1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tibbu

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

TIBBU, or Tebu (“ Men of Tu, ” i.e. “ of the rocks ”), a nomad negro-Berber race of the eastern Sahara, their territory being conterminous westward with that of the Tuareg Berbers. Roughly, their domain is some 200,000 sq. m. Their westernmost settlements are the oases of Agram, Kawar and Jebādo, their northernmost the district of Gatron (Qatrūn) within the Fezzan frontier, while south and south-east they merge gradually in the negroid populations of Kanem, Bornu (Chad basin), Wadai and north-west Darfur. But the bulk of the nation is concentrated in the region of Tibesti or Tu, hence their name. There are two main divisions-the northern Teda, or less negroid Tibbu, and the southern Daza, or more negroid Tibbu. Somewhat more distantly connected with the same family are the Baele of the eastern and south-eastern oases and the Zoghāwa (Zaghwa) of Darfur. The Tibbu are variously estimated as numbering from 60,000 to 100,000, but their districts are so little known that these figures are not to be relied on.

The Tibbu are usually identified with the Garamantes of Herodotus (iv. 183), whose capital was Garama (Idrisi's Germa) in Phazania (Fezzan), and of whom Ptolemy already spoke doubtfully as Ethiopians (Negroes ?): “Οντων δέ καl αύτῶν ήδη μάλλον Αiθιόπων (i. 8). But Leo Africanus transfers them to the Berber connexion, whose fifth great division he deals with under the names of Gumeri (Garamantes?) and Bardaei or Bardoa, that is, the Teda of the Bardai oasis, Tibesti.[1] Lastly Heinrich Barth on linguistic grounds grouped them with the Kanuri of Bornu, who are undoubtedly negroes; and since his time (1852–1853) the Tibbu have been regarded by most ethnologists as a negroid people.[2] Gustav Nachtigal, who studied them carefully (1870–1873), although his own inferences are somewhat vague, supplies sufficient evidence for a solution of this difficult ethnological problem. There can be little doubt that the Teda, or true Tibbu, probably identical with the Tedamansii, a branch of the Garamantes, placed by Ptolemy south of the Samamycii in Tripolitana,[3] physically resemble their western Tuareg neighbours. They are a pure homogeneous race, who have for ages undergone no perceptible change in their rocky homes, and are still distinguished by the regular features, long black ringlety hair, haughty bearing and fierce expression common to so many of the Berber peoples. Mostly of middle size, they are finely proportioned, except the somewhat too small hands and feet, with lighter complexion than that of the southern Daza, and no trace of the flat nose, thick tumid lips, or other marked characteristics of the true negro. “Their women are charming while still in the bloom of youth” (Keane's Reclus, xxii. 429). But there has been a general displacement of the race southwards; and, while a few linger in the northern Gatron and Kufara districts, large numbers have since medieval times penetrated into the Kanem, Bornu, Wadai and Darfur regions of central Sudan. Here they have everywhere merged in the natives, so that in the Daza, Kanembu, Kanuri, Baele and Zoghāwa groups the Tibbu race presents all the shades of transition between the true negro and the true Berber.

The same transitional stages are observed in the Tibbu forms of speech, which constitute a wide-spread linguistic family, whose most archaic and purest branch is the Tedaga of Tibesti (Nachtigal). Through the southern Dazaga the Tedaga merges in the more highly developed and more recent Kanem, Bornu (Kanuri), Ennedi (Baele) and Darfur (Zoghāwa) dialects, which, owing to the absence of grammatical gender and some other structural features, are usually classed as negro languages. But a negro tongue could not have arisen among the people of Hamitic speech of the Tibesti uplands, and the explanation of this linguistic difficulty is obviously the same as that of the physical puzzle. The negro affinities of the southern members of the group have arisen through assimilation with the original and now partly displaced negro idioms of central Sudan. There remains the final difficulty that Tedaga itself has nothing in common with the Berber or any Hamitic tongue. If, therefore, it is neither Hamitic nor negro, the only two stock languages recognized by Lepsius in Africa, how is it to be placed? Lepsius's generalization, inconsistent as it is with the conditions occurring in other parts of the continent, must be rejected. Room having thus been found for other linguistic families, the Tedaga of Tibesti may be explained as an independent evolution from a primeval Tibbu- Berber germ, analogous to other linguistic evolutions in other isolated or inaccessible highland regions, such as the Caucasus, the Pyrenees and the Anahuac table-land. The common germ has long since perished, or can no longer be detected, and the Tibbu and Berber languages stand side by side as fundamentally distinct, while the two races remain physically one. The Tibbu are therefore a Berber people, who in their secluded homes have had time to evolve an independent form of speech, which southwards has become largely assimilated to the Sudanese negro dialects.

Lying on the tract of the great caravan route between Fezzan and Lake Chad, the Tibbu have always been a predatory race, levying blackmail on the convoys passing through their territory, maintaining inter-tribal feuds and carrying on constant warfare with the surrounding Berber and Sudanese populations. The tribal organization embraces dardai or headmen, maina or nobles, and the common folk, while the unwritten law of custom rules supreme over all classes. Their customs are partly negroid, partly Arab. They scar their faces like the negroes and wear the veil like the Tuareg.

See G. F. Lyon, Narrative of Travels in Northern Africa (London, 1821); Gustav Nachtigal, Sahara und Sudan (Berlin and Leipzig, 1879–1889); Gerhard Rohlfs, Quer durch Africa (1874–1875).

  1. See Vater, Mithradates, ii. p. 45 of Berlin ed. 1812, and Nachtigal, Sāhara und Sudan (1881), ii. 189.
  2. “ Ursprünglich ein Negervolk,” Lepsius, Nubische Grammatik (Einleitung) (Berlin, 1880).
  3. The original inhabitants of the Kufara (Kufra) oases were Teda, some of whom survive in a settlement south of Jebel Nari. Since the beginning of the 18th century they have been replaced elsewhere in Kufara by the Zwiya Arabs from the Leshkerreh oases.