… about Africa’s gifts to the world: Part I
… about Africa’s gifts to the world: Part I
At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty
from a people tall and smooth-skinned,
from a people feared far and wide,
an aggressive nation of strange speech,
whose land is divided by rivers—
the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the Lord Almighty.
(Isaiah 18: 7, NIV)
Many different people at different times have made significant contributions to the world, contributions that have benefited all of humanity or large numbers of people throughout the world. In other words, no one people have a monopoly on the giving of gifts to humanity. We regularly give credit to the Greeks and Romans for their many contributions to Western civilization, to the Chinese for the invention of gunpowder, to the Arabs for the invention of Algebra, and to Chinese, Mesopotamians, South Asians, and Meso-Americans for crop domestication. It is right to give credit where credit is due. When Africa’s contributions are brought up, the claims are too often dismissed as the ravings or romanticizing of an afrocentrist. Labelling someone as Afrocentric is a favorite way of dismissing what they are saying. If you want to call me centric in some way, call me “Truthcentric.”
Putting the above quotation in context, it is part of three chapters in Isaiah (Chapters 18, 19, and 20) where the Prophet Isaiah is delivering prophesies to Ethiopia (Cush) and Egypt in future times. Interestingly prophesies dealing with Egypt and Cush are bunched together, sort of as one unit; Chapter 18 deals with Ethiopia, Chapter 19 with Egypt, and Chapter 20 with both Ethiopia and Egypt. Ethiopia and Egypt are regularly associated in the Old Testament. The last verse from Chapter 18, quoted above, speaks a good outcome for Ethiopia during the end times because the Ethiopians (the Black People) will submit to God by bringing gifts to Zion. The description of their land as one that rivers divide sounds like an area that is way south of Khartoum in what is now South Sudan, a country crisscrossed by rivers; you can confirm this by looking at the map below of South Sudan. Furthermore it is the home of the Dinka, Nuba, and Nuer people, some of the tallest and blackest people in the world; the Dinka are, indeed, the tallest people in the world with an average height of almost 6 feet. They are probably the descendants of the tall, black, and beautiful people that the Greeks talked so much about, those blameless Ethiopians.
Africa’s gifts to the world must begin with Ancient Egypt. I implore you not to close your mind but to hear me out and let the truth make you free. Geographically Egypt is located in Northeast Africa but is now, and rightly so, considered to be part of the Middle East or Near East. Egypt is connected to Asia via Sinai which is the small part of Egypt that is located in Asia. Thus, we have departments of Near Eastern studies that lump modern Egypt and Ancient Egypt in with Western Asia as some sort of cultural/historical unit. The identification of modern Egypt with North Africa and Western Asia is justified today, especially since Arabs and Islam came in and took over Egypt in the middle of the seventh century of our era. But if we go back to the beginning of Egyptian history, it is a totally different story.
If I am to claim Ancient Egypt’s contributions as Africa’s contributions, I need to demonstrate that Egypt was not only a part of Africa geographically but was also African historically, culturally, and racially (genetically and otherwise). This is a connection that most Egyptologists, classicists, historians, anthropologists assiduously avoid. Indeed, from its beginning and throughout her period of greatness, Egypt was not only geographically African but was African racially (genetically and otherwise), culturally, and linguistically. The Ancient Egyptian mind was an African, not Asian, mind. We can speak of an African mind because of the cultural unity of Black Africans so often alluded to by such writers as Cheikh Anta Diop, Basil Davidson, John Hope Franklin, Chancellor Williams, Colin M. Turnbull, E. A. Wallis Budge1, and many others who also affirm that the Ancient Egyptian mind was an African mind.
