One notable proponent of this theory is Martin Bernal, who presented his arguments in the influential book “Black Athena.” Bernal’s work suggests that Ancient Egypt had Black African origins and for this reason Egypt can be understood as an Afro-Asiatic Civilization with primarily African and some shared Asiatic linguistic, ethnic and cultural roots.
However, it is crucial to critically examine a summary of the evidence and arguments put forth by Bernal and assess the validity of the Afro-Asiatic origins theory of Ancient Kemet (Egypt) in light of more recent scholarship.
The Cairo Symposium and the Black African Origins of Egypt
Their research emphasized the connection between the Southern Nubian interior and the Ta-Seti Civilization, which was built by the Anu people, tbe First Settlers of the Nile Valley whom Diop and Obenga argued founded the Egyptian Kemetic civilization with strong Black African roots circa 3100BC.
Since the Afro-Asiatic origins theory proposes that Ancient Egypt was an Afro-Asiatic civilization, it is important to analyze its key elements and assess its accuracy. One of the main objections to the Afro-Asiatic theory is its inclusion of Arabic as an Afro-Asiatic language, which is deemed incongruous with the establishment of the Kemetic civilization during the 1st Dynasty.
This objection suggests that Arabic did not play a significant role in the formation of Ancient Egypt and questions the Afro-Asiatic classification of the civilization.
Supporters of the theory that Ancient Egypt was fundamentally Black African in character emphasize the cultural, linguistic, and archaeological evidence from the 1st Dynasty.
This period, spanning from approximately 3100 BCE to 2890 BCE, witnessed the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under King Narmer. Scholars argue that the 1st Dynasty rulers and the population of Egypt during this time were predominantly of Black African descent, thus aligning with the theory of a Black African origin of Ancient Egypt.
Another significant aspect in the debate over Ancient Egypt’s origins is the correlation between language and ethnicity.
Proponents of the Black African origins theory argue that the linguistic evidence, such as the use of Mdw Ntchr (Medu Netcher) or “Divine Speech,” suggests an African origin. This writing system, commonly referred to as Hieroglyphics, was utilized by the Kemetic civilization and reveals linguistic similarities with other African languages.
Beyond Linguistics: Cultural and Archaeological Evidence:
In addition to linguistic evidence, proponents of the Black African origins theory highlight cultural and archaeological findings that support their argument. Cultural practices, religious beliefs, and artistic representations such as Hairstyles found in Ancient Egypt exhibit parallels with African cultures, suggesting a shared heritage. Furthermore, the physical depictions of the Kemetic people in their artwork often portray individuals with characteristics traditionally associated with Black Africans.
Although the term “Afro-Asiatic” includes several languages spoken in Africa and the Middle East, such as Amharic, Hausa, Oromo, and Somali, the Afro-Asiatic origins theory does not address the existence of an earlier Black African civilization in the Nile Valley prior to the arrival of Arabic in Egypt circa 640 AD.
In summary, the debate surrounding Egypt’s Afro-Asiatic heritage remains contentious although the Cairo Symposium and the work of scholars like Cheikh Anta Diop and Dr. Theophile Obenga has highlighted the strong presence of Black African elements in Ancient Egypt dating back to Pre-Dynastic Egypt.
The Afro-Asiatic origins theory, may have provided an initial framework to acknowledge Black African influence on Egyptian Civilization, however, over time, the evidence suggests that the Afro-Asiatic Theory in Black Athena may be obsolete because the 1974 Cairo Symposium demonstrated that Egyptian Civilization from the 1st Dynasty was fundamentally Black African in character and can therefore not be described or understood as Afro-Asiatic.