(Chapter III, section 2)

Mesolithic man in Africa

Before gathering information which will help us in Europe, let us first see what changes or continuities occur in Africa, with the passage into post-Pleistocene time. In East Africa Leakey has found skeletons associated with a microlithic culture which he calls Elmenteitan, probably at least partly contemporary with the post-glacial Mesolithic cultures of Europe,2 with which he has tentatively correlated it. The series includes the skulls of three adult males, three adult females, and one child, as well as a number of miscellaneous long bones. The bodies which they represent had been placed in rock niches on either side of a watercourse, and a subsequent flood had washed most of them out and deposited them in silt. Hence, it is impossible to associate the long bones with the crania.

From this series of seven skulls, it is evident that the earlier East African Mediterranean racial types were carried over into the post-glacial period with little or no alteration. The vaults of the Mesolithic skulls are again comparable in size to Galley Hill and Combe Capelle. The shape of these vaults, however, is now variable, at least in the female group, for one of the latter skulls has a cranial index of 80. This sex distinction in shape, may, of course, have been equally present in the Aurignacian group, but we have no material to confirm it.

The face continues the special evolution which had begun during the Aurignacian; it grows both longer and broader, while the nasal height increases at the same time.3 Both the faces and noses of these skulls are exceptionally long, by any racial standards. All of them have high orbits. The nose remains leptorrhine, but the nasal skeleton is not highly arched; some of the crania, especially one of the female specimens, show consider. able prognathism. In general, the foreheads are sloping, the browridges and other bony markings slight to medium on the males, while on the females the browridges are actually lacking. One male specimen, Elmenteita A, differs from the others; the mandible has everted gonial angles while on the cranium the temporal crests rise high over the parietals, producing a narrow forehead, and giving the whole head a pseudo-Eskimoid appearance.

In the Gamble’s Cave Aurignacian series, since only males were represented, it was impossible to tell whether or not any extensive differences between the sexes existed. In the Elmenteitan group, the male crania, exceed the female ones considerably in the length and breadth of the vault and in the face heights and face breadth. Vault heights, forehead breadths, and orbital dimensions are much the same in both, however. These East Africans, therefore, while lacking the bony luxuriance of the Upper Palaeolithic Europeans and North Africans, do exhibit a positive amount of sex linkage in the characters which make them racially distinctive.

Despite the continued residence of this long-faced racial group in East Africa, there is still little that is negroid about most of the skulls. The forehead, in some of the females, is a bit bulbous, but so it is with many living Mediterraneans; some of the jaws project forward with a considerable alveolar prognathism, but so do the jaws of a number of early European crania.4 The nasal index, which falls near the human minimum, is at the opposite extreme from those of negroes. The nasal bones, present in but two crania, are long, narrow, and hour-glass shaped; they taper upwards, and penetrate high into the frontal bone, as with certain anthropoid apes and the Eskimo; but the two bones are not greatly arched and the nasal vault, in these two specimens, is low. Thus the nasal bones possess an individual character which is neither typically white nor negroid.

The Elmenteitan people remained as tall as the Upper Aurignacians. The mean stature for six males is 178.7 cm., for three females, 152.5 cm. thus, the sex differences are great in bodily size, as well as in head and face diameters The greater stature and sex differentiation of these East Africans may have been simply the result of evolutionary change; one cannot find a non-sapiens species to provide these modifications, as in the case of the Upper Palaeolithic Europeans.

Before we leave East Africa for some time, it may be interesting for us to note that Leakey has also found a number of skeletons associated with a parallel culture, Wilton A., located nearby and probably not later than Elementeita. These Wiltonians were tall, heavy-boned men, with large, strongly arched foreheads, and small faces, very much like the Strand-loopers from South African shell heaps, and ancestral Bushmen. Thus along the Lake Victoria shore line, not far away from Elmenteita, were ancestral Bushmen, living in geographical proximity to Mesolithic ancestral Hamites. The East African whites lived on a racial frontier, and not in a center of white racial differentiation. If Bushmen traits turn up now and then among Hamites or Hamitic traits among Hottentots or Bushmen, there is little wonder.

