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African people of caucasoid descent who occupy the Horn of Africa (chiefly Somalia and Ethiopia), the western Sahara, and parts of Algeria and Tunisia. They are believed to be the original settlers of N Africa. The Hamitic cradleland is generally agreed to be in Asia—perhaps S Arabia or possibly an area farther east. The Hamites entered Africa in a long succession of migrations, of which the earliest may have been as far back as the end of the pluvial period. They are commonly divided into two great branches, Eastern and Northern. The Eastern Hamites comprise the ancient and modern Egyptians, the Beja, the Berberines, the OromoOromo
or Galla
, traditionally pastoral tribes who live in W and S Ethiopia and N Kenya. They number more than 25 million. About half are Muslim, about a third Ethiopian Orthodox, and about a sixth Protestant.
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, the Somali, the Danakil, and most Ethiopians. The Northern Hamites include the BerbersBerbers,
aboriginal Caucasoid peoples of N Africa, called Imazighen in the Tamazight language. They inhabit the lands lying between the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea and between Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean.
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 of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, Tunisia, and Algeria; the Berbers of Morocco; the TuaregTuareg
or Touareg
, Berbers of the Sahara, numbering c.2 million. They have preserved their ancient alphabet, which is related to that used by ancient Libyans.
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 and Tibu of the Sahara; the Fulbe of the Western Sudan; and the extinct Guanche of the Canary Islands.
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