Friday, 15 July 2011

AFRICAN HERITAGE SERIES: ONE

THE LEGACY OF ANCIENT EGYPT IN AFRICA TODAY

BY JUSTICE PATRICK TABARO
 During the Renaissance in Europe, (circa 1440-1700), and thereafter, scholars continued to access the knowledge of the Black Egyptians and with it, established epoch-making systems. Copernicus’ (1473-1543) important contribution that the earth revolves around the sun and not the reverse is noted. Isaac Newton, the father of Modern Mechanics, is no less important for his contribution to mathematic and physics that also threatened the stability of a Europe that had not yet reconciled religion with science.
By Newton’s time (1642-1727), two academic subjects had emerged whose descriptions tell a lot about how African civilizations were established; Egyptology (study of Egypt and its knowledge systems) and Pyramidology, the latter being the study of Pyramids. This is not surprising in view of the advanced, complex systems built into the technology of the pyramids that addresses religion, mathematics, astronomy, physics, engineering, education, etc. In his book, Principia Mathematica, written in Latin, the language of the elite/intellectuals at the time, Newton after mastering Pyramidology, was convinced that the Egyptians pioneered astronomy (the study of the stars) and from this, science spread to the rest of the world. He became aware that earlier Black African Egyptians were acquainted with gravitation and the atomic theory (Martin Bernal, 1987).
Like Copernicus, Isaac Newton realized the sun, and not the earth is the centre of our solar system. The change of his stance towards the end of his life was significant, because it demonstrates the manner in which ideology affects people’s knowledge and how epistemology (the theory of knowledge) changes with time and circumstances. He was a sympathizer of the Whig Party of Britain at the time and a believer in the monarchy. When he realized that his theories could jeopardize Christianity and the constitutional order based on monarchy, he downgraded the anteriority of Egyptian civilization to suite his religious inclination by placing the beginning of Egyptian civilization to just before the legendary Trojan War (about 1200-1300 B.C.). Yet, the Egyptian civilization and ideas stretched thousands of years prior to the Trojan War!
The contributions of John Dalton (1766-1844) in his Atomic Theory, which states that elements consisted of tiny particles called atoms, are well-known even to non-scientists. What is more noteworthy is that Isaac Newton was aware that the atomic theory was known to the Ancient Egyptians. It requires extraordinary courage on the part of non-African scholars to volunteer this information to the Africans because it has practical implications. It mentally liberates present day Africans. After all, the poverty and plight of Africans cannot be due to genes – the same genes that made the Ancient Egyptians are still at work today. We shall come to the causes of Africa’s decline later.
Dalton’s Atomic Theory held that matter can neither be created nor destroyed and atoms are the smallest particles of matter [inter alia].  It is not until the era of Einstein (1879-1955) with his famous equation, E=MC2, showing the relationship between the amount of energy released when matter is destroyed in a nuclear reaction times the speed of light squared, that Dalton was surpassed in modern times.
However, George James in his book Stolen Legacy (1992, 1998), explains that the Egyptian Atomic Theory did not say atoms cannot be split. As it is common place now, in 1938 the first atom was split in the laboratory through the work of Hahn and Strassman. Earlier, Lord Rutherford had demonstrated the existence of sub-atomic particles. In 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first time atomic energy was ever used in warfare (J.D. Bernal – Science in History).  
It appears by the time of Dalton, through faulty translation and lack of understanding, the Egyptian Atomic Theory had been misrepresented. But it is evident, from Isaac Newton in his Principia Mathematica that Europeans derived their atomic theory from Black Egyptians, especially from the Memphite Theology, compile by Pharaoh Shabaka in 750 B.C. It will be recalled that Shabaka made it clear he was formulating the knowledge and wisdom of the Africans of the interior, which they possessed several thousands of years before him.
This takes us to the question as to whether the theoretical knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians has ever been surpassed. I am aware this question takes us to the domain of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics, which concerns the interconnectedness between matter, energy, space, time, gravitation, the velocity of light and the mechanics of sub-atomic particles. According to Reader’s Digest, a journalist once asked Dr. Albert Einstein whether it was true that only three people understood his Theory of Relativity. The story goes that Einstein took time to answer and when he was reminded that he was delaying in giving the answer, he stated that he was trying to figure out who the third person might be. So Einstein was sure of only two people – himself and another scientist. Even if I had been there as an adult, I wouldn’t have been one of the few to master the Theory of Relativity. I hope someone who has grasped the General Theory of Relativity will one day totally unraveled the riddle of the Memphite Theory and provide the answers to our questions.
