A variety of factors are involved in the origins of the Nilotic peoples and their linkages with the rest of Africa, including geographic, genetic, and environmental data. These are presented throughout the article. As one archaeological text suggests, interpretations of the biological affinities and origins of the ancient Nile Valley peoples "must be placed in the context of hypotheses informed by archaeological, linguistic, geographic and other data. In such contexts, the physical anthropological evidence indicates that early Nile Valley populations can be identified as part of an African lineage, but exhibiting local variation. This variation represents the short and long term effects of evolutionary forces, such as gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection, influenced by culture and geography." (“Egyptians, physical anthropology of,” in Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt,)[1]

Historical approaches to the African context and Nile Valley populationsEdit

Aryan models and Dynastic Race theoriesEdit

Many mainstream references allude to the racial complexity of North Africa and the Nile Valley, going back to pre-dynastic times. These complexities do not yield easily to modern racial controversies or catch-all terminologies like "Mediterranean," or "Middle Eastern." Earlier histories of Egyptian people as recently as the 1970s classified them as Caucasoid or "Hamites" who migrated to the Nile Valley, transmitting light and civilization to slower-witted negro tribes. (Wyatt MacGaffey, 'Concepts of race in the historiography of northeast Africa', Journal of African History)[2]. This "Aryan" or "Hamitic" model is captured in scholar C. G. Seligman's influential "Races of Africa":

"Apart from relatively late Semitic influence . . . the civilizations of Africa are the civilizations of the Hamites, its history the record of these peoples and of their interaction with the two other African stocks, the Negro and the Bushman, whether this influence was exerted by highly civilized Egyptians or by such wider pastoralists as are represented at the present day by the Beja and Somali . . . The incoming Hamites were pastoral 'Europeans'--arriving wave after wave--better armed as well as quicker witted than the dark agricultural Negroes."[3]

Confusion, contradiction and exclusion in the theories of scholarsEdit

A great deal of inconsistency and contradiction has also clouded the work of Egyptologists. As noted in one detailed 1967 study by Egyptologists Berry and Ucko (Genetical "Genetical Change in Ancient Egypt," A. Caroline Berry, R. J. Berry, Peter J. Ucko Man, New Series, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Dec., 1967), pp. 551-568 ):

"This is attested by the tendency in the past (summarised by Chantre 1904) to postulate all sorts of improbable racial amalgams in Egypt: mixtures of peoples representing a singular variety of groups (viz. Libyan, Caucasian, Arab, Pelasgian, Negro, Bushman, Mongol, Hamitic, Hamito-Semitic- even Red Indian and Australian aboriginal) were alleged to have migrated into the Nile Valley." . Indeed Keith (1905:92) complained that the literature at that time included hopeless contradictions of three, six, one and two races."[4] Later work was sometimes marked by the same pattern with even Cromagnons being thrown into the mix. (Berry and Ucko 1967)

Berry and Ucko also note most Egyptologists in earlier years "are at pains to disclaim any Negro element in the Egyptian populations after the predynastic period except for the population of Sudanese Kerma.." while producing shifting definitions of exactly what 'negroid' was.

".. the basic weakness of all claims to distinguish or decry Negro elements on the basis of metrical analyses is the absence of any rigorous population comparisons to isolate particular featurers which can be described as negroid. It is typical of this unsatisfactory situation that F.P [Petrie] 1928:68) although basing himself entirely on the original Stoessiger report, could sumarise the Badarian skull material in terms which denied any serious Negro element. (Berry and Ucko 1967)
Disclaiming any hint of negroid presence, Petrie held that the ancient Egyptian skulls in question were of Indian origin, some thousands of miles distant, versus the surrounding area, or those further south, which were within a few hundred. (Berry and Ucko 1967)

Newer approaches: The unity of Nile Valley populations and the African substratumEdit

A number of current mainstream scholars such as Bruce Trigger, and Frank Yurco eschew a racial approach, asserting that the previous archaeological and anthropological approaches were 'marred by a confusion of race, language, and culture and by an accompanying racism'. [5] As to racial affinities of the people of northeast Africa, Yurco declares that all the peoples of the region are indigenous Africans and that arbitrary divisions into Negroid and Caucasoid stocks is misguided and misleading. To Yurco, the indigenous stocks are part of a continuum of physical variation in the Nile Valley. Just as Europeans are noted to vary between tall blonde Swedes, and shorter, darker Portuguese, or Basques with strikingly different blood types, so the Nile Valley populations are simply allowed similar variation. Other mainstream scholars such as Shomarka Keita applaud Trigger's and Yurco's approach but note the continued use of terms such as "Mediterranean" to incorporate the ancient Egyptians, and the continued use of classification schemes that screen out or deemphasize variability. (S.O.Y. KEITA, "Studies of Ancient Crania From Northern Africa) [6] The general consensus is captured in the words of mainstream Egyptologist Frank Yurco:

"Certainly there was some foreign admixture [in Egypt], but basically a homogeneous African population had lived in the Nile Valley from ancient to modern times... [the] Badarian people, who developed the earliest Predynastic Egyptian culture, already exhibited the mix of North African and Sub-Saharan physical traits that have typified Egyptians ever since (Hassan 1985; Yurco 1989; Trigger 1978; Keita 1990.. et al.,)... The peoples of Egypt, the Sudan, and much of East African Ethiopia and Somalia are now generally regarded as a Nilotic continuity, with widely ranging physical features (complexions light to dark, various hair and craniofacial types) but with powerful common cultural traits, including cattle pastoralist traditions (Trigger 1978; Bard, Snowden, this volume).(F. Yurco "An Egyptological Review," 1996)[7]

Some debates remain however as to the methodology used in classifying these ancient populations. These are addressed below.

Issues of methodology in skeletal and cranial studies of ancient Nubian and Nile Valley populationsEdit

General methodology issuesEdit

General methodological issues fall into four groups:

  • Inconsistent treatment of data on the African elements of the Nile Valley peoples
  • Use of extreme types as "representative" of various peoples
  • Splitting of related populations
  • Labeling of populations in a manner that deemphasizes their local context

Inconsistency. Some historians question why the same broad approach used with European populations is not also applied to Negroes who also show dolichocephaly, and also vary in other physical indices. They argue that a double standard is in play, and that the use of such terms as "Mediterranean" or "Middle Eastern" conveniently allow more skeletal remains from the Nile Valley to be essentially classified as Caucasoid, even incorporating Ethiopians, as in the Mediterranean race theories of Giuseppè Sergi. It is argued that the same line is drawn much more narrowly in defining "Negroid."[8] Variable human remains (such as the aquiline features of some Northeast African peoples, or the rounded foreheads of many African peoples) are thus assigned to Caucasoid groupings. These are interpreted as broadly and expansively as possible with a bearing on Egypt, covering the range of the Mediterranean zone from Portugal, to Morocco, to parts of Turkey. By contrast, the variation in "Negroids" is carefully defined in a much narrower sense as regards the Nile Valley. This inconsistent use of categories and definitions (broad Caucasian -- narrow Negro), it is held, downplays the Nilo-Saharan and Sudanic roots of the Egyptian gene pool. [9]

Use of stereotypical "true negro" types. Modern re-analyses of previous studies shows a clear tendency deny or minimize variability within the ancient Egyptian population.[10], As far as Negroid elements, this takes the form of establishing a baseline determination for a "true negro" (generally a sub-Saharan type) and anything not closely matching this extreme type is disregarded or incorporated into a Caucasoid or "Mediterranean" cluster. Conversely the same selective classification scheme is not applied to groups traditionally categorized as Caucasoid. Scholars such as Carelton Coons report "Mediterranean" remains that seem to have "Negroid" traits but do not mention the opposite, nor have scholars generally bothered to define a similarly stereotypical "true white."[11] Documentation shows researchers repeatedly excluding or minimizing certain skeletal remains in formulating approaches to the ancient Egyptian people. For example:

"Nutter (1958), using the Penrose statistic, demonstrated that Nagada I and Badari crania, both regarded as Negroid, were almost identical and that these were most similar to the Negroid Nubian series from Kerma studied by Collett (1933). [Collett, not accepting variability, excluded “clear negro” crania found in the Kerma series from her analysis, as did Morant (1925), implying that they were foreign.].."[12]

Splitting of related Nile Valley groups. Some anthropologists maintain that these methods still continue with the use of more modern statistical aggregation techniques based on crania or on dental morphology. They include selective frontloading of measured indices to minimize variability, using the stereotypical "true" sub-Saharan type as a basis for comparison, separating out adjacent Nile Valley and Northeast African populations like Ethiopians and Somalians, and grouping all else not meeting the extreme sub-Saharan type into broad Caucasoid clusters, although such clustering may be given different names like "North African", "Middle Eastern" or "Southwest Asian". (The Persistence of Racial Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence, S. O. Y. Keita, Rick A. Kittles, 1997)[13]

Lumping under Mediterranean clusters and labels. Re-analyses of scholarship show a clear tendency to lump remains under broad clusters or categories such as Mediterranean. Numerous studies of Egyptian crania have been undertaken, with many showing a range of types, and workers often describing substantial Africoid remains. Often this type has been lumped into a Caucasoid cluster, typically using the term "Mediterranean." A majority of these studies show the strong influence of Sudanic and Saharan elements in the predynastic populations and yet classifictions systems often incorporate them into the Mediterranean grouping. (Vercoutter J (1978) The Peopling of ancient Egypt)[14] p.54</ref> According to one re-analysis of metric skeletal data on the ancient Nile Valley peoples (S.O.Y Keita, "Studies of Ancient Crania From Northern Africa,):

"Analyses of Egyptian crania are numerous. Vercoutter (1978) notes that ancient Egyptian crania have frequently all been “lumped (implicitly or explicitly) as Mediterranean, although Negroid remains are recorded in substantial numbers by many workers... The majority of the work describes a Negroid element, especially in the southern population and sometimes as predominating in the predynastic period (Falkenburger, 1947). Workers describing some tropical African morphological or morphometric affinities with southern predynastics and dynastics include Thompson and Randall-MacIver (1905), Thomson (19051, Giuffrida-Ruggeri (1915, 19161, Stoessiger (19271, Krogman (19371, Morant (1925,1935, 1937) (who described Upper and Lower Egyptian types without much emphasis on racial labeling), Nutter (19581, Strouhal (1968, 19711, and Angel (1972). Strouhal(1971) also analyzed hair in his study of 117 Badari crania, in which he concluded that >80% were Negroid; most of these were interpreted as being hybrids.."[15]

Issues of specific methodology and interpretation in Cranio-facial AnthropologyEdit

Cranial studies are used extensively in classifying and studying ancient Nile Valley population origins, relationships, and diversity. Methodological issues fall into four groups.

  • Inaccuracy in computer models used in analysis
  • Use of stereotypical models in splitting and grouping cranial data
  • Ignoring local variability within populations on such indices as nasal measurements
  • Skewed cranial databases that selectively exclude certain Nile Valley areas

Inaccuracy in computer models. The methodology used in statistical studies of skeletal data has also been challenged by some researchers, not only as to the manipulation of categories, but in the results obtained with computer programs such as Fordisc or Cranid commonly used by researchers to find matches between sets of data correlated with geographic origins or race. A test of one such program for example matched ancient Nubian samples with people as far afield as Hispanics, Japanese and Easter Islanders. Such programs and models it is held, rely heavily on front-loading: starting with assumptions as to rigid, idealized 'true' types. This misrepresents fundamental patterns of human biological diversity.[16]

Use of stereotypical models in splitting and grouping cranial data. Use of 'true' types to split and organize data appears in several cranial studies. One such 1993 study found the ancient Egyptians to be more related to North African, Somalian, European, Nubian and, more remotely, Indian populations, than with Sub-Saharan Africans.[17]. Critics of this study hold that it achieves its results by manipulation of data clusters and analysis categories - casting a very wide net to achieve generic, general statistical similarities with populations such as Europeans and Indians. At the same time, the statistical net is cast much more narrowly in the case of 'blacks' - carefully defining them as an extreme type south of the Sahara and excluding related populations like Somalians, Nubians and Ethiopians,[18] as well as the ancient Badarians, a key indigenous group.[19]

It is held that when the data are looked at in toto without the clustering manipulation and selective exclusions above, then a more accurate and realistic picture emerges of African diversity. For example, ancient Egyptian matches with Indians and Europeans are generic in nature (due to the broad categories used for matching purposes with these populations) and are not due to gene flow, and that ancient Egyptians such as the Badarians show greater statistical affinities to tropical African types.[20]

Ignoring local variability within populations on such indices as nasal measurements. The variability of ancient Nile Valley populations in facial features calls several classification methods used in cranial and skeletal analysis into question. Narrow noses for example, appear among North American Plains Indians, as well as highland East Africans and Europeans. The racial categorizations of some scholars in past years thus allocated both Sioux warriors and Kenyan cattle herders to some sort of "Caucasoid" genetic mixture based on arbitrary definitions of this one trait as "European".[21] More objective recent scholarship however demonstrates that such noses are common in environments of cool, dry air- a routine climatic adaptation.[22] Such clinal factors do not rely on the need for race categories to explain how people look. Yet nose measurements and definitions based on 'true' racial models are still heavily used in some studies splitting Nile Valley peoples like Nubians, Somalians or Ethiopians into various 'racial' clusters.[23] As regards population diversity in Africa on this factor, one 1993 review notes that too often research using 'true' stereotypes:

"..presents all tropical Africans with narrower noses and faces as being related to or descended from external, ultimately non-African peoples. However, narrow-faced, narrow-nosed populations have long been resident in Saharo-tropical Africa... and their origin need not be sought elsewhere. These traits are also indigenous. The variability in tropical Africa is expectedly naturally high. Given their longstanding presence, narrow noses and faces cannot be deemed `non-African.'" [24]

Skewed cranial databases that selectively exclude certain Nile Valley areas. Exclusion of certain data can create a misleading picture of the ancient Nile Valley peoples. Such exclusions appear in standardized databases of cranial variation. Once such is the CRANID database, which uses samples from a single cemetery at Giza, in (northern) Lower Egypt dating around the final dynastic periods of Egypt (Dyn 26-30), to plot dendrograms suggesting that the population of ancient Egypt lies within a "European/Mediterranean bloc." In short the database is front-loaded towards a single cemetery close to the Mediterranean to serve as a "representative" standard in defining the ancient peoples. This skewed loading however, is not representative of the ancients as a whole, and excluded samples from the same time period based on several important cemetery sites at Elephantine, in Upper Egypt, further south. As respected mainstream Egyptologist Barry Kemp points out, "If, on the other hand, CRANID had used one of the Elephantine populations of the same period, the geographic association would be much more with the African groups to the south. It is dangerous to take one set of skeketons and use them to characterize the population of the whole of Egypt." [25]

Population variability, continuity: African linkages with the Nile Valley peoplesEdit

As noted above, cranial and skeletal studies have several limitations, namely assumptions that 'racial' characteristics do not change from one generation to another and that statistical aggregation could represent huge populations when in essence the aggregation serves to hide or eliminate variability within those populations. (Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropedia, 2005 ed. Volume 18, "Evolution, Human", pp. 843-854)[26] Such studies however can still be valuable in analysis when the range of data is considered as a whole, without the selective exclusions and categorizations as noted above,[27] and when supported by other anthropological data such as material artifacts.[28] Balanced analyses of cranial and skeletal data show a range of population characteristics involved in those who peopled the Nile Valley. Some of this data is regional. One 1993 reanalysis for example, holds that:

"Analysis of crania is the traditional approach to assessing ancient population origins, relationships, and diversity. In studies based on anatomical traits and measurements of crania, similarities have been found between Nile Valley crania from 30,000, 20,000 and 12,000 years ago and various African remains from more recent times (see Thoma 1984; Brauer and Rimbach 1990; Angel and Kelley 1986; Keita 1993). Studies of crania from southern predynastic Egypt, from the formative period (4000-3100 B.C.), show them usually to be more similar to the crania of ancient Nubians, Kushites, Saharans, or modern groups from the Horn of Africa than to those of dynastic northern Egyptians or ancient or modern southern Europeans." [29]

Skeletal studies in the form of limb proportions have been also used to support the cranial data. One 2003 survey for example showed that Nile Valley populations possessed more tropical body proportions, suggesting that the Egyptian Nile Valley was not primarily settled by cold-adapted peoples, such as Europeans.[30]

Cranial analyses that include the broad range of populations in the Nile Valley tend to show a fuller picture of their diversity, as opposed to the use of one selective set of data. For example, when CRANID data is taken as a whole for the expanse of the Nile Valley, Egyptian, Nubian and African (Ethiopic) groups form a cluster together at some distance from others, and are closer to each other than to cranial data from the Near East, Turkey/Anatolia or Greece,[31] indicating confirmation with Egyptologist Frank Yurco's observation of the common heritage and continuity of the Nilotic peoples.[32]

Standards of interpretation: mixed versus variable populationsEdit

The issue of "mixed" populationsEdit

As regards mixed populations, the issues of methodology remain, particularly in view of the makeup or variability of ancient stocks in that region. To what group for example, will a mixed race individual be credited? Variability within individual groups also involves the question of arbitrary assignment. The "Negroid" grouping in the Saharan - Nilotic - Sudanic triangle has ranged from extremely short Pygmy tribes, to slender, seven-foot tall groups with aquiline features and wavy hair. Are the latter "Caucasoid" (as asserted in older histories), of "mixed" race, or simply just another variant within the Nile Valley or Northeast African populations? Similar variability occurs in European populations, with generally longer head shapes (dolichocephaly) seen in Scandinavian and Mediterranean populations, and shorter ones (brachycephaly) seen in central and eastern Europeans.[33] And yet it would be difficult to use such variation to biologically justify a rigid racial taxonomy for these European peoples. They are generally seen as simply variants within a larger European population. In Northeast Africa however standards are applied differently according to some mainstream scholars.[34] Some older histories assert a "third race"[35]. A more specific reexamination of the early Nile Valley populations such as the Badari, show several affinities with a range of tropical African types. (S. Keita,'A brief review of studies and comments on ancient Egyptian biological relationships,' 1995)[36]

Difficulties with fossil remains and shifting terminology. Some researchers have moved away from the terms "Negroid" or "Caucasoid" in favor of formulations like "Saharan-Nilotic" or Africoid (see Trigger above and Keita below), which emphasizes the direct local area and indigenous populations in the Nile Valley. "Saharan-Nilotic" would include the Sudan, with its well established physical and cultural linkages with Nile Valley populations. Older formulations have included racial terminologies such as "Eastern Hamites" which basically substituted for "Caucasoid". Whatever the terms used, pinning down fossil evidence can be a problematic task.

"The present indigenous inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa fall into three groups: Negroid, Khoisan (Hottentots and men), and “Caucasoid” (Eastern Hamites). These may be easily distinguished by external features such as skin colour and hair form, but in skeletal features there is a good deal of overlap even today, when they have probably become increasingly divergent from their more generalized ancestors. From fragmentary fossil remains, therefore, it is difficult to distinguish among them. Negroids, for instance, typically have a narrow rounded forehead, but Eastern Hamites also tend to have a narrow skull and rounded forehead, and Bushmen also have a rounded forehead. A protruding upper jaw is characteristic of Negroids, but this part of is not always preserved in fossil remains.[37]

Alternatives to notion of 'mixed populations. Some scholars such as Alan Templeton have challenged the notion of mixed populations (see DNA Analysis section below) holding that race as a biological concept is dubious and that only a minor percentage of human variability can be accounted for by distinct "races." They argue that modern DNA analysis presents a more accurate alternative, that of simply local population variants, gradations or continuums in human difference like skin color or facial shape or hair, rather than rigid categories. The notion of "mixed races" it is asserted, is built on the flawed assumptions of old racial models. [38] According to Templeton:

"Genetic surveys and the analyses of DNA haplotype trees show that human "races" are not distinct lineages, and that this is not due to recent admixture; human "races" are not and never were "pure." Instead, human evolution has been and is characterized by many locally differentiated populations coexisting at any given time, but with sufficient genetic contact to make all of humanity a single lineage sharing a common evolutionary fate.."(Human Races: A Genetic and Evolutionary Perspective, Alan R. Templeton. American Anthropologist, 1998)[39]

A number of other researchers hold that race may be relevant for certain modern medical diagnoses and treatments, and that it may be premature to completely disregard all population (or group) identifiers in biomedical research.[40] Nevertheless they express caution about practices relying on assigning racial categories and identifiers.[41]

Population variants among the Nilotic peoples versus racial assignmentsEdit

As regards local population variants, the entire East African and Nilotic zone shows substantial diversity within groups of peoples, and features automatically 'assigned' to a 'race' by various studies do not capture the complexity of real data on the ground.[42] Doubts about racial assignments appear even in older mainstream surveys. As regards aquiline noses for example, Hiernaux (1975)[43] presents archaelogical evidence of such features among the most ancient East Africans (among the oldest homo sapien fossils discovered in East Africa) in the Gamble's Cave pre-historic site (Kenya) dating from 9,000 to 11,000 B.C.E. In short, one of the most ancient African populations in the general Nilotic area evolved narrow face and naso-facial patterns separately from and independent of any European or Asian genes, indicating that Africans are not 'special cases' but vary among themselves in how they look, just like other human populations. Such data also calls into question claims that Nilotic diversity is due to the migration of, or mix with outside Caucasoids or Asiatics.[44]According to Hiernaux:

".. all their features can be found in several living populations of East Africa, like the Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi, who are very dark skinned and differ greatly from Europeans in a number of body proportions.. There is every reason to believe that they are ancestral to the living 'Elongated East Africans'. Neither of these populations, fossil and modern, should be considered to be closely related to the populations of Europe and western Asia..."

Modern DNA analysis used on ancient Nile Valley peoplesEdit

DNA data showing linkages between Nile Valley and other African populationsEdit

DNA studies on modern Nile Valley populations.A 2004 mtDNA study of upper Egyptians from Gurna performed found a genetic ancestral heritage to modern East Africans, characterized by a high M1 haplotype frequency, and another study links Egyptians in general with people from modern Eritrea and Ethiopia.[45]

A 2003 Y chromosome study was performed by Lucotte on modern Egyptians, with haplotypes V, XI, and IV being most common. Haplotype V is common in Berbers and Ethiopian Falashas (black Jews) has a low frequency outside Africa. Haplotypes V, XI, and IV are all supra/sub-Saharan horn of Africa haplotypes, and they are far more dominant in Egyptians than in Near Eastern or European groups.[46]

As regards modern populations, the general weight of data show that such groups as Egyptians have genetic affinities primarily with populations of North and East Africa, and to a lesser extent Middle Eastern and European populations.[47] The DNA data is also supported by the metric work on skeletal remains[48], (see "Summary" section below) and numerous cultural and material linkages between Nile Valley peoples demonstrated by other scholars (see also Cultural Linkages section below).

DNA studies on ancient mummies. DNA samples on ancient remains can be difficult to process due to contamination by fungi and a host of other factors.[49] However when ancient samples are analyzed they yield a picture suggesting the primarily indigenous nature of many Nile Valley peoples. For example, when ancient mitochondrial DNA was tested from a liver found in a canopic jar belonging to Nekht-Ankh, a Middle Kingdom priest, they were found to be quite similar to modern Egyptian mitochondrial lineages. Results from further DNA comparisons to non-southern Nile Delta populations in the late 1980s found that “small subsets of modern Egyptian mitochondrial DNA lineages are closely related to Sub-Saharan African lineages.”[50]

DNA studies of Nile Valley gene flow. A 1999 DNA study of gene flow among the Nile Valley populations raises even more doubts about the Aryan model's claims of a "Mediterranean race" sweeping into the north, then branching out to civilize the darker natives further south. The study demonstrates that movement was taking place freely, with more weight of gene flow from the 'darker' South up into the north or Lower Egypt than north-south movement.[51] This corrobates with historical evidence for the predominant cultural weight of the 'darker' south leading into establishment of the first Egyptian dynasties. The DNA data also shows substantial gene flow between Egypt and Nubia, confirming Egyptologist Frank Yurco's observation(Yurco 1989) that the Nubians were the closest people ethnically to the Egyptians, and that Egyptian differentiation between themselves and Nubians was primarily in a political, not racial context.[52]

Methodological problems in applying of DNA analysis to ancient Nile Valley populationsEdit

Some DNA analysis throws doubt on racial categoriesEdit

Modern DNA analysis such as the work of Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, has analzed genetic affinities among peoples and enabled broad clustering groups to be defined. These clusters are held to relate fairly well to the "classical" racial groupings.[53] Other researchers however such as Lewontin using the same analysis point out that the genetic affinities attributable to race only make up 6-10% of variant analysis. This is a threshold well below that used to analyze lineages in other species, leading many researches to question the validity of race as a biological construct. (Apportionment of Racial Diversity: A Review, Ryan A. Brown and George J. Armelagos, 2001, Evolutionary Anthropology, 10:34-40)[54] Lewontin's analysis has been validated and replicated by numerous other studies, using a wide range of different analytical methods- (Latter 1980, Nei and Roychoudhury 1982, Ryaman 1983, Dean 1994, Barbujani 1997).

Other similar work using mtDNA analysis shows a larger variance within designated racial categories than outside (Excoffier 1992). Work such as Miller (1997) has found greater racial difference by focusing on specific loci, but these are compartively rare (2 out of 17, and 4 out of 109 in re-analyses by other researchers), and are well within the range of other factors such as genetic drift and clinal variation. Restudies of loci data (Lewotin, Barbajuni, Latter, et. al as noted above)yield even more conservative estimates of race as a factor in genetic variability.[55] On the basis of this data, some scholars (Owens and King 1999) hold that skin color, hair and facial features and other factors are more attributable to climate selective factors rather than stereotypic racial differences.[56]

DNA racial studies and contradictory results from study designEdit

Liberman and Jackson (1995), and Ryan and Armelagos(2001) point to contradictory results in DNA racial analysis, in that many studies "select the small proportion of genetic variability that is roughly apportionable by race to plot out dendrograms of essentially false categorizations of human variability. To accomplish this, these studies use apriori categorizations of human variability that are based on the inaccurate belief that classical racial categorization schemes delineate a series of isolated breeding populations.." An example of contradictory results are seen in the work of such researches as Bowcock, Bowcock, Sforza, et. al, 1994.

"Despite a research design that should have maximized the degree to which the researchers were able to classify individuals by racial category, the results are something less than "high resolution" with respect to this goal. For example, 88% of individuals were classified as coming from the right continent, while only 46% were classified as coming from the right region within each continent. Notably, 0% success was achieved in classifying East Asian populations to their region or origin. These results occurred despite the fact that Bowcock and co-workers entered their genetic information into a program that already used the a priori racial categories they were trying to replicate."[57] Ironically, some of Bowcock's data itself contradicts "classical" race categories, suggesting that Caucasoids, rather than being a primary group, are a secondary type or race, a hybrid strain based on certain variants of African and Asian populations.[58]

DNA methods and the pre-sorting of data before analysisEdit

In the light of this modern DNA analysis, grouping methods and classifications like Cavalli-Sforza's Extra-European Caucasoid to incorporate various North African peoples like the Egyptians, Ethiopians, and others, has drawn criticism from some scholars (Keita and Kittles 1999) for advocating the language of a non-racial approach, but in practice, using pre-defined, arbitrary categories to hold the data rather than let them speak for themselves. [59] Populations like those in the Nile Valley - just like populations anywhere in Africa - can have a wide range of variation, hold Kittles and Keita in The Persistence of Racial Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence as opposed to pigeonholing them into apriori groupings.[60]

Other anthropologists such as Lieberman and Jackson (1995), also find numerous methodological and conceptual problems in using DNA sequencing methods such as cladistics to support concepts of race. They hold for example that: "the molecular and biochemical proponents of this model explicitly use racial categories in their initial grouping of samples For example, 'the large and highly diverse macroethnic groups of East Indians, North Africans, and Europeans are presumptively grouped as Caucasians prior to the analysis of their DNA variation. This limits and skews interpretations, obscures other lineage relationships, deemphasizes the impact of more immediate clinal environmental factors on genomic diversity, and can cloud our understanding of the true patterns of affinity.' [61]

DNA methods using 'true negro' typesEdit

Limitations in specific DNA sampling techniques have also been noted by writers such as Keita and Kittles, particularly as regards the "representative" samples used for "black" Africans. One example cited is Cavalli-Sforza's advocacy of defining "core populations" (discrete, less admixed groupings, i.e. "races") and their evolution and migration. Followers of this approach (Horai 1995) use DNA analysis to postulate racial divergence times, when discrete populations supposedly began to form from "core" peoples into spreading populations throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and elsewhere. As regards Africa, the entire mtDNA sequence was applied to the core groups or populations to determine such divergences. Samples used in measurement were (a) one African individual from Uganda who was used to represent all African peoples, (b) 10 individuals from Japan, whose gene data was amalgamated into a consensus to represent Asians, and (c) a broad cluster of Europeanized data called the Cambridge sequence. On this basis, entire geographic regions were conceptualized as authentic.

