(Chapter XI, section 2)
The Mediterranean racial zone stretches unbroken from Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco, and thence eastward to India. A branch of it extends far southward on both sides of the Red Sea into southern Arabia, the Ethiopian highlands, and the Horn of Africa. Of the three main Mediterranean sub-races which this zone contains, the most widespread, the most central, the most highly evolved, and most characteristically Mediterranean is the central Mediterranean form, as best exemplified skeletally by the pre-dynastic Egyptians. Today the largest unified area in which this moderate-sized, intermediate Mediterranean racial type is found in greatest purity is the Arabian Peninsula.
Arabia, some fifteen hundred miles long by a thousand wide, possesses a huge land mass but a small population. Owing to the aridity of the great Ruba' el Khali desert and much of the north, the entire country can support no more than six million people, of whom at least a half live in the small, fertile, southwestern corner, the kingdom of Yemen.
The study of the prehistory of Arabia has hardly begun. It is, however, known that during the pluvial periods of the Pleistocene, the Empty Quarter was a fertile plateau, through which large streams carved wide and deep wadys; and that it has been inhabited by man from at least Acheulean times onward. With the post-glacial desiccation of this part of the world, Arabia may well have served as a vagina gentium, sending forth into other regions great numbers of inhabitants whom it could no longer support. In legendary and historic times this role has been continued; the earl wanderings of the Jews, the settlement of the Ethiopian highlands by colonists from the Hadhramaut, the great expansion of the Arabs in early Moslem times, all serve as examples.
Modern Arabia is divided into several kingdoms each of which occupies a distinct geographical area. The largest, Saudi Arabia, includes the Nejd, asa, the Hejaz, and Asir; in other words, all of the regions north and immediately west of the Ruba' el Khali. The Nejd is occupied by a mixed population of pastoral nomads and agriculturists, of which the former are men ar the more numerous. The Nejdis form a natural unit with the tribesmen of Transjordania and of the Syrian desert. The northern frontier of Arabia, in an ethnic sense, is not its present political boundary, but a line skirting the southern edge of the so-called Fertile Crescent. In northern Arabia should be included such tribes as the Ruwalla, the Shammar, and the Howeitat. The Hejaz, which includes the holy cities of Mekka and Medina, contains a sedentary population, which lives partly by agriculture and partly by trade, while the wealth brought in by the annual hordes of pilgrims from the entire world of Islam helps, in large measure, to support the population of this sacred territory. Asir, the southernmost and most recently acquired section of Saudi Arabia, is a mountaious country occupied for the most part by farmers, and its ethnic relations are with the Yemen, rather than with the north.
The kingdom of Yemen is bounded on the north by, roughly, the seventeenth parallel of north latitude; on the west by the Red Sea; on the south by the British Protectorate of Aden; and on the east by the southwesternmost extension of the Empty Quarter. It consists of two main parts, the narrow coastal plain and the plateau country which slopes gently eastward from a 10,000 foot escarpment. This plateau is extremely fertile and supports a large agricultural population. On its northern and eastern borders it tapers off gradually into pastoral country, and in the south merges into the ethnic unit of the Hadhramaut. The eastern part of this plateau was once an extremely populous region, since it was the seat of the three great kingdoms of Ma'an, Kataban, and Saba. This country was supported partly by agriculture, based on extensive irrigation projects, and partly by tolls from the incense caravans which passed through them on their way northward.
To the west of Yemen lies the Wady Hadhramaut, a narrow strip of fertile valley, separated from the Gulf of Aden by a forbidding mass of almost vegetation-free mountains. To the east of the Hadhramaut lies Dhofar, hemmed in by the Qara Mountains; and this small semi-circle of land preserves a lush vegetation made possible by the steady rainfall brought by the southeast monsoon. It, alone of all of southern Arabia, retains the Pleistocene climate which made this region, in former times, a land of great fertility. To the northeast of the great desert, which acts as a formidable barrier to separate these kingdoms, lies Oman, a mountainous country in which agriculture is practiced, and which is noted for its seafaring activities and for its export of dates.
