of her dead 

In physique and language the Tibbu and Teda differ from the 
Tuareg. Both have adopted the Mohammedan religion, but the 
inhabitants of Tibesti are stricter than the Tuareg in their religious 
observances. Like the Tuareg, the Tibbu and Teda are primarily 
concerned with breeding camels for caravan trade, but a sedentary 
population supplies agricultural produce, including dates. Milk 
from camels and goats is a staple of diet. The cultures, despite 
differences, are homologous, since both have similar environmental 
conditions to which the inhabitants have made the same kind of 

Another instance of a desert culture based on the breeding and 
use of camels in caravan trade may be observed in the Libyan 
Desert. Here are situated several groups of oases, with long inter- 
vening stretches of barren, waterless desert. The line of oases near- 
est to the Nile includes Siwa and Kharga; then farther out in the 
desert are Arkenu, Kufra, and Ouenat. These oases are situated on 


Camel Keepers of the Sahara 375 

an ancient and important caravan route from Darfur and Kordofan 
to northern Egypt, but as a result of French and British 
interference with slave traffic the prosperity of caravan trade has 

The Libyan Oases 

The geographical background of Bedouin life in the Libyan Desert 
has been described by several explorers (section IV). Hassanein 
Bey (1924, p. 29) states that although the desert can be beautiful 
and kindly it is at other times overwhelming in its cruelty. 

"It is when your camels droop their heads from exhaustion, 
when your water supply has run short and there is no sign of the 
next well, when men are listless and without hope, when the map 
you carry is a blank because the desert is uncharted, and the guide 
when asked about the route answers that God knows best — ^then the 
Bedouin, having offered his prayers that remain ungranted, sinks 
down on the sands, draws his jerd around him and awaits death with 
astonishing equanimity." 

But if the desired oasis is reached, the caravan rests among 
wells, palms, and gardens. Food is abundant, and from a condition 
of extreme privation the traveler passes to one of plenty. The 
domestic animals of the oases are camels, sheep, horses, and donkeys. 
Articles of diet are mutton, chickens, butter, eggs, rice, tea — the 
two last items importations from the Mediterranean seaboard. In 
Kufra a system of irrigation produces maize, bananas, grapes, and 
barley. This agricultural background is much richer than that of 
the Tuareg of Air or the inhabitants of Tibesti, and the demand for 
imports is correspondingly greater. Therefore, caravan trade is 

Within the oases the chief activities are cultivation, care of 
domestic animals, and industries that include manufacture of leather 
goods, baskets, and mats. The nomadic population is concerned 
entirely with caravan trade relieved by periods of rest in the oases. 
Reliable guides for long-distance journeys are few, and great honor 
is accorded to competent leaders. Interests and occupations of 
caravan men center in their camels. In addition to making equip- 
ment the men must care for the animals. Leather pads are sewn 
on the feet of footsore animals, and surgical operations are per- 
formed to relieve a disease known as "blood in the head." The 
Bedouins of the Libyan oases appear to have some affection for their 
camels, for a Bedouin, though tired, will sit by a sick camel and 
attempt to alleviate its suffering by playing for hours on his thin 

376 Source Book for African Anthropology 

reed pipes. When extolling the sagacity of camels, the Bedouins say- 
that a young camel may truly claim ''that if my mother drinks from 
a well while I am still in her womb, I could travel days to come 
back and drink at the same well." 

Most of the Bedouin Arabs of the Libyan oases belong to the 
Senussi brotherhood of Mohammedans. Hassanein Bey describes 
the Senussi as "a religious order whose leadership is hereditary, 
and which exerts a predominating influence in the lives of the people 
of the Libyan Desert." The founder of the order was Sayed Ibn Ali 
El Senussi, who was born in Algeria a.h. 1202 (see p. 390), which 
approximates to the year 1790 in the Christian calendar. He and his 
successors attempted a purification of Mohammedan belief and ritual. 
The leaders were distressed by the laxity of the Bedouins in failing 
to observe the fast of Ramadan, and in their substitution of a sacred 
stone (Kaaba) in Cyrenaica for the authentic stone to which pil- 
grimages should be made; this is situated at Mecca. The brother- 
hood founded schools called zawias from which trained teachers 
named ikhwan were sent to proselytize the Bedouins of the Libyan 
oases, the Teda and Tibbu of Tibesti, and the Tuareg. During the 
World War, the Senussi played an important political role in inciting 
Bedouins and Tuareg against the Italians and the French. In the 
year 1917, Sayed Idris, the head of the Senussi, whose headquarters 
are in the oasis of Jagabub, made a compact with the Italian govern- 
ment which gave him the administration of Kufra Oasis. In 1931 
the Italian forces took punitive measures against the inhabitants of 
Kufra, which is now under Italian administration. 

Hassanein Bey reports that the Senussi were reserved and suspi- 
cious toward him, although he is a Mohammedan with command of 
the Arabic language. Rumor stated that he was a spy, and at no 
time could he make open use of his theodolite and other instruments. 

In common with most Mohammedans the Bedouins have an 
accretion of beliefs, some of which are early Semitic and pre-Moham- 
medan. J inns and affrits, the demons of Arabian folklore, are 
thought to live under the direction of the sheikh el affrit, the master 
of the demons. The rock drawings of Ouenat and even the desert 
itself are attributed to these demons. The desert is called helad esh 
Shaytn (country of the devil). Divination and omens are seriously 
regarded, and the evil eye is feared. Belief in a spiritual force called 
baraka is an element of religious life. 

The social organization is strongly paternal, with succession, 
descent, and inheritance in the male line. Social distinctions are 

Camel Keepers of the Sahara 377 

strongly observed, some tribes being high in the social scale and 
others low. Dress, ownership of property, and ostentation support 
these distinctions. Families of importance have marks of ownership 
(wasmat) that are branded on camels. Women are veiled, but they 
are kept in seclusion only in the highest social classes. Girls are 
married at the age of fourteen years and boys when a few years 
older. Family and tribal blood-feuds are perpetuated. 

Negro slaves who were imported from the Sudan are well treated, 
and the slave classes think it better to serve a rich man than to have 
their freedom. A wealthy master shows his opulence by keeping his 
slaves well fed and gaily dressed. The treatment of slaves with 
respect to marriage, concubinage, inheritance, and the status of 
children is determined by Koranic teaching. The speech in these 
oases is Arabic; so also is the script used by educated men. 

Many minor customs are typical of Bedouin life in Arabia, Egypt, 
and north Africa. A salute is given by charging horsemen, who 
advance in line at the gallop, then pull their horses onto their 
haunches. Another courtesy is firing into the air to give a salute. 
Entertainments include a burlesque play known as a fantasia. 
Music and dancing, together with songs of love, war, and caravan 
journeys, are part of the intellectual life. 

Ceremonial meals are offered with lavish hospitality and great 
formality in serving the courses. Tea must be drunk with a sucking 
noise to show appreciation. A guest is fed by his host, who picks out 
pieces of food with his fingers and offers them personally. A host 
may light cigarettes and offer them to his guests. Violent belching 
during the meal is an expected mark of appreciation. 


Examination of the cultural patterns of Tuareg, Tibbu, and 
Bedouin Arabs of Libya has shown a typical picture of Saharan desert 
life, which is centered in the rearing of camels for warfare and caravan 
trade. Each of the tribes considered has nomadic and sedentary 
aspects of culture which are mutually dependent. Mohammedanism 
prevails throughout the areas considered, but. with varying intensity. 
Many pre-Mohammedan traits of ancient Semitic pattern are 
functioning. Economically, socially, and spiritually, the Saharan 
cultures provide an example of homologies arising from use of 
camels and the necessity for adaptation of social patterns to environ- 
mental conditions. The Saharan cultures distinctly show the 
effects of a mingling of aristocratic Hamites and Semites with their 
Negro slaves. 









The Arabian Background 

Before the study of Semitic and Mohammedan cultures in Africa 
is attempted, some acquaintance should be made with works describ- 
ing these cultures in Arabia, the place of their origin. 

Among the older books Robertson Smith's works (1889, 1907) 
seem to give the general social, religious, and economic background 
of early Arabia before a.d. 571. Dough ty's "Arabia Deserta" (1888, 
2nd ed. 1920) is a well-known classic, a masterpiece of descriptive 
writing which gives life and atmosphere to Arab culture. 

Hogarth has written "A History of Arabia" which deals with a 
knowledge of the Semites from a.d. 570 to the year 1914. Hogarth 
describes the fertile corner of southwest Arabia where the Minaean 
and Sabaean civilization flourished, but by the time of Aelius Gallus, 
who penetrated the hinterland of the Yemen in the year 26 B.C., the 
culture was dead and the desert had reclaimed the site. 

The work of J. Hell, translated from the German by S. Khuda 
Bukhsh (1936, pp. 94-121) is a student's most valuable source for 
obtaining a brief account of all that is really important concerning 
the history of Arabs in north Africa. Considerable information is 
compressed into small compass. 

For recent research in southern Arabia, B. Thomas (1929) should 
be consulted. Bedouin life has been well described by G. W. Murray 
(1935), Kennett (1926), Musil (1928), and in a short article by H. 
Field (1931). These writings will give a complete account of the 
type of Arabian and Egyptian Bedouin culture that has penetrated 
the oases in the hinterland of north Africa from Sinai to Mauretania. 

Irving's (1911) "Life of Mohammed," and Margoliouth's (1911) 
small textbook of Mohammedanism give all that is really necessary 
for understanding the social, religious, and economic aspects of 
Mohammedanism. The penetration of Islamic beliefs and practices 
into Negro tribes has been described by Andr^ (1924), in "L'Islam 
noir," and Spanish Islamic traits are the subject of a work by Dozy 
(Stokes's translation, 1913). For more advanced study, R. Levy's 
(1933, 1935) volumes, "An Introduction to the Sociology of Islam," 
will prove sufficiently comprehensive. 

In the following pages of this section three fundamental divisions 
of Semitic culture will be described, and these correspond with the 
course of reading just outlined. Primarily, there is the basic Semitic 



Source Book for African Anthropology 

culture of unknown duration, long antedating the rise of Moham- 
medanism in Arabia; secondly, we have to recognize the cultural 
wave of Semiticism and Mohammedanism which swept northern 
Africa under the stimulus of the new religion of the Prophet; and, 
finally, a survey must recognize cultural accessories that tend to 
move with Mohammedanism without having any original or logical 
connection with that faith. 

Fig. 72. Bedouin tent, typical of Arabia and north Africa (from photograph 
by H. Field). 

The Kababish 
The tribal life of the Kababish of Kordofan will serve to illus- 
trate essential points in the social pattern of early Semitic life in 
Arabia. C. G. and B. Z. Seligman(1918) point out that in Kordofan 
the geographical conditions are so similar to those of Arabia that 
environment has demanded little change in the mode of life which 
was characteristic of the ancient Semites in Arabia. This pastoral 
culture, which includes the breeding of camels, is typical of Arabian 
Bedouins of the present day, and in culture the Kababish resemble the 
Hamitic Beja of the Red Sea Province. The Kababish have Arab 
blood, mixed with that of their Negro slaves. There is also evidence 
of a mixture of Hamitic physique, and linguistic study shows 

Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 


resemblances between the Arabic of the Kababish and the Hamitic 
speech of the Beja. 

economic conditions 

Although the Kababish esteem camels as a criterion of wealth, 
as beasts of burden, as a source of milk supply, and for sacrificial 
purposes on ceremonial occasions, the general culture of the Kababish 
differs in several essential ways from that of the camel-keeping 
Tuareg, Teda, and Senussi Arabs of the Sahara. 

In the parts of Kordofan inhabited by the Kababish, rainfall, 
though local and uncertain in quantity, is sufficient to encourage the 
breeding of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. In this pastoral nomad- 


Fig. 73. North and west African architecture, Kano, Nigeria. 

ism of the Kababish there is a blending of the Saharan camel culture 
with the pastoral life of Hamitic east Africa, and the two elements 
combine to give a social pattern which closely resembles Bedouin 
life, both ancient and modern, in Arabia. Geographical determinism 
is important in connection with a study of the social and economic 
life of the Kababish. During the period from July to September 
grass is plentiful, and the tribes of the confederacy are widely 
scattered. To prepare for drought the sheikh of each section sends 
out scouts to find water, which is to be found as subsoil reservoirs 

382 Source Book for African Anthropology 

at low levels long after the surface has become parched. The Kaba- 
bish then divide, so accommodating their social organization to 
economic needs in a way described in the Old Testament. 

Camel foals are born in the wet season, and when after a few 
months, they are able to run with the herd they are called mafrud. 
Other names are used to designate animals of two, three, four, and 
five years of age. For three years the milk teeth persist, but in the 
fourth year permanent teeth appear, and the second dentition is 
complete in the fifth year. Camels are not fully grown until their 
sixteenth year, but at the age of five years they are regarded as work- 
able. The duration of life is not usually more than forty years. 

The branding of camels is important as an indication of family 
histories, for when two persons marry and their herds are mingled 
the brands give a record of this union. The general name for brands 
is wasmat, but each mark has its own name and a form that indicates 
ownership and locality. H. A. MacMichael (1913) points out that 
the surprising knowledge of camel owners is due to careful observa- 
tion and accurate memorizing of the brands. 

In connection with the rearing of camels and other live stock 
several industries are important, and these have been described and 
well illustrated by Meinhof (1916). Making leather trappings is a 
staple industry; each item has a name, and some of the objects are 
ceremonially used. Tanning has a well-developed technique for 
removing the hair, for washing, scraping, and soaking in a tanning 
solution containing extract from acacia seeds. Water-skins and 
leather buckets for drawing water from wells are two of the important 
items made from hides of sheep and goats. Two articles of equip- 
ment are the utfa, an enclosure in which married women travel, 
and the tonkoh, which is used by a senior unmarried daughter. These 
structures are adapted for strapping on the backs of camels. The 
utfa has formed the subject of an article by A. E. Robinson (1931). 

Roofs of tents are constructed of camel-hair rugs (Fig. 72), which 
are made more protective against the heat by using with them rugs 
of sheep's wool and goat-hair. Thread spun from the hair of cam- 
els, sheep, and goats is woven into blankets and clothing on a prim- 
itive loom worked by women. This is a type of loom having a wide 
distribution among Bedouin Arabs of Africa and Arabia. 

Making baskets from fronds of the dum palm (Fig. 9, h) is carried 
out by a coiling process, and after the coils have been stitched to- 
gether cowrie shells are added for ornament. Dyes of attractive 
colors are made. Typical industries are the manufacture of mats, 

Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 383 

rope, and jointed woodwork without nails. From hard woods of 
the semi-desert, wooden cups, bowls, and platters are made. Pot- 
tery vessels are purchased from itinerant vendors. Sites of old iron- 
workings may be seen in northern Kordofan, but the iron industry is 
now defunct. Spearheads are purchased from Omdurman, or they 
are made by itinerant blacksmiths. 

The food supply is derived from animals. Camels' milk is drunk 
by men, cows' milk by women, and goats' milk by children. Butter 
is made by shaking milk in a skin vessel along with a little sour milk; 
the liquid is then allowed to stand for twenty-four hours. Tea and 
coffee are purchased from Omdurman. The use of camel's flesh as 
food is restricted chiefly to ceremonial occasions, but mutton is a 
regular article of diet. Dried dates and partly baked unleavened 
bread are two principal articles of diet. Beer is made from the grain 
durra, which is the principal crop of the eastern Sudan. Only a 
small amount of cultivation is practiced ; therefore, grain is purchased 
from neighboring sedentary tribes. 

With the exception of the gazelle, which is captured by a round 
foot-trap, Kordofan harbors little game, though sixty years ago 
ostriches were common, and giraffes were hunted. 

Warfare has declined, but in earlier days conflicts arose from 
disputes concerning rights to wells and pastures. The conquerors 
spared none of the men who fell into their hands, and all slave women, 
together with live stock and equipment, were the property of the 
victors. The Nurab, a section of the Kababish, used to have chain 
mail and quilted armor. These are in use today at Potiskum in 
northern Nigeria (Fig. 75, b) and at Niamey on the River Niger. 
Connected with warfare and horsemanship is the fantasia, which 
includes riding at the gallop and pulling up suddenly, also firing 
from the saddle. This custom prevails in Libya and Morocco. 
Songs alluding to battle and the prowess of the Kababish are com- 
posed by women, who chant them in praise of the warriors after the 
manner described in Old Testament history. 

SOCIAL and religious LIFE 

The Kababish are divided into sections and subsections, each 
of which is ruled by a sheikh who has inherited the right from his 
father. Superior to these rulers is a paramount sheikh who imposes 
taxes, and to whom appeals can be made against the legal decisions 
of minor rulers. In harmony with this hierarchy of chiefs, there 
exists a customary mode of travel and an arrangement of the camping 
ground according to rank. 


384 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Responsibilities of the chiefs of subtribes, and of heads of famihes 
are concerned with blood-feuds. A system of communal respon- 
sibility exists, and every male of a community in which a blood- 
feud persists is, at least theoretically, in a state of war. The honor 
of a community is at stake until retribution for murder has been 
exacted either by taking a life or by securing blood-money. The 
old Semitic practice of taking sanctuaiy from an avenger prevails. 
Among the Kababish a man who flees from revenge may take ref- 
uge at the tomb of a saint, and the avengers must wait outside the 
enclosure until an agreement is made respecting the compensation. 
The power and responsibility of males under the patriarchal system 
is shown by their right of inflicting capital punishment in the family 
groups over which they rule. Should a man discover that his sister 
had become pregnant through adultery in the absence of her husband, 
he would kill her. But a woman's protectors are her brothers, who 
would begin a blood-feud if their sister were killed in this way. 

The Kababish regard a marriage between the children of two 
brothers (ortho-cousins) as the best form of union. This is contrary 
to the custom prevailing among many Negro tribes, who favor cross- 
cousin marriage. Union between fathers' brothers' children, or be- 
tween mothers' sisters' children is regarded as incestuous under many 
tjrpical Negro systems; but marriage with a mother's brother's child 
or with a father's sister's child is usually permitted, and even en- 
joined. The kinship terminology of the Kababish makes use of 
specific terms, one for each relative ; this has been called a descriptive 
system. Negro tribes often employ a classificatory system in which 
one word denotes a group of relatives. For example, the Ovimbundu 
of Angola use the word nawa for all the in-laws of the speaker's 
own generation, and the word ndatemho indicates the in-law class 
of generations both older and younger than the speaker. 

Government by males, bequest of property in the male line, and 
succession to office through male lineage are characteristic of the 
Kababish, but traces of an older matriarchal and Semitic system 
may be observed. A bridegroom erects his tent near the dwelling 
of his bride's father, and usually this tent is not transferred to his 
own encampment until a year after the wedding. A strong influence 
of the wife's family persists, and a mother-in-law may refuse to have 
her married daughter taken far from home. In tents of the wealthier 
men are many female relatives of their wives. C. G. and B. Z. Seligman 
suggest that the present Kababish custom of mother-in-law avoid- 
ance (which also prevails among many Negro tribes) was a custom 

Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 385 

of ancient Arabia, though evidence on this point is not conclusive. 
When a child is born, the father is called to the tent at the time when 
the umbilical cord is cut; this custom may be a survival of the transfer 
from mother-right to father-right. 

The laws of inheritance among the Kababish suggest a blending 
of customs of early Semitic Arabia and the operation of Mohamme- 
dan law. A man's property is bequeathed to his sons or his brothers 
according to old Hamitic-Semitic custom, but Koranic law requires 
that some property shall be inherited by the wives and daughters 
of the deceased. Divorce is obtained according to Koranic law, and, 
though divorce proceedings are usually originated by a husband, a 
wife may institute proceedings by returning to her father and taking 
her young children with her. 

The position of women among the Kababish is far from servile, 
and in the wealthier sections they do no manual work. But in sub- 
tribes who are without slaves the women grind grain, tend cows, and 
make butter. Women do not veil as orthodox Mohammedans 
should, but they draw a head-cloth over the mouth in the presence 
of strangers. Free women are not carried off in war, for adultery is 
against Koranic teaching. The rights and social status of slaves 
and their children are determined by Koranic law. 

Treatment of children indicates a mixture of Mohammedan 
and pre-Mohammedan custom. Scarification, which is forbidden by 
the Koran, is practiced by the Kababish and other Mohammedan 
tribes of Kordofan, who make tribal marks. The heads of boys and 
girls are shaved by their paternal uncles when the children are 
seven months old, and at the time a sheep is sacrificed. The shorn 
hair is worn by the children in the form of girdles. Boys are cir- 
cumcised between the ages of seven and nine years. This is a com- 
pulsory Mohammedan rite, but it is one that was practiced in 
Egypt four thousand years before Mohammed was born. To per- 
form the ceremony the boy's foreskin is pulled through a hole in a 
piece of gourd. The foreskin is then tied tightly with thread, and 
after this operation a procession with musical instruments is led round 
the camp. At the conclusion of the parade excision of the foreskin 
is performed. 

A drastic operation performed on the sex organs of girls is older 
than Mohammedanism ; possibly the custom was part of the ancient 
Semitic and Hamitic culture. This process of infibulation, which is 
performed between the third and the sixth years, results in a reduc- 
tion of the orifice of the vagina to such an extent that before 

386 Source Book for African Anthropology 

consummation of marriage an incision has to be made, and cutting is 
again necessary before childbirth. To prevent closing of the urinary 
meatus a small plug of wood is inserted until the surrounding scar 
tissue has formed. The operation results in removal of the external 
genitalia, including labia majora and mons veneris. Rites of circum- 
cision for boys and various operations on the sex organs of girls are 
common in Negro tribes, both Bantu and Sudanic. Such rites are 
also characteristic of some northeastern Bantu tribes, perhaps as a 
result of contact with eastern Hamites. 

Betrothal takes place between the ages of nine and eleven years, 
and marriage perhaps three years later. At the wedding feast, 
camels and sheep provided by the groom's father are killed and eaten; 
then a feast follows, with singing, dancing, and a fantasia. 

The prevalence of the Mohammedan faith is attested by the 
wearing of leather charms containing extracts from the Koran, or a 
little hair from a saint. The word baraka, a spiritual power which 
has been carefully described by Westermarck (1933) is used by the 
Kababish, as it is by the Libyan Bedouins and the Moors, to denote 
spiritual force, power, and blessing. Baraka is associated with holy 
men, and after their death this power is transmitted to their tombs 
and to fragments of their clothing. Fekis or holy men are consulted 
and paid for their enchantments, which include power to locate 
thieves and to make wandering camels return. The Kababish believe 
in lucky and unlucky days, which are distinguished by the aid of a 
feki. It is thought that some persons are born with an evil eye, 
whose glance may cause calamity. In view of their Semitic and 
Mohammedan culture the Kababish are exceptional in the absence 
of beliefs and stories connected with jinns, affrits, and ghuls, who are 
the monsters of Arabian folklore and the demons of the Koran. 

Burial is performed after the Mohammedan fashion, with the 
face of the corpse toward Mecca. A funeral feast is prepared one 
year after the burial, and on this occasion two she-camels, property 
of the dead man, are killed. The flesh is eaten by all except near 
relatives of the dead. The finest camels and horses of the deceased 
are paraded in their best trappings as part of the funeral ceremony. 

Examination of the cultural pattern of the Kababish tribe has 
served to show a blending of early Semiticism with orthodox Moham- 
medanism. Before Mohammed, Semitic life in Arabia had produced 
definite religious beliefs and practices, including a belief in Allah 
as a creator and a supreme god. Accompanying these theistic con- 
cepts were beliefs in demons who inhabited trees, stones, and 

Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 387 

serpents. In the Kaaba or temple at Mecca 360 figures constituted a 
hierarchy of minor spiritual powers against which Mohammed 
directed his invectives. Semitic rites included a blood-brotherhood 
compact formed by sucking each other's blood, or by mingling the 
blood on a sacred stone. Expiatory sacrifices were common, and 
these included human sacrifice, also offerings of camels and cattle. 
The Semites regarded cattle as sacred animals to be killed for food 
only in times of dire need, and the butcher was regarded as unclean. 

Infanticide, which Mohammed discouraged, was a Semitic 
practice. Blood-feuds, blood-money, and the right of sanctuary 
were part of the Semitic social system. Relationship was reckoned 
in the paternal line and patriarchal conditions prevailed, but these 
had been preceded by a matriarchal state of society. The Semites 
observed many avoidances, including unclean animals and contacts 
with menstruating women. Reverence for holy places, offering first- 
fruits, worship of animals, and the use of a scapegoat for bearing 
away the sins of the people were part of the ancient Semitic cultural 
pattern. On this complex of Semitic beliefs and practices was 
grafted orthodox Mohammedanism, which officially rejected some 
pagan rites and concepts while incorporating others, and adding 
new ideas and ideals. Semitism became institutionalized and con- 
solidated into a force that has swept through north Africa and east- 
ward through India into China. 

Mohammed, who was born in the year 571 of the Christian era, 
sought to remedy the abuses of his time by denouncing all divine 
powers except the supreme Allah. The creed, "There is no god 
but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet," forms the basis and the 
initiatory declaration of the Mohammedan faith. Trial by ordeal, 
cannibalism, infanticide, human sacrifice, and wooden idols were 
all proscribed, and in later times various sects introduced prohibi- 
tions of their own against alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee, 
and representation of human and animal forms in art. 

An abstemious life was enjoined by the Prophet, and in com- 
pliance with this requirement all true believers now annually observe 
the fast of Ramadan ; this is a movable festival lasting from a certain 
new moon to the appearance of the next new moon. During this 
fast no food may be consumed between sunrise and sunset. Moham- 
med ordered his followers to pray five times a day, and to precede 
the prayers with ceremonial ablutions. The giving of alms, 

388 Source Book for African Anthropology 

circumcision, rules for warfare, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca 
are all important requirements. 

