Friday, March 14, 2014


An Addendum to THE AFRICAN HERITAGE AND ETHNOHISTORY OF THE MOORS" by Dana W. Reynolds, published 1991 in Golden Age of the Moor ed. Ivan Van Sertima

Golden Age of the Moor on-line pp. 85 to 94

A couple of young men of Morocco

"The immigration of Berbers in the eighth through twelfth centuries was so great that they were soon the majority of the Muslim population. By the end of the tenth century they were already ‘the mainstay of the government under the Amirids’ and had begun to establish independent states (Toledo, Badajoz, Malaga, Elvira, Granada, Algericas). By the end of the next century, as we shall see, they already controlled all of al-Andalus." (See Norman Roth's 1994 Jews, Visigoths and Muslims in Medieval Spain, Brill, p. 45).
"The races of Negroes are the Nubians, the Beja, the Zaghawa, the Murawah, the Istan, the Berbers and the types of blacks like the Indians."  From the 10th c. Ibn Nadim of Baghdad, Iraq, The Fihrist, Vol. 1, 35.

Rendering of Spaniards taking Malaga from Moors of 500 years ago (Nasrid Kingdom of Granada)

      The article in the "Journal of African Civilization" was written in order to illustrate some of the original African populations comprising the ancient Berber peoples and Mauri of Africa.  Since that period much more has been discovered concerning the early Afro-Asiatic speakers and other Africans composing the early and major tribes of Berbers, and about the various black African groups that played a major role in the peopling of Muslim Spain.
      There are certain errors in the article, though not significant enough to change the major premise that the early Moors were in fact originally a confederation of black Africans called Berbers, no longer numerous in the region of coastal North Africa.  It is such populations that at one time made up the bulk of the Moors in Spain.
Dance of the "Zanata" Berbers of the Adrar Oasis, Algeria.( Ibn Khaldun  referred to the Zanata as the biggest Berber group in North Africa.
      The earliest historians on the North African and Saharan people that came to be known as “Berbers” assumed the latter had come at some very early period of time from the east to the Maghreb. It was discussed in the article how early historians, such as the 1st century Josephus, implied that “Gaetulians” and other Saharans, called Numidians and Berbers, were affiliated with incense trading peoples in the Eritrean region. Strabo, in his geography, asserted earlier historians claimed a group of “Ethiopian” people took over the northern coasts of north Africa, the Atlas and other parts of the Mediterranean at a remote period.*  Greek, Roman  and later authors of the Byzantine period not infrequently mentioned the belief that peoples in ancient Maghreb, such as the Mauri, Numidians and Pharusii, had arrived from further east. Similar suggestions were made in medieval Arabic and European Jewish commentaries.
     As Ramzi Rouighi has stated, “…the earliest Arabic sources do not support the idea of the northwest African origin of the Berbers. That idea, one must therefore believe, is of later origin” (Rouighi, R., 2010, p. 98 and 99)
      In fact, most modern populations in coastal north Africa that speak Berber dialects are neither homogeneous biologically or culturally, and few can be considered representative of the Berber populations observed by ancient Byzantine and Arab writers. In recent times such groups designated as  “Berber” or  “Amazigh”’ through linguistics and/or political affiliation (Willis, M., 2008, pp. 228 –239) have come to be confounded with ancient and medieval groups, such as “Mezikes”, who in texts of antiquity have usually been designated “Ethiopians” (Carocopino, 1940, p. 391-393; Gsell, 1927, p. 2). As mentioned above, more ancient Berber peoples were thought to have shared biological and cultural origins and ties to populations of the east, including ancient “India” - the then common name of the Red Sea region between the Yemen and Nubia – still affiliated with both Afro-Asiatic, or Cushitic, Chadic, Ethio-Semitic, and Nilo-Saharan speakers.
     The name “Berber,” in documents of the Greco-Roman era and as late as the medieval period, appears to have been utilized for populations of notably “Ethiopic” or “Sudanic” appearance of Sahelian, and to some extent, sub-Saharan affiliation, once predominant along the North African coasts.  This most likely explains the defining of the word “mauri” or “moor”, and its variants in early Latin and other etymological treatises, as “nigri” or black (Barthelemy, A., 1987, p. 8; Conant, J., 2012, p. 269). Thus, it should not be surprising to find that Berber populations in the earliest documentings of their appearance were invariably described as black or near black in countenance. Among these populations can be included the Mazikes, Ifuraces, Laguatan, Pharusii, Ketama, Meghrawa, Zenata, Jarawa, Zaghawa or Zawagha, Masmuda, Nafusawa, Sanhaja, Lamtuna, Gezula, Makkorenes, among others (Reynolds-Marniche, 2013).

