(Chapter XI, section 14)

Western Barbary; Morocco and the Canary Islands


Morocco contains the largest number of Berbers of any North African country, both absolutely and relatively; 60 per cent of her population is Berber-speaking, as compared to 33 per cent in Algeria. The Moroccan Berbers are mostly mountain people, while the plains are occupied by Arabs. The road from Oujda, on the Algerian border, to Taza and Fez. separates the Berbers into two groups, who diverge to the west with their mountain chains. The North Moroccan Berbers include the Riffians, the Senhaja Sghir (a group of tribes of Senhajan origin living in the highest mountain nucleus of the Ruffian chain), the Ghomara, and the linguistically Arabicized Jebala and Anjera. The southern group includes, on the northeast, the Braber, a group of Senhaja tribes of sheep-herders and horsemen, partly agricultural, living half the year in great castles, and the other half in tents; and on the southwest, the Shluh, Masmuda tribesmen, who are fully sedentary, and live on both slopes of the great Atlas, and in the Wed Sous.

The Riffians, the best known of the Moroccan Berbers, are sedentary agriculturalists, with the exceptions of two tribes, the Metalsa and Beni Bu Yahi, who live in the Garet Desert through which the Muluya River flows. They are the blondest and most Nordic of the Berbers, and have received much acclaim for their warlike ability. They are not, however, of homogeneous ethnic origin.99 In some tribes the leading families claim descent from Senhaja, others from Zenata, while families of sherifs are, of course, of saintly Arab origin. Families in the central Rif, such as the Beni Khattab, the clan of Sidi Mohammed ben Abd el Krim, are descended from the eighth century Arab missionaries who founded the Kingdom of Nekor in the coastal section of what is now the tribe of Beni Urriaghel. The tribes of purest Riffian descent, who admit indigenous heathen lineage in many families, are the Beni Urriaghel, Beni Amart. and Gzennaya. These form a cultural nucleus in the country back of the Bay of Alhucemas.

Although the tribes are not uniform metrically in a strict sense, they are all moderately tall, all dolichocephalic, all high-headed, and all leptorrhine. The mean stature of the Riffian nation is 168.6 cm.; the tribes vary from 166 cm. to 172 cm. Bodily proportions are on the whole lean and spare, with a relative sitting height of 50.9, and a relative span of 104. The shoulders are moderately broad, the hips narrow. There is a type of Riffian with a lateral body build, a long trunk, and wide shoulders and hips, but this type is in no tribe numerous enough to influence the mean of the whole.

Absolute head size among Riffians reaches European proportions; the three major head dimensions are 195 mm. by 146 mm. by 129 mm. The mean cephalic index of the whole group is 75, with tribal variations running from 73.5 to 75.8. Very few Riffians are actually brachycephahc. Heads which are large in one dimension are usually large in the others; variation individually and tribally is more in size than in shape. In one tribe, Beni Said, the bulk of the series is composed of the imgharen, or members of the tribal council which was in session on the day of measuring; the heads of this august group have the remarkable dimensions, for North Africa, of 197 mm. by 148 mm. by 131 mm. To equal these diameters one would need normally to go to western Norway, to Ireland, or to the United States Senate. Some tribes have much smaller vaults, however; for example, Targuist, with 192 mm. by 144 mm. by 127 mm., has more typically Mediterranean or Nordic dimensions.

The faces of the Riffians are, as a rule, of moderate size; the total face height mean of the whole group is 124 mm., the bizygomatic 136 mm.; the minimum frontal and bigonial are both 106 mm. Tribally, the heights vary from 121 mm. to 131 mm.; the bizygomatics from 133 mm. to 140 mm.; the minimum frontal from 104 mm. to 109 mm.; and the bigonial from 104 mm. to 108 mm. The longest faces go with the tribesmen of the eastern Rif, who claim Zenatan ancestry; the shortest ones with the central tribes of purest Riffian tradition. The facial indices of these latter are mesoprosopic, the others leptoprosopic. The noses are largest and most leptorrhine (61-62) in the east, and smallest and least leptorrhine (64-65) in the west.