One thing is certain. The Egyptian Memphite Theory has been utilised in science to explain the origin of our Solar system in the Nebular Hypothesis put forward by Kant and Laplace in the 18th Century. The Big Bang Theory, which holds that the universe came into being as a result of an explosion (Big Bang), seeks its origin in the Memphite Doctrine of the Uncreated Creator (George James, Stolen Legacy). The explosion could not have come from nothing. The difficulty with Egyptian knowledge systems is that it was kept secret and jealously guarded, as much as professionals still do jealously protect their professions today. One would need long periods of training before being initiated into the Mystery System of the Egyptians. It is for this reason that the Greek philosophers never fully mastered Egyptian knowledge and new information continues to surface. This takes us to the loss of knowledge to humankind with the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria in Egypt and the lost universities of Africa.
University students relish anecdotes about artful novices who used to successfully pass for world famous professors in the Timbuktu and deliver public lectures in the names of the professors. Whatever the origin of the mischievous stories, the learning community can rest assure that in fact, a world famous university did exist in the city of Timbuktu (Timbuctoo) in present day Mali in West Africa. It was called Sankore University and was attended by scholars from the West African region as well as other, foreign countries. It taught Law, Medicine and Surgery, Letters, Grammar, Geography and Art (Chancellor Williams, 1991). At that time, Art encompassed manufacturing, construction and allied crafts. It was reputed for its exacting admission requirements. It reached its zenith during the Songhay Empire, but came into existence much earlier. The successive empires of Ghana, Mali and then Songhay occupied this territory. Here we are talking of the 15th and 16th centuries and earlier periods, before any European explorers stepped there.
Noteworthy is the fact that this great revival of learning arises almost simultaneously with the Renaissance of Europe to which Islamised Black North Africans (Moors) contributed fundamentally. In the same land of the Blacks (Western Sudan), there were other centres of learning at Jenne and Goa. The story of destruction of these universities and other landmarks of Black civilization deserve a whole coverage of their own in this column. Towards the onset of their demise, Black Moslems had taken over. Basil Davidson has written a complete book, among so many on African civilizations, entitled Lost Cities of Africa. The cities covered all the regions of the continent. There are many manuscripts current being recovered from the ruins of Timbuktu in Mali, and neighbouring Niger (Runoko Rashidi, 2007). President Thabo Mbeki of the Republic of South Africa has offered financial help for their preservation.
One of the greatest task of African scholars is to interrogate whether present day Africans are directly linked to the advanced systems of ancient Egypt – whether the science of medicine, mathematics, agriculture, animal husbandry, etc. of Egypt survive in one form or another among the present day Ugandans and other African communities. I will concentrate on arts, to which I am better acquainted with.
The Egyptian Ma’at (Goddness of Truth and Justice) survives in Luganda as Kummatiza (to prove or establish the truth). One of the Runyankole words for God, Kazoba (Sun) is evidently the same as Egyptian Sun God Ra - not the same words but surely the same idea.  Among the Banyarwanda/Bafumbira and kindred communities, there is a legend to the effect that God had 12 children and one of them - Cyrille Ruvugama - died in a tree. This legend could be related to the story of the 12 disciples, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Recall that Christ is Greek rendering of African (Egyptian) Kher Sesheta.  My interviews with elders from Kisoro and Rwanda indicate that before initiation in traditional religion one underwent the ritual of bathing, which is equivalent to baptism.  A mentor of the initiate was a necessity - analogous to the requirements of a godfather/godmother in Christianity.
Before the advent of coffins and concrete graves Banyarwanda/Bafumbira used to bury a dead person after placing him/her in the position of an embryo in its mother’s womb, quite the same as ancient Egyptians did, for they believed the departed was beginning a new life, forming again as a foetus in the mother’s womb, reflecting a religious belief in life after death.
Evidence from other parts of Uganda and the rest of Africa is equally convincing. In fact the evidence from Northern Uganda is more certain and less controversial, precisely because they are nearer to Sudan and Egypt.  In present day Sudan, there was the Funj Kingdom inhabited by the Shilluk (Chancellor Williams). Arab writers, scholars and conquerors corrupted the name to Ashuli and eventually it became Acholi (Okot P. Bitek, The Religion of Central Luos). Consequently, Arab accounts about the Shillluk tell us a lot about the Acholi people and their kin, which constitute the Luos. In the Funj Kingdom as well as the other states of Makuria, Alwa and Nobadae people lived in planned cities, practiced cloth weaving, traded in cotton fabrics, and lived in permanent buildings. They practiced Christianity under the Patriarch of Alexandria, though later with the advancing Moslem Turks from Egypt, many converted to Islam. The Patriarch of Alexandria lead Christians (and still does) who trace their traditions to St. Mark as opposed to European Christians who trace their doctrines to St. Paul and St. Peter, of Rome. It is the Arab slavers that destroyed the states (Chancellor Williams).
