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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

FROM PROTO-BERBERS TO "MOORS" - PART I



By Dana W. Reynolds

FROM PROTO-BERBERS TO "MOORS":  RECALLING THE CHADIC AND NILO-SAHARAN ORIGINS OF MEDIEVAL CIVILIZATION OF NORTH AFRICA,  SAHEL AND THE SUDAN  

Part I 


            "Though men of Nubia be Christian they be as the Moors for the great heat of the Sun.." from the 14th century book,  Travels of Sir John Mandeville (d. 1372).
        
        Depiction of a Lamtuna "Moor" or Berber (Almoravid dynasty) said to be Abu Bacari on a map of the 15th century  Portuguese cartographer Mecia Viladestes


Modern men of the Fezzan region in Libya

       In the early part of the 20th century the British anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith wrote of how in Morocco "...the word Moor is often used to suggest Negro influence" (G. Elliot Smith, Human History, 1919, p. 124). In fact for a long time it was the usual way most Europeans had used the word. According to the 19th century Francisco Simonet, a noted specialist on Mozarabic dialect, among Medieval Christians in Spain (or Mozarabs)  the word "Negro" or "black" had once been more or less a synonym for "Moro", largely due to the predominance of black skin among the Muslims who had occupied the Iberian peninsula for several centuries after the time of the 6th century Isidore of Seville.  The early specialist on Mauretania M. Roblin once wrote also "in medieval France as in Rome Moor is a synonym for Niger" (Barthelemy, 1987, p. 9).
     Before the time of the Muslim invasions of North Africa, most parts of al-Maghreb, except for an area of Cyrenaica in Libya, had been occupied mainly by ancestors of the Tuareg - the tall dark-brown people affiliated with early populations in the Horn that had settled Arabia and its deserts. But it was also occupied by a large group of even blacker people of Nilo-Saharan origin. The latter  like the Tuareg were designated by the name "Mauri" by Europeans and were the other major group of  people accustomed to making incursions into Spain and whom the Latin, Greek and Roman writers at times referred to as black "as night" (Isidore's Etymologies XIX xxiii 7  ) or  "as crows" (See Corippus, Johannide on the Moors of the Aures in northern Tunisia) and otherwise as the color of pitch (See below).
     The Muslim slave trade which brought many peoples of European and Near Eastern descent as slave soldiers and concubines into Andalusia and North Africa, as well as various nationalisms, including those of  colonial racists, has since altered the perspective of many historians, amateur and expert alike, of who Moors and Berbers actually were. More recently and mainly in the last several hundred years  the Muslim slave trade has also pulled other peoples of other African descent from southern cultures into North Africa adding to the notion that ancient "Mauretania" had always  been occupied by people who look more or less Near Eastern and European, rather than like the "Mauri".
      North Africa has been essentially Arabized and Berberized to the point that almost everybody speaks either Berber or Arab dialects. However, as archeology and genetics is now testifying, the modern North African people are culturally and biologically derived from the confluence and amalgamation of many biological groups over centuries. This is also clearly illustrated by current phenotypes which are probably about as diverse as all the varied people known to have arrived in North Africa over the past 3,000 years.
        This post treats of the people the Romans and later peoples consistently referred to as "black" in North Africa mainly the proto-Berbers, Gaitules and the Mauri, who were the people that had occupied the Sahara for centuries before the arrival of the Greeks, Romans, Vandals and Scythians and later colonists that came with the Muslim invasion of North Africa. In Libya in Fezzan these peoples had names like Garamantes, Gamphasantes, Tidamansii, Gillagammae. Roman geographer Pomponius Mela (45 A.D.) refers to the Garamantes as "Gamphasantes". While Pliny refers to Garamantia as Phazania with its capital of Garama. Much later the Syrian Abul Feda of the 14th century refers to Garama and its population as Garran or Karran a name Arab speakers still use for the modern Daza.(Daza are Toubou speaking peoples now living mainly in Chad and Niger.)

