Ancient Egypt: Africa’s stolen legacy
Many people of African descent do not even think about it, those who do sometimes accuse the African-American scholars passionate about the subject of practising ‘pseudo-science’. Well, this month (October) is Black History Month in Britain ? a month dedicated to the celebration of the good and great in African/black history. As our contribution, New African has delved into the archives for some hidden truths ... please sit back and enjoy it. Story by Saafu Khpera.In October 1998, one of New African’s loyal readers (his name is being withheld), reacted to one of Baffour Ankomah’s columns (published in May 1998) in which Baffour had written: ‘On 22 March this year , the world was astounded to ‘discover’ that on the day of the Equinox, the sun sets directly behind the head of the Great Sphinx in Egypt. ‘It is now agreed’, trumpeted a British TV reporter, ‘that the people who built this great pyramid were astrological geniuses’.
‘Although the world, and modern Egyptians themselves, have tried for centuries to wipe out any black African connections to the pyramids, we know that our great black ancestors were the first to build these pyramids...’
The reader, a black African, obviously irritated by this ‘extravagant claim’ (his words), wrote back (see NA, Readers Forum, Oct 1998):
‘To claim without evidence that ‘modern Egyptians...have tried to wipe out any black African connections to the pyramids’ amounts to an unnecessary slur on modern Egyptians. Equally, to assert without proof that the Great Sphinx was built by black people is an extravagant claim that deserves to be ranked alongside the sort of pseudo-science that is often articulated by some African-American scholars of black history.’
Well, as they say in Ethiopia: ‘Truth and morning become light with time’. This year’s Black History Month must be the right time to put the ‘pseudo-science’ to the test.
In the beginning
The subjugation of Africa and its peoples began in earnest with the control of our minds which to date has reaped surplus dividend to outsiders, especially the European colonisers.
The basis of African emancipation or the much-talked about renaissance (including the call for a continental African union), must of necessity, begin with the decolonisation of our minds through the restoration of our history.
The truth is we have been educated, and still being educated, by the very people who have reasons to write Africa and its peoples out of the history of humanity.
The re-writing of African history would at least empower the future generation with a clear and true perception of their forebears, hence of themselves. Such restoration is by itself service to humanity, for the historical consciousness of humanity has suffered for nearly 600 years of deliberate distortion by Western scholars and writers.
This was achieved through falsifying, primarily, the history of the great African civilisation of Kemet (also known as Ancient Egypt). For years, Western historians have tried to divorce Negro Africans from Kemetic civilisation, while attributing those accomplishments to a race of people whom they called Hamites (Indo-Europeans who came from Asia). But, in fact, there is no such race in Asia.
The ‘Hamitic myth’ was invented in the 1920s by Charles G. Seligman, an English anthropologist and author of Races of Africa. According to him: ‘Negroes were too primitive to be capable of any advanced thought’. He claimed that Kemet was created by Hamites whom he regarded as ‘Caucasians [belonging] to the same branch of mankind as almost all Europeans.’
Seligman was in fact continuing from where Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, professor at Gottingen University in Germany, had left. In 1795, Blumenbach had put forward the ‘superiority of Caucasians’, a term he coined for Europeans in his classification of human races. Incidentally, he included Egyptians among his ‘Caucasians.’ This myth has held sway in academia for over 200 years.
But the Ancient Egyptians called themselves Kemmui, which meant black, written in their language Medu-Neter (or hieroglyphics as a block of wood charred at the ends).
For early Greek historians, the idea of distorting the history of Kemet was impractical, for they were well aware that the birth of science, mathematics, philosophy, etc, was too ancient in Kemet to contest, and would have been absurd to advance a contrary opinion.
This is evident in the entire Greek account of Ancient Egypt, which glorify the civilisation of Kemet. It was, after all, in Kemet that the Greeks got their education in practically every conceivable field of knowledge.
In effect, there was never a ‘Greek miracle’. What is now known as ‘the Greek miracle’ was prepared by millennia of work in the arts and sciences in the very bosom of what was later misnamed the ‘Dark Continent’, work done by Negro Africans.
Inherent in this distortion is a flawed principle that implicitly admits the truth of the Negro-Egyptian civilisation, hence the very need for concealment.
