There are several works of art from the Moorish occupation of Spain, one called ‘Cantigas de Santa Maria’, from the reign of Alfonso the X, and the ‘Book of games’, also from the same era. These two books were written and illustrated by the Spanish, there are a few images illustrated by the Moors themselves in the ‘Tale of Bayad and Riyad’ from the 13th century, and an 11th century illustrated book called ’The Skylitzes Chronicle’ by medieval Byzantine historian Johannes Skylitzes.
The images have all come from this page, which has a far more comprehensive library of images than you will find on this blog.
Cantigas de Santa Maria
The wourd ‘Mouros’ can be clearly seen in the text above.
It can be clearly seen that one of the Mouros is black, but black Moors are a small minority of the Moorish army seen in these old illustrations.
Again, about three black Mouros in this group of clearly Arabic soldiers.
The Book of Games
This shows a Spaniard playing chess with an Arab (Turban) who appears to have a red beard.
As you can see, from these and the other images, black African Moors seem to be about 10% of the total army.
And here is how the Moors depicted themselves in the ‘Tale of Bayad and Riyad’.
There are several DNA studies showing the genetic legacy of the Berbers and Arabs in Southern Europe, one of which I have on this link. The black African Berbers don’t seem to have left any trace of sub Saharan Y chromosomes except at trace levels. Which isn’t surprising as most Berbers are of Eurasian origin, with more admixture from Saharan populations as you move South. Most of North Africa has been home to these Berbers for the past 20,000 years.
Essentially, the Moors were a mix of Caucasian Berbers and Arabs with some black Berber tribes like the Tuareg. The Spanish records list which tribes were black, and what land was given to each tribe as a reward. It also records the fighting after the conquest, as the Arabs were given all the best land, and they gave the Berbers the less fertile hills and mountainous area.
Modern Moors in Morocco.
It’s something of a mystery as to why ‘Moor’ gained a racial connotation from the Tudor times on. Possibly it was from reading the ‘song of Roland’, where one part of the army was described as ‘blacker than pitch’ (the army of Abisme, an Ethiopian prince). What is more strange is that prior to the 19th century the Phoenician word ‘Mahur’ is given as the root of the word Moor, not ‘Mauri’.
The origin of the word Moor.
The word Mahur means ‘west’, and the modern name of the North Africa region ‘the Mahgreb’, means ‘land of the Western sunset’. Prior to the more recent national names, North Africa was called Mauritania by the Romans, and Libya by the Greeks and Egyptians. All parts South of the Sahara were Ethiopia, inhabited by black Ethiopians (although Herodotus mentions Ethiopians in Libya too).
This makes the etemology of the word Moor coming from the Greek word for dark (not black) as rather dubious, as the Greeks already had a name for the area, Libya.
This makes it quite possible that the Phoenicians named the area Mahur, the Western lands, as these newly conquered lands were indeed West of their homeland of Canaan, and were the furthest lands to the West in their world. Mauritania is a quite possibly a romanised version of the Semitic name for the Mahgreb.
The Moors, mostly, not black.