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African Origin of the Ancient Egyptians

African Origin of the Ancient Egyptians

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Published by Brandon S. Pilcher
I was originally going to submit this to a peer-reviewed journal, but I decided that I did not have the academic gravitas yet and so chose to upload it here instead. My argument is that the ancient Egyptian people were indigenous Africans we would call "black" today.
I was originally going to submit this to a peer-reviewed journal, but I decided that I did not have the academic gravitas yet and so chose to upload it here instead. My argument is that the ancient Egyptian people were indigenous Africans we would call "black" today.

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Published by: Brandon S. Pilcher on Jul 29, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The African Origin of the Ancient EgyptiansAbstractThis paper, citing data from archaeology, cultural anthropology, and biologicalanthropology, demonstrates that the ancient Egyptian people were predominantly of indigenous African descent, originating from more southerly areas of the continent andsharing many cultural components and physical features with sub-Saharan populations.IntroductionWho were the people who founded and sustained the ancient Egyptian civilization? Of allthe enigmas surrounding this most famous of early cultures, perhaps none are more hotlydebated than the question of the Egyptians' ethnic makeup. Egypt is located in Africa, acontinent traditionally associated with black people, yet Egyptologists have for over twocenturies been reluctant to identify the Egyptians with other Africans due to racial prejudice, instead insisting on an Asiatic origin for Egyptian culture (Poe 1997,Kamugisha 2003). Among the biggest proponents of Near Eastern roots for the Egyptianswas Sir Flinders Petrie, a pivotal figure in the development of modern Egyptology, whoclaimed that Mesopotamians whom he called the "Dynastic Race" founded Egyptiancivilization, but there were many others (see Wilkinson 2003 for a discussion). It is for this reason that ancient Egyptians are often portrayed in popular culture as non-African inappearance (see for example Cecil DeMille's 1956 film
The Ten Commandments
and themore recent 1999 film
The Mummy
for just two out of numerous examples).These views, besides being tinged with racism, are obsolete. There is in fact a mountainof evidence, uncovered by archaeologists and anthropologists, revealing that the peoplewho created and maintained ancient Egypt, far from being of Near Eastern affinity, were predominantly indigenous Africans who originated from deeper into the continent andhad a physical appearance that modern Americans would classify as "black".The Archaeological EvidencePerhaps the oldest evidence for a settled culture along the Nile Valley was uncovered inthe 1940s by Anthony J. Arkell not in Egypt itself but in central Sudan near modernKhartoum. This culture, dubbed the Khartoum Mesolithic, is regarded as sedentary or atleast semi-sedentary because it left behind the oldest pottery found anywhere in Africa,dated to approximately 7300 BC (archaeologists consider pottery a trademark of sedentary and semi-sedentary cultures because it is too fragile to be carried around byconstantly moving nomads). The Khartoum Mesolithic culture has also left behind boneharpoons, grain-grinding stones, and burials of the dead (Byrnes 2009), but mostsignificant of all is a piece of rock art depicting a boat. As Usai and Salvatori (2007)show, the boat's design shows close architectural parallels with later Egyptian ships well
into the Pharaonic period, indicating that the Khartoum Mesolithic culture evolved into or at least influenced Egyptian culture.Around 6000 BC the earliest sign of a settlement appear in Egypt proper, specifically inthe area of Nabta Playa in the country's far southeast (Wendorf and Schild 1998). Theruins of stone houses built in straight rows, wells, a circle of small megaliths, and stonetumuli (burial mounds) containing cattle bones have all been found here, in an area that isnow desert but was savanna then; the Nabta Playan people appear to have had aneconomy based on herding cattle which were probably domesticated from a NorthAfrican subspecies of aurochs different from cattle used in the Near East andEurope(Wendorf 1994, Hanotte et al 2002). J´ordeczka et al (2011) report similarities between the Nabta Playan pottery and older Sudanese pottery, again showing a southernorigin or influence for the proto-Egyptians.The next significant culture to appear in Egypt is the Fayum Neolithic culture further north, which goes back to 5200 BC and provides the oldest evidence for agriculture in thecountry. Some of the crops and animals used by the Neolithic Fayumians do appear tohave come from the Near East instead of being indigenous to Africa, but even here it isunlikely that the