African origin of civilization

Myth or reality

After the brief interlude, we are back to Africa. There are still some commenters who have stuck to the line Africans as a whole are not intelligent. They insist this deficiency explains the problems facing Africa. As far as I can tell the source of this information is Rushton, a guy a friend of mine would do well to dip himself in a barrel full of acid. Enough of that for the moment.

I am on a journey. A journey through time. My interest is the history of the Luo/ Lwoo. I will look at what has been written on the contribution of Africans to civilization. I don’t think I will post a lot in between. 

I will be reading Dr. Diop about whom it was written by Immanuel Wallenstein thus

Perhaps the most ambitious attempt to reconstruct African history has been the numerous writings of Cheik Anta Diop. Diop has a theory that there is a basic global division of peoples into two kinds: the southerners(or negro-Africans) and the Aryans(a category covering all Caucasians, including Semites, Mongoloids, and American Indians). Each grouping has a cultural outlook based on response to climate, the difference between them being that the Aryans have had a harsher climate.

The Aryans have developed patriarchal systems characterized by the suppression of women and a propensity for war. Also associated with such societies are materialist religion, sin and guilt, xenophobia, the tragic drama, the city state, individualism, and pessimism. Southerners on the other hand are matriarchal. The women are free and the people peaceful; there is a Dionysian approach to life, religious idealism, and no concept of sin. With a matriarchal society come xenophilia, the tale as a literary form, the territorial state, social collectivism and optimism.

According to Diop’s theory, the ancient Egyptians, who were negroes, are the ancestors of the southerners. This bold hypothesis, which is not presented without supporting data, has the interesting effect of inverting Western cultural assumptions. For, Diop argues, if the ancient Egyptians were negroes, then European civilization is but a derivation of African achievement.

I think it will be an interesting read. Keep it here, don’t touch that button 🎼

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

42 thoughts on “African origin of civilization

  1. tildeb says:

    Good grief; the history of an entire continent? I don’t think you’ll be back to us until 2083!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tildeb says:

    Oh, and Rushton is no longer with us, not pining but passed on, is no more.


    • makagutu says:

      That sketch is hilarious.
      The parrot is no more, it’s no more, it has gone to meet its maker, it’s stiff. It’s an ex-parrot.
      Too bad for Rushton!


  3. nannus says:

    According to more recent research, Diop was wrong on some points. He tried to put the puzzle together before many of the parts where in place. Diop is important historically, but his views are outdated. Just a few points:
    Africans south of the Sahara invented agriculture independently (from each other and from the Middle East) at least 4 times. This happened before the rise of the Egyptian culture. The Egyptians took their agriculture largely from the Middle East with some additions from Sudanic (Nilo-Saharan) agriculture. The Sudanic culture is one of the roots of the Egyptian culture but most of their crops where not suited for the more Mediterranean climate of Egypt. The fore known instances of invention of Agriculture in Africa are the Sudanic (Nilo-Saharan, i.e. your own ancestors), the Kushitic (an East African branch of the Afroasiatic language family), the Omotic (another branch of the Afroasiatic language family) and the West-African. The Nilo-Saharan invention of agriculture gave rise to the spread of the Nilo-Saharan languages. The West-African invention of agriculture gave rise to the spread of the Niger-Congo language family. The Afroasiatic language family (named so because one of its branches, Semitic, moved out of Africa into Asia, where its members participated in the Middle Eastern invention of agriculture) started spreading before because they had (inside Africa) invented making bread (from collected wild grains), an invention that enabled them to multiply and spread.
    Note that Europeans did not invent agriculture. Agriculture was introduced into Europe from outside.
    Africans (Nilo-Saharans) invented ceramics independently from the Middle East. The oldest Sudanic pottery predates the oldest known middle eastern pottery by about 2000 to 2500 years, so it is possible that it is ancestral to Middle Eastern pottery.
    Note that Europeans did not invent pottery, it was introduced to Europe from outside.
    Copper smelting was invented in Africa (in the Air mountains, in today’s Niger) independently from the middle east. Copper and its alloys then spread through large parts of Africa south of the Sahara. This development culminated in the famous casts from Bini and Ife.
    The Egyptians got their copper technology from the Middle East. Their copper technology is not ancestral to that of Africans south of the Sahara.
    Note that copper smelting was not invented in Europe, but was introduced there from outside.
    Iron smelting was invented in Africa independently from the Middle East. Archaeological finds become older towards a center in today’s central African republic or Cameroon. Iron smelting seems to have been invented there about 1000 BCE. The oldest iron south of the Sahara is older than the oldest iron in Egypt, so iron smelting technology south of the Sahara is not derived from that of Egypt.
    Note that iron technology was not invente in Europe and was introduced there from the outside.
    The earliest known domestication of cotton was in the Sudan, probably also by Nilo-Saharans. Another fiber plant used in Africa south of the Sahara is Rafia (centered arround Cameroon). Weaving technology in these areas seems to have been invented independently from Egypt or the middle east or Arabia. The Egyptians, on the other hand, used linen, introduced there from the Middle East.
    As these examples show, Africa south of the Sahara developed many things independently of Egypt. In Neolithic times, many African cultures south of the Sahara were clearly more advanced than the cultures of Europe and on a par to those of the Middle East. The Middle East started to be more advanced through the invention of writing, which was also independently made inside Africa in Egypt, but did not spread at the time further south than the (probably Nilo-Saharan) civilization of Meroe. The reason might have been that Africa had extremely large reserves of land, so that for a longer time than elsewhere, suppressed people retained the option of simply moving away and starting a village elsewhere. Only in Egypt and Nubia, the drying of the Sahara squeezed so many people into the small space of the Nile valley that the development towards urbanization was triggered, something that started happening in other parts of Africa only much later.
    Instead of Egypt being the source of African cultures, in a way it is the other way around. For example, the Egyptian polytheism developed when several smaller ethnic groups where merged into a larger state. While the southern Nilo-Saharan groups (called Seti in ancient Egyptian) had held monotheistic beliefs (thousands of years before Akhenaten and before the Jews), the Afroasiatic speaking groups in the north had henotheistic belief systems with different clan gods. The political merger lead to the merger of these belief systems into a single polytheistic religion. The original Afroasiatic type of henotheism can still be found among some Omotic groups and the original Nilo-Saharan monotheism still exists in some groups, like the Maasai. The West-African belief systems (originally also a kind of monotheism coupled with some ancestor cult) developed independently from the Egyptian religion and developed into a kind of polytheism independently in Nigeria. Another monotheistic tradition among Kushitic peoples might have developed from a blend of Afroasiatic henotheism with Sudanic monotheism.
    As these examples show, the cultures of large parts of Africa developed with little or no Egyptian influence, and they developed some remarkable stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This idea has propagated throughout history with several iterations. One posits that the environmental comfort of southern peoples made them vulnerable to aggressive northerners who enjoyed no such comfort. A harsh existence, the hypothesis asserts, spurs technological advancement as well as a conquering spirit.

    I suppose it has some merit; however, there are so many historical exceptions to this idea as to make it a weak correlation at best. Yes, civilization arose in the south due to its favorable agricultural climate. Yes, northerners were at that time very backward. Yes, northerners subsequently surged ahead with their technological achievements. But, the great southern civilizations were also warlike. And, Europe’s rise during the Renaissance occurred during a climatic warm period – which obviously runs contrary to the hypothesis.


  5. basenjibrian says:

    Is it confirmed that the ancient Egyptians were negroes? I was under the impression that they were middle eastern Semitic peoples? Or, that Egyptian society was more of a mélange and they did not conceptualize race in the same way?


    • The ancient Egyptians were Anglo Saxons. Haven’t you seen The Ten Commandments?


    • makagutu says:

      This is what he writes

      [..] it had nonetheless been affirmed that the types depicted were Negroes, because up to that time Egypt had always been recognized as a negro country. Egyptian art itself was considered negro art, and therefore uninteresting.
      This opinion did not change until the day it was recognized with amazement that Egypt was the mother of all civilization. Then eyesight suddenly improved and it was possible to distinguish, on the frescoes where everyone had previously recognized negroes, evidences of a “white race with red skin” a “white race with dark red skin” a “white race with black skin”. But they never distinguished as Egyptians, a white race with white skin.

      From what he quotes, like Herodotus, Egyptians were negroes.


      • basenjibrian says:

        LOL. The Wikipedia article is quite interesting and gets into the controversy. Here’s a good quote:

        “Since the 1970s, the issues regarding the race of the ancient Egyptians have been taboo subject for mainstream United States scientists.[31] The debate has thus been led by the public, focusing on specific issues.”

        A perusal of the site…which of course is Wikipedia…confirms that racial politics has been in play on “both sides” of the question. As if such a reductionist question about such a complex society can be broken down into “two sides”. Diop, of course, comes down firmly on one side of the issue. The section on Cleopatra and the claims in Ebony magazine almost reduces to a “one drop of blood makes you black” because she obviously had some Greek and Persian ancestry. I’m not sure that this is a good position to fall back upon.


        • basenjibrian says:

          Definitely some racial politics and almost conspirational accusations of racism going on, at least as described in the article. Interesting…I have nothing by which to judge the claims of either side. The article is a must read, though!


          • makagutu says:

            Good read my friend.
            I think this area of study gives confirmation to the adage that history is written by the victors.
            There are several sources Diop gives, even those he disagrees, that would be nice to look at. Life being long, I may not look at all of them or even many of them.
            The interesting question is what would be the consequence of acknowledging a negro origin of Egyptian civilization?


        • makagutu says:

          What the Wikipedia article fails to do is mention that Diop responds to one such critic. He writes, in response to a similar accusation

          the reader who has followed us this far will be able to verify whether or not the special conditions under which we labored in Paris or the requirements of the political and social struggle forced us at any time to twist scientific truth or prevented us from holding to a course of strict objectivity.
          [.. ,] whether it is a case of Black Gobinism or a rectification of human history

          It is possible to say Diop comes down firmly on one side of the issue. It would be meaningful though if his critics offer convincing proofs for their disagreements.


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