Page images



The Dynastic Egyptians, whom the sculptures and monuments made known to us as being among the most ancient inhabitants of the country, appear to have been the descendants of an invading race who entered Egypt in the Predynastic Period and conquered the country, and then intermarried with the indigenous people whom they found in possession of the Nile Valley. The original home of the invaders was, probably, Asia, and they may have made their way across Mesopotamia and Arabia, and across the Isthmus of Suez, or the Straits of Bâb al-Mandab, into Egypt. It has been suggested that they sailed across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea, on the western shore of which, near the modern ķuşêr, they landed ; that they came via Southern Arabia is more probable. It is, moreover, very doubtful if a people, who lived in the middle of a huge land like central Asia, would have enough experience to make and handle ships sufficiently large to cross such seas. No period can be fixed for the arrival of the new-comers from the East into Egypt; we are, however, justified in assuming that it took place long before B.C. 5000.

When the people from the East had made their way into Egypt, they found there at least two indigenous races, one with a dark, and one with a fair skin. The Egyptians generally called their land Qemt, i.e., “black”; and if the dark, rich colour of the cultivated land of Egypt be considered, the appropriateness of the term is evident The hieroglyphic which is read Qem, is the skin of a crocodile, and we know from Horapollo (ed. Cory, p. 87), that this sign was used to express anything of a

dark colour. * The name “ Ham” is given to Egypt by the Bible ; this word may be compared with the Coptic Книє, KKI or XншI. The children of Hаm аrе said to be Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The second of these, Misraim, is the name given to Egypt by the Hebrews. The dual form of the word, which means "the double Mișr," probably has reference to the “two lands” (in Egypt. ), over which the Egyptian kings, in their inscriptions, proclaimed their rule. The descendants of Cush are represented on the monuments by the inhabitants of Nubia and the Black Tribes which live to the south of that country. In the earliest times the descendants of Cush appear to have had the same religion as the primitive Egyptians. The Put of the Bible is thought by some to be represented by the land of Punt, or spice-land, of the monuments. The people of Punt appear to have dwelt on the west side of the Red Sea to the south of Egypt and on the Somali coast, and far inland, and so far back as B.C. 2500 a large trade was carried on between them and the Egyptians ; the Egyptians certainly regarded them as kinsmen, and some of them must have lived near Central Africa. The aboriginal nhabitants of Phænicia were probably the kinsfolk of the descendants of Mișraim, called by the Bible Canaanites. Diodorus and some other classical authorities tell us that Egypt was colonized from Ethiopia, i.e., Nubia. The civilization, religion, art of building, etc., of the Ethiopians, l.e., Nubians, are all of Egyptian origin, and in this, as in so many other points relating to the history of Egypt, the Greeks were either misinformed, or they misunderstood what they were told. On the other hand, the Nubians and dark-skinned races of the Sûdân hold many primitive beliefs in common with the Egyptians of pure African origin.

* "To denote darkness, they represent the TAIL OF A CROCODILE, for by no other means does the crocodile inflict death and destruction on any animal which it may have caught than by first striking it with its tail, and rendering it incapable of motion."