Berber girl in typical attire of the region of Jebel Nafusa (northwestern Libya), where the Berber Ibadites fled. The Nafusawa were Zanata Berbers.
       Most regions of the northern Maghreb in fact have seen a continuous flow of external ethnic elements from Europe and the Levant as evidenced by historical documentation, early and current archeological, forensic and genetic studies (Reynolds-Marniche, 2013).
      The period after the 15th century, which saw a reorientation of the slave imports from regions of western and Slavic Europe toward sub-Saharan African regions and movement of many tens of thousands of Andalusians into northern Africa seems to have been a turning point in Europe’s application of the term “Moor”.  The term “Berber” however remained a word in use by the Portuguese and by European Americans for peoples of sub-Saharan affinity.
      The common and most authentic use of the term “Berber” appears in Arab and Portuguese texts for groups who still refer to themselves as Beri, Berberi or Baribra, now located mainly south of Sahara in the Sahel and the Sudan, but who can be shown to be ethnically affiliated with peoples once inhabiting regions in North Africa along the coast.    
     An example of this is seen in how the designation “al-Barabir” and “Barabra” was attached to the Djanawa or Soninke of Dar Tichitt in early Arab documents and Portuguese chronicles (Lewicki, T. 1988, p. 313).  The latter have also been commonly referred to in Arabic sources as Wangara, Garawan, Jarawa or Wakore, and were once identical with the Jerma, Djerma or Zarma Songhai. The ethnonym Djanawa which came to mean “blacks”, was originally connected to Djana or Chana, a personnage whom Tadeusz Lewicki notes as the traditional ancestor of the Zanata in an encyclopaedic entry on the Matmata (Lewicki, 1989, p. 842).
      The name Songhai in turn is known to be connected to that of the Sughai or Zaghai and Zaghawa. According to Ibn Khaldun the name Zaghai was the designation of the early Takrur or Tekruri people (Cooley, W. J., 1841, p. 98). The latter also appear to have been called Zenaghah at one time.
      In the 16th century, Luis Marmol Carvajal of Granada appears to have mentioned these Zaghai or Zaghawa in his commentary on the “Azuagos”.  He identifies them as “Moors” who have long lived in hills and in caves, and wrote that African authors asserted they were descendants of the founders of Carthage.
There was a noted people called Azuagos who are now scattered up and down the provinces of Barbary and Numidia, and most of whom are shepherds …They live upon mountains and hills and nestle in holes and chinks’ (William R. Wilde, 1840, p. 439).
      According to one scholar on the Berbers, the Zaghawa were acknowledged as a clan belonging to the Zanata Berbers. He notes of the latter, their "predominant confederations of kabilas being those of the Hawwara, Luwata, Nafusa, and Zaghawa” (Mones, 1988, p. 228).