See video of the modern Garran of Chad here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIbjMskiwPQ&feature=context&context=C360dd52ADOEgsToPDskIjRCPxQDyB-YFhJveJ3q-f



Mint for tea and a banquet of nuts and traditional Saharan finery surround a man of Ghadames (anciently a town of the Garamantes). He looks ready to host many guests

     These names are probably recalled by the ethnonyms of modern  Nilo-Saharan speakers of Fezzan, Libya, Chad and the Sahel who are still called Koroma, Djerma or Zarma, the N'gam, N'galagha, and Teda or Tida-Krit or Kareda.  Some of the ancient and present "black" populations of Fezzan and Libya now  classified as Toubou or Tibbu themselves appear to have been derived themselves from several ethnic sources of both Nilotic, Saharan and Cushitic origin.

 
Modern Zaghawa man called Zuwagha in Sudan and North Africa
                                          
        Teda, Zaghawa and Daza groups each speak Nilo-Saharan dialects, but claim and appear to have had separate origins. The Teda-Goran or Daza are known to be a rather war-like people whose women even wear daggers under their sleeves. Cabot -Brigs in 1962 wrote, “women sometimes wear swords and armdaggers, and exercise a freedom and a degree of authority which suggest that they may have enjoyed a higher status in the past.” They also have a group of people who are slaves called Kamaya.

Women of the Teda (Tubu)  perform a dance (photo from the site tribal-bellydance.be)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A23mN_QjNys
See here documentary on caravan Tubu women on their annual 1500 kilometer Saharan trek to Bilma.

      One group now classified as Tibbu, or Tubu, which were apparently originally Cushitic include the Bilia, Beli-Zaghawa or Bideyat (Badai).  (Pastoralists of the West African Savannah. 1986, p. 74, and "The Tibu Peoples and the Libyan Desert", by R. F. Peel, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 100 , No. 2, 1942, pp. 73-87.) The latter who in the Byzantine era were certainly the peoples called Beliyya, Balau or Blemmyes still designate themselves Beri or Beriberi and  may have been responsible for bringing the word Berber into the Fezzan and North Africa.
         The modern Tibbou or Teda-Krit, Kreda, are also called Ikaradan, Kardawan and further west as Haratin.  The Haratin further west however often present an appearance especially in the top portion of the face that is between San (so called Hottentot or Bushmen) and Beja.  On the other hand this may have been later Turkish influence, as there is frequently a similar appearance to the eyes among other Moroccan Berbers.  These groups are likely representative of the ancient Tidamensi of Fezzan who have been described by early historians as a branch of the Garamantes. They are related to the original Azghar or Izaggaren of Tassili who were vassal clans of the Tuareg. It was a man named Augustus Keane who first noted that "there were two distinct sections of the Tibbu one the northern Tedas, a name recalling the Tedamansii a branch of the Garamantes...". The other group may descend from the "Ethiopian Trogodytes" that were captured as slaves, such as the Teda still possess. (MacMichaels, 1922,  p. 31). The Garamantian tribe was also said to have been also associated with the town of Ghadames. Some have even  speculated more recently that Cidamus the Roman name for Ghadames was somehow a corruption of Tidamensii (an idea which probably has little to support it).
     Modern study has found the Haratin blood groupings to be the closest to the ancient Egyptians of any living African population and they are undoubtedly among the most ancient populations of the Sahara who were also likely settled on the Nile and east of by the neolithic era. ( Paoli, G., "ABO Typing of Ancient Egyptians" found in Population biology of ancient Egyptians  1973, p. 464.)

