Courtesy Reuters

The Peoples of Ethiopia

CARLO CONTI-ROSSINI, the greatest living authority on Ethiopian culture and history, has described Ethiopia as a "museum of peoples." For thousands of years diverse peoples have beaten against the ramparts of the Ethiopian highland. Some have passed on, but others have remained to form the ethnographic mosaic that is the empire of Haile Selaissie.

There are numerous difficulties confronting us when we attempt to classify these peoples. In the first place our information is very meagre. There are large areas in Ethiopia where trained anthropologists have never penetrated. The little that they know has led them to disagree among themselves. The layman can consequently be forgiven for being bewildered. Another complication is the fact that some of the peoples are still on the move. This factor, added to the existing high degree of racial and tribal intermixture, only makes confusion worse confounded.

Nevertheless, in spite of these very grave handicaps, it is possible to draw up a rough classification of the peoples of Ethiopia. In doing so care must be taken not to place much reliance on racial distinctions. Race is wholly a physical concept. One's race is determined by the color of the skin, the shape of the nose and lips, the flatness of the hair, the cephalic index, etc. Race has no necessary connection with cultural or geographical or political phenomena.

Racially the Ethiopians are a mixture of white and black, with the emphasis distinctly on the former. True, some students maintain that there is such a thing as an Ethiopian race inhabiting most of Africa east of the Nile between Upper Egypt and Tanganyika. Others hold that there is a Hamitic race to which belong most of the inhabitants of north and northeast Africa. The existence of any such race is denied by most anthropologists. There is, however, a Hamitic group of languages, of which more will be said shortly. This confusion of race with language is one of the commonest errors into which pseudo-scientists can fall. The

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