Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/April 1881/The Black Races of Oceanica



NEGRO forms are figured among the earliest representations of men on ancient monuments. As early as the eighteenth dynasty (seventeen hundred years before the Christian era), the artists of Egypt represented at least five races of negroes. Nigritic types were also figured by the Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians, although none of those people had as extended knowledge of Africa as the Egyptians had. The examination of all the monuments which have come down from antiquity makes it evident that the negro races of Africa and Asia were well known. Scientific investigations of negro characteristics began to be made in the sixteenth century. The first to record one was Albert Dürer, who, in 1525, drew a profile of a negro inclosed in a system of lines, of which an oblique and an horizontal line formed at their junction a real facial angle. MM. de Quatrefages and Hamy, in their "Crania Ethnica," begin the study of the negro races with the negroes of Oceanica, and select as their point of departure the Negritos, the most brachycephalic race. The Negrito race proper, which was first observed in the Philippine Islands, has been found in the interior of the Peninsula of Malacca, the Sunda Islands, and the Andaman Islands. M. Hamy has been able to trace it even to the interior of India.

The pure Negrito skull (Fig. 3) is sub-brachycephalic, having a mean index (cephalic, or horizontal) of 81·79; its capacity is from 1,310 to 1,535 cubic centimetres. The occipito-frontal curve is quite regular, and presents a depression over the forehead, another toward the third posterior of the sagittal suture, and an undulation at the level of the sinciput; passing the occipital protuberance, it turns sharply downward.

Fig. 1.—Skull of a Negrito of Borneo, carved by the Dyaks. (Prom the Museum of Lyons.)

The frontal, narrow before, is well developed in the antero-posterior direction; the short length of the cranium corresponds with the shortness of the parietal and occipital bones.

In the face, the prominences of the brows are not very distinct, the space between the orbits is relatively considerable, the orbits are wide, almost square, the canine cavity is little marked, the prognathism is distinct in the middle alveolar region of the superior maxillary. The whole of the face is moderately elongated, showing a mean facial index of 67·17. The Mincopies, who live in the Andaman Islands, had already been studied by M. de Quatrefages, and his opinion that they almost exactly resemble the Aétas of the Philippine Islands is confirmed by the description of them in the "Crania Ethnica." The only difference is in a slightly higher elevation of the cranium, as is shown in the sketch.

Negritos whose history is fully described in this work are still living in the mountains of India and Indo-China, and in the Malay Peninsula. The race is nearly extinct in the Sunda Islands, but it seems to appear again in Timor; and a head from that island, in the collection of the museum, reproduces, apart from some details of the facial bony structure, all the characteristics of the Mincopie heads. An elegantly carved skull from Borneo, belonging to the Museum of Lyons, also presents the same traits (Fig. 1).

The detailed examination of twelve skulls from the interior of New

Fig. 2. Skull of a Negrito of the Philippine Islands. Fig. 3. Skull of a Mincopie of the Andaman Islands.

Guinea, Rawak, Boni, the Island of Toud, and Amberbaki, has allowed the authors to recognize in those different points the existence of an intermediate race between the Negritos and the Papuans, which they have, therefore, designated as the Negrito-Papuan race. The skulls of this intermediate type (Fig. 4) are slightly elongated, with their mean index descending to 80·15, while the facial index rises to 67·17, and the maxillary prognathism is much more sharply defined than among the Negritos. Some of these heads have been artificially deformed.

The Negrito-Papuan race forms, in some respects, a transition between the Negritos proper and the Tasmanians. The description given of the last race, which is now extinct, is based on the study of numerous skulls in the collections of the Museums of Paris, London, Shelton, etc., and other authentic sources of information. The Tasmanians were differentiated from other oceanic negroes by a number of characteristics, and the study of their skulls enables us to make of them a special race, remarkably homogeneous, notwithstanding the differences which prevailed in the languages of the several tribes.

