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Berber genealogy and the politics of prehistoric archaeology and craniology in French Algeria (1860s–1880s)

  • BONNIE EFFROS (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Following the conquest of Algiers and its surrounding territory by the French army in 1830, officers noted an abundance of standing stones in this region of North Africa. Although they attracted considerably less attention among their cohort than more familiar Roman monuments such as triumphal arches and bridges, these prehistoric remains were similar to formations found in Brittany and other parts of France. The first effort to document these remains occurred in 1863, when Laurent-Charles Féraud, a French army interpreter, recorded thousands of dolmens and stone formations south-west of Constantine. Alleging that these constructions were Gallic, Féraud hypothesized the close affinity of the French, who claimed descent from the ancient Gauls, with the early inhabitants of North Africa. After Féraud's claims met with scepticism among many prehistorians, French scholars argued that these remains were constructed by the ancestors of the Berbers (Kabyles in contemporary parlance), whom they hypothesized had been dominated by a blond race of European origin. Using craniometric statistics of human remains found in the vicinity of the standing stones to propose a genealogy of the Kabyles, French administrators in Algeria thereafter suggested that their mixed origins allowed them to adapt more easily than the Arab population to French colonial governance. This case study at the intersection of prehistoric archaeology, ancient history and craniology exposes how genealogical (and racial) classification made signal contributions to French colonial ideology and policy between the 1860s and 1880s.

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17 Abi-Mershed, op. cit. (15), p. 39.

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31 Malarkey James, ‘The dramatic structure of scientific discovery in colonial Algeria: a critique of the journal of the “Société archéologique de Constantine” (1853–1876)’, in Vatin Jean-Claude (ed.), Connaissances du Maghreb: Sciences sociales et colonisation, Paris: Editions du Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1984, pp. 137160, 153.

32 Bertrand Alexandre, ‘Monuments dits celtiques dans la province de Constantine’, Revue archéologique, nouvelle série (juillet–décembre 1863) 8, pp. 519530 .

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35 Bertrand Alexandre, ‘De l'origine des monuments mégalithiques: opinion de M. Henri Martin’, Revue archéologique, nouvelle série (juillet–décembre 1867) 16, pp. 377396 .

36 Frémeaux Jacques, Les Bureaux arabes dans l'Algérie de la conquête, Paris: Editions Denoël, 1993, pp. 5153 .

37 Lorcin Patricia, Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice and Race in Colonial Algeria, London: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1995, pp. 116120 . Lafi, op. cit. (26), pp. 104–105.

38 Féraud, op. cit. (29), pp. 229–230.

39 Féraud, op. cit. (27), pp. 233–234.

40 Camps, op. cit. (16), pp. 12–13.

41 Doutté Edmond, En Tribu, Paris: Paul Geuthner, Editeur, 1914, pp. 380381; 419–420.

42 Trumbull, op. cit. (10), pp. 147–167.

43 Doutté, op. cit. (41), p. 419.

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45 Féraud Laurent-Charles, ‘Notes historiques sur les tribus de la province de Constantine’, Recueil des notes et mémoires de la Société archéologique de la province de Constantine (1869) 13, pp. 168 .

46 Topinard Paul, ‘Instructions particulières’, in Faidherbe Léon (ed.), Instructions sur l'anthropologie de l'Algérie, Paris: Typographie A. Hennuyer, 1874, pp. 5051 .

47 Stoler Ann Laura, Along the Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009, pp. 122 .

48 Conklin Alice L., A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997, pp. 122 .

49 Trumbull, op. cit. (10), pp. 11–17.

50 In 1877, Féraud was appointed the military interpreter to the French ambassador to Morocco, and thereafter held the office of French consul in Tripoli between 1878 and 1884. Lafi, op. cit. (26), pp. 104–106.

51 Troyon Frédéric, ‘Lettre à M.A. Bertrand sur l'attitude repliée dans les sépultures antiques’, Revue archéologique, nouvelle série (janvier–juin 1864) 9, pp. 289299 .

