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The Politics of Egyptology and the History Kemet (Egypt)

By Gregory M. Gordon, History Professor College of Lake County, Grayslake, Illinois, U.S.A. 12 September 1998 DO NOT QUOTE WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR

Some 5 million years ago, the birthplace of human kind took place in east Africa around the Olduvai Gorge near modern day Kenya/Tanzania. British physical anthropologist Dr. Lewis Leakey successfully unearthed a skull and skeletal remains of an advanced primate who is connected to the modern day homo sapien sapien (humans). According to many scholars, the ramapapithicus (5 million years BCE) found in east Africa still stands as the oldest ascendant of the modern homo sapien sapien thus far. Many in the scientific community widely regard Africa as the birthplace of human kind, or east Africa as being the proverbial Garden of Eden. Generally speaking, the majority of scholars believe that during the past 5 million years of evolutionary history, the ramapapithicus evolved into more complex species, from the ramapapithicus, austalapithacus, homo habelius, homo erectus and eventually to the homo sapien some 300,000 years ago and to the homo sapien sapien some 12,000 years ago.. Between 300,000 years ago to 50,000 years ago, many of the homo sapiens began to migrate to other parts of the African continent and also those who migrated down the Nile river and crossed over into the Sinai peninsula and eventually over to Europe and Asia. Through natural selection, different populations began to adapt to their new environments and developed new physical features for their adjustment. Most scientists believe that racial features developed from this (natural selection and racial features) during the distant past, especially between 15,000BCE to 300,000BCE or more years (Davidson 1-20: Bennett 3-6; DuBois 1-14).

When it comes to using "race" as a classification, race is not a scientifically-precise term. Genetically speaking, there is less than a 1% difference between negroids, caucasoids and mongoloids. Humans of different races are more than 99% alike genetically. Race is more of a political and quasi-biological term, dating back to the late-European Renaissance and earlyEuropean Enlightenment/Scientific age (Shreeve 57-64; Jordan 3-86). There is a great deal of scientific hair splitting when it comes to the classification of human populations. There are distinctions made between geography, color, language, ethnicity, nationality and race. Egyptologists whose interpretations border on the Revised Aryan model (a term coined by Martin Bernal in his book Black Athena) may argue that the Egyptians were Africans (geography), but not negro (a race). Others will argue that they were black (color), but not negro (race). Some Egyptologists and others will argue that there are dark-skinned caucasians (such as Arabs or east Indians). At one time, even those from Nubia (modern Sudan), Abbysinia/Sheba (modern Ethiopia/Djoubuti), and Somolia were classified as dark-skinned caucasians (Bennett 6-19)! Although Semite or Semitic is a linguistic term, Semites (or middle easterners) are classified as caucasians. The term Semite, a derivative of the Greek prefix semi, means half. One must logically ask, half of what? Perhaps half caucasian and half negro, or half caucasian and half

caucasian? Therefore, they would argue that Egyptians were dark-skinned or blackish caucasians (color), not negro (race).

Many Euro-American and European Egyptologists frequently quote from the research of a very famous conservative African American Nubianologist (who is really a trained classicist, not a trained Egyptologist), Frank Snowden, formerly of Howard University as evidence of their claim that black and negro are not synonymous (Snowden 112-128). Many Egyptologists would also argue that the Hamitic language spoken by the ancient Egyptians is closely related to Cushite (the ancient language of the Nubians, a negro population) but, it does not logically follow that the ancient Egyptians were negro (a race). That is why the Hamitic language has been linked to Semitic, a predominately-caucasian language, such as Arabic and Hebrew. Today, all of these languages (Hamitic, Cushitic, Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic, Chadic, Elamite, Wolof and so on) belong to the AfroAsiatic language family, a parent language.