The index of the Tasmanian skull varied from 77·10 among the southern tribes to 76·34 among the northern tribes. Its mean capacity, 1,420 centimetres in men's skulls, was notably superior to that of negro skulls in general. It presented a special form, a kind of keel-shape, which seemed to exist in all the adult Tasmanians, and which resulted from the disposition of the parietal bosses, they being very prominent, almost conical, and situated at an equal distance from the coronal and lambdoidal sutures. Between these prominences existed, on each side of the sagittal suture, itself placed in a hollow, an antero-posterior groove which contributed to give the skull its peculiar characteristic

Fig. 4. Skull of a Papuan Negrito of Rawak. Fig. 5. Skull of a Tasmanian.

form. It results from this considerable development of the parietal bosses that, below them, the figure of the skull was descending without swelling out, the maximum transverse diameter being nearly on a level with them. The antero-posterior curve was developed regularly to the occipital bone, which was very much swelled out, so that at this level the curve was slightly inflected upward; at the summit of the occipital crest it was often abruptly inflected downward. The forehead was quite narrow. The face was not much raised, and exhibited brutal forms. The arches of the brows were prominent, and appeared more projecting than they were, on account of the sunken position of the root of the nose. The nasal bones, convex and pinched above, were deeply hollowed in their lower part, and were then lifted up to flatness in front. The very wide nasal orifice almost formed an equilateral triangle. The superior maxillary was notably prognathous, but the teeth, much less oblique than the bone, descended sometimes even vertically, and were of considerable size. The horizontal branch of the inferior maxillary was robust and thick, while the ascending branch was thin and narrow. The mandible was very short, so that the teeth had to be projected considerably forward to meet those of the superior maxillary. The chin was retreating.

The Malays gave the name of Papuans to the Oceanian negroes in general. The term, which signifies frizzled, is properly applied to the group who are distinguished by their bushy hair, and is now reserved for the race whose representatives are more or less numerously found in nearly all of Melanesia and in part of Australia. The Papuan skull is plainly dolichocephalous; the index descends to 71·03, and even to 70·32 in the skulls of the men. The vertical diameter is at the same time considerable, and exceeds the maximum transverse diameter, so that the head is hypsistenocephalous, or higher than it is broad. The head which MM. de Quatrefages and Hamy have selected as typical of the race—a Mafor head from Port Dorei—(Fig. 6) has an horizontal index of 71·55, and a vertical index of 105·51, with a cranial capacity of about 1,350 cubic centimetres. It is long, narrow, and high. The lateral walls of the skull rise perpendicularly, in almost parallel lines, to the parietal bosses. At this point the transverse curve is directed obliquely toward the top of the head, where it becomes rounded, and forms, in connection with a kind of median crest which crosses the

Fig. 6. Skull of a Papuan Mafor. Fig. 7. Skull from Arfak.

skull from front to rear, along the whole length of the sagittal suture, a large, blunt point. The forehead is narrow, causing the cheek-bones to appear very prominent, although their lateral development is not, really, at all exaggerated. As a whole, the face is high and narrow. The bones of the nose are quite long and slightly concave, the cavities and prominences of the lower part of the superior maxillary are not clearly defined. The prognathism of this race is so sharp that in the norma verticalis the alveolar border and a part of the bones above project in front of the skull. The facial angle of Camper varies between 73° and 76°. The Papuan woman is generally less dolichocephalous and hypsistenocephalous than the man.

Pure or more or less mixed Papuans are found in Ternate, Ceram, and Timor, in Malaysia. The pure type occurs in New Britain, and at Yanikoro in the New Hebrides, but in other parts of Melanesia it is mixed with the Negrito-Papuan or the Polynesian type. Traces of the former mixture may be detected in the Island of Toud, although the greater part of the inhabitants of that island are real Papuans, and even in New Guinea.

The Polynesian type may be perceived in the Louisiade Archipelago and in all eastern Melanesia, beginning at the Solomon Islands. In some of the islands it is almost pure. The Papuan-Polynesians, concerning which we have the most information, are those of the Loyalty and Feejee Islands and New Caledonia. The Papuan type is occasionally found pure in those groups, but is most frequently mixed with the Polynesian, and in these cases the mixture is accentuated by marked phenomena. The heads of the half-breeds are less dolichocephalous

Fig. 8. Bust of a Native of New Guinea.

and less hypsistenocephalous than Papuan heads, without reaching the Polynesian proportions. The modifications in the face are more complicated. Papuans are found at the extremities of Polynesia, as far north as the Sandwich Islands, as far south as New Zealand, and as far east as Easter Island, where they have been carried by voluntary or accidental migrations, or in slavery. They also occur erratically in some islands of Micronesia, particularly the Caroline Islands and in Rawak.

