Niger Delta Beaters, Part 2: High and Dry, by Phil

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.

Buxton’s Memoirs.

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.

See also here and here.

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.


Filed under Africa, Anthropology, Blacks, Cultural, Guest Posts, Islam, Nigeria, Nigerians, Physical, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Religion, West Africa

32 responses to “Niger Delta Beaters, Part 2: High and Dry, by Phil

  1. I actually want to leave an important note.

    The North African Admixture in Yoruba actually has been exaggerated, due to a study that found 7% of Eurasian ancestry in them but it turned out to be false

    Anthromadness gave more precise measurements find little if any. Hell, even Bowen never said that they were really mixed, but rather they looked different from standard blacks which could again be attributed to higher elevation.

    “Now, if there had been no amalgamation of races to the eastward of Lake
    Tsad, the intermixture constantly going on along the southern borders of the Desert is sufficient to account
    for all the types of mankind found in Sudan. The red Pulohs, who are a numerous class, correspond
    exactly to the half-breed offspring of negroes and the people of the Desert, while the darker Pulohs and
    the Mandingoes correspond to the descendants of such mulattoes and negroes. It is a curious fact,
    however, that some of the Pulohs at Ilorin are lighter colored and more of the white man in every respect
    than any half-blood mulatto I have ever seen either in America or Africa. But even in these cases the
    hair is woolly, although it grows sufficiently long for the women to plait it and tie it under the chin.
    Finally, the Saracens, who overran Sudan in the tenth century, left many descendants ; and these, of
    course, were not pure negroes. In short, there is no want of evidence that the light color of many
    families and tribes in Sudan may have resulted from amalgamation. When we see that the children of a
    brown Moor and a black woman of Yoruba or Nufe are red, we very naturally conclude that all the red
    people in the country are of mixed blood. On the whole, then, the origin of the red or mulatto-colored
    men whom we find in Africa is more easily accounted for than the origin of the blacks.
    But we return to the Yorubas, who are certainly negroes, if we except a few red men or mulattoes.
    They are not generally, however, such negroes as are frequently met with in the forests of Guinea and
    again, it seems, on the Benue river, in the heart of the continent-! Many of the Yoruba people, like those
    of Nufe and other countries, have handsome hands and feet, pleasing features, and well developed fore-
    heads, and are altogether noble-looking men.”

    So there were some mixed ones based on skin tone, however they were noted as a minority and were likely the result of Fulani admixture.

  2. “The Attah of Eggarah appeared to have been much more intelligent and civilized than the Obi. A similar treaty was concluded with them.”

    Buxton’s Memoirs.

    The quote should’ve said much less, meaning that this was due to the Igala stemming bottom up as a negroid group of overall homogeneity while the Aboh were a mixture of a higher and lower population, with the Royal family having a purer bloodline.

  3. Jm8

    “Their forehead is broad and less retreating than their more neighbors”

    Generally negroid types do not have a retreating/sloping forehead relative to caucasians, but rather the reverse (a more projecting/bulbous one or “frontal skull eminences”). But it depends to some degree on the African (and Caucasian) subgroup of course.

    “Ashley Montagu lists “neotenous structural traits in which…Negroids [generally] differ from Caucasoids… flattish nose, flat root of the nose, narrower ears, narrower joints, frontal skull eminces, later closure of premaxillary sutures, less hairy, longer eyelashes, [and] cruciform pattern of second and third molars.”[25] ”

    • Odd….it was said to be a feature common the Negroes, however I think it a retreating for head may’ve been feature more common in west Africa than other Black regions, particularly in coastal tribes because much of the literature concerning the people of what would be Nigeria often mentioned a retreating head in the “basic type”.

      It was listed as a “neoteneous” trait, so I believe a bulbous forehead may’ve been a “modern trait” more common in Blacks than Caucasians but a more “archaic trait” more common in them.

      • I meant that a retreating forehead was more “archaic trait” common amongst them, though it probably isn’t a archaic one if the forehead is high since I read of early successful Igbo immigrants in Sierra Leone having a retreating one but were nontheless described as intelligent.

      • Jm8

        I don’t think the retreating forehead is more common in West Africans(They used to be quasi-erroneously said to be the best represent of a “pure Negro type” that was less represented elsewhere, so I think Montagu is including them.). The bulbous fore head is probably not an archaic trait, as it is the reverse that is found in more archaic forms.

        • Jm8

          edit: “…to be the best represent of a “pure” or “true Negro” type”, erroneous because there are other “true Negro” types outside west Africa that are not mixed: Nilotes/Nilo-Saharans, Hadzas/Sandawes, Omotics, differing West African subgroups etc,…”

          I’ve long noticed many blacks having large projecting foreheads. Among some people at least, I get the impression that it’s almost a stereotype or cliche.

        • I meant that a retreating forehead was, not a bulbous one. Also, I didn;t mean that a retreating one was the most common in west Africa, but rather compare to other Black regions that they had more.

          Also I’m not arguing persay actual phenotypical prevalence, but rather historical perception. Incorrect or not, much of the literature for a “basal negro” would incould a retreating forehead in the past however I do agree that it seems rather misleading because, even if it was majority though apparently it’s not, I’ve seen many pictures of native blacks with blacks with bulbous foreheads.

          I believe this distortion is due to using coastal tribes as an idea of the “base” of Blacks but not truely representative.

