Rural Ritual Games in Libya (Berber Baseball and Shinny)

This is the oft-referenced but little-read article by Italy’s Corrado Gini (1884-1965), a professor of sociology, statistics, and demography who was the editor of Genus, in which Per Maigaard’s article (the previous post in this space) appeared in 1941. Gini was also a leading Fascist theorist and ideologue who was a proponent of eugenics; his organicist theories of nations and their natality and degeneracy mirrored his belief in racialism.  In 1927 he  published The Scientific Basis of Fascism. Two years later, Gini founded the Italian Committee for the Study of Population Problems, for which Genus became the official journal. While Gini became best known for his statistical and demographic studies, it is this startling paper that has earned for him an enduring place in the study of baseball origins.


Rural Ritual Games in Libya (Berber Baseball and Shinny) 

Corrado Gini* 

Source: Rural Sociology, Vol. 4, No. 3; Columbia, Mo.: Rural Sociological Society; September 1939, pp. 283-299.


The article gives detailed information about two games (Om el mahag and Kura) played by the Berber tribes of the Gebel Nefusa which were studied and filmed during a scientific expedition of the Italian Committee for the study of population problems. Om el mahag seems to be played only by the said Berber tribes and may be described as an elementary Baseball. Kura is played all over Libya, Algeria, and Morocco; and, when it is played with a stick, is very similar to the American Shinny; when played with the foot, it is like Football. The article establishes three series of analogous games: (1) Om el mahag, Rounders, Baseball, and O’ Cat; (2) Kura (played with a stick), Soule a la crosseHockey, and Shinny; (3) Kura (played with the foot), Soule au pied, Football, and Calcio, and examines the possible explanations of their similarities showing the difficulty of an explanation in terms of diffusion or autonomous evolution and suggesting a more plausible explanation in terms of vestigials. According to the latter explanation, the analogous games played now in North Africa and America would be survivals or local developments from ancient games prevailing over much larger areas of the old world, whence they have been later imported, in a more or less modified form, in the new one. Several circumstances and considerations suggest that Kura and Om el mahag were connected in the past with spring rain rites.

As President of the Italian Committee for the study of population problems, I directed in September-October of 1937 a first scientific expedition formed for studying the remains of blondness still found among the Berbers of Libya. The tribes of Jadum and neighborhood in the Gebel Nefusa were the objects of the inquiry. This expedition, like those previously organized by the same Italian Committee,[1] made use, in studying the individuals examined, of a demographic questionnaire for each family and of two individual cards, one for anthroprometric and the other for medico-biological data, so drawn up as to allow for collecting in full detail all necessary information. Photographs in three positions were also taken of each subject examined, as well as the outline and imprints of hands and feet, a dental chart and a specimen of hair. For a certain number of individuals an examination was made of basic metabolism, blood pressure, vital capacity. Urine analyses and some plaster casts of faces were also taken.

Detailed information of an ethnographical and economic description was also collected. Some of the games played by the Berbers of the Gebel Nefusa are interesting and we took films of two of them [might these survive?–JT] . Both of these games are played with a ball. One is called Ta kurt na rrod (the ball of the goal) and is very similar to the American “Shinny.” The other is called Ta kurt om el mahag (the ball of the pilgrim’s mother) or, more commonly, Om el mahag (the pilgrim’s mother) and may be described as an elementary Baseball. Berber Shinny is played all over Libya, Algeria, and Morocco by the Arabophone and Berberophone populations. Berber Baseball, on the other hand, according to the statement of the Berbers of Jadum, is played only by the Berber tribes of the Gebel Nefusa. First, let me discuss baseball.

The playing field consists of a level space without special boundaries other than those designated by home and one other base. In a shady spot in the middle of one side, a home base consisting of a rectangle about twelve feet in length is marked by stone or other signposts at its external limits. In front of the home base, some seventy to ninety feet away, a running base, called El Mahag, is marked. The game uses only one base like American “One O’ Cat.”