The inhabitants of Arabia may be divided into two general groups: Arabs proper, and the aboriginal inhabitants of Hadhramaut, the Dhofar country, and the island of Socotra. Those who belong to the first category are almost without exception of Mediterranean race, and it is with this group that we are dealing in our search for a pure Mediterranean form. The Hadhramaut, on the other hand, contains a varied population with at least four social and ethnic elements.1 These include the Bedawin, who live in the smaller side valleys and in the valleys between the Hadhramaut proper and the Gulf of Aden. They are slender, small-headed men, with ringlet hair, and facial features which relate them partly to the great Veddoid group of humanity. Their affiliation to the white racial stock is of a borderline quality.
The second group is composed of tribesmen who inhabit the Hadhramaut valley proper, and who trace their ancestry to the Yemen and to other parts of Arabia. The ancestors of these tribesmen seem to have entered the Hadhramaut in pre-Islamic times. In addition to these early immigrants, there is a class of artisans who claim varied ancestry from different parts of the Arabic-speaking world, and, as an upper crust, a group of Sayyids, descendants of the Prophet, who form a priestly aristocracy. From the racial standpoint, the inhabitants of the Hadhramaut include both Veddoid and Mediterranean elements. In more recent times great numbers of slaves have been brought from Africa to increase this racial complexity.
In Mahra, Dhofar, and the island of Socotra, pre-Arabic Semitic languages survive. These are Mahri, spoken by the Mahra and the Socotrans, and Shahari, spoken by the people who live in the hills behind Dhofar.2 Other early Semitic dialects seem to be affiliated with these two language groups. The Mahra and the people immediately behind Dhofar belong largely to the same general racial classification as the Hadhramaut Bedawin, and form a more exaggerated nucleus of the same physical type.
The origin of these non-Mediterranean, partly Veddoid people in southern Arabia is obscure. Culturally, they possess many primitive traits which would relate them, on the one hand, to the food-gathering economy of such people as the Australians and Veddas; and, on the other, to the cattle culture of the Todas in India and of the Hamites and Bantu in East Africa.
Let us first consider the racial characters of the plateau Yemenis, who seem to form the purest nucleus of the Mediterranean race in Arabia which has yet been studied.3 A group of 400 adult males from the central plateau and from the adjacent escarpment region belongs, with few exceptions, to a homogeneous Mediterranean type. The series is a mature one with a mean age of 33 years. The mean stature of this group, 164 cm., is moderate and is typical of the smaller Mediterranean race as defined in earlier chapters.
The bodies of these Yemenis are slightly built; gross observations on constitutional type show the Yemenis to be predominantly leptosome in 60 per cent of cases, and rarely if ever pyknic. The relative shoulder breadth of 21.5 is smaller than that found in most European groups; the relative span of 102 resembles that of the pure Nordic groups of east Norway, and a relative sitting height of 51.3 is less than that found among most Europeans. The Yemenis, although short, are relatively long legged. Their heads are of moderate dimensions, with a mean length of 188 mm. and a mean breadth of 143 mm., giving a cephalic index of 76, which lies on the upper border of dolichocephaly. It is to be noted that while the head form is the same as that of the Nordic race, the length and breadth dimensions are considerably smaller. The head height of 125 mm. is moderately high, and comparable to Nordic dimensions. The facial diameters are consistently narrow; the minimum frontal mean is 102 mm., the bizygomatic 132 mm., and the bigonial 101 mm. These dimensions are narrower than any that we have heretofore seen in Europe. The face height of 121 mm. is moderate, while the upper face height of 72 mm. must be considered great. It is, in fact, greater than that of many European groups of larger cranial and facial bulk. The nose height of 56 mm. is as great as that of most Nordic groups, while the nose breadth of 33.5 mm. is narrow. The facial index of 92 is only moderately leptoprosopic, while the upper facial index of 55 is extremely leptene. Here one sees a disharmony between the total face height and the great upper face height, which indicates the excessive shallowness and fragility of the Mediterranean mandible. A nasal index of 61 is extremely leptorrhine. The dimensions given above may serve as metrical specifications of the small Mediterranean racial variety in its purest form. Observational specifications follow.
