Popular Science Monthly/Volume 37/September 1890/The African Pygmies

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THE AFRICAN PYGMIES.
By A. WERNER.

NOT the least interesting of the discoveries made by Mr. Stanley on his latest expedition is that of the Wambatti—the dwarf tribe living between the upper Aruhwimi and the Nepoko. It has long been a well-known fact that the Pygmies of Homer, Herodotus, and Ktesias—those of whom Pliny speaks as "dwelling among the marshes where the Nile rises"[1]—are something more than mere mythical beings: and almost every exploration of any importance undertaken of late years has thrown fresh

PSM V37 D676 Map of africa circa 1890.jpg

light on the existence of a primitive African race, of whom the Wambatti, Akkas, Obongo, Watwa, and Bushmen are, in all probability, scattered fragments.

A glance at the accompanying rough map will show how numerous are the tribes—usually designated dwarfs or pygmies—whose marked resemblance to each other, and marked difference from the people among whom they are scattered, are recognized facts. The physical characteristics in which, broadly speaking, they all agree, are their small stature, their light-yellow or reddish-brown color, and the peculiar character of the hair, which is woolly, but, instead of being, as in the negro, evenly distributed over the scalp, grows in small tufts—"cheveux plantés en pinceaux de brosse," as Emin Pasha puts it in speaking of the Akkas.[2] This appearance, according to Prof. Virchow, is not due to the fact that the hair grows on some spots and not on others, but to a peculiarity in the texture of the hair itself, which causes it to roll naturally into closely curled spiral locks, leaving the intervening pieces of scalp bare. Be this as it may, this growth is the surest and most permanent characteristic of the Pygmy, or, as some prefer to call them, the Hottentot-Bushman race.[3]

The name of dwarfs, applied by some to these people, has be objected to as implying deformity or arrested growth, and therefore conveying a wrong impression. Nothing of the kind can be said of the African Pygmies, who, though of short stature, are well-shaped people of perfectly normal formation. It is true that the Hottentots and Bushmen show certain strange anatomical peculiarities; but these may be said to be more or less accidental, being, in part at least, the result of special and unfavorable conditions of life.

The Pygmies are nomadic in their habits,[4] and neither keep cattle nor till the ground, but live by hunting and snaring wild animals and birds, or, under the most unfavorable circumstances, on wild fruits, roots, and berries. Their weapons are always bows and arrows, the latter usually poisoned—the resource of the weak. They have no fixed abode, and, if they build shelters at all, only construct rude huts of branches. They have no government, nor do they form regular communities; they usually wander about, like our gypsies, in hordes composed of a few families each. This, however, depends on the nature of the country—in the parched deserts of the south they are not even united to this extent. Sometimes they are to a certain extent dependent on more powerful tribes, who afford them protection in return for certain services. Their notions of the Unseen, when they have any, would appear to be of the very crudest. Their languages seem to be distinct from others, related among themselves, and very peculiar. This is a point to which I shall revert later on.

Leaving aside the classical writers,[5] the earliest reference to the Pygmies occurs in the narrative of Andrew Battell,[6] who spent three years in the kingdom of Loango during the first decade of the seventeenth century. He says:

To the north-east of Mani Kesock are a kind of little people called Matimbas, which are no bigger than Boyes of twelve yeares olde, but verie thicke, and live onely upon fleshe, which they kill in the woods with their Bowes and Darts. They pay tribute to Mani Kesock, and bring all their Elephants' teeth and tayles to him. They will not enter into any of the Marombos' houses, nor will suffer any to come where they dwell. And if by chance any Marombo, or people of Loango passe where they dwell, then they will forsake that place and go to another. The Women carry Bow and Arrowes as well as the men. And one of these will walk in the Woods alone, and kill the Pongo with their poysoned Arrowes.

