Were the Ancient Egyptians black?
Were the Ancient Egyptians African?
These are controversial questions. To answer the questions, we need to agree certain things first.
We even need to agree “Who are Africans?” for instance, as odd as that may seem?
In modern logic, Africans tend to be those who are either first, second or third generation Africans; or those with an African passport. Also, Africans are those who come from the continent of Africa or its peripheral islands. Egypt is located on the mainland of Africa and has been located in Africa for millions of year in geological periods.
Skin colour is the result of diversity due to mutations, the emergence of 4 depigmentation genes between 8,000 to 11,000 years ago that maximize vitamin D produced at low UVB exposure latitudes. These 4 genes are KITLG, TYRP1, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2. Skin colour is one of at least 1,000 possible differences between all humans. So, whether white, black or in-between, therefore, the Ancient Egyptians were at least Africans.
Who are the Ancient Egyptians under discussion?
Evidence of the civilization of the Ancient Egyptians goes back to Badarian culture (4,400 BCE to 4,000 BCE). This culture developed into Naqada I, Naqada II and Naqada III (4,000 BCE to 3,100 BCE) which preceded early dynastic Egypt (3,100 BCE to 2,686 BCE). Indigenous pharaonic Egypt is assumed to end at the start of the first Ptolemaic Pharaoh in 305 BCE when Ptolemy I Soter ascended the throne. So, we are referring to the period from 4,400 BCE to 305 BCE when we refer to Ancient Egyptians.
Due to the passage of time, the Ptolemies have also become Egyptians, so we are not striking out the Ptolemies as Egyptians. It is accepted that the Ptolemies are Greeks who became rulers of indigenous Africans, similar to the Hyksos rulers of lower Egypt.
Who is black? Eurocentric hobby historians and even academics often have a caricature in mind when they read the word black. The caricature of the word black is someone who possesses thick lips (criteria 1), a wide nose (criteria 2), jet black skin (criteria 3), West African lineage (criteria 4), or Central African lineage (criteria 5) and woolly hair (criteria 6). That definition of black is ignorant. By this definition North Africans and East Africans are excluded from being black. Also, a crime is committed when this view of blackness is used interchangeably with the word African. Some Eurocentrists remove North Africans from Africa by insisting only Niger-Congo speaking Africans are Africans. Such people tend to be blind to their own errors in thinking.
There are black Africans who are light skinned (criteria 7), have a thin nose (criteria 8), have straight hair (criteria 9), have East African or Horn of Africa lineage (criteria 10), have South African lineage (criteria 11), or have North African lineage such as the Haratine of Morocco (criteria 12).
Haratine People of Morocco
Huda Mzioudet is a Tunisian journalist and researcher on Tunisian and Libyan affairs. She is a contributor to several media outlets including Al Jazeera English, HuffPost Arabi, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio Canada Première Chaîne, among others.
The Severan Tondo, depicting two generations of the family of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, from the 2nd Century AD, Location: Antikensammlung, Altes Museum, Berlin. The darker skin tone of Septimius Severus is real.
In Roman mosaic of pairs of wrestlers, dated to the 3rd century AD, one wrestler is black from Thaenae, Roman Tunisia
We can see therefore that a black African only needs to meet criteria 13: has a brown skin. Criteria 1 to 12 cannot be applied to all black Africans.
Continuing with errors, another definition of the word black tends to be Sub-Sahara African. There are, and there have always been, black Africans in Morocco (such as Mawlay Ismael), Algeria (such as Miss Algeria 2019 Khadija Ben Hama from Adrar state), Libya, Tunisia (10 to 15% of Tunisians, such as Huda Mzioudet), and Egypt (such as Anwar Sadat). North Africa for a long time has been a mixture of black Africans, white (or lighter skin) Africans and mixed Africans. Saying there are black Africans in North Africa is not a claim that 100% of North Africans are black. It is a claim that more than 1% of North Africans have a brown skin (criteria 13).
Here the term black Africans is used to cover an African with a brown skin tone. It isn’t used to mean Sub-Sahara African.
The proportion of black Africans in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt) fell between 5,000 BCE and 650 AD, due to fleeing invasions (as refugees or internally displaced persons) from the Hyksos, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Arabs during the Islamic conquest. Later it bounced back due to the Arab slave trade from 650 AD to 1960 AD and Muslim African states raiding non-Muslim state’s for slaves. North Africans also gained European slaves such as Thomas Pellow through piracy by Corsairs and purchases in a range of 10% – 30% of slaves. (Read White Gold by Giles Milton and Black Morocco by Chouki El Hamel).