The game is played by two teams of equal numbers, each under a captain (sciek). The players choose two captains. Then the other men distribute themselves by couples and a man is assigned from every couple to each captain by chance. The number of players may vary from three to twenty on each side, but the usual number is six. The batting team (A) strikes the ball in batting order with a bat, sending it as far off as possible, so that the other members of the team may have time to run from home to the mahag and, if possible, back again. The men of the fielding team (B) try to prevent this by catching the ball as it flies, or by picking it up from the ground and throwing it to hit a member of the batting team as he runs from the gate to the mahag or back. When a team bats, it is called “marksmen” (darraba), and when it fields it is called “hunters” (fajadah).

Lots are drawn at the beginning of the game to see which of the two teams bats first.

Figure 1 shows the arrangement of the teams when the game starts.

The batting team stands in full strength along the homebase; the batter in front, bat in hand, is faced at a distance of six to eight feet by the captain of the catching team who pitches the ball for his opponent to strike on the fly. The distance between pitcher and batter is such that the batter with outstretched arm can touch with the end of his bat the ball which the pitcher also holds at arm’s length. The mode of pitching makes it easy for the batter to hit the ball as it does not seem to be part of the game to strike out the batter. Before any batting is begun, the pitcher and the batter take the right distance and throw the ball back and forth several times, to make it easy for the batter to hit the ball. No catcher is used.

The leather covered ball is the size of the American baseball, but is not so hard. The bat is an olive branch which has been slightly curved by exposure to the heat of a fire, followed by slow drying. It is about three feet in length, somewhat flattened to about three fingers broad on the striking end.

In the batting order, the best batters are generally kept for the last and the captain ends the list of his team. The ball is always pitched by the captain of the fielding team. At first each member of the batting team is entitled to two strikes, the captain to three. When a batter misses all the strikes to which he is entitled, he withdraws to a corner, near one of the stones marking the limits of the home base, and hands the bat to the next man. He is then said to be “rotten” or to be set aside to “grow mouldy.” Should all the batters miss all the strikes to which they are entitled, the inning would be lost by the batting team (A), and the fielding team (B) goes to bat. It is, however, very unusual for all to miss. Like One O’Cat, no account of score is kept. The fun lies in keeping the bat as long as possible. As a matter of fact, a distinct advantage accrues to the batting team, as the members have much time to stand quiet in the shade, while the men in the field have to stand or run in the sun.

As soon as the ball is hit, all members of the batting team who have already batted (including also the “rotten” ones) run to the mahag. Sliding to the mahag is usual, as sliding into base in American Baseball. However, since the Berber merely has to avoid being hit by the ball and does not have to be touched by a baseman as in Baseball, he often slides and rolls into the mahag sideways. On reaching the mahag the men of the batting team generally stop, shouting out “mahag, mahag“; if, however, they have time, they run back to the home base, shouting all the time and mocking their opponents. The player who succeeds in running to the mahag and back is entitled, if he has not yet batted, to one more strike. Then a member of the batting team is entitled to three strikes and the captain to four. The batter does not always follow his comrades in making the run to the mahag. He must do so after the last strike to which he is entitled, but after other strikes he only runs when the blow he has given has been a very heavy one so that he thinks he has hit a “home run.”