The Riffians are pinkish-white skinned, like northern Europeans, in 65 per cent of the total group, and in approximately 80 per cent in the central tribes. The exposed skin color is brick-red in many cases, being incapable of tanning; in others it is brunet-white or light brown in summer, and bleaches out again in winter. Freckles are found on 23 per cent of Riffians; this figure is approximate since some were measured in winter, others in the summer. The head hair is black in 44 per cent of the total, and dark to medium brown in 46 per cent; the others are reddish-brown or light brown; in a few cases, golden-blond. These last form less than 1 per cent of the whole, however. The beard is usually much lighter, being black in only 34 per cent of the total, dark or medium brown in 25 per cent, reddish-brown in 14 per cent, light brown in 19 per cent, and golden, ashen, or red in 8 per cent. Seventeen per cent of Riffians show some rufosity in beard color. Since the Riffians wear turbans, and since the few adults who still wear pigtails cover all but the ends of these, it is the beard color and not the head hair color which is responsible for the current idea of Riffian blondism. Furthermore the children, who go bareheaded, possess an infantile dominance of blondism, as among Europeans of mixed pigmentation. The blondest hair and beards are found in the central Rif, especially in the tribe of Beni Amart, where over 50 per cent of the men have beards light brown or lighter.

Fifty-seven per cent of Riffians have mixed or light eyes; of the remaining 43 per cent, dark brown is the commonest color. Green-brown is the commonest mixed form, then gray-brown and finally blue-brown: pure blue eyes account for only 2 per cent of the group, while only one man was observed with gray eyes. Unmatched eyes are common. In some tribes as few as 20 per cent are pure dark-eyed, in none more than 55 per cent. On the whole, blondism is strong in the Rif; over half of the adult men show some trace of it. But the Rif is not a blond country in the sense that Norway, Sweden, Finland, or even England are blond; it is, however, blonder than most of Spain or southern Italy.

The morphological features of the head and face vary tribally in the Rif, as well as individually; there is no such thing as a typical Ruffian. The hair form, however, is in all tribes wavy to ringlet-curly; it is never frizzly except among blacksmiths and other outsiders who are negroid, and who enter the Rif as tradesmen, to go out again when they have made enough money. The Riffians have as heavy beards as northwestern Europeans, and as heavy body hair in most cases; baldness, however, is rare.

Facially there are several well-differentiated types which can best be described separately. One is a long-faced, hook-nosed brunet or mixed pigment type commonest in the east, especially among the Nomads; this physiognomy is considered by the Riffians to be an importation of Zenatan or Arab inspiration. Another is a classic Mediterranean, with slightly sloping forehead, straight nasal profile, slightly elevated tip, moderate nasal wings and oval facial contour; this type is usually brunet; it is found everywhere, but especially in the central and western tribes. A third is a Nordic in the strictest morphological sense, usually with brown hair and mixed eyes, and a Ruffian Nordic could be mistaken for an Irishman or an Englishman, less easily for a Scandinavian.

A fourth is a large-bodied, large-headed type, tending to mesocephaly, with a prominent lambdoid flattening especially visible when the scalp is shaven; the face is broad, the orbits low, as one can easily discern from the narrow palpebral opening and the presence of median or external eyefolds; the nose is short, straight, or sometimes snubbed, the mouth large, the chin prominent, and the jaw heavy. The pigmentation is usually mixed, with brown or reddish hair, and light-mixed eyes. This type, without further discussion, is obviously a somewhat reduced modern survival of the old Crô-Magnon-like Afalou men. It is found principally among the oldest Ruffian families, and among tribal office-holders. It is not rare in the Rif, and its reemergence parallels in a minor sense the reemergence of the same or a similar type in northwestern Europe.

