Page:Africa (Volume I).djvu/40

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18
NORTH-EAST AFRICA.

the Mauritanian population, Arabs only in speech, traditions of conquest, religion and some doubtful genealogies.

In the Nile basin great mixture has also taken place, but in this intermingling the European and Turkish elements are but slightly represented, whereas the Arabs and other Semites have had a preponderating influence in the formation of many communities in North-east Africa. Historians have often attempted to draw an absolute line between the Egyptians and the Nilotic peoples above the cataracts. They considered that the inhabitants of the three Egyptian provinces should be grouped either with the Semites or Aryans, or else regarded as a distinct race. The Retu (Rotu), that is, the ancient inhabitants of the Lower Nile, have thus been affiliated to a so-called "Proto-Semite" stock, whence the Arabs also were supposed to be descended. Although arguments based on the element of speech have but a relative value, it is generally admitted that the "Hamitic" linguistic family, comprising Old Egyptian, Galla, and Berber, presents in its structure a remote affinity to the Semitic idioms. But Old Egyptian and its modern representative, the Coptic, is much more clearly related to the Berber dialects. The Retu type itself, surviving in that of the modern Fellahin in spite of countless crossings and modifications, is by no means Semitic. Nor is it akin to that of the Negroes of the interior. Doubtless many Egyptians, as has been remarked by Champollion the younger, resemble the Barabra of Nubia, who themselves differ little from the Beja. Travellers ascending the Nile assure us that the type of the northern Fellahin merges by insensible transitions in that of the southern populations. But this phenomenon is the inevitable result of racial interminglings. The original type has been modified in a thousand ways by crossings, migrations, conquests, the introduction of slaves, diet, and other social conditions. Thus have been developed numerous mixed races, and the most varied contrasts in figure, colour, habits, speech and political institutions between neighbouring populations.

In the region of the great lakes and of the western affluents of the Upper Nile, the Negro nations, properly so-called, are represented by the Fung, the Shilluks, the Bari, Denka, and other dark communities. But the majority of these Negroes are far from being characterised by the black and shining skin, the pouting lips, the projecting jaws, flat features, broad nose, and woolly hair which are usually supposed to be characteristic of all Africans. Even the Monbuttu, a nation dwelling to the south of the Niam-niam, between the Congo and Upper Nile basins, are distinguished by an almost light complexion, a tolerably full beard, a straight or aquiline nose, and amongst them are frequently met persons with hair of an ashy blonde colour. Schweinfurth estimates these "fair negroes" at over a twentieth of the whole Monbuttu nation. Possibly their carnivorous diet, comprising even human flesh, may contribute to some extent to give a relatively light complexion to these aborigines. At least the observations of M. Antoine d'Abbadie on the Ethiopian tribes, observations confirmed by several other travellers, tend to show that flesh-eating peoples, even those of hot lowlands, have a much fairer complexion than those living on a vegetarian diet, even when the latter dwell at a higher elevation on lofty plateaux and mountain slopes. The Negroes