Sunday, December 9, 2012


AFRO-ASIAN DISPERSALS: How Scholarship has Come Around to the Truth about the Roots of Semitic Speech and Culture 

            by Dana Reynolds


Above are Afro-Asiatic women of the Omotic group. These African-Asiatics began immigrating from Africa thousands of years ago. 

Catal Huyuk stone ruins 

 “As for Palestine, there was no drastic change for the main type during the transition from the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Summing up, striking similarities link the physical characteristics of the predynastic Egyptians and of the contemporary Bedja population and the main Berber type and of the Palestinian skeletons of the early Bronze Age.”  From Edward Lipinski’s - Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar, 2001, p.47.
"...the crucial linguistic finding is that the three deepest clades of the Afro-Asiatic family are localized in Eritrea and Ethiopia. All the other languages of the family outside that region belong to subclades of just one of those deep clades. This kind of cladistic distribution is a basic criterion of the genetic argument for the genetic lineage origins well understood by geneticists. It applies to linguistic history as well." (Ancient Local Evolution of African mtDNA Haplogroups in Tunisian Berber Populations). Frigi et al. Human Biology, 82:4, August, 2010)
Dassanech young woman of Ethiopia -  The Dassanech are Omotic-speaking. They speak  an "Afro-Asiatic" dialect 

        It should now be realized by Africans, if by no one else, the global spread of Afroasiatic culture begins much further back than has lately been suspected. The 12th millenium B.C. pre-pottery neolithic (PPN) site of Gobekli Tepe in Anatolia (now modern Turkey ) has now shown clear connections between the earliest cultures of Turkey (such as Catal Huyuk) and those of megalithic Europe and Northern Africa some of which were of course pointed out by scholars over a century ago.  
      One author - Andrew Collins - calling himself a science writer (but more like a pop science writer) has this to say:
    "The main relationship between key PPN sites such as Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori is the fact that their layout, design and art are the same. They were constructed by the same unique race of people. They connect with Çatal Hüyük because this was a latter development of the same high culture, and so this city - excavated first in the early 1960s by British archaeologist James Mellaart - can tell us much about the earlier cults at places such as Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori. Like, for example, the Neolithic cult of the dead. At Çatal Hüyük we find frescoes of vultures accompanying the soul of the deceased into the next world, and also of shamans taking the form of vultures for presumed shamanic practices, such as contacting or journeying into the other world. Since statues of birdmen, as well as those of vultures, have been found at both Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori, we can be pretty sure that the same cult existed here as far back as 11,500-10,000 BP.
       However,  leaving out the comment about a "unique race of people", the truth is that these people of the "high culture" of Catal Huyuk and  pre-pottery Neolithic cultures of the Levant were in fact a link between the very ancient culture of Nilotic northeast Africa, Mesopotamia and the megalithic cultures of western Europe and northern Africa - all for the most part occupied  predominately by a population that has skeletal or morphological affinities and  traits "unique" to the Africans now called "sub-Saharan".
      The discovery of Gobekli Tepe also lends credence to the supposition by some scientists that the pyramid complex and sphinx in Egypt dates back much earlier than is being formally acknowledged and to the supposition by Ehret, Bauval and other open-minded thinkers dating back to Higgins and Massey that the civilization of African-Asiatics was once more widespread and global in nature and more ancient than is presently believed.

"As rightly noted by one interested researcher of early religion - "The stark-naked woman in a very indecent, "splayed", position from Gobekli Tepe (incised on a stone slab covering a bench inside the round wall of a sanctuary 25), is also found at Catal Huyuk....Even the posture of the arms is the same: One arm raised, the other lowered."dn'e ric Langkjer Catal Huyuk and Gobekli Tepe,

     After all, some say the Ishango bone tracking lunar phases and purportedly having some connection to the Rhind papyrus in ancient Eygpt dates back some 25,000 or more years ago. These connections, however, are a subject to be discussed in a forthcoming page of this blog. : )

Neolithic man in Catal Huyuk in Turkey (Anatolia) performs cattle jumping ritual similar to modern east Africans. The skeletons of such people have been misnomered "Mediterranean".

 Ancient practices of jumping cattle continue among Africans such as the Omotic-speaking Hamer tribe of Ethiopia

       In order to truly understand the traditions of these ancient cultures which are African and Afroasiatic in origin most of us will have to leave behind the impressions from Western movies and Sunday school or Hebrew school classes that have presented a rather distorted view of who the ancient peoples – especially who people of the Bible were and what they looked like. Scientists who have looked at the ancient world objectively know that the majority, if not all of the early peoples speaking the so-called “semitic” dialects, for example, between 4 and 7 thousand years ago were in fact African and Afro-Asian, predominantly represented by peoples in Africa now speaking "Cushitic" and Nilo-Saharan dialects and once known euphemistically as the “hamites”. (We can probably throw in the Woodabe or early Fulani, Bahima and Watutsi and some other groups now speaking other dialects for good measure.)

Reflecting the appearance of the earliest Semitic-speakers are East Africa's "Cushites"
       This has been acknowledged for at least a century by the more objective and learned amongst the Western linguists, archaeologists and physical anthropologists alike, although there are still a few stragglers in different disciplines that don’t seem to be cognizant of this (hence the uproar in the study of classics and world history, and the still raging conflict of Afrocentric and Eurocentric thinkers.) In other words, the individuals that have familiarized themselves with more than one discipline, i.e. linguistics, physical anthropology and the archaeological background of the ancient Near East and Africa in particular - are the ones that have most often accepted these facts.
      Not too long ago, Edward Lipinski, a well- known specialist in the “semitic” dialects and grammar had the following to say about the movement of the original “semite” from Africa as well as the rather widespread geographical situation of their ancestors in ancient times. 