A smaller variant of this is considered by the Riffians themselves typical of the mountain Beni Urriaghel; short-statured, broad of build, with short, broad hands, freckled skin, reddish beard, bluish eyes, a short, wide face with a square jaw, and a snub nose. It is the prevalence of this last type, concentrated in the mountain knot between the Beni Urriaghel and Gzennaya, which has reduced the stature and facial dimensions of these two tribes as units. These men are the most archaic culturally and the most inveterate feud fighters in the whole Rif.

As one moves westward along the northern Berber zone of Morocco, one encounters the Ghomara, on the Mediterranean slope of the curving ridge of mountains. These Ghomara, who trace their ancestry to an ancient invasion from the south, once formed an unbroken ethnic unit with their traditional relatives the Grand Atlas Shluh. They are as blond as the Riffians, but shorter (165 cm.), and are mesocephahc, with a mean cephalic index of 77.3 and a minority of brachycephals. Although the same types are found here as in the Rif, it is the shorter faced reduced Afalou variety, which leans in an Alpine direction, which is important.

South of the Ghomara and again west of the Rif, lie the high mountain tribes of the Senhaja Sghir, including Taghzuth, famous for its craftsmen in metal and leather; these people speak a Senhajan dialect normally incomprehensible to Riffians, who can, on the other hand, understand Ghomaran. Both the Senhaja Sghir and Ghomara, however, are in recent years tending to lose their Berber speech in favor of Arabic, since all or nearly all are bilingual. The Senhaja Sghir are darker, as a rule, tan Riffians. A number are definitely negroid, whereas in the Rif negroid blood is confined to outsiders. Metrically the Senhaja Sghir are similar to the Riffians, but slightly smaller headed as a rule, and narrower jawed. There is among them a non-Ruffian, Mediterranean element, which shows itself in a convex nasal profile and a sloping forehead, and which is reminiscent of eastern Barbary and of points farther east.

West of the Senhaja Sghir and Ghomara, and covering the entire mountain zone of the western third of Spanish Morocco, is the Jebala country, the home of numerous religious brotherhoods, and inhabited by tribes very different culturally from the Riffians. The Jeballis, who have never been properly measured, are as a rule short, often stocky men, with small to medium-sized mesocephalic heads, aquiline noses, and small, pointed chins. They are usually brunet in hair color, but often mixed-eyed, and fair-skinned. In the northern part of the Jebala country, in the Anjera region which approaches the Straits of Gibraltar, the Nordic type of the Rif appears again with some frequency.

The Braber of the Middle Atlas, one of the three most numerous groups of Moroccan Berbers, have never been measured as a separate entity.100 Of them one can merely give an eye-witness description, with all the faults of that method; the author's impression is that they are among the tallest people in Morocco, that they are usually long-faced and hook-nosed, with heavy beards, and that they are almost always brunet.101 This impression is, needless to say, subject to future revision.

The fourth of the great Moroccan .Berber groups, the Shluh, differs from the northern Moroccans in that they are rarely blond. Mixed and light eyes are reduced to the traditional Mediterranean 25 per cent; hair lighter than dark brown to 5 per cent, and beards of the same category to 25 per cent. Metrically they are fully Mediterranean, with a stature mean of 165 cm., smaller vault and face dimensions than the Riffians, and a mean cephalic index of 74.5. The total face height is 120 mm., the bigonial 100 mm. Individually they are mostly Mediterranean, of the straight-nosed, basic North African variety, and the chief deviation from this norm is in a negroid direction.

The Arabic-speaking population of the Moroccan plains is reasonably homogeneous, except for a certain negroid accretion, and looks like the Arab population elsewhere in North Africa. Although these "Arabs" must be partly Berber in blood, they, nevertheless, to a large extent, preserve their Arabian facial types. It cannot be denied that their ancestors who immigrated to Morocco at the time of the HiIlali invasions came in large numbers. The ordinary city Arabs are little different from their pastoral and agricultural brethren, but this rule does not apply to the aristocratic families. These merchant-princes are sometimes blond, and of Nordic appearance; others of them look like Mekkan aristocrats in Arabia.