‘We can’t beat them since we weren’t there at the beginning, so let’s deny it.’ This is what I call Diop-mbra (the Diopian principle named after the great Senegalese historian and writer, Cheik Anta Diop).
This principle saturated 18th century European consciousness. For Europe is aware that almost half of the recorded history of humanity had passed before anyone in ‘Europe’ could read or write.
Greek civilisation and its entire intellectual output, which are accepted today as the source of European civilisation, are directly located in Kemet, the great African civilisation which occurred along the River Hapi (European name, Nile).
As Sir E.A. Wallis Budge attests in his book, Egypt: ‘The prehistoric native of Egypt, both in the old and new Stone Ages, was African, and there is every reason for saying that the earliest settlers came from the South. There are many things in the manners and customs and religions of historic Egyptians that suggest that the original home of their ancestors was in a country in the neighbourhood of Uganda and Punt.’
Europe’s awareness of this fact was to fabricate the history of Africa and erect a false edifice, which has to be maintained at all cost.
Today, based on this edifice, there is a school of thought that says since Africans have no history of any real significance to the rest of the world, we are a non-essential factor for the advancement of the human race. In other words, we are expendable and disposable commodities in the context of human advancement.
Whether it is an IMF loan, UN programme, nuclear testing in the Sahara Desert, Aids, dislocation of Africans in Brazil, USA, Papua New Guinea, Diego Garcia or East Timor; or genetically modified crops, the principle of Africa’s expendability is adhered to with religious zeal.
Remember America’s current treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers, when chief economist at the World Bank, felt no guilt in proposing that toxic waste should be dumped on the ‘poorest’ countries because their populations were not as valuable, in dollar terms, as the inhabitants of the rich countries (see NA, Sept p28-29). When this was leaked to The Economist (London) and Summers was challenged, his answer was that it had been an ‘intellectual exercise’ with which he wanted to engage his colleagues to whom he had sent the memo.
In recent days, the CNN (the American cable channel) has been advertising one of its programmes in these words: ‘You are what you know’. Stretching this to the African condition, it means we are breeding an inferiority complex in ourselves through believing the manufactured history of insignificance.
It is therefore no surprise that Africa and its peoples have moved from the ‘dark continent’ in the last century to a ‘hopeless continent’ at the beginning of this new century.
The ‘dark continent’ was a necessary pretext to civilise (which really meant, to loot, maim, enslave and plunder); and the ‘hopeless continent’ an acknowledgement of success of the latter. In effect, self-absolvement and a licence for future ‘noble and compassionate deeds’ as usual.
Kemet (aka Ancient Egypt)
This is the civilisation that rose, for over 3,000 years, along the River Hapi (Nile to foreigners), a river whose sources rise from the deep valleys of the East African Moon Mountains.
In fact, Ancient Egypt was preceded by an earlier Negro civilisation called Ta-Seti, which meant ‘Land of the Bow’.
In his brilliant, new book, Classical Splendour: Roots of Black History (published recently in London), Robin Walker confirms:
‘Ancient Egypt is the first major civilisation in Africa for which records are abundant. It was not, however, Africa’s first civilisation. That honour goes to the ancient Nubian kingdom of Ta-Seti, which encompassed the territory of the northern Sudan and the southern portion of Egypt.
‘This region,’ Walker continues, ‘is also called ‘Ethiopia’ in some of the literature, and ‘Kush/Cush’ in others. In 1980, Prof Bruce Williams, the director of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, published the results of excavations that his team started in the Nubian city of Qustul in 1962. The New York Times broke the story on 1 March 1979, carrying an article on its front page [headlined] Nubian Monarchy Called Oldest.
‘The evidence recovered suggested that a dynasty of 12 pharaohs ruled over Ta-Seti, about 300 years before the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt was established. From the royal tombs, five styles of pottery were found, showing different designs... Dr Williams also found examples of early hieroglyphic writing on some of the pottery, the oldest known evidence of a writing system anywhere in the world.’
Available records show that this Nubian civilisation began from 3800 to 3100 BC. Its seat was at Napata, its temples and pyramids can still be found in modern day Sudan and Egypt. It was Ta-Seti which gave birth to the first dynastic period of Kemet, providing all the necessary civilising elements, including the first 20 alphabets (Meroe hieroglyphics).