After being ruled by Byzantines, Egypt was ruled by the Rashidun caliphate (632 AD – 661 AD), Umayyad caliphate (661 AD – 750 AD), Abbasid caliphate (750 AD – 1258 AD), Mamluk Sultanate (1250 AD – 1517 AD), Ottoman Empire (1517 AD – 1914 AD), and the British empire (1914 AD – 1922 AD)
Now we are ready to discuss the question “Were the Ancient Egyptians black?”
Immediately it’s very obvious that some Ancient Egyptians (from 5,000 BCE to 305 BCE) were black and some were not.
A person could be black AND not have thick lips, a flat nose, West African lineage, Central African lineage, East African lineage, South African lineage, or woolly hair. A person could be black AND not Sub-Sahara African. Polynesians are black. The Australian Aboriginals are black. Polynesians and Australian aborigines aren’t Sub-Saharan African. Black just means has a person has a brown skin, whether of a light complexion like the San people or of a dark complexion like the Nilotic Africans.
Modern Egyptians and some North Africans – mainly of a light complexion, sometimes referred to as white Africans – often think the word black means Bantu, Sub-Sahara African or West African. So far, we have demonstrated that this is not the case. Black means a person possessing a brown complexion, whether ranging from Mulatto to Jet Black. A children with 4 grandparents, two of whom are white, could be called black, if possessing a brown skin complexion.
Some Caucasians and some Asians also think the word black means Bantu, Sub-Sahara African, Afro-American or West African. If so, what about West Indian blacks? So far, we have explained that only criteria 13 makes a person black. We have also demonstrated that a black person could have 2 or more white or Asian grandparents.
What other support is there that some Ancient Egyptians were black?
Out of Africa migration & De-Pigmentation theory
According to Out of Africa theory, all behaviorally modern humans were in Africa. They then left Africa through Egypt and across the Red Sea into the Arabian Peninsula. Originally all humans were black. White skin emerged in higher frequencies around 8,000 years ago. Most Europeans and Asians prior to 8,000 years ago were therefore brown skinned. An example is Cheddar man. Dna evidence shows that skeletons from earlier than 8,000 years in Spain, Hungary, and Luxembourg (Central and Southern Europe) lacked two genes—SLC24A5 and SLC45A2—that lead to depigmentation. Over time 4 genes in total became associated with depigmentation – KITLG, TYRP1, SLC24A5, and SLC45A2. So, in the Nile Valley, 8,000 years ago the inhabitants there too were black. Lighter skinned humans with SLC24A5 and SLC45A2 genes were not found until the date of 7,700 years ago in Sweden. (Anne Gibbons, Science Magazine, 2015)
Rendered model of Cheddar Man. In 1903, the oldest skeleton of the human species, Homo sapiens, in the United Kingdom was found in Gough’s Cave, in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, Britain. Normally, people would expect that the genetic markers of the Cheddar man would indicate pale skin, however, the genetic markers indicated pigmented skin, linked to individuals from Sub-Saharan Africa, due to lacking depigmentation genes. The examination of the Cheddar man revealed that he was dark-skinned, with dark brown hair and blue eyes, and that he was about 166 cm tall. He is estimated to have died in his twenties. The Cheddar man is an early indication that Africans or descendants of did live in Europe, and were a part of its population. Cheddar man is believed to have lived 10,000 years ago.
Influx of white pigmentation back into Africa (SLC24A5 and SLC45A2)
Three genes were the first to develop at latitudes far from the equator around 11,000 years ago to 19,000 years ago – KITLG, TYRP1, SLC24A5, and SLC45A2. (Source: Sandra Beleza, António M. Santos, […], and Jorge Rocha, The Timing of Pigmentation Lightening in Europeans, Mol Biol Evol. 2013 Jan; 30(1): 24–35. Published online 2012 Aug 25.) These genes did not spread to the majority of Europeans and Asians until a time period from 8,000 years to 6,000 years ago. De-pigmentation therefore spread to the black Egyptians from the Near East through interbreeding. This explains why Ancient Egyptians in Lower Egypt had lighter skin due to mixing while Ancient Egyptians in Upper Egypt had darker skin. The spread of these genes maximized vitamin D synthesis for humans far away from the equator, according to paleoanthropologist Nina Jablonski of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), University Park. It also explains why the predynastic and early Egyptians were a mixture of white, black and everything in-between.
