(Chapter XI, section 13)

Eastern Barbary, Algeria and Tunisia

The population of Algeria and Tunisia, apart from the numerous European colonists who have settled there during the last hundred years, and from the Jews who have lived in the cities for a much longer period, is varied and complex in the cultural and linguistic sense, as well as racially. In this section it will not be possible to cover each tribe or even each group of tribes, but it will be necessary to select representative peoples for special consideration.

Any division of this population into segments must needs be arbitrary, but it must be segmented if it is to be discussed simply. With this warning, we shall proceed to divide it as follows:


(1) Mountain Berbers, terrace agriculturalists; perhaps the oldest and most stable element in the population.

(2) The Berber-speaking oasis people of Ghardaia, Tidikelt, Biskra, etc. A special group culturally, and belonging to the schismatic religious sect of Kharejites, or Khawarij. To these may be added the inhabitants of the Isle of Jerba.

(3) The Arabic-speaking tribesmen of the more arid plains and plateaux; pastoral nomads or transhumants for the most part.

(4) The townsmen. A mixed urban population of diverse origin, differing in each locality; the pre-Arab Christian population of partly European origin is responsible for certain elements in Tunisia; converted Jews have founded the important commercial families in some cities; negro slaves, Christian slaves, Turks, and wanderers of all sorts have all contributed to the general complexity. A racial study of townspeople by social levels, here as well as in Morocco, would be interesting, but remains to be made.

Of these four elements listed above, I propose to discuss only the first in any detail. Hence it will be better to deal at once with the second and third. The oasis Berbers, who live in compact villages and are noted for their endogamy and clannishness, have a reputation in North Africa for sharpness in money matters, and this is especially true of the Beni Mzab of the oasis of Ghardaia.90 The Mzabites form a caste of shopkeepers, setting up booths in the markets of most of the towns and cities of eastern Barbary, associating only with their compatriots, and returning to their oasis to retire and marry once their fortunes are made. In this respect they resemble the Hadhramis in the East Indies, the Greeks who come to America from the neighborhood of Sparta, and the Cantonese.

The Mzabites are short men, with a mean stature of 162 cm., relatively wide-shouldered and long-armed, with the unusually high relative span of 106. They are almost exclusively brunet, with less than 5 per cent of incipient blondism in either hair or eye color. Their hair is characteristically black or dark brown, their eyes include both dark and light brown shades, and many irises which fall between the two brown extremes. In bodily size and proportions, and in pigmentation, they resemble the oasis people of Libya, from Kharga to Awjila. They differ, however, in head form, for the mean cephalic index of Mzabite males is 77.3, in the low mesocephalic category. The normal range of this index is from 71 to 85; there may have been originally both a dolichocephalic and a brachycephalic element involved, but the present type, whether or not the result of a blend, is definitely mesocephalic. The face is moderately narrow (133 mm.) and the nose is leptorrhine and absolutely long. The Berber inhabitants of Biskra Oasis91 resemble the Mzabites closely in measurements and in pigmentation. The hair form of these latter, and probably of the Mzabites as well, is usually straight or slightly wavy.

A closer approach to true brachycephaly is found among both the Berber-speaking and Arabic-speaking Kharejites of Jerba, who resemble the more brachycephalic element among the Mzabites. The Jerbans are of medium stature (165 cm.), and are often of a stockier bodily build than is usual in North Africa.92 Their mean cephalic index, 80.8, is actually sub-brachycephalic, and in one tribe, the Beni Maguel, it rises to 82. These Jerbans are longer and narrower faced than most other North Africans (F.I. = 93.8) but at the same time are not as narrow-nosed (N.J. = 70.6). Their typical head form is globular, with a prominent forehead equipped with frontal bosses, and a slightly flattened occiput. They are markedly brunet, with only two partial blonds in a series of 148.

Facially, the Mzabites and Jerbans show a smoothness of feature and a lack of bony prominence, combined with a frequent convexity of the nose, which gives them a characteristic appearance which renders them easily recognizable. The Algerian and Tunisian Kharejites, whether living in oases or on an island, seem to be related to or similar to the oasis people farther east, with the addition of some brachycephalic or brachycephalizing factor which is strongest among the maritime Kharejites, and which cannot be explained on the basis of present information. It is tempting, though unprofitable, to suspect the early accretion of an exotic, sea-borne brachycephalic element, such as that found among the maritime people of the Arabian coast. Whatever the origin of this element, which does not appear to be native to North Africa,93 endogamy and the following of specialized hereditary trades must have been important factors in the stabilization of the Kharejite type or types.