The Flemish geographer Dapper, writing in the seventeenth century, refers to the Pygmies in the following passage:

Before the King's cloth sit some Dwarfs, with their backs towards him; Pigmies indeed in stature, but with heads of a prodigious bigness; for the more exact deforming whereof they wear the skin of some Beast tied round about them. The Blacks say there is a Wilderness where reside none but men of such a stature, who shoot those Gigantick Creatures, the Elephants. The common name of these dwarfs is Bakke-Bakke; but they are also called Mimo's.[7]

These Bakke-Bakke (whose name reminds us of Akkas, Tikki-Tikki, and Wambatti, and possibly Batwa) seem at first sight to come under the heading of true dwarfs, or natural malformations; but the disproportioned heads may be an accidental mistake magnified by report. The other items of the account tally with the descriptions of Battell and others—the skins of beasts, worn "for the more exact deforming of the head," are probably the leopard and monkey skin caps worn among many of the Congo tribes at the present day.

De Commerson, who accompanied Bougainville on his voyage round the world, and visited Madagascar in 1771, heard of a small race in the interior of that island, called Kimos or Quimos, and actually saw one woman—a slave in the household of the governor of the French settlement, the Comte de Modave. De Modave collected all the information he could about the Quimos from native chiefs, but never succeeded in reaching the valleys where they were said to live, or meeting with any, except the slave-woman before mentioned, who may or may not have been a typical specimen. Ellis and other missionaries, in later times, heard of these people under the name of Vazimba, but never appear to have seen them; and it may be doubted whether any of them exist at the present day. The native statements preserved by De Commerson and De Modave would, if true, show the Quimos to have been in some respects physiologically different from the rest of mankind; but these statements—and rightly so, in the absence of further evidence—are treated by both gentlemen with extreme caution. For the rest, the description of the Comte de Modave's Quimo slave might very well stand for the portrait of the average Bushwoman.

Captain Boteler, who was on the east coast of Africa, between the years 1821 and 1826, heard of a tribe of small people, living in the interior, called Waberikimo; and reports of these seem at different times to have reached Zanzibar. The native information on this point was somewhat vague; but from all accounts they would appear to be the same as the Doko, of whom Dr. Krapf received a description in 1840 from a slave of the name of Dilbo, a native of Enarea. The Doko were said to live in the Galla country; they were small in stature, and of a dark olive color. They lived on fruits, roots, mice, and wild honey, and were unacquainted with the use of fire. They had neither weapons, houses, nor temples, nor even, like the Gallas, sacred trees. Yet they had some notion of a Supreme Being, to whom, under the name of Yer, they sometimes addressed prayers, "in moments of sadness and terror," said Dilbo. There is a certain pathos in what follows; but we must remember that it was filtered through the imagination—perhaps elicited by the leading questions—of a kind-hearted German with a touch of poetic mysticism about him. "In their prayer they say: 'Yer, if thou dost really exist, why dost thou let us be slain? We ask thee not for food or clothing, for we only live on snakes, ants, and mice. Thou hast made us, why dost thou let us be trodden down?'"

The Doko had neither chiefs nor laws; they "lived in the woods, climbing trees for fruit, like monkeys"; but diseases were unknown among them, and they were much liked as slaves in Enarea, being docile and obedient.

Dr. Krapf again heard of the Doko in Ukambani and at Barawa, and at the latter place even saw a slave corresponding to Dilbo's description. Father Léon des Avanchers, a French Roman Catholic missionary, heard of them from the Somalis in 1858, under the name of "Tchin-Tchellé" (which is, being interpreted, Quel miracle!). In 1864 he saw some of them for himself in the kingdom of Gera (north of Kaffa, in Abyssinia), and described them in a letter to M. d'Abbadie, published in the Bulletin of the Paris Geographical Society. The word Doko may be another form of the Swahili mdogo (= small), but this has been disputed.