Meantime the fielding team (B) has placed its men back or aside of the mahag or running base. They come nearer or spread out according to the strength of the batter. They try to catch the ball as it flies past or else pick it up from the ground as swiftly as possible. If the ball is caught in the air the inning finishes with the victory to the fielding team (B), which now goes to bat. If the ball is picked up, the picker tries to hit one of his opponents who is running to or from the mahag. If he succeeds, the fielding team run immediately to the home base, because a member of the batting team (A) may pick up the ball and hit one of the fielders with it. If he does so and saves himself on the mahag or on the home base, the earlier advantage to the fielding team (B) is forfeited. It is easier to reach the mahag than to make a home run in one hit. It generally requires two strikes for reaching the mahag and returning home. This explains why the batter only runs to the mahag either after the last hit to which he is entitled, or, in exceptional cases, after he has struck what he thinks is a home run. Sometimes the batter is mistaken in his estimate, so that, after having reached the mahag, he has insufficient time to return to home base. Then, if the batter is not the captain of the team, the next member of the batting team (A), takes the bat. If the batter is the captain, who always bats last, there is no following man to bat. In that circumstance, the captain of the batting team (A) takes a three-step lead from the mahag, and tries to steal home while a man of the fielding team (B), tries to hit him. If the captain of the batting team (A) is not touched by the ball, the inning is continued for the batting team (A), and the batting order begins again. If, on the contrary, the captain of the batting team (A) is touched by the ball, and no successful retaliation is made, as described above, the side is out and the fielding team (B) goes to bat.

The men do not use mitts, but catch the ball in their bare hands.

When a fielded ball is thrown and hits one of the members of the batting team (A), and the advantage is not forfeited, as above, the whole of the field team (B) gathers round the mahag, except the captain who goes to bat. The opposing team (A) then goes to the field and its captain pitches. Should the B captain who now has to hit the ball, miss it thrice, then the advantage accruing to the B team now gathered round the mahag is forfeited. In that case, the B team retires to the field while the A bats again. But should the B captain hit a fair ball, which is uncaught, his men, gathered round the mahag, try to run home. If they succeed without being hit by the ball which their opponents have picked up, the former fielding team (B) becomes the batting team. Should they not succeed in this, their advantage is forfeited and the teams resume their respective position.

If the pitcher, having the ball in his hand, or catching or picking it up in the neighborhood of the home base, sees one of the men of the batting team outside the home base and the mahag, he can throw the ball and, if he succeeds in touching the man off base and no successful retaliation is made, the inning is for the field team which now goes to bat.

When playing at ball, whether Om el mahag or Ta kurt na rrod, the Berbers take off their barracans.[2] Does this have a ritual significance or is it merely a concession to the freedom of movements necessary to the play? The last explanation seems obvious; but it is advisable to remark that the Berbers otherwise never remove their barracans. It may be interesting also to note that, in the formation of the teams, words are used that have no meaning for the Berbers of today. Probably they represent ancient vestigial words of which only the sound is remembered. To the possible ritual significance of the game I shall return later.

As I have already said, Om el mahag, according to the Berbers of Jadum, is a traditional game characteristic of Gebel Nefusa, as it is not now played in any other part of North Africa. I have indeed found no reference to it in any of the publications I have been able to consult which speak of Arab and Berber games and more especially of Ta kurt na rrod. Not even the Arabophone tribes of the Malechite religion who surround the Berberophone and Hybadite tribes of Jadum, with whom they have most of their customs in common, and who would seem to have the same ethnical origin, seem to know Om el mahag.

Thus Om el mahagsubstantially resembles American Baseball. In both are found two opposing teams, each led by a captain; a base, the touching of which makes the player safe; the catching of the ball in mid-air; the throwing of the ball, by the men of the fielding team, when picked up from the ground, or by the pitcher, at the opponents who are not at the base. Innings, forced runs, base stealing, and most of the other key situations in American baseball are also found. The objects with which the game is played are similar, the ball and bat. The tasks assigned the two teams are fundamentally the same. Baseball is, in some respects, much more elaborate, but this, as is known, is due to relatively recent regulations. The chief differences from the structural point of view are the presence, in Baseball, of the catcher, who is lacking in Om el mahag, and the use of three bases–besides the home plate–instead of one. More important are the functional differences which make Baseball much more complicated and difficult to play, more violent and more strictly regulated than Om el mahag. Essential among these differences are the importance which pitching the ball has in Baseball, the effort to make it difficult for the batter to hit the ball, the consequent importance of the pitcher, and the fact that his function is independent of that of the captain of the team, and also, on the other hand, the difficulty of the task assigned to the batter, increased by the round shape of the bat. The greater violence of the game entails the need of masks, mitts and protectors, and the presence of umpires.

