This is Phil’s latest piece on the inhabitants of the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Enjoy.
Before we go into the main thesis of the article, some points should be about my previous article on this topic, particularly the lineages of some of the Igbos. The lineages of both the Aboh and the Onitsha, for example, show significant Bini heritage, as seen here.
Regarding the Qua:
That the Qua Eboe people are of Andony origin is well known among the natives of these parts, their forefathers having many years ago lived near the site of the town of Opobo, whence they were driven by my predecessor Opobo, the old King of Bonny. From constant intercourse with the Qua people proper, they have learned the language of that race, but they still talk the Andony language, which is unknown to the real Quas.
Until quite recently, they did not think of disowning my sovereignty but were on the most amicable terms with me and my people, with whom they had continual intercourse. As a further proof that my sovereignty was acknowledged in Qua Eboe, some years ago, I may call your special attention to the fact that when the late Mr. McEachen was trading there, he repeatedly offered to pay me money for all the oil that he bought in that river the same as if bought in Opobo.”
– Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 74.
This could be the reason why there were varying forms of behavior observed by travelers.
However, this leads to an interesting development:
Mr. W. F. Daniell has given an account of the natives of Old Calabar. He regards them as of Eboe race but presenting some physical deviations which serve to distinguish them from other tribes of a similar derivation. He thinks that the climate of the healthier, more elevated sandstone region of Old Calabar has improved the race beyond the natives of the same origin living in the swamps and low lying ground of the Bonny and adjoining rivers.
The average male stature of the Old Calabar people varies from 5’6 to 5’10 and that of the females from 5 ft to 5’4. Although they possess in a more or less modified form a thick and massive cranium, narrow convex forehead, compressed lateral parietes of the skull, projecting jaw, and oblique contour of the visage, yet they partially lose the thick lips, flat nose, large protuberant eyes, high facial bones, and other facial peculiarities of the Krooman, the most pronounced type of the Negro. These statements of Mr. Daniell as to the cranial characters of these people are substantially confirmed by the examination of the skulls we have just described.
– Journal of Physiology and Anatomy, Volume 3.
This shows the almost alarming precision of the Igala of Nigeria.
First, we must get into the origins of the Igala.
While not exactly clear, it is clear from cultural and linguistic similarities that they are affiliated with the Yoruba people.
With further commentary in regards to physiology:
Many of the Yoruba people, like the Nufe and other countries, have handsome hands and feet, pleasing features, are well-developed and are altogether noble- looking men.
– Thomas Jefferson Bowen
This is due to the Yoruba being closer to the “Blacker” end of the extreme of a North African to Sub Saharan continuum in West Africa. However, in respect to the Igala, we can compare with the more Negroid Aboh, who descend from a branch of Bini people that possibly mixed with more southern tribes:
The natives of Aboh are comparatively tall for the Western region, well-made and muscular, but the hands .are large The most prevalent color of skin is yellowish or brownish black. The nose and expanded lips rather thick and without pleasing the outline observed in some Negroes. Their forehead is broad and less retreating than their more neighbors, the Eggarahs, but the maxillary are more prognathous or protruding and the angle consequently less favorable.
– A Narrative of the Expedition of the River Niger, Volume 1. 1841.
Egga was the largest town yet seen. On the banks of the river, the population was reckoned at seven or eight thousand. The people were in general tall and well-made. The head, the countenance, and the lighter shade of the skin indicated an intermixture with the Negro race. Manufacturing clothes was found to be the principal occupation of people. There were no less than two hundred looms in various parts of the town.
– The Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton.
While intermixture could be possible to an extent in them, the forehead note shows that it likely it wouldn’t have been from the same source as the Edo Yoruba. While the Igala did eventually come under the Muslim influence of the Junkun, in the link talking of their origins, this Muslim influence was described as recent.
There’s is also this regarding their adherence to Islam:
“The Kingdom of the Attah is called Eggarah and also Igalla, the two names being frequently interchanged with each other. The capital of Ochejih’s possessions is often called Addah, but the Rev. Mr. Schon, by whom this information came, says that the former names seem more correct. The population is 5,000. Some of the houses are built of bricks. The natives do not burn the bricks, instead they are merely dried in the sun.
The ground is under cultivation. The people seemed of a harmless character, and it is said that they never asked for rum. They all begged me for paper so they could write on it. They were chiefly pagans, but no idols were up in the town, though it contained many other signs of paganism. The higher classes had embraced the Mahomedan religion, but they knew very little of it.”
– United Service Magazine.
As well, see here:
The Attah of Eggarah appeared to have been much more intelligent and civilized than the Obi. A similar treaty was concluded with them.
The comments regarding the chiefs would make more sense in two scenarios.
The first would be you start off with a Negroid race that became more orthagnous through locality.
The other would be would be one of a more developed tribe mixing with another, and while the commoners regress, the higher caste retains a purer bloodline, thus resulting in more of a dimorphism between the rulers and the people.
As well, here are the comments on the features of the locality believed to have an effect on the people:
The well-known effects of locality on the development of the human body receives a confirmation in the inhabitants of Iddah, where the greater altitude of the district and its superior dryness operate in their favour. The people are generally well-made and of middling stature. The features are more softened and rounded than the Ibus. The lips protrude, but are less thick, the forehead ample though retreating. Altogether they have a look of superior intelligence.
W. Allen and T. R. H. Thompson, Niger Narrative.
This should be compared to similar comments:
“The natives of the Bonny and Nun, who are purely of Eboe descent,and therefore less amalgamated with the people of other nations, may be taken as the typical illustration by which we may make the comparison. They are generally of a short stature, slight form, and light yellow skin, differing in these respects from the inhabitants of the Callebar towns.
I am of opinion that climate greatly modifies the physical and intellectual development of most African nations, and that people of different localities but originally from one common source, after the lapse of some centuries, offer manifest alterations from their progenital standard. Support for the correctness of this statement could not be furnished, other than that presented in the structural diversities that prevail between the inhabitants of the low swampy districts of the Bonny and the more elevated sandstone regions of Old Callebar.”
– W. F. Daniell, On the Natives of Old Calabar, p. 213.
Though, in reference to the Bonny, the population was actually more of a mix between Eboes who came from the north and aboriginal Ijaws.
A future article will observe the general conditions and historical locations of some of these tribes to see how well they correspond with commentary given by explorers.