The Koran (Rodwell's Translation, 1909) gives a description of 
paradise as a fair garden of streams and fruit trees, where attractive 
women minister to the needs of the faithful. A graphic description 
of the torments of hell is the antithesis of this picture of paradise. 
Many stories of the Koran are taken from the Old Testament, which 
has contributed the story of Joseph, the Fall of Man, and the Deliv- 
erance of the Jews. From the New Testament, extracts relating to 
the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and the Apostles have been adopted. The 
religion of Mohammed is monotheistic, yet the Koran recognizes 
minor spiritual powers both good and evil; benevolent angels guard 
against the machinations of demons. The Koran teaches the value 
of humility, gentleness, patience, return of good for evil, truthful- 
ness, adoption of orphans, care of the sick, and avoidance of malice. 
As with other religions the precepts are excellent, but the practice 
is often negligible. Mohammedanism is popularly coupled with 
fatalism, but in the recognition of Allah as supreme ruler of the lives 
of men Mohammedanism is not inherently more fatalistic than 

Behind the religious concepts of Mohammedanism lies a political 
theory that the Caliph as God's representative on earth is the head 
of an undivided Islamic state; but in practice deep rivalry has 
existed between political and religious divisions. The main sects, 
which are divided on points of theology, law, and ritual, are the 
Hanifites, Malekites, Hanbalites, and Shafeites, which are named 
after their founders. Of these schisms only the Hanifites and the 
Malekites are important in Africa. 

For all sects the Koran (the reading) is the supreme source of 
law, but disputes have arisen concerning the interpretation of 
passages. According to Mohammedan law, forcible conversion by 
warfare and the capture of slaves are legitimate practices. Slave 
raiding of Arabs among Negroes was accompanied by cruelty and 
forced marches, followed by sales that separated the members of 
families. But domestic slaves, when fully incorporated into a 
Mohammedan household, found reasonably kind treatment. They 
often rose to high rank, and a woman who had borne a child to her 
master could not be sold. At his death, the woman and her child 
became free. 

The Mohammedan criminal code has been harsh in its adoption 
of punishments by mutilation, and in the maintenance of foul 









2 2 
o S 



o o 


390 Source Book for African Anthropology 

prisons for debtors and malefactors. But in this respect Moham- 
medanism is no more reprehensible than Christian Europe in the 
Middle Ages, and later. 

Polygyny and concubinage are part of the social system, and 
women are at a disadvantage under Mohammedan divorce laws; 
but in Turkey and Egypt modern movements for the emancipation 
of women have recently advanced the social standing of females. 
In order to keep property within a family, marriage between the 
children of two brothers is favored. Bequests are made in the male 
line, and succession to ofRce follows the same lineage. The levirate, 
by which a man marries his deceased brother's widows in order to 
beget children for him, is an ancient Semitic custom which was 
practiced by the Hebrews, and the usage still operates under Moham- 
medan law. Inheritance of a brother's widows is a frequent practice 
among Negro tribes, but the origin is not known to be Semitic, and 
the Negro institution may be of independent origin. 

In addition to these main characteristics of Mohammedanism, 
several secondary usages, beliefs, and economic patterns should be 
considered. The Prophet met with determined opposition which 
caused his flight from Mecca in A.D. 622, from which date Moham- 
medans make their historical reckoning. Therefore, events have 
different dates in the Mohammedan and Christian calendars. The 
Mohammedan year has a length of 354 days, 8 hours, and 48 min- 
utes. Consequently, the Mohammedan year lags behind the solar 
year about eleven days annually. The Mohammedan year is referred 
to as A.H. (Hegira, the flight), and a formula is used to convert a 
date A.H. to an approximate date A.D. 

A.H. — ^^• + 621 = A.D. 

Thus, A.H. 700 is approximately A.D. 1300. A.H. 1329 is A.D. 1911. 

A definite pattern of industrialism, which is focused in large 
markets, is a trait of Mohammedan life. Large bazaars are charac- 
teristic of Egypt, Tripolitania, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. On 
the south side of the Sahara — Kano in northern Nigeria, and Tim- 
buktu on the bend of the Niger — are similar emporia where artisans 
congregate and caravan trade thrives. 

In the markets may be seen water-carriers with their goatskin 
containers, conjurers, wrestlers, buffoons, snake charmers, story 
tellers, diviners in sand, Punch and Judy shows, and marionettes. 
Musicians play pottery drums, instruments strung with horsehair, 
and wind instruments of the algaita type (L. Williams, 1934, 












£ £3 

^ E 

. a" 



392 Source Book for African Anthropology 

pp. 77-98, has described Arab music). Itinerant barbers carry their 
implements in leather satchels which contain cupping horns for 
bleeding patients, knives for circumcising, razors for shaving, 
tweezers, and other toilet requisites. On the booths are displayed 
henna for staining the nails, kohl for darkening the eyes, and perhaps 
an outfit for tattooing. 

In some secluded corner of the market, a mallam sits writing 
charms, or he may be in charge of school children, who are writing 
Koranic texts on smooth boards, with ink and reed pens. At times 
they cease writing to chant the texts in unison. Certain sections of 
the markets are given to particular industries. Leather work for 
personal use and for use as trappings for horses and camels is a staple 
industry. Dye pits where indigo of native make is used are often 
seen, and a section of the market may be given to weavers, who use 
their own primitive African looms. Metal workers include black- 
smiths, silversmiths, and artisans, who expertly beat and cast objects 
in brass. 

With Mohammedanism are associated several distinctive types of 
architecture in which domes and minarets are prominent features. 
Interior decoration consists of tiles, mosaics, and geometrical drawing 
of great beauty and intricacy. Arabic script has contributed to much 
of the geometrical designing. A discrimination against human and 
animal forms in art is early Semitic, not specifically Mohammedan. 
The Hebrews were instructed not to make any image of anything on 
earth, in the firmament above, or in the sea beneath. Some Moham- 
medans follow this precept, and art is mainly geometrical, but 
exceptions occur. The fronts of houses are sometimes elaborately 
molded (Fig. 74, a). This tjrpe of architecture has spread from north 
Africa into the western Sudan. Clothing includes a flowing riga 
for men (Fig. 60, h), the use of turbans, and several special articles for 
women (Figs, 58, 59, 6), For studying the penetration of material 
traits of Mohammedan culture into the Sudan, Paulitschke (1885), 
Gleichen (1905), and Frobenius (1897, 1923) are useful. 

In Mohammedanism religious concepts relating to morality, 
theology, literature, art, and philosophy are associated, as in other 
religions, with crude fanaticism, which is a degraded form of spiritual 
expression. The origin of bori dancing is unknown, but it is one of 
the baser elements attached to the Mohammedan faith. The bori 
are said by the Hausa communities of north Africa and the western 
Sudan to be a link with the world of demons. Each bori represents a 
particular disease, misfortune, or the evil eye, and in the dance of 


Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 393 

exorcism men are dressed to represent the hori demons (Tremearne, 
1913, 1914). 

The Hamaches of Morocco beat one another with whips and clubs 
as they parade the streets chewing thorny cactus, while the tearing 
and devouring of a living sheep is another of their practices. A zikr, 
as I saw it in the eastern Sudan, consisted of a dance given by men 
only, to the accompaniment of drums. The performers swayed to 
the rhythm of the instruments, meanwhile chanting the Koranic 
creed; this they did until they appeared dazed and intoxicated. 
Sometimes whipping one another with rawhide whips is part of the 
ceremony. These practices are comparable to the flagellation and 
self-persecution of Christian devotees. The exercises are not a 
necessary part of the religion, but certain sects have become devotees 
of crude cults and practices. 

Arab-Berber Culture 

Consideration of a few details from the lives of Berber com- 
munities in north Africa which have a strong overlay of Moham- 
medanism, will serve to show the general pattern of life. The 
Berbers are a branch of the northern Hamites, and for the main part 
they retain their Berber (Hamitic) languages, though Arabic, espe- 
cially as the official language, is understood and spoken, particularly 
by men who are engaged in law and commerce. 

At the oasis of Siwa, about two hundred miles west of Cairo, 
there prevails great fear of the evil eye. If a stranger stares at a 
child, the mother takes sand from the stranger's footmarks, throws 
this on the fire and holds her naked child face downward over the 
smoke. Witchcraft, including the use of spells, charms, and love 
potions, is commonly practiced. The Siwani have a firm belief in the 
existence of jinns and affrits, some of whom have appeared in human 
form. The people say that in the year 1913 an affrit having red eyes 
and long talons appeared in the oasis in the dress of a Bedouin, who 
was immediately slain. All sickness is attributed to the evil eye. 
The Siwani are of early Libyan stock but their own Hamitic language 
has been superseded by an adulterated form of Arabic. They are 
Mohammedans of the Senussi sect, having a great aversion to 
foreigners. The Siwani do not own camels and few know how to take 
care of them, but sheep, goats, and donkeys are kept. Olive oil is 
produced in primitive presses, and many kinds of dates are grown, 
some for home consumption and others for export to Alexandria. 
Cline (1936) has given a condensed account of the industries. 

394 Source Book for African Anthropology 

economic life, religion, magical practices, and social organization. 
Numerous sketches illustrate the text, and a bibliography is given in 
form of footnotes. W. S. Walker (1921) deals with linguistic elements 
and some details of culture. Belgrave (1923) produced an informa- 
tive travel book. Some references to Siwa are given by Hassanein 
Bey (1924), and by W. J. H. King (1925). 

In southern Tunisia exist many small oases peopled by Bedouin 
Arabs of the Mohammedan faith (Vivian, 1899). The patriarchal 
system is carried to its farthest limits so that the head of a family is 
absolute. Belief in the evil eye prevails, but the malign effects can 
be averted by saying, "Tahark Allah" (May God preserve them). 
Steaming grain (kus-kus) in a perforated pot, and the roasting of a 
sheep whole are typical culinary habits of the Bedouins. In Tunisia, 
as well as in Algeria and Morocco, nargile water-pipes are used for 
smoking tobacco. Kif is a mild kind of hemp prepared from the 
flowers of the plant, and used for smoking. Bang is a preparation of 
hemp taken in the form of pills. In the towns are addicts of opium, 
which is smoked or taken as pills. The festival of Biram is observed ; 
this is a carnival that follows immediately after the fast of Ramadan. 
Use of the bastinado as a punishment is probably not an Arab but a 
Turkish introduction. Amusements include marionettes and the 
fantasia. The institutions of blood-feuds, blood-money, and taking 
sanctuary from avengers are strongly operative. The Bedouin tribes 
of Tunisia combine agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The latter 
include rearing of camels and sheep, and the former depends on a 
primitive system of plowing in which camels are used. Water is 
drawn from wells in leather buckets, which are hauled up by camels. 

Tunisian industries include making dyes, tanning leather, and 
weaving woolen textiles on a vertical loom. The observations of D. 
Bruun (1898) remove the impression that ancient Semitic and more 
modern Mohammedan customs are confined to Bedouin Arabs. He 
states that the Khrumirs, who are dark-skinned Berbers of Tunisia, 
pursue the blood-feud unrelentingly, and they will seldom accept 
blood-money as compensation for a murder. They observe the fast 
of Ramadan but do not pray; yet great virtue and healing power are 
associated with the tombs of saints (marabouts), whose power is 
transmitted by the use of small articles that were associated with these 
holy men. One tomb is noted for the healing of fevers, and another 
for protection of crops. Most of the Tunisian Arabs are nomads who 
live in the southern and central regions. The Mohammedan religion 
prevails, though the faith is adulterated with grosser practices. 

Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 395 

From southern Tunisia, and from Murzuk in southwest Tripoli- 
tania, coastal caravan trade is linked up with Tuareg caravans that 
carry merchandise across the Sahara into Bornu. The utfa is used 
by married women who are traveling on camels. 

Hilton-Simpson (1926) gives a picture of the lives of Kabyles in 
the Aures Mountains of Algeria, and he describes Bedouin life in the 
oasis of Djemora at the foot of the Aures Massif. This oasis is the 
camping ground of the Ouled Ziane, nomad Arabs who wander in 
winter driving their flocks of sheep and goats over the desert to the 
southwest of the Aures. After these excursions they return to their 
oasis to pick the date crop. In the fertile valleys, peaches, apricots, 
pears, figs, and olives are grown. 

Crude spiritual beliefs prevail under a veneer of Mohammedan- 
ism. Feeble-minded persons are regarded as holy, and the evil eye 
is everywhere feared. Extension of five fingers while saying "Khamsa 
fi ainek" (five in thine eye) wards off the evil glance. The extended 
hand, sometimes called the hand of Fatima, daughter of Mohammed, 
is made in the form of silver charms to be worn around the neck 
(Hilton-Simpson, 1915). Cooking a lamb whole and serving it on a 
brass tray are typical Bedouin customs. Each guest mutters "bis- 
millah" (in the name of God) while helping himself with his fingers. 
Writing Koranic texts and encasing them in leather satchels is an 
occupation of the mallams. Primitive surgery, including trephining, 
has formed the subject of an article by Hilton-Simpson (1922). 
Hildburg (1906, 1913-1915) has shown the extension of Moham- 
medan magic and charms into Spain. 

The study of M. Gaudry (1928) has provided a complete sociologi- 
cal investigation into the lives of Mohammedanized Kabyle women. 
Women have well-developed arts of dyeing, weaving, and making 
pottery. Females till the soil; and agricultural rites, some of them 
of ancient Phoenician origin, are observed. Both men and women 
may be marabouts with hereditary office. Worship includes visits 
to tombs where prayers are offered, candles are burned, and offerings 
of food are made. Religious exercises include use of a rosary. 
Sorcery is widely practiced, and love philters are employed. 

The word Moor has no precise ethnological significance, since 
the term is primarily geographical. In physique a Moor may be a 
Berber, an Arab, or a mixture of the two, with Negro blood as well. 
A Moor speaks Arabic or a Berber dialect, or he may be bilingual, 
using spoken and written Arabic in his work and speaking Berber 
in his home. Mondadori (1926) has analyzed the composition of the 

396 Source Book for African Anthropology 

population of Tripolitania. Berbers in language and custom are 
24 per cent of the total population; Berbers who have adopted the 
Arab language and customs form 31 per cent; Arabs constitute 36 
per cent; and the residue of 9 per cent is Jewish and Negroid. 

A sound concept of what is meant by "Moorish" culture, in its 
religious, social, and industrial aspects, m.ay be derived from a com- 
prehensive and well-illustrated study by Meakin (1902). Religious 
beliefs, magic, charms, folklore, and the blood-feud have been 
adequately dealt with by Westermarck (1926, 1933, 1934). Coon 
(1931), also Bertholon and Chantre (1912), have described the 
Berber culture of north Africa. M. S. Dimand (1930) has produced 
a comprehensive and well-illustrated summary of Mohammedan art, 
and P. Ricard (1918) has written a short article on that subject. 

Similarities between the Bedouin life of the north African hinter- 
land, Sinai, and Arabia is well demonstrated in the works of G. W. 
Murray (1935), Kennett (1926), and H. Field (1931). Within this 
complexity of early Semitic, Mohammedan, and Hamitic factors, 
traits have intruded from the civilizations of Egypt, Phoenicia, 
Greece, and Rome. 

The only effective way of clarifying the situation is to compre- 
hend the cultural meaning of early Semiticism, to trace out the 
growth of Mohammedanism from A.D. 600, to find the Berber (Hami- 
tic) elements in the north African cultures, and, finally, to allow for 
the Phoenician, Byzantine, Roman, and Greek elements of speech, 
observance, and material culture that have survived. 


Berber Civilization. — Perhaps the best account in small compass 
is that of Bourrilly (1932), who from long residence is able to give 
an intimate account (in French) of Berber life and customs. Bas- 
set's (1910) research into the factors of Berber religious beliefs is a 
well-known standard work. A. van Gennep (1911) has published 
detailed and amply illustrated accounts of Berber industries. The 
ancient and basic traits of Berber civilization are considered by 
Randall-Mad ver and Wilkin (1900) and Bates (1914), in their studies 
of the ancient Libyans. Renan's (1873) analysis of Berber society is 
an old classic, and Wilkin's (1900) description of Berber life in 
Algeria is useful. 

The Kabyles. — Many studies of Berber civilization are cen- 
tered about the culture patterns of various groups of Kabyles. 
Maunier (1926) has devoted a volume to the description of their 

Semitic and Mohammedan Elements 397 

dwellings. Hanoteau and Letourneux (1893) have described cus- 
toms of the Kabyles. Myres (1902) has given an account of Kabyle 
pottery. The article of Lissauer (in German, 1908) is well known, 
and in addition to this he has prepared a brief article in English 
(1911), dealing with Kabyle customs. 

Nomadism. — Hubac (1931) has given a brief pictorial and 
popular account of Bedouin life in Tunisia (in French). In German, 
Stuhlmann (1914) has prepared an article on the Mazigh people 
(South Tunisia). Gautier's (1921) account of "Nomad and Seden- 
tary Folks of Northern Africa" is a brief contribution to this subject. 
De Agostini, wi'iting in Italian (1917, 1923), has discussed both the 
sedentary and nomadic populations of Tripolitania and Cjo-enaica. 
And A. van Gennep (1912) has written a brief article on "North 
African Gypsies." 


Consideration of the religious background of agriculture will 
serve as an introduction to the whole of section III, dealing with 
Negroes, since the enormous area of Negro occupation (Map 4, Areas 
6A, 6a, 6B) is primarily an agricultural zone. 

A brief outline of the principal food plants, with notes on their 
history and distribution, has been given in section I, chap. I; neither 
is it necessary to deal here with the routine of agricultural operations. 
Clearing the bush, hoeing, terracing, irrigation, manuring, storing 
of grain, and preparation of foods will be described along with occupa- 
tions and handicrafts. Typical dwellings of agricultural Negroes are 
shown in Fig. 76. 

We are concerned here only with a brief account of the spiritual 
basis of life in agricultural communities. And, provided this funda- 
mental religious factor is understood, the whole social and economic 
pattern will be explicable. The main beliefs and institutions in 
agricultural organization are given below: 

(1) A religious concept of land as the property of dead ancestors. 
There may also be an idea of a Sky Father and an Earth Mother. 

(2) Spiritual concept of a chief or king who acts as a high priest in 
agricultural rites. 

(3) A medicine-man, who may be an official rain-maker, a preparer 
of charms to protect crops, an interpreter of omens, and a functionary 
in supplication and sacrifice. Usually a complex association exists 
between (2) and (3), but in many communities the different powers 
and functions are clearly defined. 

(4) Division of agricultural labor between the sexes. Local 
custom varies considerably. 

(5) Time reckoning, lunar observations, and agricultural opera- 
tions are logically connected. 

(6) Legal procedure is largely connected with ownership of land, 
succession, and infringement of rights. Ownership of land is the 
economic basis of family life and of cohesion in the village 

A sociological theory of nutrition as expounded by A. I. Richards 
(1932) develops the thesis that human relationships within a tribe are 
determined by nutritional needs. "Hunger shapes the sentiments 
which bind together the members of each social group." By a study 
of home conditions, the family, infancy, kinship sentiment, the 




economic functions of chiefs, and worship of ancestors, the inter- 
relation of parts of tribal life is demonstrated. 

Criticism of such an exposition can be directed only against the 
apparent assumption that one trait is more fundamental than 


Fig. 76. Houses of agricultural Negroes. a. Village scene, Cameroons. 
b. House with painted walls, near Bailundu, Angola. 

another. Admittedly, the tribe must eat to live; biologically speak- 
ing, the need for food is basic in society. But just as logically one 
might entitle the study "Chieftainship," or "Ancestor Reverence," 
with a view to showing that these factors are absolutely indispensable, 
since without the blessing of the ancestors, and in the absence of a 

400 Source Book for African Anthropology 

chief as intermediary priest, no food could be produced. Fertility of 
soil and germinating power of seed depend on the chief's blessing of 
seed, the mixing of his own grain with that of his subjects, and the 
direction of prayers to ancestors asking for rain. The offering of 
the first fruits to the gods is again a priestly function without which 
the efforts of the cultivators would be void. 

In a functional study it matters little whether we first analyze the 
social conditions, the religious beliefs, or the economic structure, for 
the main aspects of tribal life are so closely related that the probing 
of one division leads immediately to a recognition of psychological 
and sociological unity. 

The following instances have been chosen from agricultural areas 
wide apart in order to show the unity of beliefs in Negro communities, 
despite differences in physique and language. 


The relationship between land tenure, inheritance of land, and 
religious beliefs is explained by R. S. Rattray (1923, p. 217). Ashanti 
laws regulating the ownership and bequest of land are typical of 
widely spread Negro concepts relating to possession of land and the 
enjoyment of usufructs. The Ashanti entertain the belief that living 
landowners hold their land as trustees for their dead ancestors, a 
fact which accounts for determined opposition to the sale of land, 
which is required by Europeans. Rattray (1923, p. 203) states that 
in Ashanti the ceremony of offering first fruits of the yam crop to 
ancestors is still observed. The festival is connected with recog- 
nition of Tano, the greatest of the earth gods. The part played by a 
reigning king as a priestly mediator with his ancestors will be 
described later in connection with a study of the sacredness of kings. 
The importance of religious ritual in connection with agriculture has 
been noted by H. Labouret (1931, p. 368), who says that the religious 
character of land tenure is connected with a cult of the earth god. 
He gives instances of prayer and sacrifice to such a divinity when 
new land is occupied for making a village site. 

Plateau tribes of Nigeria observe a ceremonial eating of first 
fruits. A chief is first to partake, and he makes an offering of the first 
produce to ancestral spirits. When clearing his land, a farmer of the 
Kagoro tribe pours out beer and prays that the ground may be fertile. 
The Kagoma perform rites in a sacred grove, and during the days of 
observance sexual intercourse is forbidden. A favorite wife of a dead 
chief assists with the sowing, and when the crop is a foot high certain 
ceremonial acts are necessary. 

Agriculture 401 

Before eating the first of the yam crop, a chief of the Yoruba 
pubHcly sacrifices a dog. The headman of each village is responsible 
for this ceremony; songs of thanksgiving are sung, and the head of 
each family has to make a sacrifice to ancestors in his own home. 
C. K. Meek (1925, vol. 1, pp. 119-133) emphasizes the importance 
of ceremonial in assuring abundant crops but points out that many 
Nigerian tribes have a technique that makes use of irrigation, rota- 
tion of crops, manuring, and allowing land to lie fallow for periods. 

According to N. W. Thomas (1913, Part I, pp. 37-41), an Ibo 
farmer of the Awka district is expected to sacrifice a fowl to the 
ancestral spirits of people who previously owned the property. This 
is another apt illustration of the fact that no man is absolute possessor 
of the land he cultivates. Should the ghosts of previous owners be 
neglected, they will send wild animals to eat the yams. 

In Sierra Leone an agricultural deity named Kumba is recognized, 
and for him the people weep at the beginning of the agricultural 
season. When rice is planted in a small plot reserved for Kumba, the 
children sing, "We cry for Kumba; they are planting his rice on this 
day, and no one may do any work." The rice in this sacred patch of 
Kumba is left uncut, since the grain belongs to Kumba, and he would 
destroy the whole crop if his property were violated. Old rites 
included the offering of rice on graves of ancestors, for if this were not 
done the ghosts would catch hold of the hoes. At harvest time 
Kumba again has his offering, and the krifi have to be placated in the 
same way, since they are mischievous spirits who steal the rice. 
During some rites sexual continence has to be observed, or the 
cassava will be bitter and the husks of groundnuts will be empty 
(N. W. Thomas, 1916, Part I, pp. 174-176). 

M. Delafosse (1931, p. 162) states that, according to the laws 
of west African Negroes, land does not belong to a private owner, 
nor is it community property. "In fact, the ground is a god that no 
one would think of appropriating to himself, and still less of buying 
and selling." In former times a Negro family, when first arriving 
on untenanted land, made sacrifice to a local god in order to obtain 
divine consent to the use of the land. The right so acquired was 
transmitted in the family, and no transfer of land could be made 
without a religious ceremony. 

Most west African Negro conquerors have respected the religious 
aspect of land tenure, and they have conceded that conquest gives 
no right to occupation of the soil. This attitude toward land owner- 
ship is in harmony with many religious beliefs. The Ashanti, for 

402 Source Book for African Anthropology 

instance, regard the sky and the earth as their two greatest deities, 
and according to mythology some of the clans sprang from the 
earth. A day is set aside for the observance of Mother Earth, and 
offerings are made to the ground spirit by killing fowls and allowing 
their blood to drip on the earth on the day when tillage is begun. 
As a further study of religious attitudes in agriculture, G. H. Jones 
(1936) should be consulted. The article deals with the Earth 
Goddess and native farming in west Africa. 


In his account of land tenure among the Bathonga, H. A. Junod 
(1912, vol. 2, p. 135; passim) points out the function of a chief as a 
distributor of land and not an absolute owner. Land is granted for 
cultivation to all tribesmen who have acknowledged the supremacy 
of the chief, but possession of land depends on continuous occupa- 
tion and cultivation. Real estate is hereditary in the male line to 
sons, who apportion the land among their wives, but, in accordance 
with general Negro procedure, these temporary owners have no right 
to sell their plots. After land has been assigned to subjects, a chief, 
no matter how high his social position, has no rights in the land, and 
he would have to ask permission to pick up a single piece of fallen 
fruit from land granted to a subject. Junod's description of agrarian, 
religious rites reveals the basic idea of ancestors, and ancestors 
who have become gods, as the real owners of the land. 