Many Egyptologists will argue that the ancient Egyptians were just another ethnic group within the caucasian race (ethnicity are the sub-divisions within a race). In so far as nationality, the land of Kemet (the ancient name of the country we now call Egypt, or Misr in Arabic or the biblical name Mizraim) in the Hamitic language means black. Scholars have debated the etymology of the Hamitic word kmt (Kemet) for years. Afrocentric-minded scholars argue that it translates as land of the blacks, whereas Eurocentric-minded scholars argue that it translates as the black land. The former infers the people (ostensibly a predominately black/negro population), and the latter infers the soil (black soot originating from the source of the Nile river during the inundation season).

Therefore, in a paradoxical way, race must be used as a term to eliminate the theoretical hair splitting and to bring clarity to our modern quasi-biological/political understanding of race. Race as a term must be the standard to measure the true composition of the ancient Egyptian population. Remember, most Egyptologists are not Americans and their understanding and perceptions of race greatly differs. The United States has the one-drop rule (almost any percentage of negro ancestry, depending on which state in the union, for a long time until recently made one legally and socially a negro in the United States), whereas other countries will define negro as someone who is more than 50% negro (Davis 3-25). Although people like Vanessa L. Williams, Tiger Woods, Lena Horne, Halle Berry, Adam Clayton Powell, or Mariah Carry are generally considered black or negro in the United States, ironically they would not be classified as such by modern Egyptologists if they were found in ancient Egypt, or even in most European or Latin American countries today! What is more comical is the fact that Euro-American Egyptologists understand light-complexioned blacks/negroes as being such in the United States,

but, they mysteriously adopt a European definition (not the one drop rule) when it comes to defining the race of ancient Egyptians! W.E.B. DuBois and Carter G. Woodson once exclaimed that if you were to take the ancient Egyptian population to the American South in the 1940s, they would definitely be forced to sit in the back of the bus!

The lower banks of the Nile river, between the fifth cataract in modern Sudan to the Delta in modern Egypt served as the birthplace of a number of advanced developments. Around the 1st and 2nd cataracts of the Nile (between the border of ancient Egypt and Nubia) served as one of the birthplaces of agriculture, if not the birthplace of agriculture (Diop 3-50). Although for years archeologists and anthropologists had argued that the Nubian population was not a negro population, most now agree to a negro population in Nubia. More than half of Egyptologists still argue that the far southern Egyptian populations were not negro (Drake 115-195). At around 10,000BCE, this Nilotic population near El Badari and Amratia (between modern Luxor to modern Abu Simbel in Egypt) in upper Egypt were the innovators of agriculture and other advanced developments. Although Egyptologists are split on the racial composition of this population, but, most of the Badarians and Amatrians had "negroid" features, very characteristic of African Americans of many colors and features today (Bernal, Black Athena I 242). During the predynastic period (before 3,400BCE), Egypt was divided into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Upper Egypt (southern half of modern Egypt) and the Kingdom of Lower Egypt (the northern half of modern Egypt). Noted Egyptologist Martin Bernal argues that during the pre-dynastic (before 3,400BCE) and proto-dynastic eras (3,400BCE to 30BCE), the farther one goes up the Nile river (south bound) in Egypt, the blacker or the more negroid the population (Bernal, Black Athena I 242).

Generally speaking, during the pre and proto-dynastic periods, upper Egypt (southern half) was a predominately black/negro population and lower Egypt (northern half) was a predominately nonblack/non-negro population. All of Nubia (Ta-Seti) was either a predominately, if not an exclusively black/negro population. One must logically ask, what was the racial composition of the population in lower Egypt? Anthropological evidence suggests that the lower Egyptian population was a predominately Semitic (mainly caucasian) population, who emigrated to lower Egypt from southwest Asia (or the Middle East) as early as 8,000BCE. This emigrating population of pastoral Semites were not indigenous (original inhabitants) to the area of lower Egypt, nor were they Africans (El Shammaa 8-9). Many Egyptologists believe that there was an indigenous predilluvian (before the flood) population, but they either vanished or were absorbed into the arriving Semitic population. Egyptologists are reluctant to define the race of the pre-dilluvian lower Egyptian population. Most Egyptologists who gravitate to Martin Bernal's revised Ancient Model believe them (pre-dilluvian lower Egyptians) to be negroes. Both lower Egypt and upper Egypt begin to develop nomes (city-states) between 5,500BCE to 3,400BCE. These nomes were controlled by local monarchs. The nomes served as centers of manufacturing and trade. Archeologists suggest the first of these nomes were Sais and Buto in lower Egypt, Abydos in upper Egypt, as well as upper Egypt's Elephantine (now Aswan) near the

border of ancient Egypt and Nubia. The technology of agriculture (perhaps the greatest invention in human history) spread from upper Egypt down to lower Egypt. Many Egyptologists who gravitate toward Martin Bernal's revised Aryan Model believe that the technology of agriculture was an import via the lower Egyptian Semites originating from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq or the Middle East). The earliest of these nomes begin to increase in number up and down the Nile and soon fell under the control of a larger kingdom. As early as 4,000BCE, the Kingdoms of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt came into existence. These monarchs ruled over their respective nomes and begin to trade with each other and to other kingdoms nearby. The caucasian and negro populations from both areas began to intermix, therefore, creating a large mulatto (raciallymixed) population between the kingdoms. Throughout most of the dynastic era, negroes and mulattoes combined made up between 50% to 70% of the population of united Egypt, based on anthropological verification by analyzing over 800 skeletal remains during the pre- and protodynastic eras (Bennett 7-19).

Lower Egypt traded with kingdoms and city states in the Middle East, and Upper Egypt traded with the Kingdom of Lower Ta-Seti (Nubia) as well as the less developed Kingdom of Upper TaSeti (Nubia). The term Nubia means gold in the Hamitic/Egyptian language. The term Ta-Seti means Land of the Bow in the Cushitic/Nubian language (Williams 90-104). During the predynastic era in Egyptian history, they begin to codify their writing system, developed the first calendar, mastered and invented the science of astronomy, and smelted metals such as a copper and gold. Metals became important for military purposes. Upper Egypt held the initiative in this area because they received via trade, gold and copper ore from the lower Nubians at the lower Nubian capital of Kerma (Qustul). Kerma also produced the most impressive pottery during the pre-dynastic and early dynastic era (Williams 90-104).

In 3,400BCE (sometimes 3,200BCE in other history books), the dynastic or pharaonic era began. Egyptian history begins with the King of Upper Egypt, King Narmar (or King Menes) who decided to launch a military invasion into the Kingdom Lower Egypt and took it over. Upon the success of Narmar's army and conquest over Lower Egypt, Narmar united the two kingdoms under one crown or political rule. That moment marked the beginnings of the unified Kingdom of Egypt, one of the first nation-states on earth. The unification made Narmar the official monarch over upper and lower Egypt, and his crown represented his new status. With the successful annexation, he transferred the capital to a newly created city in lower Egypt called Memphis (Menes), named in honor of his majesty.

Narmar (Menes) was the first Pharaoh (a political system borrowed from the Nubians). A pharaoh is a ruling family or ruling house/court. Subjects considered the king/queen/pharaoh to be divine, a common African trait/practice. According to W.E.B. DuBois, the notion of a God-King is an African invention, and rarely found anywhere else (DuBois 1-38). Bruce Williams, a noted Nubianologist from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago also argues that the Egyptian religious system of pantheism and polytheism were introduced to them by the Nubians. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian also mentioned this in his book, The Histories. Bruce

Williams also asserts that the pharaonic system is a Nubian invention and that many of the early rulers, such as Narmar were more Nubian than Egyptian (Williams 90-104) .

