Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Hamitic Race

Hamitic Race, one of the main divisions of the Caucasic family of mankind [Caucasic], whose original domain was, and still largely is, the whole of North Africa, from the Negro range northwards to the Mediterranean, and from the Red Sea westwards to the Atlantic. Under the purely conventional expression "Hamites" are thus comprised all the non-Negro primitive populations of North Africa, whose unity, however, as in the case of the Aryans, depends far more on linguistic than on physical uniformity. Nevertheless, as there was undoubtedly a primitive Aryan physical type, which may still be studied in those regions where the race has been least affected by foreign elements, so there was also a primitive Hamite type, which appears to be best preserved in some of the more inaccessible uplands of Mauritania (the Great Atlas) and of South Ethiopia (Galla and Kaffa Lands). But elsewhere the integrity of the race has been greatly modified by interminglings especially with the Semites from Arabia in the extreme east (Abyssinia, Middle and Lower Nile valleys), and in the extreme north (the Mediterranean seaboard), and with the Negroes in the extreme south (Somali and Galla Lands, and all along the Soudanese borderlands). But it is no longer possible accurately to determine the original southern limits of the Hamitic domain, although, judging from the vague and scanty ethnological data preserved in the old writers (Herodotus, Strabo, Ptolemy, Pliny), the Libyans, Gaetulians, Numidians, and Mauritanians, would appear to have ranged far less southwards than do their modern representatives, the Berbers and Tuaregs. The widespread nation of the Garamantes, whose empire centuries before the new era covered a great part of North Africa, are spoken of by Ptolemy as "already rather Ethiopians" (ii. 8), that is, as Negroes rather than Hamites. Yet their chief strongholds, captured by Cornelius Balbus, under Augustus, were Cydamus, the present Ghadames, on the northern verge of the Sahara, and Garama, the "Old Jerma" of Fezzan in South Tripolitana. Consequently Negro, or at least Negroid, peoples must at that time have ranged northwards nearly to the Mediterranean, that is, right across to Sahara, which is at present mainly Hamite territory, where Negroes are found, only as slaves or freedmen imported in recent times from Soudan. In general it may be said that throughout the historic period the Hamites have been steadily enlarging their domain southwards, and driving the Negroes more and more into Soudan, in some parts of which, as, for instance, within the great northern bend of the Niger south of Timbuctu, several pure Hamitic (Tuareg) populations are now settled. The same movement has been in progress in the extreme south-eastern regions, where the Somal and Galla Hamites have already reached the Tana basin and the Lake Samburu district, North Masailand, regions which originally were beyond doubt well within the Negro domain. The Masai people themselves are simply Negroid Hamites, and in the equatorial lake region there are traditions of a great Hamite (Galla) empire (Kitwara), of which the present kingdoms of Uganda, Unyoro, and Karagwe are mere fragments. In still more remote times primordial infiltrations took place, by which the mass of Negrodom was leavened by an infusion of Hamitic blood throughout the southern half of the continent from the equator to Kafirland, and from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean. [Bantu, Wa-Huma.]

The Hamitic type, as observed amongst the Mauritanian Berbers, approaches nearest to the Semitic, and differs in no essential respect from the primitive Aryan. Hence it is that from the anthropologic standpoint all three form nearly so many branches or varieties of an original Caucasic stock. Hence also the view accepted by many sound ethnologists that a Hamitic (Berber) element forms the substratum of the present populations of southwest Europe and parts of the British Isles. Herodotus spoke of the ancestors of the present Bejas between the Nile and the Red Sea as "the finest of men;" and travellers describe the Galla and Somali peoples as of splendid physique, and many of the full-blood Berbers are greatly superior - taller, more muscular and robust, better proportioned, and scarcely darker - than the average south European. The skin is fair in childhood, though it soon bronzes when exposed to the air; the hair is black, straight, and rather abundant; the eyes dark brown; face somewhat shorter, and its oval outline less regular than that of the Arab; nose larger, almost aquiline, and deeply sunk at the root; forehead high and straight; head distinctly dolichocephalic (long and narrow); features altogether regular and moderately orthognathous. The Hamite is fairly intelligent, superior perhaps in this respect to the Arab, he is less fanatical and narrow-minded, equally brave, and fond of personal freedom; imbued with the democratic Spirit substituting the commune for the Arab sheikh; by nature sedentary and agricultural, but in steppe lands necessarily pastoral and nomadic.

There are three main divisions: (1) the Berbers or Western Hamites, along the Mediterranean seaboard from the Siwah oasis near the Nile delta to Morocco, and throughout Central and Western Sahara, but nearly everywhere intermingled with Arabs, and in many places Arabised; (2) The Ethiopians or Eastern Hamites, mainly from about the equator to Upper Egypt, and from the coast inland to the Nile, but broken by an intruding wedge of Himyaritic Semites (South Arabians) in Abyssinia; (3) the Egyptians (Copts and Fellahin) all now assimilated in speech to the Arabs. For details see under the several headings.