An examination of the painted representations of the Egyptians by native artists shows us that the pure Egyptian was of slender make, with broad shoulders, long handsand feet, and sinewy legs and arms. His forehead was high, his chin square, his eyes large, his cheeks full, his mouth wide, his lips full, and his nose short and rounded. His jaws protruded slightly, and his hair was smooth and fine. The evidence of the pictures on the tombs is supported and confirmed by the skulls and bones of mummies which anthropologists have examined and measured during the last few years ; hence all attempts to prove that the Egyptian is of negro origin are overthrown at the outset by facts which cannot be controverted. In cases where the Egyptians intermarried with people of Semitic origin, we find aquiline noses.* One of the most remarkable things connected with the Egyptians of to-day is the fact that a very large number of them have reproduced, without the slightest alteration, many of the personal features of their ancestors who lived seven thousand years ago. The traveller is often accompanied on a visit to a tomb of the Ancient Empire by a modern Egyptian who, in his attitudes, form, and face, is a veritable reproduction of the hereditary nobleman who built the tomb which he is examining. It may be that no invading race has ever found itself physically able to reproduce persistently its own characteristics for any great length of time, or it may be that the absorption of such races by intermarriage with the natives, together with the influence of the climate, has made such characteristics disappear ; the fact, however, remains, that the physical type of the Egyptian fellâh is exactly what it was in the earliest dynasties. The invasions of the Babylonians, Hyksos, Ethiopians (including negro races), Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks, have had no permanent effect either on their physical or mental characteristics. The Egyptian has seen the civilizations of all these nations rise up, progress, flourish, decay, and pass away; he has been influenced from time to time by their religious views and learning ; he has been the servant of each of them in turn, and has paid tribute to them all; he has, nevertheless, survived all of them save one. It will, of course, be understood that the inhabitants of the towns form a class quite distinct from the Egyptians of the country; the townsfolk represent a mixture of many nationalities, and their character and features change according to the exigencies of the time and circumstances in which they live and the influence of the ruling power.

* A very good example of this is seen in the black granite head of the statue on which Osorkon II. caused his names and titles to be inscribed, now in the British Museum (No. 1063). The lower part of the nose is broken away, but enough of the upper part remains to show what was its original angle. It was confidently asserted that this head belonged to a statue of one of the so-called Hyksos kings, but it was more probably made at an earlier period. Some think that the statue was made for Åmen-em-ḥāt III. The face and features are those of a man whose ancestors were Semites and Egyptians, and men with similar countenances are to be seen in the desert to the south-east of Palestine to this day.

In recent years, thanks chiefly to the excavations and labours of M. J. de Morgan,* formerly Director of the Gizah Museum, very considerable light has been thrown upon the predynastic inhabitants of Egypt, and the results of his work may be here briefly summarised. At the end of 1894 M. de Morgan made excavations at Al-'Amrah, a place which is situated a few miles to the south of Abydos, where he found a number of what are now rightly called predynastic tombs. The tombs were in the form of oval pits from three to five feet deep, and in these bodies had been laid on their left side with their legs doubled up

* M. Amélineau has described the excavations which he made at 'Imrah and other places in his Les Nouvelles Fouilles d'Abydos, Angers, 1896, and in subsequent publications.

in such wise that the knees were almost on a level with the chin. The head was bent forwards slightly, and the forearms were laid in such a position that the hands, one resting upon the other, might be in front of the face. Round the body were a number of large and small vases filled with various substances, and quite close to it were red and black vases, stone pots, figures of fish in schist, worked or unworked Rints, alabaster objects like mace-heads, shell bracelets, etc. In tombs of this class, objects in bronze were rarely found, a fact which proves that the metal was not common when the tombs were made. Most of the tombs are, according to M. de Morgan, the sepulchres of neolithic man in Egypt, but some of them seem to belong to the transition period between the stone and the bronze age. The bodies found in the tombs seem to have been treated with salt and some preparation of bitumen, and if this be so they are probably the oldest mummified remains known.

During the winter of 1894-5, Prof. Petrie carried on excavations along the edge of the desert between Ballas and Naķâda, about 30 miles north of Thebes. He stated that, in the course of his work, he found a masțăba pyramid, similar to that of Sakkâra, and a number of tombs of the IVth, Vth, and VIth dynasties; the pyramid, and all the tombs save one, had been plundered in ancient days. He believed his main discovery to be that of “a fresh and hitherto unsuspected race, who had nothing of the Egyptian civilization." The early announcements of his discovery stated that they were cannibals. According to Prof, Petrie, they lived after the rule of the IVth dynasty, and before that of the XIIth. “This new race must therefore be the people who overthrew the first great civilization of Egypt at the fall of the VIth dynasty, and who were in turn overthrown by the rise of the XIth dynasty at Thebes. As the Xth dynasty in Middle Egypt was contemporary with the greater part of the XIth dynasty, this limits the

« PreviousContinue »