With the conclusion of the substanceless irrelevant dribble above, let us revisit some of the articles presented summarizing the results of numerous studies (hence mainstream opinions) have concluded about the origins of ancient Egypt.
Professor of History, African Studies Chair
University of California at Los Angeles
Ancient Egyptian civilization was, in ways and to an extent usually not recognized, fundamentally African. The evidence of both language and culture reveals these African roots.The origins of Egyptian ethnicity lay in the areas south of Egypt.
The ancient Egyptian language belonged to the Afrasian family (also called Afroasiatic or, formerly, Hamito-Semitic). The speakers of the earliest Afrasian languages, according to recent studies, were a set of peoples whose lands between 15,000 and 13,000 B.C. stretched from Nubia in the west to far northern Somalia in the east. They supported themselves by gathering wild grains. The first elements of Egyptian culture were laid down two thousand years later, between 12,000 and 10,000 B.C., when some of these Afrasian communities expanded northward into Egypt, bringing with them a language directly ancestral to ancient Egyptian. They also introduced to Egypt the idea of using wild grains as food.A new religion came with them as well. Its central tenet explains the often localized origins of later Egyptian gods: the earliest Afrasians were, properly speaking, neither monotheistic nor polytheistic. Instead, each local community, comprising a clan or a group of related clans, had its own distinct deity and centered its religious observances on that deity. This belief system persists today among several Afrasian peoples of far southwest Ethiopia. And as Biblical scholars have shown, Yahweh, god of the ancient Hebrews, an Afrasian people of the Semitic group, was originally also such a deity. The connection of many of Egypt's predynastic gods to particular localities is surely a modified version of this early Afrasian belief. Political unification in the late fourth millennium brought the Egyptian deities together in a new polytheistic system. But their local origins remain amply apparent in the records that have come down to us.During the long era between about 10,000 and 6000 B.C., new kinds of southern influences diffused into Egypt. During these millennia, the Sahara had a wetter climate than it has today, with grassland or steppes in many areas that are now almost absolute desert. New wild animals, most notably the cow, spread widely in the eastern Sahara in this period.One of the exciting archeological events of the past twenty years was the discovery that the peoples of the steppes and grasslands to the immediate south of Egypt domesticated these cattle, as early as 9000 to 8000 B.C. The societies involved in this momentous development included Afrasians and neighboring peoples whose languages belonged to a sec[b][u]ond major African language family, Nilo-Saharan
(Wendorf, Schild, Close 1984; Wendorf, et al. 1982). The earliest domestic cattle came to Egypt apparently from these southern neighbors, probably before 6000 B.C., not, as we used to think, from the Middle East.[/u][/b]One major technological advance, pottery-making, was also initiated 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.
Very late in the same span of time, the cultivating of crops began in Egypt. Since most of Egypt belonged then to the Mediterranean climatic zone, many of the new food plants came from areas of similar climate in the Middle East. Two domestic animals of Middle Eastern origin, the sheep and the goat, also entered northeastern Africa from the north during this era.But 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. (To learn more on how historians use linguistic evidence, see note at end of this article.)Between about 5000 and 3000 B.C. a new era of southern cultural influences took shape. Increasing aridity pushed more of the human population of the eastern Sahara into areas with good access to the waters of the Nile, and along the Nile the bottomlands were for the first time cleared and farmed. The Egyptian stretches of the river came to form the northern edge of a newly emergent Middle Nile Culture Area, which extended far south up the river, well into the middle of modern-day Sudan. Peoples speaking languages of the Eastern Sahelian branch of the Nilo-Saharan family inhabited the heartland of this region.From the Middle Nile, Egypt gained new items of livelihood between 5000 and 3000 B.C. One of these was a kind of cattle pen: its Egyptian name, s3 (earlier *sr), can be derived from the Eastern Sahelian term *sar. Egyptian pg3, "bowl," (presumably from earlier pgr), a borrowing of Nilo-Saharan *poKur, "wooden bowl or trough," reveals still another adoption in material culture that most probably belongs to this era.
One key feature of classical Egyptian political culture, usually assumed to have begun in Egypt, also shows strong links to the southern influences of this period. We refer here to a particular kind of sacral chiefship that entailed, in its earliest versions, the sending of servants into the afterlife along with the deceased chief. The deep roots and wide occurrence of this custom among peoples who spoke Eastern Sahelian languages strongly imply that sacral chiefship began not as a specifically Egyptian invention, but instead as a widely shared development of the Middle Nile Culture Area.After about 3500 B.C., however, Egypt would have started to take on a new role vis-a-vis the Middle Nile region, simply because of its greater concentration of population. Growing pressures on land and resources soon enhanced and transformed the political powers of sacral chiefs. Unification followed, and the local deities of predynastic times became gods in a new polytheism, while sacral chiefs gave way to a divine king. At the same time, Egypt passed from the wings to center stage in the unfolding human drama of northeastern Africa.
A Note on the Use of Linguistic Evidence for History
Languages provide a powerful set of tools for probing the cultural history of the peoples who spoke them. Determining the relationships between particular languages, such as the languages of the Afrasian or the Nilo-Saharan family, gives us an outline history of the societies that spoke those languages in the past. And because each word in a language has its own individual history, the vocabulary of every language forms a huge archive of documents. If we can trace a particular word back to the common ancestor language of a language family, then we know that the item of culture connoted by the word was known to the people who spoke the ancestral tongue. If the word underwent a meaning change between then and now, a corresponding change must have taken place in the cultural idea or practice referred to by the word. In contrast, if a word was borrowed from another language, it attests to a thing or development that passed from the one culture to the other. The English borrowing, for example, of castle, duke, parliament, and many other political and legal terms from Old Norman French are evidence of a Norman period of rule in England, a fact confirmed by documents.
Ehret, Christopher, Nilo-Saharans and the Saharo-Sahelian Neolithic. In African Archaeology: Food, Metals and Towns. T. Shaw, P Sinclair, B. Andah, and A. Okpoko, eds. pp. 104-125. London: Routledge. 1993
Ehret, Christopher, Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): Vowels, Tone Consonants, and Vocabulary. Los Angeles: University of California Press, Berkeley. 1995
Wendorf, F., et al., Saharan Exploitation of Plants 8000 Years B.P. Nature 359:721-724. 1982
Wendorf, F., R. Schild, and A. Close, eds. Cattle-Keepers of the Eastern Sahara. Dallas: Southern Methodist University, Department of Anthropology. 1984
The origins of Nile Valley civilizations according to comprehensive summarization of linguistic and cultural evidence, is of Afrasian and Nilotic origins.