Before propounding any conclusions as to the racial history of western Barbary, it seems advisable to consider the racial history of that supremely marginal cultural province, the Canary Islands. These islands, consisting of Lanzarote and Fuertaventura near the coast of Rio de Oro, Gran Canaria, Teneriffe, Gomera, and finally Palma and Hierro on the western fringe, were occupied by a Neolithic population of white racial type when the Spaniards conquered them, with great difficulty, during the fifteenth century. The adjacent African mainland, an utter desert, had by then long been the home of primitive Bedawin Arabs and of negroes.102

It is unlikely that the Guanches, as the native Canarians were called, had arrived there by the end of the Pleistocene, since no archaeological remains of a pre-Neolithic culture have been found, and the islands themselves are of recent volcanic origin. The Canarians lived by breeding pigs, sheep, and goats, and by the cultivation of barley and perhaps of wheat, although their use of the latter cereal is questionable. They ground their grain on rotary querns, and used chipped stone cutting implements. Polished stone celts of materials not found on the islands have been discovered by archaeologists, and iron spear points as well; apparently the Neolithic axe was given up by the early colonists through lack of material, and the metal of later visitors was also irreplaceable. Pottery is of a Neolithic type, but textiles were lacking. Arabic words in the speech of most of the islands, as well as alphabetic inscriptions on rocks, and the rotary querns, indicate that the islands were visited sporadically by people from the mainland from Neolithic times to the seventh century of the present era, if not later. The basic culture is a Neolithic Schweinhirtenkultur in Menghin's sense, with various losses and accretions.

At the time of the Spanish conquest, the islands contained a varied population of different physical types, stratified in social classes. There was definitely a tall, blond element, which lived by its flocks for the most part, and which seems to have been socially superior; a darker, more Mediterranean element which was more agricultural. Gran Canaria and Teneriffe were the centers of blondism, while of the two outlying islands, Hierro was prevailingly brunet, and Palma partly blond. The coastal islands of Lanzarote and Fuertaventura contained almost exclusively a tall, brunet population. The Guanches were described by the Spaniards as being frequently of giant size, and it is apparent from the difficulties of the Spaniards that they were redoubtable fighters.

The osteology of the Guanches has been exhaustively studied,103 and does not wholly support the Spanish descriptions. For example, the mean statures reckoned from the long bones in Teneriffe and in Gran Canaria are only 166 cm. The crania as a whole are of moderate size; mesocephaly seems to have been the prevailing head form, with a cranial index of 75-76 in Teneriffe, Gran Canaria, and Hierro, and of 77.7 in Gomera. Since this is equivalent to cephalic indices of 77 to 80, it is apparent that the Guanches were less dolichocephalic than most living North Africans. The upper faces of most were not particularly long, and euryene crania are as numerous as mesene; in Gomera, the euryene are more numerous. The characteristic nose form in the outward islands (Lanzarote and Fuertaventura not studied) is mesorrhine, with the narrowest in Teneriffe (of Teneriffe, Gran Canaria, Gomera, and Hierro) and the least so in Hierro. The orbital index mean is in all islands low, exceptionally so in Gomera. The majority of crania from all islands is chamaeconch.

The Guanche skulls as a whole are unlike those of modern European Mediterraneans, and resemble northern European series most closely, especially those in which a brachycephalic element is present, as in Burgundian and Alemanni series. Hpaton has divided them into clearly differentiated types, which include a Mediterranean, a Nordic, a "Guanche," and an Alpine. The "Guanche" accounts for 50 per cent of the whole on the four islands of Teneriffe, Gomera, Gran Canaria, and Hierro; the Nordic for 31 per cent, the Mediterranean for 13 per cent, and the Alpine for most of the remainder. The "Guanche" is particularly prevalent on Teneriffe, the Alpine on Gomera, and the Mediterranean on Hierro.

Hooton's "Guanche" type skulls, although not as large as the Afalou bou Rummel crania, resemble them morphologically, with heavy browridges, strong muscular markings, low orbits, and lambdoidal flattening.104 His Nordic crania are distinguished from the Mediterranean sub-group largely on a basis of size and robusticity. The Alpine crania bear what Hooton considers to be a slightly Mongoloid cast, as is also found in early European brachycephalic skulls of the Mesolithic and earlier.

After the Spaniards had conquered the Guanches and converted the survivors, they proceeded to intermarry with these new Christians, who perpetuated their kind in large numbers. On historical grounds there is every reason to believe that the living Canary Islanders are at least as much Guanche in origin as Spanish.105 Fischer, who has studied the modern Canarians,106 finds among them the following types:

(1) A true, small Mediterranean, which may be partly of Spanish introduction.

(2) A "Berber" type, with a heavier, broader face, but essentially Mediterranean.

(3) An "Oriental" type, with a narrow face, thin, convex nose, dark hair, and attenuated extremities.

(4) An Alpine of Bavarian appearance - this is said to be uncommon.

(5) The "Crô-Magnon" type; with a low, rectangular face, especially characterized by bigonial prominence; deep-set eyes under heavy browridgcs, with low orbits; a straight nasal profile, but relative broad nose; thin lips, and heavy jaw. This type has a thick-set body build, with trunk proportions similar to those of living Bavarians.

The living Canarians have nearly the same stature mean as their Guanche predecessors, 165.3 cm.; they also possess a comparable head form, with a cephalic index mean of 79. In a large series of males from all islands, there are three definite index modes, at 74, 79, and 83. The mean bizygomatic diameter of living Canarian males is 138 mm., the mean bigonial 111 mm. Nasal profiles are straight in 73 per cent of cases, and convex in only 11 per cent.

The hair varies from straight through wavy to ringlets, as in most Berbers. The hair color is black (Fischer #27), in 24 per cent of the series, dark brown (#4) in 47 per cent, and golden-brown to reddish in the rest. The lightest Fischer number recorded is #9. All of the near blonds are on the reddish or golden side; not a single ash-blond has been observed. In eye color, 84 per cent have shades between the Martin #1 and #6, including browns and very dark-mixed; the rest are evenly mixed or light-mixed. On the whole, the modern Canarians seem less blond than the Riffians. Despite this statistical evidence of the predominantly brunet quality of the modern Canarians, the blond beauty of the female inhabitants of Teneriffe is famous in seafaring quarters, just as the blondism of the early Guanches struck the Spaniards. Fischer finds no Nordic type in the present-day Canarian population, but attributes the mixed blondism present in it to his "Crô-Magnon" element, which is the modern version of Hooton's "Guanche" type. Hooton readily states that he has no means of attributing any given pigment character to any one of his selected cranial types. It is, therefore, questionable whether there was a Nordic type in the Canary Islands in the pigmental as well as in the skeletal sense.

The Canarian evidence, taken as a whole, is of great value in the reconstruction of the racial history of North Africa. ft is evident that in the time of the Neolithic agriculturalists the Mediterranean food-producers must have associated, in some parts of North Africa at least, with the descendants of earlier Afalou-type people, who survived in the Canary Islands as an important factor in the imported population. The early Alpine-like strain found in the Canaries, especially in Gomera, may probably be attributed to a reëmergence of the brachycephalic element in the Afalou people, in a somewhat reduced form. This identification is confirmed by its extreme lowness of orbit and shortness of face. This type is comparable to the minor brachycephalic element found in other parts of North Africa, as in Ghomara and among the Kabyles, and it may conceivably be connected with the brachycephaly of Jerba. The Guanches were less dolichocephalic than most living Berbers, and had received a minimum infusion of the Atlanto-Mediterranean racial element which carried Hamitic speech.