       "This implies that the speakers of Proto-Semitic were still dwelling in Africa in the 5th millennium B.C., in the Neolithic Sub-pluvial (ca. 5500-3500 B.C.), when the Sahara’s climate was much wetter, so that erosion took place as in other moist temperate subtropical regions…Settlement was undoubtedly widespread in the Sahara at that time and there is ample evidence of Neolithic culture with rock drawings showing animals that no longer live there.  A worsening of environmental conditions is indicated in North Africa ca. 3500 B.C.  with disappearance of vegetation, a major faunal break, desertification and desertion.  This might have been the period when the speakers of Proto-Semitic passed through the Nile delta from the West to the East, and reached Western Asia, where written documents of the third millennium B.C. preserve noticeable traces of Pre-Semitic and, in Mesopotamia, also of Pre-Sumerian substratum.   The collapse of the Ghassulian culture in Palestine around 3300 B.C. and the Egyptian finds in southern Palestine from the Early Bronze period I (ca.3300-3050 B.C. ) may testify to the arrival of these new population groups.  The Palestinian tumuli, belonging to the culture of seminomadic groups during much of the fourth and third millenia B.C. seem to confirm this hypothesis, since a very similar type of sepulture characterizes prehistoric North Africa, especially Algeria and it is a typical feature of the old Libyco-Berber tradition. It is now attested also in the Eastern Sahara, where the megalithic complex and the tumuli of Nabta Playa, about 100  km west of Abu Simbel, are dated from the fifth millennium B.C.  Thus, from North Africa, wave after wave of Semitic migrations would seem to have set forth. The earliest of these migrants and those who went furthest to the East, were the Akkadians who, journeying along the Fertile Crescent through Palestine and Syria, and crossing over into Mesopotamia, reached Northern Babylonia ca. 3000 B.C. and founded the first Semitic Empire at Kish ….The Amorites and their congeners would appear to have followed as far as Syria before the 2500 B.C. The Southern Semites would seem to have reached the moister highlands of the Yemen and Hadramawt after 2000 B.C. following the collapse of the Early Bronze culture in Palestine, while the Ethiopians would have crossed over to the Horn of Africa when drier conditions prevailed in South Arabia ca. 1500-500 B.C. …The Libyco-Berbers continued, instead, to occupy the original language area of the speakers of Afro-Asiatic.  Their African origins may even be confirmed by a possible relationship of Afro-Asiatic with Bantu languages which form the central group of the large Niger-Congo family …” (Lipinski, 2001,  pp. 44 and 45) See Semitic Languages by Edward Lipinski

      Lipinski acknowledges in those paragraphs that the African ancestors of the original “semites” left in “wave after wave” from Africa and colonized certain regions of the Near East and that some immigrated back into Africa or Abyssinia. Since he published this book a little over 10 years ago there have been new discoveries showing that the southern Arabian landscape was filled with an ancient Afro-Asian culture as early as the 3rd and 4th millenium BC - and even earlier in some areas.  Thus, he was a little off in the dating of the presence of Semites there through no fault of his own.
      More is also known about the dates of the astronomically-based, megalithic complexes of Nabta Playa in the Nubian desert, and the African peoples occupying that area at the time. The culture in this region dates back before the 6th millennium B.C.

Megaliths from the Nubian desert - Nabta Playa - displayed in an Aswan Museum  For more on Nabta Playa, its megaliths and the African's who made them see Robert Bauval's relatively entertaining book - (Black Genesis The Prehistoric Origins of Ancient Egypt.) 

Megaliths from Central Africa from the rural town of Bouar in the Central African Republic.  They are said to date to a little later than those from Nabta Playa.  

   Christopher Ehret one of the world's  foremost specialists in African archaeology and linguistics also has even more recently suggested a different scenario than Lipinski's suggesting the ancestors of the semitic speakers, which he considers “Eritraeans”, could have left Africa with an even earlier culture called the "Capsian" dating before the 6th millennium  in Northern Africa west of Egypt.  

     In his book, History and the Testimony of Language, (2011), we read the following: "Among the Erythraite peoples who made Capsian civilization archaelogical cultures of those areas, domestic cattle were probably present in by sometime in the 7th millenium, if not before" (Ehret, 2011. p. 77). History and the Testimony of Language

     Before that he states, "...Erythraite communities, speaking a language ancestral to the later Semitic languages moved northward at some point across the Sinai and Arabian peninsula and into the Palestine-Syrian region of far southwestern Asia." p. 76

"Megalithic stones of the Tihama". Black Africans made their way to the Sinai and the Levant, Hijaz and Tihama of Arabia bringing their megalithic cultures with them. The Sabir culture of the Tihama was disovered to have megalithic ruins similar to those found in prehistoric Nubia.

           Like Lipinski,  Ehret and others have connected the bearers of  “proto-semitic” or Afro-Asian culture and language to the modern East African populations formerly classified as “hamites”- the so-called "brown" or dolichocephalic "Mediterranean race" of Sergi Elliot-Smith and early physical anthropologists.   
    Continuing with his discussion of the African roots of semitic-speakers, Lipinski importantly states the following:

“…any linguistic mapping of Afro-Asiatic speakers should be complemented by an anthropological approach.  The data are not so abundant as might be wished, but enough evidence is available to establish the fact that the Afro-Asians belonged basically to the long-headed or dolichocephalic Mediterranean peoples widespread in distribution in Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic times….”  “…skeletal evidence seems to indicate that the same Neolithic peoples from North Africa entered the Iberian peninsula and moved into the Egyptian upper valley of the Nile in predynastic times. They are well represented by the Naqada cranial series, dated ca. 3900-3300 B.C. It reveals an increasing diversification from the preceding Badari period (4400-3900 B.C.), which probably reflects a northern or northwestern immigration…The modern descendants of the Naqada people – though frequently mixed with negroes – are found among the speakers of Cushitic languages in the Horn of Africa and the Bedja people in the desert between the Nile and the Red Sea. Characteristic artefacts of the Naqada period, suggesting connections with prehistoric Libyco-Berbers, are statuettes of bearded men wearing phallic sheaths, like those of the  Libyans in historical times.”  (Lipinski, pp. 44-45) 

     Thus, Lipinski like earlier specialists acknowledge that the ancient Bedja and other east Africans were at one time representative of the ancient dolichocephalic populations that once dominated the Mediterranean in large numbers, including those who came to populate Egypt and Bronze Age Palestine and those who passed into Europe through Iberia and Anatolia (Catal Huyuk) contributing to the Neolithic and Pre-Pottery Neolithic populations there.

So-called "gracile", dolichocephalic "Mediterranean type" (alias the "black African": ) whose crania and skeletal remains have been found throughout Neolithic Europe and western Asia

Ggantije megalithic ruins - 3rd to 4th millenium BC


   These dispersed populations are frequently found in rock art throughout East Africa, Syria, Arabia, the Sahara and Mediterranean ( including on the European side of the Mediterranean) depicting themselves as near black in complexion and in art stylistically reminiscent of the Saharan artwork.  

Early Africans ("long-headed Mediterraneans") in late stone age Spanish Levant (site Barrancos de la letras)
     According to Antonio Martinez this Saharan-Iberian connection is particularly true of what is called the Spanish Levantine art. He writes

"...the use of perspective tordue must remain in suspense for depicting the horns and antlers of animals depicted seen in profile is a convention common to both cave art and Levantine paintings. According to Brueil, it was first used in the Perigordian ...the same convention is found in neolithic paintings in North Africa and even later in situations which can have nothing to do with the neolithic" (Martinez, 1982, p. 67 ).

     An author of Indian Rock Art and its Global Context  also writes "The chronological attributions of Saharan rock arts have followed a pattern that is rather similar to that which we have noted in the Spanish Levantine rock art" (Chakravarty and Bednarik, 1997, p. F-26).

