(Chapter XI, section 12)

The Tuareg

The most specialized, next to the Riffians the most famed, and at the same time probably the least well-known of all North African Berber groups is that of the Tuareg, a conglomeration of nomadic tribes dominating the caravan routes and the few cultivable plots of land lying between the Libyan Desert and Rio de Oro, and between the Algerian oases and the Niger. Some indeed, live in the Air plateau on the southern side of the Niger. Despite the vastness of their territory, the Tuareg are not numerous, since their habitat will support but a minimum population. They are divided into two free classes, the Ihaggaren, or nobles, the Imrad, or tribute-paying tribesmen, and slaves. The nobles ride about on their camels policing this territory, protecting their imrad, and pillaging those of other tribes, taking toll of the caravans which pass through their country, and themselves raiding and transporting slaves.84

The social system of the Tuareg85 is a finely balanced response to their environmental needs, and resembles that of the northern Arabian Bedawin in its high evaluation of self-reliance and independence of action. The nobles maintain their superior position by protecting their dependents and by their willingness to fight; with this attitude is connected the concept of racial purity, which in effect makes the physical type of the Tuareg nobles a result, in part, of their social system. Inheritance of rank among the Tuareg passes through the mother, and the numerous mixed offspring of Tuareg men and slave concubines are not given noble rank. Despite the close association between the Tuareg and the negroes, who preceded them in the Sahara and with whom they are in close contact in Nigeria, the noble class has to a large extent preserved its freedom from negroid admixture, although there are many individual exceptions to this rule. The imrad are in some cases fully white, and individual imrad may be found who are less negroid than individual nobles, but the reverse, as a rule, is true. The Tuareg have a definite standard of masculine beauty, a well-recognized noble physique and cast of countenance, which undoubtedly has been crystallized by centuries of selection.

The physical type of the non-negroid Tuareg nobles, and of the who are white, is, thanks to a number of anthropometric studies,86 enough known to merit accurate description. Since the Tuareg males are never seen without their face-coverings, an accurate knowledge of their characteristic physiognomy is limited to a few scientists who have literally succeeded in lifting the Tuareg veil.

The Tuareg nobles are tall men, with mean statures running tribally from 172 cm. to 178 cm.; about 174 cm. would be their total mear They are lean, long-armed, and long-legged, with narrow shoulders narrow hips, and chests which are narrow in an antero-posterior direction; their hands and feet are long and very narrow, their fingers long and thin. The very fine wrists and ankles which we have observed among the Somalis are also present here. The addition of Negro blood to this Tuareg bodily type broadens the shoulders, shortens the legs, and makes the hands and feet wider and larger. The Tuareg relative sitting height mean of 49, indicating that the sitting height is less than half the stature, serves to illustrate the extremely linear constitutional type of this people,

The heads of the Tuareg are dolichocephalic and large; tribal means in the cephalic index vary between 72 and 75, but 73 is the central point of the whole. No brachycephals are found among the white nobles, although they occasionally appear among negroids of other classes. The head length mean for a series of 75 Tuareg nobles is 195 mm,, the breadth 146 mm.; the vault is apparently also high. The faces are both long and moderately broad, with a mean menton-nasion height of 126 mm.,87 and a bizygomatic of 136 mm. The upper face height (72 mm.)87 is moderately great, and the mandible less shallow than with most Mediterraneans; the foreheads and jaws are said to be narrow. Among selected groups of unmixed nobles, the nasal index means run as low as 62 and 63; among nobles in general, 67 or 68 is a commoner figure.

The skin color of the Tuareg is difficult to determine, since they do not wash, and indigo runs from their garments. But when cleaned, the unexposed skin of the non-negroid nobles and Imrad is seen to be a brunet-white, without brownish tinge; the mixed bloods, however, who are predominantly Tuareg and only in a minor degree negroid, assume a constant and characteristic dark brown color, known in North Africa as amrani, and comparable to the characteristic hue of the Somalis. Mixed bloods of the Ifora Tuareg of the southern Sahara have a reddish-bronze color foreign to the northern Tuareg hybrids, and due, in all probability, to mixture with Hausa people in the Nigerian plateau of Aïr.

