Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Arab of the Arabs   Black Roots of Semitic Arabia by D. W. Reynolds

Ummayad Period leader Maslama ibn Abdal- Malik (8th c. ) with his pure Arab warriors as portrayed by the Byzantines (Greco-Romans) their long-term sworn enemies. The true "khudar" Arabs or Arabs from Arabia ruled Iraq before being taken over by the Iranian or Turko-Persian originated rulers of the Near East known as the Abbasids.  Maslama was son of the Caliph Abd al Malik Marwan born in Medina.

Modern Saudi Arabian

“…the predominant complexion of the Arabs is dark brownish black  and that of the non-Arabs is white.” Ibn Mandour (14th Century)  Lisaan al-Arab IV:209.

 The south Arabs represent a residue of hamitic populations which at one time occupied the whole of Arabia. “ John D. Baldwin from Pre-historic nations or inquiries Concerning Some of the Great peoples and Civilizations of Antiquity. Harpers 1869

“The Zanj say that God did not make them black in order to disfigure them; rather it is their environment that made them so. The best evidence of this is that there are black tribes among the Arabs, such as the Banu Sulaim bin Mansur, and that all the peoples settled in the Harra, besides the Banu Sulaim are black.” Abu Uthman Al-Jahiz of Iraq 9th century A.D.

        One might be surprised, but it is noteworthy that in our time black American soldiers in Northern Iraq have found themselves surrounded by children exclaiming excitedly “the original Muslim, the original Muslim!” Professional basketball players from teams in America including the NBA upon visiting Turkey have also found themselves called “Arab” or "Arapy". In fact in much of the area directly North of the so-called Arab world the word "Arab" is the equivalent of black African.
      As David Goldenberg writes, “This view of the Arab as dark-skinned is also found among other peoples, as is indicated by the term arap (i.e., Arab) meaning 'black African' in modern Turkish, Greek, and Russian, as well as in Yiddish” (Goldenberg, 2005, p. 124)And, this is the case because their peoples still have folk history of the original Arab invaders of their lands. The descriptions and depictions of the earliest Arabs or kara-Arapy (“black Arabs”) are not infrequent in their histories and folktales.
     There is, for example, the texts of the Kurdish writer Ibn Athir (12th – 13th century) which speak of the Sulaym/Sulaim folk hero "Sa’d al-Aswad" as being literally black because he came from the “purest” Arabs. A Persian Jewish Targum to Song 1: 5 uses the phrase “black as the Kushites who live in the tents of Kedar.” to describe peoples of north Arabia.  (Goldenberg, p. 244) There are also numerous early indigenous paintings as found below.

Medieval depiction found in a church in Estonia shows an encounter of the Saracens with the European Christians of Estonia.  The black Saracens are shown fallen from their ships and in the water apparently cast there with the help of the angel Michael who is depicted as European.  They beg for mercy and are converted to Christianity. 

 Depiction of Serbian man defeating an Arab invader

       Arab tribes had been settled since not long after the birth of Christianity in the region of Turkey (Anatolia) and northern Mesopotamia so the peoples of those regions had become quite familiar with what such people looked like.  Unfortunately modern Arab nationalism as created the impression that such peoples located in the region are "Arab" is seen by modern conversation today. The discussion on the blogpost below is the perfect example of what happens when one begins to confuse nationality with biological origins. : )
       The early accounts with descriptions of the earliest Arabians, along with physical anthropological evidence show that until approximately 600 years ago peoples of mainly African-Asiatic affiliation dominated most of peninsular Arabia.  Though today a good number of people of the Arabian peninsula resemble the majority of the people of the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine).  In fact certain writers of Syrian and Andalusian origin such as Al-Umari and Ibn Khaldun of the 14th century considered Arabia part of the “Bilad es-Sudan” - or lands of “the Sudan” or black peoples. Ibn Khaldun in particular includes the regions of Arabia (Hijaz, and Central Arabia or Nejd) in his chapter on “the 2nd zone of Sudan”.

Dawasir tribe of south central Arabia *Nejd) Yemamah - known as the land of "Peleg" or Falaj al -Aflaj.  Their ancestor Peleg son of Shem brother of Qahtan (Joktan), according to tradition, first made irrigation channels found throughout the region.
      Ibn Khaldun in his own words asserts the following about the zones of Bilad as-Sudan or “the lands of the blacks”.  He writes first, “The first and second zones are excessively hot and black…The inhabitants of the first and second zones in the south are called the Abyssinians, the Zanj, and the Sudanese. These are synonyms used to designate the particular nation that has turned black” (Rosenthal, 1954, p. 171).
     Another modern scholar Uthmān Sayyid Ahmad Ismā’īl Bīlī summarized in more detail what Ibn Khaldun relates of the peoples and geography of the two zones of the blacks or Bilad es-Sudan.

West Africa, according to these sub-zonal divisions, falls in the first section of the first zone. This section also includes the lands of the Veiled Berber. Nuba is in the middle of this first zone, in the fourth section of it and Abyssinia is in the fifth section, the same section in which the Indian ocean ends. Yemen is in the sixth section of the first zone. Ghana and Zaghawa as well as Qanuriyah (the lands of the Kanuri or Bornu) fall in the first and second sections of the second Zone and Hijaz and Nejd are in the sixth section of that zone. The Buja lands lie in the third and fourth sections of the second zone.  Upper Egypt lies in the fourth section of the second zone and lower Egypt lies in the fifth section of it (Bili, 2008, pp. 17-18).

