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Geographical Notes

Nature volume 36, page 377 | Download Citation



THE Bolleltino della Società Geografica Italiana, for June contains a valuable contribution to the study of the ethnical relations in the Ogoway and Lower Congo basins, by the Cavaliere A. Pecile, who was associated for three years with Count Giacomo di Brazzà in his exploration of the new French protectorate in the equatorial region north of the Congo. All the multifarious tribes of this extensive region, which stretches from the coast inland to the Ubangi affluent of the Congo, are divided into two essentially distinct groups, that is to say (1) the original settled populations, either aborigines in the strict sense of the term, or such as have occupied their present homes from prehistoric times; and (2) those that have made their appearance in comparatively recent times on the Ogoway and Lower Congo continually pressing forward from the interior towards the coast. To the former group belong the Batekes, Adumas, Avumbos, Mbocos, Ondumbos, Mboshi, and many others; to the latter the Bakales, Pauens (Fans), Okandas, and Obambas of the Ogoway, and the Apfurus, Bayanzi, and others of the Congo and its northern affluents. One of the most important results of the auihor's researches is the light that he throws on this mysterious forward movement of the inland tribes, which is not confined to the equatorial regions, but extends almost uninterruptedly northwards to Upper Guinea and Senegambia. Here the chief aggressive populations are the Toucouleurs (mixed Berbers), Fulahs, and Mandingans, all now Mohammedans; in the Ogoway and Congo basins the Bakales, Fans, and Bayanzi, all still pagans, and mostly cannibals. These have already reached the coast at many points, pressing forward from a vast and almost impenetrable forest zone, which stretches from the seaboard eastward probably to the Niam-Niam country in the heart of the continent. But the author believes that he has discovered the very cradle of the fierce Bakale and Fan peoples about the head waters of the Ivindo (2° 30′ N.), where the old settlements still exist whence the first waves of migration flowed westwards. This general westward movement is described as taking place unconsciously, or through a sort of vague instinct attracting the over-crowded inland populations towards the centres of trade on the coast. Their interests naturally impel them in the direction whence come the European commodities so much coveted by all the inland populations. The Bakales appear to have preceded the Fans by many years, their migrations being chiefly directed towards the lagoons of the Lower Ogoway, where they are now settled between the local Galoa and Inenga tribes. The Bayanzi, who have acquired the ascendency along the right bank of the Lower Congo, seem to have come originally from the same regions as the Fans, whom they resemble in physical appearance, character, language, and usages. But while the latter are “land-lubbers,” displaying absolute horror of the water, the Bayanzi have always been great fluvial navigators, so that their original home may have been the Upper Ubangi, slowly advancing down this great artery to its junction with the Congo. In general the settled aborigines are of blacker complexion and more decided Negro type; the intruders much fairer, taller, with more regular features, less woolly hair, more animated and intelligent expression. At the same time they are also more ferocious and very decided cannibals. This point, about which some doubts had been expressed, was confirmed in a startling way by the fate of three Aduma boatmen belonging to the Expedition, who happened to be left behind near a Fan village on the banks of the Ogoway, and whose skeletons were afterwards found carefully picked (diligentemente scarnati) by the villagers. The Fans are continually on the look-out for captives to supply their cannibal feasts, whereas the somewhat more pacific Batekes are anthropophagists rather through the necessity of procuring a flesh diet in their present territory, which is nearly destitute of large game. A chief source of their supplies are the unfortunate slaves, or the humbler members of the tribe, who are denounced by the medicine-men as the cause of any calamity, such as the sickness or death of a chief, and who are always sacrificed and eaten to propitiate the evil spirits, and at the same time to satisfy the craving for human flesh.

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