Gender Equality Historic Accomplishments People

Queen Tin Hinan: Founder of the Tuaregs

ORIGIN

Queen Tin Hinan, also known as Queen of the Hoggar, is a legendary woman that lived in the 4th Century. The literal meaning of Tin Hinan is “she of the tents.” She is believed to be the ancestress of the Tuareg ethnicity of northern Africa; they call her “The mother of us all.” The Hoggar is a series of mountains in the highland regions of the central Sahara. She was famous for her beauty, wisdom and was known to travel quite frequently.

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Three Colour Screen Print of Tin Hinan

As centuries went by, her character gradually faded into myth and folklore until the discovery and opening of her tomb in 1925 by Byron Khun De Porok; the discovery reaffirmed her existence. Like many centuries old legendary characters, her true origin has become shrouded in mystery. Sadly without any real documented evidence because the Tuaregs of that time did not keep written records, oral narratives by the locals is a key option in retracing her history. There are sources that say Tin Hanin was a princess driven from the Northern Sahara, and after a near-death journey through the Sahara Desert with her entourage, they reached the desert anthill where luckily they found grain[1]. Some say she was a Berber moslem who came from the Tafilalt oasis[2] with her maidservant Takamat[3]; that she might have had a daughter called Kella[4]; they settled in the mountainous region of Algeria. There is no record anywhere of her tribe, whom her husband or lover was, why she migrated to Hoggar, whom her parents were or the cause of her death.

Takamat had two daughters. Historians believe Tin Hinan gave the Oasis of Silet and Ennided to the two daughters of Takamat which til present day belongs to the descendants of the two women[5].

LEGEND
Tin Hinan accomplishments were no mean feat. As a woman coming from a foreign land she had to establish herself in the new territory and judging from history’s treatment of women during those times one can only imagine her level of wisdom, Intelligence, courage and endurance as she overcame opposition, won the hearts of the people, united them and rose to become their queen. And even today many hundreds of centuries later, festivals are still held in her honour.

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A Tuareg man in traditional clothes

Tin Hinan - blue fashion

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Tin Hinan - blue fashion2

She was regarded as a fearless warrior; many Tuaregs today refer to her as the African Amazon Queen. She possessed a knowledge of herbs for healing and medicinal practices, taught her people poetry and the Tifinagh alphabet[6]. Her greatest achievement was founding, uniting the Tuaregs and establishing a kingdom in the Hoggar. Her daughter Kella is widely judged to be the founder of the Kel Rela Tribe.
Under the leadership of Queen Tin Hinan, the Tuaregs established essential caravan trading routes through which they built great wealth and economic prosperity throughout the 4th and 5th century. Although she is widely regarded as the founder of the Tuaregs, the Ihadanaren tribe is judged to have been directly descended from her while Plebean tribes of Dag Rali and Ait Loaien descended from Takamat[7]. Festivals are held each year in honour of Tin Hinan in the southern Algeria oasis city of Tamanrasset, between the 20th and 28th February of every year.

THE TUAREG

The Tuareg also spelt Twareg or Touareg and referred to as “the people of the veil” or “the blue people of the Sahara” are a semi-nomadic, pastoralist people of North African Berber origin. They are referred to as the blue people of the Sahara because of their characteristic indigo turbans won mostly by the men which often stain their skin. The men wear veils on their faces covering the nose and mouth, unlike most Moslem societies where it is the females that were such.

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Map of the Tuareg regions

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At the height of there power they were a sight that struck terror in the hearts of those who encountered them, they domineered over the deserts, were feared and respected by merchants and travellers who traversed the desert trade routes across the Sahara.

Although there is no credible evidence, it is said that during the last 4 millennia they successfully resisted invasions from the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Turkish and the French respectively[8]. Not all at once of course but at different times during the last 4 millenia.

Primarily Moslems and broken by French colonialism, today they number from between 1.5 to 2.5 million and are scattered all over the Northern African countries and the Sahel, of: Algeria (Southern Algeria), Libya (Southwestern Libya), Mali, Niger and in a much lesser population at Burkina Faso and Nigeria (Nothern Nigeria).

They are a minority group in the countries they occupy but have a very strongly connected culture. Political tensions, wars, famine, and drought have caused many Tuaregs to move farther down south[9]. They are usually livestock breeders, farmers and from time to time engage in trading activities[10]. They speak the Tuareg Tamasheq languages.

TIN HINAN TOMB
It was not until 1925 that Tin Hanin resurfaced again. A Polish American archaeologist Byron Khun De Porok unpopular within the science community at the time and dubbed “The Tomb Raider” discovered her tomb at the Hoggar regions of Abalessa in Southern Algeria.

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Model of the tomb of Queen Tin Hinan

 It was a Circular stone structure on a hill with a height of about 4 meters and a diameter of about 23 meters overlooking a dried river bed. It contained a number of rooms but only had one entrance.
Prior to opening the tomb, there was uneasiness among the Tuaregs as they saw it as an act of desecration. However, backed by the French military, Byron and his expedition crew had no issues getting down to business. At the time the French held sway over a considerable part of Africa including Algeria and had granted approval to Byron to carry out his mission in addition to providing him with some French soldiers for an escort.
The 1920s were exciting times for European archaeologists and historians because many archaeological discoveries were made including the discovery of the tombs of much grander legends like Tutankhamun by Howard Carter and the unearthing of the city of Ur by Leonard Woolley both in 1922. These great discoveries coupled with the reputation of Byron Khum De Porok largely dwarfed the popularity of the discovery of Queen Tin Hanin’s Tomb and it was not accorded much attention. It was not until 1933 that a more thorough examination of the Tomb was carried out.

THE REMAINS OF QUEEN TIN HINAN
Upon opening her tomb, Byron found the remains of the queen lying on her back legs crossed and covered with a red cloak of leather that had since turned to dust; she lay on a wooden litter her head facing east and was heavily adorned with gold and jewels. She wore seven silver and seven gold bracelets on her left and right arms respectively and a necklace of gold and pearls. A separate silver bracelet and a Gold ring were placed beside the body. Other funerary items and many pieces of jewelry like beads of turquoise, garnet, amazonite, and cornelian were also discovered in the tomb.
Today her remains can be found in the Bardo Museum of Algiers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

  • Bogue, Ronald. Deleuzian Fabulation and the Scars of History. Edinburgh University Press. 2010.
  • Ilahiane, Hsain. Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen). Rowman & Littlefield. 2017. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-4422-8182-0.
  • Johannes, and Ida Nicolaisen. The Pastoral Tuareg: Ecology, Culture, and Society.New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
  • Rizel Delado. Hinane. Quinta5 publishers. October 31, 2013. ISBN-13: 978-0620583749.
  • Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_Hinan
  • Https://africa.si.edu/exhibits/tuareg/who.html.
  • Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg_people

CITATIONS

[1] Bogue, Ronald. 2010.

[2] Tafilalt is a region in Morocco, it has the largest oasis

[3] Some historians argue Takamat might have been her sister

[4] Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_Hinan

[5] Rizel Delado. 2013.

[6] Rizel Delado. 2013.

[7] Rizel Delado. 2013.

[8] Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg_people

[9]  Johannes, and Ida Nicolaisen. 1997.

[10] Https://africa.si.edu/exhibits/tuareg/who.html.

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