The Australian skulls in the European museums appear to arrange themselves into two homogeneous series, which do not, however, indicate a distinction of race, as M. Topinard believes, but seem to be determined by differences of sex. The man differs more from the woman in this than in any other race. There are, however, other races than the Australian in New Holland, as sporadic Melanesians and Indonesians; but, laying aside these casual cases and a few exceptional cases in Queensland and southern Australia, it may be said that Australian skulls of the same sex are alike, and that those of the interior populations differ from those of natives of the coast only in a little greater development, corresponding with their larger stature. This superiority is the result of better conditions of existence. It is enough, therefore, to describe two types: the Australian type proper, to which

Fig. 9.—Bust of an Islander of Toud (Torres Straits).

most of the known tribes belong; and the Neanderthaloid type, found only among a few southern tribes, the most of which are in process of extinction.

The head which has been selected as a type of the former race is that of an individual from Port Essington. It has a cranial capacity of only 1,250 cubic centimetres, while the average of Australian skulls is 1,285 cubic centimetres, and is very dolichocephalous and hypsistenocephalous that is, is elongated from front to rear, and is higher than broad. The indices are horizontal 67·21, vertical 105·69, The prominences of the brows are voluminous, as is also the glabella, which appears to be prolonged over the forehead. The medial prominence of the forehead is quite marked, the lateral ones are nearly effaced. The parietals present an analogous disposition: their inner borders rise along the sagittal suture so as to form a kind of roof, while the bosses are hardly indicated. The curved lines on the occipital form thick and prominent puffs; the bone is flattened over the cerebellum, and presents well-defined muscular impressions. The antero-posterior curve is regular to near the lambdoidal suture, whence it rises to the occipital. The most marked characters in the face are the thickness of the external orbital processes, the forward projection of the cheek-bones, the depression of the root of the nose, the shortness and breadth of the nose, and the mode of termination of the bridge of the nose, which, instead of forming an angle, is prolonged into a kind of a gutter. The jaws are narrow and the branches of the dental arch tend to be parallel. The palatal vault is deep; and the prognathism is very

Fig. 10.—Bust of a Tasmanian.

great, the mean alveolar facial angle being 64°, but the massive teeth are less oblique than the alveolar part.

In the women the prominences of the brows nearly disappear, while the parietal bosses are more accentuated. The forehead and the lower occipital bone are more swollen; the antero-posterior curve is relatively depressed, although the skull continues to show the form of a roof. The prognathism of the face is more marked, and the teeth are more inclined than in the men.

The second Australian type, the dolichoplatycephalic or Neanderthaloid type, although it is less widely diffused than the other, is nevertheless of very great interest to anthropologists. In it there exist, as Huxley has already remarked, individuals and even a whole race, although it is disappearing, that present the cranial forms of which the Neanderthal man affords the most pronounced example. We are not, then, authorized to believe that the Neanderthal skull was one of an idiot, or of any exceptional being not possessing the ethnic characters of the race which lived at the same epoch with him. If there still exists a race offering the same characteristics, there is no reason why that race may not have existed in a geological age anterior to our own. The Australian skull of the Neanderthaloid type, which is found, according

Fig. 2. Bust of a Tasmanian.

to Huxley, in Queensland, is also met as an erratic in New South Wales. But a tribe, seeming to belong entirely to the race under consideration, lived only in the environs of Adelaide; and the seven pieces from which the studies of the type were made are from that locality.

MM. de Quatrefages and Hamy conclude their study of the Australian race with an enumeration of the cranial characteristics which distinguish the Papuans from the Australians, and a comparison of those races with the Dravidian races of the interior of India. Common characteristics appear in both groups, and resemblances may be traced between the Australian and Dravidian languages. The evidence, however, is still too slight to permit us to assign a common origin to the races of New Holland and the black races of India.—La Nature.

  1. Translated from the French by W. H. Larrabee.