As Robin Walker, again, confirms in his book: ‘Ideas for civilisation and culture spread from Nubia to its northern neighbour, Egypt (or Kemet). Pharoah Narmer (called Aha Mena or Menes) unified the two lands of Upper and Lower Egypt and founded the First Dynasty. The records credit him with the building of Memphis, its ancient capital and administrative centre. It was built near the boundary that originally divided the two lands.’
Records show that the progenitors of Ancient Egypt (Kemet) were of indigenous African Negroid stock. They called their kings Nesu-biti or Hem.of (meaning His Majesty). This was during the native period which some historians now call the Archaic and Old Kingdoms (3100-2100BC). But in the New Kingdom (1500-1087BC) the kings were called Per ?? (meaning Great House) which was later corrupted into Pharoah by foreigners, mainly Asians and Assyrians, to refer to the Ancient Egyptian kings on account of the great buildings in which they lived.
In their attempt to whiten Egyptian civilisation, Western historians have found it necessary to blatantly ignore the ‘many stupendous primeval monuments in Sudan and Ethiopia that so clearly proclaim a civilisation earlier than that of Ancient Egypt.’
These historians have misled the world into believing that Ancient Egyptian civilisation emerged from the shores of Europe through Greece. This is in spite of the fact that all the accounts by ancient Greeks themselves confirm that black Africans had lived throughout the length and breadth of Africa (including north of the Sahara) for as long as the continent had been known to the world.
These facts have been well documented and attested by Persian and Byzantine historians of the 5th century, who wrote that the people of North Africa were black, until North Africa fell to the Roman Empire, leading to an influx into North Africa of Roman and other European tribes.
In fact, Hannibal (247-183 BC) who extended his rule from Carthage (Tunisia) to Rome and Spain, and who has been so ‘whitened’ by Europeans, issued a coin after he defeated the Romans at Trasmere which showed a Negro African on one side and an elephant on the other (Polybius, Book 3).
Ernest Babelon, a numismatist, (a person who studies or collects coins) attested: ‘The Negro [on Hannibal’s] coin has a definite characteristic that leaves no doubt of the ethnographic intention of the engraver. He has rings in his ears, flat nose, thick lips, hair arranged in rows of knots. I think the effigy on the coin was Hannibal himself.’
It is in fact easier to prove that Ancient Egypt was a Negroid civilisation than Europe’s claim to Greek civilisation. For, there was no recorded history of Europe in ancient times.
The Europe we know today was divided by the frontier formed by the two rivers, Rhine and Danube. South and west of the frontier lay the civilised world, and north and east the barbarians of whom the then civilised world (principally Africa) knew almost nothing about.
At best, at the twilight of the Neolithic Age, Europeans were dwelling in caves. When pastoral existence began in Europe, Africans had, for centuries, harvested corn, made wine, wrote philosophical treatises, studied the stars, built complex buildings, produced mystics and divine incarnations (sages, gurus, prophets), and laid down the first creed of the salvation of the soul.
The French writer, Count Constantin de Volney in his important book, The Ruins of Empires, clearly states that the black people of Kemet were the first to ‘attain the physical and moral sciences necessary to civilised life’.
Wrote Volney: ‘It was, then, on the borders of the Upper Nile, among a Black race of men, that was organised the complicated system of worship of the stars, considered in relation to the productions of the earth and the labours of agriculture; and this first worship, characterised by their adoration under their own forms and national attributes, was simple proceeding of the human mind.’
When a few nomadic communities banded to settle in Rome around 1000 BC, the African civilisation was more than 2,000 years old ? its religion, philosophers, scientists, etc, were already ancient.
When the Greek pantheon was in rudimentary stage ? the Olympiad yet to be held; Hinduism yet to appear, Gautama Buddha yet to be born around 560 BC, Prophet Mohammed yet to be born; when Abraham journeyed to Kemet for refuge entering with 70 shepherds and 12 patriarchal families who left after 400 years as a 600,000 strong Jewish community, acquiring all the elements of its future tradition (including monotheism and circumcision), the pyramids of Kemet were already a collector’s item.
Land of the Blacks
The Greeks, credited with European civilisation, themselves confirmed ? right from Herodotus, Isocrates to Plutarch ? that the Egyptians ‘were very black’ and had ‘woolly hair’.
