ethnologists have supposed that all the "Children of Ham," from the Berbers to the Hottentots, are descended from one original stock, and that their diverging types are due to gradual adaptation to different environments. But such a hypothesis is unsupported by any proof, and the observer is struck especially by the ethnical contrasts, whether fundamental or derived, which are presented by the various African populations, as he advances from north to south. Even within the strictly Negro division the anatomy, muscular system, physiognomy, colour, and speech offer as great a diversity of forms as is found amongst the white peoples of Europe or the yellow Asiatics. At the same time the classifications hitherto proposed by anthropologists, and based on physical resemblances or linguistic affinities, are of a purely conventional or provisional character. Numerous communities, of which little is known beyond their name, are grouped now in one, now in another division. We seem at times to be lost in the maze of names of tribes and races collected by travellers in the various regions of Africa, and the chaos is often intensified by the reckless use of these names, the same term being applied in one place to two distinct peoples, while in another the some group is indicated on the maps by several different appellations.
The Mediterranean seaboard differs from the rest of the continent as much in its inhabitants as it does in its geological history, its physical features, its animal and vegetable species. The bulk of the Mauritanian population consists of the so-called Berbers (Imazighen, Imohagh), who approach the European type more closely than the other African races. Amongst them are met several tribes in which blue eyes and fair or light chestnut hair are so common that they have often been wrongly regarded as of European descent. These Berber peoples seem to be allied to the ancient Egyptians. The whole of North Africa and Southern Europe may have even been peopled from one ethnical source in prehistoric times, the populations, like the animal and vegetable species, thus radiating from a common centre. The oases and upland valleys in the Sahara have also been occupied by the Berbers, some of whose tribes, designated by the name of "Moors," dwell even south of the desert along the right bank of the Senegal.
Some of the Berber communities, such as the Imohaghs or Tuaregs of Ahaggar, and the Imazighen or Kabyles, that is, "Tribes," and especially those of Morocco, appear to be of pure stock. But in the plains, and still more in the towns, endless crossings have modified the type in a thousand ways, and given rise to half-caste populations bearing a great variety of names. As in Europe "Moorish" blood still flows in the veins of Andalusians, Murcians, Valentians, and Algarves, so in Africa Phœnicians, Romans, Vandals, Spaniards, Provençals, Italians, Greeks, and Frenchmen have left some traces of their presence, either as slaves or conquerors.
On the other hand, the dark aborigines of the Sahara and the Negroes imported from the south into every part of Barbary have become diversely intermingled with the Berber tribes, while fresh elements have been introduced from the east by the Arabs. Under this term "Arab" were moreover comprised Syrians and Easterns of all kinds, and it has even been extended to a large part of 2—AF.