By Dana W. Reynolds
RECALLING THE TUAREG HERITAGE: Levathes Mauri and Mazikes of ancient Byzantine North Africa
"When their brethren the Egyptians ruled Misr they spread west from the area between Al Arish and Aswan in length and from Ailah ( in Arabia) to Barka (in Libya) in breadth."
- Al Ya'aqubi, 9th century A.D.
See here authentic Tuareg trance music by female singing group Tartit
The quote by Ya'aqubi at the top of the page refers to the early people he calls 'Lamta" . They were direct ancestors of "Lamtuna" Berbers people called today Kel Aeulamidden, a clan of the Tuareg. The Tuareg he claims were a second wave of Berbers spread along the coast of Libya to the Al Arish (in Palestine) and from the Gulf of Aqaba or Ailah to Aswan in Nubia during the time of the Amalekite Pharaohs ruled. According to him they were called Ailanab because of their origins in the Gulf of Aila (Elah) in Arabia.
To the right - A Tuareg noble of Niger (Nobles wear the indigo veil)
Watch here the Tuareg of Agades in Niger
Tuareg men of the noble caste such as the one above wear a deep indigo head covering while vassal, agriculture or smith castes wear white, black and other colors of head turban and veils. Like many African peoples Tuareg also customarily had slaves of African origin called Iklan or Takili and European slaves that extended from the era of Moorish control of the trade routes in Europe and the Mediterranean. In Libya they also mixed with Turkish mercenaries and Syrian and Khorasani (Central Asian) merchants.
There has been much scholarly controversy over the Tuareg origins. The Tuareg people, however, have evidently always maintained that they came from Himyarite or Sabean peoples of southern Arabia led by their chiefs with names such as Herik, Ifrikush or Fariq and his ancestor Suwar son of Wa'il son of Himyar living over 3,000 years ago. (Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, Hopkins and Levtsion ) This may partially explain why certain ancient writers such as Sallustius (4th c. AD) claimed the ancient Mauri came to Africa under their leader "Hercules" from India, which was the ancient common name for South Arabia (India Minor) and Abyssinia in his day. (de. Bello Jugurtha c. 21) (see this post on this blog for "The Indi" as Ethiopians for more information).
The Double Axe symbol frequently seen in Tuareg arts and crafts is commonly found in ancient rock art of ancient North Africa and Sahara and is associated with the Tuareg script called Tifinagh.
Tifinagh is seen in the rock art above dates from a late period in Saharan art and has many symbols apparently identical to those of the Sabean script. The script is also often connected with the flying gallop representation which appears in the Aegean and Mediterranean areas in association with the Hyksos period. The name Tifinagh in fact means belonging to the Phoenicians or Fanikha, another people who came from the Yemen or Erythraean Sea.
Today many Tuareg have in fact opted to renounce the "Berber" nationality or rather to disassociate themselves with other Berber-speakers further north who claim they are related to southern Europeans and at the same time, in Africa since time immemorial. In reality there are many people speaking Berber in North Africa today who have little Berber blood or little Afro-Asiatic blood and thus are not really of Tuareg or any Berber affiliation. European colonialists and later historians created the illusion of a Berber population of European affiliation in Africa that civilized Egypt and the rest of "teeming" black Africa. This racist mythology continues today in some ways, but, in fact, "Berbers" today consist of diverse peoples of a variety of origins.whose primary connection with the ancient Berbers is primarily linguistic and only partially biological or cultural. Today's "Berbers" all speak the same dialects and occupy North Africa.