       One of the places of habitation of these “Zouagha” was the region of Koukou in Grand Kabylia (Lanfray, 1978, p. 92), a name not unexpectedly, reminiscent of the names “Kaukau” or “Kauga” for the modern town of Gau or Gao established on the Niger in Mali by the 8th century, and of other towns named  Kuka, Kukia, and Kucu, found among peoples named Zaghawa, Zaghay, or Isawaghen (Songhai) further south in “the Sudan”.
      Among the other peoples that still consider themselves “Beriberi” are the Kanem-Kanuri and certain of the Hausa who appear to have been connected to Zaghay or Zaghai peoples further west called Songhai.
        Since a number of West African peoples brought to America consisted of the latter, it is not surprising that we find the term Berber in use for black Africans in the United States brought to America as slaves. Chapter I, Section 4 of a legal document published in 1848 and named, The Negro Law of South Carolina states:
"The term Negro is confined to slave Africans (the ancient Berbers) and their descendants. It does not embrace the free inhabitants of Africa such as the Egyptians, Moors or the negro Asiatics such as the Lascars."
       Equally certain is the fact that before the 15th century the Berbers were consistently grouped among the “black African” populations by historians. The 14th century Kurd, Ibn Kathir, in Sura 35 of his Tasfir, refers to the Berbers, along with the “Timtimis” (or “Demdems”, a certain people of Central Africa thought to have been cannibalistic) and Ethiopians (Nubians), as “very black”. The Damascene commentator, Abu Shama (13th c.) not long before, refers to the Masmuda Berbers of the plains of northern Morocco as “blacks” (Lewis, B. 1974, p.217) in his Kitab al Ravdatayn. Ibn Butlan, a Byzantine “Arab” physician from Iraq, and the Persian Nasr i Khusrau in the 12th and 11th centuries respectively described Berbers similarly as black-skinned and  “black Africans”. Of the Masmuda or Masamida Berbers, Yaacov Lev, specialist on the Fatimid dynasty has noted that Khusrau “says that they were blacks and characterized them as infantry who used lances and swords”. They comprised 20,000 of the Fatimid troops (Lev, Y., p. 342).
      Syrian, Al Dimashqi (d. 14th c.), the Andalusian-descended Ibn Khaldun of Tunisia (d. 1406) as well as the Persian Ibn Qutayba (9th c.) all speak of the tradition of Berbers being  “black” descendants of Canaanites and Ham as well (Hopkins and Levtzion, 2000, p. 213; Hall, B.S., 2013, p. 96).
      Ibn Butlan, in fact was fond of commenting on the attributes of females that had been brought into Iraq to serve as slave concubines. He writes of the Berber women whom he considered the ideal slave woman, “Their color is mostly black though some pale ones can be found among them. If you can find one whose mother is Kutama, whose father is of Sanhaja, and whose origin is Masmuda, then you will find her naturally inclined to obedience…” (Brozny, 2005, p. 303).
     These are the same Kutama settled in Kabylia with the Vandals, among others, that laid the foundations for the Fatimid Caliphate. They are considered the Ucutamani, (Gazeau, V. Baudin, P., Mod'ran, Y., 2008, p. 113), and are probably the Muctunia Manus in the Tripolitania desert of earlier records.
      As Ibn Butlan also describes the Beja women of Nubia as “golden colored” (Brozyna, p. 304), we can be certain what his description of  “black” meant for the Berber women.
       The 6th century Isidore was just one of several known writers of his time and before who spoke in colorful terms in reference to the “white” Gauls who he contrasts to the  Moors or Mauri,  “black as night” (Barney, S. A., 2007, p. 386). As one specialist in late antiquity writes: “Indeed, by the time Isidore of Seville came to write his Etymologies, the word Maurus or 'Moor' had become an adjective in Latin, 'for the Greeks call  "black” mauron'.  In Isidore's day, Moors were black by definition (Conant, J., 2012, p. 269).
       Further west, the Byzantine poet Corippus wrote about inhabitants of Byzacena in Tunisia south of Carthage that were part of the confederation under the Berber leader Antalas fighting against the Byzantines.  On several occasions Corrippus  “refers to Moors both individually and collectively as being ‘black’ or ‘dark’ (Niger), and even goes so far as to liken one Moorish woman and her children to a raven and its chicks” (Conant, 2012, p. 269).  (Moorish women were paraded through the streets of Carthage by the Byzantines.)
       The chief Antalas had previously battled the Germanic Vandals who the Byzantine author, Procopius, said had settled by the tens of thousands in the area of northern Algeria, including Kabylia. In the 6th century, Procopius, aside from stating the Moors or Maurusioi were black-skinned, noted the following concerning the Vandals: “the number of the Vandals and Alans was said in former times, at least, to amount to no more than fifty thousand men. However, after that time by their natural increase among themselves and by associating other barbarians with them they came to be an exceedingly numerous people. But the names of the Alans and all the other barbarians, except the Mauretanii, were united in the name of Vandals.” (Procopius, History of the Wars Book III)
       The stronghold of the Vandals was in the region of Kabylia in Algeria, which they shared with the Berbers of Ketama stock.. Their capital was Bejaia known as Saldae to the earlier Roman colonists there. After the Vandals, the Byzantines took over the region.    

