Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/475

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471
THE AFRICAN PYGMIES

THE AFRICAN PYGMIES
By S. P. VERNER

THE presence of a group of the African pygmies at the World's Fair at St. Louis attracted considerable attention to these little people. It has also revealed a number of erroneous popular conceptions with reference to them.

The word pygmy, of course, comes from the Greek, being derived from the word denoting a unit of measure, the ell. It was used by various Grecian writers, among them Homer, Herodotus, Heliodotus and Aristotle, to describe a race of small men, about whom tradition had given accounts, and who were usually located toward the sources of the Nile. Historically, then, the word pygmy applies to these Nilotic small peoples, but anthropology has widened the use of the term to include similar peoples scattered all over the globe, and found in many parts of Africa.

Paul du Chaillu was the first eminent modern explorer to find these people. He discovered them in the upper Ogowe basin, west central Africa, in July, 1863. After him others found them in various places. These were Schweinfurth, 1869, on the upper Welle, or Ubangi; Wissmann, 1886, on the upper Kasai; Stanley, 1888, on the upper Aruwimi; while Dr. Donaldson Smith located some south of Abyssinia. Others report them in German Kameruns, in French West Africa, on the borders of Uganda and in the center of the Congo Basin.

The names by which these people are called vary in each locality, but the most widely used term is Batwa. The name Bantu is the word meaning people in a large area of Central Africa. The singular of this is Muntu, meaning a man. These two terms apply to the large or normal people, not to the pygmies. But curiously enough, the name Batwa is the plural for people with the Batwa pygmies, and the singular of this is Mutwa. These last two terms seem to the writer to be diminutives of the words Bantu and Muntu, so that they mean little people and little man, respectively. Sir Harry Johnston, who visited the pygmies in the region where Stanley first found them, spells the name for them Mbute, while Schweinfurth, whose pygmies are not far from those of Stanley and Johnston, calls them Wambutti. It seems to the writer that these are either variations in name or in spelling of the same word. The present governor-general of the Congo, Major Costermans, found some Batwa near Lake Kivu. Wissmann's pygmies