Yemeni highianders, in exposed skin color on the face, hands, and legs, often appear to be brown, and the characteristic range of exposed skin color lies between von Luschan’s #12 and #18. Over 50 per cent of the series have exposed skins of #15 and darker. Really light exposed skin was observed in but one individual, who was a man seldom out under the sun. When the observer inspects the skin of the breast or inner arm in places where the sun seldom penetrates, he sees at once that these people are much lighter. The unexposed skin color, in 83 per cent of the entire series, is a swarthy white, fitting into the von Luschan #10 and #11. Lighter shades running from von Luschan #7 and #9 occur in roughly 5 per cent, while the rest of the series is darker. No individual measured, who came from the Yemen plateau, was darker than von Luschan #18. Vascularity is present in all but one-fifth of the subjects, but, in the majority of cases, is only slightly in evidence. Freckling was found in but 1 per cent of the entire group, and is not a characteristic of the unmixed Mediterranean race.
The head hair of the Yemenis is straight in only 4 per cent of the series, and low waves account for the majority, while 20 per cent have hair which may be classified as curly. This hair form consists of wide, open ringlets and is the same as the dominant form found among the Veddoid aborigines of the Hadhramaut. Negroid hair does not occur in this group. The hair is of medium texture in 80 per cent of the series and fine in the rest. It is of for the most part abundant on the head, and baldness is rare. Only 14 per cent of the entire group showed any signs of baldness other than pathological favus. The beard is slight in over 50 per cent of the series and seldom covers the entire lower part of the face. There are usually bare patches between the ends of the mustache and the chin beard. Body hair, aside from the pubis and axis, is absent in one-third of the entire group and, on the whole, but moderately developed. There is a minority of 10 per cent which shows excessive hairiness. On the whole, the classic Mediterranean racial type is characterized by a moderate to slight amount of body hair, but one must not conclude that excessive hairiness cannot be found among individual Mediterraneans.
The head hair is black in 90 per cent of the series; except for one example of blondism and another of rufosity, the rest of the group is dark brown haired. Beard color, however, is black in only 75 per cent of the group, and the remaining one-fourth of the series is divided between various hues of brown and red. Beard rufosity occurs in 6 per cent of the Yemeni series, while head hair rufosity was found in but one individual. Twelve men out of 400 had beards which contained visible increments of golden-brown hair. Reddish-brown beards are as common as red ones. Since there is no evidence of ash-blondism in either the head or beard hair, while golden and red hues account for all of the existing blondism, it is apparent that the hair of the basic Mediterranean stock, as exemplified by these Yemenis, contains a considerable amount of red pigmentation.
The 25 per cent of brown and blond
beards may be matched by 25 per cent of light and mixed eye color. Dark
brown, however, accounts for nearly half of the entire series, and black and
light brown eyes are definitely in the minority. Of the mixed eyes,
green-brown is the most frequent hue, and the dark-mixed outnumber the
light-mixed. Not a single case of pure blue or pure gray eyes was
encountered in the Yemen; the lightest test contained a few flecks of
superficial brown pigment.
Internal eyefolds are wholly absent. Median eyefolds are found in some 10 per cent of the series, while external eyefolds account for another 15 per cent. Thus a condition which is usually considered Nordic is found to exist almost equally among Mediterraneans. In 15 per cent of the series a slight upward obliquity of the eyes is found, and the opening between the lids is usually moderate. The eyebrows are pronouncedly thick in one-fourth of the series, and moderately so to medium in the rest. It is interesting to note that eyebrow concurrency is present in all but 15 per cent of the group. This is slight in most cases, but moderately pronounced in 40 per cent of the whole. One must, therefore, dismiss the idea that these Mediterraneans, at least, have no eyebrow concurrency. A moderate amount of it is apparently a Mediterranean trait. The browridges of these Yemenis are slight in half the group and moderate in most of the other half; only about 5 per cent have pronounced browridges comparable to those so frequently found in northern Europe.