        • “even if it was majority though apparently it’s not, I’ve seen many pictures of native blacks with blacks with bulbous foreheads.”
          I meant that even in the case of it being a majority like in historical thought, bulbous forehead weren’t uncommon based on pictures i seen

          Like for measure prognathism often skethc would have retreating foreheads, but again, I’m not claiming phenotypical prevalence.

        • Jm8

          Probably, in some, greater prognathism can make foreheads look more retreating than they are.

        • “Probably, in some, greater prognathism can make foreheads look more retreating than they are.”
          I suppose, but it’s odd it wasn’t the case with the comparison of Igala compare to the Abo, of whom the latter had both maxillary prognathism and less receding foreheads.

        • Now basically what I’m saying in terms of distortion is that let us say, whne comparing races, you had categories of archaic traits of different races that are prominent and modern traits that are more prominent.

          For Blacks, a receding forehead is an archaic trait that is more prominent but as for modern traits a higher/bulbous forehead is more common.

        • Jm8

          “Now basically what I’m saying in terms of distortion is that let us say, whne comparing races, you had categories of archaic traits of different races that are prominent and modern traits that are more prominent.”

          I agree.

          “For Blacks, a receding forehead is an archaic trait that is more prominent but as for modern traits a higher/bulbous forehead is more common.”

          These are opposite/mutually exclusive traits. A bulbous forehead is less receding. I believe blacks(or most black subtypes, tribal/ethnic exceptions may exist) have a less receding forehead (as Montagu says) than caucasians,(but generally more prognathism for instance (Australian Aborigines and Papuans seem to have more retreating foreheads than caucasians, and are said to do so/were said to in the past.)

        • Jm8

          (Australian Aborigines and Papuans seem to have more retreating foreheads than caucasians, and are said to do so/were said to in the past. This is one of many ways “Australoid”/Papuan phenotypes differ from most African types’ phenotypes and make the former distinguishable.)

        • Jm8

          It may be that West Africans(or more likely some West African groups) have more retreating foreheads relative to other black types, but probably not relative to caucasians.
          I can recall seeing some Igbos with retreating foreheads though (as per your reference).

        • Good point, and as I said, I think that the distortion was caused by using coastal tribes (beach tribes) as representative Blacks. It was flaw I remember a man named Prichard mention in racial craniometry. Thus, I believe a retreating skull was more common amongst them, for they’ve been mentioned to differ from inland Blacks.

        • Jm8

          Perhaps my response was based on a partial misunderstanding or an ambiguity. Maybe the author was comparing the foreheads of one tribe to the “retreating foreheads of another subgroup, or the prevalent the in their region subregion (and not to negroids in general)
          “…The lips protrude, but are less thick, the forehead ample though retreating.”
          may refer to a comparison similar to this:
          “Their forehead is broad and less retreating than their more neighbors, the Eggarahs”

        • Jm8

          edit: Should be: “…or the prevalent type in their region subregion”

        • Jm8

          …the prominence of brow ridges seems to go about the same way: (most groups of ) Africans having less prominent brow ridges than Europeans who tend to in turn have less prominent brow ridges than Native Australians/(most groups of )Papuans. Thicker lips (but not prognathism) is also probably a more modern trait, the lower primates all having very thin lips.


          Hey Jm8, I was doing research for a future article and when looking up thing for Asaba I found this in their Morphology.

          The shorter one is a body type of Oguto (some modern accounts of the legend had them originate from Nteje, but Nteje was only a Route, their actually origin was of Oguto according to this book and the morphology supports this) and the Taller one was of Igala origin.

          How would would classify their noses? the Shorter one seems to have a nose have a “big nose”, typical for a lowland humid arwa while the other one has a nose kore aquiline like, which seems consistent with e drier climate and higher elevation of Idah.

          By the way, the Idah info I was first looking at in regards to climate was actually Attam of Yeme by mistake, so i substitute Idah with Ogbagbo, the closest town I could find that the site had.

          With Ogbagbo as a proxy, the Igala lived in a slight cooler with higher temperature variance, more elevated land, just general better climate

        • Jm8

          “How would would classify their noses?”

          If you mean page 315 captioned “Igwi, Holding Azuzu…” (since I could not find any other nearby pages with pictures of people from the link);
          The one to my right (facing the computer screen) has a nose that is short and fairly flat (the picture is small, so it’s hard to tell) but only slightly wide. The other(to my left) has a sightly longer at the tip and a little wider nose(below the bridge, mostly due to nostrils). I would describe neither as aquiline ,which is not the only nose type that evolves in dry climates. Khoisans, Hadzas, Sandawes. many but not all horn Africans who are more mixed in that regard, Nilo-Saharan peoples of the central Sahel-Sudan/Kenya etc., and Sahelian/Savannah West Africans, do not tend to have aquiline noses, (though this can vary). These groups developed in arid or at often semi arid, savannah like zones and tend to have noses that are flattish, but not generally as flaring/wide (esp in the nostril area, from what I have seen, though this varies too as some can have wide noses) as those of at least certain peoples from more humid areas like Central African Pygmies(who often have very wide noses), Central Africans in general, West African types from the W. Af. forest/forested coastal regions(or the more humid parts therein), Papuans, and some South East Asian Negrito tribes).

        • Jm8

          should be: “many but not all horn Africans who are more variable in that regard”

        • Jm8

          …African Pygmies(who often have very wide/some of the widest noses and most flaring nostrils)

        • Thanks for you’re commentary. I’m not that good with phenotypes, I came to you since you seem to know more.

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