Women in rock art of Chad (in the Sahara)

Women in art of the Spanish Levant 
       Numerous of these populations in Europe were often associated with megalithic complexes comparable to those in the eastern Mediterranean and Africa and in fact elsewhere and have been euphemistically classified under the term “Mediterranean” - which laymen and certain scholars have unfortunately confused with modern inhabitants of the Mediterranean - Europeans who are the descendants of more recent “Eurasiatics”. (The word “negroes” as used by Lipinski and anthropologists others refers to certain of the Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan-speakers in the area of Nubia.)
      British anatomist Grafton Elliot-Smith, Haddon and other early forensic anthropologists frequently spoke of the close or striking similarities both culturally and osteologically amongsts these Afro-Asian populations.  One variant of these ancient populations present in both Europe and Africa, as well as southern Asia (the Near East extending to central and southern Asia) was described by Smith early on.  He  unabashedly asserted that “a description of the bones of an Early Briton of that remote epoch might apply in all essential details to an inhabitant of Somaliland… The people were longheaded of small stature, skull is long, narrow and coffin shaped, brow ridges poorly developed, forehead is narrow, vertical and often slightly bulging…” (Smith, 1911, p. 58 -59).  

"Table of the Sun?"- Remnants of megalithic culture and capped stone monuments dating as late as the 1st millenium dot the landscape of inner Africa by the hundreds
             Many decades before Lipinski, Elliot-Smith in fact wrote “the physical characteristics of the present day Nubian, Beja, Danakil, Galla, and Somali populations, if we leave out of account the alien negro and Semitic traits… are an obvious token of their undoubted kinship with the proto-Egyptians” (Elliot-Smith, 1911, p. 75) The Ancient Egyptians
      Because of the implications of such revelations, which have only been confirmed by more recent anthropological investigation and genetic studies, many apparently offended European scholars since that time have been averse to referring to the work of the early anthropologists, taking it upon themselves to proclaim such work theoretically unsound or “ultra-diffusionist”.  On the other hand, most rhetoric took another direction with some anthropologists insisting that there was some direct connection between these early black “Afro-Asians” with modern Europeans. This diversion was of course based on racist belief that the direct ancestors of modern Europeans were the makers of all or most of early civilization and representative of Biblical peoples whether in Africa or elsewhere - along with the notion that sub-Saharan Africans were in fact, “pre-Adamites”.
      Hence the category of “black Caucasians” was created, otherwise known as “the Hamite”, which was then replaced by the adopted title dolichocephalic Mediterranean race or "long-headed Mediterranean” type. Meanwhile the rest of the people of “teeming”sub-Saharan Africa - except for those the colonialists termed “pigmy” and “bushmen” - were simply classified under the euphemism of “negro”.  The latter is was a word which had many assigned prerequisites and meanings depending on the conjurer, with as much significance as the term “koolie” or “coolie” in south and east Asia, and with the added suggestion of an "uncivilized", child-like primitive, of course. 
     The most recent attribution of the so-called “negro” or “sub-Saharan African”, however,  as seen in popular genetic sites created for public consumption is being “part pygmy”.  The newly espoused, and in fact, rather amusing nature of such suggestions on sites purporting to "scientifically" analyze the amount of African ancestry  - particularly “West African” dna - is implied by the use of the term “pygmy” itself, a colonialist designation for the small-statured groups of Africans such as the Mbuti, Twa and Aka in Africa who probably predate the evolution of most later African types by thousands if not some 10s of thousands of years. These sites, nevertheless, may have been inspired in part by earlier influential scholars now considered pseudo-scholars, such as the eugenicist Carleton S. Coon. His theories were once influential, but based on rather racist and obsolete views, are not by any means taken seriously by most established anthropologists, and for obvious reasons. *
      In reality these black so-called “Mediterraneans”  present in the early European landscapes varied in phenotype or osteological characteristics, if not their obvious African character. The smaller variant was often described as "superficially Negroid” in cranio-facial aspect, as with the early small “gracile, Mediterranean type”  purportedly associated with the Chamblandes and Linear Band Ceramic cultures of France and Anatolia. (Ironically, sometimes as in the case of early anthropologists Guiseppe Sergi, the term “pygmoid” was  applied to them as well.)

Cushitic woman of the Iraqw tribe. Cushites were once wrongly thought to be more closely affiliated with modern Europeans, than with other black Africans
       Some of the early Mesolithic and Neolithic Natufians and Mediterranean types in Iran and Mesopotamia were described as rather robust and significantly very prognathic in character, although Coon tried to group them with modern Englishmen and classified them under a nebulous “Atlanto-Mediterranean” category. While others like Immanuel Anati who studied the rock art of the Arabian peninsula, Syro-Palestine and other parts of the Near East noted an “elongated” “Negroid” type in the deserts of Syro-Arabia that bore likeness in appearance both biological and cultural to modern East African pastoralists and nomadic or semi-nomadic populations in the Neolithic Sahara and Nilotic area.  
      It should be noted that all of these groups depicted themselves in their own art work as near black in aspect or complexion, similar to those appearing in early artwork in Nubia and the Sahara.  Yet it has taken decades for some scholars to acknowledge that this presence in fact was not some monolithic “race” of black “Caucasians”,  but the out-of-Africa expressions of the various black populations that were dispersed since the paleolithic or Holocene period in ancient and tropical Africa.  As the tropical climate and ecology in Northern Africa turned to an arid one, and deserts overtook humid areas the various groups of Africa all still connected by similar haplotypes (L and E) began to modify their lifestyles and food habits, and as a consequence were osteologically modified.
    In most cases the change to a Neolithic diet led to a more gracile form and reduction in the cranial-masticatory complex associated with chewing. Those in the deserts also became more elongated and narrow in their limb and facial proportions to adapt to their environments. Nevertheless, Loring Brace was able to determine the rather direct descent of modern east Africans from these Neolithic and Paleolithic populations.  Their descendants now make up a great proportion of  Saharan Africa, northeast Africa and the Sahel.    
     The Afro-Asians that left Africa within the last 13-15,000 years still share many of the cultural modes and notions concerning the phenomenal world that apparently developed solely amongst black Africans many thousands of years ago. This is implied by the presence of matrifocal customs, totemism and similar practices and ideological views still present among Dravidic-speaking peoples in India  and peoples speaking derivatives of the ancient Himyaritic dialects in Arabia.  This also includes more specific customs, beliefs and mores such as the presence of circumcision and making of porthole tombs among dozens of other things highly reminiscent of their Neolithic forebearers in Africa and Eurasia.