These eyewitness accounts were made when Egyptian civilisation had already been in existence for, at least, 2,000 years. The Egyptians themselves stated in various texts, notably the Edfu text ? an inscription still found in the Temple at Edfu ? that: ‘Several thousand years ago, we were led by our king from the South to settle up the Nile valleys.’
Another account, the Papyrus of Hunefer (the philosopher and high priest), which is now exhibited in the British Museum in London, states: ‘We came from the beginning of the Nile where God Hapi dwells at the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon’. The furthest point of ‘the beginning’ of the River Hapi (Nile) is in Uganda.
Queen Maatkare Hatshepsut (1778-1458 BC, 18th Dynasty), the daughter of King Tutmoses II, wrote in her tomb:
‘I have restored what was cast down. I have built up what was uncompleted. Since the Asiatics arrived in this land, and the barbarians were among them, destroying buildings, while they governed, not knowing Ra.’
Hatshepsut sent a fleet of ships to visit Punt (which covered the entire region called East Africa today, comprising Uganda, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania), the land which the Egyptians themselves referred to as ‘the sacred land’.
Queen Hatshepsut was, in effect, honouring the long-held African tradition of paying homage to the ancestral homestead. Nowhere in this greatly detailed account found in her Temple, was it said that it was a military expedition. The delegation was jointly headed by Prince Nehusi, Senmut (the chief architect) and Tuuti (the treasurer).
This time-honoured journeys were in practice as far back as the 5th Dynasty (2510-2460 BC), from the days of King Asakaf to King Pepi II, when the journeys were made inland, affirming an earlier African civilisation that preceded Ancient Egypt.
The Nubians of Sudan are today accepted as the ancestors of black Africans to the point where Negro and Nubian is synonymous both in antiquity and modern times.
Ethiopians and Copts are two Negroid groups subsequently mixed with different Mediterranean strains ? this fact is well established and undisputed by historians.
The Negro of the Nile Delta inbred gradually with Mediterraneans who continually infiltrated Egypt at a time when all the major Kemetic civilisations had been in place, from the First Dynasty to the 12th Dynasty.
The Rosetta Stone
During the 18th century, there was a renewed interest by Europe in Egyptian gold and artefacts. This made possible the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone (currently in the British Museum) which was found in 1799 at the mouth of the Nile by members of Napoleon’s expedition.
On the Stone was a decree issued by Ptolemy Ephihanes V in Greek and Medu-Neter which was deciphered by the Frenchman Jean-Francois Champollion who, in turn, while still in Egypt, wrote about what he saw in the temples to his brother Jaques Joseph Champollion-Figeac. Jean-Francois died in 1832. His brother, Figeac, who later became the icon of European Egyptology, published the full text of Jean-Francois’ letter in 1883.
Europeans were baffled to discover a first hand account by the Ancient Egyptians themselves, pointing to Negro Egypt. It was at the same time that Europe was enslaving Negro Africans and sending them to the Americas. As a result, Europe could not admit to a Negro Egypt, the source of ancient Greek civilisation, even if the Ancient Egyptians themselves had affirmed this.
Figeac’s publication of Jean-Francois’ correspondence established a major piece of evidence from an European which should render all suppositions unnecessary regarding Negro Egypt.
As early as 233 BC (18th Dynasty), the Egyptians continuously represented the two groups of their own race in a manner that could not possibly be confused by anybody. Significantly the order in which the four races then known to the Egyptians (Kemmui, Nahasi, Namou, Tahmou) are consistently arranged in relation to the god, Horus, also bestowed on them their social hierarchy.
Jean-Francois Champollion affirmed this in his letter to his brother, Champollion-Figeac:
‘Right in the valley of Biban-el Moluk, we admired like all previous visitors the astonishing freshness of the painting and the fine sculpture of tombs. I had a copy of the peoples represented on the bas-relief.
‘According to legend, they wished to represent the inhabitants of Egypt and those of foreign lands. Thus we have before our eyes the images of various races of man known to the Egyptians, established during that early epoch. Men led by Horus, belong to four races; the first, the one closest to the god, has a dark red colour, a well proportioned body, kind face, long braided hair, slightly aquiline nose, designated men par excellence.