people themselves were of Near Eastern origin. Ehret et all (1996) notethat the development of agriculture in the Fayum area appears to have been gradual,which is more consistent with native Africans slowly incorporating Near Easterndomesticates into an indigenous foraging strategy rather than a mass colonization of Near Eastern farmers, who would have brought about a more abrupt change in subsistencestrategy. Furthermore, Arkell (1975) notes similarities in artifacts from the Fayum Neolithic to those produced by contemporary Sudanese cultures, and as will be shownlater, the skeletal remains left behind by the people of ancient northern Egypt are moresimilar to those of Africans.Between 5200 and 4000 BC, knowledge of agriculture spread from the Fayum into Upper (southern) Egypt, but this did not completely replace the earlier cattle-herding Upper Egyptian culture. On the contrary, Egyptians continued to be semi-sedentary cattleherders who annually moved between Nile Valley villages and the grasslands beyond,with agriculture being only a supplement to this pastoral lifestyle (Wilkinson 2003).Egyptian tools and pottery also continued to resemble those from more southerly Africa(de Heinzelin 1962, Arkell and Ucko 1965, and Arkell 1975) and prehistoric rock artfrom the Sahara shows Egyptian connections (Donadoni 1964).The Sahara began to turn from savanna into desert between 4000 and 3000 BC, forcingthe Egyptians to abandon their pastoral ways, cling to the Nile Valley, and develop anurbanized and socially stratified culture that would evolve into classical Egyptiancivilization. Most of these developments would occur in Upper Egypt, with Lower (northern) Egypt remaining a relative backwater as indicated by unimpressive burialsrelative to the large elite tombs of the south (Wilkinson 2003). Eventually the Upper 
Egyptian culture would completely replace the Lower Egyptian culture and dominate theentire length of the Egyptian Nile Valley (Bard 1994). Around the same time, a wealthymonarchic culture very similar to Upper Egypt's was developing in Sudan (Williams1986), again showing a cultural link between Egypt and this part of Africa.Taken as a whole, the archaeological data shows both strong cultural affinities betweenearly Egypt and more inland regions of Africa, particularly Sudan, and a predominantlysouthern origin for Egyptian civilization. If Egyptian culture was heavily derivative of  Near Eastern traditions, Lower Egyptian culture would have dominated the south, yetinstead the reverse is observed. Whatever influence the Near East had during Egypt'sformative period was not enough to replace an indigenous---and therefore African---foundation.The Cultural Anthropological EvidenceArchaeology does not provide the only data supporting an African origin for the ancientEgyptians. Studies of both ancient Egyptian and sub-Saharan African cultures haveuncovered numerous similarities. This is not to say that African cultures arehomogeneous or that Egyptian culture did not develop its own unique characteristics, butit does add more support to the argument that Egyptian civilization evolved from acommon African cultural substratum.This becomes especially apparent when one looks at Egypt's early history. As discussed previously, prehistoric Egyptians were semi-sedentary cattle-herders moving between the Nile Valley and the high savanna every year; this lifestyle is still practiced by someSudanese groups today (Ryle 1982). In addition, archaeologist Timothy Kendall (2010)makes a congent case for the Egyptian spiritual concept of the "ka" having evolved froma Sudanese-style cattle culture. Early Egyptians also shared with their Sudanesecounterparts the ritual sacrifice of royal servants to accompany departed kings into theafterlife (Ehret 1996).Many other Egyptian religious practices have close African parallels. Both ancientEgyptians and sub-Saharan Africans considered their king to have a godlike nature andthe veneration of ancestral spirits was pivotal in both Egyptian and sub-Saharan religions(Bell 1996, Kusimba 1996). Kusimba and Yurco (1996) report that animals play a prominent role in both Egyptian and other African religions, with Egyptians and sub-Saharan peoples sharing a belief that divinity can be manifested in any form. TheEgyptian conception of divinity is also similar to that of other Africans in another respect:Taiwo (2005) describes the Yoruba of Nigeria as believing in multiple divinities that arereally manifestations of one Supreme Creator named Olodumare, whereas Allen (1997),citing an Egyptian papyrus, says that all of the characters in Egyptian mythologyfrequently called "gods" were really manifestations of one creator deity named Amun.This quasi-monotheistic belief system appears to have evolved from one similar to that

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Well researched scientific studies!!! Professor Darryl R.O. Prevost
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