Dr Tom Booth is a postdoctoral researcher working closely with the Museum’s human remains collection to investigate human adaptation to changing environments.
‘Until recently it was always assumed that humans quickly adapted to have paler skin after entering Europe about 45,000 years ago,’ says Tom. ‘Pale skin is better at absorbing UV light and helps humans avoid vitamin D deficiency in climates with less sunlight.’
However, Cheddar Man has the genetic markers of skin pigmentation usually associated with sub-Saharan Africa. This discovery is consistent with a number of other Mesolithic human remains discovered throughout Europe.
Diplomacy and migrant workers
To bind peace treaties (such as the Silver treaty which ended the Battle of Kadesh) or international trade deals, the Pharaohs and daughters of Pharaohs often married royalty from neighbouring countries, resulting in “mixed race” children. A famous example is one of the wives of King Solomon in the bible, who was a daughter of the Pharoah of Egypt (1 Kings 3:1), about whom Songs of Solomon was written. The Egyptians sometimes also used foreign mercenaries and in other instances allowed defeated captives to settle in Egypt as slaves. We would expect therefore some of the tombs of Ancient Egypt to produce foreigners who had fully integrated into Egyptian Society.
The internal evidence and external references to Egypt & Africa in writing by other cultures is among of the best documented and earliest in the world. About Egypt and Africa, we have the following sources:
Covering 2,200 BCE to 70 AD: seals, tokens, ostraca, papyri, and the bible
7th century to 5th century Bc: Menander, Aristodemus, Philocorus, Herodotus, Aeschylus and Aristotle.
From the establishment of the Ptolemies in Egypt (late fourth century before our era) to the Arab Conquest (639 of our era): Polybius, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny the Elder, Ptolemy, Procopius, Khwârizmï, Mas’udï, Jahiz, and Ibn Khaldun.
We also have a variety of different types of sources:
Chronicles and annals
Geographical works, accounts of travels, works by naturalists
Legal works, religious works (treatises on canon law, devotional books or lives of saints)
Literary works in the strict sense.
Private documents: family letters, business correspondence, etc. Official documents emanating from the state or representatives of the state: official correspondence, decrees, letters
I would challenge Eurocentric historian to produce just one Greek writer, Hittite, Assyrian, Sumerian, Babylonian, or Cypriot writer that described the Egyptians as white. In the absence of at least one such writer, we must conclude that there is no early written evidence to justify for constant white washing of the indigneous Ancient Egyptians and the wilful effort to ignore the words of early Greek visitors to Egypt.
1. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book 2, 77 AD “For it is beyond question that the Ethiopians [i.e. Africans] are burnt by the heat of the heavenly body near them, and are born with a scorched appearance, with curly beard and hair…”
2. Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2, 450 BCE “There can be no doubt that the Colchians are an Egyptian race. Before I heard any mention of the fact from others, I had remarked it myself… My own conjectures were founded, first, on the fact that they are black-skinned and have woolly hair…”
3. Galen, Mixtures, Book 2, 1st Century AD “The hair of Egyptians… and in general all peoples who inhabit hot, dry, places, has poor growth and is black, dry, curly, and brittle.”
4. Diodorus Siculus, General History, Book 3, 30 BCE “Now the Ethiopians, as historians relate, were the first of all men and the proofs of this statement, they say, are manifest… They say also that the Egyptians are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians, Osiris having been the leader of the colony.”
5. Herodotus, Book II p.100 translated b George Rawlinson, New York: Tudor, 1928 “The egyptians have burnt skin, flat noses, thick lips, and wooly hair” Readers may wish to obtain the book “Return To Glory”. Return to Glory: The Powerful Stirring of the Black Race: Joel Freeman, Don B. Griffin: 9780768430103: Amazon.com: Books The book, written by a white author and professional speaker Joel F. Freeman, discusses the historical and archaeological evidences for ancient black Egyptian civilization.
6. Physiognomics, anonymous writing attributed to Aristotle, late 3rd century/ early 2nd century “Those who are too dark are cowardly; witness Egyptians, Ethiopians.”
The following are not true and don’t prove the ancient Egyptians were black
- The French destroyed the nose of the Great Sphinx because it had a negro nose;
- Claiming the Egyptians were 100% all black; or
- Only selecting sculptures that look stereotypical.