     Thus Khaldun names the regions comprising the “hot and black” zones the Nejd or Central Arabia, Hijaz or Western Arabia and the Yemen which refer to each of the portions of Arabia, except for the East where Persians had already settled in large numbers.  After the 1st zone which includes the Yemen and Abyssinians and the  2nd zone comprising the Ghana, Hijaz, Nejd, the Beja (Buja). He asserts that most of Egypt falls also into the bilad-es-Sudan. Interestingly he leaves out Western "India" which included modern day Pakistan and Punjab which was apparently in his day was already much closer to the peoples of Syria and the Mediterranean in appearance.
     Islamic scholar Wesley Muhammed writes of Ibn Khaldun’s schemata:

 Ibn Khaldun (d. 1405) in his Muqqadima, has an important discussion of the seven zones and their inhabitants.  According to Ibn Khaldun’s formulation, there are three ‘middle’ or moderate zones: 3, 4, and 5. The  inhabitants are distinguished by temperate bodies, complexions, character qualities and general conditions. Included in these temperate zones are the Maghrib, Syria, the two Iraqs, Western India, China, and Spain. Iraq and Syria are in the very center, we are told, and are thus the most temperate.  Zones 6 and 7 includes the European Christian nations, Eastern Europe, Russia and the lands of the Turks. These are the white lands and Zone 7 is excessively cold, producing excessively white peoples with blue eyes, freckled skin, and blond hair. (Muhamad, 2012, )
      In Medieval texts Bilad es-Sudan according to Bernard Lewis often included areas extending from Western Africa to parts of India Ocean and Southeast Asia the latter being the lands of the black countries of “Sin” - a usual reference in early Arab texts to Java and Masin (with the latter being Indo-China, then land of the Kunlun/Kwanlun peoples) of early Arab writers such as al-Jahiz and Ya’qubi (circa 9th c.)(Lewis, B.). Today, in fact, many peoples of the Dhana or Dahna desert extending north of the Central Arabian region to the borders of the Tihama  are still largely of a dark brown color probably similar to their ancestors belonging to the tribes of Qays Ailan, otherwise known as Muzar/Mudar (also written Muzir or Mudar).

Some men from the region of Tihamah

       The tribal confederation of Muzar (Mizra of the Bible - mistranslated in the West as the country called “Egypt”) were the descendants of peoples dwelling in black goat skin tents include the numerous northern Arabian tribes, descendents of “Al Nas” (also known as Qays or Qays’ Ailan) as well as of his traditional brother “Al Yas” or Elias.  Among them were clans of  Quraysh, Kinana, Hudhail, Asad, Tamim, Dabba, Ribab (Rabab), Rabi’a, Bahila, Sulaym, Bakr bin Wa’il, Numayr, Anmar and Hilal of the Hawazin. From the latter were also derived Banu or Beni ‘Amir bin Sa’a Sa’a and their sub tribes of Ka’b or Chub, al-Muntafik’ and Uqayl/Aqil.  
      These Banu Amir were perhaps the largest of the north Arabian bedouin or Mudar confederations, consisting of dozens of sub-tribes. A colonial writer noted that, “Ibn Khaldun states on the authority of Ibn Hazm that the great sept of the banu ‘Amir ibn Sa’sa’ah alone equaled in numbers all the other Modarite tribes.”  Their descendants still occupy the Central Arabian deserts and southern Iraq. In Iraq they in fact today face much discrimination due to their still “khudar” or near black “Arab” complexion.

     The Arab Press Service first released the following statement in 2008.

"There are two main categories of blacks in Iraq, mostly in the south, who total about 300,000: those of East African origin, numbering around 100,000; and those of who are Arab and originate from the Hejaz, claiming to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad, who moved to this country mostly in the 1750s and 1980s. The latter are mostly from the Muntafek tribe to which 'Abdul-Mahdi belongs. But both groups used to be far more numerous in the past centuries, many of them having inter-married with the locals and thus the colour of their skin has since been changed…”  APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map

A leader for the rights of blacks  in Iraq  most of whom descend from early Arabian stock.

       By the 10th century these sub-tribes of Banu Amir or Hawazin/Hawazeen bin Mansour named Uqayl, Ka’b (from which come the Muntafik) and Kilab, had left the southern Nejd or deserts of south Central Arabia to move into Iraq and Syria by the early Abbasid period.  The Rabi’a and Hilal of the Hawazin with their sister tribe of Sulaym bin Mansour had also moved into northern Africa by the 11th century where they were the dominant Arab peoples there. Many had in fact crossed over into Spain where a Persian author, Ibn Rabihu, wrote in the same century penned a book called, The Precious Necklace (or Al-Iqd al Farid). In this text the author notes how a 7th century administrator of the Qahtan tribe asserted that an Arab with fair skin would be “unthinkable” and was “rarer than one of the 7 wonders of the world”.
This true-to-life painting by the German-born Karl Haag reads "Bachist, a Hawazeen Bedawee (Bedouin) and Mabruk his little son". Haag visited the Arabian peninsula, including Jordan, in the 19th century.
       It was these populations of original or indigenous Arabs of peninsular Arabia that the 14th century Arab linguist and grammarian Ibn Mandhour (or Manzur -of Tunisa and Egypt) spoke of  in his text, Arab Lessons  (or Lisaan al-Arab) noting that Arabs were distinguished by their brown-black skins and kinky hair, while fair skin and lank hair was characteristic of  the Persians (Lisaan al-Arab ).
       In 1862, G. Rawlinson described the appearance of the Banu Ka'b or Cha'ab bin Rebi'ah and Muntafik bin Uqayl bin Ka'b (Cha'ab or Chub) of the Beni Amier claiming they had a complexion comparable to that of the "Galla" (Oromo) of Ethiopia (Rawlinson, 2002, p. 35), but were also "tall" and muscular". Another volume of his Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World reads, "The Cha'ab Arabs, the present possessors of the more southern part of Babylonia are nearly black..." (2002, p. 165). 
 Elsewhere he writes, The Cha’ab Arabs, the present possessors of the more southern parts of Babylonia are nearly black and the ‘black Syrians’ of whom Strabo speaks seem to represent the Babylonians.”  In fact Rawlinson was nearly correct in his assessment which equated such people with the Babylonians as the closely related clan of Banu Numayr ibn Qassit according to Arab tradition had in remote times conquered and settled in Babylonia in ancient times under their leader Numayr or Numeiri (meaning panther), and he is none other than the “Nimrod son of Kush” of the Hebrew book of Genesis. 
Bedouin from Dhana (or "Dahna") desert, north central Arabia

Edward Balfour in the 1880s described the Ka’b as a powerful Arab clan near the banks of the Euphrates from Korna to Samvat in the province of Baghdad (Balfour, 1885, p. 163). In the 1994 Islamic Desk Reference, we are told al-Muntafiq are a clan of the Amir bin Sa’sa’a that dominated the country between Baghdad to Basra between the 17th and 19th centuries however, their “might declined through increasingly centralising Ottoman policy” (Van Donzel, 1994, p. 293).