It is important to understand the great antiquity of Ancient Egyptian civilization. Almost everyone associates the beginning of Egyptian civilization with the unification of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt into a very large kingdom or empire between 3,000 BC and 3,200 BC. Surely this was not the beginning. As the eminent Egyptologist Sir Flanders Petrie put it, “To suppose that the civilization that we find under Menes started full-blown at that age, or to suppose that the dynastic conquerors of Egypt had no rulers before their acquisition of the whole country, is necessarily absurd [italics added].… the way must have been prepared by a long series of predecessors conquering and consolidating their power. That such a course of organization occupied three or four centuries is highly probable”2. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Egyptian history goes back 6,000 years to 4,000 BC when the Egyptians already had a calendar.3
When E. A. Wallis Budge set out on a quest to discover the source of the fundamental beliefs of the indigenous Religion of Ancient Egypt, his quest led him to Black Africa, after he could not find any connections in Asia. He goes on to say, “… I became convinced that a satisfactory explanation of the ancient Egyptian Religion could only be obtained from the Religions of the Sudan, more especially those of the peoples who lived in the isolated districts in the south and west of that region [Egypt], where European influence was limited, and where native beliefs and religious ceremonials still possessed life and meaning.”4 Sudan in the above passage does not refer to the country called Sudan but to Sub-Sahara Africa.
Basil Davidson commented that “Dynastic Egypt was not born in a void; it emerged from a Neolithic womb, and this womb was African.” He further observed that the ordinary Egyptians had their own ideas about life and the cosmos and that “… the provenance of these ideas, or of most of them, was undoubtedly more African than Asian. “God’s Land “with all its great ancestral spirits lay, for dynastic Egypt, neither in the east nor in the north, but far to the south and the west. There is nothing to show that the earliest forms of ram and sun worship or of other cults mad famous along the Nile did not take their rise in this obscure “God’s Land” of “upper Africa,” where, as we can clearly see today, they have flourished since”.5 In other words, Egypt was colonized by people from the southwest of Egypt, people who came from Inner Africa. Take note that Budge locates the people who expressed most clearly Ancient Egyptian religious ideas in the same areas that the Egyptian “considered “God’s Land”, that is, the land of the ancestors.
Thus it is only natural that the Ancient Egyptians looked to Inner Africa, not to Asia and certainly not to Europe, for direction and help. When order broke down as happened during the three Intermediate Periods, each time salvation came from the South. The kings who unified the country after the disintegration were rulers from the South.6 The prophecy of Neferty said that a son of a woman of Ta-Seti (an Ethiopian, a Cushite) would rout the Asiatics and unite the country after the chaos of the Second Intermediate Period. This was realized when Ahmose, son of a Cushite woman, pushed out the Hyskos and inaugurated the magnificent 18th Dynasty which lasted 200 years. In the Third Intermediate Period, we have the Theban priests and military leaders in Egypt appealing to the Cushite king at Napata for help in repulsing the Libyan princes who were trying to take over at Thebes. Thus, began the wonderful 25th Dynasty which lasted 100 years; their great contributions are generally either denigrated or simply ignored. Finally during the reign of the Libyan Pharaoh Psammetichus when Egyptian soldiers were being mistreated, two hundred thousand (200,000) of them deserted and placed themselves into the service of the king of Ethiopia (Cush).
Writers often assert that Ancient Egyptian is a Semitic language. The Congolese renaissance scholar and man of letters, Dr. Theophile Obenga compared the Ancient Egyptian basic words for kinship (mother, father, etc.) with the counterparts in Semitic languages and African Bantu languages. There was no similarity to Semitic languages (Arabic and Hebrew) but strong similarities with the kinship words in Bantu languages; in some instances, they were identical.7 Alessandra Nibbi noted that the Egyptians had no word for sea until it was introduced by the Semitic Hyskos during the Second Intermediate Period.8 They had no word for sea because they had developed as an inland country.
In a previous blog, I cited studies that showed Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs had the same bone structure as Black American males as demonstrated by the fact that equations developed for the purpose of estimating the living stature of American males of African descent could be satisfactorily used to estimate the living height of Egyptian Pharaohs in the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom. The equations developed for estimating the living height of white males simply did not work because those Egyptian Pharaohs were not white.
