(Chapter IV, section 5)

Neolithic North Africa

In view of the importance of North Africa as one of the two main corridors of Neolithic diffusion into Europe, it is extremely disappointing that in it very few human remains of this cultural period have been found. A handful of skulls from Redeyef and Tebessa, near the border between Algeria and Tunisia, are the only surely Neolithic ones that have been described.25
These are all of the small-statured, thin-bodied, small-headed, dolicho- to low mesocephalic variety of Mediterranean already seen at Muge; smaller, on the whole, than most of the early Egyptians, and shorter-headed than the small Badarians. They cannot be derived directly from Egypt proper, nor from any known population of the Delta, if the few Merimdian skeletons already mentioned may be considered typical of that region. This small and geographically limited group is a local form of Mediterranean of the same variety which, at a presumably earlier date, had crossed the straits into the Iberian Peninsula.

Other remains, found in caves in eastern Algeria,26 are likewise small in absolute body size, having a mean stature of approximately 160 cm., but resemble the type of Téviec rather than that of Muge. They may be attenuated Afalou survivors, but cannot with certainty be ascribed to the Neolithic. Many, if not all, may be Mesolithic in date.27

The megalithic cultural complex , borne through the Mediterranean by sea in the Late Neolithic, and spreading northward past Gibraltar to the British Isles, France, and Scandinavia, reached the North African shores. But in this minor theater of megalithic activities the stone monuments, which do not occur east of Tunisia, may have been first erected in post-Neolithic times, since most of them contain objects of bronze, or even of iron. They were, in fact, occasionally used as burial vaults through Roman times, and right up until the arrival of the Moslems. Under these circumstances we cannot expect to find a purely megalithic race in the Tunisian and Algerian dolmens28 and, to a certain extent, the material lives up to expectations. Although the cranial indices, in some thirty specimens, ranges from 67 to 84, the majority of the skulls are dolichocephalic, and some of them are extremely long, while most of them are leptorrhine, unlike the broader-nosed ordinary Mediterranean crania of the Neolithic. Furthermore, the stature of the dolmen people is tall, with a male mean of abouit 168 cm.29 Unless these are the skeletons of Hamites or Arabs, we may infer that the megalith builders were not the small Mediterraneans proper of Mesolithic tradition, but a new ethnic element which we shall be able to study more profitably when we find it in greater numbers farther to the north.


25. Bertholon and Chantre, Récherches anthropologiques dans la Berbérie Orientale, pp. 237-242.

26. Ibid., pp. 240-242.

27. Boule, M., Verneau, R., Vallois, H., AIPH, Mem. 13, p. 190.

28. There are very few in Morocco, and nothing is known of their skeletal contents.

29. Bertholon and Chantre, op. cit., pp. 243-249.