The Misread of Medieval Descriptions

“…all the peoples settled in the Harra besides the Banu Sulaim are black like the tribe of the Banu Sulaym who live in the lava lands of north Arabia and are rendered black-skinned like their environment.” Al Jahiz of Iraq 9th century. 
The Arabs used to take pride in their brown and black complexion (al-sumra wa al-sawād) and they had a distaste for a white and fair complexion (al-umra wa al-shaqra), and they used to say that such was the complexion of the non-Arabs.”  Ibn Abi al-Hadid 13th c. citing the 9th century Al-Mubarrad in Sharh nahj al-balaghah, V:56.
Bedouin from the Ammarin clan of the Banu Attiyeh, a large clan originally from Jordan, northwest Saudi Arabia and southern Palestine

Not all, but many of the original bedouin of Palestine, Jordan and north Arabia in general retain their ancient Arab looks and customs.  Such tribes, once known as the confederation of "Qidar" or "Kedar" spread between southern Mesopotamia and Central Arabia, often still dwell in their black tents made of goat skin.

      Most accounts through the 15th century in fact continued to denote “the Arabs” as a people possessing the complexion of Nubians and other sub-Saharan Africans. Contrary to popular conceptions in our day the bedouin Arabians were well known for their dark color to the point where some people even assume, wrongly, that the name came from “ereb” or eh-reb meaning dusk or evening in Hebrew. The words Arabs used for themselves were in actuality the same terms used to describe the Ethiopians,  Abysssinians and Sudanic peoples in general. These included bedouin terms for very dark skin such as adam (connoting some dark like soil), akhdar or khudar (from a word meaning green iron), abyad (literally white and connoting shining like coals or unblemished), aswad (from sawad connoting black soil), sumr or samar and asmar (something just short of black). Today these words can mean different things in different countries of the Middle East or Arab-speaking world, but the way those same terms are used by Arab bedouin are not always identical to them.
      Wesley Muhammad cited the specialists in Arab bedouin dialects: “In Negev Arabic, Borg informs us, there are three near-synonyms for the black category: azraq (blue), asmar, and aswad. He affirms: ‘In [Negev Arabic] … as in other Arabic vernaculars, asmar is the usual designation for dark skin short of (true) black’” (Muhammad 2012, p. 13; Hare and Kressel, 2009, p. 98).
      The term ahmar or ‘red’ was reserved for people with ruddy skin the color of the Rum (or Byzantines who were often described as blonds), Slavs, Turks, Syrians, and the Persians or other Central Asians. It is often mistakenly believed that the term abyad or its variants was used for people now commonly called “white” in the West, but in reality “white” or abyad  in the Arabic color paradigm was and is commonly used for people of black color who had shining or bright clear complexions.
      Arabian poets, for example, used the term “abyad” for people with skin shining like coal. An ancient Arab poem describes the “sons of Abyssinia” as having both “white faces” and “black faces” with hair of long peppers (Nicolle and McBride, 1991, p. 11). The term “white” in the original Arab context expressed luminosity or brightness of tone, and later frequently a shade of blackness described as “black buckwheat.”
  Thus did Ibn Mandour write -  
     “The Arabs don’t say a man is white [or: “white man,” rajul abyad∙] due to a white complexion. Rather, whiteness [al-abyad] with them means an external appearance that is free from blemish; when they mean a white complexion they say ‘red’ (ahmar)… And the Arabs attribute white skin to the slaves.” ( p. 22)

      Bedouin  who are biologically Syrian with Arab tribal names such as this  Shammar group began moving further south into Arabia after the 1600s.  According to the Syrians skin that was fair or "ahmar" among Arabians was thought to have been a product of descendancy from white Arab slaves.  Groups like the above Shammar descend from Arabs who have mixed with the Syrians they have been settled amongst for centuries. 

The original or indigenous darker-skinned Shammar from Arabia whom the man above represents, originated with the Tayyi Arabs of  Yemen

       Apparently Al –Zabidi (XI:73) who wrote a dictionary of classical Arabic in the 18th century said similarly, “Arabs don’t say a man is abyad due to white skin. Rather, abyad with them is an appearance free from blemish. When them mean white skin they say ahmar” (Muhammad, 2012, p. 8). And even, today in certain Arab-speaking societies, when “referring to skin, an Arabic speaker may use [abyad] (“white”) as a euphemism for [aswad] (“black”)” (Allam, J., 2000, p. 78).  Another recent scholar has said, “the word meaning white can be used to describe the color of coal…” (Abdel-Malek, 2000, p. 302)       
         The Syrian historians whose lingua franca was Arabic were frank in their descriptions of Arabian people that had settled their country. Syrian-born al-Dhahabi of the 14th century traveling through the Hijaz or western Arabia area extending south of Jordan to the Yemen observed that a fair skin was “very rare” to see in land of Hijaz (where were Mecca, Medina and Jizan) and stated that persons possessing such a complexion were assumed to be descendants of slaves i.e. Syrians, Persians, Turks and Rum (Byzantines). He and Jahiz of the 9th century implied the phrase then in use “as fair-skinned as a slave” was due to this political situation. Most slaves of the Arabs in this time had come from the peoples they had settled amongst, including in Syria, Central Asia and Byzantium, especially if they were of Christian origin.
        As mentioned previously earlier documents name these tribal confederations dwelling in goat skins Kedar or Qidar and later as Nabataeans. In Arab genealogy in fact “Nabit” is said to be the son of Qaydar (Kedar) or sometimes  the same as Qaydar, and both of these names came to connote blackness. The 11th century Syrian Akbar as- Zaman plainly states “Among the children of Canaan are the Nabit, Nabit signifies black…”  Medieval Islamic writings of the Abbasid period like those an the 9th c. Persian al-Khwarazimi also speak of “the black Nabatis” (The Life of  Imam 'Ali bin Musa al-Rida, by Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi, translated by Jasim al-Rasheed).