Division number three of our list, the nomadic or semi-nomadic Arabic speakers of the plains and plateaux,94 is comprised of numerous tribes partly or wholly of Arab origin; some of them, however, must be nothing more than Arabized groups of Zenata and Senhaja. They are all, or nearly all, tall people, with stature means in the neighborhood of 170 cm.; they are dolichocephalic or mesocephalic, and leptorrhine, with a tendency to strong nasal convexity and high, sloping foreheads. Among them may be seen members of various Mediterranean sub-races, including chiefly Atlanto-Mediterranean and what appears to be Irano-Afghan. Smaller Mediterraneans are not infrequent, and one sees among them an occasional Nordic or near-Nordic.

The mountain agriculturalists are best represented by two groups of tribes, the Shawia and the Kabyles, the former living in the Aures Mountains south of Constantine, and the latter in the coastal Djurjura immediately east of the city of Algiers.95 Both of these Berber groups are noted for their European-like features and fair skins; blondism of a high order frequently attributed to them in the non-statistical literature. Both of them contain a minimum of Arab blood, and of the brunet Mediterranean strain or strains which may have been associated with the introduction of Hamitic speech into North Africa.

The notable fact about the Shawia is that, in a metrical sense, they are identical with northwestern European Nordics. One could substitute the means of the Shawia sample of Randall-MacIver and Wilkin for those of a characteristic eastern Norwegian province, without serious discrepancy.96 This is true of stature, relative span, and relative sitting height, as well as of the principal dimensions of the head and face. The only difference of any importance is that the minimum frontal (106 mm.) and the bigonial (105 mm.) of the Shawia are both a little wider than those of the European Nordics—that they diverge from the Nordics in a non-Mediterranean direction and in the direction of the population of western Norway.

Although the Shawia are so Nordic anthropometrically, and although they are characteristically white skinned, they are for the most part brunet in hair and eye color. Only some 30 per cent have mixed or light eyes, and 96 per cent are listed as having black head hair. The nasal profile shows Nordic tendencies; concavo-convex forms, like those common in England, are as frequent as straight, and together account for half of the whole; convex profiles are more frequent than concave, which are found among one-sixth of the group. Against the prevailing brunetness of the Shawia stands the tradition that their ancestors were formerly much blonder, and that their present brunet condition is due to mixture with outside Berber and Arab groups. This statement, however, belongs to the class of evidence which cannot be proved. Since the available series of Shawia do not lend themselves to serious analysis, the anthropometrically Nordic condition of this people cannot be discussed profitably here; there are other such populations in North Africa which have been more extensively studied, and which will be dealt with shortly.

The Kabyles of the Djurjura Mountains cover a considerable area, and probably vary regionally, as differences between various series would indicate.97 Some are very much like the Shawia, but those coming from the neighborhood of Tizi Ouzou98 are shorter statured and smaller headed. They are, in fact, so constituted anthropometricaijy that they serve as an excellent example of a centrally placed early Mediterranean racial type, with certain modifications.

The stature of this group is moderate (164.6 cm.), the bodily proportions the same as those of the Shawia, and of most Nordics; at the same time comparable to those of Plateau Yemenis in Arabia. The light mean body weight of 124 lbs., with the heaviest man only 190 lbs., is typically Mediterranean. The head length, however, which varies from 161 to 211 mm., has a mean of 187 mm., while the breadth falls at 145 with a cephalic index mean of 77.6. This index ranges from 68 to 91 indicating a great variety of head form. The vault height of 127 mm. completes the parallel between the mean of this variable group and the Yemenis. In facial dimensions the Kabyles are good Mediterraneans except for an excess in forehead and jaw widths, in which they equal the Shawia. In having an upper facial height mean of 73.7 mm., as compared to the total face height of 122.4 mm., they are typically Mediterranean as opposed to Nordic. Except for forehead and jaw breadths their anthropometric position on the whole lies with not only the Yemenis but also with the predynastic Egyptians.

Their pigmentation is characteristically brunet, but definite blonds occur. Black and dark brown hair run to 85 per cent of the whole, while reds number 4 per cent. The eye color is light or mixed in but 16 per cent of the group; the rest are evenly divided between dark brown and light brown. The skin color, observed on exposed parts only, is definitely dark in almost all instances; while the unexposed skin is undoubtedly lighter, the low incidence of freckling (9 per cent) would argue against much extreme lightness of skin color. There is, without question, a numerically minor blond element submerged in the brunet Kabyle mass, as exemplified by this series, but it is relatively insignificant.

