The ancient North Africans.

I was looking about for classical descriptions of Egyptians and Libyans. Where the term Libyan is used, it refers to Caucasian North Africans, Ethiopian is the classical term for black Africans, at one point Herodotus writes about the the Ethiopians that live in parts of Libya. Herodotus considered Egyptians to be the third race of people in Egypt in north Africa.


Libya to the Egyptians and Greeks meant all of North Africa.

This is a map drawn by Herodotus himself. He names the Libyan people as the Nasamones, and interestingly, the Nile was believed to originated in the Atlas mountains instead of it’s real origin , a straight line southwards.

Foreign prisoners of Ramesses III: Libyan, Nubian, Syrian, Shasu Bedouin, and Hittite (The Hittites were an Indo-European people from Turkey).

A Libyan and a Nubian on king Tutankhamun’s staff.

And the mural of the races from the tomb of Ramses, from Belzoni’s illustration and the rather damaged original. Showing Libyans, a Nubian, a Syrian and an Egyptian.

And another freize showing various people, Syrians, Nubians and Libyans.

The Tassili Ladies, dated about 3,000 BC from  Southern Algeria.

The Greek historian Herodotus, who lived from c.480 – c.425 B.C wrote of the Nasamones..

They are a numerous race, who in the summer leave their flocks behind by the sea and go up to the region of Augila to gather the fruit of the date-palms, which grow in great numbers and very large and are all fruit-bearing: they hunt the wingless locusts, and they dry them in the sun and then pound them up, and after that they sprinkle them upon milk and drink them.
Their custom is for each man to have many wives, and they make their intercourse with them common in nearly the same manner as the Massagetes, that is they set up a staff in front of the door and so have intercourse. When a Nasamonian man marries his first wife, the custom is for the bride on the first night to go through the whole number of the guests having intercourse with them, and each man when he has lain with her gives a gift, whatsoever he has brought with him from his house.

The forms of oath and of divination which they use are as follows: they swear by the men among themselves who are reported to have been the most righteous and brave, by these, I say, laying hands upon their tombs; and they divine by visiting the sepulchral mounds of their ancestors and lying down to sleep upon them after having prayed; and whatsoever thing the man sees in his dream, this he accepts. They practice also the exchange of pledges in the following manner, that is to say, one gives the other to drink from his hand, and drinks himself from the hand of the other; and if they have no liquid, they take of the dust from the ground and lick it.

 The Nasamones bury bodies in a sitting posture, taking care at the moment when the man expires to place him sitting and not to let him die lying down on his back.

They have dwellings composed of the stems of asphodel entwined with rushes, and so made that they can be carried about.

Herodotus, Histories, 4.172-173, 190

Herodotus also describes the Garamantes, the Lotophagi (lotus eaters) and Macae.

Further inland to the southward, in the part of Libya where wild beasts are found, live the Garamantes, who avoid all intercourse with men, possess no weapons of war, and do not know how to defend themselves. Along the coast to the westward the neighbours of the Nasamones are the Macae. These people wear their hair in the form of a crest, shaving it close on either side of the head and letting it grow long in the middle; in war they carry ostrich skins for shields. The river Cinyps, which rises on a hill called the Hill of the Graces, runs through their territory to the sea. The Hill of the Graces is about twenty-five miles inland, and is densely wooded, unlike the rest of Libya so far described, which is bare of trees.

…Ten days’ journey west of the Ammonians, along the belt of sand, there is another similar salt-hill and spring. This place, called Augila, is also inhabited and it is here that the Nasamonians come for their date harvest. Again at the same distance to the west is a salt-hill and spring, just as before, with date palms of the fruit-bearing kind, as in the other oases; and here live the Garamantes, a very numerous tribe of people, who spread soil over the salt to sow their seed in. From these people is the shortest route—thirty days’ journey—to the Lotophagi; and it is amongst them that the cattle are found which walk backwards as they graze. The reason for this curious habit is provided by the formation of their horns, which bend forwards and downwards; this prevents them from moving forwards in the ordinary way, for, if they tried to do so, their horns would stick in the ground. In other respects they are just like ordinary cattle—except for the thickness and toughness of their hide. The Garamantes hunt the Ethiopian hole-men, or troglodytes, in four-horse chariots, for these troglodytes are exceedingly swift of foot—more so than any people of whom we have any information. They eat snakes and lizards and other reptiles and speak a language like no other, but squeak like bats.

The faces of the Carthaginians

A selection of coins from Carthage showing: the goddess Tanit and the Greek Pegasus (top) then Hannibal Barca’s own coinage, and then an electrum coin from 250 BC. A cathaginian coin minted in SIcily, and a coin from Massinissa. A coin of  Hadsrubal Barca (Hannibals brother), a tetradrachm from the Carthaginians in Sicily from circa 320 BC, and finally another coin of Hannibal complete with an elephant, 230 BC.

Hannibals coins were minted by order of Hannibal himself, not on the orders of some third party. So they are probably close to what he looked like in life.

I’ve been unable to find any statues, it seems the Romans did a very thorough job of destroying them


14 responses to “The ancient North Africans.