A modern Haratin family

      The Garamantes were cattle herdsmen or pastoralists, but skilled in hydraulics and agricultural, metallurgy, glass-making and mining and used high-quality textiles. They were also developed expertised in salt-refining.  Their advanced irrigation and hydraulics technology allowed them to create a green oases in the midst of the Sahara. They had many walled towns and built pyramids and pyramid funerary monuments with Meroitic Nubian affinities. Their advanced irrigation and hydraulics technology allowed them to create a green oases in the midst of the Sahara.
      According to Charles Daniels in his groundbreaking, The Garamantes of the Libyan Sahara (1970), the type of cist burials they used which are the most ancient cairn type found throughout the northern Sahara were associated with "hollowed stone bowls reminiscent of those found in the southeastern Sahara" (pp. 32-35). They buried there dead in contracted fashion typical of Africans of the Sahara, the Nile and east Africa at that time and during the neolithic and skeletons were found covered with red ochre.
       Other populations of the modern Toubou may descend from the "Ethiopians" called Trogodytae who made their homes in caverns and dwelt both in Sahara and near the Red Sea. Herodotus mentions the Garamantes who though they were not war-like, hunted from four horse chariots the trogodyte Ethiopians who lived in caverns and sounded like bats. The Tibu or Toubou graves are reminiscent of  those found among the Zaghawa of Dar Fur, but they date back to an very early period in the Sahara and Nubia as well. 
       The Amazonite mined in the Acacus region of Libya known anciently in Egypt as the Tmhy stones is still extracted by the Toubou there, which has led some to suggest that some of the Toubou-speakers descend from the ancient Temehou people of the Libya and oases adjacent to the Nile. (p. 54, Willis, J.R.,  Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa)



The Toubou of Africa dwelling in Chad, Fezzan, Sudan, Libya, Niger






  
“There are three tribes of Ethiopians: Hesperians, Garamantes and Indians”, Isidore of Seville, Spain 6th century.  (See IX ii 128.in The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, Stephen A. Barney, 2006, p. 199).   






        The name of the Garamantes came from of the ahel Gara who had a town called Garama or Jerma.  In ancient Greek myth, Garamas was a brother of Ogygia or Gyges a king in the Aegean and the grandson of  Minos the ruler who founded Crete expelling the Carians a Pelasgian people from the area. The mother of Garamas,  also called Amphithemis, was Tritonis, a water nymph.  Interestingly the myth of descent from a water nymph seems to be retained among the people like the Fulani or Woodabe/Futa-be also once numerous in the neolithic Sahara and oases next to Egypt.
      Garamantians peoples once had a major civilization in the Libyan Fezzan and Sahara comprised of several towns. The civilization peaked between the 2nd B.C. and 6th century A.D.  From where the name of the Garama is derived it is not certain, but the direct roots of Garamantian culture date back to at least the 9th century B.C. and early Garamantians are described by Herodotus in the 6th century BC as a "great nation", although having no weapons of war.
     Garamantian agriculturalists may have evolved from the neolithic agriculturalists of the region. By the time the Greeks first spoke of the them they were cattle herdsmen or pastoralists, but skilled in hydraulics and agricultural, metallurgy, glass-making and mining and used high-quality textiles. They had a well developed expertise in salt-refining as well.  Their advanced irrigation and hydraulics technology allowed them to create a green oases in the midst of the Sahara. They had many walled towns and built pyramids and pyramid funerary monuments with Meroitic Nubian affinities.  They were also noted as fishermen. Shrimp being among their favorite meals.


      According to Charles Daniels in his groundbreaking work, The Garamantes of the Libyan Sahara (1970) the type of cist burials they used which are the most ancient cairn type found throughout the northern Sahara were associated with "hollowed stone bowls reminiscent of those found in the southeastern Sahara" (pp. 32-35). They buried there dead in contracted fashion typical of Africans of the Sahara, the Nile and east Africa at that time and during the neolithic and skeletons were found covered with red ochre as elsewhere.
       Other populations of the modern Toubou-speakers may descend from the "Ethiopians" called Trogodytae who made their homes in caverns and dwelt both in Sahara and near the Red Sea. Herodotus mentions the Garamantes who though they were not war-like, hunted from four horse chariots the trogodyte Ethiopians who lived in caverns and sounded like bats. The Tibu or Toubou graves are reminiscent of  those found among the Zaghawa of Dar Fur, but they date back to an very early period in the Sahara and Nubia as well. 
        Garamantians mined Amazonite in the Acacus region of Libya known.  Amazonite anciently in Egypt was known as the Tmhy stones and  is still extracted by the Toubou, which has led some to suggest that some of the Toubou-speakers descend from the ancient Temehou people of the Libya and oases adjacent to the Nile. (p. 54, Willis, J.R.,  Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa)



