In the Service of our Ancestors and African Love,
Listen Seeker, I come in peace,
“In the end, this champion of debate learned only one thing. As a debate requires one to listen to one’s “opponent,” an African can not win a debate against a White person. Because once you listen to a White person, and process what that White person says, it’s certain that you have already lost.” — Onitaset Kumat, Fable: The Debate Winner
An African can not win out of Africa. The United Nations has its hand in the current invasion of Haiti, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the ongoing Genocide of Africans in America and countless other crimes against African people. Still, in 1978, Cheikh Anta Diop and Theophile Obenga embarrassed several Europeans in an intellectual debate on the unquestionably Black African “Ancient Egyptians.” Or did they?
Two brilliant scholars of the African Race meticulously research a most obvious fact of African History, present their arguments to fools of the European and Asian Races, then walk away with recognition as victors; yet, it remains a rare youth who believes the Ancient Egyptians look differently from the Arabs in the bodegas of their neighborhoods. What was won?
While an interesting paper in light of modern ignorance, it’s a sad testament that herein lies Diop’s monument. An academic through and through, his gift is squandered here, an interesting paper which had a negligible 40-year effect.
Special thanks goes to the person who transcribed this document; unfortunately, none of the mdw ntr (hieroglyphics) or special characters were transcribed. See the transcription here: 40541599-The-Origins-of-the-Egyptians-by-Cheikh-Anta-Diop
Part 1 is interesting. Part 2 is very interesting. This is Part 1.
“The basis of the Egyptian population was negro in the Pre-Dynastic epoch.”
ORIGIN OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
by Cheikh Anta Diop
The general acceptance, as a sequel to the work of Professor [Louis B.] Leakey, of the hypothesis of mankind’s monogenetic and African origin, makes it possible to pose the question of the peopling of Egypt and even of the world in completely new terms. More than 150,000 years ago, beings
morphologically identical with the man of today were living in the region of the great lakes at the sources of the Nile and nowhere else. This notion, and others which it would take too long to recapitulate here, form the substance of the last report presented by the late Dr. Leakey at the Seventh Pan-African Congress of Pre-History in Addis Ababa in 1971.1 It means that the whole human race had its origin, just as the ancients had guessed, at the foot of the mountains of the Moon. Against all expectations and in defiance of recent hypotheses it was from this place that men moved out to people the rest of the world. From this two facts of capital importance result:
(a) of necessity the earliest men were ethnically homogeneous and negroid. Gloger’s law, which would also appear to be applicable to human beings, lays it down that warm-blooded animals evolving in a warm humid climate will secrete a black pigment (eumelanin).2 Hence if mankind originated in the tropics around the latitude of the great lakes, he was bound to have brown pigmentation from the start and and it was by differentiation in other climates that the original stock later split into different races;
(b) there were only two routes available by which these early men could move out to people the other continents, namely, the Sahara and the Nile valley. It is the latter region which will be discussed here.
From the Upper Palaeolithic to the dynastic epoch, the whole of the river’s basin was taken over progressively by these negroid peoples.
Evidence of Physical Anthropology on the Race of the Ancient Egyptians
It might have been thought that, working on physiological evidence, the findings of the anthropologists would dissipate all doubts by providing reliable and definitive truths. This is by no means so: the
arbitrary nature of the criteria used, to go no farther, as well as abolishing any notion of a conclusion acceptable without qualification, introduces so much scientific hair-splitting that there are times when one wonders whether the solution of the problem would not have been nearer if we had not had the
ill luck to approach it from this angle.
Nevertheless, although the conclusions of these anthropological studies stop short of the full truth, they still speak unanimously of the existence of a negro race from the most distant ages of prehistory down to the dynastic period. It is not possible in this paper to cite all these conclusions: they will be found summarized in Chapter X of Dr. Emile Massoulard’s Histoire et protohistoire d’ Egypt (Institut d’Ethnologix, Paris, 1949). We shall quote selected items only.