It should however be noted that at one time there was no umpire and no masks, mitts or protectors. And in many other particulars the old game of Baseball, before the introduction of the rules a century ago, was much more like Om el mahag. The bat was flat as in that game, no special tricks were used in throwing the ball so as to make it more difficult for the batter to strike it. The batter could hit the ball twice without running to the base; he was only required to run after the third hit. On the other hand, Om el mahag is complicated by the principle of retaliation which is not generally found in sand-lot and early Baseball.

How are these similarities to be explained? Three suppositions seem possible. The game may have been borrowed by one people from another. This hypothesis is not, however, easily acceptable. It is difficult to see how an American or an Anglo-Saxon can have imported the game from the Berbers of the Gebel Nefusa. It is no less difficult to suppose that the Berbers, of the Gebel Nefusa have in past centuries imported their game from America or Great Britain, The supposition of independent origin and the convergence of the two games also seems difficult to accept, in view of the marked and detailed similarities between the two complex games. If the games were simple they could more easily have an independent origin.

The remaining supposition is that of a common origin. I do not mean of course a common origin between Om el mahag and the present game of Baseball, which, it is known, was organized about a hundred years ago in America. Rather, the common origin would be between Om el mahag and an ancestor of baseball.

“Town-ball” is looked on as the immediate predecessor of Baseball, and some of the characteristic features of that game resemble Om el mahag even more than Baseball. One of these characteristics is the undetermined number of the members of the teams, which sometimes rose to fifteen or more on each side. Another is the position of the batter, who is placed in the middle of one side of the square, instead of in a corner of the so-called diamond.

A still more distant ancestor of Baseball is, in the opinion of some authorities, the game of “Rounders,” still played in England, but which is also held to be of comparatively recent origin, dating no further back than the eighteenth century, and not attaining any popularity before 1800.

In both Town-Ball and Rounders, the ball can be struck in all directions as in Cricket. So, from this point of view, Om el mahag resembles more closely the present game of Baseball than it does the games from which Baseball would be derived. Both in Town-Ball and Rounders the running bases are four, whereas in Om el mahagthere is one running base only. But, on the other hand, it is well known that in the early days of Baseball the number was not always fixed, and although when it was not four, it was generally a higher number, we cannot exclude the possibility that in a previous period it may have been a lower one. Some consider that Town-Ball is a development of a group of games called “O’ Cat,” still played by American boys, of which there are four kinds; “One O’ Cat,” “Two O’ Cat,” “Three O’ Cat,” and “Four O’ Cat,” according to the number of bases. At each base there is a batter and a catcher. Besides these, in early “One O’ Cat” there was also a pitcher, whereas in the others the catcher of one base also acts as pitcher to the others, and the men at each base form a team which plays on its own against the others. The closer analogies existing from many points of view between Town-Ball and Rounders than between Town-Ball and O’ Cat make it difficult however to accept the hypothesis which has perhaps arisen from the desire of Americans to trace back the origin of their national game to American rather than to English sources. The analogies found between Town-Ball, Rounders, and Om el mahag, make it seem still more likely that Town-Ball does not descend from O’ Cat, but rather that O’ Cat is a more simple form of Town-Ball which enabled boys to play the game.[3]

It seems to me very likely that Baseball is the result of the development (and perhaps partly of the reorganization) of a preexisting Anglo-Saxon or Celtic game. If we are to accept its common origin with Om el mahag, we should therefore have to admit a common ancestor for both games, which had spread over a very wide area covering Great Britain[4] and the Gebel Nefusa, and which then gradually became restricted to those two countries, or which, although at first spread over a smaller area, was afterwards imported in the Gebel Nefusa, in a form more or less closely resembling the present game, as it was also imported into America. To accept this hypothesis we should have to admit (and this is not difficult) that the game dates back to much earlier times than it is generally supposed.