Tamil Dravidian girl from India like many Dravidic speakers probably resembles her Afro-Asian forebearers or the original Dravidic-speakers
       Some scholars are now proposing - based on genetic, cultural and linguistic connections - a link between Afroasiatic speakers and the Dravidians of India.  One linguistic scholar wrote relatively recently, “Blazek (in press) has proposed that Elamite an extinct language of the Ancient Near East, either constitutes a seventh branch of Afroasiatic or is CO-ordinate with it. Elamite is usually classified with Dravidian, spoken in South India, but does show clear resemblances with Afroasiatic. Blazek proposes a structure where Afroasiatic is related to Dravidian at a higher level and Elamite forms a bridge between the two. Whether the links between Elamite and Afroasiatic reflect a genetic relationship or are simply a case of extensive loanwords, remains to be explored” (Blench, R., 2006, p. 147). See Blench's  Westward Wanderings of Cushitic Pastoralists PDF here

Paniyar Dravidian

        There have already been noted several similarities between the cultures of Africans and Dravidians including  "common types of round hut, common music instruments, common forms of snake worship and tree worship." In addition its been noted that a South-Indian board game pallankuli "closely resembles the African game mancalal".
      The famed Professor and anthropologist Mircea Eliade who also spoke about an “Afroasian” culture extending between east Africa and southern Asia noted the Dravidic Hiranyagarbha rite as being similar to a custom documented among ancient Egyptian pharaohs. 
     Just these similarities alone would suggest a Nilotic or Saharan affiliation of the earliest Dravidic-speaking populations before their absorption of other settlers and movement southward from the area of Baluchistan and Elam.

*Just a note of caution for Africans about the Dienekes and some of the newer commercial websites purporting to analyze the dna of Africans.

See also the unique new blog -

Blench, R. (2006) Archaeology Language and the African Past.

Chakravarty, K.  Bednarik, R. G. (1997). Indian rock art and its global context.

Elliot-Smith, G. (1911). The ancient Egyptians and their influence upon the civilization of Europe.

Ehret, C. (2011). The history and testimony of language.

Martino, A. B. (1982). Rock art of Spanish Levant. Cambridge University Press.

Lipinksi, E. ( 2001). Semitic Languages: Outline of a comparative grammar.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

EASTERN BERBERIA, or The East African Roots of the Original Berber Peoples

     "I then went from Aden by sea, and after four days came to the city of Zayla.  This is a settlement, of the Berbers a people of Sudan, of the Shafia sect. Their country is a desert of two months extent; the first part is termed Zayla, the last Makdashu..."   Ibn Battuta 14th century (Richard F. Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa , Or an Exploration of Harar

Women of Harar of modern Ethiopia - ancient town of the "Eastern Berberia"

"…most African authors say that the first inhabitants of the eastern deserts of Berberia and Numidia, called African Berbers, were five peoples of Sabas who came with Melec Ifriqui, king of south Arabia, from whom was taken the name 'Africa', as stated in the first chapter of this book. These people still maintain that their ancient names were Zinhagia, Alucamuda, Zeneta, Haoara and Gumera. From them descend six hundred heritages of African Berbers, and from them come all the noblest kings of all Africa...      

       "These five peoples first populated eastern Berberia, and afterward spilled over into different habitations, making themselves lords of most of Africa. They were collectively called African Berbers, because they first lived in Berberia.”  Luis del Marmol Carvajal, 1520A.D. - Spanish traveler and chronicler from Granada.

      “Clearly, for six centuries Greeks and Romans consistently and regularly described a Barbaria on the east coast of Africa.” (R. Rouighi, "The Berbers of the Arabs", Studia Islamica, nouvelle édition/new series, 1, p. 71)

Colonialist rendition of Berbera warriors of Zeila, Somalia

       One of the so-called "enigmas" of African history is the origins of the peoples and culture named Berber in the early world. Because colonialists have indiscriminately used the name Berber for peoples of North Africa regardless of their cultural affiliation some have been confused over the terminology of “Berber” wrongly thinking it bore some relationship to the Greek word “barbar first meaning to babble or speak some incomprehensible dialect, and hence the term  “barbarian”. Fortunately, more erudite historians had concluded that the term Berber was and is from the root of an African word still used by certain Africans peoples for themselves, and was separate from the early Greek or European designation  “barbarus” or “barbarian” (Lonis, 1996 p. 289).
       Among the earliest known references to the Berbers is in the text - Periplus Mare Erythraean (Periplus of the Eritrean Sea) dating to around the 1st century A.D.. Writes one historian, “Although the PME does not mention the name Trogodutai, it does refer to peoples near Berenike, and Adouli and along the coast as far as the Spice Mart near Gardafui as Barbaroi and calls the country Barbaria, which we should translate as Berbers.” (Page 146,  Periplus of the Erythraean Se,  G.W. B. Huntingford in 1980 wrote Vol. 2, part 4 The Hakluyt Society, 1980)
       Although very ancient writer’s such as the Roman Josephus had spoken of the Saharan Gaitules or Getuli as being from Hevila of Kush or the Evalioi (Avalites) of the Blue Nile (Astaboras), it has often been doubted in modern times that the “Berbers” of Nubia and East Africa had any direct relationship with those of the Maghreb. Today some scholars, geneticists in particular, have also been inclined to assume that early Berbers have been a population that was indigenous to North Africa and that all modern Berber-speakers were somehow descended from and representative of the early Berbers.
        In fact many modern Berber-speakers have very little connection either genetically or historically to the ancient Berbers who once dominated the coasts of northern Africa, and for that reason many of their modern Maghrebi historians don’t recognize the origins of the word Berber (nor do they even acknowledge the word Berber as being of indigenous origin), which only has meaning within the context of black Afroasiatic culture. .
      Archaeology, however, does not support the origins of the Berber culture referred to by many Middle Eastern writers of the Islamic Middle Ages as having been indigenous or present “since time immemorial” in ancient North Africa, nor do any of the indigenous traditions of the Berber people.  Almost all historians have recorded their arrival from the east as a people of exceedingly black complexion.
     Although the name Berber appears to date from thousands of years ago in the Nilotic and East African area, among the earliest mentions of the people by the Greeks was in the region of Somalia and the Horn. According to certain more recent historians the name "Berber" in Horn of Africa  probably included the ancestors of the Bejas between the Nile and Red Sea, the Danakils between the Upper Nile, Abyssinia and the Gulf of Aden and the Somals and Gallas” (Schoff, 1912, p. 56).  Certain of the populations in that ancient country or region in east Africa - known as Bilad al-Barbar or land of the Berbers - apparently continued to use their native designation and moving westward at an early period came to be known Mauri or Mauri Bavares (Babors or Babars).  
     European colonialists were in fact well aware of the word Berber as a name for a rather large portion of northeast Africa south of Egypt,  

      "The country designated as Barbara was situated between Upper Egypt and Abyssinia, or accoring to Wilford it included all the country between Syene and the confluence of the Nile with the Tekazze which is generally called Barbara or Barbar at the present time...In this name we perhaps see the origin of the term Barbary which has been applied to Northern Africa, and also of the term Berber used to designate all of the tribes of the interior of northern Africa (Baldwin, pp. 279-280).

