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Cheikh Anta Diop: The African Origin of Civilization Myth and Reality

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Chapter 11: Contribution of Ethiopia-Nubia and Egypt

Despite the general-sounding name of this chapter, it is mostly about how “the Greek miracle” – the sudden flowering of Greek civilization in the 500s BC – was no miracle at all. It only seems that way because we read history through a white lens.

The Ancient Greeks saw Ethiopia and Egypt as the birthplace of civilization. They saw themselves as merely building on the civilization they received from Egypt.

It was not even just a case of civilization starting in Egypt and slowly spreading round the Mediterranean: most of the top Greek minds went directly to Egypt itself to study, people like Solon, Thales, Plato, Lycurgus and Pythagoras. Later when Alexander conquered the known world, it was Egypt that became the centre of Greek thought and science.

We are taught to overlook the Egyptian roots of Greek civilization. So much so that the Greek achievement seems to come out of nowhere – thus the so-called “miracle”. We let the Greeks take credit for things they learned from Egypt.

Cheikh Anta Diop Chapter 11 Religious architecture The Egyptian Karnak 1300 BC and the Greek Parthenon 400 BCWhy? Because the Greeks are unmistakably white. Reading history that way helps to make whites look that much better and people of colour that much worse.

To Diop this is one of the clearest proofs that white people deep down know that Egyptians are not truly white, certainly not “white enough” for their whitewashed histories.

One of the main Greek advances over Egyptian civilization was science in the way we understand it: a knowledge of the world independent of religion. But even that arose almost by accident: the Greeks who studied in Egypt would remember what they were taught but throw out most of the religious mumbo-jumbo that it came with.

Diop believes civilization arose along the Nile not because the people who lived there were somehow better than everyone else, but because of the special material circumstances there that favoured it.

Diop concludes the chapter with these words:

When we say that the ancestors of the Blacks, who today live mainly in Black Africa, were the first to invent mathematics, astronomy, the calendar, sciences in general, arts, religion, agriculture, social organization, medicine, writing, technique, architecture; that they were the first to erect buildings out of 6 million tons of stone (the Great Pyramid) as architects and engineers – not simply as unskilled laborers … we are merely expressing the plain, unvarnished truth that no one today can refute by arguments worthy of the name.

Consequently, the Black man must become able to restore the continuity of his national historic past, to draw from it the moral advantage needed to reconquer his place in the modern world, without falling into the excesses of a Nazism in reverse for, insofar as one can speak of a race, the civilization that is his might have been created by any other human race placed in so favorable and so unique a setting.

Chapter 12: Reply to a Critic

In this chapter Diop replies to a critic of his book “Nations negres et culture” (1954), from which come the first ten chapters of this book. The critic is Raymond Mauny, a French historian who taught at the Sorbonne and had a particular interest in West Africa. He has been to Senegal and seen and studied some of the very same things as Diop.

Diop says that it seems that Mauny did not read the whole book, since he asks questions that the book itself gives answers to. Further, Mauny talks about things that Diop said not in the book but in an interview, where one speaks less carefully.

That aside, Mauny asks why was black Africa backwards for so long if it got its civilization from Egypt? To which Diop counters, why was Western Europe backwards for so long if it got its civilization from Rome? Or, indeed, why did Egypt itself become backwards if it got its civilization from Egypt?

Cheikh Anta Diop Chapter 12 Vis 1Mauny questions whether the drawings on baobab trees of Diourbel, Senegal were writing and not just pictures. Diop questions why Mauny did not ask anyone who lives there what the pictures meant in order to find out whether they were mere pictures or were some kind of writing. Instead of finding out, Mauny assumes.

When it comes to Egypt, Mauny does not take facts in their plain sense but tries to read them in a way that plays down Ancient Egypt’s blackness.

So,
when Herodotus says the Egyptians were melanochroes (“black-skinned”),
when American anthropologist Carleton Coon says most were brown-skinned,
when the Egyptians painted themselves with red-brown skin, the same colour you still see in the middle and south of Egypt – and even in Senegal, as Mauny well knows –
when the sort and amount of melanin found in the skin of Pharoahs is the same as those of black Africans

Mauny still concludes that most Egyptians were Mediterranean whites, twisting or overlooking the facts at each turn, even though they all point the other way.