Garamantian funerary monuments built with similar techniques to those of Meroe


The pyramids of Meroe in Nubia
                 

      The traders of the Garamantes served as intermediaries between the Mediterranean coast and Africa. They traded semi-precious gems that they mined with Carthaginians as well as Romans and Byzantines.     Later on elements were introduced from further east and north. The rock art of the region shows at some point in time a script similar to the Tuareg Tifinagh was introduced as well as a people similar to the feather wearing people of Nubia  and on Libyans in Egyptian reliefs. There were Phoenician or Punic elements as well. Interestingly the Tuareg word Tifinagh is supposed to mean 'belonging to the Phoenicians", and Tuareg still claim descent from Phoenicians.
      On the other hand the Tuareg by custom are a people who hold the plough in contempt and look down on the agricultural way of life and those who live it so the idea that has been put forward by some amateur historians that the Tuareg and the originally the highly agricultural Garamantes were the same people is a highly unlikely proposition. Most likely the Garamantian population had become particularly by its later era similar to that which now inhabitants the Libyan Fezzan, the Toubou or Haratin, Zaghawa and Tuareg-related peoples, with a hierarchical society consisting of both nomadic pastoralists and sedentary peoples that included war-like nobles, vassals and slaves who performed the cultivators and metallurgical work. The Garamantes grazed their oxen backwards and bareback and had this and other customs in common with modern Nilo-Saharan inhabitants of the Bornu Saharan region.

Excavated ruins of Garama or old Jerma

                                           

      In 470 AD. the Latin poet Florus records (in scatological and racist terms) the importation of Garamantians as slaves into North Africa.  In the same era the Latin writer Luxorious notes the importation of Garamantian women and men as slaves into North Africa. (Willis, 1985, p. 55).  Lucan 4.679 describes them and the Nasamones as  perustus or 'burnt up' by the sun; Arnobius in Adversus Nationes 6.5 calls them fuscus or brown or dark.  Ptolemy II had early on referred to the Garamantes as "somewhat black" and "more likely Ethiopians" rather than Libyans. They were described as nearly nude and wore loin cloth made of animal skin like the medieval Zaghawa of Kanem. And like the latter the Garamantians had herds of cattle and possessed horses and camels, and rode their oxen backwards in pasturing. Past anthropological study of Garamantian skeletal evidence by Sergi and Charles Daniels has shown that the people were morphologically not that disimilar from types found in the Sahel, Sahara and Nubia extending into the east African area today.
       As with other early proto-Berber tribes the Garamantes and Getulians were both frequently disparaged for their black complexions in early Latin literature. A recent abstract for the article "Was Black Beautiful in Vandal Africa" in African Athena: New Agendas by professor and classicist John Starks, Jr. clarifies the issue.

