Skip to content


March 4, 2013


 Figure 1: Afrikanische Völker: from the Meyers encyclopedia, (Leipzig and Vienna , the Bibliographic Institute, Fourth Edition, 1885-1892; 1888). Showing: 1 & 2, Mpongwe from Gabon; 3, Arab from Morocco; 4. Arab from southern Tunisia; 5, Fellah; 6 & 7, Copts; 8, Koto from Niger; 9, Fan; 10, Berber; 11, Dar Fur Negroes; 12, Nubians (Hallenga); 13, Congo Negroes; 14, Zulu; 15, Bagirmi-boy; 16, Monbuttu; 17, Niam-Niam; 18, Schulineger; 19 & 20, Abyssinian; 21 & 22, Hottentots; 23, Bechuana girl; 24, Akka; 25 & 26, Bushmen; 27, Sakalawe of Madagascar; 28, Swahili of Zanzibar; 29 & 30, Somali.[1]

The Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (or Meyers Lexikon) is a famous German encyclopaedia that was published in various editions from 1839 to 1984.[2] The work was inaugurated by the dynamic Joseph Meyer (1796 – 1856). The monumental work included, inter alia, a survey of the Völker (peoples or nations) of the world, with plates displaying figures of African peoples, Asiatic peoples, American peoples, etc., and with individual notes of each nation. The Copts (Kopten) he included with the African nations (Afrikanische Völker), as indeed their geographical position dictates. I have published the relevant plate at the top. Below, I publish an inset that shows the figures of the Coptic man and woman (figures 6 and 7 in the plate), which, I believe, have not done justice to the Copts, and cannot be taken as representative of them (but it must be stressed there is a spectrum in the physiognomy of the Copts):


Figure 2: Inset from Fig. 1 showing the Coptic man and woman (number 6 & 7).


Figure 3: A less shiny version of Fig. 2.

Under the topic “Kopten (Copts)”, the Meyers Lexikon (1888) included the following text to which I add an English translation:[3]

Afrikanische Völker

Bild 1.148d: Afrikanische Völker. Völker.

Ein Volksstamm in Ägypten, die christlichen Nachkommen der alten Ägypter. Während sie in Unterägypten vor der Zeit der mohammedanischen Eroberung nicht unvermischt geblieben sind, haben sie sich in Mittel- und Oberägypten, ihrem Hauptverbreitungsbezirk, ziemlich rein erhalten, wiewohl es scheint, daß schon in den Adern der alten Ägypter, wie wir aus Abbildungen ersehen, besonders in den niedern Klassen, Negerblut rollte. Sie zeigen in ihrer Körperbeschaffenheit noch den altägyptischen Typus: eine breite, meist niedrige Stirn, schwarzes, leicht gekräuseltes Haar, eine meist gerade, scharf geschnittene Nase, dazu Augen, welche von länglichem Schnitt, aber groß und immer von merkwürdig strahlendem Schwarz sind. Die Hautfarbe wechselt von Gelblich bis Braun (s. Tafel »Afrikanische Völker«, Fig. 6 u. 7).


African nations
1.148d Image: African nations. Peoples.

A tribe in Egypt, the Christian descendants of the ancient Egyptians. While, in Lower Egypt, from the time of the Mohammedan conquest, they have not remained unmixed, in Middle and Upper Egypt, their main region of distribution, they remained quite pure (although it seems that some Negro blood was infused in the veins of the ancient Egyptians, as we can see from figures, especially in the lower classes). They still show in their body composition the Egyptian type: a wide, mostly low forehead; black, slightly curly hair; mostly straight, sharply cut nose; in addition the eyes which are oblong, but large and black always strangely beaming. The skin colour changes from Yellowish to brown (see panel “African nations“, 6 and 7).

[1] The German text: 1, 2. Mpongwe vom Gabun. – 3. Araber aus Marokko.  – 4. Araber aus dem südl. Tunis. – 5. Fellah. – 6, 7. Kopten.  – 8. Koto vom Niger. – 9. Fan. – 10. Berber (Dachelaner). – 11. Dar  Fur-Neger. – 12. Nubier (Hallenga). – 13. Congoneger. – 14. Zulu. – 15. Bagirmi-Knabe. – 16. Monbuttu. – 17. Niam-Niam. – 18. Schulineger. – 19, 20. Abessinier. – 21, 22. Hottentoten. – 23. Betschuanen-Mädchen. – 24. Akka. – 25, 26. Buschmänner. – 27. Sakalawe von Madagaskar.  – 28. Suaheli von Sansibar.  – 29, 30. Somali. N.B. The writer apologises for using the word “Negro” here but is keen about giving the equivalent translation.

[2] In 1934 it merged with the Brockhaus Encyclopaedia.