      The name "Berber" was in fact well known as the name of a people of ancient Nubia south of Egypt even before the Greek writers, and more recent European colonial administrators have claimed the dialect of the Berber  traders from Maghreb was comprehensible to the speakers of Barabra in Nubia. Thus one 19th century encyclopaedia states "Seetzen was assurred by one of the Barabra pilgrims, that the Berbers of the Nile understand the dialect of the Berbers of Moghrib, or Marocco, who come with their caravans through Nubia on their way to Mecca." It was the notable 19th century British adventurer and "Orientalist" Richard Francis Burton quoting the 14th century Ibn Battuta, who wrote the following:
       I then went from Aden by sea, and after four days came to the city of Zayla. This is a settlement, of the Berbers, a people of Sudan, of the Shafia sect. Their country is a desert of two months' extent; the first part is termed Zayla, the last Makdashu.”

Camels without number led by young man near in Mogadishu, Somalia

      Ibn Battuta is well known to historians of North Africa as a worldly Moroccan traveler who visited different regions of Africa and in fact journeyed as far as Anatolia (modern Turkey) and the Central Asian steppes.
      On page 17 of the book, Travels of Ibn Battuta of the Oriental Translation Fund is found  a notice written by one colonial observer on the people referred to by Battuta. “The Berbers are another people whose country is situated upon the southern sea, between the districts of the Abyssinians and those of the Zanj, they are called Berbera. They are blacks, and are the people who make the dower for wives (this) that they …shall cut off the virilia of a man (perhaps an enemy), and also steal. They are more like animals than men.”

    (This rather ancient practice of removing the sexual organs of men from enemy clans continues among such Cushitic-speaking clans known as Ilm Oromo (Galla) and Somali.) 

       Again for Ibn Battuta “Berber” was the name of a people of the Sudan. “Again in Sudan Ibn Batuta, who travelled in the fourteenth century, found a tribe of Berbers in the kingdom of Wadai or Bergu, which lies west of Darfur and the king of the country was then of Berber race.” (Page 263 of the 1835 reference book, Penny Cyclopaedia for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge)
        The Borghu region was a significant area stretched between Sudan and Chad, the Tibetsi mountains of southern Libya. The early Muslim merchants of Borghu (also written Bergu, Borku and Borgu) were called Wangara or Wa’N’garawa “speaking as their first language the Dendi dialect of Songhay”.  (Haviser, 2008, p. 97). These Songhai or Takrur (also found transliterated as Sughai, Zoghoy (Cooley) or  Zaghai (Laya,1992,  p. 454 fn. 7) were evidently known as Berbers from very early times, and as mentioned in previous pages on this blog were also known to Arabic observers as “al–Barabir”.
       Al-Idrisi, another Moroccan and geographer of the 9th century also mentioned the Abyssinian merchants of Philae and the camel men of Zeila in Somalia wearing veils typical of the peoples called Tuareg or Imoshagh (Mazigh) essentially verifying the Berbers of coastal North Africa and those of the Horn whatever their previous origin were essentially one and the same people (Palmer, 1970, p. 79).  The Tuareg whose men have worn veils since pre-Islamic periods were people who along with the Zaghawa and related Chadic peoples had comprised a large part of the groups called Sanhaja and Zanata, while the Kutama and Hawara Berbers of North Africa and Sahara were also apparently exclusively Tuareg. 

Ruins of ancient Zeila (Somalia)

      Thus, properly speaking the word Berber was used for the descendants of certain Nubian and east African people who extended to the deserts of the Sahara and mountains of North Africa, but included many peoples of the Sudan, and east Africa -including Cushitic-speakers of the Horn and certain Nilo-Saharan peoples across the Sudan and Sahel.   Ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam (d.871)  “… mentioned a Barbar market (sūq Barbar) in the Egyptian city of Fustat. The absence of the definite article indicates that it was the market of the people of Barbar (āl barbar) not the Barbar (al-barbar). Again, the Barbar in question is the east African region to the south of the city of Fustāt. Thus, one may safely conclude that the name predated the Arab conquest of northwest Africa” (Roughi, 2011, p. 7).
     Djehutmuse I of the 18th dynasty supposedly named the Barbara as one of over 113 tribes that he conquered and also mentioned in the time of Ramses as Beraberata. The early name of this population appears to have been Nobatae or Noubai and the latter name may have been related to that of Napatans (Keane, 1920, p. 73 and see fn. 1). 
       Properly speaking, the word was used for certain Nubian and east African people who extended to the deserts of the Sahara and mountains of North Africa.  It was used most specifically for the Marisi, Kenuz and early Dunqalawi, and like the latter, early Berbers were known for their horses and chariots.
             Francis Wilford had noticed that certain early books of the Hindus such as the Puranas had at times mentioned the Berbers as a people of what was termed Cusha-Dwipa (Kush).  Baldwin noting what Wilford wrote for the Calcutta Society wrote: “The country designated as Barbara was situated between Upper Egypt and Abyssinia, or according to Wilford, it included all the country between Syene and the confluence of the Nile with the Tecazze which is generally called Barbara and Barbar at the present time.”
      The name “Berber” was surmised by Wilford to have been  brought from the Red Sea or Eritraean region because of  the Hindu Puranas, sacred compilations written between the 4th and 9th centuries that speak of a rather large region called Berbera-desa, including the region of the Tekaze river valley in modern Ethiopia. In the 1865 “Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society” page 86 is found the following:  “Berbera-desa of the Puranas is the same with the Berber of the present day, which includes all the land between Syene and the confluence of the Nile with the Tecasse, which is the Asthimati or lesser Chrishna of the Puranas, and the Sanchanaga or Mareb.” ( Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society, Vol.
      The earliest Puranas are thought to date from probably the 4th century or thereabouts.

Ruins of Adulis ancient and medieval capital of the eastern Berbers

        The name Berber was thus known not only in Africa, but throughout “the Orient” as a name that applied to certain populations of Africans of the Horn, the Sudan and Sahel from an ancient period.  It is also a fact that Berbers and other Africans in fact stretching to the Atlantic in the ancient world were often indiscriminately referred to as Indi, Arabians, Ethiopians and thus “according to Isidore in the ninth book, there are three principal tribes of Aethiopians, the Hesperi, Garamantes, and Indi” (Burke, 2002, p. C-331). Thus, also certain peoples of Nubia and Abyssinia were at times known as Indians such as the Blemmyes of Nonnus text, Dionysiaca.  Meanwhile Abyssinia was referred to as “the third India” well into the medieval period (Pankhurst, 2003, p. 8; also seep. 87 of the  “Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society”) and southern and northern Arabia called “India Minor”and Kus or Kush or Ethiopia by Greeks, Syrians and others.  In fact the original eponyms Hind and Sind in Arabian lore were peoples of Kush from Kuth or Phut son of Ham, while for earlier writers such as Strabo the region of Abyssinia and everything east of the Nile in Africa is referred to as “Arabia”. 

Women of the country of Djibouti in the Horn of AFrica

           These same Berbers or Berberia of Cusha-Dwipa were identified as Kushites in Arabic texts from Kush who is either said to be  “son of Canaan”, or else son of Ham.   But more of this subject of the Berber Kushites as Canaanites and the “Indians” as “Ethiopians”, and vice versa, will be discussed in future postings - as the Canaan spoken of in recent Western legend is not the early Canaan of early Berber or Afro-Asiatic tradition. 