Huweit'at or Huwaytat are bedouin stretching between the Tihama, Jordan and Sinai still claiming descent from the ancient Nabataeans.
       The Chinese and Central Asian observers more than a few times make mention of the very black and near black coloring of Arabia’s peoples as late as the 15th century. An account of Ma Huang and admiral under Emperor Zheng He described the people of the 300 mile area of the northern Hijaz stretching between Mecca (Mochie) stretching past Jedda to Jizan.  It  reads, “The people of this country are stalwart and fine looking, and their limbs and faces are of a very dark purple color” (Mancall, 2006, pp.126 -127; Waley-Cohen, 2000, p. 48; Mills, 1970, pp. 173-174).
       Today, however, much of the population of this region and in fact of much of Arabia are the product of many diverse populations of people who originated outside of the peninsula who settled the peninsula during various invasions since that period. Since the time of al-Dhahabi, Ibn Khaldun and the 15th century Chinese explorers of the Arabian and African coasts, many mercenary populations have settled in the Hijaz, beginning with the Mameluk Turks of the 15th and 16th centuries. In addition bedouin from Syria who were more biologically Syrian than Arabian in origin have also moved into northern and central territories of the Arabian peninsula since the 16th century.
By the 19th century the peninsula had been completely modified.  But most colonialists appear to have been aware that the original indigenes of the Arabian peninsula or least modified of the Arabians were in fact close to Africans in appearance.  An 1844 a gazeteer mentions that the inhabitants “of Mecca, with the exception of a few Hedjaz Bedouin, are foreigners, either foreigners or the offspring of foreigners…”  The famous town of Jedda or Djidda too had come to be occupied by the peoples “of almost every Muslim nation” from Afghanistan and Kurdistan to Persia and Africa (M’Culloch & Haskel, 1844, p. 332).
       Sir Richard Burton wrote of the Hamidah a large clan of the Banu Salim from the Harb tribe of Hijaz (still claiming descent from Qahtan). He spoke of them as  “small chocolate colored beings, stunted and thin… mops of bushy hair” and remarked that were a “great Hejazi tribe that has kept its blood pure for the last 13 centuries” (Burton, R., 1879, p. 173)     
     Back in the 19th century Charles Doughty in his Travels in Arabia also wrote about the black and shining skins of the tribe of Hatheil or Hudhayl bin Mudrika he met in the Tihama not far from Mecca.  Hudhail is closely related the Kinanah and Quraysh tribes. (Doughty, 2011, p. 535) Among them are the clan of Lahiyan or  " LIHYAN, an Arab tribe, a branch of the Hudhail" (Houtsma, 1993, p. 26)

Ancient statue of the Lihyanites found at Dedan in Arabia.  "The Lihyanites were driven out by the Nabateans whose capital Petra (in today’s Jordan) is one of the wonders of the world."
       The modern Banu Lahiyan (or Lihyan) belong to the Hudhail or Hatheyl. Doughty also wrote of them, "a nomad family met us of (Hatheyl or Qoraysh). They were slight bodies and blackish; a kind of tropical Arabs..." (p. 528). The indigenous Jewish populous of the Hijaz were little different. An Italian traveller from  Bologna circa 1500, wrote the following of the Kahanim descendants of Khaibar.

       “At the end of eight days we found a mountain [Khaibar] which appeared to be ten or twelve   
     miles in circumference, in which mountain there dwell four or five thousand Jews, who go     
     naked or six spans, and have a feminine voice, and ARE MORE BLACK THAN ANY OTHER 
     COLOUR.  They live entirely upon the flesh of sheep, and eat nothing else.  They are circumcised 
     and confess that they are Jews; and if they can get a Moor into their hands, they skin him alive.”
     pp. 14-15 (1997) The Itinerary of Ludovico di Varthema of Bologna from 1502 to 1508  translated     
     from the original Italian by John Winter Jones.

      It is said the the small dark-skinned "dwarf" David ha Ruebeni (conveniently called "swarthy" in modern descriptions) who became a sensation in Europe came from Khaibar.  He was in fact according to the Jewish commentarist or Talmudist born 1526 Gedaliah Ben Yohanan ibn Yahya ben Joseph in "a man of dark complexion, like a Negro, and of low stature" who claimed to come from the king of the tribe of Reuben) Shalshelet Ha Kabbalah, Jerusalem, 1962 p. 112.  (The tribe of Rubanniyyah/Reuben was evidently the name of a clan of the Soleim Arabs).
       Thus urban towns of such regions of the Hijaz and Nejd are not populated by the same groups as when Dhahabi and Ma Huang wrote. In some parts of the Yemen or south this change had started occurring even earlier.  During the early Islamic era and long before the explorations of Dhahabi and Ma Huang, Persians and other Ebna or non-Arabs had taken over such early Sabaean urban centers of the Yemen such as Sana’a quite literally expelling and infuriating once purely Arab tribes such as Banu Hamdan (mentioned as a clan of the Sabaeans in early inscriptions). It is possibly for this reason the leader of a large tribe of Maddhij to which Hamdan belonged is said to have said that a fair-skinned Arab is “unthinkable” and “inconceivable”.  It was the beginning of a kind of Arab or black nationalism that intensified during the Abbasid period in which certain tribal leaders named themselves al-Aswad meaning “the black”.


Children of Banu Maddhij

       During the Abbasid period many non-Arab groups began to take over the Islamic world north and eastwards of Arabia. The Abbasid Caliphate and culture quickly became more Central Asian than Arab. Their leaders unquestionably came to possess a sense of cultural superiority and pride over the Arabs and their feelings about them are articulated in a retort by Abbasid al Tha’alibi to the Hashemite Arabs in which they are insulted and advised to go back from where they came from or in their words “retreat to the Hijaz” and “resume eating lizards” (Mackey, 1996, p. 59).
      It was in this early period  Jahiz along with  al –Mubarrad wrote that the Arabs “take pride in their brown and black complexion (al-sumra wa al-sawād) and they had a distaste for a white and fair complexion”.  It was also in this period that a revolt took place by these same Arabs in southern Iraq, although it has long inaccurately referred to as the Zanj revolt (Talhami, 1977).
      M.A. Shaban, specialist in Abbasid history, had this to say,

All the talk about slaves rising against the wretched conditions of work in the salt marshes of Basra is a figment of the imagination and has no support in the sources. On the contrary, some of the people who were working in the salt marshes were among the first to fight against the revolt. Of course there were a few runaway slaves who joined the rebels, but this still does not make it a slave revolt. The vast majority of the rebels were Arabs of the Persian Gulf supported by free East Africans who had made their homes in the region" (Shaban, 1976, p. 101).

