Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Tuareg are agro-pastoralist people living in the northern and western African countries of Niger, Mali, Algeria and Libya. They speak several dialects of Temacheg, a branch of the Berber language family, reinforcing the belief that they all descended from the Berbers who lived in the Fezzan region of Libya. Traditional social organization included clans and clan sections internally divided into broad social classes consisting of nobles, religious practitioners, artisans, tribute paying cultivators, and laborers (former slaves). Relationships among clans were facilitated through loose clan confederations under the leadership of a sultan elected by the chiefs of noble clans. The Tuareg are Muslims, but their religious belief system also includes non-Islamic elements.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Northern Africa






OWC Code


Collection Information

Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

Documents in the Tuareg Collection (MS25), all of them in English, provide a wide variety of cultural, historical and ecological information, circa 1908 to 2004. The earliest account in the collection was compiled by Maurice Benhazera (1908, no. 4), a French army interpreter who visited the Ahaggar region in 1905. This account, which is translated from the French for HRAF, describes pre-colonial Tuareg culture and daily life.  Henri Lhote (1944, no.1) provides the first systematic description of Taureg society by a professional ethnologist based on materials (mostly relating to political organization, social classes, marriage system, descent, childbirth and adolescent) collected in 1929-1940. Cabot L. Briggs (1958, no. 2) provides a very convincing critic of the above two earlier sources based on fieldwork conducted in 1956. The work of the Danish ethnologist Johannes Nicolaisen (1963, no. 7) is the most complete and basic ethnographic account to be consulted, covering a broad range of themes in Tuareg social organization and cultural ecology as observed in 1951-1962. The remaining documents in the collection are published articles by anthropologist Susan J. Rasmussen exploring particular themes including conflict management practices (1991, no.9), changes relating to witchcraft and morality (2004, no.10), dynamics of class and ethnicity (1992, no. 11), and local perceptions of health and illness (2004, no. 12).  Most of the information in these sources comes mostly from the Tuareg of Ahaggar and Air mountains located, respectively, in Algeria and Niger. The Tuareg in Libya and Mali are not equally covered especially in the earliest sources.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Collection Indexing Notes

Al Baraka,  special powers of benediction attributed to Marabouts (People of God) - use "PROPHETS AND ASCETICS (792)" and "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)"

Amenokal, Sultan elected by the confederation of noble clans - use "CHIEF EXECUTIVE (643)", with "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)" or "ELECTIONS (666)"

Bokawa,  sing. Boka, traditional healers, often using perfumes and other non-Quranic methods - use "MEDICAL THERAPY (757)", possibly with "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)" or "MAGIC (789)"

Eghiwan, the camp often consisting five or six families – use "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)" with "ANNUAL CYCLE (221)"

Iklan or ighawalen, peoples of various degrees of servile and client status - use "CLASSES (565)" with "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Imajeghen, nobility, Tuareg of aristocratic origin - use "CLASSES (565)" with "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"

Imghad, Tuareg of the tributary social stratum - use "CLASSES (565)", possibly with "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Inaden,  smith/artisans - use "SMITHS AND THEIR CRAFTS (326)" or "OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALIZATION (463)"

Marabouts, Quranic scholars also called ineslemen - use "PROPHETS AND ASCETICS (792)", possible with "PRIESTHOOD (793)" or "MAGICIANS AND DIVINERS (791)"

Tawsit), a descent-group section often consisting of two to twenty camps - use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)", possibly with "LINEAGES (613)" and "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

Close Box