As to the sub-hypothesis of importation, it will not be out of place to recall that there is a blond strain among the Berbers, more especially among the Berbers of the Gebel Nefusa. This blond strain probably descends from light-complexioned people who have gradually lost their characteristic pigmentation. Abundant documentary and other evidence bears witness to their existence and their increasing importance as we go backwards through the centuries up to some thousands of years before our era.[5] The study of the remaining relics of this strain was indeed the purpose, as it has already been stated, of the expedition organized by the Italian Committee for the study of population problems. Many believed that the blond Libyans came from the North, or at least from Europe, and we might then inquire whether they brought with them this game, now known only to one of the strongholds of their race, where there are good reasons for believing that anthropological and ethnical miscegenation has been less important than elsewhere. In this case, we should have to admit that the game is a very ancient one, and that in recent times, through Rounders in England and subsequently Town-Ball and Baseball in America, it has been better organized and has acquired or, better, reacquired popularity.

In any case, the substantial analogies between Baseball and Om el mahag are undeniable. The reader can explain them, according to his inclination, by one or other of the suppositions above set forth.

Now some words on the other ball game: Ta kurt na rrod, or Berber Shinny. At Jadum the rules of the game are as follows: The playing field is an extensive level, 300 or 400 feet in length, rectangular in shape, the shorter sides of the rectangle forming the two gates or goals. Two teams, of equal strength, varying from ten to sixty players, compete. Each player is armed with a hooked stick twenty to thirty inches in length according to his stature.

The ball is the same as that used in Om el mahag.

At the beginning of the game, the ball is put in a hole at the center of the field and covered with sand. Two men, one from each team, play center, and, at a given signal, try with alternate strokes to extract the ball from the hole and send it towards the goal of the opponent team.[6] The other men are scattered between the center and their own goal, each team striving to push the ball through the opponents’ goal. If one team succeeds, the inning is gained, and the teams change sides.

The winning team has the privilege of the first stroke in the following inning. In the initial inning, lots decide which of the two teams strikes first. The ball cannot be pushed by hand or feet, but only handled with the stick. It is permitted, however, to pick up the ball from the ground, throw it in the air and, when in the air, to bat it with the stick towards the opponents’ goal; but this possibility is not easy to realize and becomes more difficult as the players become more numerous.

There is no captain; a goalman or back (sometimes two or three of them) has charge of defending the goal for each team. Dribbling is practiced by experienced players. It is not permitted to turn the back to the men of the opponent team, thus preventing them from reaching the ball.

The play is not without danger: the stick often hits the legs instead of the ball. Therefore adults play only adults, and boys play those of their own ages.[7] No leg protectors however are used. The positions of the teams at the starting of the game are represented by Figure 2.

As Om el mahag closely parallels the elaborate Baseball, so Ta kurt na nod parallels the elaborate Hockey. There is however the difference that Baseball developed in America, while Hockey had its rules established in England about half a century ago;[8] though it attained its greatest achievements in recent times in Canada.[9] As Om el mahag has a more modest parallel in the American O’ Cat, so Ta kurt na nod has also a more modest parallel in the American Shinny. The main differences are that in Shinny the ball is put in a hole, but not covered with sand, and that leg protectors are sometimes used.

French authors trace in direct line the ascendance of the original Hockey and of North-African Kura,[10] as well as that of the Canadian Lacrosse and of the Anglo-Canadian Polo, to the ancient Soule a la crosse of Northern France. Imported in England during the One Hundred Years War (1338-1453) it would have developed into Hockey; imported in Canada by the colonists of Britain and Normandy, it would have developed into the national game of Lacrosse.[11]

This theory seems a little tainted with nationalism. As a matter of fact, it seems well established that the game called Lacrosse is of Indian origin, and Polo is said to be a Thibetan name (pulu-ball) and sure to have been played a long time ago in Persia whence it spread westward and eastward from Constantinople to Japan.[12] For Hockey, the French origin is equally doubtful.[13] But a European origin is, in any case, certain for Hockey, as it is very probable for the ancestors of Baseball.