       The whole idea of Central East African “Zanj” slaves revolting against slave masters thus appears to be another Western colonialist projection.  Not only were their mainly free men involved, but they were mostly Arabians rather than enslaved Africans.
A poet named Ibn el Rumi (d. 896) was part Iranian and part Byzantine, yet, an advocate of the Arabs who were at the time being ill–treated and mocked for their blackness, among other things.  He came to their defense with a letter to the Abbasids:
You insulted (the family of the Prophet) because of their blackness (bi-l-sawad), while there are still deep black, pure-blooded Arabs. However, you are white – the Romans (Byzantines) have embellished your faces with their color. The color of the family of Hashim was not a bodily defect (aha).[From poem of Abu al-Hasan Ali b. al-Abbas b. Jurayj (Ibn al-Rumi) (d. 896), apud Abu al-Faraj al-Isbahani, Maqatil al-tãalibiyyin, 759] (Williams, 2009, p. 32). 
          In the south Central Asian or Scythic merchants from peoples such as the Seres had also been settled on the coasts of southern Arabia and probably the Horn of Africa since Parthian times. But the settlement of groups of the Azd who had moved east into Oman from the Asir region in the far southwest coincided with increasing numbers of Iranic peoples in Oman who had originated near the southern part of the Caspian Sea and Anatolia. The Iranian Buyyids who had originated near the southern part of the Caspian Sea and Anatolia had taken over places like Oman in the 10th and 11th centuries. Seljuk Turks also controlled the area between the 11th and 12th centuries. And the Ayubbids also of Turkish ethnicity had ruled the Yemen in the 12th and 13th century and other Turkish and Slavic populations of the Ottomans again conquered towns in the Yemen including Sana’a during the 16th century.
      Al-Jahiz, a 9th century Iraqi had his own ideas on why there was a difference between the peoples of Arabia and those to the North and East. He wrote “all the peoples settled in the Harra besides the Banu Sulaim are black like the tribe of the Banu Sulaym who live in the lava lands of north Arabia and are rendered black-skinned like their environment” (Swain, Boyce-Stones, p. 255)  Jahiz continued stating that though they took their wives from the Byzantines but through the generations their original color usually was seen again in their children, “’no sooner have they reproduced for three generations that the lava lands have turned them all into the color of the Banu Sulaym’” (Fakhr Sudan 219).   

        From Jahiz in fact we learn that in many places these Arabs had settled by his time in Central Asia and other places, they had come to look much like the native people. He notes that the people of Central Asia could not be distinguished from the people with fair “red” skins and chestnut moustaches. This was certainly the case in parts of Syria, Spain and Central Asia and mainly due to the Arabs taking many non-Arab concubines (wives). A large portion of the Middle East in fact was simply converted in speech to Arabic, just as previously they had been converted to Aramaic another language apparently of Arabian (Nabataean) origin. Jahiz though wrongly attributes these differences in appearance to the environment rather than the fact that the children of the new Arab settlers had descended from non-Arab women of each region.
        Again, today much of the population of Arabia is the product of many diverse groups of people who were originally from outside of the peninsula who settled the peninsula during various invasions. Their descendants consider themselves Arabs as do other people of regions mixed with the early Arab conquerors.  But colonialists appear to have been aware that the indigenous or least modified Arabians were in fact close to Africans in appearance.
       To the south of Hijaz was the Yemen of the Himyarites whose descendants according to colonialists had traditions of an African origin. Bertram Thomas on the modern remnants of the ancient Qahtan tribes: “…these tribes – with the exception of the Harasis – have a tradition of African origin, the order of their local antiquity being Shahara, Bautahara, Mahra, Qara.”  (Found in  The South Eastern Borderlands of Rub-al Khali,  Bertram Thomas  vol. 73 No. 3  March 1929.)
       The 19th century Orientalist John Baldwin recognized the dark-skinned Yemenites as the original inhabitants of Arabia. He penned the following:

     “To the Cushite race belongs the oldest and purest Arabian blood, and also that great and very ancient civilization whose ruins abound in almost every district of the country. ..The south Arabs represent a residue of hamitic populations which at one time occupied the whole of Arabia” (Baldwin, 1874, p. 74).

   A Baron von Maltzan wrote of the peoples of the Yemen on , “The inhabitants of this part of Arabia nearly all belong to the race of Himyar. Their complexion is almost as black as the Abyssinians, their bodies are very finely formed slender, with slender yet strong limbs, their faces are semitic… ” see (Von Maltzan, p. 121)
The Yafa'a originally a clan of the Rahawiyyin tribe are said to descend  "the people of Qahtan" through his sons Himyar and Kahlan in the genealogies. 
      An American encyclopedia says similarly of the peoples further west of Himyaritic speech in Hadramaut and Oman known as the Mahra:  The Himyarites are mentioned in classical literature under the name of Homerites. They traced their origin to Himyar, grandson of Saba and descendant of Joktan or Kahtan, one of the mythical ancestors of the Arabs.  According to their traditions, they became the dominant race in Yemen about 3,000 years before the time of Mohammed… Direct descendants of the Himyarites are the tribes of Mahrah.  They are black in color, medium in stature, Semitic in countenance…” (from the 1873, The American Cyclopaedia; A popular dictionary of general knowledge, Volume 8, p. 734)

Man of the Mahra
Mahra man. The Mahra tribe of Oman and Hadramaut are thought to descend from the Sabean tribe called "Rhammanitae" (Ra'amah) and still speak the Himyarite-related dialects.

       Others familiar with the appearance of the modern Arabian populations speculated that some of the
 inhabitants were also ancestral to certain peoples of southern India as well. In 1948 an officer writing for
a publication entitled -  Handbook of the Territories which form the Theatre of Operations
of the Iraq Petroleum Company Limited and its Associated Companies wrote the following, “In Arabia the first inhabitants were probably a dark-skinned, shortish population intermediate, between the
 African Hamites and the Dravidians of India and forming a single African Asiatic belt with these. " 
      Finally Henry Field offered his assessment “Although the Arab of today is sharply differentiated from the Negro of Africa, yet there must have been a time when both were represented by a single ancestral stock; in no other way can the prevalence of certain Negroid features be accounted for in the natives of Arabia.”