52 Féraud Laurent-Charles, Exposition universelle de Paris en 1878. Algérie: Archéologie et histoire, Algiers: Typographie et lithographie Adolphe Joudan, Imprimeur-Libraire, 1878, p. 18 .

53 Devéria T., ‘La race suppose proto-celtique est-elle figure dans les monuments égyptiens?Revue archéologique, nouvelle série (janvier–juin 1864) 9, pp. 3843 .

54 Faidherbe, op. cit. (46), pp. 1–11.

55 Topinard, op. cit. (46), pp. 51–52.

56 Tissot M., ‘Sur les monuments mégalithiques et les populations blondes du Maroc’, Revue d'anthropologie (1876), 5, pp. 385392 .

57 Modéran Yves, ‘Des Maures aux Berbères: identité et ethnicité en Afrique du Nord dans l'antiquité tardive’, in Gazeau Véronique, Bauduin Pierre and Modéran Yves (eds.), Identité et ethnicité: Concepts, débats historiographiques, exemples (IIIe–XIIe siècle), Tables rondes du CRAHM 3, Caen: Publications du CRAHM, 2008, pp. 91134 .

58 Conant Jonathan, Staying Roman: Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439–700, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 261273 .

59 Conant, op. cit. (58), pp. 273–305.

60 Siraj Ahmed, L'image de la Tingitane: L'historiographie arabe medieval et l'antiquité nord-africaine, Collection de l'Ecole française de Rome 209, Palais Farnèse: Ecole française de Rome, 1995, pp. 212221 .

61 Shaw Thomas, Travels or Observations Relating to Several parts of Barbary and the Levant, Oxford: Theatre, 1738, p. 120 .

62 Bruce James, Travels Between the Years 1765 and 1773, Through Part of Africa, Syria, Egypt, and Arabia into Abyssinia, London: Albion Press, 1812, pp. 2728 .

63 Wood Ian, The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 4974 . Armitage David, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000 .

64 von Rummel Philipp, Habitus barbarus: Kleidung und Repräsentation spätantiker Eliten im 4. und 5. Jahrhundert, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007 .

65 Leone Anna and Mattingly David, ‘Vandal, Byzantine, and Arab rural landscapes in Roman North Africa’, in Christie Neil (ed.), Landscapes of Change: Rural Evolutions in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 135162 .

66 Rozet, op. cit. (20), vol. 2.

67 Lapène Edouard, ‘Tableau historique, moral et politique sur les Kabyles’, Mémoires de l'Académie nationale de Metz (1845–1846) 27, pp. 227287 . This piece was first published in 1838 as part of Lapène's widely cited Dix-huit mois à Bougie, but was reissued at the time of the first major assault on Kabylia. Lorcin, op. cit. (9), pp. 301–307.

68 Borrer Dawson, Narrative of a Campaign Against the Kabaïles of Algeria, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1848, pp. 368369 .

69 Topinard Paul, ‘De la race indigène, ou race berbère, en Algérie’, Revue d'anthropologie (1874), 3, pp. 491498 . Lorcin, op. cit. (37), pp. 133–134.

70 Scott James C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 23 .

71 Some scholars, like the physical anthropologist Paul Topinard, denied these subtleties and argued that any visitor to Algeria could distinguish Arabs from Berbers from nearly the first impression. On his characterization of the cultural, religious and physical distinctions between the two groups see Topinard, op. cit. (46), pp. 19–58.

72 Boetsch Gilles and Ferrie Jean-Noël, ‘Le paradigme berbère: Approche de la logique classificatoire des anthropologues français du XIXe siècle’, Bulletins et mémoires de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris, nouvelle série (1989) 1(3–4), pp. 259275 .

73 Faidherbe, op. cit. (46), p. 8.

74 Périer Jean-André-Napoléon, Des races dites berbères et leur ethnologie, Paris: Imprimerie de A. Hennuyer, 1873 .

75 Ruedy John, Land Policy in Colonial Algeria: The Origins of the Rural Public Domain, Near Eastern Studies, vol. 10, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967, p. vii.