Proceeding in geographical rather than in chronological order, we come next to the Akkas, with whom Colonel Long's Tikki-Tikki[8] would seem to be identical. They were first heard of, vaguely, by Petherick, in 1854; but the first real announcement of their existence to the civilized world was made by Dr. Schweinfurth in 1871. They live in the Monbuttu country, which lies south of the Bahr-el-Gazal and west of the Equatorial Province of Egypt. Dr. Schweinfurth's account has been ably supplemented by Dr. Felkin and Emin Pasha, the latter of whom enjoyed ample opportunities for studying them during the twelve years he spent in Central Africa, and in 1886 communicated to the Berlin Zeitschrift für Ethnologie a very valuable and interesting paper on the subject, accompanied by detailed measurements. He insists on the distinction between the Akkas and real dwarfs (i. e., persons whose growth has been arrested by pathological or other causes), of whom he saw several at Mtesa's court. "Tout au contraire, les Akkas sont une race qui n'offrent aucun signe pathologique, mais qui, formés à point, déprécieraient bien vivement les épithètes de 'race déchue' de peuplade vouée a l'extinction, dont on a bien voulu les gratifier." They live in bands composed of a few families each, putting up the rough shelters of reeds and branches which form their temporary camp in the woods, near some running stream, and usually within reach of a Monbuttu or Momvu village. They are good marksmen, and kill even elephants and buffaloes, bartering with the villagers the meat they do not require for themselves, in return for grain, oil, native beer, and other necessaries. The Monbuttu, moreover, obtain from them all the skins and feathers used by them for clothing and ornament; and any chief who should refuse hospitality to the Akkas would not only forfeit these supplies, but draw down the speedy vengeance of the little people the first time he or any of his tribe ventured into the forest alone. The Akkas are cannibals, and make no secret of the fact; those personally known to Dr. Schnitzer "savaient parfaitement me dire quelle part du corps humain soit la plus savoureuse."[9] The average height of some thirty individuals measured by the pasha was 1·36 metre. They are usually of a lighter brown than the Monbuttu, but the difference of coloring is rather in the tone than in the shade—in other words, the Akkas are of a red-brown, the Monbuttu of a yellowbrown.[10] Their hair is black-brown or quite black, growing in tufts, as already described, short and very woolly, and too scanty to be made into the ornamental coiffures so much in vogue among the Africans. There is an abundant growth of hair all over the body, and "it can not be denied that the mouth resembles that of certain apes." This is noteworthy when contrasted with Dr. Wolf's remark on the Batwa, "Irgend welche pithecoide Merkmale waren nicht vorhanden." The Monbuttu frequently intermarry with the Akkas, and half-breeds are far from uncommon. Two Akkas were sent to Italy by Signor Miani, one of whom, we believe, is still living at Verona.

The Wambatti, first made known to the world by Mr. Stanley's narrative, live farther west than the Akkas, from whom they do not appear to differ materially—unless it be in the "spiteful and venomous" disposition evinced by their unprovoked attacks on the expedition; whereas the Akkas, though dangerous on provocation, are tolerably peaceable when well treated.

Within the great horseshoe bend of the Congo, and apparently ranging over a vast extent of country, dwell the Watwa or Batwa. Mr. Stanley first heard of them in 1876, from Rumanika of Karragwé, and, later on, at Nyangwé, from Abed bin Jumah, who, in a singularly picturesque and graphic narrative, recounted the tragic history of Sheik Mtagamoyo, the cruel and dauntless—how he fitted out a strong caravan for the country of the dwarfs, expecting to make his fortune in ivory, and went back poorer than he came.[11] Stanley did not himself come in contact with these Watwa, except in the person of a single individual who was brought in by his men at Ikondu, on the upper Congo or Lualaba River.[12] He measured three feet six inches and a half in height, was "light chocolate" in complexion, and carried a bow and poisoned arrows.