Early dynastic Egypt begin to embark on some of the most ambitious civil engineering projects in antiquities. During Narmar's dynasty (1st dynasty), they built a dam that added to the Nile delta region. The dam enabled the Nile valley to become more productive agriculturally and Egypt became a proverbial breadbasket in the Near East. Egypt had one of the largest populations of any country in the world during antiquities, perhaps as many as 2 million or more throughout the proto-dynastic era.

The Egyptian pharaonic/dynastic period is divided into 35 dynasties, from 3,400BCE to 30BCE. A dynasty can last from 40 years to 300 years, depending on the dynasty. The dynasties are broadly divided into the Early Kingdom (1st thru 8th dynasties); 1st Intermediate Period (9th thru 12th dynasties); 2nd Intermediate Period (13th thru 17th dynasties); Early New Kingdom (18th and 19th dynasties); and Late New Kingdom (20th thru 35th dynasties). Everything hinges on which family can stay in power. Once that family is replaced or die off, than a new dynasty is created. The first pharaoh/monarch was Narmar (3,400BCE), an upper Egyptian and more than likely a negro. The last pharaoh/monarch was Cleopatra VII, more than likely a Ptolemaic Greek, who supposedly committed suicide after losing several battles with the Roman army in 30BCE. Throughout the time from 3,400BCE to 30BCE, many outsiders ruled over Egypt, such as the Anatolians, the Libyans, the Nubians, the Syro-Palestinians, the Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans who ended the pharaonic system after 30BCE. Likewise, the Egyptians also ruled over the aforementioned groups and others during their glory days of old. Throughout the dynastic era, many, if not the vast majority of monarchs/pharaohs were negroes or mulattoes. Negroes and mulattoes were very heavily represented during the greatest dynasties, such as the 1st-4th dynasties, the 8th, the 12th, 18th, 19th, and 25th dynasties.

EARLY KINGDOM (1ST THRU 8TH DYNASTIES/3,400BCE to 2,200BCE)

Throughout the 1st thru 4th dynasties (between 3,400BCE to 2,600BCE), Egypt embarked on its greatest achievements in high civilization. After mastering irrigation, writing, the calendar, Astronomy and so on before the dynastic era, during this time frame, they invented Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Denistry, the Hospital, advanced architectural and civil engineering. The word Chemistry comes from the Hamitic word Kemet, or Chemi, which of course means black or carbon. Moreover, they invented Geometry, Trigonometry and possibly Calculus. They also indulged in complex art, philosophy, the dramatic arts, and civics. With Egypt being a society that stressed the importance of the society as opposed to the individual, rarely did they leave documents indicating the individuals who invented such things. They often give credit to various gods for such inventions. Thoth, the god of wisdom is given most of the credit. One person whom the Egyptians cite as being the inventor of the pyramids, medicine and hospitals is Imhotep. Most

Egyptologists believe that the god Thoth was a commemoration of Imhotep's life. Given the time frame, Imhotep was probably a negro/mulatto. The earliest evidence of pyramid building took place in the city of Saqqara, just to the south of modern Cairo, or very close to Memphis, the dynastic capital at that time. The pyramids at Saqqara are estimated to have been constructed around 3,100BCE (or 2,900BCE in some history books). The Saqqara pyramids are called the step pyramids, often resembling a 7 layer cake. The tallest of the pyramids stand at 210 feet in height. During the 4th dynasty, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza were constructed. Giza is a suburb in modern Cairo or about 35 kilometers from Memphis. This took place around 2,900BCE (or 2,700BCE in some history books). The tallest pyramid at Giza stood at 510 feet tall (or half the height of the Sears tower in Chicago), the tallest of all the 94 pyramids found in Egypt, most of which are located in lower Egypt. The 1st thru 4th dynasties were politically powerful and stable monarchies, but the 5th and 7th dynasties had some political difficulties. The 8th dynasty had tremendous success, especially with their conquest of Lower Nubia.