The Bathonga observe several points of ritual in connection with 
agriculture and woodcraft. Before a tree is cut down, the bark is 
smeared with drugs, which are also used for burning at the root of 
the tree, and before felling a mahogany tree an offering is made to 
ancestral spirits. The Bathonga sow maize without a ceremonial 
act, but sowing of millet requires a special rite. Probably millet 
is by far the older grain, and so became associated with deeply 
entrenched and ancient ceremonial, which was not transferred to 
more recently imported grains. 

To prepare the millet for sowing, a chief chews the root of a 
plant, then blows on a quantity of millet which is afterwards mixed 
with the general supply of millet belonging to his subjects. This 
rite is said to keep ants from the seed. A few taboos and observances 
are connected with sowing of Kafir peas. Men must plant the peas, 
but after this only women may enter the field, for a man who does so 
would be afflicted with hydrocele. 

Agriculture 403 

The prohibitions associated with threshing are strict. Men are 
forbidden to approach the threshing floors. A relative of the owner 
of a field is not allowed to pluck spikes of maize for himself, but he 
may do so if he threshes the corn before taking it away. People 
are conservative in their attitude toward changes. They resent the 
introduction of new grains or methods, and to the first man who 
planted a mango tree the people said, "You will die." The plow 
has, however, been accepted. 

The Bathonga make offerings of agricultural produce to their 
ancestral gods, and leaves of tobacco are presented to both the 
maternal and the paternal ancestors. Gods and chiefs have a prior 
right to first fruits of the soil, and for anyone to forestall this right 
by eating of the first produce would be a serious offence likely to 
bring misfortune on the community. 

A principal agricultural ceremony is that known as the luma of 
the Kafir com, at which rite the great wife of the chief crushes the 
first grain and mixes with it a substance called the royal powder. 
The chief offers this mixture to ancestral spirits at the main entrance 
to his kraal. He prays "that the Kafir corn shall keep our bodies so 
that they shall become fat and not thin." Following this ceremony, 
the corn is eaten by chiefs, subchiefs, councilors, and warriors who 
have killed enemies in battle. The harvest is in this way made 
available for commoners. 

D. Shropshire (1934, No. 86) states that in the Wabarwe tribe 
the Midzimu are ancestral spirits of the family, who require offerings 
at their shrine especially at the time of the first rains. "The spir- 
its are very angry if we do not offer before planting," the people 
say, "and if you stint them they can call the birds to finish all 
your crops." 

The Ba-ila know little of the principles of agriculture. They do 
not allow their land to lie fallow for a period, neither do they adopt a 
rotation of crops or recognize the necessity for selection of seed. 
Manure is not used. But a firm belief that successful agriculture 
depends on religious observances is preserved. To work on the day 
after the first rain is regarded as an offence against the giver of rain ; 
therefore, such an act would jeopardize success. People who "have 
a lucky hand for sowing" are engaged in this work, and at harvest 
time each man takes corncobs and hangs them from the rafters in 
his hut. This grain is an offering to his ancestral spirits (E. W. Smith 
and A. M. Dale, 1920, vol. 1, pp. 135-138). The fact that women 
mold female breasts and serpents on the corn bins suggests some 

404 Source Book for African Anthropology 

ancient fertility cult having these designs as symbols. In African 
ophiolatry the snake is closely associated with rainbows and rain, 
and the reptile is widely regarded as an announcer of conception. 

Details of agricultural operations vary; the crops themselves are 
different, and the ritual takes many forms. But the mainspring of 
life in the Negro area now to be described is the sacredness of the 
land and the spiritual approach to cultivation. 


DEC 3 1937 


Anthropological Series 

Field Museum of Natural History 

Founded by Marshall Field, 1893 

Volume XXVI 





BY ^£0 2 9^937 

Wilfrid D. Hambly '*'^^^^ ^ "^^ 


Paul S. Martin 


Publication 396 


Anthropological Series 

Field Museum of Natural History 

Founded by Marshall Field, 1893 

Volume XXVI 






DEC 2 9 1937 


Wilfrid D. Hambly 


Paul S. Martin 


Publication 396 







Section III 
Basic Elements of Negro Culture 



In consideration of tlie great area occupied by Negroes, and in 
view of local differences in their physique, language, and culture, is 
it permissible to speak of a Negro culture? I believe that certain 
general fundamentals of Negro culture can be profitably considered, 
but with reservations. 


A question arises respecting the cultural position of Nilotic 
Negroes and Half-Hamites: where do they fit in the scheme describ- 
ing the basic elements of Negro culture? Nilotic Negroes are a 
number of tribes living in the region of the upper White Nile. These 
tribes have languages that are basically Sudanic Negro, with Ham- 
itic elements (Murray, 1920). The physique is essentially that of 
Negroes, but a Hamitic mixture makes itself evident, especially 
among the Shilluk (C. G. Seligman, 1910, p. 174). The culture is pas- 
toral, and agriculture is relatively unimportant. The Nilotic Negroes, 
also the Half-Hamites, Masai, Nandi, and Suk, were therefore 
included in a description of pastoral tribes (section II), and for this 
reason only brief reference will be made to these pastoral Negroes 
during a comparative study of Bantu and Sudanic Negroes. 

Bantu-speaking Negroes could be divided into many subsections, 
not only on linguistic but on cultural grounds, yet this work has not 
proceeded far, and Schapera's (1929a, 1934c) arrangements are 
chiefly geographical and linguistic. 

Some of the social and economic distinctions between divisions 
of the Bantu depend on the extent to which cattle have become 
important in tribal life. The Ovimbundu of Angola are Bantu 
Negroes with an agricultural system that is basic in their social and 
economic life, yet cattle are ceremonially important. The Ovambo 
of South West Africa, and the Zulu of southeast Africa, are Bantu 
Negroes, physically and linguistically, but their social pattern has 
been affected by the rearing of large herds. These are border-line 
instances of Bantu Negro cultures with traits closely related to the 
pastoral Hamitic cultures of northeast Africa. 

Among Sudanic-speaking Negroes of west Africa, all of whom are 
agricultural, certain local developments of the social and religious 


408 Source Book for African Anthropology 

pattern have to be noted (Rattray, 1923, 1927a, b) ; and in Dahomey 
(M. J. and F. S. Herskovits, 1933; Le H^riss^, 1911). Among the 
Yoruba (S, Johnson, 1921) and the Jukun (Meek, 1931a) special 
developments in ancestor worship, the sacredness of kings, court 
procedure, art, and military organization have taken place. There- 
fore, in describing Negro culture in general such specializations have 
to be recognized (Labouret, 1931). 

But despite the presence of borderline instances of the mingling 
of distinct types of culture, and the special development of cultural 
traits in some areas, there yet remains the possibility of describing 
what is fundamental in religion, law, social organization, and eco- 
nomics in the areas (6A and 6B) shown on the map of culture dis- 
tributions (Map 4). 

Although no present tribal classification is satisfactory and we 
have no complete gazetteer of tribes, assistance with tribal names and 
localities is given by Schapera (1929a) for the Bantu, Roome (1925) 
for all Africa, Maes and Boone (1935) for the Congo, Joyce and 
Braunholtz (1925), and Torday (1930), for Negroes in general. Van 
Warmelo (1935) for South Africa, and Jerrard (1936) for Tanganyika. 
Most of the tribes mentioned in this section can be located by use 
of Map 1, facing page 1. A bibliography classified according to 
political areas is given at the end of vol. II, pp. 836-839. 

In 'studying the social organization of Negroes, students will be 
greatly helped by perusal of a work edited by F. Eggan (1937). 
The several contributors deal with kinship, law, and other aspects 
of social organization among American Indians. Yet the principles 
of inquiry, suggested categories of legal sanctions, together with 
exposition and criticism of the views of Professor A. R. Radcliffe 
Brown, will be a stimulus in the study of Negro Africa. 

Courtship and Marriage 

Study of sexual relations is a necessary introduction to consid- 
eration of tribal structure and the functioning of all institutions. 
The permanent union of a man and a woman leads to the founding 
of a family which is the basic social unit. If the nature of this union 
is understood, then facts pertaining to the kinship system, govern- 
ment, law, religion, and economics can be seen in their logical 


When gathering information among the Ovimbundu, my inter- 
preter Ngonga, himself an Ocimbundu who spoke English fluently, 
said, "If a boy wants a girl he should look at her for several days. 
Then he will speak to the girl, who will tell him to go to her parents." 
If the parents approve of the boy a friendship begins, "but the boy 
must not do anything to the girl," and my informant stated that 
birth of a child during the courtship would be a shameful occurrence. 

Infant betrothals are common among Negroes, and parents may 
have an understanding relating to the mating of children even 
before their birth. But, despite many instances of this parental 
prerogative, a broad survey shows that the actual right of refusal 
frequently rests with the girl herself. 

Ngonga said that the small gifts of the suitor to the parents of 
his betrothed mean that "this girl is mine, and no other boy will 
ask for her because she is promised." The gift is, therefore, a token 
and not a purchase. But among the Ovimbundu, and with the 
majority of Negro tribes, a gift or token more valuable than the 
present which secures a courtship must be made to the girl's parents 
before the marriage is ratified. Ngonga emphasized the tendency 
of parents to argue. "You must bring a better blanket," they may 
say when concluding the arrangements. 

But after the parents have accepted the tokens, a meeting of the 
relatives of the bride and groom is called in the men's council house 
(onjango). Here the parents of the girl exhort her to be a good wife 
and, above all, to treat visiting relatives with hospitality. The 
prospective bride chooses one married woman and six unmarried 
girls to accompany her to the house that has been built by her 
husband on his father's land, as near to his parental home as possible. 


410 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The marriage is therefore patrilocal in this instance, but other types 
will have to be noted. 

For three nights the Ocimbundu bride sleeps at the home of her 
parents, while the groom returns to his parents for the same period. 
In the meantime the new home of the bride and groom is temporarily 
occupied by the attendants of the bride. During these three days 
the groom is ironically addressed as sandomhua, a word which 
expresses the fact that he has not consummated the marriage. 

On the fourth day after the wedding in the onjango, the bride 
brings to her new home a few simple utensils, such as cooking pots, 
a broom, some wooden vessels, and pounders for crushing maize. 
During the first month of married life a bride is not allowed to cook 
in her own home, but all culinary work has to be done in the house 
of her husband's parents, and meals for her husband are sent to the 
onjango, where all men foregather to eat at least their evening meal 
apart from women. 

When the bride begins work in her own home, three old women 
who have been happily married are invited to lay the hearthstones, 
which they consecrate with the sprinkled blood of a freshly killed 
chicken. While the young wife performs her tasks she is guided by 
the three old women, who actually take hold of her hands while she 
is stirring the mush or sifting the maize. After a few days of this 
supervision the young husband and wife are left alone. 


The question of the virginity of a newly married girl raises the 
subject of prenuptial relations, especially after a courtship has 
begun. On this point Ngonga was quite clear. He said that in 
former times virginity was expected in a bride, and if she proved to 
be otherwise the husband burnt a hole in her cloth and made her 
take the garment to her mother. Restitution of part of the presents 
given by the husband to his wife's parents reunited the couple. 

Among the Ovimbundu, although premarital pregnancy is a 
disgrace, boy and girl companions sleep together at irregular inter- 
vals in the home of one of the girls. But girls are not allowed to 
sleep at a home of one of the boys, and sexual acts are forbidden. 
A girl calls her boy companion ombaisi, and he gives her the same 
name, which is a special term for this intimate prenuptial rela- 

In reviewing Bantu marriage customs E. Torday (1929b) refers 
to premarital friendships of boys and girls who sleep together even 

Sexual Life 411 

to the age of seventeen, though pregnancy is regarded as a disgrace. 
Torday suggests that the boys and girls practice mutual masturba- 
tion, and he thinks it possible that, despite the apparent sexual 
freedom, actual coitus does not take place. 

Torday makes a distinction between the attitude of the eastern 
and western Bantu toward prenuptial chastity. He states that the 
eastern Bantu value virginity highly, and quotes instances from the 
Akikuyu and the Wachagga. A Chagga girl who became pregnant, 
though betrothed, was driven from home and obliged to live with 
her lover in a remote place until the child was born. The parents 
had to strangle their infant at birth. Bapidi girls must remain 
virgins until marriage, and in some clans the girls are examined on 
the day of their marriage by female relatives of their husbands. 

"In Zululand even to-day strict control is exercised by the groups 
of older girls over those younger than themselves, and a girl may 
not even speak to a boy after she has reached puberty until she has 
received permission to do so from the elder group. A girl's pregnancy 
defiles her whole age-set in that neighborhood." Krige (1936a, 
pp. 5, 6.) See also H. Wieschhoff (1937b, pp. 221-235). 

The data assembled by Torday indicate the laxity of sex relations 
among the western Bantu before marriage; apparently the Ovim- 
bundu are an exception to Torday's general conclusion, for they are a 
western Bantu tribe who value premarital virginity. In support of 
Torday's conclusion respecting laxity of the western Bantu with 
regard to virginity, J. H. Weeks (1914, p. 107) states that the Bakongo 
tolerate sexual freedom before marriage. 


H. A. Stayt (1931a, pp. 143, 151) has pointed out that among 
the Bavenda, who are Bantu Negroes of the northern Transvaal, 
lohola in the form of cattle passes from the groom's family to that 
of the bride. The lobola is a compensation for loss of a female, a 
potential bearer of children. Unless a man pays lobola for his wife 
his marriage is not recognized by the community, neither can he 
obtain his children, since they are not considered his lawful property. 
Instances occur in which a woman pays lobola in order to obtain 
another woman who has sexual relations with the husband of the 
female purchaser. A female who brings another woman to her home 
in this way is called "father" by the children of the woman for whom 
she paid lobola. See Herskovits (1937b). A husband may serve his 
wife's family, as among the Mashona, in lieu of lobola. But residence 

412 Source Book for African Anthropology 

with his wife's kin for this purpose is not a true matrilocal condition 
Schapera (1929, No. 86). 

A. I. Richards (1934, p. 272) states that among the Babemba 
marriage is matrilocal. Girls are betrothed usually before puberty, 
and after the first symbolic presentations to the parents-in-law the 
bridegroom, often himself a mere boy, moves to the bride's village 
and works for a period, possibly seven years, for his father-in-law. 
After the birth of one or more children, and after proving his capa- 
bility as a worker and making further payments to his bride's 
parents, the husband may take his bride from her own kindred. 

R. S. Rattray's data (1927a, p. 77) relating to Sudanic Negroes 
of Ashanti are in agreement with the facts noted for Bantu betrothal. 
Infant betrothal exists among the Ashanti, and the agreement may 
be an arrangement between parents, who ratify the compact by 
presents which are returned if a union of their children is not 
established. A female child calls her betrothed boy her husband and 
carries his bundle for him, but no sexual intercourse takes place. 
Rattray's statements support the present contention of ethnologists 
who assert that the term "bride-price" is a misnomer. In Ashanti 
"gifts from the parents of the boy to those of the girl merely secure 
a sexual prerogative, and a right to claim damages for its infringe- 
ment." The gifts do not enrich the parents, since the articles are 
distributed among witnesses. Rattray states that "there is a fairly 
large repudiation of such betrothals," and he believes that many 
marriages are based on genuine affection. Formerly in Ashanti 
virginity was respected. Before her marriage ceremony a prospec- 
tive bride broke an egg at crossroads, saying, "If anyone has eaten 
me may my ohosum (god) kill me." If a bride confessed to premari- 
tal sexual intercourse, the seducer and the bride's parents had to 
make a payment to the aggrieved husband. For discussion of the 
term "bride-price" see "Man," 1929, Nos. 107,174; 1931, No. 187; 
1932, No. 68, and A. T. and G. M. Culwick (1934, pp. 140-159). 


An Ashanti wedding takes place on the sixth day after the girl's 
second menstruation, when the fully ornamented bride is led by her 
mother to the hut where her husband waits. The bride and her 
mother give thanks for presents received; then they go away but 
return after dark. The husband gives his mother-in-law a present 
of tobacco, and the three remain in conversation for a time, after 
which the bride is left alone with her husband. 

Sexual Life 413 

In describing the Kona, who are a section of the Jukun of eastern 
Nigeria, C. K, Meek (1931a, pp. 278, 386) reports that a man commits 
an offence if he has sexual relations before the ears of his betrothed 
are pierced. After this operation, which is performed at puberty 
by a male relative of the groom, a messenger announces, "Your 
horse has had its ears pierced today, you may now mount the 
animal." The groom makes a gift of a tobacco pipe and tobacco 
to his bride's parents. 

Married life among the Kona is for a time characterized by 
visits of increasing frequency paid by the bride to the groom, whom 
she leaves before dawn to return to her own home. Delay in making 
the marriage absolute is arranged so that the girl's family will 
have an undisputed claim to the first child, which is regarded as 
part of the compensation for loss of the bride herself from her kin. 
During the probationary period the "trial" wife is allowed to have 
intercourse with other men, and if her sexual relations with them are 
criticized she replies, "What has that to do with you? Have I yet 
gone to your house as a wife?" The true marriage relationship 
begins six months after the birth of the first child, and at that time 
the girl goes permanently to her husband's kin. 

The Jibu, who are another section of the Jukun, are described 
by Meek as a mother-right people who practice matrilocal marriage; 
but this is scarcely a true matrilocal marriage since residence of a 
husband with his wife's kindred is only temporary. The suitor's 
ability to farm is more important than gifts, so during a period of 
one or two years he is required to work on the farm of his father-in- 
law, or on that of his wife's elder sister's husband. Children born 
during this matrilocal residence remain with their mother's kin if 
for any reason, including their mother's death, the marriage is 
dissolved. Meek explains that the Jukun, according to locality, 
show stages of transition from mother-right, to father-right, and 
from matrilocal to patrilocal conditions. Matrilocal marriage 
favors monogamy, places a check on adultery, and makes divorce 
more difficult than under patrilocal conditions. 

Marriage arrangements among Sudanic Negroes have been 
described by H. Labouret (1931, pp. 261, 269), who speaks of pre- 
natal betrothals and marriage contracts made for infants. For- 
malities include an exchange of gifts between the parents of the two 
children, but before the contract is ratified at puberty the arrange- 
ment may be canceled ; freedom of action of the betrothed and their 
respective families is made clear. If an engagement is broken, the 

414 Source Book for African Anthropology 

youth may claim compensation for work done on the land of his 
father-in-law. Refusal of such a request formerly led to combat 
between the two families, but at the present time the matter is 
settled by a tribunal. 

A man of the Agni tribe who desires a girl in marriage has to 
explain his intention to her parents. Then, if their consent is given, 
he spends a night with the girl. The parents are fully aware of the 
betrothal but are not openly cognizant of the fact that the be- 
trothed have passed the night together. Yet the parents must 
have some knowledge of this act, for if the suitor has spent the night 
with their daughter, then repudiates her, he has to appear before 
a council of her family, who extract a fine from him (L. Tauxier, 
1931a, pp. 49-51). 

On the contrary, if the youth and the girl wish to continue their 
engagement, the suitor approaches her parents the day following 
their night together. The dowry to be obtained from the young 
man is a matter for discussion between the two families concerned. 
For breach of contract at any time before marriage, the fine for either 
of the defaulting lovers is twenty-five francs. The marriage cere- 
mony consists of leading the bridegroom to the bride, and in public 
he decorates her and her relatives with presents. 

So far only simple marriage contracts have been considered among 
Bantu and Sudanic Negroes, but more complex forms of union are 
known, especially in Dahomey and Ashanti, while among the 
southern Bantu a form of state marriage exists. 

different types of marriage contract 

A. Le H^riss^ (1911, pp. 203-226) speaks of two main types of 
marriage union, and within each of these he recognizes several 
minor varieties. In unions of the hongho type the married woman 
is in an inferior position which is somewhat close to slavery. She 
was bought at birth with cowries, and always accepts the spouse 
so provided. Her children by this marriage belong to the hus- 
band's family group. A second and distinct type of marriage gives 
power to the maternal family, who are regarded as owners of the 
children by this marriage. Within this second type of marriage three 
varieties are discussed, one of which is called "de la chevre au bouc." 
The phrase means "taking a she-goat to a he-goat." Unions of this 
kind are sought by men of small means, and the children of such a 
marriage belong to the mother. The types of marriage vary in respect 
to the dowry payable by the groom, the priority of rights of either 


Sexual Life 415 

the father's or the mother's kindred over the children, and the 
extent to which dowry is returnable to the husband in event of his 
wife's death, or divorce on account of her adultery. 

R. S. Rattray (1927a, p. 82) describes three main types of mar- 
riage contract in Ashanti. There exists an ordinary form of marriage 
in which a dowry aseda has been paid by the prospective husband 
to his parents-in-law. If a wife who has been secured in this way 
dies or leaves her husband, but not because of her misconduct, the 
husband is not entitled to a refund of the bride- wealth he paid. In a 
second type of marriage a man secures his wife by paying to her 
parents a sum named 'tin nsa (head wine) in order to liquidate a 
debt owed by the woman's family. A third form of marriage requires 
that a husband shall secure his wife by paying to her parents both 
aseda and 'tiri nsa. The second type of marriage demands, that if 
the wife dies, her parents must return to her husband the sum he 
paid in liquidation of their debt. In the third type of marriage the 
procedure at the death of a wife is the same as in case two, but only 
the 'tiri nsa and not aseda can be reclaimed by the widower. For 
Nigeria (C. K. Meek, 1936, pp. 64-72) has described two principal 
forms of marriage: (1) By payment of bride-price; and (2) by 

Forms of state marriage described by J. H. Driberg (1932b), 
should perhaps be regarded as a completely normal development, 
and not outside the ordinary rules of African marriage. Some 
Bantu tribes of south Africa afford instances of state marriage in 
which the bride-price is paid, not by the husband, but as a con- 
tribution from the whole tribe. The state wife who has been secured 
in this way is expected to provide an heir to succeed her husband in 
office. A state marriage cannot be dissolved unless it fails to provide 
an heir, and even in case of barrenness divorce may not ensue, 
since the difficulty is sometimes met by giving the chief a sister of 
his state wife. 


Among Nilotic Negroes the procedure of betrothal and marriage 
bears resemblance to that of Sudanic and Bantu Negroes. Driberg 
says of the Lango that marriages are the result of individual choice 
on the part of man and woman, and that as a rule married life is 
happy and harmonious. The dowry is not really a purchase, since 
cattle paid for the bride are used by her parents to procure a wife for 
one of their sons, and in this way the dowry is a means of restoring 
equilibrium. Of prenuptial relations between the sexes Driberg 

416 Source Book for African Anthropology 

(1923, p. 67) states that "among the Nilo-Hamites, and to a lesser 
extent among the Nilotics, free love is socially encouraged, and so 
long as the marriage taboos relative to kinship are observed the 
status neither of men nor of women is affected by prenuptial license." 
(Driberg, 1932c, p. 416.) 

For the Shilluk, W. Hofmayr (1925, pp. 288, 291, 295) states 
that women have a high social standing. Bethrothal is arranged by 
an intermediary. The dowry is usually ten cows, and the suitor 
makes frequent presents of food to his future parents-in-law. A 
sham fight between kin of the bride and the friends of the groom 
takes places when he goes to claim her. This is a usual custom in 
the Nilotic Negro tribes, and according to L. Cummins (1904, 
pp. 149-166) abduction of a Dinka bride is carried out through a 
hole in the back wall of her hut while a sham fight is in progress. 
Cummins states that a wife is obtained either by purchase, the price 
being paid in cattle, or by capture from hostile clans or tribes. 
Wives obtained by a raid are inferior in position to wives obtained by 
payment of a dowry of cattle, but the children of the two classes of 
wives are of equal standing. 

The foregoing instances have been selected as illustrative exam- 
ples of a large body of evidence which has the same general trend. 
The data make clear that among Negroes women are not of inferior 
status in respect to marriage. Infant betrothals are common, but 
the contract is not binding, and a girl has considerable freedom of 
choice. The main fact to grasp is that marriage is a definite contract 
between individuals and their kindred, and that the legal bond, 
which involves payment of a dowry and often a public marriage rite, 
lays a sure foundation for permanent family life. The dowry paid 
by the bridegroom is compensation for loss of a child-bearing indi- 
vidual from her own kindred. 

With regard to prenuptial sexual relations the evidence is equivo- 
cal, and further research, such as that carried out by E. Torday for 
the eastern and western Bantu, might show definite regional attitudes 
toward premarital license. The nature of the marriage contract and 
the status of women may be further considered by reviewing customs 
relating to polygamy and divorce. 

Other regular forms of marriage, namely, the levirate and geron- 
tocracy, also enjoined marriages and prohibited unions, are described 
in section III, chap. Ill, "Social Organization." The levirate, by 
which custom a man inherits widows of his brother, is further dis- 
cussed under "Law," in section III, chap. IV, "Social Controls." 

Sexual Life 417 


Of the two forms of polygamy, which means "marrying many," 
polygyny, a term referring to plurality of wives, is far the more 
common in Africa and in all other parts of the world. The term 
polyandry is not of precise connotation, since the word has been used 
to describe different kinds of sexual unions of a woman with more 
than one man. Polyandry exists in Tibet, in the Marquesas Islands, 
and among the Todas of southern India. Among the Dieri tribe of 
Australia a woman has her husband (tippa-malku) and also her 
recognized lover (pirraru), who has sexual privileges. 

Polyandry, meaning the recognized union of one woman with 
more than one man, is reported by J. Roscoe (1923a, p. 123; 1915, 
p. 121) among the Banyankole of northeast Africa, but this type of 
union is rare among Negroes. Roscoe states that Banyankole poly- 
andry arises from the inability of a man to pay cattle as a dowry. 
In event of poverty, a man asks one or more of his brothers to join 
with him in procuring a woman, who becomes the lawful wife of 
all who assisted in contributing the dowry. The woman lives with 
each of her husbands in turn until pregnant, then she remains with 
the oldest brother until her child is born. Only the oldest brother 
goes through the form of marriage, but it is understood that the 
woman is the wife of all, yet all the offspring of such a marriage are 
recognized as children of the oldest brother. 

