This is the second in a seven-blog series on history. In this blog, I describe the African origins of ancient Egypt.
Today, the Sahara Desert is a 3,630,000 square mile barrier, (larger than America’s contiguous 48 states) between Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa. However, at the dawn of ancient Egypt the Sahara was not a barrier between it and sub- Saharan Africa. In fact, from around 13,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C. during the African Humid Period (AHP) the Green Sahara had multiple large lakes, extensive vegetation, animal life, human settlements, and plenty of rainfall.
During the AHP the Sahara joined the peoples of West, East, and North Africa together causing them to share discoveries, ideas, and goods. Hence, to understand African and ancient Egyptian histories, we must accept that during the AHP, North, East, and West Africa learned, taught, and traded with each other. (They Came Before Columbus (TCBC) p. 114)
However, starting around 3500 B.C. shifts in world weather patterns, began to change the Sahara into the world’s largest hot desert. This forced its inhabitants to retreat northwards to the Atlas Mountains, southwards to West Africa, and eastwards to the Nile Valley. It was the black Africans migrating from the central Sahara and the Sudan into the basin of the Nile with their knowledge and traditions that made ancient Egypt an African civilization. (TCBC p. 119)
These migrations caused black Africans from central-west Sahara to mix with Asians and Caucasians migrating into the north of Egypt. These migrations created, in ancient Egypt, a mixed north (primarily Afro-Asian-mulattoes with some Caucasians) and a largely black south (Negro-Africans). Ancient Egyptian civilization began with the unification of Upper (south) and Lower (north) Egypt and the creation of the First Dynasty by Menes, who was from the largely black Upper Egypt. The ancient Egyptian civilization existed from about 3100 B.C. until the period just before the birth of Christ. (TCBC pp. 113 -121)
It is at this point that the winged disc motif arose as a political symbol signifying the unification of the two lands. Menes also laid the foundations of a city, Memphis, which was to become the capital of the Egyptian kings for three thousand years. (TCBC pp. 119, 120)
In addition to ancient Egypt’s origins, during all her periods of upheaval, when the north was threatened by chaos or the invasion of foreigners, Egypt was rescued and reunited by powerful men from the black south. (TCBC p. 121) The most well-known of these rescues was the Nubian Pharaohs of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty.
Seven, of over twenty, practices and cultural elements of ancient Egypt that made it a black African civilization were: 1) Mummification; 2) Pottery; 3) Art; 4) Bird and Animal deities; 5) Crops from Sub Saharan Africa; 6) Kings as Divine; and 7) the science of mathematics.
Mummification – In the rocky hills of the Fezzan (the southwestern region of modern Libya), the body of a Negroid child, mummified, flexed and buried beneath the dirt floor of a family shelter was found. The body was carefully preserved (by drying) before burial. According to the archaeologist who found the mummy, and carbon-14 dating, the mummy is from 3,500 B.C., 400 years before ancient Egypt’s First Dynasty and older than the oldest Egyptian mummies. In addition, a mummy figure bound in many cloths and tied with bands was painted on the wall ofthe rock shelter where the child was buried. This is the way the dead were represented in Egypt in later times, yet the painting may be older than the child’s mummy. (TCBC p. 115)
Pottery – Black Africans made pottery as early as 7000 B.C. in a fishing- hunting community near Khartoum. The people of this community “fired” pottery and combed it with a catfish spine to give it a basket effect. The oldest ivory figurines found in ancient Egypt were sculpted by the Badari, an Egyptian Negroid race. (TCBC p. 116) During the Predynastic and early dynasties the Egyptians made their pottery, even the largest vessels, by hand and were so skilled it is hard to believe they did not employ a mechanical means like a potter’s wheel, in their pottery work. Many modern peoples in Central Africa possess similar pottery skills. (Osiris & The Egyptian Resurrection, Volume II, p. 245)
Art – According to Dr. Van Sertima, archaeological studies in the Sahara and the Sudan have shown that much of the art found in the tombs of the pharaohs, and many of the bird and animal deities worshiped by ancient Egyptians originated among Negro-Africans south and west of the Nile. Another ancient Egyptian art form, which came up from the Sudan, and points to a domestication of cattle as early as 4500 B.C. by black Africans, are the rock paintings of cattle with intricately twisted horns. These horn shapes reappear in the temple and tomb paintings of dynastic Egypt. Recent archaeological studies in the Sahara and Sudan have shown that much of the art found in the tombs of the pharaohs originated among Negro-Africans south and west of the Nile. (TCBC pp. 114 – 116)
Bird and Animal Deities – Prototypes of some of the Egyptian bird and animal deities have been traced to the desert rock art of Negro-Africans in the Tassili Mountains. Even ceremonial costumes of the pharaohs blossomed out of sartorial styles displayed by some figures on these rocks. This Saharan art shows beautifully drawn herds and herders, bird-headed goddesses, and hunters dressed in animal heads and tails. This art painted men and women with beautiful and sensitive realism before 3000 B.C. (TCBC p. 116)
Crops from Africa –The earliest agricultural settlement in the Negro Sudan (the Fayum) shows that pastoral and agricultural science existed side by side. In the Fayum site is clear evidence that people were growing grain and minding cattle as early as 4500 B.C. At another site near Khartoum, south of Egypt, blacks cultivated crops and made pottery. A connection between these two sites and an African source west of the Nile, are large quantities of Amazon stone beads from the Eghei Mountains, north of Tibetsi (in the Sahara). In the Khartoum site, dotted wavy-line pottery was found identical with pottery in the Tibetsi area. This indicates Tibetsi was a dispersal area of cultural influences moving up the Nile from the Sahara as the Green Sahara began to dry up and black Africans started moving north and east, “until they reached the flood-plain of Egypt.” Among the crops black Africans contributed to Egypt were the bottle gourd, the watermelon, the tamarind fruit and cultivated cotton. There is no evidence that Egypt contributed any plants to black Africa. (TCBC pp. 117 – 118)
Kings as Divine – The concept of the king as divine, a god in person among men, lay at the root of royal mummification. The form of divine kingship in ancient Egypt was from Africa, not from Asia as some have assumed, because the African form of the dead that emerged, to include Divine kingship, differs radically from that in Asia Minor and can “be found in Uganda, in the Benue Valley, along the Guinea coast and down into Rhodesia.” . (TCBC pp. 115, 116)
The Science of Mathematics – What we know about the origins of Egyptian mathematics is scanty and incomplete. However, according to Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, “conventional histories have ignored the African beginnings” of a number of key achievements of Egypt to include “the African science of mathematics.” Among the early mathematical achievements of Africa is the oldest mathematical instrument, the 35,000-year-old Lebombo bone, a baboon fibula used as a measuring device discovered in the Lebombo mountains of Swaziland. More recently, the Ishango baboon fibula, from at least 20,000 B.C., was discovered in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ishango bone appears to be much more than a simple tally stick since one of its rows contains the prime numbers between 10 and 20, another row is consistent with a numeration system based on 10, and a third row seems to illustrate the method of multiplication by 2 used in Egyptian multiplication.
As noted earlier, the ancient Egyptian civilization began with Menes’ unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. Ancient Egypt shared more than twenty practices and cultural elements with ancient black African cultures, seven of which are described above. Together its origin, practices, and cultural elements made ancient Egypt an African civilization.
My next blog will focus on the Indus Valley Civilization.