Burton, R. F.  First footsteps in East Africa: Or an exploration of Harar

Baldwin, J.D. ( 1869). Pre-Historic nations; Or inquiries concerning some of the great peoples and civilizations of antiquity, London: Sampson, Lowe, Son, and Marston.

Burke, R. B. (2002). The Opus major of Roger Bacon, Vol. I, Kessinger Publishing.

Harper & Brothers.Cooley, W.D. (1841). The Negro land of the Arabs, examined and explained: Or, an inquiry into the early history and geography of Central Africa, London: J. Arrowsmith.

Haviser, J.B. & MacDonald, K. C. (2008). African Re-Genesis Confronting Social Issues in the Diaspora.

Ilahiane, H. (2006). Historical dictionary of the Berbers. Introduction. Lanham/MD:Scarecrow Press.  

Huntingford, G.W.B. (1980)  The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Vol. 2, part 4 The Hakluyt Society.

Keane, A. H. (1920).  Man, past and present. Cambridge University Press.

Ilahiane, H. (2006). Historical dictionary of the Berbers. Introduction. Lanham/MD:Scarecrow Press. 

Laya, D. (1992).   “The Hausa states”, In Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth century General History of Africa, UNESCO.

Lonis, R. (1996). North Africa: The Libyco-Berbers. (In Siegfried De Laet, Ed.) History of humanity from the seventh century BC to the seventh century AD.  Volume III.  UNESCO.  Routledge.

Pankhurst, R. (2003). The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean. Africa World Press.

Palmer, H. R. (1970). The Bornu Sahara and Sudan.

Rouighi, R. (2011). The Berbers of the Arabs. Studia Islamica, nouvelle édition/new series, 1, pp. 67-101

Schoff , W. H. (1912). The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and trade in the Indian Ocean by a merchant of the first century. NY: Longmans Green and Company.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012


The Fulani/Fulata, or "Fulitani" of the Roman writers, preserve an ancient pastoral nomadic and dying culture in modern Africa.   Men of this Fulani group called Woodabe often reach 7 feet in height according to Werner Herzog.  Woodabe Geerewol dance
This post by Dana W. Reynolds is dedicated to the Fulani ancestors of so many African Americans - a people with an ancient culture whom according to European colonialists "never retreated in battle".  

Woodabe-Fulani man in traditional turban

   Eastern Libyans - a classic with a world of knowledge on ancient Africa
This High priest of the "Libyan" tribe of  Meshwesh discovered in royal Egyptian tomb of the Libyan Pharaoh Psusennes is reminiscent of Fulani men

      The peoples best known as Fulani, Felata, Fulbe, Pullo or Peul in French are a pastoral cattle herding and farming ethnic group spread across the Sahara, Sahel and Sudan as far as between Mauritania Guinea and Ethiopia. Today in different regions the Fulani ethnic and linguistic population is thought to include up to as many as 15,000,000 people.
        One peculiarity found among the lesser modified or “red Fulani”, such as the Wodaabe (who preserve to a great extent  the original Fulani appearance and lifestyle), was pointed out by Werner Herzog in his documentary “Herdsmen of the Sun”.  There is a tendency to great height or stature. Apparently many of the men of the northern Fulani groups as with the Tuareg frequently reach 7 feet in height and over, something historians tend to forget, or are not always aware of when assessing "Fulani" origins.

Modern Fulani young woman of the Wodaabe group
     The original Fulani appear to have been fairly widespread in North and Saharan Africa from a very ancient period. They are probably mentioned in northern Algeria or what was considered Mauritania Caesarea as the Fulitani or Barzu Fulitani on the late 4th map of Julius Honorius (Mommsen 1867, p. 28 and 62). They are also mentioned as having come down a few centuries later from the Tichit region by the Tariq es-Sudan written in the 1600s.  They, thus are likely the Warith/Wariz (a probable variant of Barzu) said to have been pushed down from the Mauretanian Adrar region by the Arab Quraishi conqueror, Uqba ibn Nafi and converted to Islam.
   As for the Banu Warith or Waritan of the medeival period, they are described as a  clan of the Sanhaja or of the Geddula or Banu Joddala Berbers ( the latter were considered by that time a branch of the Sanhaja) by Arabized writers such as Ibn Hawqal and El Bekri and others. (Levtsion and Hopkins, 2000, pp. 50, 67, 237; Palmer, 1970, p. 61)     
     By the 10th century and 11th century Fulani were living amongst several peoples of other Nilo-Saharan groups who had mixed with and adopted the dialect of Niger-Congo groups in kingdoms of the Sudan. The Fulani gradually spread as far east as Ethiopia where they are known as Bororo and from Mauretania across Senegambia along the West African costs and savannah they spread to places like the Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso, but appear to have been the same adversaries appearing in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings of the time of Seti and called Tjehenu.

      Many of the groups that today speak the Fulbe, Fulfulde or Pulaagu dialects are in fact a mixture of the original Fula or Fulitani and these various Songhai and Mande ethnic groups. They are also associated with the people and place name Futa or Futabe.  A good example of such groups are the Toucouleur, formed and perhaps named from the Takruri and Fulani who had come to occupy the region of Futa Toro and Futa Jallon. In the northern Sahel and Sahara the group preserving the earliest Fulani lifestyle are known in Western texts “Wodaabe”a variant of the earlier Futa-be. 
      Although the Fulani had been mainly vassals in the early Sudanic kingdoms of Songhai and Ghana, by the 1500s the Fulani were at Macina/Massina in the Middle Niger river region in Mali. They are associated with coming to occupy and dominate the Empire called Sokoto and kingdom of Bornu originally founded by peoples of Nilo-Saharan and Tuareg ethnicity.

        The origins of the Fulani have stir some lasting controversy over the last several decades due to their physical appearance or phenotype, Arabic records concerning their origins, the presence of Zebu cattle thought to be native to India, certain inconsistencies with regard to their phenotype and their current linguistic affinities which were thought to not match their phenotype. Due to European colonialist ideas about indigenous African origins and especially North African “racial” origins, the notion has gradually evolved – as it has with the Tuareg and other dark-skinned Africans once prevalent in North Africa -  that their ethnic roots were “enigmatic” or “unknown”. Yet, in fact, the earliest Fulani were one of the few peoples for which there is an abundance of evidence for origins in the Sahara oases and North Africa since the Neolithic. The evidence is both archeological and anthropological and tends to show that original Fulani population belonged to a group of neolithic pastoralists in the central and northern Sahara who were spread to Kharga, Kerma and possibly further east in Africa in later times. They appear to have been among the first people to be known to ancient Egyptians as under the names Tjehenu or Temehou.
      Their presence in stone age north Africa probably led to contact with other groups as far back as the late stone age which has led to their current so–called non-African features such as notably lengthy and less frizzly hair than other west African tribes and perhaps the introduction of a curvature to their innately narrow long noses.