THE 1ST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD/THE 9TH THRU 12TH DYNASTIES/2,200BCE TO 1,800BCE

This period in Egyptian history had mixed results. The Egyptian priesthood rebelled at times as well as the Egyptian people. High taxes and food shortages caused civil discontent at times. There were times when local rulers controlled their own nomes without taking orders from Memphis. During the 12th Dynasty, there were two pharaohs named Sestrosis I and Setrosis II, who re-established dominance over Egypt and Lower Nubia. The Sestrosises were warrior Kings who lead a number of military campaigns in the Middle East, the area of former Soviet Georgia near the Caspian and Black seas as well as modern Turkey (ancient Anatolia) and the Aegean (Greece).

The Egyptians and Phoenicians (ancient Canaanites/Philistines/Ugarites/Carthagian/Punics or modern Palestinians) of the Levant established a military outpost on the Greek mainland (Thebes) and the island of Crete, therefore "civilized" the Greeks and jump started Western civilization. Martin Bernal strongly believes that the Sestrosises were negroes (Bernal, Black Athena II 194-273). Members of the Egyptian armies (the Colchis) maintained an occupational presence near the Black Sea and Caspian Sea (Bernal 245-257). Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian and geographer in his book The Histories visited these areas where the Sestrosises left their mark on everything, including his birthplace of Anatolia (Turkey), and his adopted home of Greece. He mentioned that these Colchis were from Egypt because they appeared to have black

skin and wooly hair. Frank Snowden, the conservative African American Nubianologist argues that Herodotus did not mean black as synonymous with negro in our modern racial understanding of the word (Snowden 112-128). There were many Colchis who remained in (former Soviet) Georgia and sometimes mixed with the Georgian population over the centuries. Even in old Georgian oral and written literature during the past few hundred years, they often made reference to these dark-looking Colchis (Bernal 245-257).

2ND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD/13TH THRU 17TH DYNASTIES/1,800BC TO 1,585BCE

This time frame represented the era of the Hyksos invasion and occupation. Hyksos in the Egyptian language stood for foreigner. There is a split among Egyptologists as to who these Hyksos were. Some say they were Anatolians from Turkey while others argue that they were Syro-Palestinians from the Levant. Some scholars argue that since they (the Hyksos) were able to use iron weapons (an Anatolian invention) to conquer Egypt, than they were Anatolians. Other scholars would argue that since the Hyksos were also able to conquer the Egyptians by using the chariot, a Syro-Palestinian invention, the Hyksos were Syro-Palestinian from the Levant. The Egyptian monarchy and some Egyptian priests migrated to Nubia to escape Hyksos domination. During Hyksos domination, Egypt underwent a proverbial dark ages, in which there was very little intellectual and cultural developments taking place. Members of the Egyptian monarchy really begin to intermixed with the Nubian monarchy, as was the case in previous generations or dynasties (Diop 50-153).

EARLY NEW KINGDOM/18TH AND 19TH DYNASTIES/1,585BCE TO 1,050BCE

The family of the 18th Dynasty, with a great deal of Nubian and Egyptian anscestry, organized an armed rebellion with the help of the Nubian army to chase the Hyksos out of Egypt. The Egyptian population also rebelled against Hyksos domination. When this occurred, the monarchs of the 18th dynasty were firmly back in power. As a result, they transferred the capital of Egypt from Memphis to Luxor, or from lower Egypt to upper Egypt. Most Egyptologists now believe that the 18th dynasty was ostensably a black/negro one. Tyre, the queen mother of the 18th dynasty was of distinct Nubian ancestry. Monarchs during the 18th dynasty succeeded in conquering large

parts of the Middle East, and transformed Egyptian society from the dark ages into a renaissance. There was a revival that led to the construction of new pyramids, temples, monuments and expanded infrastructure. Moreover, there were revivals in literature, drama, art, dance, music, experimental architecture, and the development of a less complicated writing system for the general public, demotic and hieractic. Demotic and hieractic were a cursive-style writing system designed for priests and the general public, whereas hyrogliphics was a sacred writing system reserved for only priests and scribes/scholars. Political reforms were instituted, including the abolition of the death penalty.

