Libyan Portrait

Libyan Portrait

This is a quickly doodled portrait of a tribesman from the Mediterranean coast of Libya who would have been contemporaneous with the ancient Egyptian and Kushite civilizations. These people, who presumably spoke Berber languages like those of the North African Maghreb further west, would have started out as nomadic herders, but later in Egyptian history they grew in number and started settling the Nile Delta in large numbers until they even took over the whole country under Shosenq I in 945 BC. Conventionally Egyptians would portray the Libyans as having fair or light brown skin as they would Middle Easterners as seen in their “table of nations” murals.

The grayish-blue eyes I gave this Libyan tribesman do appear occasionally among Maghrebi Berber-speakers, and it’s my belief that they and other “Caucasian” characteristics in these people reflect distant European ancestry from the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal, which would have been practically a stone’s drop away from the northwestern African coast). Skeletal remains of people living in that area near the end of the last Ice Age (20-10,500 years ago) have yielded Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups, and the tools associated with them additionally resemble those of the Iberian peninsula (hence why the culture is known as Iberomaurusian).

On the other hand, it should be added that after that period, the Sahara would turn to grassy savanna which would have brought these Iberian migrants into contact and intercourse with darker-skinned native Africans who would influence their culture and language. The Berber languages for instance are actually part of a larger linguistic phylum called Afrasan or Afroasiatic which would have originated along the Sudanese/Horn of African coast (most Ethiopian languages as well as ancient Egyptian itself are also classified under Afrasan). Further, according to the skeletal analyses of bio-anthropologist SOY Keita, the people of Northwest Africa during historical antiquity (e.g. ancient Carthaginians) would show a mix of “Caucasian”, African (i.e. Egyptian, Kushite, and West African), and intermediate traits which implies a mixed-race population. Ergo, even though my Libyan tribesman has blue eyes and tawny skin, I wanted his facial features to look intermediate between Africans and Mediterranean Europeans to reflect his people’s “biracial” heritage.


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