Keita and Kittles call for less narrow definition of "true types" and recognition of a wide range of population gradients and variations among peoples of Africa, particularly northeast Africa (the Horn, Nubia, the Nile Valley and the Sahara).[62]

DNA methodology and geographic distancesEdit

A number of surveys have attempted to use DNA data as a marker of race, tyically centering on identifying populations based on their geographic regions. Such studies are sometimes fairly accurate in distinguishing between groups that were very widely separated by distance- such as European Swedes versus African Pygmies. However when groups living in close proximity to each other are analyzed then the analyses lose much of their strength. Applied to peoples in Southern India for example, data from one survey showed that they had much more in common genetically with each other than with distant peoples such as Europeans.[63] This proximity of related peoples (Nubians, Egyptians, Somalians, Ethiopians, Sudanese, etc), sharing a number of common genetic, material and cultural elements.[64] is precisely what is at issue in the Nilotic populations. On such counts, many DNA studies that attempt to dice up that population into traditionally assigned racial groups fall short.[65]

Clustering methods across geographic boundaries to place racial groups have also been questioned, such as the use of such huge categories as Europeans and Asians west of the Himalayas,[66] assignment of the widest possible categories to groups classified as Caucasoid,[67] while isolating certain others in narrower regions, separating out related populations (i.e. the Nilotic peoples), and non-evolutionary treatment of movement through geographic barriers.[68] The Sahara for example was often fertile in various eras and with a fluctuating climate cycle congenial to movement and interchange, and was not a rigid barrier throughout the millenia.[69]

DNA studies and racial models excluding certain African dataEdit

Several DNA studies applied to peoples near or in the Nile Valley have also been criticized for downplaying or excluding essential data on African populations in order to maintain certain racial models.[70] One study of gene and language flow for example, repeatedly excluded African data not meeting assigned racial categories, removing Chadic, Omotic and Cushitic speakers to create the impression that Ethiopians are an anomaly, i.e. Africans who speak the language of Caucasians.[71] When gene-frequency clustering in another survey did not adhere to the designated Caucasian categories (European and Middle Eastern) the study's authors simply excluded the non-European DNA samples to achieve desired results. According to one review: "The data in effect were tailored to fit into the traditional racial schema."[72] The racial models used in similar research have also been queried, particularly when data from various peoples held to be 'representative' of certain racial classifications (Berbers for example) continually shifts between 'assigned' categories, calling the validity of the categories themselves into question.[73]

Use of misleading labels applied to Nile Valley DNA dataEdit

Pre-labeling may not capture complexity of population variabilityEdit

A number of researchers such as Sforza, et. al continue to use categories such as Extra European Caucasoid and other related labels to categorize the Nile Valley peoples. Others such as Keita and Kittles argue that modern DNA and anthropological analysis points to the need for less pre-categorization and more emphasis on clinal variation and gradations that are more than adequate to explain differences between peoples rather than pre-conceived racial categories. It is held that arbitrary divisions into "Caucasoid" clusters, use of stereotypical "true" negro or sub-Saharan samples, and separating out of other Northeast African populations, does not capture the full range of variation among of Nile Valley peoples. Such variation need not be the result of a "mix" from categories such as Negroid or Caucasoid, but may be simply a contiuum of peoples in that region from skin color, to facial features, to hair, to height.[74]

Keita's arguments also contradict assertions and labels used by some Afrocentric writers as to the 'race' of the ancient peoples, and the culture and genetics of the Nilotic peoples, such as the "sun people, ice people" formulation of US college Professor Leonard Jefferies in the 1990s.[75] Keita's research also challenges Afrocentric notions as to a worldwide 'black' phenotype in places such as New Guinea or India linked with the Nilotic or African peoples,[76] pointing rather to DNA data placing such populations closer to those of Southeast Asia rather than the Nile Valley.[77]

Use of labels such as 'Oriental,' 'Arabic,' or 'Middle Eastern'Edit

The question of inconsistent labeling also arises in describing African and Nile Valley DNA samples, held by some scholars to be part of "the ongoing tendency in some disciplines to label the Nile valley as Middle Eastern, in a fashion that effectively suggests that Egypt has no African context, and that also hides its biocultural Africanity in pre-Islamic times."[78]

Chromosonial variants that have a bearing on the Nile Valley include Haplotype IV, which is found in high frequency in west, central, and sub-equatorial Africa in speakers of Niger-Congo, and to some extent among the Nubians. Another variant, Haplotype XI has its highest frequencies in the Horn and the Nile valley, but has been misleadingly called "Oriental". The haplotypes VII and VIII are the major indigenous Near Eastern haplotypes, found especially in Near Eastern Arabic speakers and Jews. In comparison to those of V their frequencies are small in supra-Saharan Africa.[79]

Haplotype V has also seen the use of misleading terms like "Arabic" to describe it, implying it is of 'Middle Eastern' origins.[80] When the hapotype V variant is looked at in context however, very high prevalences occur in African countries above the Sahara and Ethiopia, with heavy concentrations found among Berbers and Falashas (black Jews of Ethiopia). The weight of this distribution in Africa, rather than Arabia, has led researchers like Lucotte 1993, 1996 et. al.) to call the gene variant "African" or "Berber." As regards the Ethiopian Falahas, (the 'black' Jews), they have a very high frequency of haplotypes V and XI, with none or little of VII and VIII (often associated with movements of Arabic and Turkic peoples into Egypt) which shows them to be "clearly of African origin" per Lucotte and Mercier, 2003. As a result of this data, some DNA researchers hold that it is more accurate to call hapotype V "Horn-supra-Saharan African" rather than "Arabic" and to recognize it as indigeous to Africa rather than labeling it as "Middle Eastern" or "Oriental."[81] Overall the Nile Valley peoples show a diversity of chromosonal patterns throughout their long history.[82]

The Sahara, the Sudan and the Levant in Nile Valley peoplingEdit

The Sahara and the SudanEdit

Saharan-Sudanic inheritance of Nile Valley settlers. Data on the peopling of the Nile Valley do not appear to support earlier historical notions of an initial wave of Caucasoid invaders entering from the North in order to introduce civilization. Mainstream data shows gradual movement and peopling from the south- the Saharan zone and associated parts of the Sudanic region, fusing with indigenous Nilotic elements already in place, leading into the development of the well-known Egyptian kingdoms, not sweeping insertions from the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia or elsewhere.(AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 83:35-48 (1990)[83] See Wiki article Predynastic Egypt for the now discounted Dynastic Race Theory. As to the Saharan movement even Afrocentric critics such as Mary Lefkowitz note:

"Recent work on skeletons and DNA suggests that the people who settled in the Nile valley, like all of humankind, came from somewhere south of the Sahara; they were not (as some nineteenth-century scholars had supposed) invaders from the North. See Bruce G. Trigger, "The Rise of Civilization in Egypt," Cambridge History of Africa (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982), vol I, pp 489-90; S. O. Y. Keita, "Studies and Comments on Ancient Egyptian Biological Relationships," History in Africa 20 (1993) 129-54."[84]

Sudanic threads. Elements from both the Sahara and associated Sudanic regions appear to have been involved in the peopling Egypt according to a number of mainstream references. The Khartoum Culture and other zones of the Sudan for example show significant influence as indicated by pottery, jewelry, tools and implements, raw materials such as certain types of stone, and artistic designs.[85]

Saharan threads. The once fertile Sahara stretches in a belt from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. As noted above, fluctuating climate cycles acted as a "pump", pushing people from the south up towards the wetter, more fertile Nile Valley, or down, to zones of similar likeness. As regards the people, historic populations also appear to follow the same pattern of complexity noted above. Generally the pattern is in a "southern" direction, with early peoples being joined by other populations mixes like Berbers, who appear to have been clearly established by 1000, B.C. [86]

Limited outside inspiration needed by Nile Valley settlers. Whatever the exact mix of peoples on the ground, the work of mainstream research therefore demonstrates that from early pre-dynastic times, Egypt was essentially settled by indigenous elements closely associated with groups from the Saharan and Sudanic region moving up into the Nile Valley, and excluded any significant influx from Mediterraneans, Mesopotamians or others not indigenous to the area. Migration theories sometimes rely on the introduction of cattle herding, but archealogical data (Wendorf 2001, Wettstrom 1999) suggests that the peoples of the Sahara had already independently domesticated cattle in the early Holocene eastern Sahara, followed by the gradual adoption of grain cultivation, or gradual adoption of Near Eastern domesticates into an already established foraging and subsistence economy, rather than an influx of outsiders bringing benefits to the indigenes.[87]As another mainstream scholar puts it:

"Some have argued that various early Egyptians like the Badarians probably migrated northward from Nubia, while others see a wide-ranging movement of peoples across the breadth of the Sahara before the onset of desiccation. Whatever may be the origins of any particular people or civilization, however, it seems reasonably certain that the predynastic communities of the Nile valley were essentially indigenous in culture, drawing little inspiration from sources outside the continent during the several centuries directly preceding the onset of historical times... (Robert July, Pre-Colonial Africa, 1975, p. 60-61) [88]

Population variability in Lower (northern) Egypt. As regards predynastic population, peoples of Lower or northern Egypt show a range of variability and types. Sweeping classifications such as Caucasoid or a "Mediterranean Race" depicted under older Aryan race models are thus problematic for this region. A number of influences were present from surrounding populations. According to one history populations around sites such as Merimda, Maadi and Wadi Digla have quite different characteristics from sample populations from early Palestine and Byblos, "suggesting a lack of common ancestors over a long time. If there was a south-north cline variation along the Nile valley it did not, from this limited evidence, continue smoothly on into southern Palestine. The limb-length proportions of males from the Egyptian sites group them with Africans rather than with Europeans."[89]

Cultural interchange among the Nile Valley peoples. A 1996 collection of art and material culture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, also highlights several cultural links between the Nile Valley peoples, and demonstrates that they were part of a larger indigenous African context, with local variation. (Egypt in Africa, 1996, Theodore Celenko (ed), Curator, Indianapolis Museum of Art). The exhibit suggests 8 common areas of interchange, similarity and linkage, grouping artefacts according to such themes as: Mother and child figures, Headrests, Depictions of humans, Ancestor worship and divine kingship, Animal Dieties and symbols, Masking, Body art and Circumcision and male initiation.[90]

Peopling from the Levant and Maghreb sourcesEdit

The archealogy of the Predynastic and early Dynastic periods show relatively little large-scale movement of peoples from the Levant- the zone bordering the Eastern Mediterranean that includes parts of Turkey, and Syria, Lebanon, and Israel[91]- and the Maghreb which includes modern day countries in North Africa like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. However this does not mean that there was not small-scale migration.