The DNA findings are stunning. An organization called DNA Tribes analyzed the DNA of nine (9) Egyptian royals from the New Kingdom, seven from the 18th Dynasty (King Tut, King Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye, mother and father of Queen Tiye, Akhenaten, and mother of King Tut) and two from the 20th Dynasty (Pharaoh Rameses III and an unknown royal). The analysis was based on 8 STR markers for each individual. Their methodology involved computing a Match Likelihood Index (MLI) for each individual for several regions. This MLI score identified the likelihood of that the individual’s STR profile appearing in that region compared to the rest of the world. For example, King Tut’s MLI score for Southern Africa was 1,519. That meant that King Tut’s DNA was fifteen hundred times more like to be found in Southern Africa than anywhere else in the world. His MLI of 1,328 for the African Great Lakes region meant that his DNA was 1,328 time more likely to be found in the Great Lakes Region than anywhere else in the world. The next highest score was 314 for West Africa. After Tropical West Africa, there was a precipitous drop in the scores, in most cases. For all other six individuals, the top scores registered were for Southern Africa, African Great Lakes Region, and Tropical West Africa.9 The other regions included were Horn of Africa, African Sahel, Levantine (countries of Western Asia which includes Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria), Aegean, Arabia, Northwest Europe, Mediterranean, North Africa, and Mesopotamia (probably Iraq and Iran). The upshot is that the places to look for the DNA of the Ancient Egyptian royalty are Southern Africa, the African Great Lakes Region, and Tropical West Africa. The findings for Rameses III are similar with the Great Lakes Region registering the highest score. For both Rameses III and the unknown royal, there is a significant score for the Horn of Africa.10 On a personal note, 23andme, a DNA testing company, indicated that Rameses III and I share a common ancient ancestor; we are in the same Sub-Saharan haplogroup, E1b1a, male chromosome.
What we have here is history, DNA analysis, contemporary observations, and osteological evidence all pointing in the same direction, namely, Ancient Egyptian origins are to the south and west. It has been pointed out that Egyptians buried their dead with the head pointing south and the face pointing west. The stature estimating equations are based on the bone structure of West Africans given that the vast majority of Black Americans are mostly of West African origin. However, a significant percentage of their DNA does come from Central Africa and the Congo. The earliest signs of Egyptian civilization seem to be at Nabta Playa, located 500 southwest of Cairo. The Nabta Playa stone circles go back over 9,000 years and constitute an amazing astronomical calendar.11 Evidently “God’s Land”, the sacred area of the ancestors, was to the far south and west, as pointed out by Basil Davidson. Interestingly Budge observed that the Africans who lived to the south and west of Egypt were the ones who had the clearest conceptions of Egyptians concepts.
What are some of the other factors that unified Ancient Egypt with the Black Africa? Briefly, they are:
- Circumcision is a practice that is practically universal among Africans south of the Sahara. Herodotus stated that all the people of Asia, and perhaps part of Europe, who practiced circumcision learned it from the Egyptians. He was not sure if it had started in Egypt first since it was also an ancient practice in Ethiopia. According to African cosmogony, each person is born being somewhat androgynous, like Amon who has the essence of both male and female since everything comes from Him, showing indications of both genders with the foreskin of the male and the clitoris of the female. The purpose of circumcision and excision is to take away something that is female from the male, the foreskin of the penis, and something that is male from the female, the clitoris, thereby fortifying their dominant character so that the person will have an interest in procreation. Thus both circumcision and excision have a cosmological basis. My explanation of why Africans practice excision does not mean that I endorse the practice.