This is hardly a true polyandrous relationship, since only one 
brother goes through the form of marriage. The arrangement 
appears to mean that younger brothers, because of their contribu- 
tion to the dowry, have access to the wife of their oldest brother. 
Roscoe says, "There appears to have been no difficulty in obtaining 
a woman as the wife of several men, nor were there any quarrels or 
unhappiness." The validity of the term polyandry becomes still 
more doubtful when Roscoe refers to "clan brothers" having access 
to one woman. 

C. K. Meek (1925, 1, p. 198) has examined the nature of certain 
sex relations in northern Nigeria and has discussed the applicability 
of the word polyandry to these unions. "Among the Gwari a man 
who captures another's wife is under no obligation to repay the 
former husband, and the children born to him are his. A Gwari 
woman may indeed have several husbands and families in different 
towns, living now with one, now with another, as she feels inclined. 
As the children belong not to the first husband but to the actual 
father, we have here a fairly close approximation to true polyandry. 

418 Source Book for African Anthropology 

As a general rule, however, the zaga wife-abductor remains a cicisbeo 
until the former husband chooses to accept from him an equivalent 
of the bride-price originally given to the girl's parents. Until this 
is done the husband has a claim on all children born by the abductor, 
and the zaga is a temporary union only and cannot be regarded as a 
marriage. The cicisbean character of the zaga is well illustrated by the 
custom among the Warji that as soon as the runaway wife conceives 
by the cicisbeo she must forthwith return to her husband." 

Instances of a true sororate are as doubtful as examples of a 
genuine polyandrous marriage. By the sororate is meant the 
espousal of a man to two or more sisters; this custom has sometimes 
been described as a group marriage. A note has previously been made 
to the effect that a man whose wife proves barren may espouse her 
sister. The parents of the barren wife give the sister as compensation, 
but the first wife, though childless, probably retains her place as the 
Great Wife or head woman in the polygynous household. Possibly 
this custom has given rise to a European conception of a sororate. 
The Ovimbundu, though polygynous when circumstances permit, 
definitely forbid marriage with a wife's sister while the wife is alive; 
but marriage with a deceased wife's sister is permissible. 

Descriptions of the courts of important kings and chiefs leave 
a false impression of the extent of polygyny among Negroes. Instan- 
ces can be found of a king's household which contains hundreds of 
wives, some of whom he has never seen; but polygyny of this kind 
is rare, and fortunately so because of the probable social and personal 
injustice involved. 

Data relating to the normal occurrence of polygyny in various 
areas are inadequate for preparation of precise statements giving 
the number of men who have two or more wives. C. W. Hobley 
(1910, p. 13) tabulates the number of wives in each of thirty- 
eight families of the Akamba. Eleven families with one wife, 
nine families with two wives, seven families with three wives, five 
families with four wives, one family with five wives, two families 
with six wives, one family with seven wives, one family with eight 
wives, and one family with fifteen wives. This, however, was almost 
thirty years ago and conditions have probably changed in the 
direction of monogamy. 

The largest polygynous family I saw in Angola (1929) was that 
of the headman of Ngalangi, who had eleven wives. In his compound 
were eleven huts, one for each of his wives and her children. Ovim- 
bundu custom requires that a husband shall spend either four or 


Sexual Life 419 

seven consecutive nights with each of his wives in turn; the four- 
night cycle being the more usual. Each wife has her own kitchen and 
the wives take turns in cooking the daily meals that must be sent to 
their husband in the council house, where all men gather at sunset. 
The husband of eleven wives was anxious to explain that he had 
eleven wives though only six were present; the remainder were at 
work in the fields. Before a photograph was taken, the chief sent his 
principal wife to dress in a colored blanket which was her mark of 
distinction. A husband considers that his social prestige depends on 
the number of his wives, and a Great Wife is glad to have other 
women to perform the work, since this advances her own social 
standing. Too little is known of the extent of polygyny and the sex 
ratios of Negroes to estimate what social injustice, if any, is inflicted 
by the appropriation of several women by a wealthy man. That 
friction is likely to occur in polygynous households is suggested by 
some of the terms used by the Ovimbundu. See "Kinship Terms," 
chap. 3 of this section. 

The entire evidence relating to marriage contracts, whether 
polygynous or not, fails to indicate that woman has an inferior 
status, and probably J. H. Driberg (1932c, p. 405) is correct in saying, 
"It is doubtful, indeed, whether among Africans the question of high 
or low status ever arises as a distinction between men and women. 
It is a different status, that is all, corresponding with differences of 
physique, natural functions, and stamina, not an inferior status." 

Two writers, G. Gordon Brown and A. MCD. Bruce Hutt (1935, 
p. 213) are of the opinion that "the disappearance of polygyny will 
create a new problem, that of surplus women. To take an extreme 
possibility, if the whole tribe (Wa Hehe) became Christian there 
would be nearly 8,000 more females than males, of whom at least 
4,000 would be of marriageable age. Since continence is not of likely 
occurrence among the Hehe, there would be a large number of 
irregular unions, taking the form of casual intrigues or, more proba- 
bly, of concubinage. This would be a poor substitute for the present 
essential equality of all women." 


In agreement with the definite nature of the marriage contract, 
laws relating to divorce indicate that no easy repudiation of a spouse 
is possible in Negro society. Not only the individuals are concerned; 
the two families take an interest in divorce proceedings, which in 
some tribes require a public ratification. If divorce is inevitable, 

420 Source Book for African Anthropology 

decisions have to be reached respecting disposal of the dowry paid 
for the wife, return of the articles contributed by the wife to her 
home, and the custody of the children. 

Among the Ovimbundu the main grounds on which a man can 
claim divorce are adultery of his wife, her want of industry as a 
cultivator, thieving from other gardens, physical weakness, frigidity, 
barrenness, nagging, incompetence in cooking, and inability to suckle 
her children. Yet divorce is not so frequent as might be supposed 
from the number of causes that justify such procedure. 

Ngonga, my informant, pointed out that adultery is often con- 
doned, provided the seducer pays a fine, and this proceedure is com- 
mon as a settlement of threatened divorce in Negro society. The 
Ovimbundu, like many other Bantu tribes, do not readily condone the 
divorce of a barren woman ; in all probability the husband will marry 
another woman, but his first wife retains her position. With regard 
to frigidity, Ngonga said, "The husband is so angry that he may go 
out hunting for a long time. He may tie the hands of the resisting 
wife, but if she is a good cook another wife is taken and no divorce 
from the frigid wife is claimed." My informant said that it is usual 
for a dissatisfied husband to complain to the parents of his wife or to 
some old people who remonstrate with her. Some kind of adjustment 
is always attempted. According to Ovimbundu custom the difficulty 
of barrenness may be overcome by allowing a wife to have sexual 
relations with a man other than her husband, but the husband claims 
any offspring of the liaison. J. H. Weeks (1914, p. 146) speaks of the 
same custom among the Bakongo, and evidence could be adduced to 
show that barrenness of a wife may be compensated for in this way 
among many Negro tribes. 

If an Ocimbundu has fully decided to divorce his wife, he must 
inform his parents and those of his wife of his intention. There is a 
meeting of husband and wife, their parents, and the village headman 
(sekulu), in order that a public rite of repudiation may be performed. 
The husband receives from his father-in-law a pig and a roll of 
tobacco, then he places leaves and palm oil on his wife's back, and 
slaps her, while saying, "It is finished." A divorced wife takes to her 
parents' home all children under three years of age, and these 
belong permanently to her kindred. The parents of the divorced 
woman try to secure another husband for her, but the dowry required 
from the new husband is not so valuable as the dowry demanded for 
a first marriage. 

Sexual Life 421 

A woman of the Ovimbundu can institute divorce proceedings if 
her husband is impotent, or if he is thought to be sterile. In case of 
alleged sterility he may marry another girl to test his competence. 
A woman may divorce her husband if he ill-treats her, fails to provide 
cloth, palm oil, and ornaments, or if he does not give her an extra 
supply of cloth in which to fold her baby on her back. 

The parents of a woman who desires divorce try to mediate, 
saying, "Go and try again." They do this, so Ngonga said, because 
they do not wish to have their daughter returned to them. In order 
to instigate divorce proceedings, a wife returns to her parents and 
refuses to live with her husband. A woman who divorces her husband 
is entitled to take with her the articles she provided for the home, but 
her husband will beat her if she removes the articles before the 
divorce is ratified. The dowry paid by the divorced husband to his 
wife's parents must be returned to him if his wife divorces him. The 
public rite of repudiation is performed in the same way as for divorce 
of a wife by her husband. If a woman who has divorced her husband 
marries again, the dowry provided by the new husband must be paid 
to the divorced husband and not to the parents of the divorced 
woman. The arrangements of the Ovimbundu to some extent favor 
the male when divorce is sought, yet women have definite rights. 

The facts given for the Ovimbundu are representative of the 
rights and procedure in many Bantu tribes, and the total body of 
evidence indicates that breach of a marriage contract is a serious 
matter, which is not undertaken without mediation ; and to make the 
abrogation valid, compliance has to be made with laws regulating the 
disposal of children and return of the dowry. Laws affecting these 
adjustments vary from tribe to tribe in some measure, but the bind- 
ing nature of the marriage contract, and the absence of facile and 
utterly capricious divorce, can be regarded as fundamental principles 
in Negro life. 

The infrequency of divorce and the methods of avoiding a final 
rupture are described by H. A. Stayt for the Bavenda (1931a, p. 152), 
and the data are typical of Bantu procedure. He mentions com- 
pensation for adultery, without divorce of the delinquent wife, and 
calls attention to substitution of a woman in place of a barren wife. 
"There is no obligation on the part of the wife's family to provide 
another woman, but they generally do so to maintain friendly rela- 
tions between the two families. Divorce is unusual. A man cannot 
return his wife to her parents and receive compensation unless she 

422 Source Book for African Anthropology 

has had several abortions, committed incest, become an habitual 
adul tress or thief, or has been designated a witch." 

Examination of evidence relating to divorce among several 
typical tribes of western Negroes shows correspondence of procedure 
with that which has been given for some Bantu tribes. In Ashanti a 
male may claim divorce because of barrenness of his wife, her 
adultery, drunkenness, a quarrelsome nature, interference on the 
part of his mother-in-law, and the practice of witchcraft by his wife. 
A man may secure divorce if he has inadvertently married into his 
own ntoro or abusa. These terms designate the male and female 
elements present in conception, and the words are used to describe 
certain prohibited degrees of relationship within which a marriage 
is regarded as incestuous. A woman may demand divorce on 
account of the impotence of her husband ; his refusal to clothe, house, 
and feed her properly; or his absence for three years. If the woman 
is a Great Wife, she may claim divorce if her husband marries another 
woman without first obtaining her consent. Acquiescence of the 
Great Wife to a subsequent marriage is a fairly common requirement 
in Negro tribes (R. S. Rattray, 1927a, p. 98). 

The public repudiation of a divorced wife in Ashanti is similar to 
the rite described for the Ovimbundu. The Ashanti husband sprinkles 
white powder on the woman's shoulders while saying, "I have ceased 
to cohabit with you." Laws regulating return of the dowry are in 
accordance with the types of marriage contracted by payment of 
aseda; 'tiri nsa; or aseda, together with 'tiri nsa; as previously 

Most of the accounts of adultery as a cause for divorce state 
that in former days an aggrieved husband had the right to kill his 
wife's seducer, but compensation was sometimes accepted; at the 
present time compensation is the general method of settlement. 
Adjustment rather than divorce is a conspicuous feature of the data 
relating to this subject. L. Tauxier states that a husband who has 
committed adultery has to compensate his wife with presents, and if 
she receives these he is allowed to continue his relations with his 
mistress. Among the Angi the children of divorced parents are 
divided so that males remain with their father, while females accom- 
pany their mother to her own kindred. The father remains responsi- 
ble for the support of all his children. Divorce must be ratified by the 
families of both husband and wife (L. Tauxier, 1932, p. 51). 

Among the Kpelle, according to D. Westermann (1921, p. 62), 
a man may obtain divorce because of the adultery, stubbornness. 

Sexual Life 423 

peevishness, laziness, or barrenness of his wife. He is also entitled 
to divorce if she leaves home and refuses to return. A woman may 
claim divorce on account of harsh treatment from her husband, his 
impotence, or his failure to fulfil the general obligations of a husband. 
The general requirements are, by virtue of their elasticity, almost as 
favorable for a woman as for a man. If the male is the offender, all 
his children accompany their mother to her kindred; but, on the 
contrary, if he divorces his wife his children remain with him. The 
parents of a divorced woman return the dowry or give another female 
in lieu of their divorced daughter. 

Among tribes of the Jukun, as C. K. Meek (1931a, p. 388) 
shows, those who practice a matrilocal form of marriage are conscious 
of its advantages in giving security of married status to women. A 
man can obtain divorce more easily among the patrilocal tribes. 
R. S. Rattray (1923) has called attention to the security of Ashanti 
women from injustice since matriarchal conditions, involving the 
reckoning of descent, inheritance, and succession in the female line, 

Owing to the bilateral character of the Jukun social system a 
husband who divorces his wife is liable to lose possession of all his 
children, since they may accompany their mother to her kindred. 
Consequently, a husband exercises the utmost patience with his 
adulterous wife, giving warnings and admonitions. A husband who 
divorced his wife would be within his rights to reclaim at least a part 
of the dowry he paid, but it is not likely that he would do so if the 
children were left with him as compensation for his wife's adultery. 
A wife who has grounds for divorce from her husband is slow to exer- 
cise her right, but if divorce cannot be avoided she returns either to 
her father or to her maternal uncle. In such an instance the husband 
would not reclaim his premarital expenses (Meek, 1931a, p. 388). 

These instances of divorce procedure clearly indicate that the 
marital status of women is high among some western Negro tribes, 
where traits of a matriarchal system prevail. The position of women 
in various types of matriarchal and patriarchal Negro society has 
been worked out in detail by S. R. Steinmetz (1903), who shows the 
advantages that women enjoy where the conditions are matriarchal. 

The grounds for divorce among the Lango, a Nilotic Negro tribe 
described by J. H. Driberg (1923, pp. 160, 164; 1932c, p. 417), are 
similar to those previously considered. A man may divorce a 
woman for repeated adultery, or because of her sterility, but if the 
latter reason is the cause for dissatisfaction divorce may not ensue, 

424 Source Book for African Anthropology 

since the parents of the sterile woman may give a sister of the first 
wife, who will retain her position as the Great Wife. If this arrange- 
ment is not made, and the barren wife is divorced, the husband is 
entitled to a return of the dowry he paid. A woman can claim divorce 
for ill treatment or neglect, or she may obtain a divorce because 
her husband is unable to support her. If the wife who has obtained 
a divorce returns to her kindred, the dowry paid by her husband is 
refunded to him. 

Other Sexual Relations 

The chief sexual relations not yet considered are wife-lending, 
prostitution, and homosexuality. J. H. Driberg (1932c, p. 417) 
describes the lending of wives to members of the husband's age 
group as a common feature of the Nilo-Hamitic culture, in which 
this custom is a necessary form of hospitality. 

J. Roscoe (1923a, p. 123; 1921, p. 203) states that the Banyankole 
have a custom of wife-lending, and the degree of liberty allowed to 
a visitor depends on his relationship with the husband. A visitor 
may sleep in the bed with a husband and wife who are his hosts, 
but the details of the intimacy are unknown. If the visitor is the 
husband's father, the husband leaves his bed entirely to his parent 
during the visit. The dispossessed husband stays with a married 
neighbor, whose bed he shares. This form of hospitality is not 
allowed to transgress against laws that prohibit sexual intercourse 
between certain relatives. Should the wife of the host happen to 
be the guest's own sister, his mother's sister, or his mother's sister's 
daughter, the guest must sleep alone. Roscoe says of the Banyankole, 
"A married woman is expected to entertain any guest of her husband 
and to invite him to her bed. This is a mark of hospitality shown 
by all married men to their visitors." 

The prevalence of the custom of wife-lending among Negroes, 
together with the social and psychological aspects of the institu- 
tion, have not yet been fully investigated, but V. Brelsford (1933, 
pp. 433-439) has shown the need for careful discrimination between 
customs that may at first glance appear similar. In the kusena 
custom a wife is lent as a matter of courtesy to a friend, but she 
does not leave her husband's hut. In the luhamho compact the hus- 
band receives cattle from his v/ife's lover, in whose hut the wife 
stays at intervals and for several days at a time. 

The study of prostitution presents difficulties, partly because 
of the need of a clear definition of the practice, and partly on account 
of the misapprehensions of observers, who have been prone to 

Sexual Life 425 

confuse sexual license, for example wife-lending and the intimacy of 
the betrothed, with prostitution. If prostitution can be correctly 
defined as the habitual practice of promiscuous sexual intercourse 
on a commercial basis, then some definite statements can be made 
respecting the prevalence of prostitution today, but we are still 
in doubt with regard to the prevalence of genuine prostitution before 
the arrival of Europeans. 

W. Bosman (trans. 1907, p. 212) writing of Axim and other places 
on the Gold Coast about the year 1700, describes an indisputable 
system of prostitution. But at this period Europeans had been 
trading on the Gold Coast for two centuries, and commercialized 
prostitution may have arisen in response to a European demand. 
Bosman writes, "Negroes of the Gold Coast make no scruple of 
driving a public trade with their wives' bodies. Some women never 
marry and are initiated into prostitution. The money they get is 
brought to their masters, who return to them enough to keep them 
in clothes and necessaries. A prostitute can refuse no man the use 
of her body though he offer never so small a sum." 

According to M. Delafosse (1912, vol. 3, p. 91) prostitution is 
not widely practiced in the French Sudan, yet the custom is known 
in some towns and villages. Professional prostitutes are generally 
widows or divorced women, and though they are regarded with some 
contempt by other women no general public reprobation is evident; 
neither are prostitutes segregated in a special quarter. Among 
some tribes inhabiting the region about the bend of the Niger, 
young unmarried girls act as prostitutes without making a regular 
trade of their amours. Mothers sometimes act as procurers and 
take part of the profits. Some husbands in the Dan (Meb^) tribe 
of the Ivory Coast encourage their wives to practice prostitution 
for profit. A sexual freedom that might be called fornication or 
adultery is termed prostitution occasionnelle by M. Delafosse. He 
states that some women, who may be married or not, yield themselves 
but without remuneration. 

In the Cross River region of Nigeria there are generally some 
prostitutes living in towns near government stations, also in riverine 
towns that are frequented by traders. The prostitutes are usually 
women who have deserted their husbands to grow rich on the earn- 
ings of canoe boys, laborers, and policemen. C. Partridge (1905, 
p. 258) is speaking of southeast Nigeria, but what he says is of wide 
application in Nigeria. I found during a long journey that my 
Hausa servants had no difficulty in making contact with girls almost 

426 Source Book for African Anthropology 

immediately, wherever we happened to be. The couples slept to- 
gether, but whether the girls were habitual prostitutes I cannot say. 
The boys always paid with either money or presents. 

R. C. Thurnwald (1935, p. 176) has come to the conclusion 
that "prostitution is a source of income not only in the towns but 
also in the country. The pagan tradition, according to investigations, 
reports, and replies to the questionnaire, does not show any traces 
of prostitution. In fact, conditions were so different that in the old 
social order there was no place for it. One is tempted to consent 
to the charge of the Africans that prostitution was introduced by 
Europeans as a consequence of the lack of white women in the 
beginning of European settling, and also as a corollary of monogamy. 
Perhaps prostitution was existent in the Arab times to a certain 
minor extent, although polygyny and slavery were blurring its features. 
No doubt a considerable amount of it must be partially assigned to 
the hiring of girls (for 40 shillings a month) by European bachelors, 
partially to their location in certain town houses, for the use of the 
indigenous population, which in these centers is mostly unmarried." 

In the British Cameroons colonies of prostitutes are segregated 
in towns having a mixed population. For this condition F. W. H. 
Migeod (1925, p. 210) blames love of luxury and laziness; he adds 
that easy divorce under Mohammedan laws is partially responsible 
for the situation. This is, however, an instance of prostitution under 
modern conditions, and reliable evidence indicating that prostitution 
was an aboriginal Negro institution is insufficient to warrant any 

A still more difficult problem to investigate is that of homosex- 
uality, for which the evidence is scanty in relation to the area under 
consideration. Ngonga said that among the Ovimbundu "there 
are men who want men and women who want women. The people 
think this very bad." Ngonga spoke of a young man who insisted 
on wearing the clothes of a woman so that he could work at the rocks 
where corn is pounded. "His father and brothers beat him, but he 
continued to dress as a woman." Ngonga said that he had seen 
a medicine-man dress as a woman, and that he had heard of a woman 
making an artificial penis for use with another woman. 

In the French Sudan sodomy, lesbianism, and bestiality are 
excessively rare. Public opinion views these practices with ridicule 
but not with a desire to punish. The general attitude toward these 
irregularities is one of humorous contempt (M. Delafosse, 1912, 
vol. 3, p. 92). 

Sexual Life 427 

The evidence of J. H. Weeks (1909, pp. 448-449) for the Bangala 
indicates that habits of solitary and mutual masturbation exist 
among men but probably not among women. "Sodomy between 
two men is common, and is regarded with little or no shame. It 
generally takes place when men are visiting strange towns or during 
the time they are fishing at camps away from their women. If a 
man committed sodomy with a woman he was at one time liable to 
a death penalty, but now he is heavily fined. Sodomy with a woman 
is regarded not simply as a family offence, but as an insult to the 
community, hence the elders of the village are responsible for judging 
and punishing the man." Weeks gives some additional data relating 
to sexual irregularities, including bestiality. 

In former times among the Azande some of the more powerful 
chiefs named Vungara, who were members of the ruling clan, prac- 
ticed homosexuality to a slight degree because of fear of venereal 
disease. A chief who was warned by a medicine-man that he might 
suffer from venereal disease if he had relations with certain of his wives 
would procure a boy whom he married by payment of spears (P. M. 
Larken, 1926, p. 24). 

Dahomean boys indulge in sex play with each other after their 
withdrawal from the society of girls at the age of puberty, but 
Dahomeans have a distaste for such behavior if it is continued after 
the age at which normal sexual relations should begin. "Yet there 
are men and women who either never marry or who, though married, 
have their most valid sex experiences with members of their own 
sex. This is kept secret, for if word of it got about, such a person 
would be the butt of many sly rem.arks and, what is more dreaded, 
deriding songs." (M. J. Herskovits, 1932a, p. 284.) 

There is enough evidence to indicate that sexual practices of an 
irregular kind are fairly common, but the data are not sufficient for 
a detailed examination of the incidence of the various irregularities 
among different tribes; neither are the available facts adequate for 
analysis of the causes involved in abnormal sexual behavior. 

The foregoing evidence is consistent in showing that marriage 
is generally based on freedom of choice, and that the union is legalized 
in such a way as to make the contract binding. The data reviewed 
explain the formation of a stable family group, further details of 
which can be considered by examining facts relating to pregnancy, 
the naming of children, their education, and initiation into the tribe. 

The following additional references are important in the study 
of marriage, divorce, and the social status of women. H. P. Braatvedt 

428 Source Book for African Anthropology 

(1927), V. Brelsford (1933), E. F. Brown (1935), G. G. Brown (1932), 
F. Bryk (1928), K. H. Crosby (1937), J. W. Crowfoot (1922), A. T. 
and G. M. Culwick (1934-35), N. de Cleene (1937), J. H. Driberg 
(1932a and b), E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1929a), A. Ffoulkes (1908), 
M. Kohler (1934), P. von Majerus (1911), L. W. G. Malcolm (1923b, 
1924), B. Malinowski (1927), T. McVicar (1934-35), F. Ronnefelt 
(1936), P. P. Schumacher (1910), H. Thurnwald (1935), E. Torday 
(1929b), J. Vendeix (1935), A. Werner (1928b), H. Wieschhoff (1937b). 

Pregnancy and Infancy 


The importance of this subject has been briefly expressed by 
T. J. A. Yates (1932, No. 159) who says, "The family founded by 
marriage is not really established till the birth of the first child. 
Married status among the Bantu has very little meaning apart from 
parenthood." In support of this view Yates gives evidence from the 
Bavenda tribe in which a bride crawls in the yard of her husband's 
home, kneels before she enters the hut, and performs other acts of 
obeisance until her first child is born. The Wafungu tribe of North- 
ern Rhodesia recognize four social ranks that are dependent on 
possession of children. Young men are not qualified to sit in the 
council house before they are parents. Teknonymy, that is, change 
of name of the parents at the birth of a child, which is a common 
Bantu practice, is mentioned as further evidence of the social im- 
portance of parenthood. In some tribes avoidance between parents- 
in-law and children-in-law is not so strictly enforced after the birth 
of the first child. 


In this chapter the chief data to consider are those relating to 
conception, reincarnation of ancestors, the period of gestation, 
abortion, parturition and its ritual — for example, disposal of the 
placenta and the umbilical cord. The destruction of deformed 
children and ceremonial ablutions for parents are also points of 
importance. The attitude toward twins and the ritual of naming 
have to be considered, while facts pertaining to teething, lactation, 
weaning, and early deformations such as extraction of teeth and 
scarification should be included. Demography, the attitude toward 
illegitimate children, and adoption of children, are likewise logically 
connected with a study of the family. So far as the southern Bantu 
are concerned most of these subjects have been briefly considered 
by L. Walk (1928, pp. 38-109), whose article is appropriate as an 
introduction to this subject. 

In order to obtain an impression of the general attitudes and 
principles of Negroes toward procreation and early education, 
examples will be chosen from several Bantu and Sudanic tribes. 
These particular instances are selected as truly representative of 
the whole, though many local variations occur. 


430 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The emphasis placed by Negro tribes on the religious and magical 
aspects of pregnancy and childbirth might leave the impression that 
the physiological facts of procreation are not understood, but despite 
the general prevalence of spiritual beliefs and ritual in connection 
with childbirth the parts played by male and female are known. 
The Ovimbundu say that a man puts something into a woman, 
and the male substance grows in her. This is probably common 
knowledge in Negro tribes, but the importance of sexual intercourse 
and conception is completely eclipsed by a ritual procedure. The 
nature of the rites is well exemplified by data from the Akamba, 
who are northeastern Bantu Negroes. A medicine-man who uses 
his magic to induce conception rarely deals in any other form of 
treatment. He is a skilled specialist, and as such is held in high 
esteem. His treatment consists of giving a woman an amulet to 
wear over her womb, and smearing her navel and loins with a concoc- 
tion. But the importance of taboo is shown by the statement, that 
no medicine-man can cure sterility if the newly manned couple had 
their first sexual intercourse when the woman was menstruating 
(G. Beresford-Stooke, 1928, No. 129). 

Women of the Ovimbundu regard cowrie shells as symbols of 
fertility, and for this reason a cord bearing one or more of these shells 
is worn about the neck. The charm is most effective if it was used 
by the wearer's mother or grandmother. Painting the face during 
pregnancy is a rite which is usually carried out by a medicine-woman 
to ensure normal development of the fetus. Undoubtedly magic 
is regarded as a necessary aid to physiological processes of reproduc- 
tion, which are fairly well understood. 

Taboos are necessary to ensure the birth of normal offspring. 
As soon as a woman discovers that she is pregnant she makes and 
drinks an infusion prepared from bark fiber to assure removal of 
the afterbirth. Eating the flesh of a hare during pregnancy is thought 
to give the baby a split lip. Flesh of the owl as part of the diet 
will give a child abnormally large eyes. During gestation a woman 
must not sit on a mortar, a pestle, or a piece of rock, for if she does 
so her delivery will be unduly prolonged. If a woman carries a 
burden in her cloth, the baby will be born with an abnormally long 
head. During pregnancy a woman mixes a prickly plant with her 
husband's food in order to make him faithful to her. This custom 
may have some connection with the fact that before the decline of 
native prohibitions a husband was not allowed to have relations with 
his wife until the baby had been weaned. The rule is a usual one 

Education of Children 431 

in Negro society, but the extent to which a monogamous man 
remained continent during the time of gestation and lactation is 
unknown. Children are suckled for two or even three years, and 
this period, combined with the nine months of gestation, demands 
a long abstention. 

J. H. Weeks (1914, p. 107) states that, despite a popular idea 
alleging the strong sexual desires of Negroes, they are capable of 
restraints that Europeans would not tolerate. During her pregnancy 
and the lactation of her child a woman treats men as utterly non- 

The taboos observed during pregnancy by the Ovimbundu are 
typical instances of the Negro attitude toward gestation, which is 
regarded as a period in which actions of the mother may adversely 
affect the unborn child. In some tribes prohibitions affect the father 
of the child, and during delivery he may have to observe certain 
precautions. A difficult delivery is often attributed to an illicit love 
affair, and instances of a woman being asked to disclose the name 
of her lover in order to make parturition easier are numerous. 

A genuine custom of couvade, in which a father goes to bed and 
acts as if he were the bearer of the child, appears to be rare in Africa, 
but an instance is given by C. G. and B. Z. Seligman (1932, p. 107). 
A wide geographical survey of the subject has been made by 
W. R. Dawson (1929). 

The Ovimbundu have confidence in ritual for affecting the sex 
of a fetus. A woman who has borne only girls may secure male 
births, provided she can find a woman who has given birth to boys 
only. To reverse the sexes the women exchange their belts, which 
are plaited fiber girdles worn close to their bodies in order to support 
short skirts. Another method of changing a succession of male or 
female births is the arrangement of a ceremonial exchange of food 
between the mother of boys and the mother of girls. The food is 
passed from one woman to the other through a hole in the wall of 
a hut. Sometimes a woman who has borne only boys gives to the 
bearer of girls an arrow, a bow, a knife, and an axe, while she receives 
in exchange from the mother of girls a pounding pestle, a broom, a 
tray, and a basket. There is in these exchanges an obvious sex 
symbolism and an implied belief in the efficacy of sympathetic magic. 

Normally, parturition takes place at home with two or more 
women in attendance, but delivery while at work in the fields causes 
no great inconvenience. Birth is assisted by pressure and massage, 
aided by magical means, such as untying knots from string and 

432 Source Book for African Anthropology 

opening lids of boxes if the labor is slow. These are general condi- 
tions and observances, but local customs vary. Generally, there 
is ceremonial treatment of the umbilical cord and placenta, which 
have to be buried, though the cord is preserved, according to some 
tribal usages. An Ocimbundu midwife cuts the umbilical cord of 
a girl with a hoe to ensure success in field work, but the cord of a 
boy is cut with an arrow to give prowess in hunting. The Ovimbundu 
say that if the father were present at the confinement his child would 
be ashamed to be born, therefore the father is excluded. 

Washing, massage, and smearing with palm-oil are usual treat- 
ments for a newly born Negro child. The Ovimbundu follow a 
common practice when they give the infant a sip of beer and tie a 
cord about its waist. Destruction of deformed children is usual, 
but a child who is allowed to survive for twenty-four hours is un- 
likely to be killed. This Umbundu practice toward abnormal 
children is the. common procedure. The Ovimbundu protect the 
fontanelle of a newly born child by covering the place with mucilage 
that hardens. 

I was unable to discover that the Ovimbundu believe in the 
reincarnation of ancestors in infants, and no ceremony was found 
for discovering the identity of a newly born child. Yet in this respect 
the Ovimbundu are exceptional, and in view of the general Negro 
belief in a reincarnation of ancestors, it is probable that former 
Umbundu customs have fallen into desuetude. The essence of 
Negro religion is a belief in a parallelism of the spiritual and secular 
worlds. Spirits of the dead carry on their activities much as they 
did on earth. The dead visit their living descendants, affect their 
welfare, and may be reincarnated in their own kindred. 


In common with a majority of Negro tribes the Ovimbundu 
know how to produce abortion by use of drugs; these they call 
"medicine for taking away the belly." The literature shows that 
mechanical means of securing abortion by pressure are sometimes 
used by Negroes, but the employment of potions is more common. 
The general attitude toward abortion is one of reprobation. Birth 
of a child to an unmarried girl is commonly censured by Negroes, 
although their customs often condone sexual laxity. Therefore, 
abortion is the resort of those who wish to avoid having illegitimate 
children. Instance can be found to show that a woman may abort 
in order to avoid bearing a child to a man she dislikes, and another 

Education of Children 433 

cause for abortion is the infidelity of young wives to an elderly 
husband who does not cohabit with them. Instances of the in- 
fanticide of illegitimate children are numerous, but examples of the 
survival of illegitimate children are also common, and in the latter 
case the children belong to their mother's kindred as a rule. Gen- 
erally speaking, the illegitimate child of an adulterous union is the 
property of the legal husband. Death of a woman during pregnancy 
or delivery generally demands special funeral rites and ritual to 
avert evil consequences. At Ngalangi in east-central Angola I was 
informed that the rite of driving a stake through the abdomen of a 
pregnant woman after her corpse had been laid in the grave had 
been recently observed. Usually, the child of a mother who has no 
milk is not allowed to die but is suckled by another woman. This 
Umbundu custom is of common occurrence among other Negroes. 


Information relating to the birth and treatment of triplets is 
scanty, but adequate data exist for estimating the attitudes of Negro 
tribes toward twin births. With regard to triplets, the Ovimbundu 
say that they are welcome. At the age of five years a male of the 
triplets, if there happens to be one, is presented to the king, to remain 
in the royal household as a son who, along with sons of the king's 
wives, has opportunities for inheritance and succession. Though 
twins are welcome, the Ovimbundu, in conformity with general 
Negro procedure, demand special observances. Such ritual of puri- 
fication and protection is never absent even though the twins are 
both allowed to live, and no reprobation attaches to the mother. In 
all Negro tribes twins are regarded as abnormal, and their birth 
demands ritual to safeguard the children, their parents, and the 

Among the Ovimbundu an ocimbanda (medicine-man) carries 
out rites for purifying a mother of twins, and the afterbirth is placed 
in two pots which are buried outside the village. A mother of twins 
receives from the ocimbanda a horn which she hangs round her neck; 
this she has to blow when crossing a river, when meeting a group 
of people, or if she sees a hawk overhead. People laugh at a mother 
of twins, and in jest call her a pig or a bitch because she has had a 
litter. This banter she takes in good part and replies jokingly. 
A mother of twins or triplets carries a rattle which she shakes instead 
of giving the ordinary greetings. Should a twin die, a wooden figurine 
is made to take the place of the dead child. This figure is held to 
the breast, or the other infant might die through loneliness. If the 

434 Source Book for African Anthropology 

surviving twin succumbs, the wooden figurine is buried with it. 
The making of a figurine of this kind to replace a dead twin is a 
common Negro custom. 

The regard of the Ovimbundu for twins is not, however, a true 
indication of the general Negro attitude. African customs have to be 
modified under European administration, but in former days a twin 
birth often led to execution of the twins and the mother also. In 
some tribes only the twins were killed, or perhaps one of them was 
allowed to survive. Customs varied locally. 

J. H. Weeks (1914, p. 116) states that the Bakongo dislike twins 
because of the extra trouble they give; therefore, one of them may 
be starved to death and replaced by the wooden figurine previously 
mentioned. In case of infanticide or natural death, twins are buried 
at crossroads. This is a form of interment given to suicides and 
people who have been killed by lightning, for such persons are said 
to have died dishonorably. 

A survey of the evidence relating to treatment of twins among 
the south African Bantu shows the general attitude to be one of 
hostility and fear. S. S. Dornan (1932, pp. 690-750) states that most 
Bantu tribes regard the birth of twins as demoniacal, unnatural, 
monstrous, and portentous of evil to the family and the clan. 
Calamity can be avoided only by death of the infants. A wide 
survey of Bantu and non-Bantu tribes south of the Zambezi indicates 
that only a small minority of the tribes described regard the birth 
of twins as fortunate for the family, but in some tribes, namely, 
the Zulu and the Herero, a difference of opinion exists with regard 
to the malign influence of a twin birth. 

In the Ovambo tribe, twins were immediately killed by suffoca- 
tion, and their mother had to submit to an elaborate ceremony of 
cleansing. The Makaranga and the Bavenda regard twins as a 
presage of evil for the village in which they were born. Twins of 
the Makaranga tribe were killed at once by the midwife, and the 
parents had to be purified. Twins were thought to have an adverse 
effect on the quantity of rainfall. Among the Baronga, Bapedi, and 
Basuto Bechuana, twins were put to death, and their mother was 
purified by a medicine-man. Dornan points out that among Bush- 
man tribes infanticide of twins might sometimes be due to economic 
causes. The Bushmen are wandering hunters who at certain times 
of the year live on the margin of subsistence. Reasons for infanticide 
of twins among the southern Bantu are magical and psychological, 
not economic. A woman of the Fingoes who gave birth to twins 

Education of Children 435 

was regarded as having had dealings with spirits, and as being rep- 
robate. If she gave birth to twins at her first confinement, she and 
her children were at once killed. If the confinement were not her 
first, one twin was killed, and the mother together with her surviving 
child was purified ceremonially (S. S. Dornan, 1932). 

In the Lamba tribe, according to C. M. Doke (1931c, p. 133) a 
twin birth is regarded as normal if the infants are of the same sex. 
But birth of twins of opposite sexes is a sign of ill luck, and the father 
has to visit a medicine-man who gives him a concoction to smear 
over himself, his wife, and the twins. 


In connection with the naming of children, several important 
beliefs and customs occur. Several of the usages commonly found 
among Bantu tribes can be illustrated by reference to procedure 
among the Ovimbundu. The custom of teknonymy prevails, and 
in accordance with this practice parents change their names when 
their first child is born. In a certain family, the name given to a 
first child, a girl, was Vitundo. The name of the father, who had 
hitherto been called Cingandu, was changed to Savitundo, meaning 
"the father of Vitundo." At the same time the mother's name, 
Visolela, was changed to Navitundo, meaning "mother of Vitundo." 
If the first child dies the parents revert to their original names, but 
make the same kind of change if a second child is born. 

A child who is born after twins is called Kasinda, "to push," 
and the twins themselves are called Hosi and Njamba, the Lion 
and the Elephant. The Ovimbundu have no secret names, but in 
this they are somewhat exceptional. Names of the dead are never 
mentioned, since this might call up spirits of the dead who are 
feared ; taboo of names of the dead is usual in Negro society. Ovim- 
bundu children may change their names at the age of about sixteen 
years and often do so if the names are distasteful to them. A youth 
named Katito, meaning "Little," changed his name to Mukayita, 
the meaning of which is unknown, though presumably the new name 
conveyed some pleasant idea. Change of name during sickness is 
thought to aid recovery, possibly because of the idea that malignant 
spirits who are causing the illness may be deceived. An Ocimbundu 
now named Katahali suffered sickness and misfortune, so he aban- 
doned his former name of Kopiongo. His present name means "he 
who has seen trouble." A sick child is thought to benefit by receiving 
a new name of an unpleasant kind, for example ongulu, meaning 
"a pig." 

436 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Names sometimes give an indication of descent. The full name 
of my interpreter was Ngonga Kalei Liahuka. Ngonga means 
"eagle," Kalei, "one who works for the king," and Liahuka is the 
surname of Ngonga's father. A father chooses the names of his 
three first children, whether boys or girls, and a mother selects the 
name of the fourth child, whether male or female. A first son usually 
receives the name of his paternal grandfather, and a first daughter 
takes the name of her father's sister. R. Routil (1929, pp. 315-319) 
and H. Wieschhoff (1937a) give further information on naming. 

Ages are not known with certainty after about five years, but 
up to this period reckoning is made by remembering the number of 
times that maize has been sown. Ulima is the period from one annual 
sowing to the next. The Ovimbundu, like many Negro tribes, can 
count up to high numbers for purposes of trade, but they do not 
apply their knowledge for keeping account of ages. 

Many Negro tribes watch the process of teething with anxiety, 
since an appearance of the incisor teeth of the upper jaw before 
those of the lower jaw is an augury of ill luck. J. Roscoe (1923b, 
p. 258) states that for the Bakitara an unusual event of this kind 
implies that offence has been given to gods or to ancestral spirits. 
The offending teeth are extracted, and a medicine-man is asked to 
offer sacrifice to the child's ancestors. "Only shame and disgrace 
attach to such a child, and whatever rank it might attain, it could 
never enter the presence of the king." 

further examples of bantu customs 

The background of Negro belief and ritual relating to pregnancy 
and childbirth can be further illustrated from H. A. Junod's 
Bathonga (1912, vol. 1, pp. 35-54; 183-190). The Bathonga have 
the idea that children are given by the gods; consequently a sacrifice 
to the gods is thought to be necessary if a woman is sterile, but in 
addition to the religious rite native doctors have many drugs to 
remedy barrenness. 

Sterility of a wife may be a cause for divorce, but usually the 
parents of the barren wife provide a younger girl as a second wife. 
In allowing coition during pregnancy the Bathonga depart from the 
general Negro rule; in fact, they say that sexual intercourse is favor- 
able to the growth of the fetus. Prohibitions during pregnancy are 
of the general type, and the acts tabooed are those which are thought 
capable of injuring the unborn child. Two of the clans prohibit pork 
as food for girls because pigs move their heads sideways when rooting 

Education of Children 437 

for food, and it is thought that the infant would make delivery 
difficult by moving its head in this way. The Bathonga observe the 
usual taboo against menstruating wives. A wife in this condition 
must keep to the left half of the hut, and may not cross the middle 
line. She sleeps on her own mat and wears special clothing. When 
she cooks mealies, the food should not be touched by her hands. The 
Ovimbundu do not allow a menstruating wife to cook or to take the 
evening meal to her husband at the men's house. 

The Bathonga hold the common belief that a protracted and 
difficult birth proves that the child is not legitimate. In a case of this 
kind the husband is called, and a test of the child's legitimacy is made 
by giving the woman some of her husband's semen to drink in water. 
The saying is that if the child is legitimate he will "feel his father," 
and will be willing to be born. Should delivery still be slow, adultery 
is assumed, and the midwife urges the woman to give the name of her 
lover. "If a woman dies during pregnancy she must be cut open to 
determine the sex of the child. This must be done in the grave before 
the earth is filled in. The woman might become a 'god of bitterness' 
if this precaution were not observed." 

For naming a child several methods are available, one of which 
is of particular interest because of its association with a belief in 
reincarnation. The name of an ancestor is suggested by the medicine- 
man, who then throws the bones, and, if necessary, other ancestral 
names are suggested until a particular arrangement of the bones 
shows that the correct name has been chosen (H. Wieschhoff, 1937). 

If a child cuts its upper teeth first, the omen is bad. Before a 
string is tied round the child's waist, the infant is hardly considered 
as a human being, but after a string smeared with the father's semen 
has been tied in this way the child is a member of its kindred. Pre- 
sentation of a child to the first new moon after the birth is an act 
which is observed by the Baganda (Roscoe, 1911, p. 58), the Bavenda 
(Stayt, 1931a, p. 89), and the Bathonga (H. A. Junod, 1910, p. 130), 
but the general distribution of the custom has not yet been worked 
out in detail. 

The attitude of the Bathonga toward twins is peculiar, for though 
the infants are disliked they are esteemed and feared. A twin birth 
is regarded as a defilement which has to be removed by special rites, 
and in former times one of twins was strangled or was left to die 
of starvation. A medicine-man who removed the defilement was 
highly respected because only he knew what drinking potion to give 
to the father and mother of twins. At the present time infanticide 

438 Source Book for African Anthropology 

is not practiced, but a mother of twins has to leave the village at once 
to live in a hut apart from other dwellings. Twins are not presented 
to the moon, and they are regarded as bad characters. When the 
twins begin to crawl and approach other huts, people throw cinders at 
them. The power that causes death by lightning also determines the 
birth of twins; therefore, the infants are called "Children of Heaven," 
and appeal is made to them for protection during a thunderstorm. 

Valenge women of the southeastern Bantu are despised and some- 
times divorced if they are barren. A sterile woman visits a medicine- 
man in charge of divining bones, or she may send her father or mother 
to this practitioner, who declares that some act of sacrifice is lacking. 
The ancestral spirits are offended, and an offering must be made to 
them before the curse of sterility can be removed. E. D. Earthy (1933, 
p. 84) mentions that lactation lasts two or three years. When wean- 
ing a child the mother rubs her breasts with a species of Capsicum. 
Pounded leaves from a "tree of forgetfulness" are mixed with chicken 
and given to the child as food. The child is often sent away for a 
while. "If a family has adopted a child it becomes of the sib to which 
the family belongs, and its marriage is arranged accordingly. The 
marriage prohibitions are the same as for a real child of the family, 
with the added prohibition that it may not marry into the sib from 
whence it came. The adopted child is given a medicine in order that 
it may forget everything about its former life." Adoption of children 
is a fairly common practice among Negroes. 


Negroes of west Africa hold beliefs and observe practices that are 
in harmony with those recorded for Bantu Negroes. R. S. Rattray 
(1932a, vol. 2, p. 332) calls attention to the wearing of girdle leaves 
by women, not only as a mark of age and social distinction, according 
to the kind of leaves and the position in which they are fixed, but as a 
sign of motherhood. "Women who have not yet borne any children, 
if they wear leaves at all, will do so only at the back, but after child- 
birth at back and front." 

The evidence given by R. S. Rattray (1923, pp. 36, 77, 85, 106) 
for Ashanti emphasizes the belief in reincarnation of an ancestor in 
the newly born child, and the dependence of conception and safe 
delivery on divine intervention are illustrated by the instances given. 
In the sixth month of pregnancy a fowl provided by the wife is 
sacrificed by her husband, who makes a prayer to his ntoro gods, 
saying, "Allow this infant to come forth peacefully." The husband 

Education of Children 439 

and wife, after smearing themselves with white clay have intercourse, 
and both believe that violation of certain prohibitions will result in 
an abortion. 

Adultery, eating sweets, quarreling, and looking at deformities 
are all regarded as causes of mishap to the fetus. Difficult delivery 
is said to result from adultery, and if the usual magical remedies fail 
the name of the seducer is asked. Deformed children are destroyed 
at birth, and even slight malformations such as supernumerary toes 
or excess of nipples (polymastia) is sufficient cause for infanticide. 
A woman should not be buried with a child in her womb, for if this 
were done the whole nation would be adversely affected. A preg- 
nant woman cannot be executed, but in former days both the woman 
and her child were killed after delivery. 

If delivery proceeds normally the four elderly women who act 
as mid wives shout, "Hail, so-and-so," and at the same time they 
name the child after the day on which it was born, but other names 
are given later in life. After the umbilical cord has been cut on a 
piece of wood, one of the women moistens her finger with rum and 
rubs the infant's throat, then all say, "So-and-so has arrived, let him 
[or her] sit down with us." 

When an Ashanti child is born a ghost mother is thought to 
mourn her child in the spirit world, and if the infant dies within eight 
days death is said to be due to the fact that the ghost mother recalled 
her child, which had been temporarily loaned while she went on a 
journey. A male child is named by the paternal grandfather, who 
takes the infant on his knee, spits in the child's mouth and says, 
"My child [name] has begotten a child. I call him after myself, 

naming him ." Spitting to confer a blessing is by no means 

unusual, especially among the IMasai and other Half-Hamites. The 
custom is mentioned by A. C. Hollis (1905, pp. 115, 315). Among the 
Lango, a Nilotic tribe of Uganda, spitting is an important part of 
ritual (Driberg, 1923, pp. 162, 249, 252). 

In Ashanti, twins were not killed, with the exception of those 
born in the royal family. In all families children are greatly desired, 
and a childless man is sometimes taunted with the sobriquet, kote 
krawa (wax penis). The third, sixth, and ninth children are the 
lucky ones; the fifth child is said to be susceptible to misfortune. 

Purification rites and prohibitions connected with childbirth are 
mentioned by C. K. Meek (1931a, p. 362) who states that the 
Chamba, neighbors of the Jukun of east Nigeria, do not allow a 
mother to enter the kitchen during the week after delivery, and not 

440 Source Book for African Anthropology 

then unless all discharge has ceased. A rite exists for removing 
maternal impurity and dedicating the child to the gods. The 
spiritual identity of the child is discovered by a diviner, who is said to 
be a reincarnation of a dead relative of the father or the mother. The 
name of the reincarnated relative is not disclosed, and a temporary 
name is given to the infant. Deformed children are killed because 
they are thought to have been begotten by an evil spirit. The Jukun 
do not believe that twins are a result of adultery; the event is 
explained by saying that two dead ancestors wished to be born 
simultaneously. Sometimes a twin birth is said to be due to the 
fact that the pregnant mother walked between two people. 

The Ibo of Nigeria provide an instance of the detestation of twins 
and the woman who bore them. "For a woman to imitate goats and 
dogs fills people with unspeakable disgust." Popular belief says that 
the twins have resulted from copulation with an evil spirit; therefore, 
the infants are thrust into a pot and buried in a lonely spot (G. T. 
Basden, 1921, p. 58). The complete antithesis of this attitude is 
found among the Lango, Nilotic Negroes, who regard birth of twins 
as a mark of divine favor (Driberg 1923, p. 139). Germann (1933, 
p. 86) states that among some tribes of north Liberia twins are 
welcome, and magical properties are ascribed to them. The father 
of one of the twins is thought to have been a ghost, but both infants 
are regarded as having magical qualities since nobody can say which 
of them was spiritually begotten. 

Among the Edo-speaking people of Nigeria, prenatal customs 
vary locally. According to one local custom a woman washes a 
cowrie shell and ties it round her waist as soon as she finds herself 
pregnant; she also drinks a potion made by the medicine-man. The 
husband of a pregnant woman sacrifices a goat to his wife's father 
when the first child is born. From the fifth month of pregnancy a 
woman changes her style of hairdressing and makes yet another 
change in the eighth month. In one center, when the umbilical cord 
drops off, the father ties it to a kola or a coconut tree; this tree is the 
property of the child when it grows up. Usually the placenta is 
buried. Ceremonial washing of the mother, the child, and the 
house in which parturition took place are common procedures 
(N. W. Thomas, 1922, pp. 253-255). 

The subject of naming has been considered by several ethnolo- 
gists. A. Le H^riss^ (1911, p. 235) states that a Dahomean has 
several names which are given to him at various stages of his life, but 
he has to abandon and forget former names when new ones are 

Education of Children 441 

conferred. Some of the principal names are those given immediately 
after birth; those conferred after consulting Fa or Fate; and names 
given to feticheurs after their training. Surnames constitute a fourth 
class. Importance is attached to names conferred by a king and to 
those given by wives to their husbands. 

The chief kinds of personal names mentioned by C. Spiess (1918, 
pp. 104-159) are: (1) A name denoting the day of the week on which 
the child was born. (2) The name of the god who granted supplica- 
tion for the child. (3) The death name, which assures rebirth of a 
child within the family. (4) The anspielungsnamen, which refers to 
some incident or circum_stance of birth. (5) The trinknamen; this is 
a sobriquet that is sometimes used ironically, the Ewe word for 
drink-name is derived from aha (palm wine) and no (to drink). 
(6) Names indicating the status of a person who has been freed from 
slavery. (7) Names given at puberty. 

The most detailed record of the meaning of personal names is 
that given by L. W. G. Malcolm (1924, pp. 34-38) who has prepared 
a record of about two hundred names of boys and girls, with literal 
translations of the meanings. The translations of a few of these 
names are: "A lonely person," "One of a large family," "Born on a 
day of trouble," "Born on the market day," and "It is best to mind 
one's own business." 


The beliefs and practices recorded here are representative of the 
fundamental ideas connected with pregnancy, birth, and early 
infancy. Many local variations occur, and considerable work 
remains to be done in observation and classification of type ideas, 
and in showing the relation of these to religion and magic. 

Some advance has been made in compilation of data, and 
comparative study by Hambly (1926a), who gave a broad sociological 
treatment in "Origins of Education. . . ." D. Kidd (1906) produced 
a useful account of the training of Zulu children. A brief record of 
child welfare and education among the Wanguru is given by C. f . 
Dooley (1934). Evans-Pritchard (1936a) has a study of customs 
and beliefs relating to twins among the Nilotes, and Schapera (1927b) 
made a survey of the same subject among south African tribes. R. E. 
Ellison (1936) published an article dealing with marriage and child- 
birth among the Kanuri. 

The literature is extensive, but we still lack an intimate physio- 
logical and psychological study within the home for a considerable 
period. Such observation would help to explain the social and 

442 Source Book for African Anthropology 

moral attitudes that are established in the main types of family. 
We shall see later the prevalence of maternal dominance or of 
paternal rule, or perhaps a blending of the two, but detailed observa- 
tion of infantile adjustment is a psychological task of the future. 
Perhaps the closest approach to this type of study in Africa is to be 
found in A. I. Richards' "Hunger and Work in a Savage Tribe," but 
for Melanesia the family studies of M. Mead are available. Dr. M. 
Mead's technique might with advantage be applied in Africa, 
preferably by women, for example, nurses who have occasion to 
make frequent visits to homes where they can make intimate con- 
tacts with children under five years of age. 

Home Influence, Games, Dancing, Music 

From the time when a child begins to crawl about the hut his 
education is continued informally by contact with other children 
and adults, until the time for formal initiation into the tribe. Very 
early in life, often within twenty-four hours, the tying of a waist- 
string, and somewhat later the giving of a name or names, definitely 
incorporates the infant with his kindred and gives him a social stand- 
ing. The problem of education is concerned with events and condi- 
tions that bring an individual into harmony with the social pattern 
of his tribe, and this process of assimilation is effected by home 
influence, play, music, dancing, and often by formal instruction in 
the seclusion of the bush where initiation ceremonies are performed. 

parental discipline 

Of the direct and indirect factors concerned with education 
perhaps that of the home influence is the most difficult to assess. As 
Dr. M. Mead has frequently pointed out, ethnologists often con- 
cern themselves with details of obvious formative elements to the 
exclusion of the apparently trivial facts and conditions of family life 
within a hut. Yet we can be assured that the discipline accorded at 
home is of practical value, for many observers agree with R. S. 
I^attray (1933, pp. 456-471), who asserts the efficacy of indigenous 
education. He says, "The result of the primitive African child's 
upbringing was to produce a type of man or woman whom anyone 
would be proud to call a friend." 

Despite the authority of the maternal uncle in most Negro tribes, 
parents assume definite responsibilities in the training of children, and 
the nature of the controls can be illustrated by reference to the home 
life of the Ovimbundu. Ngonga said that his "stealing hand" was 
held for a second near the hot leaves that cover a cooking pot to 

Education of Children 443 

keep in the steam. If a child steals an egg that is cooking, it is held 
between his hands. When receiving a gift a child is taught to accept 
the present with both hands, for to hold out one hand is a depreciation 
of the gift. When receiving a gift, however small, a child must say 
"kuku," which means literally "grandfather" or "elder," but collo- 
quially the word is used as a greeting, or with the meaning "Thank 
you," or "I beg your pardon." Several rules governing greetings 
between persons of equal or disparate ranks exist, and a child is 
expected to know and to observe these codes. 

In the men's house young boys sit quietly, and they are expected 
to remain silent until addressed. Lying is strongly disapproved, and 
a liar or deceiver is called ohembi. The Ovimbundu appreciate 
hospitality, unu, which is strongly enjoined, while greediness is dis- 
countenanced. Spitting near the house of a village chief is forbidden, 
and in the words of Ngonga, "If you did that in the old days you 
would have to pay something." By correction, and by unconscious 
absorption through suggestion an Ocimbundu child, like children of 
most Negro tribes, adopts certain standards that are regarded as an 
indication of good manners and right attitudes toward other people. 


The educational value of games, music, and dancing lies in their 
formative influence over character and occupation. Games include 
many activities which are imitations of occupations for adults, while- 
music in all its aspects is more important in Negro society than in 
more complex and more sophisticated groups. In highly educated 
societies esthetic values and amusement are of primary importance 
in association with music, but in Negro society, music, and especially 
community dancing, are indispensable for the preservation of certain 
social and religious attitudes. Music welds the parts of the social 
pattern in a way which is unknown in more erudite societies 
(Hambly, 1926b). 

A classification of African games given by F. Starr (1909) pro- 
vides a useful approach to the subject. Starr's grouping of games 
includes imitative play; the use of simple devices such as tops, bull- 
roarers, and string figures; and activity in such sports as running, 
canoeing, swimming, climbing trees, and wrestling. He also makes 
categories for round games, guessing games, and gambling. For each 
of these aspects of play a large body of literature is available, but all 
the main types of recreation and the educational values which they 
represent can be illustrated by reference to games of the Ovimbundu. 

444 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The Umbundu word for games is olomapalo, and to play is oku 
papala, but each game has its own name. As in division of labor, 
activity in games depends on age and sex. Some amusements are 
considered suitable for boys only, others for girls only, while in early 
[years boys and girls often associate in imitative play and round 
' games, though separation of the sexes for play takes place before the 
tenth year. Some games are played by men only and others by 
women only. 

A round game imitative of the depredations of a leopard is played 
by Ovimbundu children of both sexes, ranging in age from five to 
ten years. This is typical of a category of similar games of a non- 
specialized type played by Negro children. One child imitates the 
movements of a leopard, one of the older girls is the mother, and the 
rest of the players are her children. To the accompaniment of a 
simple refrain which is repeated indefinitely all join hands, dance in a 
circle, and sing. Then the leopard dashes in and steals a child, who is 
carried off to the bush. After the leopard has paid several visits, a 
general hunt is organized until all the children are found. As they 
are discovered, one by one, they are made to sit apart pretending to 
pound grain on the rocks, meanwhile singing a refrain which is 
usually chanted by women when occupied with crushing maize. 

Ovimbundu boys play games of warfare and hunting, and in the 
former mimicry girls sometimes act as prisoners. Two sides, each 
with a leader, are chosen for defence and attack respectively. The 
victors run about the village taking prisoners from among girls and 
small children, who are tied with bark rope. Strong boys are selected 
as hunters whose dogs are the little boys running on all-fours. Toy 
bows and blunt wooden arrows are used in this pastime. The boys 
who pretend to be game roll over in the grass when shot; then the 
hunters run forward and tie the dead game to a pole, or the game 
may be expected to cling to the pole while being borne back to the 
village. The Ovimbundu were at one time renowned carriers who 
traversed Africa. Boys still make up loads in the correct way, and 
these they carry while singing the traditional marching songs. 

Up to the age of sixteen Ovimbundu boys play the game of 
ocitina, in which bulbs from a iigwort are rolled between two lines 
^f competitors; the winners are those whose arrows hit the greater 
number of bulbs. Boys make a hoop by binding the ends of a long 
pliable branch. The lasso is a piece of rattan or bark having at 
each end a corncob or a small stick. One boy bowls the hoop so 
that it passes in front of his opponent who tries to lasso it. In the 

Education of Children 445 

game of hide-and-seek a knife is hidden, then a boy who has been / 
hidden comes in to act as searcher. His proximity to the hidden 
knife is indicated by playing a musical bow. Certain taps mean 
that the knife is far away, but as the searcher draws near to the 
hidden object the bow sounds "yelula! yelula!" meaning "pick it up." 

In common with many Negro tribes the Ovimbundu have a A 
whipping top, but they do not possess the type of top used in some I 
parts of west Africa for gambling. T. J. Alldridge (1910, p. 229) / 
states that the Mendis of Sierra Leone place a mat on the ground, 
and around this four players are seated. The mat is divided into 
four courts. Each player sets a bone top in motion with a twist 
of his fingers, and hopes that when two tops collide his own will 
knock that of his opponent off the mat. The distribution of various 
forms of top in Africa, likewise the histories of the types, has, so 
far as I know, not been studied. 

A gambling game played in most Negro tribes, and chiefly by( 
adult males, is that generally known by the name of mancala} 
though many local names are used, and the rules of the game vary. 
A mancala board, according to locality, has two rows of six holes, 
or four rows of seven holes, and if a board is not available holes are 
scooped in the ground. The counters, which represent men, may be | 
nuts or cowrie shells, a few of which are placed in each of the holes | 
representing villages or forts that have to be captured. At each 
end of the board is a hole to accommodate the captured pieces. 
The game is one of quick counting and transferring of counters 
from one hole to another. The gambling stakes are high and out 
of all proportion to the wealth of the players, who sometimes have 
to part with their clothes and every possession. The Ovimbundu I 
call the game ocela and use a board having holes arranged in four 
rows of seven. Evidence of such a game may be seen in early 
Egyptian records, but A. Erman (1894, p. 288) states that the 
Egyptian game of similar type to mancala has not been identified 
with certainty. Exportation of slaves from west Africa introduced 
the game into South America and the West Indies (Herskovits, 
1932b), while Arab influence carried mancala to many parts of Africa 
and to the far east (Culin, 1894). 

R. Davies (1925, pp. 137-152) has prepared an article describing 
Arab games and puzzles that have a vogue in the eastern Sudan. 
Other references to mancala are Braunholtz (1931, No. 131) for 
Uganda, and T. Sheppard (1931, No. 243) for Mombasa. 

446 Source Book for African Anthropology 

A very widely distributed game among Negroes is the making 
of string figures, whose complicated forms are carried out with great 
dexterity. A. W. Cardinall (1927a, p. 89) states that in the locality 
where he observed the game a piece of string in the form of a long 
loop is taken by each of two children, both of whom start with the 
palm tree pattern. After this has been made, one child quickly 
calls "parrot," and both compete to make the design as fast as 
possible. The other child may call "dog," and so on until one of 
the competitors is unable to make the pattern. Cardinall saw 
thirty-eight patterns made, and for some of the designs children 
used their necks and toes in addition to their fingers. 

The subject of string figures has received attention from Cunning- 
ton (1906), A. C. Haddon (1906), K. Haddon (1930), K. Haddon and 
H. A. Treleaven (1936), J. Hornell (1930), K. G. Lindblom (1930), 
and J. Parkinson (1906). 

In all tribes young girls spend considerable time in imitating 
the occupations of women. They are fond of molding clay into the 
forms of cooking pots, and many girls attempt the weaving of 
baskets. Dolls are made from corncobs, which are dressed in frag- 
ments of trade cloth decorated with beads. The Yoruba make 
dolls from flat pieces of wood, and in the eastern Sudan children 
manufacture dolls by placing rounded pieces of wax at the ends of 
thin sticks. The breasts are represented by pellets of wax. Some 
human hair is stuck on the head, while eyes and mouth are marked 
by small white beads. 

All the games mentioned or some similar types are generally 
distributed among Negro tribes, and some forms of sport which are 
less general and less spontaneous are known. Widely distributed 
I in the western Sudan are wrestlers and jugglers, who travel from one 
market to another, and in addition to these are showmen with 
puppets, buffoons, and raconteurs. Wrestling matches in which the 
combatants wear spiked wristlets are held locally (Lindblom, 1927a; 
Meek, 1927, No. 29). Flogging contests, in which rhinoceros-hide 
whips are used, are a form of sport in the eastern Sudan, but most 
of these entertainments are organized by special performers, and the 
games are not generally characteristic of Negro life. 


Dancing may be only a pastime; in fact, drums are heard almost 
every evening in Negro villages calling young people to a social 
dance which has no specific purpose. On the contrary many dances 

Education of Children 447 

are expressive of collective emotions, for example, at initiation into 
the tribe, at funerals, during agricultural rites, to aid rain-making, 
or to mark the beginning of war. Some of the most important 
dances of Negroes are held during ceremonies connected with ancestor 
worship, and during these rites masked figures impersonate the dead, 
who are thought to return to occupy a shrine temporarily. Among 
the Ovimbundu the onyaco dance is performed to give strength to 
a sick chief by a process of sympathetic magic. A strong man 
dances while grasping a small ball in his outstretched hand, while 
other dancers pound his muscles to make him release the ball. 
When he has reached the limit of endurance, he hands the ball to 
another dancer, and the rite is continued indefinitely. 

Despite a tendency for ceremonial dances to decline under 
European influence, the majority of Negro tribes retain some of 
their ritual dances. Zulu males are still able to perform war dances 
in which thousands take part, and the Half-Hamitic Masai and 
Nandi have their ritual dances to celebrate the spearing of lions. 
Dances connected with secret societies and tribal initiation still 
flourish widely. Some of the older Ovimbundu men and women 
perform dances and sing songs which are unknown to the younger 
generation. For example, there is a dance that was performed only 
at new moon, so that "there would be no sickness during that moon." 
Occasionally old men dance in commemoration of warlike events. 
A group of men shuffles slowly while a solo dancer chants a story 
in a singsong voice. The dance is accompanied by drinking of beer 
and the slaughter of an ox. 

Although dancing is practiced all the year, the months following 
a good harvest are the most favorable, since supplies of grain are 
available for brewing beer. In Negro tribes the harvest, making 
beer, dancing, and the selection of partners in marriage are closely 
linked factors. A remarkable feature of Negro dancing is the en- 
durance of the performers, who seem to become intoxicated with 
their rhythm as much as with the beer they consume. From soon 
after sunset to dawn the shuffling and swaying continue, while the 
drummers throw back their heads and play continuously for hours 
with an ecstatic look on their faces. 

Although musical ability is general, especially with regard to 
dancing and singing, certain performers show exceptional aptitude. 
Specialization in dancing, singing, and playing instruments is usual 
among Negroes, and among the Ovimbundu, as with most tribes, 
names for performers of marked ability exist. Onjimbi is the 

448 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Umbundu word for a singer who starts choruses, and ucili is a dancer 
of more than ordinary skill. Men are the chief musicians in Negro 
tribes, but relatively few men perform on musical instruments, and 
a high degree of specialization is the rule. Each village has a few 
expert instrumentalists, who may be drummers only, players of the 
marimba, or performers on some other musical instrument, but 
ability to play several instruments expertly is exceptional. Drum- 
mers specialize among themselves; thus, there is a specialist who plays 
a friction drum, another who performs on the long tubular drum, 
and one who plays only the wooden drum which has no membrane. 

Composers of topical songs, which are often given impromptu 
at a dance, are to be found in all Negro tribes, and both men and 
women perform in this way. The satirical songs that function as 
a crude social control have been described by J. H. Weeks (1909, 
p. 447) who states: "The greedy man, the coward, the thief, the 
scamp who disregards the feelings of others and rides rough-shod 
over all the social and communal institutions, the man who is im- 
potent, the man who is accused of witchcraft and will not take the 
ordeal, also the incestuous, are all put into the songs which are sung 
at village dances, and there is no more powerful factor in influencing 
the native to good or evil than the mention of his name in an im- 
promptu song at the village dance." 

The ability of Negroes to compose marching and paddling songs, 
also the esthetic value of some of the poetry, have been mentioned 
in connection with language as a means of emotional expression. 

Study of the musical instruments of Negroes can be approached 
by classifying musical devices according to the method of producing 
sound. The principal divisions are instruments of percussion, wind 
instruments, those with strings, and those that rely on friction. 
In each main category are many primary forms, each of which has 
a characteristic distribution, and as local variations of the main 
types hundreds of varieties occur. 

percussive instruments 

Talking drums of Ashanti, Liberia, and the Cameroons were 
described in connection with languages, since the production of music 
is not their function. Hollow, cylindrical, wooden drums having a slit 
or slits at the top often serve for signaling. A flat form of signaling 
drum is used in the southwest Congo region and northeast Angola. 

Drums are the most important of all musical instruments used 
by Negroes because they are indispensable in dances that form a 

Fig. 77. Musical instruments from Angola. 

450 Source Book for African Anthropology 

background of social and religious life. The commonest form of 
drum which is generally associated with dancing has a membrane 
at one or both ends. A form of wide distribution is long and cylin- 
drical, and this is a type of instrument which a performer often holds 
between his legs, or leans against a framework of sticks. Usually 
the hands are used in drumming. Before use the tympanum is 
warmed, and the pitch may be changed by adding lumps of wax 
or rubber to the sides of the instrument. The membrane is generally 
kept in position by wooden pegs over which it may be more or less 
tightly stretched. This type of instrument is often used to form 
a quartet of drums of different lengths, with notes of different pitch. 
Each performer preserves his own rhythm, so that a compound 
rhythm is produced. 

Pottery drums made by stretching a piece of hide over the mouth 
of a wide earthenware vessel are not typical of Negro instruments, 
though such types are frequently seen in northern Nigeria and other 
parts of west Africa. Pottery drums are widely used in north Africa, 
and by the Tuareg of the Sahara. Hourglass drums, as the name 
implies, are constricted in the middle. This form of instrument may 
have a membrane at either one or both ends. According to local 
custom, a performer plays with his fingers or with a curved drum- 
stick, and the instrument may be held under the arm, or between 
the knees of a seated performer. Cylindrical wooden drums of light 
construction having a membrane at each end may be slung round 
a musician's neck or held under his arm. Such a drum is often orna- 
mented with jingling brasswork, and it is played by tapping the 
membrane with a curved wooden stick. Fig, 74, b shows two men 
of the Yoruba tribe of southern Nigeria, one of whom is playing a 
drum while the other has a wind instrument known as the algaita, 
probably of north African origin. 

The sacred character of many drums owned by Negroes is of 
more importance than the form of instrument or the kind of music 
produced. A drum which is regarded as a possession of a village 
or a tribe is the focus of the social and religious life. An instrument 
of this kind, often beautifully carved (Fig. 96) is specially housed 
in or near a chief's compound. The drummers have high social 
standing on account of their calling and the fact that they are a 
permanent part of the chief's household. Feeding sacred drums by 
pouring over them libations of beer, blood, or milk is not an un- 
common rite, and the drum itself may be regarded as a shrine into 
which the spirit of a dead chief enters on ceremonial occasions. 

Education of Children 451 

From the Angas tribe of the Bauchi plateau, eastern Nigeria, 
I obtained a drum of the type regarded as sacred under certain con- 
ditions. The owner of the drum was still alive and at liberty to 
part with his possession, but similar instruments which had belonged 
to men of distinction, now dead, were housed in a shelter. Over 
the threshold no one was allowed to pass, and purchase of one of 
the sacred instruments was impossible. 

Data from R. S. Rattray's "Religion and Art in Ashanti" clearly 
indicate the sacred character of certain drums played in the adae 
ceremonies, at which a reigning chief does homage to the ghosts 
of his predecessors. The aperde drums, which were four in number, 
were used to form an orchestra. Enemies taken in warfare were 
killed, then their blood was poured over the drums, and their jaw- 
bones were used for decorating the instruments. Aperde drums are 
specially associated with ancestral spirits; therefore, the instruments 
are used in sacred rites which are carried out at the burial place 
of chiefs. The player of a drum known as sika akukua is the chief 
of all the drummers of the King of Ashanti. The drum, which is 
encased in gold leaf, is kept in front of the golden stool. The player 
of sika akukua may not be killed no matter how serious his offence. 

Although men are usually the drummers in Negro tribes, there 
are many notable exceptions indicating that certain drums may be 
played by women only, and only on specific ritual occasions. In 
Ashanti the dono drum has a tense membrane at each end, and the 
tone of the instrument is altered by tightening or relaxing the cords 
which keep the membranes in position. Pressure is applied to the 
cords by holding the instrument under the arm. Women may beat 
this drum, which is used at puberty ceremonies (Rattray, 1927a, 
p. 283). K. G. Lindblom (1916, p. 169) refers to women of the 
Akamba, who are northeastern Bantu, beating their big drums and 
meeting in council. At a python dance which is part of the initiation 
rites of the Bavenda, drums are used. The drums may be played 
by either sex, but at the domba ceremony they are more often played 
by girls (Stayt, 1931a, p. 115). A drum known as nkiringwane and 
another {ntakula) are used during puberty initiation rites of Valenge 
girls. The first of these instruments contains sacred symbols repre- 
senting male and female principles; another symbol representing the 
clitoris is also placed in the drum (Earthy, 1933, p. 117). The 
historical importance of drums as sacred objects which are be- 
queathed from a ruler to his successor, and the ritual significance of 
drums have been discussed by P. R. Kirby (1934, pp. 30-31), 

452 Source Book for African Anthropology 

F. G. B. Reynolds (1930, No. 23), A. E. Robinson (1932, No. 300), 
and D. F. Heath (1937, No. 91). 

Iron gongs are ancient and widely distributed instruments of 
percussion, varying in size from a few inches to three feet in length. 
As early as the year 1600 Andrew Battell gave an account of the use 
of iron gongs in north Angola, where the instrument was struck when 
a war chief of the Jagas was about to address his troops. A marimba 
consists of slats of wood, from nine to seventeen in number, fastened 
transversely across a wooden frame, or threaded on two parallel 
cords which have to be held taut by two assistants, one at each end 
of the instrument. The slats are struck with two rubber-headed 
sticks. In most forms of marimba a gourd is fastened directly under 
each slat of wood, and as the gourds are of different lengths the vibrat- 
ing columns of air vary ; hence, notes of different pitch are produced 
when the boards are struck. The method of playing recalls a xylo- 
phone, but application of European names such as guitar, banjo, 
fiddle, or harp to African instruments is often misleading since 
resemblances to European forms are superficial, and methods of 
producing sound are different from those adopted in Europe. The 
African musical scale differs fundamentally from that of Europe. 

Rattles (Fig. 77, a, d) made from gourds, small baskets, hollow 
seed pods, and iron are the most numerous of percussive instruments. 
These may be shaken by hand, or they can be attached to the ankles, 
knees, or waists of performers. The use of wooden clappers struck 
together by hand is common. 


Wind instruments include side-blown horns of antelope that give 
out deep, booming notes. Before ivory was scarce large side-blown 
trumpets were similarly employed, and many of them were associated 
with sacred rites. End-blown wooden flutes are fairly common 
(Fig. 77, 6), and some chiefs of the Ovimbundu have a trio of flutists 
in attendance. Whistles are made of wood, bone, or ivory, and it 
is usual for a rain-maker to use an instrument of this kind while 
performing his ritual dance. A nose-flute is used by the Bambala 
of the southwest Congo region, but this form of instrument is quite 
unusual in Africa. 


Stringed instruments are numerous, and among these the simplest 
and most widely distributed are musical bows (Fig. 77, /, g). The 
Ovimbundu call such an instrument ombumbumba, but it has many 

Education of Children 453 

local names among Negro tribes. The form of the musical bow 
which is common in Angola is that of a simple bow such as hunters 
use, but smaller. A bridge of wood keeps the string taut, and a 
gourd which is fastened to the string is pressed intermittently to the 
body of the player to give resonance. One end of the bow is placed 
against the performer's teeth while the other end is held by his right 
hand. With his left hand he uses a short stick to tap the bowstring. 
The goura, which is used principally by Bushmen, is superficially 
like a musical bow, but it is essentially different in the operating 
principle. The string of a goura is made to vibrate, not by tapping, 
but by oscillation of a quill attached to the end of the bow which 
the player puts into his open mouth (H. Balfour, 1899; 1902, 
pp. 156-176). 

Stringed instruments are common in north, west, and east Africa. 
The rababa is a form known wherever Arab influence has penetrated. 
Along north Africa and in the west a common type of instrument 
is strung with horsehair and played with a small bow having a 
compound string of the same material. Usually a stringed instru- 
ment consists of a gourd covered with a taut piece of lizard skin 
or hide from a mammal. To the gourd a long straight stick is 
attached, and from the end of the stick to the remote side of the 
gourd are fastened strings, varying in number from one to seven. 

The most important friction instrument is the friction drum, 
but the word "drum" is a misnomer since no blow is given to the mem- 
brane. A performer I observed at Ngalangi, east-central Angola, 
sat astride a friction drum four feet long and eighteen inches in 
diameter; the instrument had been hollowed from a single log, 
which was then covered with a hide at one end and left open at the 
other. He placed his moistened hand through a hole on the upper 
surface of the drum, and grasped a long cane rod which was made 
fast to the membrane. When he rubbed his hand along the rod the 
vibration was communicated to the membrane of the drum. Rub- 
bing a grooved board, which is fastened to a hollow gourd, is a com- 
mon method of producing sound by friction (Fig. 77, c). H. Balfour 
(1907) has described types of African friction drums and their 

Bull-roarers should be included among frictional instruments 
because the sound is produced by whirling a slat of wood which is 
attached to a string. The performer holds the string and whirls 
the wood round his head, so producing a loud buzzing sound. The 
Ovimbundu, like many tribes at the present day, use the bull-roarer 

454 Source Book for African Anthropology 

as a plaything; this, however, is a degradation of function, for the 
instrument was at one time used in sacred ceremonies of tribal initia- 
tion. Among the Yoruba of Nigeria at the present day bull-roarers 
are secretly used in the bush, and the noise produced is said to be 
the voice of a spirit named Oro. This instrument has a wide distri- 
bution outside Africa, chiefly in connection with initiation ceremonies 
for boys. A comparative study of many different forms is made in 
"Tribal Dancing and Social Development" (Hambly, 1926b). 