The destruction was so thorough that when the British occupied Acholiland, their work was a foregone conclusion; any resistance was easily crushed (Prof. Webster and Onyango Odongo, Achonya).  Achonya is the period in Luo history before European colonization of Africa. By then, any trace of Christianity in Sudan had been virtually wiped out. Can anyone today believe that the African Christians of Sudan (Makuria) raised an army of 100,000 men and threatened to march upon Alexandria when the Patriarch of Alexandria was imprisoned by Moslem rulers in 745 A.D., more than 1000 years before European missionaries arrived in Uganda? The Patriarch of Alexandria was the head of all Christian churches in Africa (Chancellor Williams). Eventually the Patriarch was freed and freedom of worship was guaranteed to the Christians of the time.
The literacy and advance astrological knowledge of the Dogon of Mali has been touched. So has the literate priesthood of the Monomotapa Empire of Southern Africa. It might not be immediately obvious to link Southern African civilization to Ancient Black Egypt but we need to note that Azania was the region, which today constitutes parts of Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. Some nationalists of South Africa had insisted on naming their Azania during the struggle to dislodge apartheid. But for Uganda, Sudan, West Africa, the direct link with ancient Egypt in the Arts and religion is evident from the observations made above. The Meru of Kenya have been traced to the Meroe Empire – one of the earliest centres of Black Egyptian civilization (Alfred Imanyara, in his quest to trace the proto-type Bantu).
Perhaps, because science is more prestigious, whenever any seemly scientific knowledge appears among Africans it attributed to “trial and error” or accident or some other fortuitous occurrence. It is not denied that trial and error or accident can lead to discovery and invention. However, some skills and practices in medicine appear rather too elaborate to be explained by mere trial and error or accident. In the 19th century a Scottish missionary doctor, Robert Felkin, witnessed a native Munyoro doctor perform a caesarean operation. The doctor removed the baby from its mother’s womb, sealed the surgical cuts and both the mother and the baby survived. The doctor reports that in similar complications in Britain at the time, the level of medicine/surgery could not have saved both the mother and the baby – only the mother possibly, but not both. (Ivan Sertima, Blacks in Science.)  Dr. Babugura and Dr. Muniini, both medical doctors, attributed the surgical skills to Baganda. However, the Baganda and the Banyoro are neighbours and both possessed the skill.
I was recently informed by interviewees from Ankole that Banyankole cattle keepers could perform veterinary surgery inside the womb of a cow, in a case of still calving with retained embryo, and remove the embryo, without harming the cow. It appears to me that some of the knowledge is a residue of the ancient, scientific practices of the Egyptians. Prof. Babugura in “Infusing Ethno-Mathematics/Ethno-Science in the Curriculum” (unpublished), has pointed out several scientific principles among the Madi, Bakiga, Bagisu, Bahima, Baganda and Batswana. There is a clear link with the Arts. Is it possible that some of the logical taboos of today’s African communities survive from the sciences that were practised in Ancient Egypt?
In herbal medicine, the native doctors used to spend years in the forest studying plants. Sometimes several herbs had to be combined to treat diseases. It is well known that the medicine men and other craftsmen kept their knowledge secret and continue to do so, not for selfish reasons, incidentally. In the case of medicine men, the primary reason is to safeguard society against misuse of the knowledge. Consequently, the knowledge/skills are kept a secret until a trusted relative is identified and knowledge is imparted to him/her; if none is available, then the practice is imparted or passed to a neighbor, who is given the privilege. Of course, this is done sometimes when the doctor has grown old, even senile, and some of the knowledge is lost.
In modern times, knowledge is disclosed in patent documents, but you can not use them without permission for an average of 20 years. In the Patent Office in the Justice Ministry in Uganda, there is not a single patent application, which will make Ugandans acquire technology enough to enable them to compete with Europe or North America or other advanced countries in the world.
Incidentally, when we talk about the decline of the black people from 1500 A.D., we are focusing on the Black people of African continent. Those in the Diaspora in America (North and South) made significant contributions in spite of enslavement. Their inventions are registered in the names of their masters because slaves (even scientists) were classified as property by law, and property cannot own property. Is this sound jurisprudence? That will be another chapter later.
