Khnoum is the guardian god of Egyptian pantheism, the mythic founder of the Egyptian civilization, and the potter god, one who works men, women and animals in clay to give them life. Khnoum could be the link showing a direct relation between Ancient Egypt and certain sub-Saharan African civilizations. Sheik Anta Diop has studied this theory conscientiously. Here, we provide a summary of his position.
The direction of the research outlined, explored and conducted by Sheik Anta Diop concerning sub-Saharan Africa and its culture is multifaceted: the origins of African humanity, the black origin of the Egyptian/Nubian civilization, the precedence of Nubia in relation to Egypt, the identification of large migratory currents, the formation of different African ethnic groups, the linguistic relationship between Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa, and the formation of the African states after the decline of Egypt. His research used the sciences (dating methods, chemical analyses, etc.) to answer historical questions, rather than to hypothesize in vain.
The Egyptology conference of Cairo, organized by UNESCO in 1974, marked an historic stage in African historiography, or the writing of African history. For the first time, African Egyptology experts shared the results of their research with their international counterparts under the aegis of UNESCO.
A. Cultural arguments
All levels of culture are included in this comparative study between Ancient Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa. Many similarities arise, particularly in the fields of:
- linguistics, with modern sub-Saharan African languages being compared to the Egyptian languages, Pharaonic and Copte. Similarities exist in grammar (morphology and syntax), conjugation and vocabulary...
- architecture, where monuments in Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, Mali and Zimbabwe were studied. An historical continuity was established.
- the craft industry. Multiple objects of everyday life were researched: head-rests, combs, woven clothing, sandals, brushes, decorated water bottles... proving direct inspiration and perpetuation of tradition.
- ways of life. Royal badges (scepters, whips, sticks, flagellum...), hairstyles, musical instruments (such as harps which are to be found in Egypt and Central Africa), clothing and ornaments (jewelry...) are compared.
- technology, studying different techniques used to manufacture tools and objects (control of fire, cooking, metallurgy...) as well as the tools themselves, such as the hoe (design, utilization, symbolic references, terms of indication).
- writing. Contemporary sub-Saharan Africa has preserved written forms of hieroglyphic writing (Vaï, Bamoun, Nsibidi, etc.) that are similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics.
- art, where sculptures from different artists in pharonic Egypt, Benin, Nigeria, the Massaï country, and Zimbabwe are compared...
B. Sociological arguments
The study of their sociology highlights even more features common to the civilizations of ancient Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa. In particular...
- matriarchy, characterized by both societies being organized around women.
- totemism, or the complex association of an animal (for example the falcon, the crowned crane, the crocodile, or the cat...) with an individual or a group and used in forms of worship.
- religion, which reveals the Egyptian/Nubian pantheon replicated in Benin, Togo and Nigeria from the Fon, Ewé and Yoruba cultures.
- ethonyms, or the fact that the names of cultural human groups in modern Africa still carry many of the names used in ancient Egypt: Atoum, Antef, Sek, Meri, Kara, Bara, Bari, Raka, Sen Sar, Kaba, Keti, Amenti, Kamara, Konare, Sankale, Sangare, Sankare, etc.
- attributes of royalty like the uræus are represented on the royal crown of the Pharaon and of Oni d'Ife respectively.
- systems of knowledge transmission. An essential common characteristic between ancient Egypt and sahelian Africa: knowledge transmission begins.
C. Anthropologic arguments
- the study of Egyptian hieroglyphic texts and terms which show that the inhabitants of ancient Egypt considered themselves as Negroes.
- the study of the writings of Herodotus (480? - 425 B.C.), considered the "Father of History", a seasoned traveller and an eye-witness, as well as other Greek and Roman philosophers and historians each illustrating the observable genetic traits of the ancient Egyptians.
- the study of the Bible as well as Jewish and Muslim traditions, each preserving the memory of the line of Cham, biblical ancestor of the Blacks: particularly Kush (Kouch) and Misraïm (Egypt).
- iconography (sculptures and paintings).
- physical anthropology and molecular biology and the osteopathic study of skeletons, the study of the mummies blood groups and skin pigmentation (melanin, the chemical compound dictating skin color, is preserved in time and should not be confused with mummification products such as bitumen), etc., all reveal a relation between the ancient Egyptians and the Negro-African populations.
D. Historical arguments
These arguments damage the theory that the origin of the Egyptian civilization is Lower Egypt and the countries of the Middle East by pointing to Upper Egypt and towards Africa in the south. The arguments are based on:
- the study of hieroglyphic Egyptian texts which show that the typical ancient Egyptian was oriented towards the south, or the direction of the land of their ancestors, who had, over time, redirected the course of the "divine" Nile. Indeed, for the ancient Egyptian, the sun rose to the left and set to the right.
- the historical tradition in which Diodora of Sicily (approx. 90 - 20 B.C.) writes: "The Ethiopians say that the Egypt is one of their colonies, their colonists having been led to Egypt by Osiris. They even claim that this country was nothing more than a sea at the beginning of the world, and that the flooding of the Nile had brought silt converting this sea into a part of the continent."
- geophysics and the geological dating of samples using physio-chemical methods such as Carbon-14 dating make it possible to establish at what time the Nile Delta formed and to confirm or refute the information presented by Diodora of Sicily and Herodotus concerning the Egyptians and the Ethiopians. This wish was in a way granted with geological dating of the sea bed. In chapter 5, "Legends, Stories, Sea Level", of his book Man and Climate (Paris, Éditions Denoël, 1985), Jacques Labeyrie, the former director of the CEA-CNRS center of radioactivity, indicates that the results of these datings establish that the northern movement of the Egyptian civilization towards the delta is correlated with the lowering sea level, directly refuting earlier held beliefs.
- archaeology, with the excavations carried out in Upper Egypt and Sudan, highlighting the southernmost origin of Egyptian civilization.
At the close of the Egyptology conference in Cairo, Sheik Anta Diop called for a reorientation of the study of Egyptology, accompanied by a dialogue with African researchers:
"This conference could be regarded as a turning point, making possible the reconciliation of Egyptology with Africa, and the rediscovery of its richness. The scientific dialogue on the international level is well established, and one should hope that it will not be broken. Following the discussions, participants did not fail to express their will to reorientate their work towards Africa and to intensify their collaboration with African researchers. African studies will not escape the vicious circle in which they move unless they find their direction and their richness by turning towards the Nile valley. In turn, Egyptology will not leave its secular sclerosis of hermetism and of texts until the day it finds the courage to destroy the valve which insulates it, consequently opening itself to its invigorating source, the Negro world." (in Anteriority of Negro Civilizations - Myth or Historical Truth?)
More information can be found at http://www.ankhonline.com/egypte1.htm and http://www.ankhonline.com/cheikh.htm.