‘There can be no uncertainty about the racial identity of the man who comes next: he belongs to the black race designated Nahasi.
‘The third man present a very different aspect; his skin colour borders on yellow or tan; he has a strong aquiline nose, thick, black pointed beard and wears a short garment of varied colours; these called Namou.
‘Finally, the last one, what we call the flesh-coloured, a white skin of the most delicate shade, a nose straight or slightly arched, blue eyes, blond or red bearded, tall stature, very slender and clad in hairy ox-skin, a veritable savage tattooed on various parts of his body, he is called Tahmou.
‘I hasten to seek the tableau corresponding to this one in the other royal tombs and, as a matter of fact I found several, convincing me of that fact that the Egyptians were representing namely: (1) Egyptian, (2) Black Africans, (3) Asians, (4) finally (and I am ashamed to say so, since our race is the last and most savage in the series) Europeans, who in those remote epoch, frankly did not cut too fine a figure in the world.
‘This manner of viewing the tableau is accurate, because on the other tombs, the same generic names reappear always in the same order. We find there, Egyptians and Africans represented in the same way, which could not be otherwise; but Namou [the Asian] and Tahmou [Indo-Europeans] present significant and curious variants.
‘I certainly did not expect, on arriving here to find sculptures that could serve as vignettes for history of primitive Europeans, if ever one has the courage to attempt it. Nevertheless there is something flattering and consoling in seeing them, since they make us appreciate the progress we have subsequently achieved.’
Even the gods were painted black
The Ancient Egyptians went as far as painting the images of their gods in coal-tar black. There are records showing that early Christendom worshipped and converted the Kemetic ‘devine mother’ Aset (Isis) and Horus, her son, as blacks until the era of the European Renaissance.
Jocely Rhys, an English scholar affirms: ‘In catacombs of Rome, Black statutes of this Egyptian devine mother and infant still survive from early Christendom, which they converted to the Virgin Mary.’
Will Duran (Story of Civilisation IV) also wrote: ‘Statutes of Isis and Horus were renamed Mary and Jesus; the Roman Lupercalia and the Feast of Isis became the Nativity; the Saturnalia became Christmas celebration.’
For artistic and ceremonial purposes, the Ancient Egyptians painted themselves in dark red for men and yellow for women. There are numerous existing paintings in the Temple of Ramese III, and the famous Abu Simbel paintings where the Ancient Egyptians and Nubians are painted solid black.
Scientifically speaking, there is no dark-red race. The colour of the two Negroes closest to Horus are at best an expression of two Negro shades. In modern-day Sudan, wrestlers paint their skin red and yellow for ceremonial purposes.
The Ancient Egyptians did not differentiate themselves from the Nubians as a separate race. When foreigners, principally the Assyrians (Syria), Persians (Iran) and the Hykos (Indo-Europeans) invaded Egypt, the natives sought refuge in Nubia (Sudan) to drive them out, it was as natural a kinship as Britain’s special relationship with America.
It was also an ‘unwritten law’ since inheritance was matrilineal in Kemet to the extent that all foreign usurpers to the throne sought to marry into the royal household to legitimatise their claim by having ‘golden blood’, not ‘blue blood’, and having the ‘golden Horus name’ ? an ancestral name legitimising the royal strain.
Ptolemy Lago, the first of the Roman rulers, married into the royal African household to legitimise his claim. Julius Caesar did the same and had a child with Netermut Cleopatra. Mark Antony later abandoned his wife for Netermut Cleopatra for the same reasons. In effective, all the so-called Greeco-Roman rulers in the dying days of the Kemet civilisation (304-30 BC, the Ptolemaic Period) were all Africans.
The spirit world
The capability to ascribe the universe to one supreme being (monotheism), and to embrace the gods, (polythesism, which the Europeans called idiol worshipping) and divine kingship, had all been in practice by the Akan of Ghana, the Ife of Nigeria and others, long before the Europeans arrived in West Africa on their civilising mission in the 14th century.
The Dogon of Mali knew how to determine mathematically and graphically the position of the sun on the ecliptic just as their great ancestors had done in the Nile Valley.
