Was the genome of the ancient Egyptians black African?

Was the genome of the ancient Egyptians black African?
Was the genome of the ancient Egyptians black African?


Controversy over the race and color of the ancient Egyptians has been going on since at least the 1970s; With the emergence of the "Afrocentrism" movement, which argued that the Western scientific community underestimated Africa's contributions to history, including the civilization of the ancient Egyptians, who said they were sub-Saharan Africans. Others responded that black people did not have any important civilization.

The controversy escalated with the rise of Afrocentrism decade after decade.

 And the race and color of the ancient Egyptians remained without a conclusive scientific answer, except for citations of ideas from a sample of evidence of statues of the kings of ancient Egypt, for example, but the DNA sequence of the mummies remained unable to be decided. Given the difficulty of obtaining accurate results in the condition of mummies after thousands of years of mummification.

Recently, international researchers succeeded in sequencing the DNA of the mummies of the ancient Egyptians and found that the civilization of the ancient Egyptians was "Egyptian", and if it had a geographical connection, its connection with the peoples of the Near East, especially the Levant, was greater than their association with the Africans.

How did the scientific discrepancy about the color of the ancient Egyptians originally begin?

With the emergence of the "Afrocentrism" movement in the 1970s, its researchers theoretically argued that the Western scientific community underestimated Africa's contributions to history, including the civilization of the ancient Egyptians who said they were sub-Saharan Africans.

Others would reply that black people did not have any significant civilization.

In the middle, hypotheses emerged that the ancient Egyptians were ethnically diverse; Because the Nile attracted people from the surrounding areas.

Herodotus, for example, referred to the Egyptians as "Melanchroes," which is sometimes translated as "people of black skin." But Herodotus himself used different terms to describe those coming from Africa so that researchers considered that “dark-skinned” is more appropriate, and he compared the Egyptian skin to the skin of the Colchis people in the South Caucasus.

There is not enough evidence yet to make a final judgment about the color of the pharaohs, although there is a lot of evidence indicating that they were not black like the people of the African continent, and they were not pure white like the people of northern Europe.

Joseph in the history of ancient Egypt


Did the ancient Egyptians leave no indication of their color?

The writings of the ancient Egyptians did not provide a definitive solution. This suggests that they were not originally preoccupied with skin color; As they set conditions for the Egyptians, not including the color: obedience to the king - the language - the gods.

The Egyptians usually painted statues of themselves with light brown skin, somewhere between the lighter-skinned Levantines and the darker-skinned Nubians.

However, the paintings may not be completely reliable; Because the ancient Egyptian artists did not bother to convey reality literally: sometimes they used different colors just to create contrast; Like portraying men as a darker color than women.

Why was science so late in studying the genomes of the ancient Egyptians to provide a solution?

Geneticist Johannes Krause, who led an experiment to analyze the genomes of ancient Egyptians, says the hot Egyptian climate, high levels of humidity in many tombs, and some chemicals used in embalming techniques contributed to the deterioration of DNA in ancient Egyptian mummies. And so they believed that the long-term survival of DNA in Egyptian mummies "thousands of years" was unlikely.

They also believed that even if the genetic material was extracted, it might not be reliable.

But Krause and his colleagues were finally able to offer powerful DNA sequencing and verification techniques, and they completed the first successful genomic test on ancient Egyptian mummies.


How did the genomes of the ancient Egyptians experience?

The experiment used mummies of ancient Egyptians from the era of the New Kingdom and the period of Roman rule, which came from the Abu Sir Al-Malaq site in Beni Suef, Egypt.

First, the researchers extracted the mitochondrial genomes from 90 ancient Egyptian mummies. Of these, Krause and his colleagues found that they could obtain the complete genome from just three mummies.

In this study, scientists took samples of teeth, bones, and soft tissues, and teeth and bones provided most of the DNA because it was protected by soft tissues that were preserved through the mummification process.

The oldest mummies date back to the era of the New Kingdom in 1388 BC, and the most recent in 426 AD

The researchers took the samples to a laboratory in Germany. They started sterilizing the room. Then they placed the samples under ultraviolet light for an hour to sterilize them. From there, they were able to perform DNA sequencing.

What are their findings?

Modern Egyptians share 8% of their genome with the population of Central Africa,

Surprisingly, this is a higher percentage than the ancient Egyptians shared with Central Africans, according to the study by Krause and his colleagues.

The question became: When did the migrations from sub-Saharan Africa to Egypt take place, contributing to an increase in the genetic percentage of black Africans in the contemporary Egyptian over the ancient Egyptians?

According to the study, gene flow from sub-Saharan Africa only occurred during the past 1,500 years, and this can be attributed to the trans-Saharan slave trade or the regular long-distance trade between the two regions, and the researchers claim that improved navigation on the Nile River during this period led to an increase in trade. with the inside.


Jobs in ancient Egypt


What about the current Egyptians...were they affected by the genes of the invaders?

Egypt has been invaded throughout antiquity many times including by Alexander the Great, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and others. The researchers wanted to see if these continuous waves of invaders caused any significant genetic changes in the population over time.

But group leader Wolfgang Hack at the Max Planck Institute in Germany said: The genetics of the Abusir Al-Maleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300 years we studied, indicating that the population remained relatively unaffected genetically by foreign invasion and rule.

Later, to give their findings additional precision, and to see what changes occurred over time, the researchers compared the genomes of ancient Egyptian mummies to the genomes of 100 Egyptians and 125 Ethiopians. “For 1,300 years, we see complete genetic continuity that has not changed,” says Krause.

Archaeologists doubt the validity and accuracy of this study

After the results of the first full analysis of the genome of the ancient population of Egypt were announced, it was confirmed that their roots are from the Levant and Turkey in the Middle East, and they are not of African origin from the middle of the brown continent like the current population of Egypt, according to a study published by Nature Communications, issued by the famous British scientific journal Nature, an Egyptian expert confirmed that All the information contained in the study is incorrect and that the Egyptians have ancient Egyptian origins, not Levantine or African.

Egyptian antiquities expert Abd al-Rahim Rayhan told Al-Arabiya.net that the origins of the Egyptians are ancient and not Levantine, Turkish, or African, stressing that the study of the British scientific journal Nature, which was based, as it claims, on a complete analysis of the genome of the ancient inhabitants of Egypt, relied on the analysis of the DNA of ninety mummies who lived Its owners were from 1400 BC until the year 400 AD, and they are mummies resulting from excavations in one area called Abu Sir Al-Malaq belonging to Al-Wasiti Center in Bani-Suef.

The archaeological expert pointed out, "It is just an attempt to detour, in which the study tries to prove that the ancient Egyptians came from peoples who inhabited the site of Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon, known as the Levant, and which were inhabited by the Hebrews and the Children of Israel before they came to Egypt safely with the Prophet of God, Jacob, peace be upon him, during They went to meet the Prophet of God Joseph in Egypt, to confirm their participation in building the Egyptian civilization and that they are the owners of this civilization.

He stated that these studies are of questionable validity because they relied on models from only one region and belong to a specific historical period, in addition to that a scientific study based on Egyptian antiquities is not entitled to be published in illegal ways and without the participation of Egyptian scientists in this study, and this is a human and moral right before it be legal.

Dr. Rihan attributed this to the lack of intellectual property rights for antiquities, such as copyrights, music, songs, etc., and there is no international definition for antiquities to place it within the WIPO Intellectual Property Agreement.

Levantine migrations and the invasion of the Hyksos

As for the Levantine migrations, as the study claimed, he said that the Jewish historian Josephus, who was born in 37 AD, claimed that the Jews were the Hyksos who entered and left Egypt, relying on incidents that occurred in the history of Egypt, according to what was narrated by Manetho, the Egyptian priest who lived under the rule of Ptolemy Philadelphus 285-246. BC in his book "Egyptians" helped him prove his argument, and he elaborated on the subject of the Hyksos' invasion of Egypt and their expulsion from it.

Rihan pointed out that this is a historical fallacy, as the Hyksos are the kings of the shepherds. In the sacred language, “heK” means king, and in the colloquial language, “sus” means shepherd, and it came from the Egyptian term “really khasut” meaning the rulers of foreign countries, and the title refers to the rulers, not the gender. All as Maniton intended the Hyksos are a mixture of several migratory peoples and tribes that also include elements such as Al-Kasi, Al-Houri, and both sexes of Indo-European origin. They arrived in Central Asia and the ancient Egyptian called them once “Amo” and once “Stu”, meaning the Asians, and their capital was in Avaris South Tanis "San Al-Hajar" in the eastern region, and the number of their kings is 81, and they ruled from the 15th to the 17th dynasty, from 1674 to 1567 BC. And they were expelled from Egypt completely during the reign of King Ahmose, and they have nothing to do with any Egyptian origins, as it is a country that ruled for some time and was expelled, and it came after the great period of the pyramid builders and the establishment of the origins of the eternal Egyptian civilization and the construction of the greatest monuments in the world.