Young girl of  Kabylia (meaning mountainous land) - colonial photo.  The Berbers of Kabylia came to share the region with the Vandals, Romans Byzantines and other settlers who have intermingled with them.  Today the Kabyle region is "Berberophone" in speech. The original Berbers of Kabylia in Algeria were Kutama and Zanata.

     These are a few of the peoples that came to share Little Kabylia with the Kutama who apparently had retained a characteristic Berber appearance even centuries later at the time Ibn Butlan spoke of them.
     Thus, it isn’t any wonder that in the European colonial period many observers were inclined to remark on the diverse appearance and ethnic character of Berbers of Kabylia. In the early colonial period one can find recognition of the admixture between populations that must have reflected the present demographics of North Africa. Early on, statements such as the following are made by colonial observers who wrote:
we are disposed to take account also of the Germanic or Vandal element introduced at a later period, traces of which though not recognized by most authors, remain to the present time, since we not unfrequently [sic] meet Kabyles with blond or reddish hair, and eyes blue, or of a grayish green tinge (Perry, A., 1869,  p. 272).
       Over time descriptions seem to have diverged greatly from how earlier colonialists describe Berber inhabitants of the Algerian mountains. In the beginning, the occupants are frequently noted for their rather dark complexions. “The Berbers or Kabyles of Algerian territory”, according to a French observer, “are of middle stature; their complexion is brown and sometimes nearly black; hair brown and smooth, rarely blond”. (The name Kabylie means mountaineers) (Prichard, J., 1837, p. 28).
      This brand of commentary, however, became rarer as the decades passed. In time the idea that Berbers were white and at one time Christian became “central to scholarship in the colony”(Rice, L., 2008, p. 54). With the promotion of scientific racialogy in western anthropology and rise of Aryanist ideology in Europe, the colonialist rhetoric changed to viewing the quintessential Berber as represented by very fair-complexioned types presumed indigenous to North Africa, and at times recognized for Indo-European connections. This belief was perhaps bolstered by certain late representations of the “Libyans” that appeared in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings, although even archeologists of the time were convinced “blond Libyans” were “intrusive” foreigners (Bates, O., 1914, pp. 39-40).  Some geneticists in modern times appear to have latched on to this perspective, however. (See  “Fear of Blackness”, Reynolds-Marniche, August 2014, in “West Africa Review”.) See the link Fear of Blackness
      More recently and interestingly, Berber specialist Gabriel Camps suggested a possible Vandal influence on jewelry and other Kabyle materials, while equally proclaiming ancient Berbers to be some indigenous remnants of a “Caucasoid” race of  “proto-Mediterraneans” flourishing since prehistoric times (Camps, G., 1980, pp. 34-46 and 305).
       His notion of prehistoric Berbers, like Guiseppe Sergi’s anthropological “Mediterranean race” theory in general (Reynolds-Marniche, D., 1994), drastically impacted, or distorted the study of ancient North Africa and its peoples, more than most are willing to admit - diverting much scholarly focus toward baseless historical and genetic theories of Berber origins, aside from creating historical enigmas where they should be none.
      Another relatively neglected aspect of African ethnohistory south of the Sahara is the part of the Tuareg and other groups making up the veiled Sanhaja (composed of Lamta, Lamtuna, Massufa, Sidrata), and “Gezula” or “Goddala” peoples in the Moors of the ancient Mediterranean. In fact, according to one historian  “in the old sources the terms Berber, Sanhaja, Massufa, Lamtuna and Tuareg are often used interchangeably” (De Villiers M. and Hirtle, S., 2009, p. 271). They, along with other African populations comprised most of the  “Moorish” clans known to have entered Spain in the Almoravid period. Modern Tuareg of Niger in particular are still called by their early names of  “Lamtuna” or Auelimidden and Massufa or Inusoufen, two groups of the Sanhaja confederation (Bernus, S., 1976, p. 105, 106 and 08).
     According to Julia Clancy-Smith, the 13th century, Ibn Abi Zar wrote:
The people of the Lamtuna were a people of the desert, religious and honest, who conquered an immense empire in Andalusia and in Maghreb… Their reign was free from lies, fraud and revolt, and they were cherished by all until the Mahdi, the Almohad, rose against them in the year 515” (Clancy-Smith, J. 2013, p. 73).