The most troublesome factor in the whole North African racial problem lies in the necessity of explaining the origin of the local Nordics, whose presence as a minority in the populations of Tunisia, Algeria, and northern Morocco, if not in the Canary Islands, cannot be denied. There are two possible explanations, as follows:

(1) The North African Nordics resemble the mixed Nordics of Upper Palaeolithic inspiration found in Ireland and western Norway more than they do the ash-blond Eastern Valley Nordics of Norway, and those of Sweden. Therefore the so-called Nordics of North Africa are a mixture of brunet Mediterraneans of tall stature and considerable facial length with A.falou survivors. The minor blondism of these "Nordics" is derived from the Afalou side of the ancestry.

(2) The North African Nordics were partly formed as stated, but not wholly so, for there are some ash-blonds in the Rif; furthermore, the Riffian Nordics are lighter-haired than individuals of Afalou type, just as European Nordics are lighter-haired than are modern representatives of the Brünn race. Blond hair is positively associated with narrow noses, and the Afalou type nose is moderately broad. Unless it is possible to explain these phenomena as genetic recombinatiOns, we must admit a Nordic invasion of North Africa from Europe or Asia as early as the second millennium B.C. Of the two continents, Asia is by far the more likely immediate source.

The racial history of North Africa may best be understood by analogy with western Europe, since parallel invasions entered both continental sub-areas, and parallel processes of evolution occurred in both. This parallelism started in the Pleistocene, with the sequence of Upper Palaeolithic racial types. This was followed by the entrance of small Mediterraneans into both areas, in Mesolithic and Neolithic times, but of course earlier in North Africa, whence they entered western Europe. Tall brunet Mediterraneans arrived in both areas, by land in North Africa, by sea in western Europe. Nordics entered both from the east. Meanwhile the Palaeolithic types asserted themselves, in both unreduced and smaller, more brachycephalic forms. Thus we have in both regions Afalou or Borreby men, and Alpines. In Europe, we may add the Mongol and Lapp, in North Africa, the Arab and the Negro.

The difference between North Africa and western Europe racially is largely a difference in the relative numerical survival of the component elements, rather than in the nature of the elements themselves.


99 Both the cultural and anthropometric material in this section which deals with Morocco are derived from Coon, C. S., Tribes of the Rif.

Other sources are:

Benoit, F., and Kossovitch, F., CRSB, vol. 109, 1932, p. 198. This contains data on four constants for 4238 Moroccan Berbers, treated as a single group; also Kossovitch, N., ZFRK, vol. 1, 1935, pp. 134-136.
Kossovitch, N., and Benoit, F., Anth, vol. 45, 1935, pp. 347-363.

100 The large series of Benoit and Kossovitch undoubtedly contains some Braber.

101 At the village of Bahlil, 5 km. northeast of Sefrou, Kossovitch and Benoit measured an excellent series of Arabicized Berbers, who may be partly representative of the Middle Atlas population. These Bahloula are almost purely brunet, are of moderate stature (166.7 cm.), purely dolichocephalic (C.I. = 73.7) long-faced and leptorrhine. Kossovitch, N., and Benoit, P., Anth, vol. 45, 1935, pp. 347-363.

102 Rio de Oro is actually one of the least known segments of the earth's surface.

103 Hooton, E. A., The Ancient Inhabitants of the Canary Islands.
Verneau, R., Cinq Années de Séjour aux îles Canaries.
Taniagnini, E., Os Antiquos Habitantes das Canarias.

A complete bibliography of this subject up to 1925 will be found in Hooton's book. The cultural and historical summary given here is derived from this source.

104 Hooton wrote before the discovery of the Afalou crania. His theory of the multiple origin of this "Guanche" or Afalou group must be projected into an earlier period than he had supposed, in fact, a period contemporaneous with that of the Crô-Magnons from whom Verneau thought that the Guanches were descended.

105 Wölfel, J., ZFE, vol. 62, 1930, pp. 282-302.

106 Fischer, E., ZFE, vol. 62, 1930, pp. 258-281.