"Anti-black racism appears in poems of Vandal-era Africa from the Codex Salmasianus of the Anthologia Latina. Two spottepigramme viciously attack the blackness of ‘Berber’ Garamantes from the African interior. AL183Riese labels a black man, possibly a successful athlete ..., as ‘dregs that have invaded our space,’ ‘a black homeboy (verna) that loves his pitchy skin,’ an inhuman specter so dreadful that Dis should hire ‘the ink-blackened monster’ to guard the doors of Hell. Luxorius 329R calls black Garamantian women ugly and white Pontic women beautiful indicating apt local color in his West-East geographical twist on the South-North Greek racial dichotomy of Ethiopians and Thracians/Scythians (Xenoph. fr.16Diehls)."
   In actuality the ancient writings about Garamantians sound strangely contemporary in its racist aspects as we find their skin color - which was likened an ink blot here and to tar by Plautus  - was also vulgarly compared at times to fecal matter in some writings.(See African Athena: New Agendas, 2011,  p. 247.)
    Directly west of the Garamantes were the Getulians, the most numerous people of North Africa or what was then called Libya (Mela, lib. I. c. 3; Eustathius, Commentarii in Dionysium, v. 215).  Starks also mentions what Luxorius wrote seemingly about the Getules.
"Luxorius praises white, feminine beauty in classic terms (364R), but with stronger cultural relevance in tributes to the white Vandal women among his ruling-class patrons (18R.36-7; 345R.6; George). By contrast, he castigates the dancer Gattula (361,362R), whose name may suggest Gaetulian heritage (Rosenblum; Melanogaetuli Ptol. 4.6.5) and her blackness (gattula/francolin-black partridge TLL 1629), as the epitome of horrifying ugliness, an ominous evil who disgusts audiences with her gyrating body and attracts only corpses with the fruits of her success. Blacks in Vandal Africa are only participants in the ‘freak show’ of exotic animals and disfranchised societal infames, entertainers, sexual deviants, the disabled, the ugly as constructed by a reconstituted Roman society self-realized between white Vandal power and black African marginalization."
     The Getulii were anciently known as the inhabitants of southern Numidia and certain writers name them or  a portion of them the Melano-Gaitules or "black Getuli" - Getuli being either the name of a snake or partridge. The Roman writer Juvenal comically speaks of a Getulian or "a Moor" "so black you'd rather not meet up with him at night time". (Juvenal Satires 5.53-4). 
     Starks also writes,  "Juvenal's black Gaitulian Ganymede is a drover ill-equipped to serve as cupbearer, and polar opposite to a lily-white Asian pansy (flos Asiae), the stereotypical do-nothing 'eye candy' slave of opulent Roman households" (Starks, 2011, p. 253).
       Ancient writers in fact make clear the original Getulians were an extension of the nomadic occupants of Nubia and the Blue and White Nile rivers in east Africa or Sudan. The first century Roman Jewish writer, Josephus, asserts in his Antiquities of the Jews, in a section on the children and grandchildren of Ham that the Getuli were descendants of the "Evileans" or Evalioi (Havilah). As far as he was concerned they belonged to the same people that had not only settled Meroe and parts of Western Ethiopia - i.e. the Sahara and Sahel, but who had once occupied Syria or Canaan and Babylonia.
