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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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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Michael Greenhalgh , The Military and Colonial Destruction of the Roman Landscape of North Africa, 1830–1900, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2014

Patricia Lorcin , ‘Rome and France in Africa: recovering colonial Algeria's Latin past’, French Historical Studies (2002) 25(2), pp. 295329

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David Armitage , The Ideological Origins of the British Empire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000

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

Gilles Boetsch and Jean-Noël Ferrie , ‘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

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

M. Simonot , ‘Rapport sur le prix Ernest Godard’, Bulletins de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris (1865) 6, pp. 299332, 325332

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

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

Nélia Dias , ‘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

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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