Miss Fawcett considers that the Negadah skulls form a sufficiently homogeneous collection to warrant the assumption of a Negadah race. In the total height of the skull, the auricular height, the length and breadth of the face, nasal length, cephalic index and facial index this race would seem to approximate to the negro; in nasal breadth, height of orbit, length of palate and nasal index
it would seem closed to the Germanic peoples; accordingly the Pre-Dynastic Negadians are likely to have resembled the negroes in certain of their characteristics and the white race in others.
It is worth noting that the nasal indices of Ethiopians and Dravidians would seem to approximate them to the Germanic peoples, though both are black races.
These measurements, which would leave an open choice between the two extremes represented by the negro and the Germanic races, give an idea of the elasticity of the criteria employed. A sample follows:
An attempt was made by Thompson and Randall MacIver to determine more
precisely the importance of the negroid element in the series of skulls from El’Amrah, Abydos and Hou. They divided them into three groups: (1) negroid skulls (those with a facial index below 54 and a nasal index above 50, i.e. Short broad face and broad nose); (2) non-negroid skulls (facial index above 54 and nasal index below 50, long narrow face and narrow nose), (3) intermediate skulls (assignable to one of the two previous groups on the basis of either the facial index or on the evidence of the nasal index, plus individuals marginal to either group). The proportion of negroids would seem to have 24% of men and 19% of women in the early Pre-Dynastic and 25% and 28% respectively in the late Pre-Dynastic.
Kieth has disputed the value of the criterion selected by Thompson and Randall MacIver to distinguish the negroid from the non-negroid skulls. His opinion is that if the same criteria were applied to the study of any series of contemporary English skulls, the sample would be found to contain approximately 30% of negroid types. (pp. 420-1)
The converse of Kieth’s proposition could also be asserted, namely, that if the criterion were applied to the 140 million negroes now alive in black Africa a minimum of 100 million negroes would emerge whitewashed.
It may also be remarked that the distinction between negroid, non-negroid and intermediary is unclear; the fact is that ‘non-negroid’ does not mean of white race and ‘intermediary’ still less so.
‘Falkenburger reopened the anthropological study of the Egyptian population in a recent work in which he discusses 1,787 male skulls varying in date from the old, Pre-Dynastic to our own day. He distinguishes four main groups’ (p. 421). The sorting of the predynastic skulls into these four
groups gives the following results for the whole predynastic period: “36% negroid, 33% Mediterranean, 11% Cro-Magnoid and 20% of individuals not falling in any of these groups but approximating either to the Cro-Magnoid or to the negroid’. The proportion of negroids is definitely higher than that suggested by Thomson and Randall MacIver, though Kieth considers the latter too high.
‘Do Falkenburger’s figures reflect the reality? It is not our task to decide this. If they are accurate, the Pre-Dynastic population far from representing a pure bred race, as Elliott-Smith has said, comprised at least three distinct racial elements – over a third of negroids, a third of Mediterraneans, a tenth of Cro-Magnoids and a fifth of individuals crossbred – to varying degrees’ (p. 422).
The point about all these conclusions is that despite their discrepancies the degree to which they converge proves that the basis of the Egyptian population was negro in the Pre-Dynastic epoch. Thus they are all incompatible with the theories that the negro element only infiltrated into Egypt at a late stage. Far otherwise, the facts prove that it was preponderant from the beginning to the end of Egyptian history, particularly when we note once more that ‘Mediterranean’ is not a synonym for ‘white’, Elliott-Smith’s ‘brown’ or Mediterranean race being nearer to the mark’.
‘Elliott Smith classes these Proto-Egyptians as a branch of what he calls the brown race”.’ The term ‘brown’ in this context refers to skin colour and is simply a euphemism for negro.3 it is thus clear that it was the whole of the Egyptian population which was negro, barring an infiltration of white nomads in the proto-dynastic epoch.
In Petrie’s study of the Egyptian race we are introduced to a possible classification element in great abundance which cannot fail to surprise the reader.