76 Heffernan Michael J. and Sutton Keith, ‘The landscape of colonialism: the impact of French colonial rule on the Algerian rural settlement pattern, 1830–1987’, in Dixon Chris and Heffernan Michael J. (eds.), Colonialism and Development in the Contemporary World, London: Mansell, 1991, pp. 121152 .

77 Turin Yvonne, ‘La crise des campagnes algériennes en 1868, d'après l'enquête agricole de la même année’, Revue d'histoire et de civilization du Maghreb (January 1976) 13, pp. 7986 .

78 Sari, op. cit. (6), pp. 129–132. Abi-Mershed, op. cit. (15), pp. 182–183.

79 El-Haj Nadia Abu, The Genealogical Science: The Search for Jewish Origins and the Politics of Epistemology, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012, pp. 1819 .

80 Thomas Julian, ‘Archaeology's place in modernity’, MODERNISM/Modernity (2004) 11(1), pp. 1734, 22. Scott, op. cit. (70), pp. 3–5.

81 Topinard, op. cit. (46), pp. 54–57. Topinard, op. cit. (69), p. 32. Osborne Michael A., Nature, the Exotic, and the Science of French Colonialism, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994 .

82 Blanckaert Claude, ‘Le crise de l'anthropométrie: Des arts anthropotechniques aux derives militantes (1860–1920)’, in Blanckaert Claude (ed.), Les politiques de l'anthropologie: Discours et pratiques en France (1860–1940), Paris: L'Harmattan, 2001, pp. 95172, 124.

83 See, for instance, the report of M. Simonot on a study by Gillebert d'Hercourt entitled ‘Mensurations et observations sur soixante-seize indigenes d'Algérie’. Simonot M., ‘Rapport sur le prix Ernest Godard’, Bulletins de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris (1865) 6, pp. 299332, 325332 .

84 Topinard, op. cit. (69), p. 491.

85 Topinard, op. cit. (46), p. 34.

86 Coye Noël, ‘Préhistoire et protohistoire en Algérie au XIXe siècle: Les significations du document archéologique’, Cahiers d’études africaines (1993) 33(129), pp. 99137 .

87 Rees Amanda, ‘Stories of stones and bones: disciplinarity, narrative and practice in British popular prehistory, 1911–1935’, BJHS (2016) 49(3), pp. 433451 .

88 Faidherbe Léon, ‘Recherches anthropologiques sur les tombeaux mégalithiques de Roknia’, Bulletin de l'Académie d'Hippone (1867) 4, pp. 176, 1–6, 43.

89 Jean-Louis-Généviève Guyon, ‘Note sur des tombeaux d'origine inconnue situés à Ras Aconater entre Alger et Sidi Ferruch’, Comptes rendues hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences, 26 novembre 1846, pp. 816–818.

90 Letourneux A., ‘Sur les monuments funéraires de l'Algérie oriental’, Archiv für anthropologie (1867) 2, pp. 307320 .

91 Faidherbe thereafter donated some of the ancient skulls and skeletal material he uncovered to the Musée de Bône. Faidherbe, op. cit. (88), pp. 18–20, 59–65.

92 Effros Bonnie, ‘Anthropology and ancestry in nineteenth-century France: craniometric profiles of Merovingian-period populations’, in Pohl Walter and Mehofer Mathias (eds.), Archäologie der Identität, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 17, Vienna: Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010, pp. 233244 .

93 Bourguignat Jules-René, Souvenirs d'une exploration scientifique dans le nord de l'Afrique: Histoire des monuments mégalithiques de Roknia, près d'Hammam-Meskhoutin, Paris: Challamel aîné, 1868–1870, Part 4, pp. 57, 2223 . Camps, op. cit. (16), pp. 17–19.