Berber-speakers today are comprised of a hetorogeneous groups many of whom are better described as of possessing various degrees of African, Near Eastern and European origin. Some nationalists have recently adopted the tribal name "Amazigh" as their modern designation for all Berbers. One of the earliest known names of the Levathes and African people is Maxyes, Mazaces, Mazikes or Mazazeces, which became Amazigh or Imoshagh in later times among Tuareg and Shluh or Masmuda Berbers. However, Mazikes or Mazices are described in texts as "Ethiopians" as in a notice of the Expositio Totius Mundi. ( Gsell, Histoire Ancienne de L’Afrique du Nord, Les Royaumes Indigenes Organisation Sociale, Politique et Economique 43. Paris, 1927, p. 2)
Guiseppe Sergi in his The Mediterranean Race, cited Diodorus Siculus of the 1st century who spoke “in reference to the expedition of Agathocles, of three Libyan tribes on the coast of Tunisia, the Micatani and Zufoni (see Zafan) who were nomads and the Asfodelodi, who by the color of their skin resembled the Ethiopians” (G. Sergi, p. 50).The name of these Micatani nomads of Tripolitania also known as "Ucutamani" or "Mactunia Manus" in ancient texts is retained among the modern Tuareg as Imakitan - a designation for many eastern Tuareg. They are the Kutama or Kitama Berbers - a Sanhaja related group whose women were mentioned as black by Ibn Butlan.of the 9th century..
Among the earliest Byzantine names for the ancient Tuareg occupants of Libya is Austuriani or Ausuriani, later known as the Levathes or Leuathae (also written Laguaten by Corripus and Luwata in Arabic) who were composed of numerous tribes whose names have been preserved by the Tuareg. They were a nomadic camel owning tribe ancient Libya who were often fighting agianst the Romans and Neo- Romans (Byzantines). They first occupied what was known as Cyrenaica, the Pentapolis and Tripolitania. They were sometimes in allegiance with the Germanic Vandals and sometimes against the latter as well. Austuriani were described as pitiless, predatory tribesmen constantly raiding the Romans. The wore a short wrist or arm knife, carried long swords and wore long robes using their camels to carry away booty after their raids of Roman colonists. They are mentioned by the Roman historians as persistent raiders who were ruining various Roman towns..
According to a Byzantine text cited by Stephane Gsell the Levathes or Luwata peoples living directly south of Ifrikiyya (Tripolitania) in the 4th century were a not too numerous and called "Mazices" and "Ethiopians". These peoples are also known as Mauri Mazazeces in another texts. This people of the Levathes were spread from Algeria to the desert east of the Nile in Africa. Like most Tuareg clans, they name also stretched into parts of Arabia in ancient times where they were known in ancient and modern times as Masikha or Masaka. To this day Tuareg and related peoples claim their ancestor was Mazigh, a descendant of the ancient Canaanites of Yemen in Arabia and their ancient Sabaean rulers known as Suwar ibn Abd Shams and Ifrikush or Fariq. (See the postings on this blog on the Berbers as Canaanites and the African Himyarites for more info.)
Perhaps, as a result of not really exploring the history of Africans or not being interested in African history, many modern scholars unlike authors of the colonial era, have claimed the origins of the Tuareg to be "an enigma". In fact the Tuareg heritage is rather well-documented and ancient sources mention them as a confederation of clans that once inhabited coastal North Africa and mountainous regions now occupied by populations descended from other parts of the world. Most Tuareg clans, nevertheless preserve the names of their ancient ancestors mentioned in Greek, Roman and Neo-Roman texts.
According to D.J. Mattingly - “Following the Arab conquest of the Maghreb, the Louata or Lawata and their principal sub-tribes (Hawara and Nefusa) are recorded in many diverse locations. Ibn Khaldun, for instance, noted them in the following places from east to west; in the Western desert near the Nile Delta and in the major oases ( Siwa, Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, Kharga) (De Slane 1926/1956, 235-236), in Cyrenaica (ibid. 236), in Tripolitania (Gebel Msellata, Nefusa, Gefara, Nefzaua) ibid. 231, -280-281) , in Tunisia (Sfax and Kairouan regions) and in Algeria (oases of Zab, Aures mountains and Bougie) ibid. 232-236). Although this information dates to some centuries after the Arab conquest, it does indicate both the origins and the evenetual westward extent of the Laguatan confederation.” (pp. 99-100 of A Libyan Tribal Confederation in the Late Roman Empire, D.J. Mattingly, Libyan Studies 14,1983.