Mr. H. H. Johnston,[13] in 1883, saw two slaves among the Bayansi, near the Kwà River, who probably belonged to this race. More extended observations were made in 1885 by the late Dr. Ludwig Wolf, who accompanied Lieutenant Wissmann's expedition, and spent some time in the Kassai region. He says that the Batwa in some places live side by side with the Bakuba—in others they have settlements of their own, hidden away in the dense forest. They are most numerous about the parallel of 5° south. Each sub-chief of the Bakuba has a Batwa village assigned to him, whose inhabitants supply him with palm-wine and game. The independent Batwa of the forest sometimes offer dried meat in exchange for manioc or maize to the Bakuba, at periodical markets held on neutral ground. Dr. Wolf experienced some difficulty in obtaining accurate measurements; but the first series of those he was able to record gave 1·44[14] metre as a maximum, and 1·40 m. as a minimum. On a later occasion he found that the heights obtained ranged between 1·30 m. and 1·35 m.—which last figure is somewhat less than that given for Stanley's dwarf.

Dr. Wolf was disposed to think that there is in this respect little if any difference between the Batwa and the Bushmen. For the rest, he says that they were in general tolerably well formed, "und machten durchaus den Eindruck des Normalen." The skull was not markedly prognathous, and no ape-like peculiarities were noticeable. They followed no particular custom in the disposal of their dead, and were, like other Africans, firm believers in witchcraft.[15]

According to Major Wissmann, these Batwa hunt with dogs, and, indeed, possess a superior breed of greyhounds.

Mr. C. S. Latrobe Bateman, in Under the Lone Star, speaks of two nomadic tribes—the "Batwa Bankonko" and the "Batwa Basingi"—the former of whom were the terror of the Bakete, who, to obtain protection from them, became tributary to the Bakuba. He makes no mention, however, of their racial peculiarities.

The Obongo, discovered by Du Chaillu in 1865, inhabit the Ashango country, in the mountains south of the Ogowé. They were "stoutly built, like chimpanzees," with broad chests and muscular limbs; some of them were not more than four feet in height, others from four feet two inches to four feet seven inches. They were "of a dirty-yellow color," with hair growing in tufts; and lived in the same sort of relation to the Ashangos as the Batwa to the Bakuba. A full description of their settlement and its little circular huts made of branches may be found in Du Chaillu's Ashango-Land.[16]

The same people were seen by Dr. Lenz, when he ascended the Okanda (a tributary of the Ogowé in 1874. He found that they were called "Babongo," and also "Vambuta" (Wambatti?), though their real name appeared to be Bari or Bali. As he did not penetrate farther than 12° east, he did not reach their actual dwelling-places, which were said to be a fortnight's journey beyond that point, though he saw and measured a considerable number of individuals. His measurements range between 1·32 and 1·42 metre, and he particularly notices the contrast between their round huts and the rectangular style of architecture prevailing in the district.[17]

Somewhere to the north of these, perhaps, may be placed the Kenkob and Betsan, of whom Dr. Koelle, the learned author of the Polyglotta Africana (1854), heard at Sierra Leone. He obtained his information from two liberated slaves, one of whom, a man named Yon, was a native of a country called Bayon, supposed to lie about 5° north, and between 12° and 13° east. This man declared that four days' journey eastward from his home there was a great lake called Liba, on whose banks lived the Luf um tribe, "tall, strong, and warlike; clad in black monkey-skins, and fighting with spears and arrows. Near Luf um," the account continues, "and also on the shores of the Liba, is another people, called Kenkob, only three or four feet high, but very stout, and the most excellent marksmen. They are peaceful, live on the produce of the chase, and are so liberal that if, e. g., one has killed an elephant, he would give the whole of it away."

Another man, whose home was to the northwestward of Bayon, gave Dr. Koelle a very similar account of a tribe called "Betsan," living "on the river Riba,[18] which comes from Bansa and goes to Bambongo." These, too, are successful hunters, and are also said to make bark cloth for themselves, whereas Du Chaillu's Obongo wore nothing but the cast-off grass cloths of the Ashangos. The Betsan sometimes exchange their venison for millet, etc., in the Rufum country. "They do not cultivate the ground, but are constantly on the move, changing their abode every six or twelve months. Their houses can be easily built, taken down, and even carried along with them, consisting as they do of the bark of a large tree. The Betsan hunt monkeys, baboons, wild hogs, deer, elephants, etc."[19]

