by Drusilla Dunjee Houston
At the beginning of the historical period of Egypt, most inhabitants of the earth were rude savages. In western Europe and northern Asia, the half-human Neanderthal lived in eaves under overhanging ledges and fed upon the untamed products of the wild. Outside of Africa, we find over the earth the rude stone tools of the first barbaric inhabitants, that mark the evolution of these races, from savagery, through long stages of development to the civilized state. In Africa, we mud no evidence of this slow progress of man up from the barbaric state. The Soudan shows no evidence of a stone age. The African seems to have passed directly to the use of metals without intermediate steps. The Semitic and Japhetic races upon the more sterile lands of the east, and north, as nomadic shepherds, were slow to change to the more settled life, that developed naturally in the rich regions of Egypt and the Upper Nile. Without agriculture, they could not advance to the handicraft stage. Going back only three thousand years we find these nations still very ignorant. Semites made no showings of culture until the rise of half-barbarous Assyria, which copied its arts and sciences from Cushite Chaldea. The Hebrews learned agriculture and building from the Hamitic race of Canaan.
Someone civilized race of prehistoric times had tamed the domestic animals; for when the curtain of history was raised we find them in attendance upon man. With the same infinite patience, this race developed wild plants into tamed fruits and cereals. The Cushite was the only race that could have performed this service, for the other races in historic times despised agriculture. Nomadic races are fierce and impatient, they have nature the opposite to habits that make for patient and perseverance, which are the steps to art and literature. Before the dawn of history, Cushites were working in metals and they had perfected the tools with which we conquer the forces of nature today. Our mason’s tools are identical with those unearthed in Egypt. Joly calls the three significant factors of progress in the life of man: the hearth, the altar, and the forge. All three of these were given to the world by the African. The ancients said that Ethiopians first taught them the worship of the gods and sacrifice. The agricultural Ethiopian developed the idea of a settled hearth and home. He developed very early the art of smelting iron, which is found in the pyramids and gave knowledge of its manufacture to the world.
Donnelly points out that in the thousands of years since the domestication of animals, the historic nations of our times have tamed one bird. In the light of these facts, is it helpful to our development, that we blazed forth the boast that from later races has come the sum total of civilization? Ancient Africans yoked the wild ox, tamed the cow, the horse, and sheep. This is why animals play such an important part in the old Cushite mythology. Africans subdued the elephant as early as the Cushites of Asia. Ancient sculptures show the African lion tamed. These indefatigable men domesticated wheat, barley, oats, rye, and rice, in fact, all the staple plants of our civilization were fully developed so far back in the distant ages, that their wild species have disappeared.
Think about how helpless we would be today without them. Reclus declares, “We are indebted to the African for sorghum, dates, kaffir, coffee and the banana, also for the dog, cat, pig, ferret, ass and perhaps for the goat, sheep, and ox. The first African explorers found the country covered with cattle parks, in which the natives kept thousands and tens of thousands of cattle of remarkable breeds, rare skill being shown in their handling.
A botanist of the Smithsonian Institute recently traveled nine thousand miles through Africa, finding species from which valuable grasses, grains, forage, and fruit may be obtained. We are still reaping the fruits of the earlier zeal and genius that tamed the first plants. Ancient Ethiopians were wonderful agriculturalists. The melon and sweet potato produced there are far more delicious than ours. The races to which agriculture was not native present the spectacle today of crowding their populations into cities.
Ethiopians developed long staple cotton, millet, kaffir and Soudan grass. The unusual size and flavor of African fruits were not the result of the accident but of labored perseverance and skill. The primeval man gave us the gift of language. Myers says, “Rich and copious languages were. upon the lips of the great peoples of antiquity, when they first appear in the morning light of history.” This was of incalculable value to succeeding ages. They also gave us the alphabet. Baldwin affirms that the writings used by the peoples of the first ages of history were all derived from a common source. The Phoenicians said the art was invented by Taut.
The primitive worship of the Ethiopians was pure. They worshipped one supreme being. Their rulers were priest-kings and at death were deified. As the ages ensued this extended itself in ancestor worship, which was original with the Cushite race. It flourishes on the African continent today. Ancestor worship spread over all the countries Which the Cushites conquered. Frobenius, the great anthropologist, says, “Ethiopia is an ancient classical land. In olden days its inhabitants were considered the most pious and oldest of mankind. In many quarters Meroe is thought to be indebted to primitive Egypt. From a standpoint of ethnology, we must unhesitatingly reject this supposition. The Nubians possessed an independent and individual religion in the earliest known times, the cult of which impressed the Egyptians, who gave an account of it to the authors of old.” (Voice of Africa. Vol. II p. 621)
Champollion, the father of Egyptology, in his valuable memoirs declared, that the Lower Valley of the Nile was originally peopled from Abyssinia and Meroe. The most ancient cities that they founded were Thebes and Edfou. In the beginning, Egypt was ruled by priest-kings, who reigned in the name of some deity. This sacerdotal class was overthrown by the warrior caste, whose chiefs raised themselves to the rank of kings. This new establishment of power took place about 2000 B, C. Thebes under them reached the height of her glory. The Old Race of the first dynasties, the race of Thot, Amen-Ra, and Osiris had turned its greatest strength in wider and wider circles across North Africa and up the coast of western Europe. To the eastward, they had civilized the Mesopotamian plains and had swept on to India. Their relation toward Egypt became, more and more hostile, though full-blooded Ethiopians still sat upon the throne. The idols of Egypt to the last detail were gods of Meroe.