Testimony of Egyptologists
France’s Count Volney, scholar, world-traveler, confidant of Benjamin Franklin and an aristocrat of pronounced republican sympathies once explained the conundrum. In Egypt, he had seen age-old monuments and temples lying half-buried in the sand and had pondered the meaning of civilization, its rise and its fall — reflections that he gave free reign in his “Ruins of Empires.” . How is it, he mused, that “a people, now forgotten, discovered, while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and the sciences. A race of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.”
On this point the count had not the slightest doubt: the Greeks had unanimously proclaimed Egypt’s Africa origins and the stony evidence of the sphinx — whose features were clearly etched in the African mold — confirmed it. Was it not one of the crueler ironies of history that the very people who had given the world civilization were now a race of slaves and outcasts?
During the early 20th century, paleoanatomists examined many ancient Egyptian skeletons and, using their own craniometric criteria for racial classification, attempted to categorize the Egyptian skull samples. Thompson and MacIver classified 24 percent of pre-dynastic skulls and 25 percent of dynastic skulls in their sample as Negroid. The eminent Arthur Keith challenged their parameters because using them to classify a modern English sample of skulls would place fully 30 percent in the Negroid category! Nothing daunted, Faulkenburger, using his own parameters, classified pre-dynastic skulls as 36 percent Negroid, 33 percent Mediterranean, 11 percent Cro-Magnoids and 20 percent “mixed.”
Sculptures and reliefs
The Egyptians left ample evidence that they were aware of skin colour, symbolism, facial features, hair, costumes, context and materials (tools, weapons, gifts and other items). One of the sources of division is the claim that Egyptians painted themselves red. The following pictures demonstrate that what some academics describe as red, “Mediteranean” or dark red instead of brown is ethically dishonesty.
Dark brown and medium brown skin tone of Ancient Egyptians found in the royal tombs. Notice the image behind the first image is a shade darker than the brown skinned photographer.
Dark brown skin color used to depict the ancient Egyptians. Cairo Museum. Note the 100% match with a brown skin stone.
Dark brown skin color used to depict the ancient Egyptians. Cairo Museum. Note the 100% match with a brown skin stone.
Dark brown skin color used to depict the bust of Tutankhamun. Cairo Museum. Note the 100% match with a brown skin stone.
Bust of Tutankhamun
Queen Ahmose Nefertari and King Amenhotep, her son.
Mentuhotep II, the sixth ruler of the 11th dynasty, ruled from around 2061 to 2010 BCE for 51 years. He is credited with reuniting Ancient Egypt, from his base – his capital – in Thebes, Upper Egypt and ending the First Intermediate Period. To strip the nomarchs of regional powers, which had caused the period of turmoil known as the First Intermediate Period, he created central government posts in the capital that were filled by loyal candidates from Thebes.
Pharaoh Amenemhat III (1859-1813 BC)
It’s the worlds oldest Astronomical site and is located in the Nubian desert. Civilization on the Nile Valley started in the South. Upper Egypt conquered lower Egypt and not vice versa.
“Analysis of human remains by Fred Wendorf and reported in “Holocene Settlement of the Egyptian Sahara”, based on osteological data suggests a sub-Saharan African origin for the site’s inhabitants, A dental and skeletal analyses by Joel D. Irish also tentatively suggests a mainly sub-Saharan African affinity and origin for Nabta Playa’s inhabitants (with sub-Saharan tendencies most commonly detected), but also possible North African tendencies in some, concluding that, “Henneberg et al. suggest that the Nabta Playa people may have been most similar Negroes from south of the Sahara. The present qualitative dental comparison tentatively supports this conclusion.” Some researchers, including Christopher Ehret, have suggested a Nilo-Saharan linguistic affinity for the Nabta people.”
DNA Analysis of Ancient Egyptians
The first DNA tests done on royal mummies was in 2010. As usual it wasn’t publicized much because they clustered closely with “ Subsaharan “ Africans.
“The Zink unit determined that the mummy of an unknown man buried with Ramesses was, because of the proven genetic relationship and a mummification process that suggested punishment, a good candidate for the pharaoh’s son, Pentaweret, who was the only son to revolt against his father. It was impossible to determine his cause of death. Both mummies were predicted by the STR-predictor to share the Y chromosomal haplogroup E1b1a1-M2 and 50% of their genetic material, which pointed to a father-son relationship.