From the observational standpoint, the forehead is of moderate to great height; the slope is less than that usually found among Nordics. Absent or very slight slopes are found in nearly half of the group, while a slope comparable to that of Nordics accounts for the other half.
The nasion depression is usually slight; in many cases nearly absent. The nasal root is almost always high and narrow, the nasal bridge is of greater than medium height in 60 per cent of the series, while its breadth is characteristically narrow to medium. The nasal profile is convex in half of the group. Concave profiles are limited to 3 per cent of the whole, and the rest are straight. The concavo-convex profile, so common in some types of Nordic, is absent here. The nasal tip is usually narrow to medium. It is usually horizontal or inclined slightly upwards; downward inclination occurs in only one-sixth of the group. The nasal wings are alternately medium or compressed, and flaring in but 2 per cent of the group. The nostrils usually take the form of a thin oval in outline, and are set at slightly oblique axes.
On the whole, the nasal form of the Yemenis is quite constant and of little variability. The Yemeni nose is high-rooted, high-bridged, and narrow, with a convex to straight profile, and a narrow, slightly elevated tip, compressed to moderate wings, and narrow, slightly oblique nostril openings. The amount of nasal convexity is greater among Mediterraneans than among most Nordics, and the Mediterranean group as exempified by this series is, in fact, slightly more leptorrhine than all but the most extreme Nordic groups.
The lips of the Yemenis are of moderate integumental thickness, and their membranous thickness is usually thin to medium. The lips are as a rule only slightly everted. The lip seam is visible in the entire group. Prognathism is rare; 9 per cent of the total group shows a slight to medium development of the facial variety, while the alveolar type is limited to 2 per cent. It must be remembered at this point that a small amount of facial prognathism is a characteristic white and particularly Mediterranean trait, while alveolar prognathism is more of a negroid character. This, like other negroid traits, is to all practical purposes absent in the Yemen highlands.
Despite the shallowness and narrowness of the Yemenis mandible, chins are of moderate European prominence in 70 per cent of the series. Markedly prominent chins such as one finds in northern Europe among Upper Palaeolithic survivors are lacking. These chins are median in three-fourths of the entire group, while the remaining fourth possess the bilateral form common among Europeans. Only one man out of five has the edge-to-edge bite so frequently found among mediaeval and earlier European skulls, for in dentition and in general jaw development, the Yemenis possess the same features already noticed in the skulls of Mesopotamia as early as Sumerian times.
In the larger features of the face, Yemenis show little or no frontal projection of the malars, while a moderate lateral projection is usual, owing to the small development of the temporal muscle and to the general thinness of the soft parts of the face. Gonial angles are medium or slight in most cases. The occipital protrusion is usually considerable, and flattening is absent or very slight in three-fourths of the series, and the other fourth is as pronounced as among most Nordics.
Although the plateau Yemenis of the region centered about Sana'a may rightly be taken to represent the smaller variety of the Mediterranean race in its purest form, this is not equally true of other parts of the Yemen. In the southern part of the mountain district, in the neighborhood of the cities of Yerim, Ibb, and Taiz, a mixture is seen between this Mediterranean strain and the Veddoid type characteristic of the Hadhramaut. Along the Yemen coast, furthermore, since the climatic conditions are such as to discourage serious physical effort among white men, the countryside has been largely taken over by negroid farmers brought in as agricultural serfs. There is, however, a minority of white agriculturalists, and these belong partly to the Mediterranean type described above. However, there is a considerable coastal population located in the larger towns and maritime villages, which belongs to an entirely different physical type.