Petrie . . . published a study of the races of Egypt in the Pre-Dynastic and ProtoDynastic periods working only on portrayals of them. Apart from the steatopygian race, he distinguishes six separate types: an aquiline type representative of a whiteskinned Libyan race; a ‘plaited beard’ type belonging to an invading race coming perhaps from the shores of the Red Sea, a ‘sharp-nosed’ type almost certainly from the Arabian Desert: a ’tilted-nose’ type from Middle Egypt; a ‘jutting beard’ type from Lower Egypt; and a ‘narrow-nose’ type from Upper Egypt. Going on the images, there would thus have been seven different racial types in Egypt during the epochs we are considering. In the pages which follow we shall see that study of the skeletons seems to provide little authority for these conclusions. (p.391)
The above mode of classification gives an idea of the arbitrary nature of the criteria used to define the Egyptian races. Be that as it may, it is clear that anthropology is far from having established the
existence of a white Egyptian race and would indeed tend rather to suggest the opposite.
Nevertheless, in current textbooks the question is suppressed: in most cases it is simply and flatly asserted that the Egyptians were white and the honest layman is left with the impression that any such
assertion must necessarily have a prior basis of solid research. But there is no such
basis, as this chapter has shown. And so generation after generation has been misled. Many authorities skate around the difficulty today by speaking of red-skinned and black-skinned whites without their sense of common logic being in the least upset. ‘The Greeks call Africa “Libya”, a misnomer au
initio since Africa contains many other peoples besides the socalled Libyans, who belong among the whites of the northern or Mediterranean periphery and hence are many steps removed from the brown (or red) skinned whites (Egyptians).’4
In a textbook intended for the middle secondary school we find the following sentence: ‘A Black is distinguished less by the colour of his skin (for there are black-skinned “whites”) than by his features: thick lips, flattened nose . . .’5 It is only through these twistings of the basic definitions that it has been possible to bleach the Egyptian race.
It is worthwhile calling to mind the exaggerations of the theorists of anthropo-sociology in the last century and the beginnings of the present one whose minute physiognomical analyses discovered racial
stratifications even in Europe, and particularly in France, when in fact there was really a single and by now practically homogeneous people.6 Today Occidentals who value their national cohesion are careful to avoid examining their own societies on so divisive a hypothesis, but continue unthinkingly to apply
the old methods to the non-European societies.
Human Images of the Protohistoric Period: Their Anthropological Value
The study of human images made by Flinders Petrie on another plane shows that the ethnic type was black: according to Petrie these people were the Anu whose name, known to us since the protohistoric epoch, is always ‘written’ with three pillars on the few inscriptions extant from the end of the fourth millennium before our era. The natives of the country are always represented with unmistakable chiefly emblems for which one looks in vain among the infrequent portrayals of other races, who are all
shown as servile foreign elements having reached the valley by infiltration (cf. Tera Neter7 and the Scorpion king whom Petrie groups together; ‘The Scorpion King . . . belonged to the preceding race of Anu, moreover he worshipped Min and Set.’).8
As we shall see later Min, like the chief gods of Egypt, was called by the tradition of Egypt itself ‘the great negro’.
After a glance at the various foreign types of humanity who disputed the valley with the indigenous blacks, Petrie describes the latter, the Anu, in the following terms: Besides these types, belonging to the
North and East, there is the aboriginal race of the Anu, or Annu, people (written with three pillars) who became a part of the historic inhabitants. The subject ramifies too doubtfully if we include all single pillar names, but looking for the Annu written, with the three pillars, we find that they occupied southern Egypt and Nubia, and the name is also applied in Sinai and Libya. As to the southern Egyptians, we have the most essential document, one portrait of a chief, Tera Neter, roughly modelled in relief in green glazed faience, found in the early temple at Abydos. Preceding his name his address is given on
this earliest of visiting cards, ‘Palace of the Anu in Hemen city, Tera Neter’. Hemen was the name of the god of Tuphium, Erment, opposite to it, was the palace of Annu of the south, Annu Menti. The next place in the south is Aunti (Gefeleyn), and beyond that Aunyt-Seni (Esneh).”
Amelineau lists in geographical order the fortified towns built along the length of the Nile valley by the Annu blacks.
[Hieroglyphics] =An =the southern ‘On’ (now Hermonthis)
[Hieroglyphics] =Denderah, the traditional birthplace of Isis
[Hieroglyphics] = A town also called ‘On’ in the name of Tinis
[Hieroglyphics] =The town called the northern ‘On’, the renowned city of
The common ancestor of the Annu settled along the Nile was Ani or An, a name determined by the word [hieroglyphics] (khet) and which, dating from the earliest versions of the “Book of the Dead” onwards, is given to the god Orisis.
The wife of [hieroglyphics] the god Ani is the goddess Anet [hieroglyphics] who is also his sister, just as Isis is the sister of Osiris.
The identity of the god An with Osiris has been demonstrated by Pleyte;10 we should, indeed recall that is also surnamed by (?) the Anou; ‘Osiris Ani’. The god Anu is represented alternately by the symbol
[hieroglyphics] and the symbol [hieroglyphics]. Are the Aunak tribes now inhabiting the upper Nile
related to the ancient Annu? Future research will provide the answer to this question.
Petrie thinks it possible to make a distinction between the predynastic people represented by Tera Neter and the Scorpion King (who is himself a Pharaoh even at that date as his head-dress shows) and a
dynastic people worshipping the falcion and probably represented by the Pharaoh’s Narmer,14 Khasekhem, Sanekhei and Zoser.12 By reference to the faces reproduced in the figure it is easily perceived that there is no ethnic difference between the two lots, and both belong to the black race.
The mural in tomb SD 63 (Sequence Date 63) of Hierakonopolis shows the native-born blacks subjugating the foreign intruders into the valley if we accept Petrie’s interpretation: ‘Below is the black ship at Hierakonpolis belonging to the black men who are shown as conquering the red men.’13
The Gebel-el-Arak knife haft shows similar scenes: ‘There are also combats of black men overcoming red men.’13 However, the archaeological value of this object, which was not found in situ but in the possession of a merchant, is less than that of the preceding items.
What the above shows is that the images of men of the protohistoric and even of the dynastic period in no way square with the idea of the Egyptian race popular with Western anthropologists. Wherever the
autochthonous racial type is represented with any degree of clearness, it is evidently negroid. Nowhere are the Indo-European and Semitic elements shown even as ordinary freeman serving a local chief, but invariably as conquered foreigners. The rare portrayals found are always shown with the distinctive marks of captivity, hands tied behind the back or strained over the shoulders.14 A protodynastic figurine represents an Indo-European prisoner with a long plait on his knees, with his hands bound tight to his body. The characteristics of the object itself show that it was intended as the foot of a piece of furniture and represented a conquered race.15 Often the portrayal is deliberately grotesque as with other protodynastic figures showing individuals with their hair plaited in what Petrie calls pigtails.16
In the tomb of King Ka (first dynasty) at Abydos, Petrie found a plaque showing an Indo-European captive in chains with his hands behind his back.17 Elliott-Smith considers that the individual represented is a Semite. The dynastic epoch has also yielded the documents illustrated in Pls 1.9. and
1.14 showing Indo-European and Semitic prisoners. In contrast, the typically negroid features of the pharaohs (Narmer, first dynasty, the actual founder of the Pharaonic line; Zoser, third dynasty, by whose time all the technological elements of the Egyptian civilization were already in evidence; Cheops, the builder of the Great Pyramid, a Cameroon type,18 Menthuhotep, founder of the eleventh dynasty, very black,19 Sesostris 1; Queen Ahmosis Nefertari; and Amenhophis I) show that all classes of Egyptian society belong to the same black race.
Pls 1.15 and 1.16, showing the Indo-European and Semitic types, have been included deliberately to contrast them with the quite dissimilar physiognomies of the black pharaohs and to demonstrate clearly
that there is no trace of either of the first two types in the whole line of Pharaohs if we exclude the foreign Libyan and Ptolemaic dynasties.
It is usual to contrast the negresses on the tomb of Horemheb with the Egyptian type also shown. This contrast is surely a false one; it is social and not ethnic and there is as much difference between an
aristocratic Senegalese lady from Dakar and those antique African peasant women with their horny hands and splay feet as between the latter and an Egyptian lady of the cities of antiquity.
There are two variants of the black race: (a) straight-haired, represented in Asia by the Dravidians and in Africa by the Nubians and the Tubbou or Tedda, all three with jet-black skins; (b) the kinky-haired
blacks of the Equatorial regions. Both types entered into the composition of the Egyptian population.
Melanin Dosage Test
In practice it is possible to determine directly the skin colour and hence the ethnic affiliations of the ancient Egyptians by microscopic analysis in the laboratory; I doubt if the sagacity of the researchers who have studied the question has overlooked the possibility.
Melanin (eumelanin), the chemical body responsible for skin pigmentation, is, broadly speaking, insoluble and is preserved for millions of years in the skins of fossil animals.20 There is thus all the more
reason for it to be readily recoverable in the skins of Egyptian mummies, despite a tenacious legend that the skin of mummies, tainted by the embalming material, is no longer susceptible of any analysis.21 Although the epidermis is the main site of the melanin, the melanocytes penetrating the derm at the boundary between it and the epidermis, even where the latter has mostly been destroyed by the embalming materials, show a melanin level which is non-existent in the white-skinned races. The samples I myself analyzed were taken in the physical anthropology laboratory of the Mus’ee de ‘Homme in Paris off the mummies from the Marietta excavations in Egypt.22 The same method is perfectly suitable for use on the royal mummies of Thutmoses III, Seti I and Ramses II in the Cairo Museum, which are in an excel state of preservation. For two years past I have been vainly begging the curator of the Cairo Museum for similar samples to analyze. No more than a few square millimetres of skin would be required to mount a specimen, the preparations being a few um in thickness and lightened with ethyl benzoate. They can be studied by natural light or with ultra-violet lighting which renders the melanin grains fluorescent.
Either way let us simply say that the evaluation of melanin level by microscopic examination is a laboratory method which enables us to classify the ancient Egyptians unquestionably among the black races.
Among the criteria accepted in physical anthropology for classifying races, the osteological measurements are perhaps the least misleading (in contrast to craniometry) for distinguishing a black man from a white man. By this criterion, also, the Egyptians belong among the black races. This study was made by the distinguished German savant Lepsius at the end of the nineteenth century and his conclusions remain valid; subsequent methodological progress in the domain of physical anthropology in no way undermines what is called the ‘Lepsius canon’ which, in round figures, gives the bodily
proportions of the ideal Egyptian, short-armed and of negroid or negrito physical type.23
It is a notable fact that even today Egyptians, particularly in Upper Egypt, belong to the same Group B as the populations of western Africa on the Atlantic seaboard and not the A2 group characteristic of the
white race prior to any crossbreeding.24 It would be interesting to study the extent of Group A2 distribution in Egyptian mummies, which present-day techniques make possible.
The Egyptian Race According to the Classical Authors of Antiquity
To the Greek and Latin writers contemporary with the ancient Egyptians the latter’s physical classification posed no problems: the Egyptians were negroes, thick-lipped, kinky-haired and thin-legged; the unanimity of the author’s evidence on a physical fact as salient as a people’s race will be
difficult to minimize or pass over. Some of the following evidence drives home the point.
(a) Herodotus, ‘the father of history’, -480(?) to -425. With regard to the origins of the Colchians25 he writes:
it is in fact manifest that the Colchidians are Egyptian by race … several Egyptians told me that in their opinion the Colchidians were descended from soldiers of Sesostris. I had conjectured as much myself from two pointers, firstly because they have black skins and kinky hair (to tell the truth this proves nothing for other peoples have them too) and secondly, and more reliably for the reason that
alone among mankind the Egyptians and the Ethiopians have practiced circumcision since time immemorial. The Phoenicians and Syrians of Palestine themselves admit that they learnt the practice from the Egyptians while the Syrians in the river Thermodon and Pathenios region and their neighbors the Macrons say they learnt it recently from the Colchidians. These are the only races which practice circumcision and it is observable that they do it in the same way as the Egyptians. As between the Egyptians themselves and the Ethiopians I could not say which taught the other the practice for among them it is quite clearly a custom of great antiquity. As to the custom having been learnt through their Egyptian connections, a further strong proof to my mind is that all those Phoenicians trading to Greece cease to treat the pudenda after the Egyptian manner and do not subject their offspring to circumcision.