|A Tuareg of the Haggar where the Berbers were called
"The Hawara claim that they descend from the ancient Berbers and that the Mazata and Luwata belong to the same people, but separated from them at Barka and other places...Among the Hawara stocks are Benu Al Luhan and Malila and War Satafa. The stocks of Luhan are Banu Darmana and Banu Marmaryan and Banu Warfala and Banu Mazrata. The abodes of the Hawara are from the boundary of the district of Syrtica to Tarabolus (Tripoli)." Al-Ya'aqubi 9th century
Tuareg today still claim a descent from ancient south Arabia the part of the Kenawna (Canaanite) region. Modern reporters often confuse this claim as a claim of descent from Islamic Arabians but in reality it refers to ancient invasions that occurred when Arabia was still ccupied by Afroasiatics of east African or "Ethiopian" affiliation.
African king Ramses holds the hair of an ancient Aamu possibly ancestral Tuareg
The Tuareg tribe of Imazuragh (Mizrata) is otherwise named in early texts Misra or Musri. In Africa they are called in medieval Arab texts Banu Mezurah. Hence Ya'aqubi also speaks of the Lamta as people who were once spread from the Gulf of Ailah in Arabia to Barka in the Pentapolis in Libya in breadth. Musri or Muzir was the name of an ancient Arabian tribe in that region in the days of the Assyrian rulers.
Other tribes of the Levathes Moors included the group whom the Byzantines called Ifuraces who appear to be the chariot riding Pharusii trogodytes of Pliny and Strabo earlier writers. Scholars have noted that their name has been retained among the Kel Iforas Tuareg who occupy Niger and Mali. They were known as the Afren or Beni Ifren in Arab texts. Some also have felt they were the Frexes of Ptolemy to whom belonged the SilCadenit, SilVacae and SilVaiza. The Frexes, Fraxinenses or or Ifuraces were known to later Arabic documenters as the Beni Ifren or Iforas, a tribe of "Zanata" Berbers in certain places. The Silcadenit are very likely the Kel Cadenit Tuareg of today. The word Sil or Sylli is probably identical to the name of the modern Shilha, Chluh of the Upper Atlas and Jil or Kel meaning clan. (For more on the Iforas/Ifuraces and Aulamidden/Lamtuna Tuareg see the link here Ifuraces origins
It was long ago noted that they are also called the Dag Elemtai proof that they are the remnants of the Lamta Berbers of Numidia mentioned by Leo Africanus and earlier by the 9th century Al Ya'aqubi as the Ilam or race of Ailan or Ailah living between Arabia and Tunisia in the period of the Pharaohs. ( "Les Touareg Iforas" in Bulletin de la Societe de Geographie d 'Alger et de L'Afrique due Nord, 1933, no.135. )
The following passage from article just mentioned and entitled, "Les Touareg Iforas", states that the Iforas are called Lamta by their brethren in Adrar, that other Tuareg are generically called Ilemtien or Lamtuna by their unveiled Berber cousins and that there is still a Tuareg clan today in the neighborhood of Ghat in Libya that are Ilemtien or Lamtuna. The last sentence of the paragraph also states that these diverse facts show that the Tuareg were anciently established in Tripolitania in northern Libya and that their name came from the well known the Lamta Berbers of the ancient city of Leptis Magna in Libya.