I can suggest no affinity for the names here given to the Pygmies, unless Kenkob contains a possible reminiscence of "KhoiKhoi," or "Koi-Koib," the tribal name used by the Hottentots among themselves. It is utterly unlike a Bantu word, and may be a relic of the language originally common to all the Pygmy tribes, which many of them seem to be losing. Bambongo, on the other hand, distinctly suggests Obongo, and may have originated the latter name (which, as the variant Babongo shows, seems to be Bantu)—the Kenkob adopting it from the district where they had sojourned. Or, again, it may be a tribal name, reported to Dr. Koelle's informant as that of a district.

Turning to southwestern Africa, we find that Major Serpa Pinto,[20] in 1878, met with a tribe called "Mucassequeres," living in the forests between the Cubango and Cuando, while the open country is occupied by the Ambuellas. These people have "eyes very small and out of the right line, cheek-bones very far apart and high, nose flat to the face, and nostrils disproportionately wide." Their hair is crisp and woolly, growing in separate patches, and thickest on the top of the head. Unlike the Obongo, they build no kind of shelter, but, like them, are skilled in the use of bows and arrows, and live on roots, honey, and game. In color they are "a dirty yellow, like the Hottentots, while the Ambuellas are black, though of a Caucasian type of feature."

Farther south, near the borders of the Kalahari Desert, Serpa Pinto found a tribe similar in most respects to the Mucassequeres, but deep black, and known by the name of Massaruas. These (who are less savage than the Mucassequeres) are probably a tribe of Bushmen, very much resembling, if not identical with, the M'Kabba, or N'Tchabba, brought by Signor Farini from the Kalahari Desert. These last were carefully examined by Prof. Virchow, and described by him in a paper read before the Berlin Anthropological Society, March 20, 1886.

We have now to notice the section of the Pygmy race with which Europeans have come most in contact—the Hottentots and Bushmen. The Hottentots (as they are now known to us, their real name for themselves being "Khoi-Khoi"[21]) represent probably the highest development of the race, and differ notably from its other members in being a pastoral people. When Van Riebeek landed at the Cape in 1652 they existed in great numbers, roaming the country with large herds of cattle. Kafir wars and Dutch "commandoes," with other causes, have so far thinned them out that few if any genuine "Cape Hottentots" now exist, their place being taken by the Griquas and other tribes of mixed race. Two cognate tribes, the Korannas[22] and Namaquas, still exist, but in diminished numbers.

That keen observer, Moffat, as long ago as the first decade of this century, noticed the distinct and peculiar characteristics of the Hottentots, and recognized their racial identity with the Bushmen. He speaks of "that nation, which includes Hottentots, Korannas, Namaquas, and Bushmen," and describes them, as a whole, as "not swarthy or black, but rather of a sallow color, and in some cases so light that a tinge of red in the cheek is perceptible, especially among the Bushmen. They are generally smaller in stature than their neighbors of the interior; their visage and form very distinct, and in general the top of the head broad and flat; their faces tapering to the chin, with high cheek-bones, flat nose, and large lips." He further notes that the first three speak languages which are mutually intelligible, while that of the Bushmen, though cognate, is quite distinct. Writing (after his return to England) in 1842, when as yet the Akkas and Batwa were unknown to science, he suggests that, "when the sons of Ham entered Africa by Egypt, and the Arabians by the Red Sea, the Hottentot progenitors took the lead and gradually advanced, as they were forced forward by an increasing population in their rear, until they reached the ends of the earth." He further remarks, "It may also be easily conceived by those acquainted with the emigration of tribes that, during their progress to the south, parties remained behind in the more sequestered and isolated spots where they had located while the nation moved onward, and research may yet prove that that remarkable people originally came from Egypt." In corroboration of this theory he mentions having heard from a Syrian who had lived in Egypt of slaves in the Cairo market, brought from a great distance in the interior, who spoke a language similar to that of the Hottentots, and were not nearly so dark-colored as negroes in general. These must certainly have been Akkas.[23]

As for the Bushmen, we have pretty full accounts of them from various sources. Moffat has much to say about them—too much to quote in full—which may be found in the first and fourth chapters of his Missionary Labors in South Africa, and is supplemented by Livingstone in the Missionary Travels.

