Madagascar Anthropology 2

Madagascar Anthropology Part II

In 1896 Duckworth carefully studied three skulls, one from Hova (?), One from Betsileo and the third from Betsimisaraka. His conclusion is that the first bore great resemblance to a Malaysian skull from Borneo, the other two resembled certain skulls from Africa rather than from Melanesia and in particular to cranî macua. The hova skull had a cephalic index of 82.1; the betsimisaraka one of 71, the betsileo 72.4. The respective height indices were 97; 100 ; 100 (?).

Finally, in 1923 Verneau studied 11 coffin skulls, aiming above all to answer the question whether they are more similar to African Negroes or Melanesians. He found a mean horizontal index of 73.2 for males, 72.9 for females and a height index of 73.73 for males of 72.30 for females. Without going into other metric details, we cite his most important conclusions: the Bara differ from the Papuans: 1. for the smaller external volume of the skull, 2. for the greater capacity, 3. for the lower dolichocephaly, 4. for a skull less narrow and less high, 5. for a stronger development of the frontal region and less than the occipital, 6. for a more pronounced platyrrhynia. All these characters, on the other hand, bring the Bara closer to the Negroes of Africa. From these facts he draws the consequence that the Bara constitute an essentially Nigritic population, whose fundamental type would have been altered by the intervention of one or more foreign types. Bara who do not fit into the middle type do not attach themselves to the Melanesians for this reason.

Sera examined a series of about 90 Malagasy skulls of different origins (Sakalavi, Antankar, Merina, Betsileo, Bara, etc.), which are preserved in the natural history museum in Paris, respecting the descriptive facial characters. Now, the majority of these skulls have characters of the type from Sera called melanesoid (see physiognomy, XV, p. 489 ff.), Some of them could indeed pass for Tasmanians as indeed many physiognomies on the living are clearly Tasmanian. Over a dozen of them more or less belong to the Ethiopian type, which seems to be the most frequent immediately after the melanesoid. The Atlanto-Indico would come next with 6-7 cases.

According to JUSTINSHOES, the negritoid and declared nigrizio types appear very rare. All in all, therefore, true “black” facial descriptive characters are quite rare, thus confirming Grandidier’s descriptions for the living. A good number of these skulls have intermediate characters between the three types mentioned above. The well-manifested Malesoid type is present only in one case (# 10.642) and in two other cases it appears somewhat obscured.

Most of the authors who have dealt with the races of Madagascar, more or less superficially in general (including Mariano, 1613; Frobenville, 1840; Waitz, 1840; Palleu, 1868; Zannetti, 1880; Quatrefages and Hamy, 1882; Hartmann, 1886; Zaborowski, 1897), following the most immediate suggestions, resulting from the proximity of Africa and the approximate external appearance of the Malagasy, admitted an African origin. Ferrand, on linguistic data, would date this immigration before the Christian era.

Only for the Merina andriana is an Asian origin admitted by all and in particular from Java. A. Grandidier was the first, in 1872, to oppose this opinion and asserted an Indo-Melanesian immigration, much earlier than Malay immigration and many centuries before Christ. According to a phrase still in use in French anthropology, the Malagasy would be connected with the “Eastern Negroes” rather than with the “Westerners” (of Africa). The same Quatrefages and Hamy, who previously supported the African origin, would later convert to the ideas of A. Grandidier.

According to Sera, the crux of the controversy lies in the idea that we must make relations between “Western Negroes” and “Eastern Negroes”. He says it might even be preferable to drop the word “Negro”. The color of the skin dark to black and the woolly hair, in a spiral, unite people, whose relationships, for the rest of the physical characteristics, are sometimes very distant. There are many facts that suggest that the so-called Whites had a dark complexion and strongly curly, if not coiled hair. The Negritos and the Melanesians, united in the concept of Grandidier, represent distinct types. The same must be said for the Indians of India prior to Grandidier united with them. But, even more the “Occidentāli Negroes”

It is worthy of being noted as a naturalist of the beginning of the century. XIX, the Lesson, observed that the Papuans have the greatest resemblance to the Negro Caffro-Malagasy and seem to come from a post-oceanic (African) migration. The Lesson places the Tasmanians as a second variety of the Kaffro-Malagasy branch after the Papuans. Sera believes that these Lesson’s ideas on the African origin of the melanesoid type are still valid today and represented a truly great anticipation, which only a zoologist could conceive.

However, according to Sera, there are some difficulties in admitting that a type with melanesoid facial characters, coming from Africa, was the first occupant of the soil of Madagascar. In fact, we have seen how the hair of the Malagasy is not of the pure melanesoid type, as is found for example. in New Britain where the type is exempt from suspicious crosses with the Polynesians, as it is in other archipelagos.

The stiff, hard and vertically implanted hair suggests some remote crossroads with, if not really Mongolian, Mongolian populations, like the Polynesians themselves. Other characteristics that we have seen, such as the eye on the skin, the tendency to fold, still involve this hypothesis. On the other hand, it has been seen that the Malaysian type is characterized by rather fine hair, while the Malay facial characters are very rare. The presence on the island of the Malay type cannot be invoked to explain the non-melanesoid characters, which we have now recalled in the Malagasy. Sera believes it is legitimate to suppose on the island’s soil a Polynesian type, preceding the melanesoid and that those Mongolian characters from the south (Antandroy and Mahafaly) are only attributable to Chinese immigrants, of which we have no historical evidence, they can be attributed to a very ancient Polynesian-type population, largely submerged. According to Sera, all this would result in the need for new research, especially in certain areas, such as the extreme SW. and like the mountain and wooded belt that extends to the East. of the central plateau, regions where it is likely that the residues of the more archaic types of the island are better preserved.

Madagascar Anthropology 2

About the author