The eyes of the Tuareg are all brown; not a single light or mixed eye has been reported by competent observers; the blue eyes attributed to the Tuareg by travellers cannot be supported by anthropometrists. The characteristic Tuareg eye color is actually a very dark brown, verging on black. The hair likewise is black, and no evidence of hair blondism has been statistically reported from the noble group. The hair is straight, wavy, or curly with ringlets; frizzly hair among the Tuareg is considered a negroid diagnostic.

The classical Tuareg noble, an ideal type to which many of them, as a matter of fact, belong, has a narrow, high, and but slightly sloping forehead; there are no browridges or very slight ones. The face takes the form of an attenuated pentagon, with the base aloft; prominent malars, a narrow jaw, and a pointed chin produce this form. The unmixed Tuareg are orthognathous, have thin to medium lips, and small teeth, which in older people are often worn to the gums. The nose, which is the most characteristic Tuareg feature, is high-bridged, narrow-rooted, and often convex in the upper segment, while the lower or cartilaginous part is straight, thin-tipped, and depressed at the end, with small wings and oblique, highly excavated nostrils.

In mixed forms, which in the lower Tuareg classes are more numerous than the pure noble strain, the stature tends to be lower, the shoulders broader, the head vault wider and lower, the forehead and mid-face broader, and the nose thicker tipped, with wider wings.

The Tuareg in their pure form belong to a specialized Mediterranean sub-type, the creation of which is partly a matter of isolation and selection under extreme environmental stimuli. They resemble the East African Hamites very closely, and especially the whiter element among the Somali, but in their extreme stature and great head size they seem closer than most other living Mediterraneans to the pre-Neolithic East African men.

Tuareg history does not support the view that they represent a survival in isolation of a pure East African strain from a remote period. Their Own traditions trace the nobles and Imrad to two ancestresses, Tin Hinan88 and Takamat, who came from Tafilalet and who were Braber, or Moroccan Senhaja. The Braber ancestry cannot, however, be the only factor in the genetic composition of the Tuareg; their use be the camel, and their general manner of living must be ascribed to Zenata from Cyrenaica, who probably contributed largely to the ancestral strain. It is more than likely that a number of Berber families participated in the rapid adaptation to desert life which the Tuareg ancestors must have undergone in the early centuries of the Christian era.89 It must be remembered that the chief contacts of the Tuareg with settled lands have been with the Sudan rather than with the north, and that the negroid elements in such peoples as the Fulah and Hausa must have been Hamitic in an East African sense. The Tuareg probably represent in a general way the ancestral physical type of the bringers of Hamitic speech to North Africa, but their adherence to this type must be a matter of recombination and selection. They are by no means typical Berbers, but may be taken as an end type in the Berber racial complex.


84 The tense used in the above sentence and in the following paragraph is the ethnographic present. Actually, the Tuareg have largely ceased these activities, under French military pressure, and are now faced with the problem of making a new social and economic adjustment, no easy task for a people so specialized and so finely adjusted to an extreme environment.

85 Sources on Tuareg culture are: Duveyrier, H., Les Touareg du Nord; and Benhazera, M., Six Mois Chez les Touareg du Ahaggar.

86 Benoit, F., and Kossovitch, N., CRSB, vol. 109, 1932, pp. 198—200.
Leblanc, E., RDAP, vol. 38, 1928, pp. 331—357; vol. 39, 1929, pp. 19—24.
Leblanc, E., and Bercerot, J., RDAP, vol. 46, 1936, pp. 140—150.
Verneau, R., Anth, vol. 27, 1916, pp. 47—95, 211—242, 406—430, 539—568.
Zeitner, F., Anth, vol. 25, 1914, pp. 459—476; RDAP, vol. 25, 1915, pp.
A craniological study is: Leblanc, E., RDAP, vol. 39, 1929, pp. 351—363.

87 Adjustments and recombinations of different sources, and substitutions for questionable techniques, have been employed in arriving at these figures. The results are, I believe, reliable.

88 this ancestress was apparently a real person. The tomb traditionally associated with her name has been excavated and found to contain a female skeleton, richly equipped.

89 Comparable to the rapid convergence of American Indians from many quarters to the western plains with the acquisition of the horse, and the equally rapid development of a characteristic Plains culture.