Hawass, Ismail, Selim, Saleem, Fathalla, Waset, Gad, Saad, Fares, Amer, Gostner, Gad, Pusch, Zink (December 17, 2012). “Revisiting the harem conspiracy and death of Ramesses III: anthropological, forensic, radiological, and genetic study”. British Medical Journal 2012 Christmas 2012. Archived from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
This was also reported in the African media.
DNA tribes also released the results.
Ramses III carried the same haplogroup as Nelson Mandela. E1b1a.
Later DNA tests
One of the recent DNA tests apparently aimed to “debunk” the previous studies and had a title with a sweeping statement.
“Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods”
“Egypt, located on the isthmus of Africa, is an ideal region to study historical population dynamics due to its geographic location and documented interactions with ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia and Europe. Particularly, in the first millennium BCE Egypt endured foreign domination leading to growing numbers of foreigners living within its borders possibly contributing genetically to the local population. Here we present 90 mitochondrial genomes as well as genome-wide data sets from three individuals obtained from Egyptian mummies. The samples recovered from Middle Egypt span around 1,300 years of ancient Egyptian history from the New Kingdom to the Roman Period. Our analyses reveal that ancient Egyptians shared more ancestry with Near Easterners than present-day Egyptians, who received additional sub-Saharan admixture in more recent times. This analysis establishes ancient Egyptian mummies as a genetic source to study ancient human history and offers the perspective of deciphering Egypt’s past at a genome-wide level.”
The question one might ask is what is “ Sub – Saharan DNA? Haplogroup E originated in the Horn of Africa which is in “Sub Saharan Africa “ and is now found all over North Africa and different parts of the world.
These results need to be analyzed in detail. The following points need to be taken into consideration.
1. They tested 150 mummies from one site. Anyone who studies statistics knows you can’t use that to determine the demographics of a 5000 year old complex civilization like Egypt.
“ The team’s findings do come with one obvious caveat: “All our genetic data (was) obtained from a single site in Middle Egypt and may not be representative for all of ancient Egypt,” the paper concedes.”
“Krause hypothesizes that ancient Northern Egypt would be much the same, if not more, linked to the Near East. Ancient Southern Egypt might be a different matter, however, where populations lived closer to Nubia, home of the “Black Pharaohs” in what is now Sudan.”
The researchers accepted that their own study lacked scope. Another Geneticist Losif Lazaridis stated.
“Geneticist Iosif Lazaridis of Harvard Medical School in Boston, who studies how and when ancient populations mixed, calls the new results “a big accomplishment.” But he wonders how representative Abusir el-Meleq is of ancient Egypt as a whole. “Egypt is a big place,” he says. Other regions may have experienced its conquests in different ways, some perhaps with more genetic mixing. But Lazaridis hopes for more revelations to come. “Now that it’s been proven that it’s possible to sample from mummies—well, there are literally thousands of mummies.”
2. Of the 150 mummies 147 were female and 3 were male. That tells us nothing about the genetic make up of royalty. Of the three males tested 2 carried E1b1b and one carried J( from the Middle East.) In the study they refer to E1b1b as “ North African” which is not accurate because E1b1b originated in Ethiopia AKA “Sub -Saharan” Africa but has many subclades.
3. We also need to bear in mind that up until today they haven’t tested a single mummy from the middle or old kingdom. So, in short we have no DNA data on the founders of the civilization. Of the tests done to date the oldest are the ones done on the Amarna mummies (Ramses 3 which are now ignored).That is from the New Kingdom period. If you read the studies in detail, you will notice that many mummies are from the late new kingdom period to the Roman era. How on earth can that be used to analyse the origin of ancient Egyptians? Egypt was conquered by the Asiatic Hyksos for 100 years in around 1630-1523 BC. The Canaanites, Persians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans also ruled. Also anyone who has studied Egypt knows that the Nile delta area was often inhabited by migrants from the East. So when tests are done we must be aware of the regions being analyzed. The Nile Delta will give a different result from Southern Egypt for example.
Tutankhamun’s Y-DNA haplogroup was not published in the academic paper,however iGENEA, a Swiss personal genomics company, claimed to have reconstructed King Tut’s Y-DNA profile based on screencaps from a Discovery Channel documentary about the study. iGENEA without producing any proof, proposed that King Tut belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup R1b1a2,
Members of the research team that conducted the academic study published in 2010 stated they had not been consulted by iGENEA before they published the haplogroup information and described iGENEA’s claims as “unscientific.” Now the R1b discussion has resurfaced. It’s not clear if new tests were done or the previously rejected ones have now been “ accepted”.