It has been opined that before the world of scholarship can settle the question as to whether the theoretical knowledge of the Black Ancient Egyptians has been surpassed, judgment or verdict should be deferred until the Riddle of the Memphite Theology has been resolved, just to underline the advanced nature of African knowledge of the past.
So what went wrong?
The conquest of the world by whites after the European Renaissance, encompassing subjugation of the whole of North America, South America, Australia, the whole of Africa, apart from Ethiopia and Liberia (which was acquired for freed slaves, who had been captured by force) was accomplished largely through the use of firearms. Local factors also played a role.
The Ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Arabs knew the chemical composition of gunpowder (David Bernal, 1983). It is in Europe that gunpowder was harnessed to propel missiles, marking a turning point in human relations, for firearms made Europeans invincible against Africans. The ancients used gunpowder for ceremonial purposes only. To appreciate this fatal neglect on the part of the Black Africans, it is significant to realise that blacks and whites have had different attitudes towards violence and foreigners. According to Cheikh Anta Diop (The Cultural Unity of Blacks, 1959), white culture developed under harsh conditions on the steppes of the Eurasia landmass and aggression became a necessity. This was the Northern Cradle of Civilization.
In Africa, in the Nile Valley and elsewhere the conditions were congenial and peaceable pursuits, with insufficient attention to military processes developed. This was the Southern Cradle of Civilization, spreading from Egypt to the Middle East and parts of Europe where the two civilizations met and interacted, the area of confluence. Cheikh Anta Diop argues that the seemingly humane nature of European Civilization such as early Christianity (which obliges Christians to turn the other cheek if attacked?), developed as a result of the influence of African ideas on Europeans and Asians.
I intend to compare African atrocities and European/Asian atrocities in a separate article; not that we should resurrect and glorify “follies and misfortunes” of humankind, but to demonstrate that the much hyped barbarities, such as human sacrifice or infanticide practiced by Africans were nursery school drama compared to European and Asian atrocities. The article is essential to drive home the point that African upheavals of recent times could be a result of the type of education and culture acquired after colonization.
The use of Iron in technology, which is much more difficult than the harnessing of copper and gold, was known to Egypt at the dawn of civilization. The chariot as a war device was known to Egyptians. It is meaningless therefore to keep using the phrase “reinventing the wheel” in Africa. The African invented it long ago and in actual fact used the steam engine to pump water, (the Moors), long before James Watt (1736-1819) was born (The Golden Age of the Moors).
The pacificism of the Africans saw Asians and Europeans come to Egypt as traders, immigrants, settlers and refugees without much opposition. Espionage, which is one of the oldest professions in support of warfare and statecraft, was then, as of now, known. In 700 B.C., the Assyrians defeated Egypt, but it was not until 525 B.C. that Egypt came under prolonged occupation under the Persians. This date, 525 B.C., marks a landmark in the story of African people. That is when large scale migrations/flight of Africans began, to the south and other directions. The Assyrians, Persians were later followed by other conquerors such as Greeks, Romans, and some “Barbarian” tribes, the Arabs, Turks, French and the British. It is these diverse groups that impacted on the indigenous black population that resulted, through intermarriages, into Egypt’s peculiar character, reflecting European, African, Asian and Arab influences, both culturally and racially.
Although Egypt is now an Arab country, Southern Egypt still has a black population, such as the Nubians of Egypt. Occasionally you hear Egyptians emphasise their Egyptian character more than their “Arab-ness”. So Egypt is now brown, a source of confusion when racists try to portray ancient Egyptians as white or brown in character. But Egyptians do not make that mistake. In 2001 when I visited there, the guides in the Egyptian Museum were emphatic that the people behind the wonders of the Egyptian civilization were people of the interior, of the Upper Nile.
It has been pointed out that the Black people of Sudan whose descendants live right now in Uganda held on till recently. However, the most decisive single use of violence against the African was enslavement, by Arabs from the North, after the conquest of Egypt in 642 A.D., and Europeans in West Africa, by virtually all of the trading nations of Western Europe, in northwest and southwest Africa by the Portuguese and Spaniards, in South Africa by the Dutch/Boers, and the Portuguese, who met the Arabs in Mozambique. Both the Europeans and the Arabs ravaged the continent from all directions. To my knowledge, the account of hemming in all of the African people from all directions from the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean is best given by Chancellor Williams in The Destruction of Black Civilization.