Heeren says, “The best-informed travelers and the most accurate observers recognize the same color, features and mostly the same fashions and weapons in the inhabitants of the Upper Nile as they find portrayed on the Egyptian monuments. The race which we now discover in the Nubian, though by the loss of liberty and religion much degenerated; yet, which was once the ruling race in Egypt. This Nubian race did not come from Arabia. Their color, language, and manner of life were different. According to their own traditions, the Egyptians were originally savages without tillage or government. They lived in huts made of reeds. A race of different descent and color settled among them and lifted them to civilization. The men of this race were the ancestors of the Nubians, who planted other colonies in opposite regions of the world, in Greece, Colchis, Babylonia, and even India.” All of these regions had priest-kings.
There had been a rich literature in ancient Ethiopia, which endured until the time of Christ. There are now in existence more than two thousand Ethiopian manuscripts. The early Christian missionaries who entered Ethiopia considered it a duty to destroy all the ancient pagan literature. The two thousand extant are but a remnant of older writings, which is in the possession of me world today would unfold many a baffling mystery. The literature of Ethiopia that remains is almost wholly Christian. Nubia long resisted the inroads of foreigners. The Barabra knew what the entrance of aliens would mean to their land, but its confiscation and violence to their rights. Nubian’s mothers would drown or mutilate their daughters, that they could not carry away, to save them from dishonor. Virtue is highly prized among them today. Frobenius tells us that Nubians adopted Christianity as early as 500 A. D. Determinedly for a thousand years, they refused to accept Mohammedism. When Islam began to persecute the Christians in Egypt, Nubia sent her to cry, “Stay your hand,” ringing down the Nile with both energy and effect. The Arab spared Egypt for fear of the Nubian.
The Barabra or Nubian hated the Turk and the Arab and were right in their determination not to let them enter their land, Which was blooming and prosperous but which later came to utter ruin. Sir Samuel Baker describing the Nile between Berber and Karthum said, that as late as 1862 the banks were crowded with populous villages. The land everywhere was cultivated and produced heavy crops. Under the Turks in thirty years, it had become a howling wilderness. Gaps in the bank show where wheels once stood, which have entirely disappeared. Their channels have been choked for years. Budge paints a pathetic picture of the few inhabitants who remain, who are nearly naked and slowly starve for months. They lack sufficient covering at night, the cold being intense. These Nubians get up long before dawn and sit shivering, waiting for the needed warmth of the sun. They love their independence and are content to endure hardship.
700 A. D. Moslem Arabs overran the Delta and transformed the old Retu type of Egyptian into an Arab speaking fellah. The old Egyptian intermixed with Greeks, Romans, and Arabs, produced a physical type quite unlike the people of earlier days. Along the Nubian Nile, ancient prestige prevented their onrush. The old Ethiopian empire with its northern and southern capitals blocked Moslem progress for almost a thousand years. In 1316, this Christian kingdom was overthrown but the race loving Nubian peasantry clung to and still retain their Hamitic speech, which is the key to their origin. After 1300 A. D. massacre was introduced to compel the Nubian to change his faith. Slave raiding brought inconceivable ruin. “Four-fifth of the population was destroyed and the greater part of this once best-cultivated region of the world went back to the wilderness. The cattle were killed, the young men were slain, and the daughters of Ethiopia ravished.”
A look at Ethiopia today in her ruined condition makes it difficult for the average observer to receive the deductions of explorers, geologists, and ethnologists. The great lapse of time has erased traces of a civilization that was decaying in the days of Cambyses. Many of the massive ruins and relics of those declining days as described in books are conceived by the readers to be products of the lower Nile When they existed far up in Nubia. The museums of the world contain much of Ethiopian art that is labeled as Egyptian. Ferlini in 1820 found in the tomb of the Great Queen of Meroe, a bronze vessel, the handles of which were ornamented with Dionysus masks, also necklaces, bracelets, rings and other articles of jewelry. Dionysus was the Bacchus of the Greeks, the Osiris of Egypt and a very famous ruler of the ancient Cushite empire of Ethiopians. These jewels and the bronze jar are in the museum at Munich. Ferlini was greatly surprised at the workmanship, which he considered finer than any to which the Greeks had attained. (Egyptian Soudan–Budge.)
Granite sphinx of Taharqa, 25th Dynasty, c. 690-664 BC. This statue from Kawa (Temple T) in Sudan shows the Pharaoh’s face on a Lion figured sphinx, a form of royal representation borrowed from Middle and New Kingdom art.
In 1863, Marriette discovered at Jebel Barkal among the monuments, five columns of the highest importance, proving Ethiopia to have had a very important position among the Egyptian dynasties, in later historical times. These Ethiopian kings residing in Nubia ruled Egypt. One of these conquerors, Takaoka carried his expeditions into Asia. He was doing no more than Ethiopians of earlier ages had done. European museums contain some of the monuments of Jebel Barkal. Groups of pyramids are near the temple. In twenty-five structures at Nuri in interior vaults is a method of support, until recently thought to be an Etruscan invention. At the time of the Old Empire, the population of Upper Egypt was Nubian. In the Sixth Dynasty Nubia was a part of the Egyptian Kingdom. In the inscriptions of Ethiopia, the ruler is called “King of the Two Lands” and the symbol of the Uraei proves their authority over Egypt and Ethiopia. The pyramids of the Queens of Meroe show the authority of this line over the Two Lands. This was why Egyptian monarchs so often married princesses of Ethiopia. It seemed to strengthen their claim to the throne.
Late excavations of Harvard University in old Ethiopia have unearthed at Napata a royal cemetery more than two thousand years old. At Nuri, they examined the tombs of twenty kings and twenty-five queens of Ethiopia from 660 B. C. to 250 B. C. The line of Candace was highly honored in Ethiopia. Their jewelry was very elaborate and purely Meroitic in style and workmanship. At the feet of the Great Queen were the gods of the north and south tying the two lands together. The two lands that in their beginning had been one. The symbolic representation of the union of the north and south is found at a very early period in Egypt. Her Pharaohs bearing the title, King of the Two Lands. Hoskins infinitely preferred the pyramids of Meroe for their elegance of architectural effect to those of Gezeh. He viewed the ruins of Meroe as the last architectural efforts of a people whose greatness had passed away. These rulers were fully Ethiopian in feature and hair. In their titles was the name Amen-Ra.
A view of stone rams at Amun Temple in Naga, near the Meroë pyramids, south of the ancient city of Meroë,
Some of the largest temples of Nubia were built by this line of kings and queens. The power of Tarkaka and Pankhi who subjugated Egypt is attested by the sculptured reliefs of the scenes of their battles. In XXII Dynasty of Egypt, the country has become so intermingled with foreign blood, the main body of the priests of Amen, who had ruled so long at Thebes, emigrated into Ethiopia. Favors showed foreigners so displeased the military class that they deserted in a body to Ethiopia, 240,000 soldiers. Pharaoh made overtures to them but they would not return. These were the former ruling class of Egypt returning to the land and culture from which they had originated.
The term Nubia was unknown to the ancients. Everything south of Egypt was called Ethiopia, the land of the dark races. Though the local traffic is small, a very large caravan trade still passes through Nubia between Central Africa and Egypt. The Nuba tribes of Kordofan seem to constitute the original stock. The Nile Nubas are closely allied to the Nubas of Kordofan who are admittedly, says Britannica (Vol. XVII. Nubia.), of Negro stock and speech, so the Nile Nubas must be regarded as essentially a Negro people. The Nile above Egypt has always hen occupied by this people. Many Nubians are artisans, small dealers, porters and soldiers in Egypt where they are noted for their honesty and cheerful and frank temperaments. The native tongue is very sonorous and expressive. It is of distinctly Negro character. These Barbarians in Nubia are labored agriculturists, faithful, obedient, cleanly and Keane insists that nearly all of them understand arithmetic and know how to read and write.
Many Nubians recall the Return type upon the Egyptian monuments. These people of old Ethiopia wear today the plaited turned up beard of the Egyptian gods and a style seen in Etruscan sculptures. Amen-Ra, from whom a long line of Egyptian monarchs descended, was an Ethiopian god. He was the most terrible of the Egyptian gods to look upon, with his blue-black complexion. Ancient Egyptians were so determined to represent him as black that they produced a singular black effect by laying on a dead black color and treating it with blue through which the black remained visible. The Soudan in those ancient days was considered as but a continuation of Egypt. The greatest of the Soudanese gods ranked with the Egyptian gods. Thotmes III of Egypt called himself a royal son of the land of the south. His son, Amenhotep, appears on the reliefs of the temple of Themes making offerings to the Nubian gods.
Ruins of the Church of the Granite columns, Old Dongola, Sudan
Reclus tells us that at Dongola, the capital of Nubia is the ruin of one of the largest and finest specimens of ancient architecture. The columns are as elegant as those of Greek temples. The crests of the neighboring rocks are crowned with towers and strongholds and walls of ancient entrenched camps. Nubian castles differ but little from those of the Rhine. They were both built by the descendants of the Cushite dolmen-builders. These Nubian castles are the remnants of a feudal system similar to that of Europe. This system is still alive in Abyssinia today. In the Nubian castles, the battlements keep, and roofs are all broader at the base than at the summit and all the towers are conical. Ramses II built wonderful temples in Nubia, the rock-hewn temple of Abu Simbel for simple grandeur and majesty is second to none in all Egypt. He built another temple to Amen-Ra at Napata. The Harvard expedition found the ancient Ethiopian kingdom had been called Seba or Sheba. It was that part of the empire from which the Queen of Sheba had come with rich gifts to Solomon. Josephus, the Jewish historian called her a queen of Egypt and Ethiopia. This was in the ages when Egypt probably was the Two Lands.