DNA of modern Egyptians
Some DNA tests have been done and they reveal that those sampled carry haplogroup E1b1b at a frequency of around 40%. Haplogroup J ( from the Middle East) is found at around 35 %. The balance is mostly R which originated in Central Asia and some ethnic groups carry haplogroup A and B,found in San people and pygmies. This demonstrates the diversity of the modern Egyptian population and that they are related to East Africans.
The Black mummy of Libya (Uan Muhuggiag ,The Tashwinat Mummy)
Uan Muhuggiag is a place in central Libyan Sahara, and the name of the mummy of a small black boy found there in 1958 by Professor Fabrizio Mori. The mummy displays a highly sophisticated mummification technique, and at around 5,500 years old is older than any comparable Ancient Egyptian mummy.It now resides in the Assaraya Alhamra Museum in Tripoli.
The culture that produced the mummy were african cattle herders, and occupied much of North Africa, at a time when the Sahara was a savannah.Uan Muhuggiag appears to have been inhabited from at least the 6th millennium BCE to about 2700 BC, although not necessarily continuously. Possible links with later Egyptian culture have also been found, including the representation in rock art of dog-headed human figures (resembling Anubis), and a type of pottery decoration later found in the southern Nile valley.
The mummified remains of a black infant were discovered during an expedition by archaeologist Fabrizio Mori to Libya during the winter of 1958-1959 in the natural cave structure of Uan Muhuggiag. After curious deposits and cave paintings were discovered on the surfaces of the cave, expedition leaders decided to excavate. Uncovered alongside fragmented animal bone tools was the mummified body of an infant, wrapped in animal skin and wearing a necklace made of ostrich egg shell beads..
The mummy at Uan Muhuggiag is the well-preserved mummy of a young boy of approximately 2 1⁄2 years old. The child was in a fetal position, then embalmed, then placed in a sack made of antelope skin, which was insulated by a layer of leaves.The boy’s organs were removed, as evidenced by incisions in his stomach and thorax, and an organic preservative was inserted to stop his body from decomposing. An ostrich eggshell necklace was also found around his neck.Professor Tongiorgi of the University of Pisa radiocarbon-dated the mummy to be approximately 5,500 years old, which makes it about 100 years older than the next oldest mummy in predynastic Egypt (the mummy of Gebelein Man) and 2,000 years older than the earliest previously recorded mummy in dynastic Egypt (the mummy of Lady Rai). However of similar or older age Egyptian mummy is now the Turin mummy dated to 5,600 years.
In 1958-1959, an archaeological expedition led by Antonio Ascenzi conducted anthropological, radiological, histological and chemical analyses on the Uan Muhuggiag mummy. The specimen was determined to be that of a 30-month-old child of uncertain sex, who possessed Negroid features. A long incision on the specimen’s abdominal wall also indicated that the body had been initially mummified by evisceration and later underwent natural desiccation. One other individual, an adult, was found at Uan Muhuggiag, buried in a crouched position.However, the body showed no evidence of evisceration or any other method of preservation.
The Tashwinat Mummy
Among other significant finds at Uan Muhuggiag are elaborate rock paintings, mostly attributed to the later occupation period of around 5000 BC.There are more than 100 rock paintings on the shelter’s walls and ceiling. The most notable of these are the Round Head paintings.They were named as such because the heads depicted were quite large, out of proportion to the rest of the body, and also very round with a distinct lack of features.Additionally, there was a painting depicting these figures inside a boat, which may have had a ritual or religious significance.One particular figure inside the boat was upside-down, whom Mori had interpreted as being dead.Some rock art depicted cattle with herders and running hunters.There was also a painting of two oxen that was found on a rock which had detached from the wall above .The stratigraphic layer confirmed the painting to date from about 4700 BP. This provided conclusive evidence that the inhabitants of Uan Muhuggiag at that time were pastoralists.
Rock Art showing evidence of pastorists.