     The Almoravids had seized their empire as “religious zealots”, but in Spain their reign was one of peace and prosperity. It was one of their rulers that transformed Marrakesh into an imperial city later taken over by the “black-skinned” Masmuda in 1147, as were Oran and other large towns of the Maghreb.
       Aside from the Kel Auelimidden (Lamta, Lamtuna), Kel Inusoufen or Imesufa (Massufa) and Kel Ifuras or Iferuoan, Ferwan or Ifren (of the Zanata), Imakitan (Kitama), Imaqqoran (Magherawa) recent and modern branches of the Tuareg, many other African peoples were said to have been part of the African makeup of the Almoravids in Spain.
       Previous to the Almoravid period, the Berber tribe of the Meghrawa were in power in the Maghreb, north Morocco and Algeria and parts of Spain. Ibn Khaldun makes them a group affiliated with both the Ifren and the Jarawa, and they were composed of the clans of Laghwat (Ilagwathes?) and the Righa, the former likely corresponding to the ancient Laguaten or Levathes “Mauri” of the Roman era (Bosworth, C.E.,  Van Donzel, E., Bernard, L., and Pellat,, C. 1985, p. 1174). The Jarawa or Jawara are said by Abdulwahid Taha in his book, Muslim Conquest and Settlement of North Africa and Spain, to be a “huge” proportion of the Zanata Berbers (Taha, 1989, p. 24).
     Al- Dimashqi of the 11th century asserts the Maghrawa, to be a branch of “Sudan”, “son of Ham”(Hopkins and Levtzion, 2000, p. 212). Julien Desanges associated them with the ancient Makhurebi of Ptolemy and Pliny in the same Algerian Chelif region who were a “Moorish” peoples (Bosworth, C. E. et al, 1985, p. 1174).
        It is a rare academic text on the Berbers, however, that mentions the evident connection between the modern Tuareg, or other Africans, with these early Almoravid ethnies. Many Tuareg and other Sahelian and Sudanic names appear to date back to at least to the Byzantine era in North Africa, if not further, and yet in Western historical treatises of ancient peoples of “Mauritania” and “Libya”, apparent ancient links to the Tuareg and their unquestionably black cohorts are rarely commented on.
     Perhaps, as a result of trying to find a non-black origin of the Berbers, it has not been recognized that many of the ethnic groups of Sudan are the same as pre-exilic “Moorish” peoples of North Africa. Zaghawa is Zawagha; Wangarawa traders of the south were the Jarawa of the Zanata and possibly the Guerouan of the Masmuda; and the name Djanawa for similar peoples is from the ancient "Djana" of Berber traditions, and so on.
      It is only recently that the Garamantes ** and other probably originally Berber-related peoples have been recognized as blacks once denigrated for their appearance, although some have tried to make the former primarily into a population mainly consisting of slaves.
       The Tuareg themselves have been wrongly assumed to have been aboriginal peoples of  “evidently Caucasian” variety, or, in the unabashed race rhetoric of colonialists, of a people “tall, bold, handsome, war-like, and predatory, ruling over the negroes with a rod of iron”. ***  And, in fact the Tuareg today, do tend to be fairer in complexion than many other Sudanic peoples, but are more accurately seen as exemplary of an ancient “Ethiopic”  population influenced mainly in the last several centuries by peoples of European and other “Eurasiatic” biological origin.
      Eastward in Libya, intermixture with Syrians and especially with the Ibadites from Iraq and Khorasan took place, and according to African manuscripts mentioned by H.R. Palmer, Tuareg mixed with “Turks” and “Tartars” who had settled Murzuk and other parts of Fezzan. But, an equally significant element contributing to their matrilineal dna was probably due to the slave trade – in this case, the predominant, fairly recent and historically-neglected, white one.  As early as the Almoravid period, European slaves were brought into the Berber towns dominated by Tuareg and other Berbers once noted as blacks.
      The slave pens of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as at Meknes, Tripoli and other places of two and three centuries ago were in fact described in some texts as “crowded” with Europeans, i.e. “Christian slaves”, and it appears these pens were not infrequently raided by Tuareg and other Berbers - the latter carrying their prey back into the mountains, as well as into the deserts and deep into the interior of Africa.