      He asserts, ''The children of Ham possessed the land from Syria to the Amanus and the mountains of Libanus, seizing upon all that was and the seacoasts, and as far as the ocean and keeping it as their own. Some of its names are utterly vanished away..."
     Continuing he speaks of the grandchildren of Ham, "Sabas [Sabax], who founded the Sabeans; Evilas [Havilah], who founded the Evileans, who are called Getuli ..." and "Sabathens who are now called by the Greeks Astaborans". He goes on to speak of Ragmus (Ra'amah) ancestor of the Ragmeans, and Yudadas or Judadas (or Dedan) who settled the  "Judadaeans, a nation of western Ethiopians and left them his name, as did Sabas the Sabaeans." 
       Josephus adds "but Nimrod the son of Chus (Kush) stayed and tyrannized at Bablyon as we have already informed you."  Of course Dedan or Yudadas, Hevilah, Ragmah and Sabas spoken of are the Dedan, Saba, Hevilah, Ra'amah, Nimrod and Sabtah named the sons of Kush, son of Ham in Genesis 10:7  and 1Chronicles 1:9 of the western Bible.  In those days Kush appears to have been the name of an area on both sides of the Red Sea.  In Africa it was south of Egypt.  The Arabian Tihama was referred to as Kush according to the medieval write ibn Mudjawir. At one time "at least the southern Tihama (from Mecca southwards) was called Kus (Ibn Mugawir, Tarikh, 83)." (See Jean Retso's, The Arabs in Antiquity, p. 231, 2003, note 52.)
        The geographies of Ptolemy and Strabo of the same era as Josephus say the Sabaeans were the occupants of Meroe. He describes the nomads wandering with their herds called Astaborans who occupied and named the Atbarah in the modern country of Sudan and the Astapus (White Nile) both rivers which insulated the Meroeitic area. The ancient Evalioi or historical Avalites were related people who were great traders of incense between Eritrea, Somalia and the Arabian peninsula named the city of Zeila or Zawila or Dthu Awilah on the gulf of Aden in northwest Somalia. Strabo names the Sinus Avalites to the south of the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb.
     According to the notable 12th century traveler Benjamin of Tudela (a locale of Spain), the Zeila or Zawila in the Libyan Fezzan was also designated Havila, and capital of the land of Ghana. He writes,  "From Assuan it is a distance of 12 days to Haluan (Helwan in Egypt near Cairo), where there are about 300 Jews.  Then people travel by caravan a journey of 50 days through the great desert called Sahara to the land of Zawilah which is Havilah in the land of Gana"  (Adler, 1906, p. 678). This land also known as Avalis was in medieval times named Zeila Uzlan or Wasilah from which Palmer thought came the Roman word Sylli or Seli or Silha (H.R. Palmer, Tuareg of the Sahara I, 1932). The region was colonized by Turks in a the late medieval period and is now called Murzuk.
      Among the ancient Gaitules were included the Autololes once spread over the coast of Mauretania Tingitana (Tangiers), Bagigaituli  and the Darae Gaituli on the steppes of the Upper Atlas or Grand Atlas who are said to have named the valley of the Draa or Wedh/Wadi Dra'a. The "Getulians, distinguished by the designation of Darae have left their name to Darah, separated from Morocco by a branch of Mount Atlas". According to the recent publication, Travel Morocco: Guide Maps and Phrasebook, the modern inhabitants are called "Drawa" and "Outside of the Draa region this name is mostly used to refer to the dark-skinned people of Draa which make up the largest portion of its inhabitants.(Travel Morocco: Guide Maps and Phrasebook, 2010)
     