Rock art in the Cave of Swimmers, showing art in the Wadi Sura style from between about 6100-4800 BCE
[Credit: Stefan Kröpelin]
Animal and Plant Fauna
Animal remains found at the site include domestic cattle, sheep or goat, wild cat, wild donkey, warthog, gazelle, hare, baboon, and turtle.Domestic cattle bones were also found in the lowest layers and perhaps date from the 8th millennium BC, providing some of the earliest known evidence of pastoralism in the Sahara. Sheep and goats appear more frequently among the faunal remains in the middle layers, dated to be roughly between 5300 and 6000 BC. It has been surmised that this was probably the time period when the shelter was most actively occupied. Fruits and plant seeds were also found. There were over 30 different species of plant seeds found during the 1982 excavations by Barich, including millet and wild melon. The seeds spanned a long period of time, with the most recent being 3 date seeds that were radiocarbon dated to 2130 BC, suggesting that the shelter continued to be intermittently inhabited even after the period of main occupation and subsequent drought.
Other finds at Uan Muhuggiag include two hemispherical hollows dug out of the rock, measuring approximately 30 to 40 centimeters, called “kettles”. These were found completely covered by deposits and are estimated to be from at least 7500 BC.
The lower levels also uncovered backed and microlithic tools, while lithics such as flakes and arrowheads were found in the upper layers.A total of 406 stone tool fragments were found in level 2a, and 77 in the earliest occupation level of 2d.
Antonio Ascenzi, a pathologist, believes that Uan Muhuggiag and the surrounding area became inhabited around 10,000 BCE by Negroid peoples, who followed the monsoon north. Some time later, around 7000 BC, it has been suggested that people from Mesopotamia and the Middle East arrived, introducing pastoralism to the region. There is strong evidence that domestic livestock, principally cattle, played an important role in the lives of the inhabitants of Uan Muhuggiag. This is supported by the number of cattle bones found at the site itself, as well as evidence of a cattle cult and ritual sacrifice at a location in the Messak plateau, just 60 miles away.
The Tashwinat Mummy found at Uan Muhuggiag was 2000 years older than the oldest known dynastic period Egyptian mummy, and its sophisticated form of evisceration indicates a highly advanced society. Some scholars argue that the sub-Saharan African population living there could have had an influence on the later process of mummification of Ancient Egypt. There is also considerable debate about whether the rock art found at Uan Muhuggiag, along with the two dead bodies, signify that the shelter was a burial place or otherwise sacred. Mori himself had been a strong advocate of this theory and believed that the site was a place where a cult of the dead took place.
- Hooke, C. (Director), & Mosely, G. (Producer) (2003). Black Mummy of the Green Sahara (Discovery Channel).
- Van Der Meer, M. (1995). “Ancient Agriculture in Libya: A Review of the Evidence”. Acta Palaeobot. 35 (1): 85–98. hdl:2381/4671
- Holl, Augustin (1998). “The Dawn of African Pastoralisms: An Introductory Note”. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 17 (2): 81–96. doi:10.1006/jaar.1998.0318.
- Cremaschi, M.; Di Lernia, S. (1999). “Holocene Climactic Changes and Cultural Dynamics in the Libyan Sahara”. The African Archaeological Review. 16 (4): 211–238. doi:10.1023/A:1021609623737.
- Cockburn, A. (1980). Mummies, Disease and Ancient Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23020-9.
- Redmond, Caroline (2018-08-16). “5,600-Year-Old Mummy Reveals Oldest Egyptian Embalming Recipe Ever Found”. All That’s Interesting. Archived from the original on 2020-03-01. Retrieved 2020-03-01.
Ancient Egyptian is a language that developed from Proto Afro-asiatic. In order to find the origin of Afro-asiatic languages, linguists have considered using Y DNA origin of the most frequently occurring genetic marker on Afro-asiatic speakers which is passed from father to son. The haplogroup E1b1b is the most frequently occurring genetic marker in Afro-asiatic speakers and originated from the Horn of Africa or East Africa. E1b1b occurs in Berber speakers in the range 16-100%, Chadic speakers in the range 0-13%, Cushitic speakers in the range 25-100%, Omotic speakers in the range 30-80% and Semitic speakers in the range 7-93%. Even Ashkenazi Jews, an ethnic branch of Jews that have stayed in Europe for centuries, retained E1b1b in the range 3-17% (Hammer 2009, Behar 2004, Semino 2004, Nebel 2001).
- Keita SO (2008). “Geography, selected Afro-Asiatic families, and Y chromosome lineage variation”. In Bengtson JD (ed.). In Hot Pursuit of Language in Prehistory. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 978-90-272-3252-6.
- Lancaster A (2009). “Y Haplogroups, Archaeological Cultures and Language Families: a Review of the Multidisciplinary Comparisons using the case of E-M35” (PDF). Journal of Genetic Genealogy. 5 (1).