Mr. Alfred J. Bethell (in a letter to,the Standard which appeared on April 26, 1889) says that the Bushmen proper are now "nearly if not quite extinct," the people now so called being outcasts from the Matabele, Bamangwato, and other Bantu communities. Mr. A. A. Anderson,[24] however, who extended his journeys far beyond the northern limits of the Transvaal, makes frequent mention of them and discriminates four distinct types, noticing especially a very light-colored variety only found in the Drakensberg Mountains and the ranges west of them. There seems to be a tradition of hostility between the Bushmen and Hottentots, and the difference between them in pursuits and habits has always been sharply marked; but the fact of their affinity has seldom or never been questioned. Moffat distinctly states his belief (supported by the analogy of the Balala or outcast Bechuanas) that they are the descendants of Hottentots driven by want and the hostility of stronger neighbors into the desert. Generations of perpetual living on the edge of starvation have made of them the gauntest and skinniest of shapes—seemingly designed by Nature to show what human beings can endure in that line and live—and developed in them, in spite or because of their physical weakness and insignificance, a cunning and an intimate knowledge of nature that to the savage mind seems little short of superhuman. Some of the Kafirs believe that the Bushmen can understand the language of the baboons, and countless instances of their skill in tracking game and finding water are on record. They possess a wonderful gift of mimicry, can imitate to the life the action of any man or animal, and have a passionate love of music. They can evolve from their primitive instruments—the gorah, with its catgut and quill, or the hollow gourd-shell, with strings stretched across it—plaintive melodies of a surprising sweetness, very different from the hideous tinta-marre of horns and tomtoms which delights the heart of the average African. Moreover, having a quick ear and a retentive memory, they will pick up and repeat any civilized tune once heard—whether the Chorales of the German Mission or the more secular ditty sung by the wandering traders. Their poisoned arrows, and their noiseless, furtive ways of coming and going, inspire the stronger races with a vague dread of them, strengthened no doubt by that uncanny something which, as Mr. F. Boyle remarks, "makes a Bush-boy resemble a bird the more, the more he shows a simian intelligence."

We have thus, in a hasty and imperfect manner, surveyed the known fragments of the aboriginal African race. We have seen that they resemble each other to a great extent in physical conformation and in manners and customs; the differences being for the most part due (like the extremely poor development and degraded way of life of the Bushmen) to differences in habitat and environment. The Hottentot and San or Saab (Bushman) languages we have seen to be related, though distinct; and they are radically different from every known Bantu tongue. Some have even denied that they are articulate speech at all. The peculiarity of the "clicks" has often been insisted on;[25] another distinguishing characteristic is the existence (at least in the Hottentot language) of grammatical gender—a feature wholly absent from the Bantu tongues. The Bushman language is said to be monosyllabic. The Hottentots, however, now mostly speak Dutch—or that variety of it to be heard at the Cape—and probably both languages are on the way to extinction. It is said that "a missionary, being invited by the Government to send books in the Kora[26] dialect to be printed, remarked that his experience was that it was easier to teach the young to read Dutch, and that the old could not learn at all."[27]

An examination of the list of Batwa words collected by Dr. Wolf, as compared with his Baluba and Bakuba vocabularies, and the Congo and Swahili languages, has convinced me that the Batwa, if they have not adopted and modified the speech of their neighbors, have at any rate adopted a great many Bantu words into their own. The numbers up to ten, for instance, are identical (with slight differences of pronunciation) in the Batwa and Baluba languages. But as yet the materials for comparison are too scanty for any definite statement to be made. The few words elicited from the dwarf met by Stanley were, as Mr. Johnston points out, decidedly Bantu; but we need not conclude from this that the Pygmy race consists merely of outcast and degenerate Bantus. What more likely than that a small and isolated tribe, who, like the Batwa, frequently had friendly intercourse with surrounding and more powerful tribes, should, to a certain extent, adopt the language of the latter?