Modern Berber girl of the Wedh Dra'a


   
      From the Gaitules arose a considerable portion of the clans that appear to have included the Zanata Berbers whom according to Ibn Khaldun were the most considerable of the Berbers of North Africa.  These Zanata or Zenetes included the Magherawa anciently called Machurebii in Algeria (Makhoraba and Makhorenes in Nubia) "who were on the northern side of the Daradus or the modern Wadi Darah" (Cooley, 1841, p. 58, fn. 98). In the middle of the 11th century, the Maghrawa still "controlled most the Sous and Drâa, Sijilmassa, and Aghmat as well as Fès."  Idrisi refers to them as Maghrewat es-Sudani. They are the ancestors of the Imaqqaren or Imagharan Tuareg who also founded Tin Bakht or Timbuktu. The name of the Gaitules is also thought to have evolved into the Joddala branch of the Sanhaja who were known in part were represented by the Fulata or Fulani known as Banu Warith or Barzu Fulitani of Mauretania Caesarea. 
      Another branch of the Zanata were the Jarawa or Jawara whose descendants are thought to be the Ghuara or Guara of Wargla, Touggourt and the same as Garawan or Goraan populations of Fezzan and Chad. These people are the descendants of the Garamantian traders early on whose centers were the northern oases stretching between Algeria, Tunisia  and Libya.
     As they moved southward into the Sudan they became known in manuscripts as Wangara or Wakore. As Bovill states in Silent Trade of Wangara, these traders were known in the western Sahel and Sudan as, “Wangara and Sarakore (Sarakolli), and in the east as Kardawan and Garawan (Garamantes)…” (Bovill, 1929, ). The town of Jerma is later in fact called Karran or Garan after the Gorane or Garawan population still extant there.
      In the 6th century the leader John Troglita a general of Roman Africa had taken captives of the Mauri of Aurasium which Corippus had said were "black as crows". These Mauri were doubtless the Djarawa or Garawan some of whom had come to live in the Aures and were to make up according to "a huge proportion" of the Zanata Berbers according to Taha. In the 7th century their famous female leader al-Kahina "chief of the Djarawa"  in the Aures mountains in Tunisia had assembled all the Zanata of the region and swore to throw out all of the Arabians from Ifrikiya.  She was very much disturbed that Kusayla the Sanhadja (Tuareg) chieftain had imposed his rule over the region next to hers, had become powerful and then been defeated by the Arab newcomers. It is said by Ibn Khaldun and others that Kahina was a prophetess and priestess and that her people were of the Jewish or Hebraic faith.
      Norman Solomon, in the book, Judaism (2009), speaks of this “fearsome” Berber “princess” who’s citadel was at Bijaya or Bougie in Algeria which was also home to a considerable Vandal settlement. He states, “In what is now southeast Algeria was a powerful Berber tribe, the Jerawa, which had become Jewish. With Kahina at their head, the Jerawa defeated the Arab army of Hasan al Nu’man, holding up the Arab invasion of Africa and preventing its further progress into Spain” ( p. 44). 
     One thing that links many of the Zanata confederation of clans or kabilas together is the early tradition of being largely Judaized or Jewish.  "The Jewish Ifren Maghrawa" were in the Medieval period settled at Wargla and other places in the Maghreb (according to E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Vol. 9, p. 1123)  The Maghrawa rule in Fes was seen as the golden age of Moroccan Judaism. (Park & Boum,  2006, p. 225). The book Two Thousand years of Jewish Life in Morocco or (Deux Mille Ans de Vie Juive au Maroc) that  in the valley of the Dra'a there had existed for a long time a linked conglomeration or chain of important Jewish communities that had existed for a long time.
       In addition the other major branch of the  Zanata Berbers called Nafousa are referred to by Ibn Khaldun as having been Jewish at the time of the conquest by the Arab Hassan al Nu'man (Sand, 2010, 202). The "brown skinned Ghuara" occupied the whole basin as far as beyond Tuggurt "wrote French adventuress Jean Pommerol at the turn of the 20th century.  “Tuggurt, a brown coloured town, inhabited by Ghuara, is very like Wargla in appearance” (Pommerol, 1900, p. 233, 241, 245).  In W.B. Hodgson’s translation of “Notes of a journey into the interior of Northern Africa” by Hadji Ebn ed-din el Eghwati we read: "Ghadames is a large town...the inhabitants speak the Berber language...Their complexion is black." Elsewhere it says, “The color of the population of Tuggurt is black, and they are called Erwagha" (Hodgson, 1831, pp. 18 and 22).  
        The Wargla oasis of the M'zab was apparently said to have been occupied by the ancient Garamantes in the time of Sallustius (Pommerol,  1900, p. 232) who refers to the people there as such. The descendants of the ancient Garamantes are now called the Ghuara, and occupy the Wadi Mia and the whole basin of the Wad Rir (Rig), as far as beyond Tuggurt (Pommerol,  1900, p. 232). Stefan Goodwin recalls the writings of Africanist George Murdock on the early peoples of the region of Mzab and other Saharan oases:  “Some records from classical antiquity indicate that oases as far north as Gadames in Tunisia and Guarara, Tuggurt and Wargla in Algeria were inhabited preponderantly by ‘black’ Africans with woolly hair who apparently were indigenous to the central Sahara and northern Africa at this time…”

Ghadames - ancient town of the Garamantes in the Libyan Fezzan
"Ghadames is a large town...the inhabitants speak the Berber language...Their complexion is black." From Notes on a Journey into the Interior of North Africa" W.B. Hodgson


Touggurt home of the Ghuara (or Jawara) Berbers

“Tuggurt, a brown coloured town, inhabited by Ghuara, is very like Wargla in appearance” (Jean Pommerol, Among the Women of the Sahara, 1900, p. 233, 241, 245)



       Robert Brown in his notes explaining Leo Africanus writings on Wargla (Ghuargela)  also claimed of  “Wargla and Tuat ” that  “the black races originally occupying those Saharan oases (were) driven south” only  “with the coming of the Libyan Tuareg” (Brown, 1896, p. 217  fn. 78).   The descendants of these Saharan commercants and traders Wangara or Songhai were said to have founded and ruled Ghana and Songhai  and Dar Tichitt.


