Peoples and Cultures
Hamyan Bedouin: The Phantom People
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
From time to time a query arises about the identity of a North African ethnic entity found in some list as "Hamyan Bedouin." It is usually old lists that are the source of this puzzlement. But sometimes the name is found in current sources, though not the mainstream of research.
The question arises again because some new researcher has found this entry for the first time, and is trying to verify this name or find some entity in Algeria that might be intended by this old entry under this name. They can't find anything, and no current body of ethnic information on North Africa can identify this entity.
North African Focus
I was part of an international research team reviewing all the ethnic entities of the Northern African countries in 2000. I was living at the time in Cyprus, working with a media production and research company called Geolink, which was involved in various projects in the Middle East and Africa. It was, in fact, this company that produced the Sports Encyclopedia for the Government of the Sudan. They also conducted a market research survey and analysis for Shell Oil in Egypt.
Anyway, the research group was an informal consortium of ethnic researchers called the North Africa Research Team. This group of professional, experienced researchers, some living in countries of North Africa, worked together to gather and review data on North African peoples. One participant was a linguistic specialist in Berber languages.
The Hidden Hamyan
We attempted to review all data available to us from our various networks and sources. A joint report was developed, using email conferencing. The final report was dated December 2000. The name "Hamyan Bedouin" was universally determined to be an erroneous entry, and it was so reported in the final report of this group, which was circulated to their various networks. A review was made of all the Berber and other North African entities.
These researchers, of disparate ethnic and professional background and affiliations, agreed that this was an ancient error of some kind. We had extensive discussions about this name and various possibilities, as we reviewed the whole people group list for North African countries.
Earlier research by a researcher on the ground, whom I know personally, had also included an extensive investigation into this name. He lived in Algeria, and researched the ethnic groups of the country and surrounding region personally. I read his report and talked with him personally about this question.
He investigated local sources and all available published sources. He reported to me his frustration and final conclusion that this was simply an erroneous entry for the past. No one I have every consulted with about this has even any idea where the entry on "Hamyan Bedouin" originally came from.
We cannot find any historical reference that might explain an early use of this term in some colonial or traditional body of knowledge. Yet this entry has been taken up and repeated uncritically in numerous databases, and even today continues to appear in some sources. Yet, there is no basis in concrete evidence, current or historical, that can identify this term with anything in the real world!
We could find no indication that this name related to any identifiable entity in the region. It appeared to be possibly confused with the Algerian Arabs themselves (who are a genetic mix of Arab and Bedouin, with some early Gothic contributions). The entity was removed from lists at that time.
All currently identified ethnicities have been accounted for. And the population of Algeria is fully accounted for in the populations of the various identified ethnicities.
I could find no instance of its use in history other than in the early data list that had been published by Dr David Barrett in the data set underlying the original World Christian Encyclopedia. I can only surmise that some confusion led to the entry of the name into that data list and it was not discovered before publication.
Perhaps it was in some now-hidden source Barrett used, that was thought at the time to be reliable. But we have not been able to find anything like that in historical sources available to us.
The name Hamyan Bedouin should not be used as a reference for any current people group. There is great doubt that it was ever a valid entry.
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Originally addressed in an email conference with researchers and database managers 25 April 2006
This article written 1 December 2007
Posted on OJTR 3 December 2007
Orville Boyd Jenkins, Ed.D., Ph.D.
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.