      Robert Brown in his commentary on Leo Africanus’ works, has noted “many European races, including the Vandals under Genseric, the endless European slaves who, turning renegade, became absorbed into the population” in the northern parts of  Berber Africa (Brown, R., 1896, p.203), but more recently, scholars like Robert Davis in the book, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, have written in more detail on the intermingling and absorption of northern peoples.
Neighboring mountain peoples, the Berbers and Tuaregs, appear to have occasionally attacked outlying farms and were happy to enslave anyone they found there, Moors, renegades, or slaves…things could turn much worse with these nomads, who often took them far into the interior ‘feeding them as little as possible…’ leaving them no hope of eventual escape and contact with fellow Europeans”(Davis, R.C., 2003, p. 87).
          The “Moors” of this period would largely have been descendants of Andalusians and other Islamicized peoples in North Africa who were not necessarily black or dark brown, like the Trarza or Tuareg (or Tuwarek). The Zanata Berbers, whose clans were in fact of Tuareg and Jarawa or Jawara or Zaghawa origin (demonstrably the same as the Garawan or Wangarawa further south), in fact, were the early Berber inhabitants of Meknes, Tlemcen, Sijilmasa, Tahart, Fez  and other places. The descendants of Tuareg slavers and traders now presently in the Sahara and Sahel are undoubtedly partly the result of admixture with descendants of white slaves and mercenaries settled in such places, just as they are black slaves. In addition it is known Tuareg men as late as colonial times commonly married their slave concubines. Reports one observer, “the women are often employed in the double capacity of servants and concubines, and are eventually married” (Landor, A.H. S., 1907, p. 333).
      This appears to have been going on for some time as ancestral Tuareg or al-Anusamani (Nasamones) are mentioned in the Byzantine period by Claudian of the 4th century (see de Bello Gildonico) capturing white Roman women derived from the Levant and creating "Ethiopian hybrids"  under their chief Gildo "the Moor".  Here is another translation .- "‘each disdained noble matron is handed over to the Moors. Taken into the middle of Carthage these Sidonian mothers undergo marriage with barbarians.[Gildo] thrusts upon us an Ethiopian as a son-in-law, a Nasamon as a husband. The discoloured child terrifies its cradle’" (Bell. Gild. 1.189-93) (Waarden, J. A. and Kelly, Gavin, 2013, p. 263, fn. 63)
    There is certainly reason to believe that the Tuareg could have been the great-statured "Ethiopians" that Strabo claimed were by tradition said to have been settled along the coasts of North Africa and in the Atlas. In Arab sources the Zanata ancestors are in fact said to be the Philistine giant, "Goliath", son of "Daris", a name for the Atlas, from whom they still claim descent in the colonial period (Na'imi, M., 2004, p. 210, fn. 31). As late as the 15th century Genoan traveller Malfante also refers to the Gezula (the veiled Gezula) as Philistines, though these Tuareg, probably much like certain Fulani (Woodabe) were by this time noticeably fairer than the blacks they dominated in the country of the Gezula (Getules?).
       Some medieval Arab sources have been wrongly accused of depicting the Tuareg as "whites" due to the use of terms like 'biyad' or 'abyad' commonlyapplied to very dark golden brown skinned or simply dark brown clear- skinned Africans.  Bruce Hall who in A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, comments on how the 14th Ibn Battuta described “a Tuareg group called the Bardama” in the Azawad region of Mali. "'Their women are the most perfect women in beauty and the most comely in figure, in addition to being pure white and fat' appears to be using color terminology in more of a cultural than literal sense" (Hall, 2011, p. 34, fn. 2).
    The same thing can be said of Ibn Hawqal's reference to the "whiteness" and clarity, or "purity" of complexion, of the Banu Tanamak (Hamel, 2013, p. 75), "people who speak Tamasheq, the language of the Tuareg" (Blanchard, Ian, 2001, p. 125)
     Hall thus notes, for the North African “the use of the term ‘whites’ implied a set of Arab Muslim cultural practices....”  As with the tribe of  Songhai or Fulani, also referred to in certain texts as "whites", there was not an intended implication of fair or pale skin color or complexion in the European sense of "fair"(Hall, p. 34).  Even the Wangara (Songhai/Soninke) traders as some have noted, are sometimes referred to as "white" in African and Arab texts. For example one recent historian remarked on these Mande,  “The Dyula were long distance merchants called Marka on the Niger bend…Most Marka identified themselves as ‘white’…” (Isichei, Elizabeth, 1997, p.223).

Women of Azawad retain the "Ethiopic" looks of the ancient Mazikes who were the original Imoshagh (or Amazigh)   As in numerous other African and African-Asiatic societies Tuareg women  were once as much recognized for social dominance in their societies as for their physical beauty. Tuareg of the Western Maghreb were the peoples who composed a considerable portion of Sanhaja, Zanata, Gezula, Kutama stock before the 16th century, at one time a quite numerous  peoples in northern Maghreb.

      Furthermore, some of the Tuareg descendants are still called by the Zenata clan name of Ifuren or Kel Feruan/Ferouan in Mali and other places where they remain for the most part dark brown in complexion as they were in Arabic sources. These Zanata again are the same people that Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century considered the largest of the Berber confederations - a people he says were in popular tradition of his time black due to “a curse” (Smith, 2003, p. 482). Their traditional ancestor according to Ibn Khaldun and others was "Mazigh", a son or descendant of "Canaan, son of Ham".
      Thus, whatever the Tuareg have become in appearance through the intervening period between the start of the Almoravid dynasty and today, they were most definitely a people described among the blacks, aside from being very tall, before the 15th century. Whatever the validity of the Tuaregs being of “Philistine” derivation, there is also little question early colonialists were struck by the great stature of many Tuareg men who towered over them (de Prorok, 2002, p. 41), and that many of Tuareg were, and remain, unusually tall in comparison with other groups around them.
“It seemed to me we had come into presence of a race of giants.  I myself am no dwarf, topping six feet, but these men seemed to make me look small.   Some were nearly 7 feet high…” (De Prorok, 2003, p. 41). 
      In Morocco meanwhile Andalusian Muslims were known to have settled in large numbers in the Riff region after being expelled from the Iberian peninsula. Some 300,000 had been expelled and/or sent to their deaths. Much of the Andalusian population were converts to Islam and some were Christians and Jews (Carr, 2009, Matthew, p. 278).
        Even before that time, during the period of Berber ascendancy in the Iberian peninsula, the Berbers along the coastal region of western Mauritania or Morocco were noted for their black complexions. “Moors” had in fact invaded the Iberian peninsula even in the pre-Islamic period, and were found in the mountainous Riff region across from Gibraltar by the period of the earliest Islamic invasions of Spain.
        An 8th century text in an Andalusian manuscript called the "Latin Chronicle of 754",  which tells of the encounter between Syrian “Arabs” and Berbers in the mountains of Tangiers in the region of Morocco’s Riff is also revealing.  Its anonymous author wrote of the Syrians on Egyptian horses who were “crossing the territory of the Moors' to attack Tangiers with the Swords. But the army of the Moors realizing this immediately burst forth from the mountains to the battle naked, girded only with loin-cloths covering their shameful parts. When they joined with each other on the Nava river, the Egyptian horses immediately recoiled in flight, as the Moors on their beautiful horses revealed their repulsive colour and gnashed their white teeth. Despairing they launched another attack, the Arab cavalry again instantly recoiling due to the color of the Moors skin” (Larsson, Goran, 2003, p. 71).
      The descriptions of Isidore of Seville in Spain, a little more than a century earlier then those events, as well as other descriptions between the 3rd and 8th centuries, again leave little doubt as to the appearance of the Berbers of that era who were to become the main stock of the Moors in Spain.
      Several hundred years later, the Masmuda chiefs in the Anti-Atlas mountains further south were to found the dynasty of the Almuwahhidun or “Almohads”, in fact around the same time the Syrian Abu Shama, Khusrau and other observers had spoken of the Masmuda as “blacks”.
      These unmodified Berbers of the neo-Roman, Mozarabic and Arabic writings - characterized as bursting forth in loin cloths from the Tangiers mountains, whose “black as night” skins made even foreign battle-trained horses rear back in horror - were doubtless some of the forefathers of modern "Berbers".  It is fairly certain that the Berbers of that region in that early Islamic period, as in the 10th century were of  Zanata and Masmuda stock.  The latter were mainly composed of the ethnic Ghumara (Park, T. K. and Boum, A., 2006, p. 240; Taha, A.D., 1989, p. 26), who are today rather much fairer in complexion in many places in Morocco.
     “Black Morocco” thus undoubtedly began with the original Berbers themselves - a people who in Morocco and other places in the ancient Mauretania were conceivably much darker at one time than the present Nilo-Saharan Haratin and Fulani (Niger-Congo speakers), considered by some today to represent “black” Maghrebis (Hamel, C., 2013, p. 277; Savage, E. 1992).

Women of Ouarzazate -  Certain Berbers of the in the Souss or Sus region of the Upper Atlas have only been partially modified in appearance through absorption of other peoples and likely descend from the once "black-skinned" Masmuda of ancient coastal North Africa

*Strabo states in Book 1, Chapter 2:26 - “… Ephorus mentions still another ancient tradition, and it is not unreasonable to believe that Homer also had heard it. Ephorus says the Tartessians report that Ethiopians overran Libya as far as Dyris, and that some of them stayed in Dyris, while others occupied a great part of the sea-board” (1917, Loeb Classical Library Edition)

**See Abstract by John Starks Jr. for “Was Black Beautiful in Vandal Africa?” chapter in G.K. Bhambra, D. Orrells, T. Roynon, ed. African Athena: New Agendas., 2011, Oxford University Press.

***Cited from “The American Magazine” Volume 5, page 478, published in 1878.


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Addendum by Dana W. Reynolds