The coastal Yemenis are shorter than the plateau Mediterraneans, with a mean stature of only 160 cm. They are smaller-headed, with the extremely short mean glabello-occipital length of 177 mm., a vault height of only 122 mm., and a cephalic index mean of 84.4 Their faces are broader than those of the plateau people, and very short, with a mean total face height of 118 mm. The nasal index of 64 is less leptorrhine, and the length of eye-slit opening is much greater. These maritime coastal people frequently have coarse and straight hair; their skin color tends to be darker than that of the plateau people, their faces fuller, and their ears prominent and slanting.
These brachycephalic coastal people bear a strong resemblance to Malays and Indonesians, in a number of metrical characters, and there is a tradition that they have absorbed Malay blood in certain families On the other hand, from the morphological standpoint, most of them look Armenoid, since thick-tipped convex noses and sloping foreheads are frequent among them. In any case, whatever their origin, and it is undoubtedly mixed, they represent an intrusive people borne to Southern Arabia by the sea, and have no connection with the original Mediterranean group which developed in the highlands. Evidence of their racial influence may be seen among the agricultural population of the coast, and to a certain extent in the southern towns, but as yet they seem to have exerted no influence whatever on the plateau country. The barrier of a 10,000 foot escarpment and of a complete difference in climate seems to have sufficed to keep the coastal population from the plateau, while the plateau people, at the same time, have penetrated the unhealthy lowlands but little.
Within the Yemen plateau population it is possible for the careful observer to notice a differentiation between a number of sub-types. In the cities is concentrated a specialized and exaggeratedly Mediterranean population with shorter stature, narrower and lower heads, narrower faces and noses, and lighter skin color than the rest of the Yemenis. This city type seems to have been largely selected on an occupational basis. and represents the quintessence of the Mediterranean race. The country people, on the whole, are somewhat larger, somewhat broader-shouldered, and somewhat wavier or curlier in hair form.
Among the tribal and village sheikhs and the officers in the Imam’s army one frequently encounters tall, very long-headed, and long-faced examples of the Atlanto-Mediterranean type, which seems to form a socially selected variant in this group. The Nordic-looking people are usually confined to the social stratum from which civil officers and religious men are drawn, and it is more than a coincidence that the acknowledged descendants of the Prophet are lighter-skinned and show greater evidence of blondism than the rest of the population. There may perhaps have been a Nordic strain associated with the holy families who entered this region from the Hejaz in early post-Islamic times.
We have no data whatever from Asir, but it is likely that the inhabitants of this mountain province resemble those of the Yemen highlands in large measure. In the Hejaz, there is almost no material,5 but a few words may be said on the basis of personal observation. Today the city people who derive rich profits from the pilgrim trade and who inhabit mostly Jidda Mekka, Taif, and Medina are as motley and heterogeneous a group as one would find in Port Said or Honolulu. Thousands of Javanese, of Chinese Moslems, of Bokharis from Turkestan, and of Indian Moslems as well as of African negroes, have been attracted to the holy places and have remained there. The permanent population of these cities is probably less than half Arab. So far these foreign elements have not greatly mixed with the indigenous people, and the old families have kept themselves aloof from these foreign strains, but the importance of the newcomers in the future cannot be exaggerated. The Hejaz will eventually be the seat of a greatly mixed and blended population, drawn from the three primary racial groups of white, negroid, and mongoloid.
Members of the old Hejaz families seem to fall, in many cases, into a clearly differentiated type which, in its extreme form, may be described without difficulty. Its members are men of medium to tall stature; they are broad shouldered, long-bodied, heavy of weight, and of a constitutional type which tends to an excess of both muscle and fat. Their heads are large and mesocephalic to brachycephalic, their faces are both broad and long, their noses frequently large-tipped and fleshy. The chin is prominent and the mandible strong. Their hair is dark brown to black, the beard heavy, and the eye color characteristically brown, although light eyes are by no means uncommon.