The earliest Neolithic site is found in Lower Egypt, Merimda. The inhabitants appear to have progressed in material culture, building a type of single-adult dwelling arranged in clusters, sometimes found today in sub-Saharan Africa,[92]and which may have been also present in Palestine and north-east Africa. The Ma'adian complex of sites near Merimda also indicates that it had trade and cultural contact with both the Syro-Palestine area and southern (Upper) Egypt.[93] Trade items, plants cultivated and pottery in Lower Egypt indicates contact not only with the south but contacts with the Levant and with the Sumerians of Uruk.[94] Some scholars suggest that the effort to control trade with the southern Levant and Mesopotamia may have played a role in encouraging expansion of Upper (southern) Egyptian cultural and political hegemony northward.[95]

Egyptian inscriptions suggest that the early period pharaoh Narmer conducted expeditions into Palestine, Jordan and Mesopotamia, and titles claimed such as 'Smiter of Asiatics' may reflect such military operations. Tomb artefacts from the early pharaonic era show Mesopotamian/Middle Eastern/Asiatic types kneeling in submission to the Egyptian kings.[96] These historical documents and depictions contradict claims (Emery 1961, Edwards 1971, David 1998 for example) that a Middle Eastern Dynastic Race swept into Egypt early on to give it civilization.[97] Serious foreign invasions did not occur until much later in the dynastic era.

Certain periods however, such as the New Kingdom era, were to see Egyptian hegemony expand beyond its limited beginnings, and pharaonic armies ranged extensively in the Middle East- from Lebanon to the Euphrates. Propagandistic inscriptions referring to "slaying of Asiatic trodlodytes" and "wretched Asiatics" are typical of many ancient pharaonic records describing these operations.[98]) These campaigns, the period of Hyksos rule, trade contacts, informal immigration, and foreign invasions all contributed to the population mix and flow over time as the centuries of Egyptian civilization continued. Persians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs also added to the later mix towards the end of the dynastic period.[99]

Translations of pharonic inscriptions by Breasted (Records of Ancient Egypt - see note above) boast of conquests of various Middle eastern peoples:

"His majesty proceeded northward, to overthrow the Asiatics (Mntyw-Stt). His majesty arrived at a district, Sekmem (Skmm) was its name. His majesty led the good way in proceeding to the palace of `Life, Prosperity, and Health (L.P.H.,' when Sekmen had fallen, together with Retenu (Rtnw) the wretched, while I was acting as rearguard."
"Slaying of the Asiatic Troglodytes (Ynw-Mn·t·yw[Menate, Manasseh]), all inaccessible countries, all lands, the Fenkhu of the marshes of Asia, the Great Bend of the sea (w'd-wr)." [Breasted: Vol. III, Sec. 118;]
"Then my majesty surrounded it with a wall, made thick ---(the wall made thick probably refers to his army surrounding the city and not a physical wall for it continues...) they tasted not the breath of life, surrounded in front of their wall ---- the Asiatics of all countries came with bowed head, doing obeisance to the fame of my majesty. "
"These Asiatics who were in the wretched `mkdy' came forth to the fame of Menkheperre, given life, saying: `Give us a chance, that we may present to thy majesty [our] impost.'" [Breasted, `Records', Vol. II, Sec. 440, 441, 442]

Continuity of Nile Valley populations into the state building periodEdit

Continuity of Nile valley populations over extended periodsEdit

Some current dental studies of ancient Egyptians as a whole over the millennia show continuity between early racial or cultural types peopling Egypt, well into the dynastic period, and show that these peoples had a wide range of characteristics including Nubian, Saharan, Nilotic and Levantine. Such variability makes make rigid racial taxonomies, or selective highlighting, grouping and labeling as "Middle Eastern" or "Mediterranean" or sweeping genetic claims of outside influence problematic. [100] The issue of continuity with past Egyptian racial stocks has also been raised in older scholarship since the 1960s. One older 1967 study (Berry, Ucko et al.) for example concluded that at no time did any non-Egyptian group provide a significant change to the Egyptian gene pool for the length of the Pharaonic monarchy.,[101] The pattern of continuity repeats itself when modern populations are considered, most notably the case of the fellahin in Egypt, which are referenced as an indicator of a more ancient genetic strand associated with Negroid or Sudanic/Saharan influences.

"In Libya, which is mostly desert and oasis, there is a visible Negroid element in the sedentary populations, and at the same is true of the Fellahin of Egypt, whether Copt or Muslim. Osteological studies have shown that the Negroid element was stronger in predynastic times than at present, reflecting an early movement northward along the banks of the Nile, which were then heavily forested." (Encyclopedia Britannica 1974 and 1982 eds. "Populations, Human")[102]

Continuity extends into dynastic period of kingship and nation buildingEdit

This continuity holds into the early dynastic period, in that elements from the South, (a region closer to the Sahara and the Sudan), brought about the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, ushering in the early Egyptian dynasties. This union is of monumental significance in Egyptian history, and was considered as such by the Egyptians themselves. It does not appear to be a crude tribal polity awaiting inspiration from Mediterranean or Near Eastern outsiders, as asserted by the now discredited Dynastic Race Theory. Union provided a stable umbrella that helped shape the creative and productive energies of their civilization for millennia to come. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1984 ed. Egypt, History of," p. 464-65) [103]

A 2007 study of cranial data indicates that "overall population continuity over the Predynastic and early Dynastic, and high levels of genetic heterogeneity, thereby suggesting that state formation occurred as a mainly indigenous process."[104]

Regional continuity in establishing the early dynastiesEdit

Cultural weight of the south. The consensus among Egyptologists is that the south (Upper Egypt), achieved ascendacy over Lower Egypt (the Delta/north,) to usher in the well-known Egyptian dynastic period.[105] The exact nature of the unification is still a matter of ongoing research, but the northern culture does not appear to be as elaborated as that of the south as regards conditions near the establishment of the dynastic civilization. According to the mainstream Cambridge History of Africa: "While not attempting to underestimate the contribution that Deltaic political and religious institutions made to those of a united Egypt, many Egyptologists now discount the idea that a united prehistoric kingdom of Lower Egypt ever existed."[106] Archaelogical data shows some contact between the two regions over time.[107] For example, a special type of vessel supported by four modelled human feet is also found in the Amratian culture of the south. Burial customs also show some similarity with practices in Upper Egypt, (bodies for example were generally laid on their left side, head south, in the sites surrounding Merimda, similar to Upper Egyptian practice), although Merimda itself contained few grave goods.[108] Nevertheless the southern culture seems to have gained the upper hand in the era of the early dynasty. According to the Cambridge History of Africa: "While communities such as Ma'adi appear to have played an important role in entrepots through which goods and ideas form south-west Asia filtered into the Nile Valley in later prehistoric times, the main cultural and political tradition that gave rise to the cultural pattern of Early Dynastic Egypt is to be found not in the north but in the south."[109]

Gradual formation of the nation-state from earlier developments. State formation in the ancient Nile Valley does not appear to have taken the sudden form suggested by the influx or inspiration of a Dynastic Mediterranean or Mesopotamian race. Instead material evidence indicates that the indigenous peoples evolved the state gradually, in a slowly phased process suggesting a degree of regional integration well before the 1st Dynasty. These phases involved the emergence of dispersed kingdoms both in Egypt (Kaiser and Dreyer 1982) and possibly in Nubia (Williams 1987), with up to ten indigenous rulers in place before the 1st Dynasty. (Kaiser and Dreyer 1982)[110] Such continuity confirms the forensic data of Zakrzewski (2007) and others noted above, and provides further evidence of the indigenous genesis of the pharaonic state.

Language as a way to classify Nile Valley Egyptian peoplesEdit

Demise of Hamitic hypothesis. The use of linguistics as a basis for racial categorization has also drawn challenges and criticisms. The demise of the famous "Hamitic Hypothesis", which purported to show that certain African languages around the Nile area could be associated with "Caucasoid" peoples is a typical case. Such schemes fell apart when it was demonstrated that Negro tribes far distant also spoke similar languages, tongues that were supposedly a reserved marker of Caucasoid presence or influence.[111] For work on African languages, see Wiki article Languages of Africa and Joseph Greenberg.