The essential core of the Ancient Egyptian civilisation is spirituality, which permeated every aspect of life including science; hence Atom, the appellation of Ra the Almighty, corresponds to the atom in physics of today.
Modern Western science has confirmed beyond doubt that atom particles contain elements of light which the Ancient Egyptians portrayed as a ray of the sun, and also makes the ‘plants grow green’ (Great Hymns of Aton-King Akhenaton). Yet science, in the hands of the Western world, has become inimical to the spirit.
This centrality of the spirit, being embodied in all aspects of the living is abundantly clear in Black Africa, to the point that superstition became synonymous with Africans.
A colossal volume of books (payprus) on practically every subject has survived from the Kemetic civilisation, which are currently in the possession of Western scholars and institutions.
The very calendar of 365 days, the division of the day to 12-hour cycles, all created by Kemetic scientists and astrologers 4,000 years ago, based on the movement of the sun, are still in use today, as if they were invented by European scientists.
Maheru Imhotep Ra (2980 BC), mystic, poet and scientist, who lived in the court of King Djoser, is the father of medicine, not Hippocrates as the world has been led to believe. Imhotep Ra diagnosed and treated diseases, and wrote over 200 books on bladder, liver, skin colour, eyes, abdomen, and tracked the circulation of blood 2,000 years before it was known in Europe ? long before Hippocrates was born.
The Greeks travelled to Kemet in search of the knowledge of ancient African mystic systems.
In effect, the legacy of scientific and philosophic knowledge was wrongly credited to the Greeks. It was then handed to the Romans who passed it on to Renaissance Europe, and on to the modern world.
After nearly 3,000 years of prohibition against the Greeks, they were allowed to enter Kemet to study. This was made possible, first, through the Persian invasion and, secondly, through the invasion of Alexander the Great (from the 6th century BC) to the death of Aristotle (322 BC).
The Greeks took every opportunity to learn all they could, receiving direct instructions from the African high priests. When Egypt came under Roman control, they looted and ransacked the great libraries of Egypt.
This looting of the libraries was the genesis of Western scientific, philosophic and technical knowledge. This continued when Napoleon’s invading army arrived in Egypt in 1798 AD.
Democritus, another Greek historian, accused his fellow Greek, Anaxagoras, of having ‘stolen’ the Egyptian mystical teachings on the sun and moon, and passed it round as his.
Socrates, one of the greatest Greek scholars, while awaiting condemnation in prison for teaching African wisdom, and also for his condemnation of corruption, admitted to his pupils for plagiarising (if not word for word) the work of the African philosopher, Aesop, the Ethiopian (560 BC).
Said Socrates: ‘I availed myself of some of Aesop’s fables which were ready to hand and familiar to me and I versified the first of them that suggested themselves’.
Homer, 850 BC, in his Odyssey IV, praised Ancient Egypt ‘where the doctors are the first scientists of the world’.
The death of Aristotle, who had inherited a vast quantity of books from the libraries of Egypt through his friendship with Alexander the Great, was naturally followed by the death of Greek philosophy which degenerated into a system of borrowed ideas, known by themselves as eclecticism.
The compilation of Greek philosophy ? if not at the instigation of Aristotle himself, certainly students of his school ? was not authorised by the Greek government which persecuted the Greek philosophers since it considered philosophy as African and foreign to Greek sensibilities, and thus could lead to the corruption of the youth.
As a result, Anaxagoras was indicted and fled from prison to exile in Ionia. Socrates was also executed for exhibiting some of the qualities mandatory for initiation into ancient African mystical teachings. Plato was also persecuted and fled to Megara for refuge.
In short, what some have called the ‘pseudo-science’ of African-American scholars of black history is not pseudo-science after all.
‘Insofar as Egypt [Kemet] is the distant mother of Western sciences,’ wrote Cheik Anta Diop in Civilisation or Barbarism, ‘most of the ideas that we call foreign are oftentimes nothing but mixed up, reversed, modified, elaborated images of the creations of our African ancestors, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, dialectics, the theory of being, the exact sciences, arithmetic, geometry, mechanical engineering, astronomy, medicine, literature (novel, poetry, drama), architecture, the arts, etc. One can see then how fundamentally improper is the notion, so often repeated, of the importation of foreign ideologies in Africa. It stems from a perfect ignorance of the African past.’
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