Men from the mountains of Dhofar of Oman belong mainly to the Qara or Kara folk who claim descent from the ancient Kinda 

Archeology and Forensics of Arabia: Unearthing Black Arabia

        Bolstering these suppositions was and is the forensic evidence of physical anthropologists and archeologists who had found that most of the ancient humans remains were not much different then those across the sea in Africa. Thus G. Elliot-Smith wrote, “There is a considerable mass of evidence to show that there was a very close resemblance between the proto-Egyptians and the Arabs before either became intermingled with Armenoid racial elements” ( Elliot Smith 2007, p. 54).
Statue of a ruler from the ancient site of Nashqum (6th -5th centuries B.C.) in central Yemen kingdom of the Qataban or Sheban descents of Joktan/Qahtan. Ancient Qahtan peoples were the predominant peoples of Arabia. These Sabaeans or "Shebans" were also settled in Abyssinia and Sudan in the centuries before Christ. Both regions of Arabia and Yemen - the land of Sheba - were considered part of "India Minor" and "Ethiopia" by ancient Greeks.
       According to leading archeologists of the last century several of the major lithic industries and
 rock art also showed clear resemblances to some of the East African, proto-Egyptian and Saharan materials. The elongated slender people wearing ostrich feathers represented in the art of the deserts such as the Rub-al Khali during the period now called the Late Arabian Pastoral (LAP) period appeared to represent populations bearing physical and cultural similarities to modern Cushitic or Nilo-Saharan speakers. Emmanuel Anati called them “oval-headed Negroids” and noted they seem to be practicing mock ritual battle similar to modern African Nilotes (such as Maasai Samburu).  This style of art which appears frequently in the central deserts such as the Rub- al-Khali is now dated to the 3rd to 1st millennium B.C. (Peregrine, p. 257; Wilkinson, 2003, p. 153) and can clearly have been made by the ancestors of the early Islamic people of the era many of whose representatives still tall and black and traded ostrich feathers as late as the last century.  This desert region was traditionally said to have been the home of the Amalekites and Adites people who came to be the earliest rulers of the Sabeans and Himyarites.

Another ancient pre-Christian and pre-Islamic ruler of ancient Yemen 

      The realistic-dynamic style of rock art in Central Arabia and the Yemen was once thought to have shared a connection to those representations in early Gerzean art of the eastern deserts of Sudan and pre-dynastic Egyptian Nile Valley, and dates mainly to the 3rd and 2nd millenniums B.C. covering the Bronze Age (though it may have antecedents as far back as 7000B.C. (Peregrine, p. 257; Wilkinson, p. 178).  This type of artistic style receives its name because of the highly realistic portrayal of animals and people, among other things. 
      The culture found in the western part of the southwestern portion of the Arabian peninsula and Yemenite region with clearly African antecedents has been discovered in the is called the Afro-Tihama, Sabir and Afro Arabian tradition. The Sabir Culture named for a major site of Subr “is rooted in a Bronze Age tradition that continues well into later periods. Manifesting itself in monumental mudbrick architecture, developed centralized political structures, and sophisticated irrigation schemes…” (Vogt and Gorsdorf, 2001, p. 1360).
              It shares a pottery culture, lithics (stone industries), megalithic and other cultural traits that link it to early Nubia and dates back at least to the early 3rd millennium B.C.  The builders of this culture were ancestors of the people whom still speak the dialects related to ancient Sabaean and Himyaritic linguistic groups.
      "In terms of absolute chronology Sabir culture phase 1 covers the time-span almost from the middle of the 3rd millennium to the 14th /13th cent. BC … Phase 2 dates from the 14th /13th century BC to the 9th/th century BC, but may have extended within the same cultural tradition until the 6th century BC” (Vogt and Buffa, 2005, p. 438).  According to Vogt and Buffa, the second phase of this culture possessed artifacts of small sculptured human and animal figurines displaying affinities to much earlier Nubian C-group productions (p. 440)

Young bedouin of the Bait Aly tribe of Hadramaut.  They still build tombs called Rekem or Rukam tombs which are not dissimilar to those of ancient Nubia, the Horn and found throughout the Sahara.

        The culture called Sabir found in Tihama and other parts of the Yemen and Saudi Arabia shows strong links to the pre-Axumite culture of Abyssinia, Eritrea and Sudan.  Its origin is linked to the 3rd millenium megalithic culture of the region. These sites in both Arabia and Africa have been described as belonging to a singular cultural tradition by archaeologist R. Fattovich who stated the following: "the lithic tools from the Saudi Tihama sites are comparable to those of the Gash group in Kassala. Representative sites of the coastal complex have been reported at Sihi in the southern Tihama plain, Adulis, near the Gulf of Zula, in Eritrea; Wadi Urq near Hodeidah in the Yemeni Tihama plain; Sabir (Subr) near Aden.  These sites share enough ceramic features to be regarded as regional variants of one cultural tradition (Fattovich, 1997, p. 278). 
       As well Bronze Age sites in Arabia such as the megalithic site of Midamman in Yemen which span the late third to early first millenium B.C. appear to “have parallels not only in the Sabir culture but also with material on the African side (Petraglia, 2009, p. 264).
       According to Petraglia, “Sites from Sihi to Subr along the west and southern coasts of Arabia … exhibit pottery that is seen to have parallels with older C-group and Kerma cultures of the Middle Nile (Phillips, 1998, Kitchen, 2006).” (Boivin, Blench and Fuller, 2010)

Peoples of the northern and southern Tihama plain part of ancient Arabian land of Kush still make huts similar to the other peoples of East Africa
       A large part of this region south of Mecca in Arabia was in ancient times considered the land of Cush or Kush. According to Retso “at least the southern Tihama (from Mecca southwards) was called Kus (Ibn Mugawir)” (Retso, 2003, p. 231, fn. 52).  A 19th century Encylopaedia Britannica reads: "In the 5th century the Himyarites, in the south of Arabia, were styled by Syrian writers Cushaeans and Ethiopians.”  Kush was was undoubtedly the name of a region comprising both sides of the Eritrean Sea. Modern scholars are coming to acknowledge again that much of the time when the Hebrew Bible speaks of Kush or Kushites it is in fact directly referencing Arabian peoples.
Baldwin, J. D. (1829) Pre-historic nations or inquiries Concerning: Some of the Great peoples and Civilizations of Antiquity. Harpers

Bili, U. (2008) Some aspects of Islam in Africa. Ithaca Press.

