Somalis - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries



Historic Encyclopedias on the Somali : Herder 1854-1858, Pierer 1857-1865, Anskjaer 1858-1863, Meyer 1885-1892, Nordisk Familjebok 1876, Meyer 1902-1909



Herders Conversations-Lexikon 1854-1858, Article : Somalis
Somalis, Somaulis, see Adel and Ajan
source in German, posted by Zeno

Pierer's Universal-Lexikon 1857-1865, Article : Somauli
People in the eastern part of Afrika, a people of mixed descent, which seems to descend from the Gallas and forms a transition between the Semitic branch of the Caucasian race and the Negro race. Their stature is tall and slim, the colour of skin black-red, the forehead high, but narrow, the nose short, the mouth large, the lips thick, the eye small and dark. The clothing consists of two pieces of cotton wrapped around the body, and of sandals. All Somalis go armed with spear and shield (or bow and arrow) and a dagger-knife. Household work is allocated to the women. Religion is Islam, but among all tribes, most of which live along the coast, it is limited to a few outward rituals. Occupation in the interior is agriculture and livestock keeping, on the coast fishery. The Somalis are divided in three large families : the Somali-Adschi, the Somali-Hauija and the Somali-Rahhan'uin. The branch Mejertin, belonging to the Somali-Adschi, which lives in the far northeast, is regarded the most prestigious; their ruler uses the title Sultan. Capital of the Somali is Berbera.
source in German, posted by Zeno

Anskjaer, Geografisk-Statistisk Haandbog 1858-1863, Article : Somali
is the name of a people in East Africa, after whom commonly the entire country is called. In the past the land south of the Gulf of Aden used to be called Adel, and from Cape Guardafui on further to the south used to be called Ajan or Adschan. The land is little known, as the Somalians, although divided in various tribes, seem to agree in not permitting Europeans access to the country's interior. On the northeastern coast are located the ports Berbera and Zeila.
source in Danish, posted by Project Runeberg

Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 1885-1892, Article : Somal
Somal, plural Somali, a large tribal people belonging to the Ethiopian branch of the Hamites, living on the eastern Horn of Africa east of the Galla and south of the Danakil from beyond the Dschubb until the Tana. They are divided in three independent tribes, the Adschi of Tadjoura on the Gulf of Aden until Cape Guardafui, the Hawijah on the coast of the Indian Ocean until the city of Obbia, and the Rahanwin to the west of the Hawijah between Dschubb and Webbi. The ethnographic position of the Somali is not yet certain, it seems to be a people of mixed descent, in which physical characteristics indicate the dominance of the North East African type, but also indicate an approximation toward the Semitic type. Without doubt they are relatives of the Ethiopians and the Galla. As fanatic Muslims they are proud of Arab descent. Noteworthy is steatopygia which Revoil observed to be more frequent among Somali women. They let their hair grow long, dye it red with chalk, in the interior wigs of sheepskin are worn. The number of Somali, estimated at 5 million, is not known, as the core of the country so far has only been visited by the Briton L. James and his associates. The language of the Somali belongs to the Ethiopian (southern) branch of the Hamitic family of languages, (described by Prätorius (in vol.24 of the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1870, Hunter, Somal-Grammatik, Bombay 1880). The Somali do not have a script. The character of the people differs depending on their lifestyle. The Bedouin Somali are passionate, treachorous and cruel, the inhabitants of larger places instead comparatively educated, all are proud, freedom-loving, in general enemies of foreigners, and mostly live in monogamy; slaves are not frequent. Among children of both genders one finds circumcision, girls until marriage is sewn-up. The girl selects the man, who has to pay his father in law for her. The women have to do all the work. As clothing skins used to be worn, now a cotton cloth similar to the Abyssinian shama is used. The women wear hoses, sandals are frequent. As weapons are used lances, round shields, knives, in the south also swords, further bows and poisoned arrows. The houses, in the cities are made from stone and bricks, in the countryside from clay and straw mats, the nomadising Somali live in tent-like huts. Their nourishment consists in the meat of their herds, of sorghum, maize, of milk, butter, imported dates and rice. Pork and alcoholic spirits are forbidden. As domesticated animals, camels, cattle (zebu), sheep, goats, horses, donkeys are kept. Occasionally, elaphants, rhinocerosses, buffalo, antilopes, ostriches are hunted. The dead are highly respected. The tribes are under chieftains, who have litle power. Society is divided in three classes : the Saladin (the wealthy and office-holders), the Barkele (Bedouin) and the Mödgan (iron workers, they are regarded as magicians, and as suspicious),. The Tomal are a kind of serfs; they serve as herdsmen, camel riders. Regarded as kind of gypsies, despised, but feared because of their spells, are the Jibbir. Among all blood revenge is practiced.
The Somal- or Somaliland consists of a narrow sandy stretch of coast, which on the northern side has several ports (Zeila, Bulhar, Berbera, Las Gori, all in British possession, further on the eastern horn Bender Felek, Ras Felek), while the eastern coast is completely without port until tose in possession of Zanzibar : Warscheich, Mogduschu, Merka, Barawa, Kismayu. The interior is a wide plateau interrupted by individual elevated ridges, which partially consists of large stretches of desert with a hard ground. The rivers crossing the country are dry for most of the year, only the Dschubb has water year round and even is navigable up to Bardera, where von Decken was murdered; the next important Webi does not reach the sea. On the highland the Tug Dehr and Tug Faf are to be mentioned because of their fertile valleys. The high temperature of the coastal stretch is much mildened by the sea winds; on the highland, the minimum temperature is 8 degrees, the maximum temperature 32 degrees Celsius. Mimosas, Calotropis procera, Euphorbias and Koloquints charakterize the vegetation of the lowland, while in the highland frankincense trees, all kinds of rubber plants, candlestick euphorbias, in the area on the Webi also the baobab tree thrive. Among the local fauna are wandering locusts, large poisonous ants, many bees, hippopotamusses and crocodiles, ostriches, all African cats, large herds of antilopes, the zebra and the wild donkey. See : Haggenmacher, Reise im Somaliland (Gotha 1876); Revoil, La vallee du Darror. Voyage au pays Çomalis (Paris 1882); Revoil, Faune et flore des pays Çomalis (Paris 1882); Paulitschke, Beiträge zur Ethnographie und Anthropologie der Somali, Galla und Harari (Leipzig 1886); James, The unknown horn of Africa (London 1888).