Language and the movement of material culture. Older linguistic classifications are also linked to the notion of a "Hamitic race", a vague grouping thought to exclude Negroes, but accommodating a large variety of dark skinned North and East Africans into a broad-based Caucasoid grouping. This Caucasoid "Hamitic race" is sometimes credited with the introduction of more advanced culture, such as certain plant cultivation and particularly the domestication of cattle. This scheme has also been discredited by the work of post WWII archaeologists such as A. Arkell, who demonstrated that predynastic and Sudanic Negroid elements already possessed cattle and plant domestication, thousands of years before the supposed influx of Caucasoid or Hamitic settlers into the Nile Valley, Nubia and adjoining areas.[112]

Historian Christopher Ehret, a language specialist, points to the archaeological work of Wendorf et. al. as supporting Arkell, suggesting that "the peoples of the steppes and grasslands to the immediate south of Egypt domesticated cattle, as early as 9000 to 8000 B.C. They included peoples from the Afro-Asiastic linguistic group and the second major African language family, Nilo-Saharan (Wendorf, Schild, Close 1984; Wendorf, et al. 1982). Thus the earliest domestic cattle may have come to Egypt from these southern neighbors, circa 6000 B.C., and not from the Middle East.[113] Pottery, another significant advance in material cultural may also have followed this pattern, initiatied "as early as 9000 B.C. by the Nilo-Saharans and Afrasians who lived to the south of Egypt. Soon thereafter, pots spread to Egyptian sites, almost 2,000 years before the first pottery was made in the Middle East."[114]

Since Egypt belongs in the same temperate climate zone as adjacent areas of the Middle East, key domestic animals such as sheep and goats also flowed from more easterly areas as well as domestic plants. Along with these domesticates were those from the Sudanic regions as well. "Several notable early Egyptian crops came from Sudanic agriculture, independently invented between 7500 and 6000 B.C. by the Nilo-Saharan peoples (Ehret 1993:104-125). One such cultivated crop was the edible gourd. The botanical evidence is confirmed in this case by linguistics: Egyptian bdt, or "bed of gourds" (Late Egyptian bdt, "gourd; cucumber"), is a borrowing of the Nilo-Saharan word *bud, "edible gourd." Other early Egyptian crops of Sudanic origin included watermelons and castor beans."[115]

Linguistic writing systems and population movements. The southern area of the Nile Valley not only produced advanced material culture and political organization but also pioneered in the advancement of learning and communication via writing, contradicting claims of an outside Mediterranean or Mesopotamian influx responsible for such developments. In 1998 a German archaeological team under scholar Günter Dreyer, head of the German Archaeological Institute, excavated tombs associated with the Naqada culture and retrieved hundreds of clay artifacts inscribed with proto-hieroglyphs, dating to the 33rd century BC.[116] Of Dreyer's finds, Archaeology Magazine states that they "...challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia."[117]

The early examples appear to have been building blocks for later development into the full complex of hieroglyphs for inscribing the ancient Egyptian language,[118] showing a measure of continuity into the period of the pharaohs. According to Dreyer, these continuities provide evidence that the writing used later by Egyptian kingships developed gradually in the native environment. "Most of them are documents, records of linen and oil delivered to the King Scorpion, taxes, short notes, numbers, lists of kings' names, and names of institutions.. The writing is in the form of line drawings of animals, plants and mountains and is the earliest evidence that hieroglyphics used by later-day Pharaonic dynasties did not rise as phoenix from the ashes but developed gradually.. Although the Egyptian writing is in the form of symbols it can be called true writing because each symbol stands for a consonant and makes up syllables. In principle Ancient Egyptians were able to express themselves clearly.."[119] According to mainstream Egyptologist Kent Weeks, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, Dreyer's data suggests "one of the greatest discoveries in history of writing and ancient Egyptian culture."[120]

Dreyer has moved beyond his early findings to pose a separate, speculative hypothesis- that the Egyptians were the first in the world to develop systematic writing as opposed to the commonly held view that the Mesopotamians did.[121] Some Egyptian archaelogy authorities appear to support Dreyer's hypothesis of Egyptian primacy. According to a 1999 statement by one Gaballa Ali Gaballa, secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities: "The earliest known Sumerian writings date back to 3000BC while the German team's find shows that Abydos inscriptions date to 3400BC. The first Pharaonic dynasty began in 2920BC with King Menes. The earliest known writing in Dynasty Zero is much earlier than the oldest writing discovered in Mesopotamia." [122]

A number of Egyptologists disagree with this conclusion,[123], but the presence of the ancient writings from very early times provides yet more evidence against the notion of a "Dynastic Race" sweeping into the Nile Valley to give the natives advanced culture like writing. Rather the evidence indicates the opposite, and emphasizes the primarily indigenous nature of Egyptian civilization.

Language similarities among the Nilotic peoples. Modern scholarship has moved away from earlier notions of a "Hamitic" race speaking Hamito-Semitic languages, and places the Egyptian language in a more localized context, centered around its general Saharan and Nilotic roots.(F. Yurco "An Egyptological Review", 1996)[124] Linguistic analysis (Diakanoff 1998) places most of the origin of the Afro-Asiatic languages wholly within Africa, primarily in the southeastern Sahara or adjacent Horn of Africa, with Semitic groupings straddling the Nile Delta and Sinai.[125]

Other recent research demonstrates several African languages that share features with Egyptian, such as the Chadic languages of west and central Africa, the Cushitic languages of northeast Africa, and the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea.[126] Acceptance of an African origin for the Afro-Asiatic language grouping (of which ancient Egyptian is a part) is widespread among most mainstream scholars.[127]

Cultural linkages as a way to classify populations of Nile Valley EgyptEdit

Cultural and religious linkages between Egypt and the Sahara and SudanEdit

Questions of cultural linkages between Ancient Egypt and black Africa revolve around multiple strands of data- from implements used in daily life, to religious practices. Some Afrocentric writers such as Cheikh Anta Diop assert cultural and material ties from Egypt stretching across the continent, arguing that they provide a building block for viewing the Ancient Egyptians as racially "black."[128] Other Afrocentric writers argue that even if the Afrocentric view may be as flawed as another race-centric view, and even if there are many mistakes in the work of Diop, that the Western academy has to acknowledge that European archaeologists before and after decolonization have understated and continue to understate the extent and possibility of Black civilizations.[129]

A number of mainstream scholars dispute Afrocentric views on Egyptian ethnicity but in turn have moved away from older outside race or civilizer theories (See Trigger above) and acknowledge that the Egyptians had linkages with a variety of cultures, including the Levant and particularly their neighbors to the south, i.e. 'Black' Africa.

Older research on cultural linkages with 'black' Africa confirmed by newer studiesEdit

Mainstream anthropologist and DNA researcher S. Keita sums up much of the older evidence showing the linkages between Egypt and 'black' Africa, noting that contrary to discredited white civilizer theories and their variants, many of the cultural elements associated with Egypt originated in the Sudanic-Saharan areas of said 'black' Africa. Much of this evidence appears in older scholarship, long before Afrocentrism became popular or widely controversial, and is confirmed in modern re-analyses. The data are summarized below:[130]:

  • Specific central African tool designs found at the well known Naqada, Badari and Fayum archaeological sites in Egypt (de Heinzelin 1962, Arkell and Ucko, 1956 et al). Shaw (1976) states that "the early cultures of Merimde, the Fayum, Badari Naqada I and II are essentially African and early African social customs and religious beliefs were the root and foundation of the ancient Egyptian way of life."
  • Pottery evidence first seen in the Saharan Highlands then spreading to the Nile Valley (Flight 1973).
  • Art motifs of Saharan rock paintings showing similarities to those in pharaonic art. A number of scholars suggest that these earlier artistic styles influenced later pharaonic art via Saharans leaving drier areas and moving into the Nile Valley taking their art styles with them (Mori 1964, Blanc 1964, et al)
  • Earlier pioneering mummification outside Egypt. The oldest mummy in Africa is of a black Saharan child (Donadoni 1964, Blanc 1964) Frankfort (1956) suggests that it is thus possible to understand the pharaonic worldview by reference to the religious beliefs of these earlier African precursors. Attempts to suggest the root of such practices are due to Caucasoid civilizers from elsewhere are thus contradicted by the data on the ground.
  • Several cultural practices of Egypt show strong similarities to an African totemic clan base. Childe (1969, 1978), Aldred (1978) and Strouhal (1971) demonstrate linkages with several African practices such as divine kingship and the king as divine rainmaker.
  • Physical similarities of the early Nile valley populations with that of tropical Africans. Such connections are demonstrated in the work of numerous scholars such as Thompson and Randall Mclver 1905, Falkenburger 1947, and Strouhal 1971. The distance diagrams of Mukherjee, Rao and Trevor (1955) place the ancient Badarians genetically near 'black' tribes such as the Ashanti and the Taita. See also the "Issues of lumping under Mediterranean clusters" section above for similar older analyses.
  • Serological (blood) evidence of genetic linkages. Paoli 1972 for example found a significant resemblance between ABO frequencies of dynastic Egyptians and the black northern Haratin who are held to be the probable descendants of the original Saharans (Hiernaux, 1975).
  • Language similarities which include several hundred roots ascribable to African elements (UNESCO 1974)
  • Ancient Egyptian origin stories ascribing origins of the gods and their ancestors to African locations to the south and west of Egypt (Davidson 1959)
  • Advanced state building and political unity in Nubia, including writing, administrative apparatus and insignia some 300 years before dynastic Egypt, and the long demonstrated interchange between Nubia and Egypt (Williams 1980)

Newer studies (Wendorf 2001, Wilkinson 1999, et al.) confirm these older analyses. Excavations from Nabta Playa, located about 100km west of Abu Simbel for example, suggest that the Neolithic inhabitants of the region were migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, based on cultural similarities and social complexity which is thought to be reflective of Egypt's Old Kingdom[131]Other scholars (Wilkinson 1999) present similar material and cultural evidence- including similarities between predynastic Egypt and traditional African cattle-culture, typical of Southern Sudanese and East African pastoralists of today, and various cultural and artistic data such as iconography on rock art found in both Egypt and in the Sudan.[132]