An instrument used over the greater part of Negro Africa and 
called by the Ovimbundu ocisanji is played usually by men. Since 
the thin iron or stiff rattan keys are stroked by the thumbs of the 
performer the instrument cannot be included in any of the categories 
mentioned. The contrivance consists of a wooden board or shallow 
box of rectangular form, often well carved, and to this two wooden 
bridges are attached. Through these bridges are fastened thin 
metal or rattan keys, varying from eight to nineteen in number, 
and arranged in one, two, or three tiers. The forms of the instru- 
ment show many local types. The lengths of the keys can be altered 
by pushing them to and fro in the bridges, and the pitch of the 
notes can be further changed by adding small balls of wax to the 
under side of the keys. Sometimes a performer holds the instru- 
ment in a large gourd to amplify the sound (Fig. 77, e). 


Although the social, religious, and educational functions of music 
are of primary importance, the technique is receiving increased 
attention, and will continue to do so with the improvement of 
apparatus for recording musical compositions. The phonograph 
was invented by Edison in 1877, and one of its earliest uses in 
ethnological work was in 1891, when W. Fewkes, chief of the Bureau 
of American Ethnology, recorded songs among the Zuni Indians. 
Light, portable recorders are made for field work; these operate 
by a coiled spring, but, if conditions permit, an instrument may 
be attached to an electric light socket, or worked by attachment to 
the battery of an automobile. A recent type of recorder is worked 
by dry storage batteries. 

An instructive introduction to the study of African music has 
been written by E. M. von Hornbostel (1928, 1933), who states that 
African and modern European music are constructed on entirely 
different principles; therefore they cannot be fused into one system. 
Since the year A.D. 1600 European music has been constructed 

Education of Children 455 

according to laws of harmony, while African music is based on melody. 
The music of Islamic north Africa, though showing traces of Negro 
influence, belongs to the Arabic-Persian civilization. Like Negro 
music, Arabic music is not composed, since performers make their 
compositions without theoretical knowledge. Instrumentalists are 
unable to write the scores of their pieces, and pupils are taught by 
ear. The use of the enharmonic scale, having intervals less than a 
semitone, and the general technique and history of Arabic music 
have been discussed by L. Williams (1934) and B. Schiffe (1936). 

A parallel exists between Arabic architecture and Arabic music, 
and the former has a symmetry and mathematical form which finds 
its counterpart in musical rhythms. Each Arabic name has a 
definite pattern and rhythm of beats, and, as in Hindu music, the 
occult significance of compositions is essential to the technique. 
Hindu music has a mode for each hour of the day, for each season, 
for harmony with the planets, and with the signs of the zodiac. The 
music also possesses male and female modes and rhythms (Fyzee, 
1914 and Popley, 1921). 

In Africa definite and fundamental distinctions occur among the 
music of Arabs, Bantu Negroes, Sudanic Negroes, and Hamites, 
but these differences, together with the interrelationships of charac- 
teristic types of African music, have not as yet been precisely 
determined. African Negro music has features that can be regarded 
as typical. One of these traits is antiphony, which is an alternate 
singing of solo and chorus, and, in addition to this, part-singing 
and complex rhythms are essential elements. 

The musical principles involved in the construction and playing 
of what are apparently simple one-stringed devices have been illus- 
trated by R. Kirby (1931, pp. 89-109) in his description of the 
gora and its allied forms, and in his examination of the "... Harmon- 
ics of Stretched Strings." Kirby recognizes ten types of stringed 
instruments used by natives of the Union of South Africa, and these 
he classifies according to the relative complexities of the sounds 
produced. He discusses intervals used, musical scales, and other 
technicalities. See H. Tracey (1935) on tuning African instruments. 

A great task awaits the student of African music, not only in 
recording in the field, but in making a comparative study of existing 
data. For this work very few are qualified by ethnological training, 
combined with a natural aptitude for music and a command of 
technique. Prominent among musical studies are the following 
references which have not been mentioned in the text. 

456 Source Book for African Anthropology 

B. Ankermann (1902) published a catalogue of musical instru- 
ments, but a more useful one, especially for comparative study of 
African and Asiatic forms, is that of the Metropolitan Museum of 
Art, New York. The three volumes of this catalogue describe the 
Crosby Brown Collection. S. Chauvet (1929) wrote a general 
work on Negro music, and M. Cuney-Hare (1936) has a volume 
describing the influence of African music in America. F. Ebou^'s 
(1935) article describes musical tones of percussive instruments. 
The social and psychological factors of dancing have been discussed 
by E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1928b). G. Herzog has published a paper 
describing the recording of primitive music in Africa and America. 
H. Husmann (1936) published an article dealing with the marimba 
and the sansa. Von Kunst's (1936) article points out resemblances 
between the music and instruments of Indonesia, Java, and central 
Africa. C. S. Myers (1907) contributed a paper on "The Ethnolog- 
ical Study of Music." The music of Tanganyika has been recorded 
by P. H. Molitor (1913), and R. A. C. Oliver (1932) has published 
his research on the "Musical Talent of Natives of East Africa." 
F. Pulestone (1930) has published a work on African drums. 
R. Skene's (1917) article is useful in the study of Arab influences 
on the dances and ceremonies of east Africa. A. N. Tucker (1933) 
described "Children's Games and Songs in the Southern Sudan." 
An article on the tuning of African musical instruments was published 
by H. Tracey (1935). A bibliography by D. H. Varley (1936a) gives 
many references to African m.usic. A comprehensive study of 
African drums (H. Wieschhoff, 1933), and their cultural relationship 
to forms outside of Africa should be used in conjunction with the 
contribution by Von Kunst (1936). 

Initiation into the Tribe 


Consideration so far has been given to education which is chiefly 
of an informal kind. The educational agencies described are family 
life, youthful companionships, tradition, folklore, games, imitative 
play, music, and dancing. These factors operate from infancy to 
initiation, when a sudden break is made with juvenile life, and 
special ceremonies are held for making a transfer to adult status. 
The phrase rites de passage, used first by A. van Gennep (1909), is 
an apt description of the transitional nature of the initiation rites 
recorded below. 

The initiation ceremonies of Negro tribes achieve their purpose 
of education and incorporation by definite social, religious, and 

Education of Children 457 

economic training. Moreover, certain corporal operations and 
processes are commonly employed either at the initiation rites or 
in the years preceding them. 

Social training is given by enforcing the fact that the novices 
are a united body with a common purpose, and in some tribes 
recognition of each initiation class as a definite group persists for 
life. This is especially so among Nilotic Negroes and Half-Hamites. 
Knowledge of tribal law, sex training, and obedience to elders are 
also important elements in the social training afforded by initiation. 

A religious element is in some instances distinctly seen in sacrifices 
to ancestors, in the assumption that masked officers of the initiation 
are visitors from the dead, and in the supposed death of the novices, 
who are reborn and receive new names and an adult standing in the 
tribe. Lustration by water or fire is a means of emphasizing this 

In some camps handicrafts are taught to boys, and girls receive 
instruction in domestic work. A common feature of camp training 
is the demand that each novice shall be self-supporting. He must 
live frugally, and he may be required to trap and collect all his own 
food. In this way the economic aspect of tribal life is recognized. 

Frequently initiation depends on arrival at puberty, and the rites 
are often associated with circumcision of boys, and for girls clitori- 
dectomy, defloration, or some more drastic operation on the sex 
organs. Scarification of the body, mutilation of the teeth, boring 
of the ears, and the fattening of girls are operations commonly 
associated with puberty rites, though some tribes perform these 
ritual acts during the years preceding puberty. 

Initiation rites do not invariably coincide with puberty. In 
some regions, for example, among the Vachokwe of eastern Angola, 
initiation ceremonies are held once in four years: therefore, the ages 
of the novices in one camp have a considerable range. The dis- 
crepancy in age and physical development is shown in the illustration 
of boys in camp at Cangamba (Fig. 78, a). Frequently the initiation 
of girls is begun soon after their first menstrual period. 

The following account of initiation rites illustrates the main 
principles and procedures of such ceremonies among Bantu, Sudanic, 
and Nilotic Negroes. Details vary considerably, and the age-grade 
ceremonies adopted by Nilotes and Half-Hamites have factors which 
do not enter into the rites of Bantu and Sudanic Negroes. Yet 
tribal initiation is based on certain fundamental principles and 

458 Source Book for African Anthropology 

procedures, and, in comparison with these, local variations are 
relatively unimportant. 

The main function of initiation as a social rebirth is illustrated 
by an account of a rite performed by the Akikuyu, a tribe of the 
northeastern Bantu. The importance of the rite is shown by the 
fact that an M'kikuyu who has not been "born again" loses rights 
of inheritance and is debarred from taking part in any religious 
ceremony (W. S. and K. Routledge, London, 1910, p. 151). 

The ritual of rebirth is performed for both boys and girls, usually 
when they are about ten years of age. If the uterine mother is dead, 
another woman acts as substitute. The ceremony is a recapitulation 
of the procedure of childbirth; therefore, only women are allowed 
to be present. The child is dressed in the skin and the stomach of 
an animal which has been killed for the purpose, and the mother, 
who acts as if in labor, sits on the floor of the hut with the child 
between her knees. 

Gut from the sacrificed animal is passed round the mother and 
the child. The mother groans, the child gives a cry, and a female 
attendant cuts the gut. Assistants wash the child, who that night 
sleeps in the same hut as the mother. This custom is not general 
among Negroes, but it is important as a particular instance of the 
widespread emphasis which is placed on initiatory rites as a social 


Most of the fundamental points involved in initiation can be 
illustrated from personal observations among the Vachokwe of east- 
ern Angola. 

At the village of Ngongo in east-central Angola a mixture of 
tribes — Vachokwe, Ovimbundu, Vanyemba, and Vangangella — hold 
initiation ceremonies once in four years. When a number of boys 
are ready for circumcision, and this is judged from their genital 
development, they go together to older men to ask for an initiation 
ceremony. Their request is passed to the village headman, and a 
large enclosure of boughs is constructed in the adjacent bush. The 
father of each boy has to arrange that a guardian accompanies his 
son to camp, but in some instances one guardian is appointed for 
two or three of the novices. 

Each boy takes with him a chicken, which is killed at the cere- 
mony for changing the names of the novices after the rite of circum- 
cision has been performed. The new names are announced in the 

Education of Children 459 

village from which the boys came. Circumcision is a test of en- 
durance, and disgrace attaches to any signs of pain; therefore, to 
stifle the cries so that they will not be heard outside the enclosure, 
a band of male drummers is engaged to play drums during the 

The period spent in seclusion is variable at different centers and 
at different times, but the ceremonies are usually continued during 
a period varying from three to six months. The rule is that camp 
must not be disbanded until healing is complete; therefore, one septic 
case can delay the final ceremonies for weeks or months. Moreover, 
all boys must be proficient in the dances which are performed when 
they leave camp, and those novices who are slow to learn delay the 
final rites. 

One custom of Ngongo differs from those followed at other centers 
of eastern Angola. Each boy has to take from the fire a burning 
stick, which he holds in his hand while running between two lines 
of men who beat him. If he drops the brand he has to start his 
course once more. Should a boy die during the rites a hole is bored 
in his food platter, which is returned to his mother as an indication 
that he will not require more food. Every guardian has a stick to 
represent each of the boys under his care. These sticks are sent to 
the respective mothers at the conclusion of the ceremonies, but 
if a boy has died bark is cut from both ends of the stick which repre- 
sents him. 

On the day of leaving camp the boys pass between the legs of 
a man and a woman who stand on the bank of a river. In this water 
the boys bathe by taking three dips, between which they stand on 
the bank to dry. At the conclusion of the ceremony the novices are 
warned that they will die if they disclose information to women or 
to uncircumcised boys. A feast and beer-drinking is given to wel- 
come the novices home, but for two months they wear similar skirts 
of bark, learn dances from an older initiate, and must move about 
the village as a company. 

Near the village of Katoko procedure is variable with regard to 
the food supplied to novices. Sometimes parents are allowed to 
place food in bowls on the bank of a stream, whence it is brought 
to camp by the boys. Before eating, the boys have to give profuse 
thanks to their guardians, and in some camps a boy depends entirely 
on the food he can catch or collect. 

Boys who have been circumcised are not allowed to wear clothes ; 
neither may they have a fire, although the nights are cold in 

460 Source Book for African Anthropology 

comparison with daytime temperatures. During isolation, costumes 
are made for use at the final dances. The garments consist of tightly 
fitting, coarse netting, masks, and fiber skirts. No female is allowed 
near the enclosure, and women are supposed to be totally ignorant 
of the nature of the rites. Females and uninitiated boys believe 
that the masked novices (Fig. 78, a) who appear after seclusion are 
ovinganji (great judges) or spirits of the dead who have come to 
life. Initiated boys who have returned to their village have to keep 
together as a company during a period of three months, and they 
are forbidden to speak to uncircumcised boys in this period. 

At Cangamba, the chief center of the Vachokwe tribe, the novices' 
enclosure was constructed of poles and boughs. These formed a high 
fence whose narrow entrance was guarded by an adult male. In 
the arena were several small wicker structures in which the boys 
lie for two weeks after circumcision (Fig. 78, 6). The ordinary 
dress during seclusion is a fiber skirt, but masks of barkcloth and 
mesh suits of fiber are made for use at a final ceremony. Within 
the compound were several drums, and to the accompaniment of these 
the novices were taught the dances that are performed when the 
seclusion is ended. Masks I purchased were carefully wTapped in 
barkcloth, with the request that they might not be seen by women. 

During a final ceremony which lasted for twelve hours, the 
novices, who were masked and clad in netting suits, performed 
ceremonial dances to the accompaniment of drums. Stilt-walkers 
and a masked medicine-man played a prominent part in this cere- 
mony. Women and children pretended to be afraid of the masked 
figures who pursued them, and the boys strutted about arrogantly 
to emphasize their manhood. One boy had a large artificial penis 
attached to his costume. 

All these factors are typical of initiation rites among Negro 
tribes, and everywhere the procedure emphasizes a launching out 
into adult status with new privileges and obligations. The boy 
enters upon a period of seclusion, hardship, and instruction. He 
dies in a social and psychological sense but is reborn as an adult 
member of the village group from which he came. 

At Ngongo among the Vanyemba tribe initiation rites for girls 
are observed. In July, 1929, the segregation camp was situated in 
thick bush a mile from the village, and no males or uninitiated girls 
were allowed to approach the enclosure. Three elderly women who 
were in charge of the girls left their retreat and performed ceremonial 
dances. The photograph (Fig. 79, b) shows the decoration of these 

Fig. 78. Initiation rites, a. Newly circumcised boys, Vachokwe, Cangamba, 
Angola. b. Vachokwe boys confined after circumcision, Cangamba, Angola. 


462 Source Book for African Anthropology 

guardians, who were naked except for their loin cloths. Their faces 
and bodies were thickly smeared with alternate bands of red and 
white clay. The women emerged from the bush, and, moving back- 
ward with short steps, presently arrived before an orchestra of male 
drummers and women who clapped their hands in rhythm. The 
dance was no more than a slow shuffling movement performed with 
heads and bodies bent. 

The girls are kept in seclusion for a month, but they do not 
suffer the privation and harsh treatment which are given to boys. 
The instruction given to the novices is of a sexual kind, and deflora- 
tion with a lubricated corncob is said to take place. 

In his article "Secret Societies of Lubaland," W. F. P. Burton 
(1930) has given information relating to the initiation of girls. 
Secretly, the girls are sent in groups to a hidden meeting place in the 
forest, one or two years before their first menstruation is due. During 
isolation there is enlargement of the vagina and labia minora, an act 
which is supposed to be a preparation for motherhood, and a general 
belief exists that a girl who is not treated in this way will not make a 
successful marriage. The novices are told that barrenness will result 
from divulging the secrets of their initiation. 

Following the first rites in the bush a probationary period of one 
year is observed, and during this time several restrictions are imposed. 
The girl is regarded as a person who is susceptible to baneful influ- 
ences, and to avoid these she is forbidden to draw water, to wash 
herself, or to perform any manual work. At the end of her probation 
the novice eats a ceremonial meal consisting of a chicken. When 
she eats the heart of the bird she is told that she is receiving a 
woman's heart; this is the most important of the symbolic acts 
emphasizing transition from childhood to womanhood. When eating 
the remainder of the chicken the novice has to be careful not to break 
the bones, since this would cause her child to be born with fractures. 
At the end of her probationary year the novice is said to have ' 'come 
into purification." She is smeared with white pigment at the con- 
clusion of a ceremony (butanda) and is then considered marriageable. 

A detailed account of tribal initiation for girls of the Valenge 
tribe, who are southeastern Bantu of Portuguese East Africa, has 
been given by E. D. Earthy (1933). The rites, which were observed 
up to a few years ago, began with the first menstrual period, and to 
hasten this a medicine-man could give a potion containing the 
pulverized bones of a tortoise. Conception before marriage could be 
avoided by a ceremonial act. 

Fig. 79. Initiation ceremonies. a. Whipping ceremony, Fulani tribe, 
Shendam, Nigeria, b. Women in charge of novices, Vanyemba, Ngongo, Angola. 


464 Source Book for African Anthropology 

The father of the girl paid a call to the chief to inform him that 
he had a daughter ready for the initiation school, and to pay a fee. 
An additional sum had to be paid to the mistress of the rites, who was 
called nyambutsi. This person held office through hereditary right, 
which persisted in the female line for many generations. The 
nyambutsi offered sacrifice to ancestral spirits and asked their help 
during the initiation ceremonies. During preparation for the rites 
the candidates were instructed by their mothers, aided by the 
nyambutsi, and the knowledge imparted related to domestic work, 
feminine hygiene, taboos connected with sacred things, and the 
symbolism of objects used during the initiation ceremony. 

On the morning of the first day of the rites, the chief offered 
sacrifice and prayer to his ancestors, pleading that candidates might 
stand the tests. A diviner sought for omens to foretell the future of 
the novices. A rite was performed to consecrate the symbols, which 
included a horn, a drum, and carved dolls, male and female. These 
regalia are regarded as media by which ancestral spirits keep in touch 
with the initiatory ceremonies. The principal wife of the chief then 
conducted the girls to the bush, where their initiation was to take 

Nyambutsi began the ceremony with a nude dance in which she 
was followed by the chaperons of the novices; the rhythms were 
accompanied by songs and beating of the sacred drum. During this 
time the candidates had to cry with fright; they were then deflorated 
with the horn, which was symbolic of the male organ. Every day 
during the month of seclusion the novices danced, learned a secret 
language, and were required to avoid certain foods. Instruction in 
sexual matters was given with the aid of the male and female dolls, 
which had a religious significance because they were vehicles for the 
ancestral spirits. 

At the end of the month ablutions washed away impurities, a 
sacramental meal was taken, and the girls returned to their homes. 
But return to home life was the occasion for further ceremonial, and 
each novice had to have a messenger to make contacts with those 
who were not associated with the initiation school. Each novice had 
to observe a list of seventeen taboos. The intended husbands visited 
their respective partners, remained a night, and departed after a 
ceremonial ablution. Each girl finally received a new name. 


The Golah, Negroes of Liberia, hold initiation schools for both 
boys and girls, and according to J. M. Ceston (1911, pp. 729-754) 

Education of Children 465 

the rites are for "tribal initiation and preparation for life." On 
order of the chief the bush is cleared and rectangular huts are built; 
two houses are provided for novices, one for their attendants, and one 
for the bush devil in charge of the ceremonies. The girls are taught 
that this masked person is not human, but in reality she is the wife of 
a chief. Signs are set up, warning people not to use paths leading 
from the village to the bush school. The operation of scarification 
is carried out before the novices enter the initiation school, and in the 
school clitoridectomy is performed by the bush devil, who uses either 
a razor or a piece of glass. Instruction is given in songs and dances, 
cooking, making fishing nets of fiber, and in matters relating to sex. 
The final ceremony includes ablutions, and the girls are warned that 
they must hold no intercourse with the uninitiated; neither may 
they speak of their experiences in the bush. 

In the gree-gree school for boys the novices receive tribal scarifica- 
tion and new names. If they have not previously been circumcised, 
the operation is performed in the bush. They are taught handicrafts, 
songs, and dances, and instruction is given in sexual matters. The 
tribal marks are made by a male bush devil in charge of the cere- 
monies. This man applies a healing salve to the cuts and makes the 
boys lie on their mats without taking any exercise for one or two 
weeks. In some gree-gree schools importance is attached to acrobatic 
exercises and juggling. A student should here refer to chapter IV of 
this section. Under the heading "Social Controls," a description is 
given of secret societies. Membership begins with juvenile initi- 
ation at puberty and persists through life, often in association with 

R. S. Rattray (1923, pp. 69-76) reports that in Ashanti he was not 
able to discover any initiatory rites for adolescent boys, but puberty 
rites for girls are performed at the time of first menstruation. At the 
first appearance of the menses, the mother of the girl enters the village 
beating a hoe with a stone and announcing the fact publicly to other 
women who sing songs. The mother of the menstruating girl spills 
a little wine on the ground, meanwhile addressing the supreme sky 
god and the earth goddess, "O mother who dwells in the land of 
ghosts, do not come and take her away." All hair is shaved from the 
body of the nubile girl, who sits in the street under an umbrella, with 
her mother and other clanswomen in attendance. Here she remains 
from dawn to sunset, receiving congratulations from her friends. 

Girls wave flags and sing, "She has done it, our sister has done it. 
We congratulate her on the doing of it." Then follows ceremonial 

466 Source Book for African Anthropology 

bathing in the river accompanied by songs addressed to the spirit 
of the water, and after ablution the girl's body is marked with white 
clay. This rite celebrating arrival at puberty differs from other 
instances quoted, since the novices are not segregated in the bush, 
but the method of emphasizing a transition is the same in principle. 
In Ashanti a special feature of the puberty rite is the belief that up 
to the nubile period a child belongs partly to the spirit world. Adoles- 
cence is a transition from one world to another, but at puberty the 
"ghost child" becomes a man or a woman with the social status of a 
fully grown mortal. R. S. Rattray (1932a, vol. 1, p. 165) states that 
among some tribes of the Ashanti hinterland the operation of incision 
of the clitoris is a necessary prelude to marriage. 

An article by L. W. G. Malcolm (1925b, No. 69) describes the 
fattening of betrothed girls of the Efik tribe at Old Calabar. He 
states that the duration of the process is an indication of social 
standing, and only the free-born have the means to pay for this 
preparation for marriage. No well-born man would marry a girl 
who had not been secluded and fattened. The girl is dressed in bright 
ceremonial clothing and ornaments, and during her seclusion she is 
liberally fed on pounded yams and palm oil, while all exertion and 
perspiration are prevented. The face and body of the girl are washed, 
and she is smeared with clay. White cloths are tied round her 
wrists, neck, and ankles as charms to prevent evil spirits from retard- 
ing the fattening process. Near the end of the seclusion clitori- 
dectomy is performed by the girl's mother. The marriageable girl 
then assumes a special dress and coiffure, and the rites are concluded 
by a religious ceremony at the shrine of the ancestors in order to 
ensure marital faithfulness. P. A. Talbot (1926, vol. 2, p. 394 and 
Table XIV) gives a statement of periods spent in the fattening house 
by girls of the Ekoi and other tribes of southeast Nigeria. 


Among Nilotic Negroes and Half-Hamites initiation ceremonies 
have, in many tribes, a special procedure and sequence. In the region 
of the upper Nile, among the Galla of Abyssinia, and in the Half- 
Hamitic Masai and Nandi tribes, initiation is periodical. Boys and, 
in some tribes, girls are subject to age-grading, which requires that 
initiatory rites shall be performed at the end of every seven-year 
period. This age-grading will be more fully described in this section 
under the heading "Social Controls," because age-grading is the basis 
of military organization and government. But, despite peculiar 

Education of Children 467 

features of the Hamitic system of initiation, certain features which are 
comparable to traits of the Bantu Negro rites can be demonstrated. 

In the Bari tribe, who are Nilotic Negroes, girls pass through five 
principal stages of initiation, each of which includes a physical 
operation. Girls of fifteen years of age are cicatrized on both sides 
of the lumbar region, and two years later tribal cicatrices are cut on 
the abdomen. A year is then allowed to elapse before cicatrices are 
cut on the back, from the loins to the shoulders. At nineteen years 
of age the lower incisor teeth and the lower canines are extracted; 
this ceremony gives marriageable status, and failure to submit to 
the rite is thought to prevent fecundity. Novices have to observe 
taboos, and failure to do so is said to retard healing of the gums. 
The girls must not shave their heads, may not go about alone, nor 
draw water from the river. The period of seclusion is spent in singing 
special initiation songs, learning dances, bathing, and making 
charms to avert the evil eye or other calamity. Complete healing of 
the gums is celebrated by a dance, a feast, and drinking of beer. 

One or two years after extraction of the teeth, the final scarification 
is given in the form of a triple row of dots on each side of the breast 
bone. Following three months of seclusion the girls are allowed to 
go to the homes of their respective husbands. For each age-grade a 
name is given, but the same name is never found twice in the same 
village; the same age-grade names, however, are used in different 
villages (L. M. Spagnolo, 1932, pp. 393-403). 

P. Crazzolara (1932a, pp. 28-40) reports that the operation of 
cicatrizing the foreheads of Nuer boys marks entrance to manhood. 
The rite, which may last from three months to a year, takes place at 
intervals of four years. The decision to hold such a ceremony is 
made by a village headman, who also inaugurates the rites. A 
period of seclusion, which lasts for several months after the operation, 
is closed by a dancing ceremony. The boys become men and members 
of a new age-class, with certain definite obligations and privileges in 
relation to their tribe and age-group. 