So, between Kura, Soule a la crosse, Hockey, and Shinny a parallel exists, very analogous to the parallel between Om el mahag, Rounders, Baseball, and O’ Cat. It is reasonable to give an analogous explanation to the two parallels.

The main difference between the two cases is that Kura is played all over North Africa, west of Egypt, while Om el mahag seems to be confined to Gebel Nefusa. A very plausible explanation of the difference is the greater complexity of Om el mahag. In a decadent population, as the Berbers have been for many centuries, the most elaborate intellectual achievements decay or disappear. Even at Jadum Ta kurt na nod is preferred, for the sake of its simplicity and relatively few rules, to the rigid and complicated Om el mahag. The people I succeeded in collecting for the games had a distinct propensity to discontinue Om el mahag and play Ta kurt na nod. The time is past when the adults used Om el mahag for training their muscles and developing their wind for sake of war; now the game is played mainly by boys. Probably, if no provision is taken, it will be extinct even at Jadum in the near future.

It is certain that the greater simplicity of the Kura makes the hypothesis of an independent origin less difficult to accept in this case, than in that of Om el mahag. But similar games with a ball and hooked sticks are known also for ancient Persia, ancient Greece, and ancient Rome. An independent origin in five places becomes obviously very difficult to admit. Diffusion may seem more plausible in this case: from Persia to Greece, from Greece to Rome, from Rome to France and North Africa. But an isolated explanation is not very satisfactory.

May I recall further in this connection, that also the Anglo-Saxon Association Foot-Ball, according to the same French authors, would descend from an ancient French game, the Soule au pied played in Britain and Normandy and also imported in England during the One Hundred Years War.[14]

Here also the pedigree is far from being established.

Italians claim that Football is nothing else than their Giuoco del calcio (the game of the kicks) played in several places of Italy in the late Middle Age and ascended to great honor in Florence during the Medicean period,[15] and they trace the origin of their Calcio to the Latins and hence to the Greeks.[16] Englishmen maintain that the sort of Football as engaged in by ancients had no relation to the organized game which is played in modern times,[17] but, in any case, they may cite an edict of 1349 in which a sort of Football was prohibited, with other popular games, in order to favor the progress of archery.[18] What is important for us is that games analogous to Football were spread over Europe from ancient times.

But Football, Soule au pied, and Calcio have also their North-African parallel in another manner of playing the Kura, observed, like the preceding one, by Doutte, in the Rehamna tribes.[19]

Then there are, not two, but three analogous parallels.

If I am not mistaken, these three analogous parallels demand analogous explanations. Then, if it seems difficult to explain with diffusion or independent origin the parallel between Om el mahag, Rounders, and Baseball or O’ Cat, even more difficult it is to explain with three cases of independent origin or diffusion the three parallels between Om el mahag, Rounders, and Baseball or O’ Cat, between Ta kurt na nod, Soule a la crosse, and Hockey or Shinny and between the other variant of Kura, Calcio, or Soule au pied and Association Football.

On the contrary, the parallels, as well as the minor differentiations between the analogous games, may well be in agreement with the hypothesis of survivals or local developments from ancient games prevailing over much larger areas of the old world whence they have been later imported, in a more or less modified form, in the new one. Like many other games, the Berber ball games have a paramount importance for Rural Sociology. They seem to play, or at least to have played, an important part in the magic rites for calling the rain. Certainly the American crowds which assist the exploits of the “White Sox” or the “Yankees” would not think of themselves as continuations of religious assemblies, and of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth as rain makers (except for the rains of dollars). Nevertheless the original games seem connected with religion and rain making.