Although this Alpine-looking Hejaz type may not yet be established on a scientific basis,6 its existence will be confirmed by readers who are acquainted with the people of this region. It seems very likely that men of this general type went to North Africa with the early Moslem invasions, or this type is frequent among the aristocratic families in North African cities, particularly in Fez, in contrast with the rest of the population which is almost exclusively dolichocephalic. What the origin of this hypothetical type may be, it would be foolish to consider without some metrical evidence, but we may be sure that it is not of pure Mediterranean origin. It is probably confined largely to the city people and to the older of the indigenous families.
Information on the exact physical character of the nomadic peoples of the Nejd is likewise lacking, but we possess a body of information upon a of number of the tribes which pasture their camels in Transjordania and in the the desert portions of Syria and Iraq. Notable among these is the Ruwalla tribe made famous by the writings of Lawrence, Musil, Raswan, and others.7 A series of 270 adult male Ruwalla measured by Shanklin8 is shorter than the Yemenis, with a mean stature of 162 cm., but other Bedawin tribes, such as the Shammar,9 are taller, and as one enters sedentary regions in the north the Bedawin stature reaches 170 cm.10 On the whole, however, the northern Arabs must be considered a medium to short people. A relative sitting height of 51, among the Ruwalla, agrees with that of the Yemenis, and is a standard Mediterranean character.
The heads of the Ruwalla, with a mean length of 192 mm., are a little longer than those of the Yemenis, and the cephalic index of 75 a little lower. The faces of the Ruwalla, with a mean bizygomatic diameter of 130 mm., are extremely narrow. Other dimensions resemble those familiar to us in the Yemen. The skin color of the Ruwalla seems to be on the whole somewhat darker than that of the Yemenis. The hair is usually black or dark brown, and no instance of partial blondism is recorded by Shanklin, although individuals who possess it have been noticed by other observers. It is evident, however, that the 25 per cent of incipient blondism noted in the Yemen is not present in this tribe, although Field has found an even higher ratio among the Shammar.11
There are two easily distinguished types among the Ruwalla: a grosser type, with a broader face and straight and medium to broad nose, which bears certain resemblances to the aboriginal population of the Hadhramaut and Dhofar; and what may be described as a finer type, to which most of the sheikhly families belong; this is narrower-faced and narrower-nosed, with often a concave or beaked nasal profile. This hawk-faced type of Arabian aristocrat is better known than the other type, but is probably the less numerous. It reaches its extreme personification in the old warrior Sheikh 'Auda Abu Tayy, whose lineaments are familiar to thousands through the charcoal portrait published in Lawrence’s Seven pillars of Wisdom.
The purest Mediterranean group in northern Arabia is that of the Solubbies or Sleyb, a curious outcast people who wander about in small family units from camp to camp acting as hunters, leather workers, and tinkers to the Bedawin.12 The despised position of the Sleyb may be deduced from their ragged clothing, small tents, and the fact that they have no camels and are not allowed to ride on horses. They are, however, regarded as true natives of the desert, and know more about its topography, and can survive in it under greater hardships than any other people. Measurements taken by Dr. Henry Field on a series of these scattered people13 show them to fall closely to the Yemen plateau standard, and they appear lighter skinned and less Dravidian than the common run of Bedawin.
The origin of the camel-herding
Bedawin, with their long genealogies and their complex social structure, has
long been a problem to ethnologists. Although there is no space here for a
lengthy dissertation upon this subject, it is the author’s belief that the
camel- and mare-breeding complex of the Bedawin is an off-shoot of the
cattle culture of southern Arabia, which is, in turn, closely related to the
cattle complex of India and East Africa. With advancing desiccation and the
collapse of the early civilizations of southern Arabia, it is likely that
one or more tribes and families of Yemenite and Veddoid origin moved
northward from the Nejran into the Nejd and the Syrian desert, transferring
the economic aspects of their cattle culture to their camels, and its social
aspects to their mares. According to this hypothesis the Sleyb and the
socially inferior non-Aneyze tribesmen, who live as much on sheep as on
camels, represent the earlier elements in the population, and are more
purely Mediterranean than the Ruwalla.
1 Van den Berg, L. W. C.,
Le Hadhramout et les Colonies Arabes dans l’Archipel Indien.