A historian should find out the knowable facts and then make the best sense of them possible – and not force them to fit one’s own ideas about things.

Cheikh Anta Diop Chapter 12 Vis 2Yet this is just what Mauny accuses Diop of:

Written in Paris before 1955, it is necessarily a militant book, impregnated with the spirit of those years of struggle, during which Africans, especially students exiled in Paris in the midst of the colonizing people, were frustrated about their national history, and were preparing the paths of independence by exalting Negritude; sometimes – and this is normal – at the price perhaps unconsciously twisting impartiality and scientific truth. They recognized only that which provided arguments for their thesis, their cause.

Chapter 13: Early History of Humanity: Evolution of the Black World

Based on what was known in 1964, Diop said that Homo sapiens came from Africa, that they were black at first and for a long time afterwards and spread across the earth as black people.

So there were black people not just in Africa, but in France and Siberia and everywhere in between. It was black people, for example, who took the place of the Neanderthals in Europe. It was only later that people became white or yellow.

The bones of early man were most like that of black people alive today, from measurements of legs and arms to all the different measurements of the head and face.

On top of that the art all over the world in those days showed big-bottom women. Even in Siberia! Some white scientists said this was just a worldwide fertility cult that had nothing to do with the way women looked back then.

White people, who first appear as Cro-Magnons, came later and are only found in and near Europe. In effect that makes white people a light-skinned branch of the black race.

Some white scientists in his day disagreed with this picture of early man. They found different ways to deny that the first men were black:

Mislabeling: They called remains Cro-Magnon simply because they were found in Europe, not because they were in fact Cro-Magnon.

Overlooking or twisting facts or picking on little things, trying to avoid the plain conclusion.

Putting faith in missing facts: They simply could not believe that the white race only went back 40,000 years, they thought the differences between blacks and whites were much more profound than that and therefore said that in time far older remains of white people would be found.

The “true Negro” trick: only black people in one part of the Africa are the “true Negroes”. It turns out to be the part with the wettest ground and the worst fossil record. That means that people who live in other parts of Africa, like Kenya or South Africa, which have wonderful fossil records, are not true Negroes. Therefore Negroes are merely a branch, not the root of mankind!

Diop asks: What if an African ethnologist were to persist in recognizing as white only the blond, blue-eyed Scandinavians, and systematically refused membership to the remaining Europeans, and Mediterraneans, in particular the French, Italians, Greek, Spanish, and Portuguese?

This sort of thing is still going on in our time even though the facts are far more solidly behind Diop than ever:

White people draw genetic family trees of mankind where Africa is a branch off to the side, not the root – a root which remains unnamed.

The Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, who seem to be genetically the closest to the root of mankind, are no longer black but some other race, like Capoid.

14 COMMENTS

  1. The genius of Diop amazes me, just as the bigotry of his critics shocks me. It is also shocking that the truth of African origins, both in terms of our species and our human civilization, is still denied in American schools.

  2. With the most recent discoveries in genetics, anthropology. Archaeology and linguistics Diop has been proven to be Correct. And the areas in which he was wrong was due to the same racist indoctrination which even affected him.

    • What are you talking about? The complete opposite is true. As advances in DNA sequencing have evolved, Diop has been shown to be mostly wrong

      • Name one peer reviewed study that proves any of Diop’s main conclusions of the Black African origins of Homo Sapiens and Ancient Nile Valley civilizations to be false. Name one. The Abusir genetic study of 2017 has been soundly denounced by peer reviewed geneticists, btw. In other words, all of Diop’s critics have been resoundingly crushed to silence.

  3. Merci à cheick Anta ,notre Pharaon,merci à Théophile Obenga ,du Congo,Coovi Gomez Kalala omotunde,et tout les savants africains.Nous defenderons avec courage et sagacité notre histoire

    • Dr Diop presents a strikingly compelling argument to debunk the revisionistic and spurious research presented by Western investigators. His work is by far, of the most objective of all scientists involved with human evolution. His findings must live on.

  4. This is still extremely contested. This idea that all these greeks learned in egypt, and that egypt was black, are not settled. Most of this attribution to greeks studying in egypt came from later writers wrting about them, a point that is totally glossed over in this article. They “travelled”, then afrocentrists just assume.