"Les Iforas du Nord sont appelés Dag Elemtei par leurs frères de l'Adrar, ce qui peuple des Lemta que les généalogistes arabes rattachent à la deuxième race des Sanhadja. On se rappellera à ce propos que les Touareg en général sont appelés du nom générique d'Ilemtien par leurs voisins berbères non voilés et qu'il reste encore dans la petite oasis Barakat voisine de Ghat une tribe... Ces divers faits montrent bien que les Lemta étaient primitivement fixés en Tripolitaine et que leur nom vient bien de celui de la ville de Lemta (Leptis magna)..." (p. 6 of the article Les Toureg Iforas in Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Algiers, 1933, No. 135 )
The group of nomads who came to be known peoples of the kingdom of Numidia were also mainly of Tuareg descent. In the 16th century Leo Africanus mentions, the Numidians, he says, were divided into 5 parts the “Zanega” (Sanhaja), “Leuta” (Luwata or Levathes), “Terga” (the Targa or Taureg), Ganziga (Zuenzigha) and Bardoa a people of Fezzan. .The Lamtuna Tuareg, Leo describes as Sanhaja “from out of the desert of Numidia” and those who founded the city of Marrakesh. "One Ioseph the sonne of Tesfin, and king of the tribe or people called Luntuna, is reported to have beene the founder of this citie..."
Soulful Tuareg sounds are strikingly familiar to those acquainted with African American music
Corripus the 6th c. Byzantine - according to the historian D.J. Mattingly - used the names Nasamoni and Asturiani as synonyms for the Laguatan. The ancient Nasamones were accustomed to “visiting the sepulchral mounds of their ancestors and lying down to sleep upon them after having prayed; and whatsoever thing the man sees in his dream, this he accepts” ( See, The Histories of Herodotus, 4.172-173, 190). The Tuareg preserve the ancestral custom of the Nasamones who, in the time of Herodotus, occupy the deserts of Siwa and Augila. They practice a Tuareg habit of going to the tombs of their ancestors to divine from dreams. (Bornu Sahara and Sudan, Palmer, R., p. 75).
Furthermore some Tuareg in medieval texts have the surname al-Anusamani or "the Nasamone" (See John Willis, Slaves and Slavery in Africa, 2005, p. 25).
A mostly Tuareg clan of the Sahel (Mali)
Celebrated genetic descendants of Tuareg in the United States include actor Morgan Freeman, actress Kimberly Elise, performing artist Tupac Shakur and ironically a leader of the reparations movement in America - Antoinette Harrell-Miller
|Young Tuareg boy|
"...westward along the sea-shore their neighbors are the Macae, who, by letting the locks about the crown of their head grow long, while they clip them close everywhere else, make their hair resemble a crest." Herodotus: The Histories 5th century B.C.
The 14th century Ibn Khaldun mentions the origins of the Tuareg groups, which he calls the 2nd race of Berbers - "They lived in the country near the riff of Abyssinia and the region which separates the country of the Berbers from that of the Zanj. They veiled themselves with the litham, a garb which distinguishes them from other peoples. Having multiplied in these vast plains they formed several tribes such as Goddala, the Lamtuna, the Masufa, the Uzla, Targa, Zaghawa and Lamta. These peoples are all brothers of the Sanhaja,and now live between the Atlantic and Ghadames .Lamtuna live in that part of the desert which is called Kukdem and like the Berbers of the west profess magism."
Al Sa'di in the 16th century asserted - "These are the Lamtun who trace their descent to Lamtuna, offspring of Lamt, Judal, Lamt and Matsuf are descended from Sanhaja". (Al Sa'di's, Tarikh Es-Sudan.) The Sanhaja who were composed of modern Tuareg, Fulani and Zaghai or Songhai are the men who formed the Almoravid dynasy of the Moors in Spain.
Lastly there are a major group of Tuareg known as Imaqqoren or Imagharan, known as Maghrawa in Arabic histories who made up part of the Berbers called Zanata. This group is one that extended from east of Nubia where they were known as Makkorenes to Constantine in Algeria and the Shelif region of Mauretania Caesarea. The ancient Makkorenes are variously known in texts as Maccuritae, Makhoures, Makkhurebi (Ptolemy) or Macurebi (Pliny) and are one of the principle peoples of ancient Mauritania Caesaraea. (Catalogue des tribus africaines de l’antiquité classique à l’ouest du Nil. Universite de Dakar. Publication de la section d’Histoire. No. 4. Desanges, 1962, p. 221).
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