This paper expresses new views regarding the origin and relatioships of the African Pygmies, based on a study of a small colony at Bundibugyo in Western Uganda which apparently differ in no respect from the Efé Pygmies. Compared with them are the Bwamba, a tribe examined at Bundibugyo and Fort Portal who are found to be pygmoids, of relatively recent hybrid origin from crosses between the Pygmies and forest Negroes. Their intermediate stature and great variability confirm the hybrid origin.
Citation of early literature shows that the Pygmies formerly occupied a much wider area, including the Cameroons, Sierra Leone and probably Liberia in West Africa, where they first came to the attention of Europeans in the 16th Century. The Eastern Pygmies first came to be known about 1870 by expeditions up the Nile into the Azande country where they found the Monbuttu Negroes and the Akka Pygmies. The ancient Egyptians knew the Akka.
The Bambuti Pygmies are now recognized as having three branches, Efé, Basúa and Aká of similar dwarf stature, the differences between them being of minor character. The upper limit for Pygmy stature is generally regarded as 150 cm. Surrounding the Ituri forest Pygmies are many pygmoid tribes of taller stature, produced by miscegenation with the forest Negroes. Groups extend east to the Semliki River and south as far as Lake Kivu and even Lake Bangweolo. The adjacent Negro (Bantu) tribes in these eastern areas show various degrees of hamitization.
Accounts are given of early as well as later European contacts with Pygmy tribes, and of certain groups taken to Europe.
The extensive observations of Schebesta and Gusinde have made the Bambuti Pygmies best known. For these people Gusinde adopts the name Twiden, which may be shortened to Twi. He shows that some of the eastern Pygmies and pygmoids have recently undergone great changes in their manner of life.
The unique symbiotic relations between Pygmies and their Negro overlords are well known. They hunt in the forest for okapi, elephants and other animals, supplying meat to the Negroes, who give them bananas in return. When the banana was introduced to Africa from India is unknown, but there must have been an earlier period when the Pygmies fed themselves, and perhaps lived in open territory northeast of where they now extend. The Singa fossil skull gives possible evidence of such former extension.
The pantropical disease Kwashiorkor, is seen in the Pygmies, the brick-red hair being a symptom. It apparently results from protein deficiency, and especially from a diet of bananas at the time of weaning. The Pygmy teeth and jaws are probably the most pathological to be found in any human race.
Racial mixture with the Negroes is considered. Forest Negroes frequently take a Pygmy wife, whose children become “Negroes”. The Pygmies thus remain pure except for occasional unofficial mixing. The F1 hybrids are intermediate in stature and probably in other characters. They backcross to the Negro and are thus absorbed into that race. A small number of genes, without dominance, for each racial character-difference is probably involved. The Balese and Babira Negroes are much pygmyized.
Study of skin colour in Pygmies, Baambas, Hottentots and Negroes shows that the Gates chart of skin colours is applicable to these races. The Pygmies correspond with No. 3 (mahogany) of the chart, the Baambas (Pygmy X Negro) with No. 2 (dark mahogany), the Hottentot-Bush with No. 4 (yellow), and the Negro with No. 1 (black). Thus the gene R, under which was formely included both black and mahogany, is divided into two – Q representing the black of the Negro, and R representing the mahogany of the Pygmy. S (yellow) and T (brunet) skin are present in the Bush-Hottentot. The full black Negro is then QQRRSSTT, the Pygmy RRSSTT and the Bush-Hottentot SSTT. The colour chart, derived only from Negro-White crosses is thus directly applicable to the other African races.
Certain evolutionary relationships of the Pygmies, Negroes and Bushmen now seem clear. The Pygmies are of ancient origin, with mahogany skin and hairy body. The Negroes have since acquired a black skin by the Q mutation, and their bodies have become hairless by one or more loss mutations. The common ancestor of Pygmy and Negro would be a tall race with the mahogany skin and hairy body of the Pygmies. This race may now be extinct. The Bush, with sallow yellow skin, must have lost the ancestral mahogany gene in addition to their other transformations.
The Pygmy dwarfing is apparently the result of a single gene mutation of essentially achondroplastic type, as suggested in 1946. This kind of mutation is not very uncommon in Negro-tribes (various cases are cited) and Has probably been occurring, like melanism in moths, for thousands of years. Interbreeding of such heterozygous dwarfs would quickly establish a tribe more or less homozygous for the dwarf gene. The Pygmies are then the oldest living race in Africa with the exception of the Bushmen.
The blood groups and sickling of the Pygmies are considered in relation to other African races.
Measurements show that the Pygmy skull is frequently little smaller than that of the Negro, their ranges apparently overlapping, although some Pygmy skulls are very small in dimensions. The cephalic index is higher than that of the Negro in accordance with the small stature, and frequently approaches closely to brachycephaly or overlaps it in the female. In morphology the Pygmy head is ovoid, but skulls are frequently more or less markedly pentagonoid. This suggests a common Boskopoid origin of Pygmies and Bushmen. The Pygmy nose is very primitive and characteristic. Various other morphological features of the skull are considered. The Pygmy teeth and jaws are the worst in any human race, the alveoli being sometimes eroded away completly. This may have a nutritional basis.
The armspan in the living Pygmy exceeds the stature, but the proximal segment of both limbs is relatively very short. The bones of the skeleton are generally smaller in all dimensions than in the tall races, but the head is relatively large, and the same is frequently true of the pelvic girdle. Thus we have a form of achondroplastic dwarfing of mutational origin. Many kinds of dwarfing occur in man, some normal, some pathological. The Pygmy type is one of these but “normal”.