Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tibbus

TIBBUS, or TUBUS, a nomad race of North Africa, occupying the eastern section of the Sahara from about 12°, where they are conterminous with the Tuareg Berbers, to about 24° E. long., and from Fezzan southwards nearly to Lake Tchad, 25° to 15° N. lat. Their westernmost settlements are the oases of Agram, Kawar, and Jebado, their northernmost the district of Qatrun within the Fezzan frontier, while south and south-east they merge gradually in the Negroid populations of Kanem, Bornu (Tchad basin), Wadai, and north-west Dar-Fur. But the heart of the nation is concentrated in the central region of Tibesti or Tu, whence they take their collective name of Tib-bu or Tu-bu, i.e., "people of Tibesti or Tu." [1] There are two main divisions, the northern Teda, more or less full-blood Tibbus, and the southern Dasa, more or less mixed or Negroid Tibbus. Somewhat more distantly connected with the same family are the Baele of the eastern and south eastern oases and the Zoghawa (Zaghwa) of Dar-Fur, making a total population of about 190,000, distributed as follows

Teda (Tibesti, Qatrun, Kawar, Agram, &c.) ...29,000 Dasa (Borku, parts of Kanem, Wadai, Ennedi, and Bornu) 51,000 Baele (Ennedi, Wanyanga, Guro, Wun) 20,000 Zoghawa (north Dar-Fur) 90,000 190,000 The Tibbus, who are not expressly mentioned under this name by any ancient or mediæval writer, are usually identified with the Garamantes of Herodotus (iv. 183), whose capital was Garama (Edrisi's Gerina) in Phazania (Fezzan), and of whom Ptolemy already spoke doubtfully as Ethiopians (Negroes?) : Qvrcav dt ical atrrwv tfdi) fiaXXov AWt6irui> (i. 8). But Leo Africanus transfers them to the Berber connexion, whose fifth great division he deals with under the names of Gumeri (Garamantes ?) and Bardaei or Bardoa, that is, the Teda of the Bardai oasis, Tibesti. [2] Lastly Barth on linguistic grounds grouped them with the Kanuri of Bornu, who are undoubtedly Negroes; and since his time (1852–53) the Tibbus have been regarded by most ethnologists as a Negro or at least a Negroid people. [3] Nachtigal, who has studied them more carefully than any modern observer, sees good reason to challenge this conclusion (op. cit., ch. viL); and, although his own inferences are somewhat vague, he supplies sufficient evidence for a solution of this difficult ethnological problem. There can be no doubt that the Teda, or true Tibbu, probably identical with the Tedamansii, a branch of the Garamantes, placed by Ptolemy south of the Samamycii in Tripolitana, [4] are physically a Hamitic, not a Negro people, closely resembling their western Tuareg neighbours. They are a pure homogeneous race, who have for ages undergone no perceptible change in their rocky homes, and who are still distinguished by the regular features, long black ringletty hair, haughty bearing, and fierce expression common to so many of the Berber and other Hamitic peoples. Mostly of middle size, they are finely proportioned in all their limbs, except the somewhat too small hands and feet, with lighter complexion than that of the southern Dasa, and no trace of the flat nose, thick tumid lips, or other marked characteristics of the true Negro. "Their women are charming while still in the bloom of youth, unrivalled amongst their sisters of North Africa for their physical beauty, pliant and graceful figures" (Keane's Eeclus, xi. p. 429). But there has been a general displacement of the race southwards; and, while only a few still linger in the northern Qatrun and Kufara districts, large numbers have since mediæval times penetrated into the Kanem, Bornu, Wadai, and Dar-Fur regions of central Sudan. Here they have everywhere merged with the natives, so that in the Dasa, Kauembu, Kanuri, Baele, and Zoghawa groups the Tibbu race presents all the shades of transition between the true Negro and the true Haniite that are also found to prevail between the blacks of western Sudan and the Tuareg Berbers, and between the Nubas and other eastern Sudan Negroes and the Hamitic Gallas, Somali, and Bejas.

