Tasmanian man, Tasmanian type
Kiwai man, Papuan type
Central African man, Pygmy type
San man, Bushman type
Shilluk man, Nilotic type
Khoikhoi man, Hottentot type
Aeta man, Negrito type
Hula man, Papuo-Melanesian type

Negroid (also known as Congoid)[1] is a term that is used by some forensic and physical anthropologists to refer to individuals and populations that share certain morphological and skeletal traits that are frequent among most populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.[2][3][4] The term is commonly associated with notions of racial typology, which are disputed by many anthropologists.[5]

First introduced in early racial science and anthropometry, the taxon has traditionally been used to denote one of the three proposed major races of humans.[6] Negroid as a biological classification remains in use,[7] particularly within the field of forensic anthropology.[6]


  • Etymology 1
  • Subraces 2
  • Use in physical anthropology 3
  • Physical features 4
    • Craniofacial traits 4.1
    • Neoteny 4.2
    • Hair texture 4.3
    • Skin pigmentation 4.4
  • Criticism 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


Negroid has both Greek and Latin etymological roots. It literally translates as "black resemblance" from negro/niger (black), and -oeidēs, equivalent to -o- + -eidēs "having the form of", derivative of eîdos "form".[8][9] The earliest recorded use of the term "Negroid" came in 1859.[10] In modern usage, it is associated with populations that on the whole possess the suite of typical Negroid physical characteristics.[11]


In the 19th century, [12] In the first half of the 20th century, the traditional subraces of the Negroid race were regarded as being the Sudanic (also called "Forest Negro"), the Bantu, the Nilote, the Pygmy, and the Khoisan (often historically referred to as "Hottentot" and "Bushman").[13] By the 1960s, some scholars regarded the Khoisan as a separate race known as the Capoid race, while others continued to regard them as a Negroid subrace.[14] The term "Congoid" was frequently used interchangeably with "Negroid", with the main difference being that Congoid excluded the Capoid taxon.[15]

Use in physical anthropology

In physical anthropology the term is one of the three general racial classifications of humansCaucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid. Under this classification scheme, humans are divisible into broad sub-groups based on phenotypic characteristics such as cranial and skeletal morphology.

Later extensions of the terminology, such as Carleton S. Coon's Origin of Races, placed this theory in an evolutionary context. Coon divided the species homo sapiens into five groups: Caucasoid, Capoid, Congoid, Australoid and Mongoloid, based on the timing of each taxon's evolution from homo erectus.[16][17] Positing the Capoid race as a separate racial entity, and labeling the two major divisions of what he called the Congoid race as being the "African Negroes" and the "Pygmies," he divided indigenous Africans into these two distinct groups based on their date of origin, and loosened classification from mere appearance — however, this led to disagreement between approaches to dating divergence, and consequent conflicting results.[17][18] Cavalli-Sforza also accepts this twofold division, pointing out that the Pygmies have a very different genetic signature than other Bantu language speakers. He thus proposes that they must have originally had their own now unknown language, but have since adopted the language of the Bantu peoples around them. Cavaill-Sforza does not accept as Coon did that each race evolved separately; he accepts the currently dominant paradigm, the Out of Africa theory,[19] i.e. that all human beings are descended from small bands of people that migrated out of Africa beginning 125,000 to 60,000 years ago.[20][21]

Physical features

Craniofacial traits

A Hausa man of classic Negroid type.
A Hausa man of classic Negroid type
A Zulu Bantu woman of classic Negroid type
A Zulu Bantu woman of classic Negroid type

In modern craniofacial anthropometry, Negroid describes features that typify skulls of black people. These include a broad and round nasal cavity; no dam or nasal sill; Quonset hut-shaped nasal bones; notable facial projection in the jaw and mouth area (prognathism); a rectangular-shaped palate; a square or rectangular eye orbit shape;[22] and large, megadontic teeth.[23] Although still widely used internationally in the identification of human remains, some have challenged the accuracy of craniofacial anthropometry vis-a-vis different human populations that have developed in close proximity to one another and those of mixed ethnic heritage.[24]


Ashley Montagu lists "neotenous structural traits in which...Negroids [generally] differ from Caucasoids... flattish nose, flat root of the nose, narrower ears, narrower joints, frontal skull eminences, later closure of premaxillary sutures, less hairy, longer eyelashes, [and] cruciform pattern of second and third molars."[25] He also suggested that in the extinct Negroid group termed the "Boskopoids", pedomorphic traits proceeded further than in other Negroids.[25] Additionally, Montagu wrote that the Boskopoids had larger brains than modern humans (1,700 cubic centimeters compared to 1,400 cubic centimeters of modern-day humans) and the projection of their mouth was less than in other Negroids.[25] He believed that the Boskopoids were the ancestors of the Bushmen.[25]

Hair texture

Afro-textured hair is tightly coiled, kinky hair. It is a ubiquitous trait among Negroid populations. By consequence, the presence of looser, frizzly hair texture in other populations has often been considered an indication of possible admixture with Negroid peoples.[26]