source in German, posted by Zeno

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Article : Somali (1891)
People in Somaliland, which is located on the east coast of Africa and named after them; it stretches from Cape Guardafui to the equator and is bordered in the north, east and south by the Bay of Aden and the Indian Ocean, in he west by the territories of the Afar or Danakil and the Galla. The Somali belong to the Ethiopian branch of the Hamitic race and are related with the Galla, Danakil and other people. The people divide in two main groups, the Isak and the Darode. Of the various tribes, the Habr-gerhadji are the most powerful. They are tall, have woolly hair, their skin colour varies from black to light brown, but have Caucasian facial features. Intelligent, lively and warlike, they are rather keen in the maintenance of their independence. They confess to Islam. Most of them live nomadic lifestyle, but among them farmers do exist. A lively trade in skins, ostrich feathers, coffee etc. is conducted, mainly by Hindus and Arabs. The Somalis themselves believe to be of Arab descent. European contact with them began at the time of the British conquest of Aden (1839). Since 1885 they are in part under Britain, in part under France, in part under the protection of the German East African Society. The port of Berbera, since 1875 occupied by Egypt, in 1884 was conquered by the British. See under Somali language.
source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg


Meyers Grosses Konversations-Lexikon 1902-1909, Article : Somal
Somal, plural Somali, a tribal people belonging to the Ethiopian branch of the Hamites, geographically separated from the Galla, living on the eastern Horn of Africa until the Dschubb and Tana. According to Paulitschke the basis is formed by the Galla, who intermingled with Arabs who immigrated between the 6th and 16th century, and perhaps also with Negroes. they have been strongly blended with other elements (most notably in the region of Ogaden). The legacy of Arab descent is unmistakable in the curved nose, the lengthy face, the finely cut mouth and the long, curly hair, but also Negroid features are found. The Somalis are divided in a large number of independent tribes (Rer or Fakida) under rather powerless chieftains, who are united only for the purpose of military campaigns. One can distinguish three large groups : Rahanuine (Rahanwihn), between Webi Schebeli and Dschubb, Hawijah on the left bank of the Webi Schebeli from the Indian Ocean to the Ogaden, and Hawijah Haschija (Adschi) in the northeastern part, among whom the Medschurtin, Gadabursi and Issa (Eissa) are the most important. Dispersed and despised live among them the Jebir, Achdam, Rami and Tomal, perhaps the original population of the country, according to others splinters of people who, according to Paulitschke, are related to African pygmies. Slaves are known only in the central and southern part of the country, where they are treated with exceptional cruelty. The number of the Somalis is extimated at maximum 1 3/4 million (according to newer calculations not even 1 million; according to Paulitschke 2.1 million); for the most important tribe, the Gadaburs, Paulitschke estimates 25,000; they numbers increase toward the north. They are fanatic Muslims. The language of the Somali belongs to the Ethiopian (southern) branch of the Hamitic family of languages, but contains Semitic, and perhaps other, elements. Grammars were provided by Prätorius (in vol.24 of the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1870, Hunter, Bombay 1880, A.W. Schleicher, Berlin 1892, and Kirk, London 1905. See Reinisch, Die Somalisprache, Wien 1900-1903, 3 parts, texts, dictionary, grammar). Somali is mostly written in Arab script, as knowledge of the Arab language is rather widely spread among the Somalis. The Bedouin Somali are passionate, treachorous and cruel, the inhabitants of larger places instead comparatively educated, all are proud, freedom-loving, in general enemies of foreigners, and mostly live in monogamy. Among children of both genders one finds circumcision, among the girls until marriage infibulation. Only those men who have killed a man are allowed to marry. The girl selects the man, who has to pay his father in law for her. The women have to do all the work. As clothing a cotton cloth similar to the Abyssinian shama is used. The women wear hoses, sandals are frequent. As weapons are used lances, dagger-knives, shields, bows, poisoned arrows, in the south also swords. The houses, in the cities are made from stone and bricks, in the countryside from clay and straw mats, the nomadising Somali live in tent-like huts. Their nourishment consists of milk and fat, rarely meat. To them, as Muslims, pork and alcoholic spirits are forbidden. As domesticated animals, camels, cattle (zebu), sheep, goats, horses, donkeys are kept. The dead are highly respected. In newest times (1899-1902) essays by Neumann, von Erlanger, Graf Wickenburg, scattered in a series of magazines, have presented new information.
See Paulitschke, Beiträge zur Ethnographie und Anthropologie der Somalis, Galla und Harari, 2nd ed. Leipzig 1888, Ethnographie Nordostafrikas, Berlin 1893-1896, 2 vols., Ferrand, Les Çomalis, Paris 1903, and references under the article Galla.

source in German, posted by Zeno




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First posted on March 9th 2009

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