  1. Beautiful post, Mathilda. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to describe the various peoples in Hannibal’s army, beginning in this post:
    Would you have any insight on “Numidians” (Berbers, I believe, but I’m not sure) and the “Iberians” of Spain?. — Andreas

  2. Pingback: What Did Hannibal Look Like? « Great Names in History

  3. Dear Malida

    Andreaskluth: Would like to know about the Numidians, well the ancestors of the Numidians are the Kabyle Berbers of the Northern Atlas mountains of Algeria, and parts of Eastern Morocco; also Western Tunisia.

    I found the article below on Wikipedia:

    Numidia was an ancient Libyan kingdom located in the region of North Africa in what is now Kabylie in Algeria. The Kingdom existed from the 3rd to 1st centuries BC. The Kingdom of Numidia was established as a client kingdom by Rome following the Second Punic War. It was annexed by Rome in 46 BC, and then again, after a brief period of restored independence, in 25 BC.

    Numidia had many kings, here are just a few:
    Juba I,JubaII,Jugurtha,,Adherbal,Gauda, Adherbal,Hiempsal I,Gulussa,Mastanabal.
    They are not in chronological order,also there are other famous Numidians such as
    Saint Augustin,Zinedine Yazid Zidane –
    [famous footballer],Edith Piaf,Isabelle- Adjani;and there are loads more!

    I am also a descendant of the Numidians,but nowadays we are called Kabyle Berbers.
    Contrary to the Afrocentrist view; we are a
    white mediterranean race.For the Afrocentrists out there,even the word Africa is of Berber origin,it comes from the word Ifriqiya,which designated the tribal territory of the Berber tribes of Northern Tunisia.

  4. Pingback: Zidane rode for Hannibal « The Hannibal Blog

  5. Thanks, Uraeus. That was really helpful, as I said here.

  6. uraeus’ description is false , or at least incomplete , to say the least , the kingdom of numidia didn’t reach today’s kabylie region , its western border was the oued el kébir near el milia between the provinces of jijel and skikda , Numidia was only the far eastern part of Algeria , its capital was constantine (cirta) , Zinedine Zidan isn’t from ancient Numidia , he is from kabylie , but saint augustine is , and about edith piaf , well she is barely one fourth algerian , isabelle adjani is one half algerian , kabyle propagandists like this one hijack the rich history of Algeria and claim it only for their little province in order to demand a special political status for it, they take advantage of a foreign audience to sell their lies and be believed all naturally.

  7. To rely to youcef.
    MY description of Numidia is not false,
    it is correct, Numidia covered what is now Western Tunisia, Algeria, to the Eastern edge of Morroco, which was then called Mauritania. Numidia was divided in two provinces: The North became Numidia Cirtensis, with it`s capital at Cirta, while the south, which included the Aurès Mountains , became Numidia Militiana, “Military Numidia”, with it`s capital at the legionary base of Lambaesis. Subsequently however, Emperor Constantine the Great reunited the two provinces into a single one, administered from Cirta, which was now renamed Constantina (modern Constantine, Algeria) in his honour.Yes it is true some of the people cited on the Wikipedia site are mixed with other nationalities; but that doesn`t make them any less Kabyle/Numidian in origin.
    As for being a kabyle propoganist, I am proud of my Kabyle/Numidian ancestors who were the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa, thousands of years before the advent of the Arabs. The only lies come from the Algerian government who want to Arabize and Islamize a wholly Berber land!
    long live the Berbers! Free from Arabisation
    and Islamisation!

  8. I am looking for a modern map that shows the ancient inland sea that once covered much of North Africa. Could anyone direct me to a link. I find this site very interesting in that it tells the truth when there is so much dis-information about these ancient peoples.


  9. Isn’t strange the Macae wore a Mohawk. Is that a tribal behavior across the world?

  10. Integration of people is inevitable and the more we know about DNA we can identify that races have traversed continents and of course we now accept that land was joined together. You can get an Englishman with JET black hair, deep brown eyes and I know some English whom I have a strong susupicion have some oriental blood in their ancestry did they inherit this from arabs or indians or Spanish perhaps we all diversified from just a few groups of people who travelled and diversified.

  11. Marie Hulton Says:
    You can get an Englishman with JET black hair, deep brown eyes and I know some English whom I have a strong susupicion have some oriental blood in their ancestry did they inherit this from arabs or indians or Spanish perhaps we all diversified from just a few groups of people who travelled and diversified.
    The English are a light coloured group with brown to brown-blond hair. The southern Celts, who are the indigenous population of Britain, are olive skinned with dark-brown to black hair. The Englishman you referred to most likely derived his colouring from Celtic ancestry.

    • A surpising amount of darker skinned balck haired Welsh people (part welsh myself).. we share some ancestry with the basques and Spaniards, Europe was recolonised from there after the ice age.

  12. we have also tall & midel toled blonde berber and broun and darck haired (all white of course) with blue or green and darck eyes are the berber european who come during ice age ?

  13. the topic discusses very interesting issues especially concerning the berbers or amazighs. I think they have always welcomed foreigners but at the same time they have been denied their identity which is a pity. I welcome the job you’re doing I just hope you to be fair and set things in their right place as it goes in French. thanks

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