Pastoral Fulani links to Libyans

A Fulani cattle herder

PROBABLY the best living people in North Africa of those originally nomadic peoples called Libyans are the modern day ‘red’ or pastoral Fulani (as opposed to the settled Fulani), especially belonging  to the area of Niger and Mali. 

Though they themselves are probably descendants of only one of the waves of Libyans from the east, they represent the black Berber or ‘hamitic’ prototype which has existed in the Sahara for at least 

5 000 years. 

At Jabbaren, the rock art shows cattle transporting the armature of huts which is a practice maintained by the Fulani and the head gear, clothing and most typical physical characteristics of the human figures of the pastoral period are said to resemble the present day Fulani. 

They have, except for their language, many habits of dress and accoutrements in common with Somali and Rendili and at times a strong familial resemblance to Cushitic peoples in general.

These nomads are one of the few tribes whose attire still resembles the long garments worn by the Libyans on ancient Egyptian tomb paintings after the New Empire. 

On these garments are the same designs that appear on C-group pottery and in Libyan tattoos. 

They also wear the same hats and peculiar Libyan side lock and other coiffures shown in representations of ancient Libyans. 

They still practice the burning of the temples of infants which Herodotus mentions as being common to all Libyans. 

They often have a hairstyle which leaves their hair long in the back like the ancient Libyans called Machlyes. 

Their women wear their hair in a crest like the Cushitic speakers and the other Berbers of the southern Sahara which was said to be typical of Libyan women. 

This form of hair-dress is often shown in ancient rock art now in the Sahara (It was apparently a very ancient practice and of totemic or religious significance: It is found among dark-skinned Yemeni women as well).

The pastoral Fulani are the only people in West Africa who milk their cattle and though they have recently been touched by modernisation, rarely did they raise cattle for meat. (The ancient Libyans did not eat the cow, considering them sacred). 

Like many traditional Cushitic and Nilo-Saharan peoples, they tend to know each of the members of their herds by name and treat them with great affection and respect.

The Fulanis of Takrur were called Beni Warith or Waritan of the Beni Goddala or Jeddala in the Annales Regnum Mauretanie (Annals of the Mauretanian Kings) and the writing of el Bekri. 

They were said to have once lived in the Mauretanian Adrar. 

Goddala is the Arab pronunciation of earlier Gaituli of the Roman historians. 

The Gaitules were the most populous of the Libyan tribes of Strabo’s time (1st Century A.D.) 

Josephus, around the same period, claimed that they were the same as the Evalioi of Kush or the peoples of ancient Avalis (Hevila) – the Zeila of present-day Somalia, which might explain why the Fulani, today, resemble so much the people of that region.

The Goddala were considered one of the major Berber tribes by Arab writers and the brethren of the Anbiya (Anbat) and Sanhaja or Berbers of the Maghrib. Furthermore, when the Fulani were first encountered by European colonists, they spoke more than one language. 

One of these is connected to other West African languages. 

The other one, however, was considered different enough for the explorers to speculate that it was more related to dialects outside of Africa. 

If the Fulani, as suggested by El Bekri and the Mauretanian Annals, were Goddala, then it is most likely their ancestors are the same as those of the Cushitic speakers who now inhabit the Horn of Africa and who are also the same as the lightly built Libyan Gaitules who lived further North during the Roman era and took part in the founding of Numidia.


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