North Africa was occupied, during the post-glacial Mesolithic period, by the Middle Capsian successors of the Afalou people. These are known through a collection of skulls from the site of Mechta el 'Arbi, of which only nine have been studied in any detail.5 All come from what Arambourg calls the Middle Capsian, which has been correlated chronologically with the European Solutrean by Menghin, with the Solutreo-Magdalenian by Obermaier, and with the Mesolithic by Vaufrey.6 They are considered here rather than in the preceding chapter since they belong with the Mesolithic in the European sense both racially and culturally, whatever their chronological position.

It is impossible, unfortunately, to treat these skulls with complete clarity. Judging by published measurements, photographs, and drawings, we may conclude that on the whole they resemble the earlier Afalou skulls in a general way, but that most of them are smaller and lack the ruggedness of their predecessors, having weaker browridges, less pronounced muscular markings, and narrower faces. Some of them have vertical foreheads, a feature foreign to the Afalou people. They still retain in most instances however, a low face and low orbits, and a range of head form reaching the limits of the earlier series.

In their degree of size reduction, and diminution of sex-linked bony profusion, they may be likened to some of the Mesolithic crania from Europe, which will be studied later in this chapter. It is quite likely, Cole suggests, that one of the Mechta skulls showed a negroid tendency, while the others were subjected to mixture with Mediterranean racial elements. The inference is that the countries at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, from which these influences probably seeped, were already inhabited by small Mediterraneans. On archaeological grounds, it is unlikely that these Mediterranean racial elements came directly from the Sahara.

Our entire knowledge of the racial composition of the early inhabitants of the southern Sahara is furnished by a single skeleton, unearthed at Asselar, a military post some four hundred kilometers north of Timbuctu, in what is now utter desert,7 but what was at the time a fertile, well-watered plateau, drained by wide rivers, and rich in grass and ruminant game.

The skeleton, which had not been buried but which simply lay in the place of death, was covered by lake-laid sands. These same sands have yielded the bones of huge fish, in the same state of fossilization as those of the man, and the shells of fresh-water molluscs, which indicate that the region of Asselar was at that time still a lake country, with running streams and a forest border, near the southern limit of the south-Saharan grasslands, and the northernmost extension of the tropical forest. Asselar man died before this region had become desiccated, but his cultural association is Mesolithic or Early Neolithic, and his chronological age unquestionably post-glacial.

He was a tall man, over 170 cm. in height; his limbs were long in proportion to his trunk, and his forearms and lower legs long when compared to the proximal segments of their extremities. His hands were long and slim, with small carpal bones, unlike the broad hands and thick wrists of the Afalou men farther north.

The skull is of medium vault size, comparable to Grimaldi, Afalou #28, and the Kenya Aurignacians. Like all of these, it is dolichocephalic, with a cranial index of 71. The muscular markings of the vault are slight, and the browridges weak. In facial dimensions, Asselar is intermediate between the Grimaldi and East African extremes. Morphologically, however, it is the most negroid specimen of equal age yet found. The malars project forwards, and the lower border of the orbit stands in front of the upper, when the skull is placed in the eye-ear plane. The nose is chamaerrhine, and negroid in conformation.

Asselar man was either an incompletely evolved negroid, or a negro hybrid; he did not closely anticipate, in cranial form, the modern blacks from the Guinea Coast and Sudan. He retained certain tendencies jn a white direction, and others which related him to the Bushmen and Hottentots. The Asselar find, like those in East Africa, makes it very likely that the spread of fully differentiated negroes into much of their present area in Africa was a fairly recent phenomenon.


2 Leakey, L. S. B., Stone Age Races of Kenya, Chapter 6.

3 Nasion-menton heights on males are 126 and 132 mm.; nasion-alveon 80 and 81 mm.; nose heights 58 to 59 mm.

4 The female skull #F 1 is the most nearly negroid of all, and in this case a definite negro strain seems very likely.

5 Probably over fifty crania have been removed from this site by successive expeditions, but only five have been carefully studied. See Cole, Fay Cooper, LMB, vol. 1928, pp. 167—189. Four others, of which two only are from the Mechta site, have be dealt with, as thoroughly as the data permitted, in the Afalou volume.

6 Vaufrey denies the existence of a Middle Capsian, and says that these skulls are La Capsian, which he considers Mesolithic.

7 Boule, M., and Vallois, H. V., AIPH, Mem. 9, 1932.
See also Bailly, René, RA, vol. 43, 1933, pp. 172—181.