The French scholars who have especially studied the Berber and Arab games, are very explicit in tracing this connection. Doutte says that the Kura is played in certain places of Morocco exclusively, or mainly, or with special and more rigid forms, by the tolba (students of the Koran) ; that it is played exclusively or mainly in the spring and sometimes as an essential part of spring festivities. He indicates that in France during the Middle Ages the ball games were played in the churches,[20] and sometimes by Bishops and Canons on the shores at special epochs and with special rites.[21] Thus he sees in the Berber and Arab Kura a survival of agrarian religious ceremonies made by a special caste.

Moreover, recalling the danger often connected with the field arguments about Kura, he associates it with the ceremonial battles–true or simulated–that, according to St. Augustine and Lion the African, were organized, at given seasons, in different places of North Africa. It would be from such ritual festivities that our carnival took its origin.

These rites would represent the conflict between the passing winter and the coming summer at the beginning of the spring, which was the seed season at one time in North Africa. The rites would have had originally the aim of insuring the crops, in the imminence of the sowing time. Bertholon and Chantre,[22] endorsing Doutte unreservedly, connect the Kura furthermore with a ceremonial battle (described by Herodotus) engaged in by teams of Libyan girls in honor of Tanit (the Libyan Athena) to cause rain, as well as with other ancient and modern spring ceremonies in North Africa. Laoust[23] and Mercier[24] are equally affirmative in considering the Kura as a “rain rite.”

Now do Om el mahag and Ta kurt na rrod played at Jadum also have a religious significance? All the local people are in agreement in denying them any religious character, as well as any aim in causing rain. They declare that their original purpose was to keep the muscles supple and to accustom men to the long races entailed in warlike pursuits.

The season of playing is not early spring, but summer, when field work is over. In the part of the day when it is still hot, so that many people do not assemble, Om el mahag is played; later in the day, when the number of potential players grows, the time comes for Ta kurt na rrod, to which greater importance is given in Jadum. The variance in epoch may however be explained easily by the change of the sowing season. The prevalent season for seeding in North Africa was once the spring; now is the autumn. To-day, also, the games are, as a result, played before the seeding season.

Moreover, if the local people deny that the games have the aim of causing rain, they admit, however, that there is a superstitious belief that if they are played in summer the year will be prosperous. Since a prosperous or unprosperous year depends essentially in the Gebel Nefusa on abundant rain, this superstition comes very near to the belief that the game causes rain. So that we may find here a confirmation of the view that the Berber ball games are the vestigials of ancient ritual ceremonies for rain. The use of ancient words, without significance for the Berbers of to-day, and the taking off of the barracans, which was discussed earlier, may be considered perhaps two further proofs in favor of this conclusion.

If I am not mistaken, the facts discussed in this article are also important for General Sociology as well as for Rural Sociology. When a similarity in artifacts, customs, or institutions is observed in different places, two alternative explanations are considered: diffusion and autonomous evolution. The discussion here shows that sometimes a third explanation may be more valid: an explanation in terms of vestigials. The similar artifacts, customs, or institutions observed in the different places may represent vestigials (sometimes successively developed along parallel or more or less divergent lines) of institutions, customs or artifacts, prevailing, in a previous time, over a large area.

Explanations by vestigials and diffusion are not mutually exclusive. Vestigials presuppose diffusion in a previous stage. On the contrary, diffusion is not necessarily followed by vestigials. But in any case, there are essential differences between diffusion and vestigials. As a matter of fact, diffusion implies a common origin and a sequence of developments. Vestigials, on the contrary, imply a common origin and contemporary independent developments. Antonomous evolution, lastly, implies independent or at least different origins, and contemporary, independent developments. Thus, the hypothesis of vestigials is nearer to the hypothesis of diffusion for what concerns origin and nearer to the hypothesis of autonomous evolution for what concerns development. Other interesting points may be made on this subject. To exhaust the matter a special treatment would be necessary.