The hair growth is usually dense on the head, with little baldness, and relatively sparse on the beard. The hair is, in the majority of instances, straight or wavy, with a 23 per cent incidence of ringlet curls, and 12 per cent of individuals showing what may be presumed to be a negroid hair form. The texture of the hair is usually medium. In these pilous characters, the group as a whole agrees with a normal Mediterranean classification, with evidence of a negroid tendency in a minority of cases.

The Kabyles lack, for the most part, either internal or external eye-folds, but one-fifth of the sample shows median folds, which indicate a low orbit, and may be a reminder of the old Afalou race. The eyebrows are typically and almost exclusively medium in thickness, lacking in concurrency, and relatively great in lateral extension. Thus the bushiness and concurrency of the eyebrows common among Asiatic Mediterranean varieties hardly exist here.

In the conformation of the Kabyle face, in contradistinction to the metrical variability of the vault, there is a considerable homogeneity, and a characteristic type to which the majority of Kabyles conform. The glabella is moderately developed and heavy browridges are rare; the forehead is usually straight or only slightly sloping. In the nasal observations, almost all of the characters tabulated exhibit an intermediate position in regard to the total white racial group. The root of the nose, set at a moderate depth below glabella, is of slightly more than moderate height and breadth; the bridge tends to slightly more than medium height and breadth. The profile is usually straight, with a strong minority of concave and concavo-convex forms. The tip is moderate in thickness; the wings are of medium lateral extension, and rarely flaring. The septum is usually straight, and inclined upward in nearly two-thirds of instances. On the whole, the Kabyle nose shows little or nothing of a high-rooted, beaky Near Eastern quality, and less that can be called negroid. It is, on the whole, an average Mediterranean nose.

The lips are, for the most part, on the thin side of medium; prognathism of any kind is almost completely absent, the chin prominence is average for whites, and malars and gonial angles, which give prominence and detail to the face, are on the strong side of medium. The square-faced condition so often noted among Berbers is present in a minority of this group. Lambdoid flattening, which with a great jaw breadth is a diagnostic of the old Afalou race of Algeria, is present in 50 per cent of the group; but it must be remembered that it is not entirely lacking among pure Mediterraneans.

On both anthropometric and somatoscopic grounds, one is led to the conclusion that the Kabyles represent a conglomerate survival of several of the more ancient North African racial elements; the major one is a central Mediterranean, with a slight negroid tendency or accretion; and this Mediterranean dates back to the days of Early Neolithic agriculture in North Africa. With it also survive traces of the Afalou men, whom we shall see in greater strength farther west, and some of whom show a tendency to brachycephaly; and of Nordics, whenever and however they have appeared in North Africa.


90 Amat, C., RDAP, ser. 2, vol. 7, 1884, pp. 617—639; La Mzab et les Mzabites.

91 Topinard, P., BSAP, vol. 5, ser. 2, 1870, pp. 548—555.
Benoit, F., and Kossovitch, N., CRSB, vol. 109, 1932, pp. 198—200.
Bertholon, L., Anth, vol. 8, 1897, pp. 399—425. Also
Bertholon, L., and Chantre, E., Récherches anthropologiques dans la Berberie Orientale, pp. 175-176.

93 The Jerbans possess a number of exotic cultural traits, such as dog-eatlng, the drinking of palm toddy, etc.

94 Based on Bertholon and Chantre.

95 Besides Bertholon and Chantre, the chief sources are:
d’Hercourt, G., MSAP, vol. 3, 1868, pp. 1—23.
Malbot, H., and Verneau, R., Anth, vol. 8, 1897, pp. 1—18, 174—204.
Papillault, G. F., BSAP, ser. 4, vol. 8, 1897, p. 538.
Randall-Maclver, D., and Wilkin, A., Libyan Notes.
Viré, A., BSAP, ser. 4, vol. 4, 1893, p. 71.
Weissgerber, H., Les Blancs d’Afrique.
Also an unpublished series of 304 adult male Kabyles, measured at Tizi Ouzou by H. H. Kidder under the auspices of the Division of Anthropology of Harvard University.

96 same is true for the series of Papillault and of Bertholon and Chantre, except for a few technical discrepancies. Randall-MacIver and Wilkin find a total face height mean of 120.95 mm. for the Shawia, and a nose height mean of 51.35 mm., both indicating a low location of nasion. Since Bryn also locates nasion low in his Somatologie der Norweger the comparability of the two is not impared.

97 Randall-MacIver and Wilkin, d’Hercourt, Viré, and Kidder. Since Kidder's series is the most extensive, it is the one chiefly used here.

98 Principally from Bellora, Beni Sirenzer, Ma’akta, and Sheikh Ou Meddour.