He added that the Children of Israel and the word Israel mean Abdullah and mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, “Those who are blessed by God from them from the offspring of Adam, and whoever carried us with Noah, and whoever is good.”

They were also mentioned in the Qur’an as the Children of Israel, about their first grandfather, the Prophet of God, Jacob. They came to Egypt during the Hyksos period and lived in Egypt in the land of Joshan or Jashan, now known as the Valley of Tumailat, which is the agricultural valley that extends from the east of Zagazig to the west of Ismailia until their exit from Egypt via the Sinai. During the era of one of the kings of Egypt, and the period of their stay in Egypt until their exit was a stage of tension and attraction between them and the king of Egypt, and they did not participate in building a single stone in the Egyptian civilization, but rather they stole the gold of Egypt, which the women of the Children of Israel borrowed from the Egyptians as a mortgage, and during their exit, they took all this Gold is with them, and in addition to its material value, it is an invaluable archaeological value. Even if there is an opportunity to claim compensation, the combined budget of the countries of the world is not sufficient to fulfill its archaeological and material value.

The Great Pyramid

"African dimension"

In addition, Rayhan emphasized the African dimension of ancient Egypt, represented by the travels of the ancient Egyptians, who used the Red Sea the most, as they had trade links with the country of Punt, "which, in the opinion of many researchers, includes the African and Asian regions surrounding Bab al-Mandab" to obtain incense, perfumes, and wood for the temples. And the most important of these missions was that sent by Queen Hatshepsut to Puntland in the 18th Dynasty (1580-1322 BC).

This mission likely reached the island of Sumatra, and the Ptolemies in Egypt sought to identify the eastern seas and control their trade routes and try to focus the trade routes coming from Africa, Arabia, and India in the Red Sea and Egypt. Africa and its imports from the northern provinces Minerals, dyes, and wine for the southern and eastern provinces. After them, the Romans took advantage of the Red Sea for conquest and control of trade routes, and the Egyptians, Byzantines, and Yemenis saw it as an economic means to encourage trade, and the Arab Muslims came and understood its importance for trade, and transportation of pilgrims.

And he continued, saying: "The Romans directed several military campaigns to control the southern entrance to the Red Sea because this region could then end the maritime trade routes and turn into land trade routes controlled by the competing Persian state, which threatens the role of the Egyptian land. From this standpoint, trade relations and common interests were A reason for the Egyptian-African cultural communication.

He also stressed that the African dimension of Egypt was embodied since ancient times in the trips of the ancient Egyptians to the country of Bint, which, in the opinion of many researchers, includes the African and Asian regions surrounding the Bab al-Mandab and the axis of the Sahara Desert. Upper Nile and in the axis of North Africa, Egypt entered into long-term friction with the Libyans, and the Egyptian political influence extended to Cyrenaica in the days of the Battalis and the Arabs, and Egypt was the gateway to Arabization for the Arab Maghreb.

Egypt and the Mediterranean

As for the special dimension of Egypt in the Mediterranean, it was represented, according to the expert, in ancient Egypt's cultural and commercial relations with Minoan Crete, then with Greece and Rome. In the Islamic era, the Mediterranean Sea became a vital role in the entity of commercial activity in Egypt, and cities such as Alexandria and Damietta were associated with Venice, Genoa, and Pisa with commercial relations and a sea bridge linked them.

Rayhan added that Egypt in the Mamluk era represented Alexandria and Cairo as permanent homes for active merchants from the merchants of the Italian cities. Likewise, Egypt's relations with the Levant were through the Mediterranean. During the Ottoman era, many immigrants from the Balkan coasts, Greece and Albania moved to Egypt and resided there, including the Janissaries and Albanians, and remained Their Arabicized names sometimes reveal their origins, such as Al-Darmali from the city of Drama, Al-Gretli from Crete, Al-Izmirli from Izmir, Maraachli (Marash) and Al-Kharbutli (Kharbut). Then came the Suez Canal, which reaffirmed the Mediterranean dimension in the entity of Egypt.

What's the next step to boost results?

These results came after the researchers selected mummies from one burial site in Central Egypt, and therefore they are working to study the possibilities of different genetic lineage if they took them from the south, which is closer to Africa, or to the north, which is close to the Levant and Europe.

In the future, researchers want to determine exactly when and why sub-Saharan African genes filtered into the genomes of ancient Egyptians. They also want to find out where the ancient Egyptians themselves came from. To do this, they will have to identify the oldest prehistoric DNA.

Further testing is likely to inform much of our understanding of the ancient Egyptians and others as well, helping to fill in the gaps in humanity's collective memory.

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