*. Professor of Statistics and Sociology, University of Rome.

1. For the organization and results of these expeditions, see the reports published in Genus, organ of the Italian Committee, I, 1/2 (June, 1934); II, 1/2 (June, 1936); II, 3/4 (June, 1937); and in Eugenical News, XVIII, 15 (September-October, 1933); XIX, 4 (July-August, 1934); XX, 4 (July-August, 1935).

2.  A barracan is a kind of white toga which constitutes the principal garment of the Libyan male population.

3.  The information on Baseball, Town-Ball, O’Cat, and Rounders is taken from the articles “Baseball” and “Rounders” in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and from A. G. Spalding, America’s National Game (New York, 1911).

4. In the English libraries there are drawings and illuminations of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries representing “Club-ball,” which is also mentioned in some edicts and documents of the time and is considered as the game from which Cricket originated. It is not possible to establish how the game was played and if it may be regarded also as an ancestor of Baseball; cf. “Cricket,” in the Encyclopedia Britannica; and J. Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the Peoples of England, new ed. W. Hone (London, 1830), pp. 104-05.

5. For the most ancient records of the Libyan population, see especially W. Holscher, Libyer und Agypter, Beitrage zur Ethnologie und Geschichte Libyscher Volkerschaften nach den Altagyptischer Quellen (Hamburg, 1937). For the Greek-Roman period, information may be found in my paper “La pigmentazione degli abitanti dell’ Egitto nell’ eta Greco-Romana,” Atti del Congtesso Internationale per gli studi sulla popolazione (Roma, 1931).

6. E. Doutte, who has studied the games of the Rehamna tribes of South Morocco, indicates that in Kura every team tries to pull the ball through its own goal instead of pushing it through the opponents’ goal. (Merrakech, Comite du Maroc [Paris, 1905], pp. 318 ff.) But the difference is purely a matter of words; it depends upon whether the goal is named after the offending or defending team.

7. At Jadum, women do not take part in the game. In other Berber places, it is related that either a team of women plays against a team of men, or both teams are composed of women who play naked among themselves. M. Laoust, Mots et cboses berberees (Paris, 1920), pp. 242 ff.

8. “Hockey,” Encyclopedia Britannica.

9 “Hockey,” Enciclopedia Italiana.

10. Laab el kura (game of the ball), or simply Kura (ball), is the Arabian name for the Berber Ta kurt na rrod.

11. S. Luce, La France pendant la Guerre de Cent ans (Paris, 1893), pp. 118-20; Doutte, op. cit., p. 315.

12. See the articles “Polo” and “Lacrosse” in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

13. “Hockey,” Encyclopedia Britannica; “Hurling,” in Strutt, op. cit., pp. 98-99.

14. Cf. Luce, op. cit., p, 117; and Doutte, op. cit., p. 315.

15. Cf. “Calcio,” Enciclopedia Italiana.The substantial difference is that in the Italian Calcio, the use of both feet and hands was permitted for all players and not only for the porter; but, as it is well known, only in the first half of the past century, from the English Football the two present forms (Association and Rugby) differentiated, in the first of which the players (except the porter) handle the ball only with feet, while in the second they use also and principally hands. Cf. “Football Association” and “Football Rugby,” Encyclopedia Britannica.

16. Cf. Vocabolario della Crusca, 1st ed. (Venice, 1612).

17. Cf. “Football,” Encyclopedia Britannica.

18. Cf. Strutt, op. cit., p. 100.

19 Op. cit., p. 315.

20. Idem.

21. For this second point, see also Luce, op. cit., pp. 118-19.

22. L. Bertholon and E. Chantre, Recbercbes anthropologiques dans la Berberie Orientate, Tripolitaine, Tunisie et Algerie (Lyon, 1913), I, 635-37.

23. Loc. cit.

24. L. Mercier, La chasse et les sports chez les Arabes (Paris, 1927), pp. 174-77.

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