[3] The text is longer than this, including history and theology of the Copts, but I have only focused on the physiognomy of the Copts described.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2014 12:47 am

    The Ancient Egyptians were mostly black like the rest of those pictures combined. The early Coptics were black and white ie Greek and Egyptian. Simple. This is why the Copts had a mixed Jesus and not a white rosy Jesus.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      July 22, 2014 4:06 pm

      Not really, with all due resoect to black people. The Copts, who descend from ancient Egyptians were olive-coloured.

      • 42Sesh permalink
        September 8, 2014 4:11 am

        what color are olives? Black and green. Some Egyptians were black most were dark brown. ie

        That is what the Copts who decent from ancient Egyptians are mixed with. How do you not know this?

      • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
        September 8, 2014 8:35 am

        With respect, these were mercenary soldiers from Nubia. The real Egyptians are not a pure race – but they were neither black nor the white/blonde type.

      • November 6, 2018 2:04 am

        According to Al-Maqrizi Copts and Israelites were not distinguishable from the Nubians and Abyssinians in that period and the Greeks (GrecoRoman or “Rum” i.e. Byzantine Christians) were their enemies and of a higher social caste.
        About Egypt al Maqriz writes “…when the Muslims entered it was full of Christians and divided into two sects both as to race and religion. The one part was made up of the men about the court and public affairs, all Greek, from among the soldiers of Constantinople the seat of the government of Rum. Their views as well as their religion were for all of them Melkite and their number was above 300,000 all Greeks.
        “The other portion was the whole of Egypt who were called Qibt, and were of mixed descent among whom one COULD NOT DISTINGUISH COPT FROM ABYSSINIAN, NUBIAN OR ISRAELITE, and ;hey were all Jacobites… but between these and the Melkite or ruling population marriages were not allowed from mutual hatred of each other, often carried to murder on each side. The number of these rose to many twenties of thousands for they were in fact THE PEOPLE OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, BOTH UPPER AND LOWER. ” al-Maqrizi (‘al-Muqdassi”) translation by S. C. Malan in the Book A Short History of the Copts and their Church.

  2. Dioscorus Boles permalink*
    December 1, 2014 9:04 pm

    Herodotus was wrong on this as he was wrong on many other things on Egypt. About Ximi being the name of Egypt and that that means black: by black is meant the black soil that forms the Nile Valley which was comoressed on each side by the desert. This is not a matter of contention.
    As I said before, the Egyptians were neither black nor blonde but, well, Egyptians!

  3. August 19, 2015 10:13 pm

    Reblogged this on My

  4. November 6, 2018 1:34 am

    Copts were considered indistinguishable from other black Africans in all sources – not just Herodotus – “It is true that in certain areas of Upper Egypt one is sometimes struck by the similarity of a Coptic physiognomy with personages depicted on pharaonic murals and that perhaps the Copts are more uniformly dark-skinned and dark eyed than their Muslim compatriots, whose color – especially among the upper classes– has been whitewashed through intermarriage with the Muslim, Circassians, Georgians, and Albanians who ruled them for centuries. But even this statement can be made only tentatively, because in the twentieth century there was some intermarriage in the upper reaches of Coptic society with Europeans” (Hasan, Sana S., 2003, pp. 20-21). From Christians versus Muslims in Modern Egypt

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      November 16, 2018 4:53 pm

      What Sana Hasan says is a lot of rubbish.

      • November 16, 2018 7:03 pm

        But not what the Syrian and Turkish people like Al-Maqrizi of 500 to 1000 years ago in Egypt said – “Know that the land of Egypt when the Muslims entered it was filled with Chirstians but DIVIDED AMONG THEMSELVES IN TWO SECTS, BOTH AS TO RACE AND RELIGION. The one part was made up of men about the court and public, all Greek, from among THE SOLDIERS OF CONSTANTINOPLE the seat of the government of Rum. Their views as well as their religion were for ALL of them, Melkite, and their number was ABOVE THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND, ALL GREEKS.. The other portion was the WHOLE OF EGYPT AND WERE CALLED QIBT, and were of mixed descent, among whom one COULD NOT DISTINGUISH FROM ABYSSINIAN, NUBIAN OR ISRAELITE AND ALL JACOBITES…..between these and the Melkite population marriages were not allowed from MUTUAL HATRED OF EACH OTHER OFTEN CARRIED TO MURDERS ON EITHER SIDE.” AL-Maqrizi the Mamluk of 600 years ago – translated in A Short History of the Copts and their Land!

        Keep believing your own rubbish if you wish, but its better to appreciate who you are and what others were. ; )

      • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
        November 16, 2018 11:23 pm

        And who are we exactly?

  5. November 16, 2018 7:19 pm

    “Ham is the father of all the dark-skinned, woolly-haired peoples. Ham is the father of the Sudan. Ham brought forth the Copts, the Sudan and the Berber…” Al Tabari 9th century. Al-Dimashqi, Masudi and al-Hakami and others all said the same about the Copts or Qibt.

    Sorry about that.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      November 16, 2018 11:23 pm

      If you want us to follow you, please quote people one can respect and trust.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: