Population history of Egypt

Egypt has a long and involved demographic history. This is partly due to the territory's geographical location at the crossroads of several major cultural areas: North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, Egypt has experienced several invasions during its long history, including by the Canaanites, the Ancient Libyans, the Assyrians, the Kushites (a Nubian civilization), the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Arabs.

Neolithic and Predynastic periodsEdit

Around 8000 BCE, the Sahara had a wet phase, the Neolithic Subpluvial (Holocene Wet Phase). Several scholars have argued that the African origins of the Egyptian civilisation derived from pastoral communities which emerged in both the Egyptian and Sudanese regions of the Nile Valley in the fifth millennium BCE,[1][2][3] although there is very little evidence of human occupation of the Egyptian Nile Valley during the Early and Middle Holocene periods. This may be due to problems in site preservation. The Middle Nile Valley (Nubia) had population settlements attested by occupational sequence since the Pleistocene and the Holocene.[4] People from the surrounding areas moved into the Sahara, and evidence suggests that the populations of the Nile Valley reduced in size.[5]

Predynastic Egypt is conventionally said to begin about 6000 BCE. Between 5300 and 3500 B.C.E. the wet phase declined and increasing aridity pushed the Saharan peoples into locations with reliable water, such as oases and the Nile Valley.[3] The mid-Holocene droughts drove refuges from the Southern Levant and the Eastern Sahara into Egypt, where they mixed and settled.[6]

From around 4800 to 4300 BCE, the Merimde culture, known from the typesite Merimde Beni-Salame, flourished in Lower Egypt.[7][8] Later, Lower Egypt was also the home of the Buto Maadi culture, best known from the site at Maadi near Cairo.[9] In Upper Egypt, the predynastic Badari culture was followed by the Naqada culture (Amratian).[10]

Around 3000 BCE, the wet phase of the Sahara came to an end. The Saharan populations retreated to the south towards the Sahel, and east in the direction of the Nile Valley. It was these populations, in addition to Neolithic farmers from the Near East, that likely played a role in the formation of the Egyptian state as they brought their food crops, sheep, goats and cattle to the Nile Valley.[11]

Material culture and Archaeological dataEdit

Located in the extreme north-east corner of Africa, ancient Egyptian society was at a crossroads between the African and Near Eastern regions. Early Egyptologists noted the increased novelty and seemingly rapid change in Predynastic pottery and noted trade contacts between ancient Egypt and the Middle East.[12][13] Fekri Hassan and Edwin et al. point to mutual influence from both inner Africa as well as the Levant.[14]

The culture of Merimde in Lower Egypt, among others, has been linked to the Levant.[8] The pottery of the Buto Maadi culture, best known from the site at Maadi near Cairo, also shows connections with the southern Levant.[9] In Upper Egypt, the predynastic Badari culture was followed by the Naqada culture (Amratian).[10] These groups have been described to be culturally related to the Nubian and Northeastern African populations.[2] Upper Egypt is considered to have formed the pre-dominant basis for the cultural development of Pharaonic Egypt and the Proto-dynastic kings emerged from the Naqada region.[15][16] Similar cultural features have been observed between the early Saharan populations and dynastic Egypt such as pottery, iconography and mummification.[17][18][19]

Frank Yurco in 1989 expressed the view that among foreign populations, Nubians were closest ethnically to the Egyptians, shared the same culture in the predynastic period, and used the same pharaonic political structure. Yurco noted that some Middle Kingdom rulers, particularly some pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty, had strong Nubian features due to the origin of the dynasty in the Aswan region of southern Egypt. He also identifies the pharaoh Seqenenre Tao of the Seventeenth Dynasty, as having Nubian features.[20] He also wrote: "In short, ancient Egypt, like modern Egypt, consisted of a very heterogeneous population".[21] In 1990 he writes that: "When you talk about Egypt, it's just not right to talk about black or white [...] Whenever a [non-Egyptian] group moved into Egypt, they were accepted. There was no mass dis-crimination. New groups became Egyptianized. To take the terminology here [in the United States] and graft it onto Africa is anthropologically inaccurate". Yurco added that "We are applying a racial divisiveness to Egypt that they would never have accepted, they would have considered this argument absurd, and that is something we could really learn from."[22] In 1996 he said that "the peoples of Egypt, the Sudan, and much of North-East Africa are generally regarded as a Nilotic continuity, with widely ranging physical features (complexions light to dark, various hair and craniofacial types)".[23]

The discoveries made at a cemetery at Qustul in Nubia lead Bruce Williams to suggest in 1980 the possibility that Egypt’s monarchy originated near Qustul in Nubia. This theory has been directly contradicted by more recent discoveries at Abydos in Upper Egypt which prove that the Egyptian monarchy predates the tombs at Qustul.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32] The archaeological cemeteries at Qustul are no longer available for excavations since the flooding of Lake Nasser.[33]

Focusing on the A-Group culture (3500-2800BC), Michinori asserts in 2000 that external influence from Nubia on the formation of Ancient Egypt in the pre-dynastic period to the dynasty period predates influence from eastern Mesopotamia. He notes an increase in the appreciation of the contribution of Nubia in the south to Ancient Egyptian culture at the time of his writing. According to him, chiefs of the same cultural level as Upper Egyptian powers existed in Lower Nubia and exhibited pharaonic iconography before the unification of Egypt.[34]

Christopher Ehret (1996) argued that the evidence of language and culture had shown Ancient Egypt was rooted in an African context and "the origins of Egyptian ethnicity lay in the areas south of Egypt".[35]

Joseph Vogel (1997) stated "The period when sub-Saharan Africa was most influential in Egypt was a time when neither Egypt, as we understand it culturally, nor the Sahara, as we understand it geographically, existed. Populations and cultures now found south of the desert roamed far to the north. The culture of Upper Egypt, which became dynastic Egyptian civilization, could fairly be called a Sudanese transplant."[36]

Ron Eglash (1999) outlined archaeological evidence which showed that the Ancient Egyptian counting system had origins in Sub-Saharan Africa.[37] Eglash in a previous publication (1995) argued that fractal geometry designs which are widespread among Sub-Saharan African cultures are also found in Egyptian architecture and cosmological signs.[38]

Excavations from Nabta Playa, located in Nubia about 100 km west of Abu Simbel, suggest that the Neolithic inhabitants of the region were migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.[39] There is some speculation that this culture is likely to have been the predecessor of the Egyptians, based on cultural similarities and social complexity which is thought to be reflective of the Old Kingdom of Egypt.[40][41] In addition, there is evidence that sheep and goats were introduced into the Nabta Playa from Western Asia about 8,000 years ago.[42]

Stuart Tyson Smith (2001) described evidence which showed that the Ancient Egyptian culture shared strong affinities with modern African cultural practices such as divine kingship, the use of head rests along with circumcision and that the archaeological evidence for material culture also "strongly supports an African origin".[43] In 2018, Smith reviewed evidence which indicated linkages between the Upper Egyptian region, the Sahara and the Sudanese Nubia. In particular, he argued that the cultural features which characterised the Egyptian civilisation were "widely distributed in north-eastern Africa but not in western Asia" and this had earlier origins in the Saharan wet phase period.[44]

Toby A. H. Wilkinson (2000) writes that in the elite art of the late Predynastic Period, the use of Mesopotamian iconography is well-known. He writes that "Symbols of control and authority were borrowed from contemporary Mesopotamian iconography by Egyptian rulers anxious to develop and promote an ideology of power." He mentions in particular the intertwined serpopards and the rosettes on the Narmer Palette and the Narmer mace-head. After the reign of Narmer, indigenous Egyptian motifs were preferred.[45]

Toby Wilkinson in 2002 proposed an origin for the Egyptians somewhere in the Eastern Desert,[46] and presented evidence that much of predynastic Egypt was representative of the traditional African cattle-culture, typical of Southern Sudanese and East African pastoralists of today.[47] Toby Wilkinson has cited the iconography on rock art in the Eastern Desert region as depicting what he interpreted to be among the earliest representations of the royal crowns and suggested the Red Crown could have originated in the southern Nile Valley.[48]

Donald B. Redford wrote in 2004 that: "...evidence militates in favor of the continuity and longevity of ethnic groups in northeastern Africa from the mid-Sudan to the Mediterranean. The old notion of waves of "races" flowing up the Nile Valley, effecting cultural change and improvement, is now known to be as erroneous as it was simplistic. New ideas need not come by means of invasion: occasionally they are indigenous and may parallel similar discoveries elsewhere which are wholly unrelated."[49] He also wrote: "It would be interesting to know how the Nubians reacted to the racial attitudes Egypt manifested towards them, and in particular whether they shared a similar xenophobic aversion to all Egyptians."[50] Within Egypt, different degrees of Nubian integration were present at different times and different places, and it is not appropriate to generalize over a period of 3000 years.[51] Proficiency in the Egyptian language and culture established the basis of Egyptian identity.[52] Redford writes that it is reasonable to assume that the Seventeenth Dynasty originated in Nubia based on the expanded presence of Nubians in Egypt during that time period.[53] The Seventeenth Dynasty conducted a succession of military campaigns against Avaris in Lower Egypt and also Kerma in Nubia, resulting eventually in the collapse of Kerma and its occupation.[53] In the eighth century B.C. Kush considered itself the sole custodian and proponent of the unadulterated Egyptian tradition.[50]

Maria Gatto has suggested that the makers of the predynastic Egyptian Naqada culture centered in Upper Egypt shared an almost identical culture with the A-Group peoples in Lower Nubia.[54] She wrote in 2011 that "cultural identities do not necessarily match or relate to race."[2] Maria Gatto has stated that there are no Nubian A-Group cemeteries or campsites at Hierakonpolis, and that no A-Group campsites have been found in Upper Egypt except for at Armant, just south of Luxor. She has suggested as a possible explanation that "A-Group society was so similar to that in predynastic Upper Egypt that there was a kind of equilibrium between them". Gatto has stated that the Badarian lithic technology derives from the Oases Neolithic cultural unit, which is different to the Nubian cultural tradition as found in the Nabta-Kiseiba region of the southern Western Desert. However, she outlines the shared ties and cultural features between Tasian, Badarian, Nubian Netholithic and Neolithic of Khartoum in areas of pottery, settlement patterns and funeral practices. Gatto noted that Ancient Egypt is linked to other North African cultures by sharing with them the Nubian pastoral nomadic lifestyle, which is also commonly shared by most of the ancient Saharan and modern sub-Saharan societies.[55]

Maria Gatto also wrote in 2014 that archaeological research in the Aswan area has revealed that the process of cultural mixing in the boundary region of the First Cataract of the Nile River during the fourth millennium BCE, which is clearly detectable in the cultural material, was much more complex than previously thought. In the first half of the fourth millennium BCE the rise of the Naqada culture gave rise to a distinction between an Egyptian and a Nubian identity. Before then the Tarifian, Badarian and Tasian cultures of Middle and Upper Egypt were strongly similar to the Nubian/Nilotic pastoral tradition. The earliest evidence of the Naqada culture comes from the area of Abydos, and then it spread south into Nubia, and north across Egypt. Gatto states that the spread of Naqada culture was not linked to population movement from the north but rather the transmission and adoption of ideas, beliefs and practices. Although the bulk of cultural material from the fourth millennium is that of the Naqada culture, a small amount of Nubian material is also present, such as pottery and lithic. There is an entanglement of Naqada and Nubian identity elements, which resulted also in new hybrid forms of material such as Naqada Red-polished bowls having a Nubian milled rim decoration. The author also noted that the cultural substratum in Upper Egypt was mostly Nubian-related.[56]

Stan Hendrick, John Darnell and Maria Gatto in 2012 excavated petroglyphic engravings from Nag el-Hamdulab to the north of Aswan, in southern Egypt, which featured representations of a boat procession, solar symbolism and the earliest known depiction of the White Crown with an estimated dating range between 3200BC and 3100BC.[57]

Deitrich Wildung (2018) examined Eastern Saharan pottery styles and Sudanese stone sculptures and suggested these artefacts were transmitted across the Nile Valley and influenced the pre-dynastic Egyptian culture in the Neolithic period.[58] Wildung, in a separate publication, has argued that Nubian features were common in Egyptian iconography since the pre-dynastic era and that the early dynastic pharaohs such as Khufu were represented with these Nubian features.[59]

In an analysis of Nubian seals, Siobhan Shinn (2021) noted that the Nubian A-Group demonstrated distinct glyptic (in addition to Egyptian-style seals) which did not form part of the early Egyptian administrative system, and that the distinctly Nubian glyptic symbols do not resemble the Pre-dynastic Egyptian symbols. There are two different types of glyptic used in Nubian seals – Egyptian-style seals using Egyptian themes and motifs, and different Nubian-style seals using Nubian themes and motifs. Only the Egyptian-style was used in Egyptian seals.[60]

DNA studiesEdit

Contamination from handling and intrusion from microbes create obstacles to the recovery of ancient DNA.[61] Consequently, most DNA studies have been carried out on modern Egyptian populations with the intent of learning about the influences of historical migrations on the population of Egypt.[62][63][64][65] However, DNA grouping methods and classifications have attracted criticism in the view of some scholars for excluding data on African populations.[66]

Blood typing and DNA sampling on ancient Egyptian mummies is scant; however, a study published in 1982 found that blood typing of dynastic mummies found ABO frequencies to be most similar to primarily modern Egyptians,[67] and some also to Northern Haratin populations.[68] ABO blood group distribution shows that the Egyptians form a sister group to North African populations.[69]

Egyptologists, David O'Connor and Andrew Reid both anticipate that "It seems very likely, however, that the majority of the Ancient Egyptians will eventually be shown to be genetically closely related to some populations in other parts of Africa. Geographically, Egypt is part of Africa, genetically different groups can and do occupy different, and even the same parts of any continent, but geographically propinquity often does promote a high degree of genetic similarity over quite vast areas".[70]

A study published in 2017 described the extraction and analysis of DNA from 151 mummified ancient Egyptian individuals, whose remains were recovered from Abusir el-Meleq in Middle Egypt. The scientists said that obtaining well-preserved, uncontaminated DNA from mummies has been a problem for the field and that these samples provided "the first reliable data set obtained from ancient Egyptians using high-throughput DNA sequencing methods". The specimens represented a period stretching from the late New Kingdom to the Roman era (1388 BCE–426 CE). Complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences were obtained for 90 of the mummies and were compared with each other and with several other ancient and modern datasets. The scientists found that the ancient Egyptian individuals in their own dataset possessed highly similar mitochondrial profiles throughout the examined period. Modern Egyptians generally shared this maternal haplogroup pattern, but also carried more African clades. However, analysis of the mummies' mtDNA haplogroups found that they shared greater mitochondrial affinities with modern populations from the Near East and the Levant compared to modern Egyptians. Additionally, three of the ancient Egyptian individuals were analysed for Y-DNA, and were observed to bear paternal lineages that are common in both the Middle East and North Africa. The researchers cautioned that the affinities of the examined ancient Egyptian specimens may not be representative of those of all ancient Egyptians since they were from a single archaeological site.[71] Wolfgang Haak, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena noted that, “the genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300 year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained genetically relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule."[72]

A 2020 DNA study by Gad, Hawass et al, analysed mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal haplogroups from Tutankhamun’s family members of the 18th Dynasty, using comprehensive control procedures to ensure quality results. They found that the Y-chromosome haplogroup of the family was R1b, which originates in West Asia and which today makes up 50-60% of the genetic pool of modern Europeans. The mitochondrial haplogroup was K, which is most likely also part of a Near Eastern lineage. Because the profiles for Tutankhamun and Amenhotep III were incomplete, the analysis produced differing probability figures despite having concordant allele results. Because the relationships of these two mummies with the KV55 mummy had previously been confirmed in an earlier study, the haplogroup prediction of both mummies could be derived from the full profile of the KV55 data. However, the specific clade of R1b was not determined.The 20th Dynasty pair of Ramesses III and his son were found to have the haplogroup E1b1a, which has its highest frequencies in modern populations from West Africa and Central Africa, but which is rare among North Africans and nearly absent in East Africa.[73]

Anthropometric indicatorsEdit

Craniofacial criteriaEdit

The use of craniofacial criteria as reliable indicators of population grouping or ethnicity has been a longstanding focus of biological anthropology. In 1912, Franz Boas argued that cranial shape was heavily influenced by environmental factors and could change within a few generations under differing conditions, thereby making the cephalic index an unreliable indicator of inherited influences such as ethnicity.[74] Gravlee, Bernard and Leonard (2003),[75][76] Beals, Smith, and Dodd (1984) and Williams and Armelagos (2005) similarly posited that "race" and cranial variation had low correlations, and proposed that cranial variation was instead strongly correlated with climate variables.[77][78]

Brace (1993) differentiated adaptive cranial traits from non-adaptive cranial traits, asserting that only the non-adaptive cranial traits served as reliable indicators of genetic relatedness between populations.[79] This was further corroborated in studies by von Cramon-Taubadel (2008, 2009a, 2011).[80][81][82] Clement and Ranson (1998) claimed that cranial analysis yields a 77%-95% rate of accuracy in determining the racial origins of human skeletal remains. However, the traits are not clear until puberty, racial determination of preadolescent skulls is much more difficult.[83] A craniofacial study by C. Loring Brace et al. (1993) concluded that the Predynastic Egyptians of Upper Egypt and the Late Dynastic Egyptians of Lower Egypt were most closely related to each other. They also showed general ties with other Afro-Asiatic-speaking populations in North Africa, Neolithic and modern Europeans, and Indian people, but not at all with populations of sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Asia, Oceania, or the Americas. "Adjacent people in the Nile valley show similarities in trivial traits in an unbroken series from the delta in the north southward through Nubia and all the way to Somalia at the equator. At the same time, the gradient in skin color and body proportions suggests long-term adaptive response to selective forces appropriate to the latitude where they occur. An assessment of "race" is as useless as it is impossible. Neither clines nor clusters alone suffice to deal with the biological nature of a widely distributed population. Both must be used." He also commented, "We conclude that the Egyptians have been in place since back in the Pleistocene and have been largely unaffected by either invasions or migrations. As others have noted, Egyptians are Egyptians, and they were so in the past as well."[79] Joseph Deniker and other early anthropologists similarly noted that the overall cranial form of Ethiopid, Near Eastern Semitic and Berber ethnic groups, all of whom speak Hamito-Semitic languages, are largely the same.[84][85]

In 1996, Lovell and Prowse reported the presence of individuals buried at Naqada in what they interpreted to be elite, high status tombs, showing them to be an endogamous ruling or elite segment who were significantly different from individuals buried in two other, apparently nonelite cemeteries, and more closely related morphologically to populations in Northern Nubia than those in Southern Egypt.[86] Nancy Lovell wrote in 1999 that studies of skeletal remains indicate that the physical characteristics of ancient southern Egyptians and Nubians were "within the range of variation" for both ancient and modern indigenous peoples of the Sahara and tropical Africa, and that the distribution of population characteristics "seems to follow a clinal pattern from south to north", which may be explained by natural selection as well as gene flow between neighboring populations. She also wrote that the archaeological and inscriptional evidence for contact between Egypt and Syro-Palestine "suggests that gene flow between these areas was very likely," and that the early Nile Valley populations were "part of an African lineage, but exhibiting local variation".[87]

This view was also shared by the late Egyptologist Frank Yurco.[88]

Egyptologist Barry Kemp (2005) has reviewed the available skulls and skeletal evidence on the ancient Egyptians. He observes that skeletons from earlier periods, which would help elucidate the origin of the Predynastic Egyptians, are rare, and that the amount of samples available for study are "microscopically small".[89] Kemp states that it is dangerous to take one set of skeletons and use them to characterize the population of the whole of Egypt, because there is no single ancient Egyptian population to study, but rather a diversity of local populations.Specifically, he criticises the methodology of skewed databases such as the CRANID software and states "If, on the other hand, CRANID had used one of the Elephantine populations of the same period, the geographic association would be much more with the African groups to the south".[89] He notes also that Predynastic skulls from Upper Egypt appear to be noticeably different in their measurements from an Old Kingdom group from tombs around the pyramids of Giza.[89] Kemp cautions that the features of individuals within a population can be expected to display a degree of variation which can be quite wide and which may overlap with that present in a different population, and that characteristics change over time. Kemp asserts that modern Egyptians would therefore be the most logical and closest approximation to the ancient Egyptians.[89]

Sonia Zakrzewski in 2007 noted that population continuity occurs over the Egyptian Predynastic into the Greco-Roman periods, and that a relatively high level of genetic differentiation was sustained over this time period. She concluded therefore that the process of state formation itself may have been mainly an indigenous process, but that it may have occurred in association with in-migration, particularly during the Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom periods.[90]

A 1992 study conducted by Shomarka Keita on 1st dynasty crania from the royal tombs in Abydos, noted the predominant pattern was "Southern" (though others were also observed), which had affinities with Kerma Kushites. The general results demonstrate greater affinity with Upper Nile Valley groups, but also suggest clear change from earlier craniometric trends. The gene flow and movement of northern officials to the important southern city may explain the findings.[91] In 2008 Keita found that the early predynastic groups in Southern Egypt were similar craniometrically to Nile valley groups of Ethiopid extraction, and as a whole the dynastic Egyptians (includes both Upper and Lower Egyptians) show much closer affinities with these particular Northeast African populations. In his comparison to the various Egyptian series, Greeks, Somali/Horn, and Italians were used. He also concluded that more material was needed to make a firm conclusion about the relationship between the early Holocene Nile valley populations and later ancient Egyptians.[92]

In 2013, Terrazas et al. conducted a comparative craniometric analysis of paleolithic to modern crania from different parts of the continent. The purpose of the research, was to test certain hypothesis about the possible origins and evolution of the earliest people in Africa. In it, the dynastic Egyptian skulls were morphologically closest to Afroasiatic-speaking populations from the Horn region. Both of these fossil series possessed notable Middle Eastern affinities and were distinct from the analyzed prehistoric crania of North Africa and the Horn of Africa, including the Pleistocene Rabat skull, Herto Homo sapiens idaltu fossil and Early Holocene Kef Oum Touiza skeleton. The scientists suggest this may indicate that the Afroasiatic-speaking groups settled in the area during a later epoch, having possibly arrived from the Middle East. People in Northern and Eastern Africa would have been the result of local people and immigrants from Asia.[93]

In 2020, Godde analysed a series of crania, including two Egyptian (predynastic Badarian and Nagada series), a series of A-Group Nubians and a Bronze Age series from Lachish, Palestine. The two pre-dynastic series had strongest afffinities, followed by closeness between the Nagada and the Nubian series. Overall, both Egyptian samples were more similar to the Nubian series than to the Lachish series.[94]

Modern EgyptiansEdit

Patricia Smith, in her entry noted that "the biological characteristics of modern Egyptians show a north-south cline, reflecting their geographic location between sub-Saharan Africa and the Levant. This is expressed in DNA, blood groups, serum proteins and genetic disorders (Filon 1996; Hammer et al. 1998; Krings et al. 1999). They can also be expressed in phenotypic characteristics that can be identified in teeth and bones (Crichton 1966; Froment 1992; Keita 1996). These characteristics include head form, facial and nasal characteristics, jaw relationships, tooth size, morphology and upper/lower limb proportions. In all these features, Modern Egyptians resemble Sub-Saharan Africans (Howells 1989, Keita 1995)."[95]

Gad et al (2020) described recent studies which were conducted on modern Egyptian samples had produced predominantly European or west Eurasian haplogroups.[73]

Limb ratiosEdit

Trikhanus (1981) found Egyptians to plot closest to tropical Africans and not Mediterranean Europeans residing in a roughly similar climatic area.[96]

Robins and Shute (1983) performed X-ray measurements on the physical proportions of ancient Egyptian pharaohs from the 18th and 19th dynasties such as Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun, Seti I and Rameses II. The authors reported that the limbs of the pharaohs, like those of other Ancient Egyptians, had "negroid characteristics", in that the distal segments were relatively long in comparison with the proximal segments. An exception was Ramesses II, who appears to have had short legs below the knees.[97] According to Robins and Shute (1986) the average limb elongation ratios among pre-dynastic ancient Egyptians is higher than that of modern West Africans who reside much closer to the equator. Robins and Shute therefore term these ancient Egyptians to be "super-negroid" but state that although the body plans of the ancient Egyptians were closer to those of modern negroes than for modern whites, "this does not mean that the ancient Egyptians were negroes".[98]

Anthropologist S.O.Y. Keita (1993) criticized Robins and Shute, stating they do not interpret their results within an adaptive context, and stating that they imply "misleadingly" that early southern Egyptians were not a "part of the Saharo-tropical group, which included Negroes".[99]

Anthropologist C. Loring Brace (1993) points out that limb elongation is "clearly related to the dissipation of metabolically generated heat" in areas of higher ambient temperature. He also stated that "skin color intensification and distal limb elongation is apparent wherever people have been long-term residents of the tropics". He also points out that the term "super negroid" is inappropriate, as it is also applied to non-negroid populations. These features have been observed among Egyptian samples.[100]

Zakrzewski (2003) studied skeletal samples from the Badarian period to the Middle Kingdom in Upper Egypt. Her raw data suggested that the Ancient Egyptians in general had "tropical body plans" but that their proportions were actually "super-negroid", i.e. the limb indices are relatively longer than in many “African” populations. She proposed that the apparent development of an increasingly African body plan over time may also be due to Nubian mercenaries being included in the sample, especially in the Middle Kingdom sample. Zakrzewski concluded that the "results must remain provisional due to the relatively small sample sizes and the lack of skeletal material that cross-cuts all social and economic groups within each time period."[101]

Zakrzewski in 2006 examined the biological diversity found within a series of Predynastic skeletal populations from Middle and Upper Egypt. She found a significant change in the length of the distal limb segments through the Predynastic into the Early Dynastic period. She concluded that early Egyptian populations were not a homogeneous entity, but consisted of local groups with reasonably distinct identities. She also concluded that the State formation process was not an entirely indigenous development, but rather that other groups from elsewhere along the Egyptian Nile Valley as well as from other nearby regions also inter-married with the original Egyptian population.[102]

A 2008 study compared ancient Egyptian osteology to that of African-Americans and White Americans, and found that "although ancient Egyptians are closer in body proportion to modern American Blacks than they are to American Whites, proportions in Blacks and Egyptians are not identical."[103]

Gallagher et al. (2009) also points out that "body proportions are under strong climatic selection and evidence remarkable stability within regional lineages".[104]

Raxter (2011) noted that "Ancient Egyptians as a whole generally exhibit intermediate body breadths relative to higher and lower latitude populations, with Lower Egyptians possessing wider body breadths, as well as lower brachial and crural indices, compared to Upper Egyptians and Upper Nubians. This may suggest that Egyptians are closely related to circum-Mediterranean and/or Near Eastern groups, but quickly developed limb length proportions more suited to their present very hot environments. These results may also reflect the greater plasticity of limb length compared to body breadth." Nonetheless, Raxter acknowledges that although the study has larger samples than previous reports, it could have benefited from more data from particular periods and sites. "Larger samples from both Early and Late Predynastic groups would allow a closer examination of biological changes in the transition to agriculture."[105]

A study in 2013 examining skeletal remains, from a Roman-Era Kellis 2 cemetery, by Bleuze et al concluded as follows: "The results presented in this study suggest that body shape and intra-limb proportions among ancient Egyptian populations cannot be generalized as 'tropically adapted' or 'Negroid' as previously suggested." They further concluded that "their body mass relative to stature is greater than expected, and does not fit the “tropically adapted” scheme".[106]

Dental morphologyEdit

Modern studies on ancient Egyptian dentition clusters the Ancient Egyptians with Caucasoids (Europeans and Western Eurasians) who have small teeth, as opposed to Negroids (Western Sub-Saharan Africans) who have megadont/large teeth.[107][108] However, other dental studies have shown close relationship between ancient Badari and Naqada populations, and suggested continuity throughout the Dynastic period, with Egyptian samples being more closely related to Northern Africa rather than to Europe or the Middle East.[109]

Joel Irish (1998) examined 32 Sub-Saharan and North African dental samples dating from the late Upper Pleistocene to modern times. He found that North Africans are similar to Europeans and western Asians to some degree, whereas Sub-Saharan-affiliated Africans are very different to all others.[110] A separate 1998 paper by the same author, based on numerically-derived affinities using the multivariate Mean Measure of Divergence statistic, reported that Sub-Saharan samples were significantly different to samples from North Africa, Europe and elsewhere.[111] A 2006 bioarchaeological study on the dental morphology of ancient Egyptians in Upper Egypt by Joel Irish found that their dental traits were most similar to those of other Nile Valley populations, with more remote ties with Bronze Age to Christian period Nubians (e.g. A-Group, C-Group, Kerma) and other Afro-Asiatic speaking populations in Northeast Africa (Tigrean). Moreover, the Egyptian groups were generally distinct from the sampled West and Central African populations.[112] Among the samples included in the study is skeletal material from the Hawara tombs of Fayum, (from the Roman period) which clustered very closely with the Badarian series of the predynastic period. All the samples, particularly those of the Dynastic period, were significantly divergent from a neolithic West Saharan sample from Lower Nubia. Biological continuity was also found intact from the dynastic to the post-pharaonic periods. Irish (2008) conducted a morphological comparison between the dental traits of human remains from Lower Nubian Neolithic sites at Gebel Ramlah (modern Southern Egypt) and Upper Nubian Neolithic sites from the cemeteries at R12 (modern Northern Sudan). Irish compared these remains to pooled dental samples from post-Neolithic Egyptians and Nubians to determine and distinguish biological affiliatations in the regional context. He concluded that the Lower Nubian samples of Gebel Ramlah and the Upper Nubian samples of R12 were not closely related biologically, whereas the post-Neolithic Egyptians and Nubians were closely related based on the Mean Measure of Divergence statistical analysis of 36 dental traits from the samples. This apparent homogeneity was attributed to population interaction stemming from a combination of trade, migration and genetic exchange along the River Nile, whereas the earlier Neolithic groups were more isolated from each other, both spatially and genetically.[113]

Anthropologist Shomarka Keita takes issue with the suggestion of Irish that Egyptians and Nubians were not primary descendants of the African epipaleolithic and Neolithic populations. Keita also criticizes him for ignoring the possibility that the dentition of the ancient Egyptians could have been caused by "in situ microevolution" driven by dietary change, rather than by racial admixture.[114]

Eric Crubezy's team showed that Predynastic cemetery in Adaima in Upper Egypt showed "Khoisan" dental markers (formally referred to as "Bushmen canine")[115][116]

Language elementEdit

The Edwin Smith papyrus, the world's oldest surviving surgical document. Written in Hieratic script in Ancient Egypt around 1600 B.C.

The Ancient Egyptian language is classified into six major chronological divisions: Archaic Egyptian, Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic Egyptian and Coptic. The last was used as a working language until the 18th century AD. It is still used today as a liturgical language by Egyptian Copts.[117]


The Ancient Egyptian language has been classified as a member of the Afroasiatic language family. Of the other Afroasiatic branches, linguists have variously suggested that the Egyptian language shares its greatest affinities with neighbouring Berber[118] and Semitic[119][120] languages, particularly Hebrew.[119] However, other scholars have argued the Ancient Egyptian language likewise shared linguistic ties with north-eastern African regions. Christopher Ehret describes the oldest speakers of the Afro-Asiatic language family as "a set of peoples whose lands between 15,000 and 13,000 BCE stretched from Nubia in the west to far northern Somalia in the east."[121] Robert Morkot inferred that "Ancient Egyptian belongs to a language group known as 'Afro-Asiatic' (formerly called Hamito-Semitic) and its closest relatives are other north-east African languages from Somalia to Chad".[122] Russell Schuh, in an article criticizing the Hamitic theory[123] and Cheikh Anta Diop's attempt to link the Wolof language with Egyptian, argues that other Afrasian languages also share features with Egyptian, such as the Chadic languages of west and central Africa, the Cushitic languages of northeast Africa, and the Ethio-Semitic languages, which are found in Ethiopia and Eritrea.[124] There is no agreement on when and where these languages originated, though the language is generally believed to have originated somewhere in or near the region stretching from the Levant in the Near East to northern Kenya, and from the Eastern Sahara in North Africa to the Red Sea, or Southern Arabia, Ethiopia and Sudan.[125][126][127][128][129] There are however many scholars who accept an African phylum language origin since five of the six Afro-Asiatic subfamilies are spoken on the African continent, and only one in Asia.[130] The languages of the neighbouring Nubian people belong to the Nilo-Saharan language family, and thus not an Afroasiatic language.[131] However, the Cushitic language which is a sub-branch of the Afro-asiatic language family was spoken in Lower Nubia, an ancient region which extends from Upper Egypt to Northern Sudan, before the arrival of North Eastern Sudanic languages in the Middle Nile Valley.[132][133][134][135]

See alsoEdit


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    • Pg 1125 – "Late in the sixth millennium B.C., the Near Eastern complex of crops and livestock also spread to the Nile Valley."
    • Pg 1130 – "Before 4400 B.C., Merimde had become a substantial village with abundant settlement debris and capacious storage facilities, while similar sites began to appear elsewhere, first in the north and later in the south. By 4000 to 3800 B.C., full-time farmers lived in permanent villages in the south as well as the north (Wetterstrom 1993). The Near Eastern crop complex was the source of Egypt's first domesticates, and it formed the core of the agricultural economy through later periods (emmer wheat, six-row barley, lentils, peas, and flax, along with sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs). All of these, except perhaps cattle, probably came to Egypt from the Levant by way of the Sinai. As noted, cattle could have been independently domesticated in North Africa. The Near Eastern crops, all adapted to the Mediterranean climate, were planted in the fall after the annual flood had receded."
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    The ancient Egyptians, like their modern descendants, were of varying complexions of color, from the light Mediterranean type (like Nefertiti), to the light brown of Middle Egypt, to the darker brown of Upper Egypt, to the darkest shade around Aswan and the First Cataract region, where even today, the population shifts to Nubian. ... Ancient and modern Egyptian hair ranges from straight to wavy to woolly; in color, it varies from reddish brown to dark brown to black. Lips range from thin to full. Many Egyptians possess a protrusive jaw. Noses vary from high-bridged-straight to arched or even hooked-to flat-bridged, with bulbous to broad nostrils.

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