Ghardaia in Mzab founded by Jewish Berbers turned Ibadites or Abadites fleeing Wargla








                                            
     The Ibadite Maghrawa fled to Ghardaia which they founded “Righ or Arigh derives its name from the Righa Berbers a group of the Maghrawa Berbers  belonging to the great Zenata family.”  (Lewicki, 1988, p. 154).
      
      Legends had it that Wargla was was built by King Solomon of Jersualem who was master of the winds and clouds and that the Queen Makeda of Sheba considered to be Candace of Nubia would often visit. (Pommerol, 1900, 230, 232). The Zaghai or Songhai traders claimed their ancestral dynasties to have come from Wargla of the M'zab region as well.  Interestingly Arthur Godbey in 1930 and earlier coloniliast observers spoke of  the inhabitants their saying, “in the Wargla Oasis of Algeria, 350 miles from the Mediterranean, is a colony of Jews ‘as black as Negroes'" (See also John Beddoe, On the Physical Characteristics of the Jews, Transactions of teh Ethnological Society of London, Vol. I. 1861, p. 234 ).
 
      The writer of Hebrewism of West Africa (1999) wrote what one documenter wrote of the Jews of Wargla and Mzab:
 "The most interesting is the group of Berber heretics called (Abadites) who in the 10th century fled from Mussulman. They established themselves in the desert and to this day have the most mysterious rites and customs.  Slouchz is of the opinion that these Jews of Mzab have best preserved the customs and manners peculiar to the Jews of Africa. He quotes the opinion of Dr. Huguet: 'The type of Biblical Jew has been preserved to a remarkable degree among the Jews of M'zab, and adds  'And indeed, in all of the district of the Sahara from Tripoli to Dra'a, the traveler could easily imagine himself transported into an ancient Jewish colony - a very primitive agricultural colony, for it has neither Cohaniim or Leviim, nor any written traditions. For many centuries these were the counterpart of the Jewish pre-Islamic settlements of Arabia, and today they are a marvelous survival of the Israel epoch of the Judges in the Wastes of the Great Desert.'" p. 209
Man of the town of Gourara north of Tuat - home of the Zanata Berbers
  
"The descendants of the ancient Garamantes are now called the Ghuara, and occupy the Wady-Mia with the whole of the basin of the Wady-R'ir, as far as beyond Tuggurt"  Jean Pommerol Among the Women of the Sahara (1900) p. 232.
 

  To be continued in Part II -  Zaghawa, Songhay, Wangara link to the emergent states across the Sudan...

 

See also the unique new blog - http://greatafricanists.blogspot.com/

Abun-Nasr, J. (1987). A history of the Maghrib in the Islamic period. Cambridge University Press.

Barthelemy, A. (1987). Black faced maligned race: The Representation of Blacks in English drama
            from Shakespeare to Southerne. Louisiana State University Press

Bovill, E.W. (1929). The Silent Trade of the Wangara.  Journal of the Royal African Society, 29(113),
                    pp.27-38

Daniels, C. ( 1970 ) The Garmantes of southern Libya. Oleander Press.


Godbey, A. (1930). The lost tribes a myth: Suggestions towards rewriting Hebrew history. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


Lewicki, T. (1988). The role of the Sahara and the Saharians in relationships between north and south. In Muammad Fāsī & Ivan Hrbek (Eds.). Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century, (pp. 276-313) UNESCO. International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa.

Pommerol, J. (1900).  Among the women of the Sahara.  

Retso, J. ( 2003 ).  The Arabs in antiquity: Their history from the Assyrians to the Umayyads. Routledge

Sands, S.  (2010). The Invention of the Jewish race. Resling.

Starks, J.H. (2011).  "Was Black Beautiful in Saharan Africa" in African Athena New Agendas

Williams, J.J.  (1999).  Hebrewisms of West Africa. Black Classics Press. (Reprint) 



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Modern Algerians


Spanish rendition of the 1237 Battle of Puig  - Valencia (Balensiya)  Spain (Almohad "Moors" and Spaniards). Painted by Marsal/Marcelo de Sajonia (Saxon) between 1393 and 1410 


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