Surveying the Pygmy race as a whole, we find them—shorn of the mythical and magical glamour with which distance and mystery had invested them—not so very different, after all, from other human beings, but still sufficiently interesting. There is a shock of disillusion in passing from the elves and trolls of a past age—not to mention Alberic of the Mbelung's Hoard—to the worthy but prosaic Lapps of the present day; and the "little people" of whom Bwana Abed entertained such a vivid and unpleasant recollection were doubtless minimized in stature by the retrospective imagination. No well-authenticated adult Mtwa, Akka, or Mbatti seems to be much less than four feet six inches; while Dr. Petermann thinks that the Pygmies, on the whole, run about a head shorter than the average negro. This may be disappointing to those who are ever on the lookout for the marvelous—by which they mean the abnormal—but the facts as they stand present quite sufficient food for thought to a more rational frame of mind.

I can not attempt to deal with the origin of the Pygmy race, or its relationship to the Andamanese and the Veddahs of Ceylon, who are said to have some characteristics in common with them. But it seems clear that they were once spread over a great part if not the whole of the continent; that they were broken up and partially exterminated by the advent of the stronger dark races; and that, as a race, they are passing away. It is interesting to look at an analogous case in Europe. A race of small stature, slight frame, and comparatively low type, scarcely, if at all, advanced beyond the hunter stage, occupied the British Islands and the northwestern part of the continent. They were partly massacred or enslaved, partly driven into the mountains by their Celtic conquerors; and in the lonely recesses of the hills and woods—what with their weakness and their strength, their cunning and their skill in metals, their music and their underground dwellings, and their strange, uncanny wisdom—a growth of legend and poetry sprang up about them, till they were no longer known save as elves, gnomes, trolls, or "Good People," whom one dared not name.

It is somewhat suggestive, as bearing on the question of the original immigration into Africa, to note that there was, as late as the sixteenth century, a Pygmy tribe living in Arabia, who may well have been a detachment left behind when the main body crossed the Isthmus of Suez. So far as I am aware, the only authority for this fact is Lodovico di Bartema, otherwise known as Ludovicus Wertomannus, whose narrative of a visit to Mecca (about 1500) is contained in vol. iv of Hakluyt's Voyages. This account runs thus:

In the space of eyght dayes we came to a monntayne which conteyneth in circuit ten or twelve myles. This is inhabited with Jewes to the number of fyve thousand or thereabout. They are very little of stature, as of the hyght of five or sixe spannes, and some muche lesse. They have small voyces like women, and of blacke colour, yet some blacker than other. They feede of none other raeate than goates' fleshe. They are circumcised, and deny not themselves to be Jewes.

This last sentence, apparently, contains the evidence for their Judaism. It is now well known that the rite in question is commonly practiced in Africa, and by the Hottentots, among others. What has become of these "Jewes" does not appear. Probably they have gone the way of nearly all the Bushmen. Will the Akkas and the rest follow them? As a race they are doomed to pass away; yet this need not imply—we hope it does not—that they are to be massacred, or starved out of existence. It was long believed that the Celtic Britons had been utterly exterminated (except in Wales and Cornwall) by the Teutonic invaders, whom the older school histories taught us to consider as our exclusive ancestors. When the existence of the older, dwarfish, Euskarran or Neolithic race was discovered, it was at first supposed that they had in like manner been made a clean sweep of by the Celts. Recent researches have made it probable that this was by no means the case; indeed, Mr. Grant Allen thinks that there is a considerable Euskarran element in the English population of to-day. The black-haired aborigines—what was left of them—gradually amalgamated with the light-haired and blue-eyed Celts; and these were, in turn, absorbed by the English properly so called. And we have seen that the Griquas and other mixed races exist in Cape Colony, some, at least, of whom have shown themselves capable of being respectable and useful in their generation; and it is at least possible that these mixed races may survive, and in time amalgamate with the Bantu.—The Gentleman's Magazine.