94 Bourguignat, op. cit. (93), pp. 56–58.

95 Périer, op. cit. (74), pp. 11–14.

96 Broca Paul (on behalf of Léon Faidherbe), ‘Dolmens et hommes blonds de la Lybie’, Matériaux pour l'histoire de l'homme, 2e série (1869) 7, pp. 341344 . Broca, ‘Les peuples blonds et les monuments mégalithiques dans l'Afrique septentrionale: Les Vandales en Afrique’, Revue d'anthropologie (1876) 5, pp. 393404 .

97 Topinard, op. cit. (46), p. 53.

98 de Quatrefages Armand and Hamy Ernest-Théodore, Crania ethnica: Les crânes des races humaines: Décrits et figurés d'après les collections du Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Paris, de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris et les principales collections de la France et de l’étranger, 2 vols., Paris: J.-B. Baillière et fils., 1882, vol. 1, pp. 508510 ; vol. 2, Figure XC.

99 Broca Paul, ‘Sur la classification et la nomenclature craniologique d'après les indices céphaliques’, Revue d'anthropologie (1872) 1, pp. 385423, 423.

100 Emile Cartailhac was one of the few to point out the potential danger of French scholars’ use of vocabulary derived from French sites for Algerian megaliths and suggested that they would be well advised to adopt Kabyle or Arab terminology for standing stones. Pallary Paul, ‘Les monuments mégalithiques de l'arrondissement de Bel-Abbès’, in Congrès de l'Association française pour l'avancement des sciences. Compte-rendu de la 17e session à Oran en 1888, 2 vols., Paris: AFAS, 1888, vol. 1, pp. 199200 .

101 Dias Nélia, ‘Séries de cranes et armée de squelettes: Les collections anthropologiques en France dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle’, Bulletin et mémoires de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris, nouvelle série (1989) 1(3–4), pp. 203230, 217.

102 Coye, op. cit. (86), pp. 111–112.

103 Camps, op. cit. (16), pp. 15–20. For statistics on the epidemics that took place in Algeria during this period see Frémeaux, op. cit. (36), pp. 209–213.

104 Lorcin, op. cit. (37), pp. 118–119.

105 Topinard, op. cit. (69), pp. 491–498.

106 Abi-Mershed, op. cit. (15), pp. 199–204.

107 Vatin Jean-Claude, L'Algérie politique: Histoire et société, Cahiers de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques 192, Paris: Armand Colin, 1974, pp. 4043 .

108 Coombes Annie E., Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwardian England, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997 .

109 Ironically, given the cavalier manner in which the French treated the excavation of prehistoric sites, Féraud noted that it was superstitious fear that quelled the natural avidity of local inhabitants who left the megalithic monuments in relatively pristine condition. Féraud, op. cit. (27), p. 230.

110 For British appropriation of the Mount Elephant megaliths in Austrialia see McNiven Ian J. and Russell Lynette, Appropriated Pasts: Indigenous Peoples and the Colonial Culture of Archaeology, Lanham, MD: Altamira Press, 2005, pp. 104113 .

111 Kaddache Mahfoud, L'Algérie dans l'antiquité, Algiers: SNED, 1972, pp. 2737 .

112 Brett Michael and Fentress Elizabeth, The Berbers, Oxford: Blackwell, 1996, pp. 1415 .

113 Brett and Fentress, op. cit. (112), pp. 15–17.

114 Fenwick Corisande, ‘Archaeology and the search for authenticity: colonialist, nationalist, and Berberist visions of an Algerian past’, in Fenwick Corisande, Wiggins M. and Wythe D. (eds.), TRAC 2007: Proceedings of the 17th Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2008, pp. 7588 .

Research and writing for this piece were funded by the Rothman Endowment at the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere at the University of Florida, a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend (2013), and a George Kennan Membership at the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, with additional funding provided by the Hetty Goldman Membership Fund (2013–2014). I sincerely thank Richard McMahon for encouraging me to write about race classification, and I am grateful to Matthew Delvaux, Trevor Harris, Richard MacMahon and the anonymous readers for this journal for their helpful feedback. The Bibliothèque centrale du Muséum d'histoire naturelle in Paris provided a very pleasant place to write this essay in the summer of 2015.

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