The same transitional stages are observed in the Tibbu forms of speech, which constitute a wide-spread linguistic family, whose most archaic and purest branch is the Tedaga of Tibesti (Nachtigal). Through the southern Dasaga the Tedaga merges in the more highly developed and more recent Kanem, Bornu (Kanuri), Ennedi (Baele), and Dar-Fur (Zoghawa) dialects, which, owing to the absence of grammatical gender and some other structural features, are usually classed as Negro languages. But a Negro tongue could not have arisen among the Hamites of the Tibesti uplands, and the explanation of this linguistic difficulty is obviously the same as that of the physical puzzle. The Negro affinities of the southern members of the group have arisen through assimilation with the original and now partly displaced Negro idioms of central Sudan. There remains the final difficulty that Tedaga itself has absolutely nothing in common with the Berber or any other Hamitic tongue. If therefore it is neither Hamitic nor Negro, the only two stock languages recognized by Lepsius in Africa (02?. cit., passim), how is it to be placed? First of all Lepsius's hasty generalization, wholly inconsistent as it is with the conditions occurring in other parts of the continent, must be unhesitatingly rejected. Room having thus been found for other linguistic families, the Tedaga of Tibesti may be readily explained as an independent evolution from a primeval Tibbu-Berber germ, analogous to other linguistic evolutions in other isolated or inaccessible highland regions, such as the Caucasus, the Pyrenees, and the Anahuac tableland. The common germ, essentially evanescent in its nature, has long since perished, or can no longer be detected, and the Tibbu and Berber languages stand side by side as now fundamentally distinct, while the two races still remain physically one. The Tibbus are therefore a Hamitic people, who in their secluded rocky homes have had time to evolve an independent form of speech, which southwards has become largely assimilated to the Sudanese Negro dialects. Lying on the track of the great caravan route between Fezzan and Lake Tchad, the Tibbus have always been a predatory race, levying blackmail on the convoys passing through their territory, maintaining intertribal feuds, and carrying on constant warfare with the surrounding Berber and Sudanese populations. This, combined with the severe struggle for existence in their inhospitable upland valleys, has rendered them harsh, greedy, and suspicious, sentiments reflected in their hard features and stern expression. Till comparatively recent times all were pagans, whence the term Kufra (Kufara), "Land of the Unbeliever," applied by the Arabs to the southern oases of Tripolitana. But for two or three centuries they have been zealous Mohammedans, and some have even lately been brought within the influence of the political Senusiya sect (see TRIPOLI, below). They are a frugal race, living mostly on goat s milk, dates, berries, durrha, and the fruit of the dum-palm ; nevertheless they are of robust constitution and remarkably agile. They are also intelligent, crossing the wilderness by a sort of instinct quite unintelligible to the stranger, and in all ordinary transactions they display surprising tact and shrewdness. The tribal organization embraces dardai or headmen, maina or nobles, and the common folk, while the unwritten law of custom rules supreme over all classes. The women, who are orderly and industrious, are well treated, and the polygamy allowed by the law is little practised. But the vendetta is still a social institution. (a. h. k.)

  1. Cf. Kanem-bu = people of Kanem, bu being the plural personal postfix answering to the Bantu prefix ba, wa (Ba-Suto, Wa-Ganda, &c.), and to the be of Fúl-be = Fúl people or Fulahs from Púl. In Tedaga the root tu means "rock"; hence Tu-bu ="rock-dwellers," as described by Herodotus and as explained in their Arab designation Reshádeh, from reshad = rock, hill.
  2. See Vater, Mithridates, ii. p. 45 of Berlin ed. 1812, and Nachtigal, Sáhara und Sudan, 1881, ii. p. 189.
  3. "Ursprunglich ein Negervolk," Lepsius, Nubische Grammatik (Einleitung), Berlin, 1880.
  4. The original inhabitants of the Kufara (Kufra) oasis in south Tripolitana were Teda, some of whom still survive in a small hamlet south of Jebel Nari. Since the beginning of the 18th century they have been replaced elsewhere in Kufara by the Zwiya Arabs from the Leshkerreh oases.