Typical faces of Woodabe Fulani
      As for the current linguistic situation of the Fulani, it should be said that there are many peoples in Africa that over the past 2,000 years have adopted dialects foreign to their own that subsequently evolved into newer forms. This has happened for various reasons, often due to trade or immigration.  A good example is the current situation of North Africa where many groups of varied ethnicity and diverse biological origin over the last 2,000 years have adopted either the Arabic or Berber dialects and claim either Arabic or Berber origin or nationality today. At one time Berbers themselves were said to have been largely “Romanized” while now it appears descendants of Romans, Vandals, Scythians, Central Asians and other peoples who have settled in North Africa (or have otherwise been brought in) have themselves been somewhat Berberized and Arabized through admixture and adopting of certain linguistic and cultural patterns and mores.
    The Nilo-Saharans are an example of indigenous Africans who are known to have mixed with and adopted Niger-Congo dialects of the Atlantic branch, becoming the Sarakholle, Serer, Soninke, Djallonke, Jahanke and other groups now designated “Mande” or “Mandinke”. Thus, the fact that certain groups now speak a specific dialect doesn’t always say much about their cultural origins.      
       Due largely to Fulani physical appearance and culture, early colonial observers viewed them as part of an imagined great warlike “Caucasoid” race near black in complexion which they called “hamitic” that had amalgamated with what they called  “Negro” tribes. This idea was spurred and bolstered by the fact that when colonialists first encountered Fulani in the Sudan they were often viewed by other Africans as a separate, lighter-skinned caste in places like the region of Massina where they were even described as “whites” by their own and in Arabic writings (a description that is used in Africa for many black African groups that are somewhat dark brown in tint rather than black or brown black).
     Furthermore, in many places there was a certain ethnic rivalry between Fulani and other groups as is common between more nomadic and more settled agricultural peoples in Africa. And these tensions (which haven’t completely disappeared in Africa since they were aggravated by European colonialist notions) in various regions was often attributed to “racial “differences between the “lighter-skinned” “nobles’ of “hamitic stock” and the so-called “black African” or “Negro” agriculturalists.

Woodabe couple 

    Of course Africa is made up of diverse populations of various complexion and phenotype from the yellow brown of the San and Kung Bushmen to the blue black of some Nilotic groups, and copper or bronze brown of certain Fulani and Beja. None of these groups can obviously be considered more black or African than the other as each has specialized development that has led to their particular phenotype.
      That being said, it is true that the Fulani especially the northern Fulani like the Woodabe often have a lighter caste to their skin than African tribes they live amongst and very often preserve features that are similar to the Nilo-Saharans and Cushitic speakers further much further east. The latter also often have a complexion that is often more of a dark copper brown than it is black brown. Still the Fulani were and are one of the major African groups contributing to the ancestry of blacks in the Americas (until recently known as “Negroes”), a fact that is now being confirmed by genetics, but was already established from colonial records in the U.S. and elsewhere. Thus, the conception of them as a “non-black” African group, as had been commonly suggested was a bit silly to entertain – and disingenuous, to say the least.

 Fulani man stands in front of his herd of cattle
      Fulani came in large numbers to America during the Atlantic slave trade and have been said by scholar Sterling Stuckey to have greatly influenced the cowboy and cattle culture in the United States. They have been cattle and sheep herdsmen for thousands of years and have kept many traditions alive. Herdsmen often affectionately name each member of their herd and know each by name. Cattle were not slaughtered for their  meat, but useful for their milk and other things. Long ago the ancestors of the Fulani and related people came to make the cow a symbolic of their gods in the Sahara and along the Nile.

 Yarrow Mahmoud - Fulani man in the U.S. who had won freedom lived in Washington, D.C. 

Abdul Rahman Ibrahim ibn Sori-former U.S. slave

    Abdul-Rahman (above) had been a student at Timbuktu (Tin Buqti) even then a world famous capital of learning in Mali. But he fell into hard times after serving as a leader in battle under his father against an enemy tribe. After being ambushed by his enemies with some of his war party on the way back to his father, he was sold as a prisoner of war by an enemy tribe. Like numerous other Fulani -  Abdul-Rahman  was brought to America by slavers. The year was 1788, and he was 26 years old.  He spent the next 40 years as a slave and slave overseer in Mississippi. He won his freedom and liberated his family moving to Liberia where he fell ill and died only a few months later.

       Like the Tuareg, the Fulani were admired by colonialists for what were perceived as cultural traits traceable to their “white hamite” origins. They were perceived as being more war-like than the more agricultural groups who were darker-skinned and known and praised for such values as “never turning back” in battle. There was also the fact that the colonialists who met the Fulani ruling elites found them to have profiles and coloring rather like those of the ancient “Egyptians”. They were never hesitant about commenting on the coiffures of Fulani men which they found to be curiously similar or identical to those of the ancient “Libyan” men portrayed in the tombs of Seti and other early Egyptian pharaohs.
     Several early authors documented this habit of wearing the hair among the Fulani, consisting of long plaits with long curled sidelocks worn by the ruling class of 19th century  Massina (in what is now Mali), as well as places in Chad. Speaking of the Fulani rulers of Massina or Macina, Ignatius Donnelly wrote in his 1882 book, Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, that in “Soudan, on the banks of the Niger, dwells a negro tribe ruled by a royal family (Masas), who are of rather fair complexion, and claim descent from white men…the Masas wear their hair in the same fashion as the Tamahus” (Donnelly & Sykes, 2003, p. 182). The “Negro” tribe in this case were the Mande population. Unfortunately this habit of weargin long curled locks is more characteristic of women than men today but is represented in many ancient Egyptian portayals of the people dwelling in oases adjacent to the Nile.

The ancient face of the earliest Libou/Tehenou men are often captured in modern Wodaabe face

Ancient "Libyans" with sidelocks as they exist on 19th dynasty tomb of Seti
Fulani men of the Woodabe clan customarily adorn themselves. 

Woodabe by Ferdinand Reus on Flickr. 
     Some early scholars were evidently  misled by the portrayals of Libyans by the 19th century Richard Lepsius who in his canon for reasons which are not quite clear or perhaps all too clear, seems to have rendered the ancient Libyans of a particular tomb in a tint much lighter than they appeared in the actual painting. Other scholars appear not to be aware that the ancient use of the term Tamahou or Tjemehou was originally used exclusively for the dark brown people of the Kharga and the other southern oases as (the name first appears in the 6th dynasty) and only much later for westerners in general including the rather mixed conglomeration of “Sea peoples”.

Caricatures of the ancient Libyans repainted to look like Europeans with beards and African hairstyles


Another strangely distorted and unrealistic or fantastical depiction of a "Libyan" by Richard Lepsius that is wrongly said to appear  in an ancient Egyptian tomb

    The above renderings are probably an attempt by some Egyptologists to mold the Libyans into the famous "Hamitic caucasoids" of colonialist fantasy. But the Libyans that appear in the tombs they are said to come from only appear either in a very dark color of the modern Fulani and Maasai or else like those below.