The data adduced up to the present give a general background 
of Negro beliefs and rites affecting conception, pregnancy, delivery, 
twins, and other phenomena of childbirth. The fundamentals of 
education have been considered by examining the nature of play, 
music, dancing, and rites of formal initiation. The procedure of 
founding a family has been observed, the children have taken their 
place in the tribe, and now the kinship relations of family members 
should be considered. 

468 Source Book for African Anthropology 

Supplementary reading on the subject of initiation will be found 
in the following books and articles: R. Andree (1880-82), S. Bagge 
(1904; Masai circumcision), H. von Baumann (1932; Vachokwe), G. 
Beyer (1926; northwest Transvaal), J. T. Brown (1921; Bechuana), 
G. St. J. 0. Browne (1915; northeast Africa), F. Bugeau (1911; 
Kikuyu), G. Charon (1933; Malinke of west Africa), P. Crazzolara 
(1932a; Nuer of Upper Nile), E. D. Earthy (1933; Valenge, Portuguese 
East Africa), L.Frobenius (1898; masks), L.H.Gray (1913b; general); 
W. D. Hambly (1935b; Angola), C. P. Holdredge and K. Young 
(1927; Vachokwe), A. E. Jensen (1933; a comprehensive general work 
on initiation), N. Jones (1921, No. 92; Matabele), H. A. Junod (1929; 
northern Transvaal), C. Le Coeur (1935; Tibesti region), K. G. 
Lindblom (1927b; ceremonial use of stilts), J. Maes (1924; Congo 
masks and circumcision ceremonies), G. Roheim (1929; a psycholog- 
ical study), M. Schulien (1923-24; Portuguese East Africa), P. A. 
Schweiger (1914; Ama Xosa and Ama Fingo), H. S. Stannus (1913b; 
Yao of Nyasaland), H. Welcker (1877-78; circumcision in ancient 
Egypt), C. A. Wheelright (1905; South Africa), W. C. Willoughby 
(1909; Bechuana tribe), M. Zaborowski (1894; general, circumcision 
of boys and girls). 

Kinship Terms 

{Tables 10, 11) 

A study of social organization is intended to show the relationship 
of an individual to his family, village, clan, and tribe. To each of 
these structural units members owe an allegiance which involves 
both privileges and obligations. These reciprocal duties form the 
subject of the present chapter. 

A. I. Richards (1932) has supported the theory that human 
relationships within the family, village, clan, and tribe are primarily 
determined by nutritional needs. Within the family a long lactation 
results in a growth of sentiments around the mother. But, after 
weaning, a child begins to build up new attitudes towards brothers, 
sisters, parents, and relatives on both the maternal and paternal 
sides of the family. Concurrently there is the establishment of 
relationships betv/een an individual and all the social groups which 
unitedly form a system of government. 

Family relationships result from birth and marriage, both of 
which factors determine the nature of the kinship system. Therefore, 
a study of kinship terms and family relationships provides a logical 
starting point for investigating the mechanism of social organization 
and government. 

The following list of kinship terms used by Ngonga, a male of the 
Ovimbundu tribe, explains the nature of the scheme of relationships 
commonly used among Bantu and some Sudanic Negroes. Elements 
of a similar classificatory system of relations are found among some 
Nilotic Negroes and Half-Hamites. 

Kinship Terms. — The numbers on the left of the kinship terms 
distinguish those terms in Tables 10 and 11. Roman numerals on the 
right of the tables denote the generation. Numbers on the left of 
the sign (= ) refer to males, those on the right to females. 

(1) Ukai wange is my wife; the reciprocal is veyange, my husband. 

(2) Mume, manja, vianjange means younger brother. 

(3) Kota, huva, older brother. 

(4) Mbuale, sister, is the direct form of address; mukai wange is used if 

speaking of a sister. 

(5) Nawa is the term used for all in-laws of the speaker's own generation. 

(6) Ndatembo is the word used to designate all in-laws of an ascending or 

descending generation. 

(7) Tate is the word used for my father, my father's brother, and my mother's 

sister's husband. The reciprocal term is omolange, my child. 


470 Source Book for African Anthropology 

(8) Mai means mother. The word is used to designate my uterine mother, 

my mother's sister, and my father's brother's wife. 

(9) Aphai, my father's sister. 

(10) Omolange, child. 

(11) Ocimumba, children of spouse's family. 

(12) Manu, mother's brother, the most important of the relatives. 

(13) Kulu, an old person in the grandparents' generation. Sekulu and 

kukululu are terms used to designate male grandparents. 

(14) Maikulu is the term for female grandparents. 

(15) Onekulu designates a grandchild of either sex. 

(16) Upalume are the father's sister's children and the mother's brother's 

children. Marriage with a mother's brother's child is enjoined, 
marriage with a father's sister's child is permitted but not favored. 
Marriage with a mother's sister's child or a father's brother's child is 
strictly forbidden. 

(17) Cikulume is the term applied to a father's sister's husband. 

The foregoing list of kinship terms indicates the general nature 
of the scheme of relationships which governs family life among the 
Ovimbundu. The attitudes existing among certain relatives demand 
the recognition of definite obligations and privileges, which will be 
more fully described under the headings of "Family" and "Law." 

The Ba-ila of Northern Rhodesia have a well-developed and 
functioning system of classificatory relationships agreeing in principle 
but differing in some respects from that of the Ovimbundu. The 
Umbundu use of different terms for direct and indirect speech 
obtains also with the Ba-ila, who, in common with the Ovimbundu, 
have terms of kinship that vary with the relative ages of the speaker 
and the person addressed. A Ba-ila youth when speaking to his 
older brother calls him mukando wangu, "my great one," but if 
addressing a younger brother he says mwanichangu, "my junior." 

Of the four possible cousin marriages the Ba-ila favor only one, 
namely, marriage with a father's sister's daughter. Marriage with a 
mother's brother's daughter is not permitted, but among the Ovim- 
bundu this is the enjoined form of union. A man of the Ba-ila calls 
his father and his father's brothers lata, and all the sisters of his 
father and of his mother are bama, meaning "mother." As among 
the Ovimbundu, the mother's brother is of primary importance in 
family life because of the reciprocal obligations that exist between 
him and his sister's children. The Ba-ila use the word achisha for 
direct address of a mother's brother, and when speaking of him they 
employ the term uachisha (E. W. Smith and A. M. Dale, 1920, 
chap. 12). 

After giving a list of kinship terms used by the Ashanti, R. S. 
Rattray (1927a, p. 317) explains the terminology by showing to what 

Social Organization 471 

individuals a name is applied, why it is so used, and what marriage 
laws are involved in this classificatory system of relationships. He 
refers to a law of cross-cousin marriage whereby a man was enjoined 
to maiTy his father's sister's daughter or his mother's brother's 
daughter. Breach of marriage prohibitions was punished with a 
death penalty for incest, because marriage taboos were arranged to 
prevent a person from marrying his or her own ahusua or ntoro, as the 
matrilineal and patrilineal divisions were respectively called. 

There is evidence to show that a maternal uncle is powerful in 
Ashanti society, which is matriarchal. This relative orders his 
children to marry his nieces and nephews (sister's children). If his 
sister's daughter marries his son, then their offspring will possess the 
maternal uncle's spirit (ntoro), and this fact would make it possible 
to name the child after himself or an ancestor. The maternal uncle 
uses his authority to arrange a marriage which facilitates reincarna- 
tion of a ntoro who had been waiting to be born in its own ntoro 
lineage. Ancestor worship and social organization are comple- 
mentary and mutually dependent in their functioning. 

The following explanation indicates a logical connection between 
Ashanti ideas of conception, reincarnation, totemism, and cross- 
cousin marriage. Ntoro, which can be translated by the word 
"spirit," is transmitted to offspring by males only, though ntoro is 
present in every male and female. Ahusua, the "clan" or "blood," 
can be transmitted by females only, and under no circumstances can 
a male transmit the ahusua which he derived from his mother. "No 
Ashanti can have a drop of the male parent's blood in his or her 

The physiological concept postulates that each man and woman 
has two distinct elements, ahusua (blood or clan) and ntoro (spirit). 
The ahusua, which is synonymous with mogya (blood), is inherited 
from the mother only, and clan descent is therefore traced through 
females only. This maternal element, which is transmitted by and 
to females only, decides succession to office, the tracing of descent, 
and the inheritance of property. 

At death an ahusua becomes a saman or ghost which lives in the 
world of spirits, awaiting reincarnation through some woman of its 
own blood and clan. The ntoro does not accompany the saman to 
the spirit world but becomes a spirit called obosom and is rein- 
carnated through any male of the ntoro to which it once belonged 
(L. H. D. Buxton and R. S. Rattray, 1924, p. 83). 


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474 Source Book for African Anthropology 

According to C. G. and B. Z. Seligman (1932, pp. 21-58) present 
data relating to kinship systems among Nilotic tribes are insufficient 
for a complete survey, but two types of organization are evident. 
One system of kinship terminology is distinctly classificatory, the 
dominant feature being the classification of many relatives under one 
term. This is best seen among the Nuba and the Ingassana, by whom 
all cousins, both parallel and cross-cousins, are classed as brothers 
and sisters. The father's brother is addressed as father, and the 
mother's sister as mother. The system of the Nilotes presents a 
marked contrast, since a prominent feature is the accurate description 
of all relatives. Such a system may conveniently be called descrip- 
tive, and the result of such a scheme is to distinguish with great 
precision between each kind of cousin and nephew. Certain cus- 
toms among the Nilotic Negroes — Nuer, Shilluk, and Dinka — seem 
closely correlated with the descriptive system. 

In considering kinship systems of African Negroes, the facts which 
are observed today require explanation along historical, psychologi- 
cal, and sociological lines. A comparison of the kinship systems of 
the Nandi, Masai (Half-Hamites), and Bathonga (southeastern 
Bantu), "shows some striking points of resemblance which can be 
explained by the prevalence among all three peoples of a particular 
type of marriage, apparently dependent on the payment of bride 
price." The system of the Nandi has certain classificatory features 
combined with traits of the descriptive system (B. Z. Seligman, 1917, 
No. 46). 

The Semites had a classificatory system the operation of which 
has been modified by Mohammedan infiuence. Islamic law encour- 
ages marriage between ortho-cousins (children of two brothers or two 
sisters), an enjoined form of marriage which is the opposite of the 
cross-cousin system which prevails in many Negro tribes (B. Z. 
Seligman, vol. 3, 1924b, pp. 51-68, 261-279). 

The blending of elements from kinship systems, which have pre- 
sumably had different origins and histories, is demonstrated in F. R. 
Rodd's (1926, p. 150) report of social organization among the Tuareg 
(Northern Hamites). The Tuareg of Air reckon succession to office 
in the male line. But the mother's brother is important in family 
life, and descent is traced through females. Some aspects of the 
system are typical of Negroes who have a system of reckoning 
descent, succession, and inheritance through females; but other traits 
of the Tuareg organization are of the patriarchal type (see section 
II, chap. 4). 

Social Organization 475 

Like other cultural phenomena, types of social organization are 
subject to change, old traits disappear, and new ones are introduced. 
R. S. Rattray (1932a, vol. 1, p. 4) points out that among some tribes 
of the Northern Territories cross-cousin marriages, which, with rare 
exceptions, are no longer permitted by tribal custom, were once the 
common form of union. The nature of cultural processes in relation 
to kinship and marriage is illustrated by B. Z. Seligman's article 
"Marital Gerontocracy in Africa" (1924a, pp. 231-250). The thesis 
states that a system of marriage (gerontocracy) between persons 
separated by two generations has intimate association with cross- 
cousin marriage. Both types of marriage are the result of conflict 
between patrilineal and matrilineal principles. There is also a con- 
nection between marital gerontocracy and the reincarnation of 
spirits in the second generation. 


Despite the differences in kinship systems the data confirm the 
presence of certain fundamental similarities, especially in the classi- 
ficatory systems of Bantu Negroes. The resemblances are true 
homologies which deeply affect both the structure and the function 
of social life in all its aspects. The structure of the classificatory 
system has been considered by quoting kinship terms and explaining 
their connotation. The functional aspect of the kinship system can 
now be shown in relation to the family and the clan. 

Valuable data relating to kinship terms have been contributed by 
C. Bullock (1928, p. 235), C. M. Doke (1931c, pp. 199-202), E. D. 
Earthy (1933, pp. 11-18), E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1929, No. 148; 
1932, No. 7), H. A. Junod (1912, vol. 1, p. 221), P. Kirchoff (1932, 
pp. 184-191), A. L. Kroeber (1909), R. H. Lowie (1916a), J. Roscoe 
(1911, pp. 128-132), M. Sanderson (1923), C. G. and B. Z. Seligman, 
(numerous papers on kinship systems of Africa), H. A. Stayt (1931a, 
pp. 181-184), N. J. van Warmelo (1932), J. H. Weeks (1909, p. 439). 
Useful studies of kinship terms, attitudes, and behavior, and their 
social implications have been made by B. W. Aginsky (1935a and b), 
A. M. Hocart (1937), and F. Eggan (1937, pp. 41-58). 

The Family 

When studying the behavior pattern within a family, and the 
extension of this pattern to larger units such as the village and the 
clan, the following considerations are of primary importance. 
Analysis of social attitudes implies a psychological study of the 
reactions of individuals toward one another, and toward their kindred. 

476 Source Book for African Anthropology 

E. E. Evans-Pritchard defines an attitude as "an enduring, stereo- 
typed, and socially-compelled behavior pattern, together with its con- 
comitant psychological processes, both in the conscious (sentiments) 
and in the unconscious (complexes)." (Man, 1932, No. 7.) These 
attitudes may be characterized by reciprocal aid, deference, affection, 
fear, or avoidance. In addition to this aspect of the sociological prob- 
lem, attention should be paid to the type of inheritance, reckoning 
descent, and succession to office which prevail in a given locality. 
The place of family residence, either with the kindred of the father 
or of the mother, is likewise important as a controlling factor of the 
social pattern. According to A. R. Radcliffe Brown (1924, pp. 542- 
555), a society may be called patriarchal when descent is patrilineal, 
marriage is patrilocal, and the authority over members of the family 
is in the hands of the father or his relatives. When descent is 
matrilineal, marriage is matrilocal, and the authority is exercised by 
the mother and her kindred, the society is matriarchal. Usually 
elements of both systems are present, that is to say, the system is 
bilateral. A complete and practical acquaintance with all these data 
would furnish an explanation of social phenomena which today are 
not thoroughly understood. 

Before describing concrete examples of family, clan, and village 
organization, consideration should be given to certain hypotheses, 
without which the observed facts appear as unexplained vagaries of 
human conduct. 

Historical explanations of conduct and attitudes have been based 
on the supposition that some of the social phenomena observed today 
are merely the result of a conflict between two systems, the patri- 
archal and the matriarchal. And, in accordance with historical 
hypotheses, the attitude of children toward their mother's brother, 
likewise his reciprocal treatment, involving both privileges and 
obligations, is the result of a matriarchal system which may have 
been to some extent obscured by a patriarchal system. 

Modern hypotheses tend toward the refutation of historical 
explanations by a closer study of behavior and an endeavor to 
analyze the motives that determine conduct. E. E. Evans-Pritchard 
(1929, No. 148; 1932, No. 7) points out that a man's patterns of 
behavior toward his kindred are built up in the family organization 
into which he is born and in which he grows up. During early years 
of childhood, sentiments are formed in relation to a father, mother, 
brothers, and sisters. A boy's attitude toward his mother and her 
kindred, especially her brothers, may be determined by the attitude 

Social Organization 477 

of his father toward his mother. The patterns of behavior which a 
man observes toward his kindred, toward the female sex, and in 
relation to governing bodies, are the result of sentiments and atti- 
tudes that originated in the family, Grebert (1932, 1937). 

The same opinion was previously expressed by A. R. Radcliffe 
Brown (1924, pp. 542-555), when he noted a tendency to extend to all 
the members of a group a certain type of behavior which had its 
origin in a relationship to one particular member of the group. A boy 
who receives care and indulgence from his mother expects similar 
treatment from the people of his mother's group, but to the paternal 
kindred a boy has feelings of deference, a tendency to obedience, and 
even a definite fear, if these traits have been present in his attitude 
toward his father. Using data from H. A. Junod's "The Life of 
a South African Tribe," A. R. Radcliffe Brown shows that these atti- 
tudes extend into religion. The maternal gods and the maternal 
ancestors are more tender and more popular than those on the 
father's side. With these hypotheses and general concepts in mind, 
a more concrete study of family life is desirable. 

A restricted family of the Ovimbundu consists of a man, his wife 
(or wives), and their unmarried children. If the marriage is monoga- 
mous all members of the family inhabit one hut, but if the family is 
polygynous each wife has a hut where she lives with her children, does 
her cooking, and receives her husband on his periodical visits. Associ- 
ated with this family there may be pawns who are in temporary 
residence to work off a debt, either for themselves or for a maternal 
uncle. In former days the family might include slaves who had been 
purchased or captured in warfare, and some adopted or inherited 
children may be present. These additions to a restricted family 
lead to the formation of a household. 

Like many Bantu Negroes, the Ovimbundu are a patrilocal 
people; therefore, a male brings his bride to the village where his 
father lives, and usually close to the paternal home. Among the 
Ovimbundu an extended family, having patrilocal residence, includes 
married sons with their wives and dependent children, and also sup- 
plementary individuals such as those mentioned in the preceding 
paragraph. These persons who constitute the extended family 
occupy land which was allotted by the sekulu (village chief or head- 
man) when the village was founded. When an Ocimbundu uses the 
words epata lia tate (or aluse), he means "family of my father," that is, 
the group of persons with whom he has blood relationship on his 
father's side. The words epata lia mai (or oroluina) indicate the 

478 Source Book for African Anthropology 

mother's blood relatives, and the interpretation is "family of my 

But, despite this clear recognition of the two families, commoners 
of the Ovimbundu remember little of their genealogy, perhaps no 
more than the grandparent class of relatives. Yet they remember 
names on both the father's and the mother's side; that is, they trace 
their descent bilaterally. In the families of chiefs and kings, descent 
is traced through both male and female ancestors, provided the 
father married a woman of the ruling house. This he is supposed to 
do when taking a first wife, but later he may marry commoners, and 
the offspring of these will trace descent through their father only, 
since their mother, who is a commoner, will know little of her 

Sentiments and attitudes within a polygynous family were 
indicated by the terms which Ngonga, my informant, used. A wife 
of Ngonga's father, other than his uterine mother, is called mai 
yesepakai; that is, "the mother who is jealous of my mother." Mai 
means "mother," and the remainder of the term is a derivative from 
the word esepa, meaning "woman's jealousy." There is a distinct 
word for man's jealousy, and in explaining this, Ngonga said, "When 
I see my wife look at another man, I have ukuelume (man's jealousy) 
in my heart." If on the death of Ngonga's father his mother married 
again, this male would be called by Ngonga "tate yesepakai" (the 
father who is jealous). A wife calls the children of her husband, 
who are not her own, omala vesepakai; that is, "the children who 
are jealous of the other children." 

The most important of the attitudes relating to marriageability 
is revealed by consideration of the kinship terms for father and 
mother, and the words which are used to designate their children. 
Ngonga uses the term mai, mother, for his mother's sisters, and thinks 
of them as his mothers, while the word tate is used, not only for the 
father, but also for the father's brothers. Ngonga said, "My mother's 
sister's children, and my father's brother's children are my brothers 
and sisters. To marry one of them would make me ocinyama, that 
is, like an animal. People would say 'you have shamed the family.' " 
The terms for ortho-cousins are the same as for uterine brothers and 
sisters, and possibly the attitude toward these relatives has developed 
to prevent a brother-sister type of incest. 

In common with most Negro tribes, the Ovimbundu have definite 
rules of avoidance which determine the attitudes of children toward 
their parents-in-law. If a son-in-law meets his mother-in-law on the 

Social Organization 479 

path, they must pretend not to see each other. Therefore, one steps 
aside and turns away while the other passes on. If necessity for con- 
versation arises, the two sit facing in opposite directions, or one sits 
in the hut and the other outside, with the wall between them. These 
rules apply to a man and his mother-in-law, also to a woman and her 
father-in-law. A taboo against eating together applies to these 
relatives. The object of the parent-in-law taboos may be to prevent 
incest of the parent-child type; various theories have been advanced 
and these are discussed by Professor R. H. Lowie in "Primitive 

The importance of the mother's oldest brother is evident in the 
family life of the Ovimbundu. Ngonga said that manu, which is the 
name applied to this relative, could pawn his sister's children, so 
sending them out to work in order to pay his own debts. "But," 
continued Ngonga, "if I am a thief and escape, it is right that my 
mother's brother should pay the fine for me." A normal marriage, 
and one that is enjoined, is that between a man and the daughter of his 
mother's oldest brother. A father's oldest sister, whom the Ovim- 
bundu call aphai (female father), is regarded with the kind of respect 
which is shown to manu, but I was unable to find any specific recipro- 
cal functions between aphai and her brother's children. 

A family of the Ba-ila (Smith and Dale, 1920, vol. 1, p. 283) is 
constituted in the way described for the Ovimbundu, and of family 
life as a social control one may say that parental duties and privileges 
differ scarcely at all from those prevailing in European families. A 
strong family affection expresses itself in parental care of children, 
but the power of the father is limited by clan rules which give to the 
mother's oldest brother an influence and prerogative greater than that 
which is exercised by the father himself. Descent is reckoned pri- 
marily through the father, so giving a genealogy known as mukwashi, 
while descent through the mother's line is called mukoa. 

Among the Bakongo the word for family is vumu, which literally 
means "stomach" or "womb." Families are grouped into clans 
called ekanda, each of which has its origin in a woman. "It must be 
remembered that all relationship is on the mother's side, and with 
the exception of the father, no paternal relationship has any force." 
The importance of a maternal uncle is seen by the fact that a suitor 
does not ask permission from the father of the girl whom he wishes 
to marry, but he interviews her mother's brother. Since Bakongo 
descent is reckoned unilaterally, and through the female line, pro- 
hibitions of marriage are strict on the m^other's side. For example, 

480 Source Book for African Anthropology 

marriage is forbidden with maternal cousins, no matter whether they 
are children of the mother's brothers or of the mother's sisters (J. H. 
Weeks, 1914, p. 96). The method of reckoning descent and the 
marriage taboos are linked factors showing a difference between 
the family organization of the strictly matrilineal Bakongo and the 
bilateral Ovimbundu. 

Examples of family life among Negroes have so far been chosen 
from Bantu tribes, but to broaden the comparative study instances 
should be selected from Sudanic Negro tribes of west Africa. Maurice 
Delafosse (1931, pp. 173-192) makes the general statement that in 
Negro society of west Africa the rights of a father are inferior to 
those of a mother's brother. The reckoning of relationship only on 
the mother's side is widespread and ancient; in fact, this method was 
at one time the only system of reckoning descent, and the founders 
of the most illustrious families were women. 

But the Wolofs of Senegal have now a system of reckoning descent 
through males when tracing the genealogies of commoners, yet for 
the nobility descent is still traced only on the female side. The 
Walata are Mohammedans, and as such would be likely to favor a 
method of tracing their lineage through the paternal kindred, yet 
sons are named after their maternal uncles, from whom they inherit. 
Moreover, Arab writers of the Middle Ages, when speaking of the 
important states of Ghana and Manding, record that inheritance was 
from brother to brother on the mother's side, or from a mother's 
brother to his sister's son. In addition, Delafosse points out that the 
Bambara, some of the Mandingo, also the Fulani and the Serer 
decide rights of inheritance by tracing out relationships through 

The effect of this matrilineal system on family life is important, 
for although a family group, consisting of father, mother (or mothers), 
and their dependent children, exists, the offspring belong to their 
mother's kindred, and the mother's oldest brother exercises paternal 
rights over them. Delafosse concludes that "the custom of admitting 
relationship only on the mother's side must formerly have been 
universally observed among west African Negroes, and there still 
exist, at various stages, multiple and undeniable traces of it." 

The research of C. K. Meek (1931a, pp. 79-110) among the 
Jukun-speaking tribes of Nigeria supports the evidence of Delafosse 
by showing the operation of two systems of family organization, 
and the transitions that are taking place. The Jibu reckon descent 
in the female line and practice matrilocal marriage; they also have 

Social Organization 481 

a matrilineal system of inheritance. On the contrary, another 
section of the Jukun is wholly patriarchal, and Meek believes that 
the later patriarchal system was imposed by the Fulani, who sub- 
jugated the Jukun in the nineteenth century. Succession to chief- 
tainship is almost without exception in the male line, yet the Jukun 
generally reckon rights of inheritance to property through female 
kindred. The position of the mother's brother is important, and a 
Jukun says of this relative, "Was it not he who bore me, and am I 
not his umbilical cord?" In former times, when blood-feuds v/ere 
rife, a maternal uncle was under obligation to secure revenge for 
one of the murdered kin. 

The functional aspect of kinship terms, and the psychology of 
family relationships is illustrated by Rattray (1932a, vol. 1, pp. 273- 
277). The most instructive facts are those relating to the attitudes 
toward a mother's brother, a father's sister, and a mother-in-law. 
The way in which sentiments that are primarily directed toward a 
uterine mother are extended to her kindred is also clearly 

It is not unusual for Nankanse children to be brought up in the 
compound of a maternal uncle (aseba), and this is done with the 
full consent of their natural parents. The attitude toward aseba is 
one which recognizes privileges and obligations; his sister's children 
help themselves to his possessions, and familiarly call his mother 
"old grey hairs." The mother's brother is expected to provide a 
dowry w