Although still debatable, Egyptian philosophers began to expouse the ideas of democracy, although Egypt had always been a monarchial political system. Centuries later, Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, both of whom spent years in Egypt and studied in the Egyptian priesthood, borrowed many of their philosophical precepts from Egyptian philosophy, especially democracy and ethics (James 83-130). Mary Lefkowitz, a classicist from Wellesley College vociferously disagrees with the argument that democracy and philosophy were Egyptian inventions and Egyptians had virtually no influence on Hellenistic (Greek) culture. Lefkowitz, the author of Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History (1996) is a passionate attack on unlettered African American scholars, such as J.A. Rogers, George G.M. James and lettered scholars such as W.E.B. DuBois and Cheika Anta Diop, as well as lettered white scholars like as Martin Bernal for advancing the paradigm that Egypt influenced Greek civilization. Moreover, she expresses anxiety with these scholars asserting that Egypt was a predominately-black population. Lefkowitz points out that there is a resurging popularity of books written by unlettered scholars, such as James and Rogers in African American bookstores as well as in mainstream bookstores. Although Rogers and James published their books over 40 years ago, she argues that the recent popularity of their books among African American readers is a dangerous trend. She points out that these men were never trained scholars and lack any valid perspective on the subject. She spends most of her book pointing out the African American myth of Cleopatra VII being black or of negro ancestry. Although she gives very impressive evidence arguing that Cleopatra was a pure Greek, and not native Egyptian or black, by default, she infers that if this black Cleopatra myth lacks validity, than other assertions advanced by African American writers and their supporters on the subject also lack scholarly credibility (Lefkowitz 12-52). She labels Bernal's scholarship as "amateurish," even though she is not a trained Egyptologist nor has ever visited Egypt.

Nevertheless, the 18th dynasty had some of the most famous pharaohs in Egyptian history. Among them were Tuthmoses I (Ahmose I), Tuthmoses II, Tutankhamen, Hatshepsut, Thuthmoses III, Akenaton, and so on. Tuthmoses I firmly established control over Egypt and reserected the old Egyptian institutions. Tuthmoses II established the expansion of the Egyptian empire and continued with the reforms set in motion. After Tuthmoses II's death, his son, Tutankhamen, ascended to the throne at age 9, and died at the age of 19. There was political unrest and revolts from the Egyptian priesthood during the Tutankhamen's reign. After king "Tut's" death, Tut's sister came to power under controversial circumstances. Hatshepsut, a queen who came to power by virtue of ruling as a male king, ruled over Egypt for 22 years. There was a

dispute as to who was the legitimate successor to the throne. Was it suppose to be King Tuthmoses II's daughter (Hatshepsut), or Tuthmoses II's nephew (Tuthmoses III)? Some scholars assert that they could have been siblings and/or possibly husband and wife! She won the struggle by making herself a man through divine manipulation (basically intimidating the priests). During her tenure on the throne, she stablized Egyptian society and she launched very aggressive overseas trade expiditions to far away places such as the land of Punt (modern Somalia or the biblical name Put). She also launched military campaigns into neighboring Libya and Nubia. Her nephew, Tuthmoses III had her dethroned and he enthroned himself . Under his tenure on the throne, Tuthmoses III had all of his aunt's monuments and writings destroyed (most of it) and he launched military invasions all over the Middle East, Greece, Turkey (Anatolia), as well as on his African neighbors. Egyptian influence over other countries were at its height during Tuthmoses III's domain.