True to life painting from the New Kingdom dynasties of Egypt. 
  Even with the dark paint brown paint fading from their skins and the black from black plaited hair and side locks, one sees their "true colors" and the African origins of these rather late Libyans are evident. 
     Another archeologist named Oric Bates author of a foundational work known as The Eastern Libyans, also commented on these hairstyle similarities saying “the Fulbe or Fulahs of the Chad-zone sometimes braid the hair in a manner which strikingly recalls the Libyans of the monuments” (Bates, 1914, p. 136).

Individuals possibly sporting the Fulani sidelocks on the neolithic rock art of Kidal in the Adrar region of Mali.  Sidelocks are not commonly seen on Fulani today as they were in the days of colonialist observers.
Furthermore, it was not only the hairstyles, but the complexion, the attire, hats, feathers and designs in their costumes and tattoos, as well,  which seemed to link them to certain of the early peoples settled in Libyan oases next to Egypt (in places like Kharga and Dakhla) and Nubia since Neolithic times.  

ABOVE: Tattooed Fulani men

 Specialist Marion von Offelen in the more recent Nomads of Niger also noted resemblances in the attire and clothing designs of the present Woodabe group of Fulani to attire and tattoos designs on the “Libyans” of 19th dynasty tomb paintings of Seti (Van Offelen & Beckwith, 1984, p. 177). The details of these elaborate designs are obviously too alike to be just coincidence.

Elaborate designs on the this Fulani young man's attire go back thousands of years in Saharan art and ancient Egyptian potrayals of the New kingdom Libyans.  The designs have a special significance.

 However, what clinches the case is the well documented archaeological connection of the early people of the oases like Kharga and similar peoples in Nubia to some of the pastoral nomads in earlier eastern and central Saharan rock art of the Neolithic. Bates long ago noted that on Fulani garments were also the same designs that appear on the C group pottery of Kerma, (Bates, p. 251). As well archaeologist David Phillipson noted the archaeology of C-group pastoralists suggests a Saharan origin. (Phillipson, 1977,  p.66). These connections are not only strong at Kharga and Wadi Howar, but at Tassili and Annadi, Tibesti, Air, Ahaggar/Hoggar, Jebel Uweinat, Gilf Kebir and Wadi Djerat where the paintings date back to the neolithic period known to art historians and archeologists as the “Bovidian” dating back to the 3rd and 4th millenniums B.C. 
Rock art from the Algerian Sahara - individuals fix their hair or turbans

Women of the Fulani today continue to wear long side locks and ancient Saharan hairstyles.

 Ancient inhabitants of Tassili in Algeria appear to sport the modern Fulani bun hairstyle

 This is an area stretching from Algeria and Niger to Libya Sudan, and Chad where cattle in rock art with horns artificially deformed and cattle pendants typical of those of the C-group population of Nubia have been discovered. Gabriel Camps attributes these practices to C-group Nubian influence rather than vice versa. The two groups most characteristically associated with these paintings of “Bovidian” pastoralists according to Camps resemble the “tall” slender Fulani, and the smaller built populations called euphemistically brown or gracile Mediterranean man of Nubia (A and C-group), Egypt and the countries of the Horn i.e. the ancestors of many Nilo-Saharan, Afroasiatics or Cushitic-speakers (Camps, 1982,  pp. 574-575)
Aside from Camps, numerous archeologists and rock art specialists of both European and African descent have noted that many elements in Fulani culture, from the type of huts to their current rituals and hair styles and profiles, seem to be depicted in some of the very early pastoralist art work of Saharan oases stretching into the Central Sahara. The Fulani anthropologist Amadou Hampate Ba along with Germaine Dieterlen, authors of the article, “The Frescos of the Bovidian epoch in Tassili n'Ajjer and Traditions of the Peul” thought they had identified similarities between rituals and ceremonies shown in some of the rock paintings and those practiced by certain of the Fulani of today (Hampate Ba & Dieterlen, 1966, pp. 151-157).
  J. Hiernaux, a noted specialist on ancient rock art or frescoes of neolithic Saharan pastoralists also expressed an opinion on this. He was struck by similarities of the crest headgear and bun hairstyle in pastoral rock art of the Hoggar and Tassili and those of Fulani men and women of Macina/Massina near the Niger. The large lyre-shaped horns, so typical of the bovine figures, carvings and cave paintings are found especially in the Bororo Fulani herds.
 Christian Dupuy author of “The Rock Carvings of the Adrar des Iforas”, also expressed his belief that Fulani may have been responsible for some of the central Saharan rock art in which warriors are depicted. He wrote, “Certains des Peuls établis aujourd'hui dans la moyenne vallée du Niger, pourraient être affiliés aux auteurs des gravures de guerriers du Sahara méridional…” (Dupuy, 1991).
  At Jabbaren where Bovidian rock art dates back to the 4th millennium the artists have depicted a practice maintained by the Fulani of transporting the armature of huts, and the head gear, cattle, clothing and most typical physical characteristics of human figures of the pastoral period resemble the present day Fulani. These were undoubtedly similar to the early people who first appeared in the Fayum as Tjehenu in the Old Kingdom.                                                          

Modern Fulani man of Nigeria
The skin color of many Fulani has often been commented on by colonial scholars.

Libyan or "Tjehenu" man from the Old Kingdom era of Egypt wears characteristic "crossbands"

Modern crossbands of young Fulani men

    More recently scholars like J.L. Quellec in "Les Gravures Rupestre in Fezzan" have spoken of the numerous connections between C-group Nubians and ancient occupants of the Fezzan (Quellec,  1985, p. 373). These connections likely corroborate why ancient Libyans in Egyptian tomb paintings were found by Bates to wear tattoo designs similar to those present on C-group pottery.  
 Interestingly, modern Fulani also sport at times a hairstyle in which the hair is left long in the back and head shaved in the front, similar to the description of the hairstyle worn by the ancient Machlyes of ancient Libya who according to Herodotus spread to the river Triton in the Syrtic region.

The ancient Machyles "Libyans" (Northeast Africans) of Lake Triton let their hair "grow long in the back of the head".   Herodotus 5th century B.C., Book  4.180.1 

The women of the Machlyes were said to have practiced mock ritual battle with the neighboring women of the Auseans, in honor of their deitesse Minerva or Pallas Athena. According to the Greeks, the ancestor of the Libyan Machlyes,  the Psylli and the Adyrmakidae of both Nubia and Libya was Amphithemis, son of Acalle (or Acacallis) the daugther of Minos, son of Triton, the water nymph.

See our new blog Great Africanists

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Van Offelen, M. & Beckwith, C. ( 1984 )  Nomads of the Niger. Henry N. Abrams. 

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