    And the whole black egypt thing is not settled. There is dna evidence that shows sub saharan dna, and dna evidence that doesnt. Egyptians males were always red in their art, and nubians were always black. Egyptian females were yellow. They always made a distinction.

    Everything Diop researched on was about race. He was highly motivates to prove egypt was black. Hardly unbiased. Afrocentrists talks about archaeologists white washing, but where is the evidence for that, especially recently. The same conference in 1974 that most egyptologist disagreed egyptians were black also disagreed egyptians were white. It is part of the conspiracy message though.

    • You obviously have never read what Ancient Greeks said in their own contemporaneous words about not only travelling to Ancient Egypt but studying directly under the tutelage of their BLACK master teachers. They directly attribute all of their learning to the BLACK Ancient Egyptians who these Greek scholars claimed, IN THEIR OWN WORDS, were the first to develop the sciences millennia before the first Greek arrivals in Africa. You need to actually read what the Ancient Greeks say before commenting garbage that you do not know.

    • Echoing Afriaspora Films, I did all the research not even a debate that ancient Kemetic were indigenous black Africans from the Nile and East/West Africa.

      The black figurines that show Kemet/Egyptian lifestyle are a sight to behold, have you seen them?
      In those scenes, I did not see any white or olive skinned characters.
      Also, this was the beginning of all civilization, and there were no white or olive people there.
      At 4000 or 3000 years ago, the sun was 90 to 120 degrees, and walking or building pyramids without shirts would have resulted in your skin frying.

      Did you know that every type of African Egyptian culture can be found throughout Africa? This is why they were able to build one of the greatest civilizations in the world.
      Africa is the most genetically diverse continent on Earth, with a wide range of physical and cognitive traits.

      This diversity was a key factor in the success of African Egyptian culture, as it allowed them to adapt to a variety of environments and challenges.

      In other words, they represent the extremes: the smartest and dumbest, the tallest and shortest, and the fastest and slowest.
      And, the most creative and non creative.
      That group of indigenous black African came together at the same-time in a perfect storm .i.e. NBA Dream Team 1992 in Kemet.

      This is the only thing that makes sense!!!!
      Mic drop time, the ancient Kemetic were spirit people that believe the earth, wind, animal and people are all collected in spiritual cosmic order.

  5. 𓋹𓍑𓋴 Furthermore, you need to travel.

    I studied in Egypt as a student at the American University in Cairo. I have spent a lot of time in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Aswan, Giza, Saqqara, Tel Al Amarna, Alexandria, Sinai and various museums and exhibits all over the world. So, my knowledge comes from direct experience NOT images on the internet.

    I can tell you this, Ancient Egyptians used brown, black, reddish brown, yellowish brown and yellow pigments to depict themselves and Ancient Nubians at various periods of time over a three thousand year history. The color used the most to depict both male and female skin tones was the exact same medium brown. See the art of the 18th Dynasty (King Tut and his wife are the same medium brown; Queen Tiye, Tut’s grandmother, and her husband Amenhoptep III are the same medium brown; Amarna depictions of Akhenaton and his entire family are the same medium brown. And theses are just a handful of famous examples which show your statement to be false out of thousands of other images that are not famous.)

    Nevertheless, all skin tones used by Ancient Egyptians to depict themselves regardless of time period are the same skin tones found in all of Africa typically described as BLACK Africa today. Black Africans are NOT black in color. We come in every shade of brown imaginable from the darkest, so dark that you see black to the palest of yellowish, pinkish white (see “black African” albinos like famous Malian kora player Suleiman Keita, who has blonde hair and blue eyes, btw). That is the full range of UNMIXED (with Europeans or Asians) so called BLACK African people. African DNA is the oldest and most diverse in the world. All human phenotypes can be found in indigenous African people without Eurasian and Neanderthal admixture. When and if you actually travel in the continent you will discover this.

    The images on the internet are truly a carefully selected set of images to promote an extremely Eurocentric myopia of the world. Read more and travel more if your cherished notions guarding your fragility can handle it. If you do, however, and you can heal from your engrained cognitive dissonance, I guarantee your world view will change for the better of everyone.

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