Herodotus reverts several times to the negroid character of the Egyptians and each time uses it as a fact of observation to argue more or less complex theses. Thus to prove that the Greek oracle at Dondona in
Epirus was of Egyptian origin, one of his arguments is the following: ‘. . . and when they add that the dove was black they give us to understand that the woman was Egyptian.’27 The doves in question – actually there were two according to the text – symbolize two Egyptian women who are said to have BEEN carried off from the Egyptian Thebes to found the oracles in Greece at Dodona and in Libya (Oasis of Jupiter Amon) respectively. Herodotus did not share the opinion of Anaxagoras that the melting of the snows on the mountains of Ethiopia was the source of the Nile floods.28 He relied on the fact that it
neither rains or snows in Ethiopia ‘and the heat there turns men black’.29
(b) Aristotle, -389 to -332, scientist, philosopher and tutor of Alexander the Great.
In one of his minor works, Aristotle attempts, with unexpected naivete’, to establish a correlation between the physical and moral natures of living beings and leaves us evidence on the Egyptian-Ethiopian race which confirms what Herodotus says. According to him, ‘Those who are too black
are cowards, like for instance, the Egyptians and Ethiopians. But those who are excessively white are also cowards as we can see from the example of women, the complexion of courage is between the two.’30
(c) Lucian, Greek writer, +125(?) to +190.
The evidence of Lucian is as explicit as that of the two previous writers. He introduces two Greeks, Lycinus and Timolaus, who start a conversation.
Lycinus (describing a young Egyptian): ‘This boy is not merely black; he has thick lips and his legs are too thin. . . his hair worn in a plait behind shows that he is not a freeman.’
Timolaus: ‘But that is a sign of really distinguished birth in Egypt, Lycinus. All freeborn children plait their hair until they reach manhood. It is the exact opposite of the custom of our ancestors who thought it seemly for old men to secure their hair with a gold brooch to keep it in place.’
(d) Apollodorus, first century before our era, Greek philosopher.
‘Aegyptos conquered the country of the blackfooted ones and called it Egypt after himself.’32
(e) Aeschylus, -525(?) to -456, tragic poet and creator of Greek tragedy.
In The Suppliants, Danaos, fleeing with his daughters, the Danaids, and pursued by his brother Aegyptos with his sons, the Aegyptiads, who seek to wed their cousins by force, climbs a hillock, looks out to sea
and describes the Aegyptiads at the oars afar off in these terms: ‘I can see the crew with their black limbs and white tunics.’33
A similar description of the Egyptian type of man recurs a few lines later in verse 745.
(f) Achilles Tatius of Alexandria.
He compares the herdsmen of the Delta to the Ethiopians and explains that they are blackish, like half-castes.
(g) Strabo, -58 to about +25.
Strabo visited Egypt and almost all the countries of the Roman empire. He concurs in the theory that the Egyptians and the Colchoi are of the same race but holds that the migrations to Ethiopia and Colchoi had been from Egypt only
‘Egyptians settled in Ethiopia and in Colchoi.’34 There is no doubt whatever as to Strabo’s notion of the Egyptian’s race for he seeks elsewhere to explain why the Egyptians are darker than the Hindus, a
circumstance which would permit the refutation, if needed, of any attempt at confusing ‘the Hindu and Egyptian races’.
(h) Diodorus of Sicily, about -63 to +14, Greek historian and contemporary of Caesar Augustus.
According to Diodorus it was probably Ethiopia which colonized Egypt (in the Athenian sense of the term, signifying that, with overpopulation, a proportion of the people emigrate to new territory).
The Ethiopians say that the Egyptians `are one of their colonies,35 which was led into Egypt by Osiris. They claim that at the beginning of the world Egypt was simply a sea but that the Nile, carrying down vast quantities of loam from Ethiopia in its flood waters, finally filled it in and made it part of the continent. . . They add that the Egyptians have received from them, as from authors and their ancestors, the greater part of their laws.36
(i) Diogenes Laertius.
He wrote the following about Zeno, founder of the stoic School (-333 to -261): ‘Zeno son of Mnaseas or Demeas was a native of Citium in Cyprus, a Greek city which has taken in some Phoenician colonists.’ In
his Lives, Timotheus of Athens describes Zeno as having a twisted neck. Apollonius of Tyre says of him that he was gaunt, very tall and black, hence the fact that, according to Chrysippus in the First Book of his Proverbs, certain people called him an Egyptian vine-shoot.37
(j) Ammianus Marcellinus, about +33 to +100, Latin historian and friend of the Emperor Julian.
With him we reach the sunset of the Roman empire and the end of classical antiquity. There are about nine centuries between the birth of Aeschylus and Herodotus and the death of Ammianus Marcellinus, nine centuries during which the Egyptians, amid a sea of white races, steadily crossbred. It can be said
without exaggeration that in Egypt one household in ten included a white Asiatic or Indo-European slave.39
It is remarkable that, despite its intensity, all this crossbreeding should not have succeeded in upsetting the racial constants. Indeed Ammianus Marcellinus writes: “. . .the men of Egypt are mostly brown and
black with a skinny and desiccated look.”39 He also confirms the evidence already cited about the Colchoi: ‘Beyond these lands are the heartlands of the Camaritae40 and the Phasis with its swifter stream borders the country of the Colchoi, an ancient race of Egyptian origin.’41
This cursory review of the evidence of the ancient Graeco-Latin writers on the Egyptians’ race shows that the extent of agreement between them is impressive and is an objective fact difficult to minimize or conceal, the two alternatives between which present-day Egyptology constantly oscillates.
An exception is the evidence of an honest savant. Volney, who travelled in Egypt between +1783 and +1785, i.e. at the peak period of negro slavery, and made the following observations on the true Egyptian race, the same which produced the Pharaohs, namely the Copts:
All of them are puffy-faced, heavy eyed and thick-lipped, in a word, real mulatto faces.
I was tempted to attribute this to the climate until, on visiting the Sphinx, the look of it gave me the clue to the egnima. Beholding that head characteristically Negro in all its features, I recalled the well-known passage of Herodotus which reads: ‘For my part I consider the Colchoi are a colony of the Egyptians because, like them, they are black skinned and kinky-haired.’ In other words the ancient Egyptians were true negroes of the same stock as all the autochthonous peoples of Africa and from that datum one sees how their race, after some centuries of mixing with the blood of Romans and Greeks, must have lost the full blackness of its original colour but retained the impress of its original mould. It is even possible to apply this observation very widely and posit in principle that physiognomy is a kind of record usable in many cases for disputing or elucidating the evidence of history on the origins of the peoples . . .
After illustrating this proposition citing the case of the Normans, who 900 years after the conquest of Normandy still look like Danes, Volney adds:
but reverting to Egypt, its contributions to history afford many subjects for philosophic
reflection. What a subject for meditation is the present-day barbarity and ignorance of the Copts who were considered, born of the alliance of the deep genius of the Egyptians and the brilliance of the Greeks, that this race of blacks who nowadays are slaves and the objects of our scorn is the very one to which we owe our arts, our sciences, and even the use of spoken word; and finally recollect that it is in the midst of the peoples claiming to be the greatest friends of liberty and humanity that the most barbarous of enslavements has been sanctioned and the question raised whether black men have brains of the same quality as those of white men!42
To this testimony of Volney, Champollion-Figeac, brother of Champollion the Younger, was to reply in the following terms: ‘The two physical traits of black skin and kinky hair are not enough to stamp a race as negro and Volney’s conclusion as to the negro origin of the ancient population of Egypt is glaringly forced and inadmissible.’43 Being black from head to foot and having kinky hair is not enough to make a
man a negro! This shows us the kind of specious argumentation to which Egyptology has had to resort since its birth as a science. Some scholars maintain that Volney was seeking to shift the discussion to a
philisophic plane. But we have only to re-read Volney: he is simply drawing the inferences from crude material facts forcing themselves on his eyes and his conscience as proofs.