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Egypt in Africa
March 15, 2005
The mainstream media and many writers often portray Kemet (Egypt) as if it exists outside of Africa. Indeed, many people have been systematically conditioned to view Egypt as outside of Africa. Even if they can admit that Egypt is within Africa, it is often implicitly or explicitly stated that the original inhabitants were non-Black and different from those in other parts of Africa. Racism and the inability of Western-European 'Egyptologists' to properly understand the nature of African civilizations, has resulted in the mass whitewashing and de-Africanization of Egypt.
The paranoia, delusions and racist denial surrounding Egypt can take many forms. For instance, some persons claim that some alien life form from another planet was responsible for creating Egypt on the 'dark' continent. Another unfounded theory is that the Greeks or some mysterious (non-African) civilization were responsible for teaching the Egyptians what they knew. These speculative theories go against the extensive evidence available that clearly shows the creators of the Nile Valley civilizations as black, kinky-haired Africans who were no different from those in sub-Saharan Africa. It seems to be easier for some people to accept that aliens built the pyramids and other monuments, for which there is not a single shred of evidence, than to believe that Black Africans could have conceived anything so magnificent. Historians such as John Henrik Clark, Cheik Anta Diop, Charles Finch, Yosef Ben Jochannan, Ivan Van Sertima, and Chancellor Williams have done extensive scholarly works that have been instrumental in helping to overturn the myths and distortions surrounding Egypt and her relation to wider Africa.
In 1951, the multi-disciplinary scholar, Diop, submitted a doctoral thesis based on the premise that Egypt was an African civilization. It was rejected. After two more failed attempts, in 1960 he marched into the doctoral session with an array of anthropologists, historians and sociologists and only then was successful at gaining his doctorate. Diop later established a radiocarbon laboratory where he was able to develop a melanin test that he used to test Egyptian mummies. His tests found high levels of melanin content adding another powerful piece of evidence to support his conclusion that Egypt was a Black civilization before the later invasions by the Persians and other external groups.
Understandably, the abundance of hieroglyphic scripts, artefacts and archaeological sites make Kemet a good starting place for the study of African civilizations. However, in African historiography, the overemphasis on Egypt has divorced it from its African context and other parts of Africa that are equally important in the momentous task of putting together the jigsaw puzzle of the past. Thus it is important to understand that Egyptian civilization did not exist in a vacuum but was a continuation of preceding civilizations to which it was intimately connected.
It is a mistake to label Egypt as the beginning of civilization as many writers have done. Such writers fall into the trap of conceptualizing civilization through a Eurocentric lens by only being able to see civilization as being characterized by grand monuments, pyramids, and beautiful temples. However, this is not the essence of civilization. It was the simple egalitarian way of life of indigenous Africans deep in the African interior, who by observing and understanding natural law originated the core principles and structures of spirituality, science, mathematics and astronomy that gave rise to the grand achievements of Kemet and Nubia.
The achievements of the Nile Valley people stood on the foundation of thousands of years of observation of the stars, moon, sun and other natural phenomenon by interior Africans. From these early Africans in the interior we see one of the earliest known prototypes of the God-man called Bes, which predates Heru (Greek- Horus) and Ausar (Greek-Osiris) who in turn predate the biblical Jesus by thousands of years. The physical characteristics of Bes reflect the short stature of these early Africans who were ancestors of the modern day Twa peoples. In the papyrus of Hunefer the people of the Nile Valley were quite clear about their origins, "We came from the beginning of the Nile where the God Hapi dwells, at the foothills of the mountain of the Moon." There are two mountains whose names both mean 'mountain of the moon' - Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, whose river contributes to the Blue Nile, and Rwenzori Mountain in Uganda, which is the source of the White Nile. Civilization flowed down the river Nile, which starts from the White Nile and Blue Nile in Uganda and Ethiopia, flowing north to Egypt. The River Nile stretching for 4,000 miles was a huge cultural highway that facilitated the movement of people and natural resources and the exchange of information and goods.
Fekri Hassan in the book "Egypt in Africa" in discussing ancient Egypt declares that the cultural continuity with the African substratum and the strong historical cultural interactions between Egypt and other African societies clearly demonstrate that Africa was the cradle of Egyptian civilization. The historian Charles Finch advanced that the "peopling of the Nile Valley from Africa's Great Lakes region must have occurred over and over again in waves. The population wave from the Great Lakes directly ancestral to the historical Nile Valley people probably began to settle north of the second cataract no later than 15, 000 years ago."
John G Jackson in "Introduction to African Civilizations" reminds us that the study of Egyptology developed in concurrence with the development of the slave trade and the colonial system. It was during this period that attempts to whitewash Egypt and separate it from its African context began. Scholars such as Diop in countering the tendency of Western Egyptologists to separate the Egypt from Africa identified several factors such as social organisation, kingship, linguistics, cosmogony, matriarchy and veneration of ancestors that show the affinity between the Nile Valley and sub-Saharan Africa.
One noteworthy aspect that is characteristic of most ancient African societies is the reverence for the feminine aspect of the universe that is reflected by a social organisation in which women played important and powerful roles. For instance, the goddess Maat often represented by a feather personified the principles of truth, justice, balance and reciprocity. In stark contrast to the current patterns of male domination and repression of the female principle seen in modern day society, dark skinned-kinky haired Africans more than four thousand years ago provide the best examples from which people can learn practical principles that can be applied in a 'modern' context.
The context and history of the Nile Valley civilizations has been neglected and distorted within mainstream academia, however it is an important link to understanding the contribution of African people to world civilization. Though this contribution is undeniable, it is generally ignored and not incorporated into the mainstream. In tracing the origin of Egypt and Nubia to deeper into the heartland, we realize that that many aspects of Western Civilization that are now taken for granted including mathematics, philosophy, religion, medicine, astronomy and science sprung from these dark skinned, kinky-haired Africans. For instance, in Ishango, archeologists came across a bone with markings that represented an arithmetic system revealing a familiarity with prime numbers, decimals, and addition by duplication. The Ishango bone dates back about 25,000 years. The same methods used on the Ishango bone were used in the Rhind Mathematical papyrus from Egypt that date back 4,000 years ago.
Cheik Anta Diop stated, "The history of Black Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians dare to connect it with the history of Egypt." The reverse is also true, the history of the Nile Valley Civilizations will remain distorted and suspended in the air until historians dare to connect it to the history of Black Africa. Technology and research are unearthing new evidence that support the writings of Diop, Ben Jochannan and others, however the old biases and distortions remain.
The African Origin of Civilization by Cheik Anta Diop
Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology by Cheik Anta Diop
Egypt, Child of Africa edited by Ivan van Sertima
Africa, Mother of Western Civilization by Yosef Ben Yochannan
Echoes of the Old Darkland by Charles Finch
The Star of Deep Beginnings by Charles Finch
Introduction to African Civilizations by John G Jackson