After Tuthmoses III's reign/death was his successor, Tuthmoses IV (Akenaten). Akenaten was married to queen Nefertiti, a former Nubian princess (and regarded as one of the most beautiful women in antiquity). Akenaten instituted a number of important religious, political and artistic reforms. Among them were the elimination of polytheism and replacing it with the newly created religion of ethical monotheism. The Sun God (Amon-Ra) was the only officially- recognized God during Akenaten's reign. The Egyptian priesthood was furious and rebelled at times. Akenaton, the inventor of monotheism, does not always receive the credit in theological circles for this invention. The ancient Hebrews (later Israelites or Jews) frequently receive the credit for this invention. Hebrews begin to practice monotheism around 1200BCE upon the encouragement of Moses. However, the Hebrew tribes, a semitic population, migrated from Mesopotamia into Egypt during the 2nd intermediate period (1800BCE to 1580BCE) and either became guess/migrant workers or slaves (there is a split among Egyptologists over the exact employment status of these Hebrew tribes). Nevertheless, adopted at birth by a wealthy Egyptian women, Moses became part of the Egyptian aristocracy and he studied in the Egyptian priesthood. Therefore, Akenaton's ideas of monotheism had to have had an influence on Moses's theology. Akenaton allowed greater popular input in local government affairs, a limited form of democracy. Akenaton also abolished capital punishment. Moreover, he mandated that artists must strive for realistic and not abstract representations in their works. He was portrayed in realistic form in all the art work, in which he appeared to have had a protruding stomach. His predecessors were portrayed in highly exaggerated and muscular form (larger than life form). After Akenaten's death, the priesthood eliminated monotheism and reistituted polytheism and re-opened many of the polytheistic temples. The priests destroyed most of the monuments, temples and writings associated with Amon-Ra (monotheism) and Akenaton.

The successor to the 18th dynasty was Ramses I , the founder of the 19th dynasty. Ramses I had a great deal of Nubian and black Egyptian anscestry. His son (Ramses II) had less negro anscestry, because his mother was a caucasian. Both Ramses I and Ramses II launched numerous military campaigns against the Nubians, Libyans, and Syro-Palestinians. They both strengthened political control over Egypt and launched numerous civil engineering projects. The monument of Abu Simbel was the most prominent example, a tribute to Ramses II's Nubian wife

and queen, Nefertari. Abu Simbel served as a giant billboard warning the Nubian army not to advance north of Abu Simbel, or else! It served as a border marker between Egypt and Nubia. King Ramses II lived to the age of 92 and had dozens of wives and perhaps over 100 children. Nefertari was his main wife and the most adored by Ramses II. Prior to circa 1225BCE, the Hebrews worked on many civil engineering projects and were perhaps forced laborers/slaves (Egyptologists are split on whether the ancient Hebrews were slaves or guest workers).

According to the Old Testament in the Bible, Moses, a Hebrew who was adopted into a wealthy Egyptian family, renounced his Egyptian upbringing and became the leader of the Hebrew tribes in Egypt. Even though scholars disagree, perhaps King Ramses II was the pharaoh who issued a law mandating that the first born of Hebrew parents be killed as part of the Egyptian government's anti-Semitic policies. Moses's mother hid her infant son in a river bed to prevent her son from being murdered. A rich Egyptian woman found young Moses and adopted him. Because of the oppressive policies of the Egyptian government against the Hebrew Egyptians, the Hebrews, upon the leadership of Moses, decided to leave Egypt (the Exodus and the Passover). The Hebrews then went to the Sinai desert and remained for over 40 years, then migrated to the Levant. After years of fighting with the Syro-Palestinians, the Hebrews were able to created a nation-state, which later became Israel. Their capital was Jerusalem. The Hebrew tribes (12 of them) refined their monotheistic religion, which became the basis of Judaism. Egyptologists and others argue that the basis of Judaism had strong Egyptian influence. Between 1200BCE to 1050BCE, after a succession of almost a dozen Ramses, Egypt fell into political and military decline.