 

  1. Hist. Nat, vi, 35.
  2. Transactions of the Berlin Anthropological Society for 1886.
  3. Prof. Flower, however, thinks that differences between the Akkas and Bushnen are so radical as to preclude the possibility of regarding them as members of the same race. lie lays special stress on the yellow complexion and "peculiar oblong form of the skull." which is especially distinguished from that of the Akkas by the absence of prognathism; also on the "special anatomical characters" alluded to later on. But it seems to be the case that modern research tends to show that environment and conditions of fife act far more quickly in the production of racial peculiarities than was formerly supposed. There are instances, e. g., on record of the children of white, or at most tawny parents, born in a hot. damp locality (to which the latter had migrated from a dry one) being positively black. The Bushmen have been isolated to such a degree from their more northern congeners, and the struggle for existence has been in their case so severe that they may well have developed striking differences. It should be noted that their habitat is dry, while that of the Akkas is extremely hot and damp.
  4. Les Akkas ne forment point un peuple compact; il n'y a pas un pays aux Akkas; comme les volées des oiseaux, ils sont un peu partout.—Emin Pasha.
  5. An excellent summary of what is said by these, and also of modern discoveries up to 1871, is given in an article, Ueber Zwergvölker in Africa (to which I have been greatly indebted in the preparation of this paper), in Petermann's Mittheilungen for that year.
  6. Purchas, vol. ii, p. 983.
  7. Description of the Kingdom of Lovango, or the Countrey of the Bramas in Nether Ethiopia. (Africa: Collected and translated from most authentick Authors. By John Ogilby, Esq. 1670.)
  8. Central Africa. By Colonel C. Chaillé-Long. London, 1876. Pp. 263 et seq.
  9. Thus differing from Winwood Reade's Fan acquaintance, who assured him that, considered as a dish, man was "all alike good."
  10. Through the Dark Continent, pp. 390-393.
  11. "Tandis que les Akkas appartiennent aux peuples nègres dont le fond du noir est rouge, les Mombouttous montrent un brun ou noir au fond jaune." This appears to contradict the general tenor of what has been said about the Pygmy races, but it is probable that no hard-and-fast rule can be laid down as to color.
  12. Ibid., pp., 435, 436.
  13. The River Congo, p. 215.
  14. About four feet nine inches and a quarter.
  15. Transactions Berlin Anthrop. Soc., 1886.
  16. Pp. 315 sqq.
  17. See Petermann's Mittheilungen for 1877 (p. 108); also Dr. Lenz's paper in the Transactions of the Berlin Geographical Society.
  18. Evidently the same as Liba; as Rufum-Lufum.
  19. Polyglotta Africana, p. 12.
  20. How I crossed Africa, vol. ii, pp. 320 sqq.
  21. Or Koi-Koib ("men of men"), according to Dr. Cust. The Kafirs call them "Lawi." "Hottentot" is merely a nickname given by the early Dutch settlers, who declared the natives spoke an unintelligible language, consisting only of sounds like hot and tot.
  22. Some ethnologists are inclined to look on the Koranna tribe as a cross between Hottentots and Bushmen.
  23. Winwood Reade's remark (African Sketch-Book, vol. ii, p. 528), written in 1873 or earlier, is worth notice: "His (Du Chaillu's) discovery of the Dwarfs (who are certainly Bushmen) is an important contribution to the ethnology of Africa."
  24. Twenty-five Years in a Wagon in South Africa, vol. i, pp. 235, 282, etc.; vol. ii, p. 74.
  25. Some of the Kafir languages possess these clicks, but they have undoubtedly been borrowed.
  26. Spoken on the Orange River.
  27. Modern Languages of Africa. By R. N. Cust.