- Matrilineal descent is an African custom that was practiced by Ancient Egyptians. Matrilineal descent means that inheritance is through the female. It is universal throughout Black Africa before European and Asian influences changed it among some people. Therefore, a man’s sons do not inherit from him but his sister’s sons do. If you are a king, your son does not inherit the throne but your sister’s son. Egyptologists Sir Flanders Petrie observed that during the Old Kingdom, none of the early kings appear to be sons of their predecessors. This makes sense if the maternal nephew, not the son, inherited the throne. The Egyptians and Ethiopians hit upon a way to allow the son to inherit by marrying a sister. Therefore, the king’s son is also his sister’s son and can inherit. This is how we can understand the well-known practice of brother-sister marriage among Egyptian royalty. Scholars have observed that the legitimacy of the Pharaoh’s authority came for his marrying a princess, for all periods of Ancient Egyptian history.
- Divine kingship is an Ancient Egyptian practice that was universal among African peoples. Descriptions of the courts of Medieval West Africans kings are throwbacks to the courts of the Pharaohs.
- E. Wallis Budge conclusively demonstrates that a belief in the resurrection and everlasting life (immortality) are beliefs shared by Ancient Egyptians and Black Africans. These are bedrock beliefs of both. Budge states that, “… if we examine the Religions of modern African peoples, we find the beliefs underlying them are almost identical with those described above [Ancient Egyptian beliefs]. As they are not derived from the Egyptians, it follows that they are the natural product of the religious mind of the natives of certain parts of Africa, which is the same in all periods. The evidence of the older travelers … proves that almost every African people with whom they came in contact possessed a name for God Almighty, in whose existence and power they firmly believed. Their attitude toward God was, and is, exactly that of the Ancient Egyptians.”12
The above allusions are some, but not all of the commonalities we find between modern day Africans and Ancient Egyptians.
The main takeaway is this: Ancient Egyptian civilization was a genuine African civilization. As such, we are justified in viewing its contributions to humanity as part of Africa’s gifts to the world. In several blogs to follow, I will talk about Egypt’s specific gifts to the world. Also I will share with you gifts to the world from other parts of Africa, especially West Africa which has given much.
References and Notes
1. The following are some of the works of the authors mentioned: Cheikh Anta Diop, African origin of civilization: myth or reality, and Cultural unity of black Africa; Turnbull, Colin M. (1977). Man in Africa; Basil Davidson: Africa in history, The African genius, African civilization revisited, African kingdoms, and Lost cities of Africa; John Hope Franklin, From slavery to freedom; Chancellor Williams, Destruction of Black Civilization; and E. A. Wallis Budge. Osiris and the Egyptian resurrection.
2. Petrie, W. M. Flanders (1991). A history of Egypt, Part I. London, England: Histories & Mysteries of Man Ltd., p. 49.
3. (1967), The African origin of civilization: myth or reality. Westport, Connecticut: Lawrence Hill & Company, p. 91.
4. Budge, E. A. Wallis (1911). Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection. London: Philip Lee Warner; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, p. xvii. Accessed at http://www.archive.org/details/osirisegyptianre01budg
5. Davidson, Basil (1970). The lost cities of Africa, revised edition. Boston/Toronto: Little, Brown, and Company. p. 63.
6. Budge, p. 136.
7. UNESCO Symposium. The peopling of Egypt and the deciphering of the Meroitic script. Cairo, 28 Januaary-3 February 1974.
8. Nibbi, Alessandra (1975). The sea peoples and Egypt. Park Ridge, New Jersey: Noyes Press.
9. Martin, Lucas. Last of the Amarna Pharaohs: King Tut and his relatives. DNA Tribes Digest, January 1, 2012.
10. Martin, Lucas. Ramesses III and African ancestry in the 20th Dynasty of New Kingdom Egypt. DNA Tribes Digest. February 1, 2013.
11. The Human Origin Project (2019). The Ancient Astronomy of the Nabta Playa Egyptian Stone Circle, accessed at https://medium.com/@humanoriginproject/the-ancient-astronomy-of-the-nabta-playa-egyptian-stone-circle-c8ecb2800223
12. Budge, p. xxv.