LATE NEW KINGDOM/20TH TO 35TH DYNASTIES/1050BCE TO 30BCE

For most of the Late New Kingdom era, outside invaders ruled over Egypt for the most part. However, these outside invaders kept Egyptian institutions in existence and rarely interfered with local laws and customs. Outside invaders even went so far as to make themselves pharaohs and conducted themselves in that manner. The first of these invaders were the Libyans, Egypt's western neighbor. The Libyans invaded and generally ruled over Egypt between 1050BCE to 800BCE (from the 20th thru 24th dynasties). Noted Nubianologist, Bruce Williams of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago argues that the 21st dynasty was a Nubian dynasty. Circa 800BCE, the Nubians under the leadership of King Kashta lauched a military campaign to conquer Egypt from the Libyans, as well as the conquest of the Hittite (Turkey) and Assyria/SyroPalestine (Bennett 11). This was the establishment of the 25th dynasty.

With the successful conquest of Egypt, and the less successful conquest of Assyria and Hittite, Kashta's son Piankhy, continued with the military occupation and began to consolidate power under his command. Piankhy made himself the sole pharaoh of Egypt and Nubian (Taylor 23-46). He ruled from Egypt's capital, Luxor, as oppose to the capital of Nubia, which was Napata. Piankhy's son Shabaka, revived declining Egyptians institutions, such as the Egyptians priesthood and the polytheistic religion (Harris 53-111). Shabaka also embarked on new pyramid building in both Egypt and Nubia. All of these Nubian-led institutional revivals and reconstruction projects involved a strong knowledge of Egyptian society, because Egypt and Nubia were more similar in development than dissimilar. In fact, Nubia had in excess of 180 pyramids compared to Egypt's 94 pyramids! Both countries influenced each other for thousands of years, even dating back to before the pre-dynastic era (before 3400BCE). In 667BCE, the Assyrians invaded Egypt and forced the Nubians out of Egypt (Bennett 11). That invasion marked the beginnings of the 26th dynasty, an Assyrian dynasty.

The Assyrians kept most of the institutions in tact until they were attacked and forced out of Egypt. The Persians, under their king Xerxes, forced the Assyrians out of Egypt. The Persians ruled over Egypt until 324BCE. Around 324BCE, Alexander the Great, the Macedonian (Greek) conqueror invaded not only Egypt, but also Libya, Lower Nubia, the Levant, Asia Minor (Turkey), southeastern Europe and other parts of the Middle East. Because of the Greek invasion of Lower Nubia and the sack of its capital Napata, the Nubians transferred its capital to the island city (in the middle of the Nile river) of Moroe in upper Nubia. With Egypt under Greek domination between 324BCE to 30BCE, the Ptolemies and Cleopatras reigned as pharaohs over Egypt. The Greeks borrowed heavily from Egyptian ideas and did a great job in assimilating Egyptian ideas into their own culture. The Greek Ptolemaic rulers adopted Egyptian sensibilities and often considered themselves to be Egyptians, and not Greeks. Although the Cleopatras were proud of their Greek ancestry, they regarded their nationality to be Egyptian, and were treated by the Egyptian people as such. The most famous Cleopatra was Cleopatra VII. The Romans were on the verge of conquering all the territories formerly under Greek rule, including Egypt. Roman conquerers Augustus Ceaser, Julius Ceaser, and Mark Anthony were the most instrumental in their proverbial conquest of the world. Cleopatra VII supposedly had an affair with both Mark Anthony and Julius Ceaser, to persuade them not to conquer her country. Cleopatra VII was distraught over her unsuccessful naval battles against the Romans, the Roman armies invading her country, the murder of Julius Ceaser, and so on. Because of all these events, she did not want to undergo the dishonor of surrendering her country to the Romans. Therefore, she supposedly committed suicide. After her supposed suicide, the Roman armies successfully invaded and conquered Egypt. The Romans abolished the pharaonic system and their institutions, and ultimately made Egypt a province of Rome. All these events marked the end of pharaonic/dynastic Egyptian history.

WORKS CITED

Bennett, Lerone, Jr., Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 5th ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1982).

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