Boivin, N., Blench, R., and Fuller, D. (2010). Archaeological, linguistic and historical sources on ancient seafaring: A multidisciplinary approach to the study of early maritime contact and exchange in the Arabian peninsula. The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia.

Borg, Alexander. (2009). "Linguistic and Ethnic Observations on tHe Color Categories of the Negev Bedouin. In  A. Paul Hare, and Gideon M. Kressel (Eds.) The Desert Experience in Israel:  Communities, Arts, Education, in the Negev. University Press of America.

Burton, R. (1879). Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to el Medina and Mecca 3rd edition William Mullen and Son.

Doughty, C. (2011). Travels in Arabia Deserta. Volume II.

Elliot-Smith, G. (2007)  The ancient Egyptians and the origins of civilization, (first published 1923).

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Field, H.  (1939). Anthropology, Memoirs Arabs of Central Iraq; Their History, Ethnology and Physical Characters, Anthropology Memoirs, Field Museum Press  Volume 4.

Goldenberg, D. (2005). The Curse of Ham. Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

Borg, Alexander. (2009). "Linguistic and Ethnic Observations on tHe Color Categories of the Negev Bedouin. In ((Eds.) A. Paul Hare, and Gideon M. Kressel  The Desert Experience in Israel:  Communities, Arts, Education, in the Negev. In A. Paul Hare, and Gideon M. Kressel University Press of America.

Houtsma, T. (1993). E.J. Brills' First Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume 5.  

Le Gassick, T . (2000).  The Life of the Prophet Muhammad: English translation of Ibn Kathir's Al Sira al Nabwiyya.Ibn Kathir.

Mancall, P. C. (2006  ).  Travel Narratives from the Age of Discovery: An Anthology. Oxford University Press.

Muhammad, W. (2012). Abyad and the Black Arabs: Some Clarifications

Nicolle, D. and McBride, A. (1991). Romes enemies 5: The desert frontier. Oxford and  NewYork: Osprey Publishing. 

Peregrine, P. N. and Ember, M. (2001). Encyclopedia of Prehistory: South and Southwest Asi, Volume 8.

Petraglia, M. D. (2009). The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia: Paleoenvironmental Prehistory.

Retso, J. (2003). The Arabs in Antiquity. Their History from the Assyrians to the Ummayyads. Routledge.

Rosenthal, F. (1958)  Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, New York: Pantheon Books.

Shaban, M.A. (1976). Islamic history: A new interpretation. 750-1055. Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press.

Swain, S. and Boyce-Stones, G.R.  Seeing the Face Seeing the Soul: Polemons’ Physiognomy from Classical Antiquity to Midieval Islam. Oxford 

Talhami, G. (1977). The Zanj Rebellion Reconsidered, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 10:3 pp. 443-461

Vogt, B. and Gorsdorf, J. (2001). Excavations at Ma’layba and Sabir, Republic of Yemen: Radiocarbon datings in the period 1900 to 800 cal bc. International Radiocarbon Conference No17, Jerusalem,  Israel (18/06/2000),  43 (3).

Vogt, B. and Buffa, V.(2005)  Cultural interactions with the Horn of Africa – a view from early Arabia. Afrikas Horn: Akten Der Ersten Internationalen Littmann-Konferenz 2, Meroitica

Von Maltzan, H. (1871). “Geography of Southern Arabia” in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Vol. 16, No. 2 , pp. 115-123.

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mustafaalkanemi said...

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Dana W. Reynolds said...

Thank you for your visit to my blog.

D.I.Xianshan said...

So now that I've learned that the original Hebrews and Israelites were Black, that the original Arabians were Black, that the Sumerians were Black, that Greece was Black, and that Northern Europe and China/East Asia also were, it's a fair question where exactly so called "White" people came from, and when they emerged? Thank you.

Dana W. Reynolds said...

Mr. Xianshan - I am curious to learn where you learned that all of these populations were black. I don't remember talking about Northern Europe and East Asia in this blogspot. From what I understand, however, physical anthropology has shown that almost all of these places you mentioned had significant populations of dark-skinned or "black" or tropically-adapted people long before the coming of "whites", or those that can be called the direct ancestors of modern Europeans (or their kinsmen in northern Asia.)
Thus, according to some East Asian researchers, for example, people of "white" or modern Eurasian affiliation actually became numerous in Mesopotamia only in the Parthian i.e. Scythian dominated period of Iran/Persia. - See Naomichi OGIHARA et al. Geometric morphometric study of temporal variations in human crania excavated from the Himrin Basin and neighboring areas, northern Iraq
ANTHROPOLOGICAL SCIENCE Vol. 117(1), 9–17, 2009

Ogihara in the article above writes about Iran, "... this study suggests that the Himrin population was relatively dolichocranic and generally unaltered until the Parthian period as in southern Mesopotamia (Keith, 1927; Ehrich, 1939; Swindler, 1956), but sometime in or after the Parthian period a more brachycranic population came into this northern Mesopotamian area and craniofacial characteristics within the inhabitants in this area probably became more diverse, as preliminarily suggested by Ishida and Wada (1981) and Wada (1986). It has been suggested based on archeological data that the population of Mesopotamia began to be influenced by Persians after the Achaemenean domination, and more foreigners were settled and mixed with the native population in the Parthian period (Roux, 1992). The present results do not contradict this view. Furthermore, this study depicts the DOLICHOCEPHALIC population as having a lower orbit and broader (lower) nose, and VICE VERSA in the brachycranic population."
The implications of his statements are astonishing given that Sumerian civilization ended long before teh parthian period began in Iran. Yet his conclusions are actually in accord with the statements of early specialists like Sayce and Arthur Keith that found early populations to be "Negroid". It also explains early assertions by specialists like Ephraim Speiser that the bulk of the sculptured figurines seemed to represent a different "racial type" than represented in the remains. Speiser stated that "... there is a MARKED DISCREPANCY between the evidence of the cemetaries uncovered in Sumer and the appearance of the historic Sumerians depicted on the monuments. For it has been REPEATEDLY OBSERVED that the monumental representations of the Sumerians point for the most part to pronounced roundheads.” Ephraim Speiser, Oriental and Biblical Studies collected writings of E.A. Speiser 1967.p. 217) As is well known the Uruk and early Ur remains are predominantly "brown race" Mediterranean or "Eurafrican" an early euphemism for the name for the predominant or African inhabitants of Nubia, Abyssinia, Arabia, the Levant and Europe.

Dana W. Reynolds said...

Unfortunately Eurocentrist pseudoscientists, like Waddell and Carleton Coon came to apply the term "Eurafrican" and "Aryan" to these indubitably black types whose remains were in fact similar to the Natufians, Mushabians, Nubians and other African-originated peoples. Coon tried to confuse them with modern Europeans, who in fact are neither regionally broadnosed, nor dolichocephalic or long and narrow-headedas were the majority of the earliest neolithic peoples.)
You are certainly correct that it is a fair question to ask where and when the ancestors of modern Europeans emerged. But, early on certain physical anthropologists assumed most Cro-Magnons and the earliest Europeans were white and as a result anthropologists have not sought out the true origins of the ancestors of modern Europeans. Instead they have tried to make the east African AfroAsiatic-speakers into some ancestral white man that had turned black only after settling in Africa, among supposed pre-Adamites, i.e. the Negro.
There was also the impress early polygenetic theory which sought to show that each continent was associated with or had evolved different branches and even species of humanity represented by different colors, for example red, yellow, black, white and brown races. This is also partly how the fallacious theory of a brown "Mediterranean" and/ or "hamitic Caucasoid" race was developed.
On the other hand it should be said that what physical anthropologists have confirmed since the beginning of the study of human remains in Europe is that people of modern European type though in existence during the neolithic were in actuality a very small or insignificant proportion of the populations of Asia and Europe up until and even after the neolithic period. Recent studies have shown that the ancestors of white "Europeans" and their kinsmen in the Mediterranean, and northwestern Asia are closely related and evolved from people who were closely represented in the mesolithic period in a few sites in Germany. In other words modern Europeans and Eurasiatics show a clear and close relationship with each other and evolved from peoples whose remains were discovered in mesolithic Germany. These mesolithic peoples were already distinct from or distinguishable in many traits craniofacial and osteological from the majority of early paleolithic Cro-Magnons - the latter showing a closer connection to later black or tropically-adapted Asians, Africans and Mediterraneans that were the original purveyors or carriers of neolithic and early bronze age civilization to Europe and northwestern Asia (as were also found in Anatolia and Mongolia and Anshan China).

Dana W. Reynolds said...

In other words it is believed that the majority of early Cro-Magnons were in fact not the primary ancestors of modern Europeans. The former is in fact a generic name for upper palaeolithic men in Europe and they were in fact originally in the main tropically adapted populations probably very dark in color. What studies on human remains have shown is that during the neolithic, peoples with affinity to inhabitants of a few sites in mesolithic Germany began to move into areas occupied by the neolithic peoples in Europe and Asia. We find for example European people with palaeolithic culture still present on Crete at a time when people of tropical or African origin had already settled with a developed neolithic lifestyle in the Levant, southern Europe and southern Asia. These dolichocephalic or long-headed tropically-adapted people with neolithic culture and associated veneration of the mother Goddess appeared as far east as the Zagros, and India. European types (always marked by a mesocranic and brachocephalic skull formation) appeared in the Levant in the neolithic, but were not as numerous as the mainly African originated Natufians and Mushabians which they also came to mix with in the Ghassulian culture and other places. By the Copper Age descendants of the black or original neolithic peoples had extended into Turkestan and Turkmenistan (as at Anau), as well as India (which already had black populations) and by the early Bronze Age they were found in eastern Asia. However, Brace as others before him had found that some of the peoples of Natufian and robust African-affiliated crania were found at sites like Tepe Hissar in Iran, and Mongolia by the late Bronze era.
It should be understood that these blacks or tropically adapted neolithic had little to nothing to do with the so-called negrito Andaman Islanders and Austric speaking brachycranic populations of places like Papua, southern China and Indo China, the Philipines, but more likely had something to do with groups like the blacks or some of the so-called robust "Melanesian" and "gracile "hamitic" types that appear in Mongol, Indonesian and early Chinese Bronze Age cultural sites.

Dana W. Reynolds said...

As far as Greece or Sumeria being black of course that depends on what period you are talking about. It is evident that Neolithic and early Bronze Age Greece like the rest of the ancient Aegean, Mediterranean, Anatolia and Mesopotamia was predominantly African and then Afrosemitic until a period later than most European scholars were willing to admit.
There are of course many books that show sculptured figurines of people of seeming Eurasian ancestry that appeared in certain sites in Mesopotamia. The question however is now what period do such artifacts belong to, as the physical anthropological evidence shows that the region was dominated by the same black or African-Arabian affiliated population that occupied Ethiopia, ancient Egypt, Nubia, southern Sahara and Iran in the Sumerian period. Did the Japanese archaeologists misread the chronology of the Mesopotamian layers. Is the Western chronology of the Mesopotamia and Sumero-Akkadian civilization even correct. These are some of the questions that need to be addressed in order to assess why certain scientific facts coming out are not in alignment with what European scholars have been publically proposing and in fact promoting for so many years in textbooks.
But one thing is for certain, until European researchers stop seeking to make all early civilized blacks into dark or burnt skinned whites we can look forward to another few decades before your question can be resolved.
As for the origins of "white" people, the findings of remains in Mesolithic Germany suggest that one of the early humanoid populations of Europe of northern Asia must have mutated and mixed with the Neanderthals or perhaps with groups with Neanderthal genes at some point prior to the Mesolithic. The people closest related to the early Mesolithic whites according to the studies by Brace et al appear to be the Basques who some claim evolved from admixture with or absorption of Neanderthal man in early Western Europe.
Some researchers have suggested that skin or complexion of Europeans emerged as recently as 6000 years ago, however I think this is unlikely as there is rock art evidence (unless that has been faked) in ancient Neolithic Anatolia showing long-haired and white or very fair-skinned European types present already, quite distinct in appearance from the blacks also represented there. Skeletons of the blacks which is the neolithic gracile so called Mediterranean race found there are as usual quite different or distinct from that of the modern Eurasians in the region.