- Fadhlaoui-Zid K, Haber M, Martínez-Cruz B, Zalloua P, Benammar Elgaaied A, Comas D (2013-11-27). “Genome-wide and paternal diversity reveal a recent origin of human populations in North Africa”. PLOS ONE. 8 (11): e80293. Bibcode:2013PLoSO…880293F. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080293. PMC 3842387. PMID 24312208.
- Fadhlaoui-Zid K, Martinez-Cruz B, Khodjet-el-khil H, Mendizabal I, Benammar-Elgaaied A, Comas D (October 2011). “Genetic structure of Tunisian ethnic groups revealed by paternal lineages”. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 146 (2): 271–80. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21581. PMID 21915847. S2CID 13630876.
- Cruciani F, La Fratta R, Santolamazza P, Sellitto D, Pascone R, Moral P, Watson E, Guida V, Colomb EB, Zaharova B, Lavinha J, Vona G, Aman R, Cali F, Akar N, Richards M, Torroni A, Novelletto A, Scozzari R (May 2004). “Phylogeographic analysis of haplogroup E3b (E-M215) y chromosomes reveals multiple migratory events within and out of Africa”. American Journal of Human Genetics. 74 (5): 1014–22. doi:10.1086/386294. PMC 1181964. PMID 15042509.
Y DNA Sub Haplogroup J1c3 was found to be less commonly shared by all Afro-asiatic languages. Instead, it is more common in Semitic speakers in the range 4-75% and Cushitic speakers in the 5-38% while almost non-existent in Chadic, Berber and Omotic speakers. In all those 3 latter cases occurring less between 0 to 6%.
- “The emergence of Y-chromosome haplogroup J1e among Arabic-speaking populations | Academic Article”. ResearchGate. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
- “Extended Y chromosome haplotypes resolve multiple and unique lineages of the Jewish priesthood”. ResearchGate. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
- Tofanelli, Sergio; Ferri, Gianmarco; Bulayeva, Kazima; Caciagli, Laura; Onofri, Valerio; Taglioli, Luca; Bulayev, Oleg; Boschi, Ilaria; Alù, Milena (November 2009). “J1-M267 Y lineage marks climate-driven pre-historical human displacements”. European Journal of Human Genetics. 17 (11): 1520–1524. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2009.58. ISSN 1018-4813. PMC 2986692. PMID 19367321.
- Plaster, C. A. (2011-09-28). Variation in Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA and labels of identity on Ethiopia (Doctoral thesis). UCL (University College London).
Y-chromosome Sub Haplogroup R1b1a was also found to be present in only 2 out the 5 main Afro-asiatic sub-groups: Chadic in the range 28-95% and Semitic in the range 0-93%.
- C.A., Plaster (2011-09-28). “Variation in Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA and labels of identity on Ethiopia”. discovery.ucl.ac.uk. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
- Cruciani F, Trombetta B, Sellitto D, Massaia A, Destro-Bisol G, Watson E, Beraud Colomb E, Dugoujon JM, Moral P, Scozzari R (July 2010). “Human Y chromosome haplogroup R-V88: a paternal genetic record of early mid Holocene trans-Saharan connections and the spread of Chadic languages”. European Journal of Human Genetics. 18 (7): 800–7. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2009.231. PMC 2987365. PMID 20051990.
Map showing the distribution of African language groups
According to biblical history, the Israelites stayed in Egypt from between 230 and 400 years, intermarrying with the Egyptians. Biblical Hebrew, also called Archaic Hebrew, was an Afro-asiatic language.
In addition to Osiris coming from the interior of Africa (Diodorus Siculus), Seschat the Egyptian goddess of writing, the earliest deity associated with writing before Thoth, wore an outfit of leopard skin. Leopards are most frequently found in Africa and leopard skin still worn by many present-day African monarchs.
Popular culture compared to Egyptian art in original colours
Exodus: Gods and Kings, a Hollywood film released in 2014.
A Princess in her ox-chariot, from the Egyptian tomb of Huy, 1320 BC
Queen Tiye, Tutankhamun’s grandmother
Reconstruction of the image of Egyptian King Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) and Queen Nefertiti using artificial intelligence by Dutch photographer Bas Uterwijk.
Standing figure of either Akhenaton or his son Tutankhamun wearing the blue crown. Critics will accept the colour of blue crown and slippers but contest that the skin tone of the figure being brown. Location: Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany
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