Skin pigmentation

Skin pigmentation in Negroid populations varies from very dark brown to light brown.[11] As dark skin is also relatively common in human groups that have historically not been defined as "Negroid", including many populations in both Africa and Asia, it is only when present with other typical Negroid physical traits such as broad facial features, Negroid cranial and dental characteristics, prognathism, afro-textured hair and neoteny, that it has been used in Negroid classification.[26] Populations with frequently dark skin yet on the whole lacking the suite of Negroid physical traits were thus usually not regarded as "Negroid", but instead as either "dark Caucasoid" (e.g. Hamitic/Ethiopid and Arabid) or "Australoid" depending on their other salient physical attributes. By contrast, populations with relatively light skin yet generally possessing typical Negroid physical characteristics, such as the Khoisan, were still regarded as "Negroid."[26]


Display at the Horniman Museum

The term "Negroid" is still used in certain disciplines such as forensic and physical anthropology.[3] In a medical context, some scholars have recommended that the term Negroid be avoided in scientific writings because of its association with racism and race science.[27] This mirrors the decline in usage of the term Negro, which fell out of favor following the campaigns of the American civil rights movement — the term Negro became associated with periods of legalized discrimination, and was rejected by African Americans during the 1960s for "Black".[28]

C.S. Coon's evolutionary approach was criticized on the basis that such "sorting criteria" do not (in general) produce meaningful results, and that evolutionary divergence was extremely improbable over the given time-frames.[29] As Monatagu (1963) said,

See also


  1. ^ Molnar, Stephen (2006). Human Variation: Races, Types, and Ethnic Groups. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 4.  
  2. ^ Molnar, Stephen (2006). Human Variation: Races, Types, and Ethnic Groups. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 23.  
  3. ^ a b Fish, Jacqueline T. (2010). Crime Scene Investigation. Elsevier. p. 395.  
  4. ^ "Forensic Anthropology - Ancestry". Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  5. ^ """AAA Statement on "Race. 1998-05-17. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  6. ^ a b Pickering, Robert (2009). The use of forensic anthropology. CRC Press. p. 82.  
  7. ^ Smay, Diana and Armelagos, George. Emory University. "Galileo Wept: A Critical Assessment of the Use of Race in Forensic Anthropology" [1]
  8. ^ Company, Houghton Mifflin (2005). The American Heritage guide to contemporary usage and style. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 512.  
  9. ^ "Oid | Define Oid at". Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  10. ^ Harper, Douglas (November 2001). "Online Etymological Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  11. ^ a b Taylor, Karen T. (2010). Forensic Art and Illustration. CRC Press. p. 62.  
  12. ^ Morton, Samuel George (1839). Crania Americana: or a comparatif view of the skulls of various aboriginal nations of America. pp. 86–95. 
  13. ^ Our world in space and time. International Graphic Society. 1960. p. 46. 
  14. ^ Jenkins (M.D.), Trefor (1988). The Peoples of Southern Africa: Studies in Diversity and Disease. Witwatersrand University Press for the Institute for the Study of Man in Africa. p. 6. 
  15. ^ Pearson, Roger (1985). Anthropological glossary. R.E. Krieger Pub. Co. p. 38. 
  16. ^ Jackson Jr., John (June 2001). ""In Ways Unacademical": The Reception of Carleton S. Coon's The Origin of Races". Journal of the History of Biology 34 (2): 247–285.  
  17. ^ a b Keita, S.O.Y.; Rick A. Kittles (September 1987). "The Persistence of Racial Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence". American Anthropologist 99 (3): 534–544.  
  18. ^ a b Dobzhansky, Theodosius; Ashley Montagu; C. S. Coon (1963). "Two Views of Coon's "Origin of Races" with Comments by Coon and Replies". Current Anthropology 4 (4): 360–367.  
  19. ^
  20. ^ Meredith M (2011). Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life. New York: PublicAffairs.  
  21. ^ Armitage SJ, Jasim SA, Marks AE, Parker AG, Usik VI, Uerpmann HP (January 2011). "The southern route "out of Africa": evidence for an early expansion of modern humans into Arabia". Science 331 (6016): 453–6.  
  22. ^ "Forensic Anthropology – Ancestry". Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  23. ^ Brace CL, Tracer DP, Yaroch LA, Robb J, Brandt K, Nelson AR, Clines and clusters versus "race:" a test in ancient Egypt and the case of a death on the Nile, (1993), Yrbk Phys Anthropol 36:1–31, p.18
  24. ^ L’engle Williams, Frank; Robert L. Belcher; George J. Armelagos (April 2005). "Forensic Misclassification of Ancient Nubian Crania: Implications for Assumptions about Human Variation" (PDF). Current Anthropology 46 (2): 340–346.  
  25. ^ a b c d Montagu, Ashley Growing Young Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 1988 ISBN 0-89789-166-X
  26. ^ a b c Keane, A.H. (1899). Man, Past and Present. 
  27. ^ Agyemang, Charles; Raj Bhopal; Marc Bruijnzeels (2005). "Negro, Black, Black African, African Caribbean, African American or what? Labelling African origin populations in the health arena in the 21st century". Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59 (12): 1014–1018.  
  28. ^ "Ask Oxford – Definition of Negroid".  
  29. ^ Carlson, David; Armelagos, George (September 1971). "Problems in Racial Geography". Annals of the Association of American Geographers 61 (3): 630–633.