Recent data from other research suggests numerous trade contacts between the Nile Valley peoples from early times. The excavations of German archaeologist Gunter Dreyer (1999) at Predynastic Abydos for example unearthed obsidian bows, a material traced to the nearby Sudan or Ethiopia. Excavations at Hierakonpolis by archaelogist Renee Friedman (1998) also demonstrates ritual masks similar to those used further south of Egypt, and significant amounts of obsidian, also traced to Ethiopian quarry sites.[133]. As regards population types and origins, one contemporary review of older evidence acknowledges that "the ancient Egyptians, especially southern Egyptians, exhibited physical characteristics that are within the range of variation for ancient and modern indigenous peoples of the Sahara and tropical Africa."[134]

Nubia and Egypt in Nile Valley peopling and culturesEdit

Research on Nubian influence on the early Egyptian state. Nubia also figures in the archealogical research of scholar Bruce Williams, who along with other writers, suggest a Nubian influence underlying the establishment of the Egyptian state.[135] Most scholars see limited evidence of Nubian statebuilding in the further north (Lower Egypt),[136] but Williams focuses on the south, based on the initial predominant influence of the south, closest to Nubia, and various cultural linkages with the south such as discovery of the Qustul incense burner and of a city at Kerma dating back to 4,500 BCE.[137]

A number of scholars demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians were closely related to Nilo/Sudanic peoples like Nubians, sharing substantial genetic admixture, and cultural elements such as the pharonic structure (Keita 1992, Krings et al. 1999, Williams 1999, Yurco, 1989).[138] Some research links these relationships as extending not simply to ordinary farmers, pastorialists or hunter-gathers but to elite stations as well. One such study for example shows the presence of individual rulers buried in high-status Egyptian sites at Naqada, and that these persons were more related morphologically to populations in Northern Nubia, than those in Southern Egypt.[139] The recent excavations of Swiss archealogist Charles Bonnet also confirm the linkages between Nubia and Egypt via excavations at Kerma (Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle, The Nubian Pharaohs).[140]

A number of writers dispute any claim that the Nubian kings were responsible for the genesis of the Egyptian monarchies that followed.[141] Williams however notes that his research advanced no claim of a Nubian origin or genesis for the pharonic monarchy. Instead he holds that the archaeological data shows Nubian linkages and influence in helping to "fashion pharaonic civilization." Such data includes detailed excavations of the burial place of the Nubian rulers with date stamps well before the historical First Dynasty of Egypt. The size and wealth of the tombs were also vastly greater than that of the well-known Abydos tombs in Egypt.[142]

Nubian- Egyptian differentation based primarily on political not racial context. Mainstream Egyptologists such as F. Yurco note that among foreign peoples, the Nubians were closest ethnically to the Egyptians, shared the same culture in the predynastic period, and used the same pharaonic political structure. [143] This is confirmed by a wealth of data on hand as noted above, making problematic various attempts to portray Nubia and its peoples as primarily foreign migrants, or to portray Nubia as an isolated backwater of Egypt useful primarily as an area of conquest.[144] The relationship between Nubia and Egypt was complex, involving military raids, expeditions and conquest by the Egyptians, subjugation in turn of Egypt by Nubia based kings, pharaohs of Nubian origin, trade interactions and cultural influence both ways from the earliest times and down through the centuries. According to Williams, attempts to downplay data from the Nubian excavations "arbitrarily dismiss important bodies of evidence, [and] belong to an age when broad assumptions of 'cultural retardation' went unchallenged."[145]

A 1999 DNA study on gene flow[146] as noted above, confirms the genetic linkages between Egypt and Nubia, and affirms Yurco's observation as to the ethnic closeness and political rather than racial differentiation between Egyptians and Nubians. These data and historical background call into question assertions by some classicist historians (Snowden, Vermeule, et al) that suggest 'racial' wars between Nubians and Egyptians or high degrees of 'racial' differences between them.[147]Ironically noting that war between ethnically related neighboring European nations like France and Germany is not considered 'racial' war, one mainstream anthropologist confirms Yurco, stating: "the antagonisms between Kush and Egypt were political and not racial."[148] The DNA analysis also confirms the observation that the peoples of the Nile Valley were one population continuity,[149] sharing not only culture but genes that flowed up and down the Nile. This contradicts the Aryan model's attempts to dice up the two ancient peoples into neatly assigned racial categories or zones such as 'Caucasoid,' 'Mediterranean Race,' 'Negroid' or 'Hamite.'[150]

Religious practices and population classificationsEdit

Various cultural and religious practices in particular seem to show greater affinity with that of the peoples or northeast Africa, rather than the Mediterranean or Mesopotamia. These include numerous animal gods, the king as chief ritualist, the king's mother, ritual/ceremonial dresses, and regicide.

Encyclopedia Britannica 1984 ed. Macropedia Article, Vol 6: "Egyptian Religion" , pg 506-508
"A large number of gods go back to prehistoric times. The images of a cow and star goddess (Hathor), the falcon (Horus), and the human-shaped figures of the fertility god (Min) can be traced back to that period. Some rites, such as the "running of the Apil-bull," the "hoeing of the ground," and other fertility and hunting rites (e.g., the hippopotamus hunt) presumably date from early times.. Connections with the religions in southwest Asia cannot be traced with certainty."
"It is doubtful whether Osiris can be regarded as equal to Tammuz or Adonis, or whether Hathor is related to the "Great Mother." There are closer relations with northeast African religions. The numerous animal cults (especially bovine cults and panther gods) and details of ritual dresses (animal tails, masks, grass aprons, etc) probably are of African origin. The kinship in particular shows some African elements, such as the king as the head ritualist (i.e., medicine man), the limitations and renewal of the reign (jubilees, regicide), and the position of the king's mother (a matriarchal element). Some of them can be found among the Ethiopians in Napata and Meroe, others among the Prenilotic tribes (Shilluk)."[151]

Cultural markers of later Egyptian civilization found in early peoplesEdit

The Libyan area, particularly around the Fezzan, also shows a range of physical types. Of note is the mummified form of a Negro child, dated to around 3000 B.C, discovered at the Uan Muhuggiag rock shelter by a team of Italian archaeologists. What makes this skeleton interesting is that it is so well preserved that it challenges the notion that the Egyptians were the original pioneers of mummification. The Italian excavation suggests that many practices associated with Egypt, may have already been established on an indigenous basis in the areas adjoining the Nile Valley, prior to the rise of the Egyptian dynasties. [152] This finding is consistent with the general pattern noted above- the appearance of long-standing cultural and skeletal elements from a variety of indigenous peoples, in the areas close to Egypt. It is also consistent with a movement of peoples, up from the Saharan Zone into the Nile Valley, as noted by Afrocentric critic Mary Leftkowitz.

Theories of outside dynastic races in Nile Valley developmentEdit

If therefore, ancient Egypt had a number of cultural similarities and links, with the Saharan or Sudanic tribes, the notion of sweeping invasions by Caucasoids as a source for civilized developments is questionable. Data suggests that numerous material and religious elements unique to Egyptian civilization were already in place, forming a basis for the rise of more elaborate cultural developments, as opposed to having them substantially introduced by outsiders from the Mediterranean or elsewhere. Indeed the early dynastic kingdoms of Egypt saw the accession of peoples from the South, bordering the Saharan and Sudanic regions, with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt traditionally credited to Menes. This does not displace the influences or trade from Mesopotamia, which can been clearly seen in trade artifacts, nor does it mean other influences or indeed peoples were not present. Modern archaeology has shown a significant trade of goods, ideas, and even people throughout Egypt, the Levant, and Mesopotamia, as well as the Saharan and Sudanic zones.[153][154] Scholar Robert July also shows such linkages, but holds that outside influences appear to have had little significant impact on the early development of Egyptian civilization.[155] A more recent survey (see Yurco above) sums up the consensus in the field: [156]

"In summary we may say that Egypt was a distinct North African culture rooted in the Nile Valley and on the Sahara. The dynastic race theory has been shown to be an outdated myth generated by the "Aryan Model."

A related diffusion theory holds that horticulture and Afro-Asiatic languages were brought from southern Europe into early Egypt. Analysis of ancient Badarian remains however demonstrates that they share greater affinity to indigenous Africans than with Europeans, while not being identical, suggesting greater affiliation with local and native African populations than with distant southern Europeans. In this analysis, domesticated plants and animals from the Near East were adapted by indigenous Nile Valley peoples as part of normal trade and cultural transfer without any major immigration of non-Africans.[157] Other conservative mainstream analyses compare pre-dynastic cultures in Lower Egypt (further north towards the Mediterranean/Near East) with those in Upper Egypt (further south towards the Nubian/Sudanic regions). Contrary to what would be expected under theories of advanced Caucasoid, Asiatic, Mediterranean, Near Eastern or European influence, (see Yurco note above), the early Egyptian state had its cultural origins in the south, as compared to a more northerly or eastern direction.[158]

Cultural similarities and diffusionist theoriesEdit

The unique nature of many Egyptian cultural patterns also calls into question sweeping notions of a unified Egyptian umbrella or cultural set from Cape to Cairo.[159], Just as alleged "Caucasoid" or "Mediterranean" invasions do not define Egyptian civilization, neither do things like Egyptian funerary practices or kingships define the Khosians of Southern Africa or the Bantu of Central Africa. Any cultural similarities may be the result of a common African origin, and any achievements, indigenous, rather than the result of Egyptian influence. Some diffussionist theories, such as, Egyptian influence being the basis for mettalurgy practiced in West Africa, have proven to be fallacious as the practice therein has been found to have predated that of the Nile Valley.[160] Further, both areas were peopled by populations in the Sahara that migrated when the Sahara entered its most recent dry phase; the Sahara hasn't always been a vast desert.[161] Afrocentric critic Mary Leftkowiz argues that sweeping claims of Egyptian influence across the board have their origin in white esoterics, Free Masons and mystics concerned with Egyptian religious practices, particularly the Egyptian Mystery System.[162]