Dr. Walter Rodney points out in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, that from the archives of the capitals of countries that engaged in enslavement of Africans and the slave trade, i.e. Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, and Holland (Netherlands), etc., valuable information about the level of development of Africa at the time of slavery and the slave trade can obtained from the diaries and reports of the slave traders. This was so because the slavers were acting on behalf of their countries and before attacking their victims they needed information which, they got through espionage, so as to establish whether their (African victims) were war-like or peaceful; how they were organized for resistance; the level of production for food and other necessities, etc.
The surest way to conquer a people is to eliminate its intelligentsia, the ruling class, artisans, in a word, the elite in society. After killing or capturing the intelligentsia into slavery, the rest of the masses became helpless, confused and desperate, easy prey for those armed with firearms and not arrows, bows and spears. The tactics of divide and rule, of playing one tribe against another are well covered in our school text books.   But, generally down played or omitted is that Africans generally were enslaved as victims rather than participants, including in some cases, kings, chiefs and their relatives (Hoschild, The Ghost of King Leopold). Let it be emphasized that once the elite had been eliminated, it required only one generation (25-30 years) of harassment for civilization to be totally wiped out.
This was the scenario – doctors, engineers, surveyors, priests, teachers, etc. are killed and survivors run for their dear lives. Because they are on the run they have no opportunity to practice their trades/professions. After they flee within a few years, because of the macabre/harassment leading to exhaustion, starvation and stress and therefore susceptibility to disease. They would not have been able to pass on their skills to the next generation, and hence a civilization which had lasted several thousand years could be brought to an end within one scarce generation.
This scenario, at the same time, explains why people ran away from those ravaging the continent for slaves. Basil Davidson, in Lost Cities of Africa, indicates that some of the latest communities to enter this region that is the Masai, Iteso, Akarimajong, Bahima, Batutsi, etc. were running away from European and Asian invaders from Northern Africa. To escape and hide from the invaders, many Africans including the elite took to areas that were generally inhospitable, the swamps, forests, and caves (Chancellor Williams). These are some of the “Savages”, the explorers wrote about; and the reason why eminent Eurocentric historians could afford to assert that the Africans lay in slumber for thousands of years until reawakened by foreigners. Enslavement ravages and subsequent colonization through conquest created a black-out in the history of Africa.
Sometimes it is debated among scholars, and the general public as to which form of enslavement was more devastating than the other, the Arab slave trade or European Atlantic slave trade. This is not immediately important, except that many Africans here and in the Diaspora have raised the question of reparations – compensations for the enslavement. Chancellor Williams, who did field work for 16 years in Africa, and made his conclusions from records, documents, oral history tested against archaeology and documentation, came to the conclusion that the population of Africa, through enslavement and wars of conquest, was reduced to 25% (1/4) of what it should have been. This is a process which began in 1440s for the Europeans and 7th century for Arab enslavers and stretched into the 20th century – a process of more than 1300 years.
Apologists state that some African chiefs participated in the slave trade - yes, and some were also later captured and sold – The Ghost of King Leopold. It has been rightly asked whether the participation of a handful of opportunistic Jews in the Holocaust/Genocide can absolve Nazis of their criminality. Not at all. So with Africans.
The humiliation of Africans by reducing them to the level of property led to low esteem on the part of Africans and the command by means of violence on part of Europeans to prestige and triumphalism. In addition, the Europeans have never lost the civilization they acquired from the Ancient Egyptians through the Greeks.
A corollary of this racial equation is that there are many African intellectuals who readily attribute African achievements to Europeans or Arabs. It is amply clear therefore, that through our education system, the self esteem of the African people must be restored. The need for reform is self evident.
I understand in the Faculty of Technology at Makerere University, Cheikh Anta Diop is taught. Post-graduate medical students in the same University recently informed me that Imhotep is compared and contrasted with Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.). Imhotep, (who lived thousands of years before Hippocrates was born) is the Father of Scientific Medicine and the Greeks were aware of this. The Hippocrates Oath, which medical graduates take to preserve life, etc. was not even authored by Hippocrates (Dr. Charles S. Finch, in Great Black Leaders- Ancient and Modern). (See also the Journal of  African Civilizations, December, 1987 Volume 9.) Imhotep is also credited with being the first engineer to be known by the name and achievement. He was the builder of the Stepped Pyramid at Saqqarah near Memphis about 2500 B.C. (History of the Engineering Profession – Encyclopaedia Britannia, 15th Edition – Volume 6).
In addition to being an engineer, he was a physician, an architect, astrologer and Vizier /chief minister, all in one. No wonder he was defied and worshipped as a god of medicine in Egypt and subsequently in Greece itself. Hippocrates studied medicine at the Library of the Temple of Imhotep in Egypt.

1 comment: