(Chapter XI, section 11)

The eastern Arabo-Berbers, Libya,
and the oases

The subject of this section will be the population of the eastern part of the Italian territory of Libya, and of Siwa Oasis, Which is under Egyptian suzerainty. This population is largely Arabic-speaking, although the Siwans still maintain a Senhajan idiom; the Cyrenaican tribes of Berber ancestry have been linguistically Arabicized. In this territory there are three general classes of people (1) Oasis Berbers (2) Arabized agricultural Berbers, in Cyrenaica and Marmarica, (3) Nomadic tribes, mostly of Arab origin. The third group lives mostly in the hinterland of Cyrenaica, and in the neighborhood of the oases of Awjila and Magiabra.

The oasis dwellers of Siwa and Awjila are so much alike that they may be considered together.82 In both there is a considerable homogeneity of type, and this type differs little from that described in Kharga, except that here it is more extreme. We have anthropometric data on the stature and bodily segments only from Awjila. These oasis dwellers are short, with a mean stature of 161 cm.; relatively long armed, with a relative span of 105. The shoulders are relatively broad and the legs somewhat short. The Siwans on the whole seem very much the same, judging from descriptions and photographs. Neither of these populations appears particularly well nourished.

The most notable feature about these oasis peoples is their extreme dolichocephaly. The mean for both Siwa and Awjila is 71.7, and in neither group has a single brachycephal been measured. The heads are of moderate size, with lengths of 193 mm. and breadths of 138 mm. The vault height, at least in Awjila, is relatively low, with a mean of 117 mm. On the whole these people are a hyperdolichocephalic and platycephalic group, and stand at an extreme end of the Mediterranean racial range in vault proportions. The faces are both short and narrow, with a mean menton-nasion height of 118 and bizygomatics of 130 mm. in the case of Siwa and 133 mm. in the case of Awjila. The corresponding facial indices are mesoprosopic to mildly leptoprosopic. The noses of these people are mesorrhine, with nasal indices of 70 in the case of Awjia and 73 in the case of Siwa. In both the nose height is approximately 50 mm. and the mesorrhine condition is caused not by the breadth of the nose but by its shortness.

The hair form in both groups is characteristically wavy. In Siwa, one-fourth of the series is said to have curly to frizzly hair, while the same type is apparently rare in Awjila. Beard and body hair are quite scanty, and the hair color is usually black, but with a very few individuals in Siwa classified as dark brown. The eye color is dark brown in three-fourths of the Siwans examined, and the incidence of eye blondism totals only 9 per cent in the Siwan group, while there is no evidence of it whatever in Awjila, where the eye colors include both dark brown and light brown. In hair and eye color, then, the oasis people are unusually brunet for North Africans. The skin color of both these oasis populations is likewise on the brunet side. In Siwa it falls for the most part between the von Luschan #12 and #15, which is a dark brunet-white or a light brown, and 10 per cent of the group has pinkish-white skin. In Awjila it runs from #16 to #24, and is often a medium brown.

In both these groups straight noses are commonest, but nasal convexity is very frequent, and concave forms are rare. The roots are of moderate height, but with a tendency toward broadness, and the bridge is moderately high and moderately broad. The tips are of medium thickness with medium or slightly flaring wings, and the nasal tip is usually slightly elevated. One of the most characteristic features of the nose of the Siwans, and of the Awjila people, is a considerable nasion depression. The browridges, however, are usually absent or slight, and the forehead slightly sloping to straight; in some cases bulbous.

The chins are frequently receding and the jaws narrow. The mean bigonial diameter of 99 mm. among Siwans indicates the extreme narrowness of jaws among these people, which, however, does not reach a Somali extreme.

On the whole the evidence from these oases, when combined with that from Kharga, demonstrates that the eastern Libyan peoples of antiquity included an oasis dwelling branch of an extreme Mediterranean type characterized by small stature, extreme dolichocephaly, a low cranial vault, a short face, and a mesorrhine nose. This type, while well-characterized today, cannot be identified with any hitherto studied skeletal Mediterranean sub-race, although it appears closest to the small-sized, mesorrhine or chamaerrhine Mediterranean type which reached Southwestern Europe during the Mesolithic or as a Neolithic advance guard, and which is best represented by the cranial series from Chamblandes.88

The inhabitants of the oasis of Magiabra, adjacent to Awjila, belong partly to the same type, but differ in having a higher cephalic index, their mean being 75.5, and also in possessing the taller stature of 164 cm. Certain Marabutic tribes, who live who live on the outskirts of these oases and are of palpably Arab descent are much taller, with a mean stature of 168 cm. and are dolichocephalic (CI. = 74). (STOP)

In the agricultural regions of Marmarica and Cyrenaica, the Arabo-Berber tribesmen present a variety of physical types. On the whole they are a moderately tall group with tribal stature means ranging from 166 to 171 cm. As with the oasis people, their characteristic hair form is wavy, and curly forms are relatively rare. The hair is mostly black, but brown hair rises to 20 per cent among certain tribes, and the mustaches are often lighter. This hair blondism is particularly prevalent along the coast. The skin color is a dark brunet-white, usually between von Luschan #12 to #18, but the range is considerable. The fairest skin is again found coastally. Light brown is the commonest eye color, but 33 per cent show some evidence of eye blondism. All of these people are dolichocephalic with cephalic index means ranging from 74 to 77. They are all long faced, and all leptorrhine. Considerable differences are found in their facial features, and in order to discuss these it will be best to describe some of the principal types under which this population falls.

Relatively rare is a thick-set type with a large head, a square, low face, retreating forehead, heavy browridges, deep nasion depression, and a rather short and wide nose with a straight or concave profile. This type is not negroid, but is reminiscent of the Afalou type found in the Upper Palaeolithic remains of Algeria, and seems to be the oldest indigenous racial element. An ordinary Mediterranean type is also distinguishable, with a straight or slightly sloping forehead, moderate browridges, and a straight nasal profile. This Mediterranean type frequently shows an admixture with the first type, and this influence is evidenced by a rectangular facial contour and a considerable width and prominence of the gonial angles.

A third type, which seems to be of considerable numerical importance, is either Near Eastern or East African in affinity, or both; its diagnostic features are a receding forehead, a high vault, small or absent browridges, a minimum of nasion depression, and a long arc-shaped convex nose. This type must be ancient in Cyrenaica, for it is commonly represented as a standard Libyan type on Egyptian monuments. Now and then one encounters individuals with extremely long, narrow faces and vaults, with straight foreheads and straight noses, who look like the non-negroid end type of the Somalis. Persons who give the impression of being largely Nordic are not common, but may occasionally be observed.

Apparently pure northern Arabian Bedawin features are not infrequent, but the Arabs in North Africa, from Cyrenaica to Morocco, are tall; since they are taller than most Berbers, it is unlikely that this elevated stature was acquired since their arrival. There are a few brachycephals in Cyrenaica, living in the coastal villages, and these appear to be Dinarics or Armenoids; neither of these racial types, however, has an important part to play either here or in most other sections of North Africa. Cyrenaica, with its medley of Mediterranean and pre-Mediterranean forms, serves as a fitting threshold to the study of North African races.


82 Cline, W. B., HAS, vol. 10, 1932.
Puccioni, N., Antropometria delle Gente della Cyrenaica.

83 See Chapter IV, p. 115 also Appendix I, col. 14.