Visual images and African Nile Valley populationsEdit

Diversity of visual representations and Egyptian uniquenessEdit

The Egyptians quite clearly distinguished between non-Egyptian peoples like Nubians or Phoenicians and themselves in visual imagery, suggesting they viewed themselves as a unique people apart from other nations.[163] Categories as "Mediterranean," "Middle Eastern," "Caucasian," or "Negro" do not capture or define what these ancient peoples thought. According to Egyptologist, Frank J. Yurco, the Egyptians distinguished "in political terms, not in racial terms. Foreigners were labeled by their regional or political names, and were depicted with distinctive features and dress.." The ancients did not view race in the same manner in which people of the modern era view it.[164] Records of literature and sculpture show:

"characteristics that also can be found in the Horn of (East) Africa (see, e.g., Petrie 1939; Drake 1987; Keita 1993). Old and Middle Kingdom statuary shows a range of characteristics; many, if not most, individuals depicted in the art have variations on the narrow-nosed, narrow-faced morphology also seen in various East Africans. This East African anatomy, once seen as being the result of a mixture of different "races," is better understood as being part of the range of indigenous African variation.[165]

Use of stereotypical 'true types' in African Nile Valley population imageryEdit

Representative 'true' types. Some writers argue that the visual imagery often used to represent certain Nile Valley peoples typically follows a "true type" methodology- identifying the most dark-skinned types and labeling them as "Nubian" or "black" and then splitting off the rest and assigning them to other categories. These can thence be identified as more closely related to "Oriental", "Asian," "Mediterranean", or "Middle Eastern" colorations. Such stereotyping methods it is held, create an artificial racial separation between the ancient peoples, and fail to show their true diversity. It is argued that no similar attempt is made to identify a 'true' Asiatic, or Caucasoid type and run the color comparison the other way.[166] Under this line of reasoning, attempts to say peoples like the ancient Egyptians were 'neither black or white' sound commendably neutral in theory- but in practice - all too often airbrush dark-skinned peoples out of the picture by defining them away as 'foreign' or somewhere 'south', while readily embracing comparisons with any other light-skinned peoples under various labels like "Near Eastern" - subtle code for "Caucasoid."[167]

Imagery showing native population diversity. Contemporary approaches to Nile Valley visual imagery are more balanced that earlier methods. Scholar Frank Yurco for example (F. J. Yurco, 'Were the ancient Egyptians black or white?', Biblical Archaeology Review (Vol 15, no. 5, 1989)[168]notes than the ancient Nile Valley peoples, including the ancient Egyptians as such were a diverse lot with a range of skin colors and facial features. Coloration seen in paintings often followed the artistic conventions of the day, such as yellowish-skin when depicting women. Depictions shows a mix of types even among the elite classes. He suggests that some Middle Kingdom pharaohs, particularly some of the XII (12th) Dynasty show strong Nubian features, having a background in the Aswan region of southern Egypt. This dynasty ranks among the greatest of Egypt. He identifies the pharaoh Seqenenre (see below) as also having Nubian features, saying he was a distant relation of Nefertiti.[169]

Diversity in Nubian imagery. Nubians are sometimes depicted as very dark foreigners in some Egyptian imagery, but this recognizes them in distinctive political not racial terms. As noted by Yurco above, dark skin shades were part of the built-in mix of diverse native types, not a foreign add-on. A dark skin shade is thus not synonymous with 'foreign.' Whatever the foreigners looked like as they moved about Egypt was a separate matter that did not change this reality (light-skinned Phoenician type foreigners are also depicted).[170] Representations of the visual imagery of ancient Nubians (see mainstream publications such as Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia),[171] indicate that they did not see themselves as a single 'type', but depict a full range of both color and physical variability- from light and reddish-brown skinned types to persons with thin-lips and high-bridged noses.[172] These depictions of a diverse population call into question methods that attempt to assert rigid "representative" colorations or typologies of various Nile Valley peoples in terms of visual imagery.[173]

Visual images and the case of the Pharaoh SeqenenreEdit

While much popular attention has been paid to Tut and other icons such as Nefertiti, the case of the pharaoh Seqenenre has attracted the attention of some mainstream scholars. Over 200 years before Tut, Seqenenre Tao II was a king of Egypt who according to tradition clashed with the West Asian/Semitic Hyksos invaders that had overrun much of the country. He was forced to live in the South, while the Hyksos dominated the north- Lower Egypt. As regards portraiture, mainstream scholars note the wide range of variability indicated by Seqenenre:

"Cephalometric work on Old and New Kingdom remains demonstrates variability in the ancient period, as noted in observations by Harris and Weeks (1973:123) of a Seventeenth Dynasty pharaoh:
His entire facial complex, in fact, is so different from other pharaohs (it is closest to that of his son Ahmose) that he could be fitted more easily into the series of Nubian and Old Kingdom Giza skulls than into that of later Egyptian kings. Various scholars in the past have proposed a Nubian-that is, non-Egyptian-origin for Seqenenre and his family, and his facial features suggest this might indeed be true., MacGaffey (1966) comments on variation in ancient Egyptian portraiture. 'Negroid' and 'Egyptian' were not mutually exclusive [see Petrie, (19061, plate xix.]"[174]

Seqenenre is one of a number of New Kingdom pharaohs also held to be of Nubian origin by historians such as Donald B. Redford (History and Chronology of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt)[175], and his work finds some support in studies (See Harris and Weeks above) doing x-rays of the ancient mummies.[176]

The localized approach to Nile Valley African populationsEdit

Some mainstream scholars prefer to place peoples into a more localized context, such as Nilo-Saharan, and note however that discussion of race may be unavoidable since much archealogical research uses certain terminology, and certain methodologies such as Mediterranean "lumping" and selective reporting. This earlier excavation and research in Egypt however contains valuable basic data. No serious discussion or attempt at getting a more accurate picture of the peoples and population movements involved can be made without reference to it. Mainstream scholar B. Trigger and S. Keita advocate terminology more directly based on the local variability of the data, and its changes over time, which allows for a wide range of types and variation:

"There is little demarcation between the predynastics and tropical series and even the early southern dynastic series. Definite trends are discernible in the analyses. This broadly shared "southern" metric pattern, along with the other mentioned characteristics to a greater or lesser degree, might be better described by the term Africoid, by definition connoting a tropical African microclade, microadaptation, and patristic affinity, thereby avoiding the nonevolutionary term "Negroid" and allowing for variation both real and conceptual."[177]

Names for ancient Nile Valley as a source for population classificationsEdit

The ancient Egyptians called their land many things including ta-meri and km.t. Also, they called Upper Egypt ta-shemu, "the sedge", and Lower Egypt ta-mehu or "the papyrus thicket". One of the most popular names for Egypt in ancient Egyptian is km.t (read "Kemet"), meaning "blacks". The word is composed of the noun km , which translates into "black", and determinative t, which makes the word a plural. The use of km.t "blacks" in terms of a place was generally in contrast to the "desert" or "red land": the desert beyond the Nile valley. When used to mean people, km.t "people of Kemet", "black people" is usually translated "Egyptians". Debate has centered around whether the 'kmt' term is an ethnic, cultural, spiritual reference, or a combination of the three. Some Africanist scholars suggest that the term refers to the 'racial' or ethnic characteristics of the people. [178]Still, other scholars disagree with this position, and hold that k.m.t refers to the colorof the land, or soil, and not that of the people.[179] It is of note that terms meaning land, such as ta, or ateb, are no where to be found in the name km.t Land, however is found in other names, typically as ta, like in terms Ta-Nahisi, and Ta-Seti, which translate to "land of the southerners", and "land of the bow" respectively, with the latter a reference to the Nehesy or "nubian" weapon of choice.[180] The Nile river was sometimes called "Ar" or "Aur" (Coptic 'laro'). The land itself may have been given its oldest name, 'Kem' or 'Kemi', which signifies darkness, based on the black color of the sediments from it.[181]

Summary of general consensus and future directionsEdit

The general consensus of the field has moved away from earlier mass migration notions of outside peoples into Egypt, or of significant foreign movement during the formative and early stages of Egyptian civilization. Assyrians, Hyskos, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and others were to come later, when the flowering of the Nile Civilization was already well underway and its basic contours established.[182] This consensus is mirrored among Egyptologists who see the Nile Valley peoples as "basically a homogeneous African population [that] had lived in the Nile Valley from ancient to modern times." Rejecting notions of Aryan civilizers, the consensus holds that "The peoples of Egypt, the Sudan, and much of East African Ethiopia and Somalia are now generally regarded as a Nilotic continuity, with a wide range of physical variability."[183]

A similar consensus prevails among many contemporary anthropologists. A 1999 Physical Anthropology article in 'Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt' also reflects the general agreement in the field and calls for future research in the more northerly regions:[184]

”There is now a sufficient body of evidence from modern studies of skeletal remains to indicate that the ancient Egyptians, especially southern Egyptians, exhibited physical characteristics that are within the range of variation for ancient and modern indigenous peoples of the Sahara and tropical Africa. The distribution of population characteristics seems to follow a clinal pattern from south to north, which may be explained by natural selection as well as gene flow between neighboring populations. In general, the inhabitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia had the greatest biological affinity to people of the Sahara and more southerly areas.
In contrast, reliable interpretations of the biological affinities of the people of Lower Egypt are currently hampered by lack of well preserved skeletal material.. Examinations of the biological relatedness of skeletal populations of Lower Egypt to those other areas are needed, however, because they should determine whether the archaeological evidence for Egyptian contact with Syro-Palestine during the late Predynastic/Early dynastic can be ascribed to trade relations or actual populations movements."[185]

Another future trend appears to be movement towards scholarship informed not by traditional race categories, but by indigenous physical variability, climate, gene flow, genetic drift, culture and geography.[186] It is held that this emphasis is more accurate and useful in understanding the ancient Nile Valley peoples in their own setting and context, and captures the rich diversity and variability of their common heritage.[187]


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See alsoEdit

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