Thursday, March 26, 2015

Interview with Christopher Ehret

Dr. Christopher Ehret

Christopher Ehret, UCLA
Interviewed by World History Connected Co-editor Tom Laichas

Editor's note: Apart from the Nile Valley, Ethiopia, and the Bantu migration, African history before 1000 CE hardly appears in world history classrooms and texts. Most of us assume that there simply isn't enough documentary or archaeological evidence to say anything about social and technological change.

Christopher Ehret wants to change that. Among the most innovative and provocative scholars working in African history, Ehret has made a career of studying the development of African languages, teasing from the linguistic history evidence for ancient social, economic, technological, and religious development. Ehret acknowledges that some readers may have trouble "getting comfortable with language evidence."1 The effort is worth the trouble. Languages "contain immense vocabulary resources that express and name the full range of cultural, economic, and environmental information available to their speakers."

Want to know when a particular people first domesticated animals? Take a look at their vocabulary for breeding and raising the animals. Look for similar vocabulary in languages spoken by related groups. If you can determine how long it has been since all these groups shared a common language, you may be on your way to dating the origins of stock raising. This is not easy work; it means applying a fine-grained knowledge of linguistic structure, while avoiding coincidental or misleading relationships. One test of the work is how well it predicts later archaeological discoveries. By that measure, Ehret has done well.

The Africa Ehret reveals cannot be described as unchanging or peripheral to world history. Among his most exciting ideas is that of an "African classical age," from about 1000 BCE to about 300 CE. During this period, he argues, peoples from four language families ­ Khoisan (sometimes known as Khoi-San and best known for the "clicks" in their languages), Afrasan (a.k.a., Afrasian or Afro-Asiatic), Nilo-Saharans and Niger-Congo peoples—encountered one another in the African Great Lakes region and along the eastern Rift Valley. That encounter helps account for the southward expansion of Bantu-speaking Niger-Congo communities, who adopted cattle-raising from Nilo-Saharan groups and independently worked iron. Recently, Ehret summarized much of this work in The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800.2

Read the interview here.

Christopher Ehret has been a valuable resource for Biblical Anthropology. His linguistic research resembles the detective work of Biblical anthropologists. Linguistically, the language of Nimrod's kingdom - Akkadian - has close affinity to the languages of the ancient Nile Valley, as has been demonstrated by Ehret's research. Ehret also recognizes that cattle were domesticated in Sudan as early as 9000 year ago. These cattle-herding Proto-Saharan or Saharo-Nubian peoples were among Abraham's ancestors. Messianic expectation originated with these peoples.

Dr. Ehret has written: "The linguistic, genetic, and archaeological evidence combine in locating the origins of this [Afrasian] family far south in Africa, in Eritrea or Ethiopia, and not at all in Asia. A complex array of lexical evidence confirms that the proto-Afrasian society belonged to the pre-agricultural eras of human history." (History of Africa, p.4)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lyre Music from 1400 BC

The oldest known melody dates to about 1400 B.C., and is performed by Michael Levy on solo lyre. This music dates to the time of the reign of Thutmose IV who inherited from his father, Amenhotep II, a vast empire that stretched from Nubia to Syria.

This piece was discovered in the 1950's in Ugarit, Syria. It was interpreted by Dr. Richard Dumbrill. Dr. Dumbrill wrote a book entitled The Archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East.

There were 29 musical texts found in the ruins of the palace at Ugarit, all dating to 1400 B.C.  The numbers given to the musical texts are to categorize the texts. Though this is believed to be the oldest hymn, it is labled "Hurrian Hymn Number 6."

The Hurrians were the northern Horites who lived in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley (Idumarez). The southern Horites lived in Edom (Idumea), south of Judah. However they were related peoples. Moses's brother-in-law was named Hur. I Chronicles 4:4 names Hur as the first born of Ephrathath and the "father" of Bethlehem. 

The word "Horite" takes many forms: Khar, Hur, Horonaim, Horoni, Horowitz, Horim, and Hori. Hori was the son of Lotan son of Seir whose descendants were the "lords of the Horites in the land of Seir" (Edom) according to Genesis 36:20-29 and 1 Chronicles 1:38-42.

(Lot, Lotan, and Nimlot are Egyptian titles. Nimlot C was the High Priest of Amun at Thebes during the latter part of the reign of his father Osorkon II.)

In the ancient world Horite priests were known for their purity and devotion to the High God whose emblem was the Sun. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

Related reading: Moses's Horite Family; Samuel's Horite Family; Abraham and Job: Horite Rulers

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Roads Connected Abraham's Territory

The data of Genesis suggests that Abraham's territory extended on a north-south axis between his two wives Sarah and Keturah. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah resided in Beersheba. Abraham had wells in Gerar to the west and likely watered his livestock to the east at Engedi. There were ancient routes between these places.

Tel 'Eton is a prominent site that covers about 15 acres, and is located some 11 km east-southeast of Tel Lachish (2 km to the south of Moshav Shekef). The ancient city is situated near an important junction between the north-south road that meandered along the trough valley connecting the Beersheba valley and the Ayalon valley, and the east-west road that connected the coastal plain and the Shephelah with Hebron.

See the report on the Tel 'Eton excavations here.

Hebron, Tel 'Eton, and Beersheba were in ancient Idumean or Edom.

At Tel 'Eton rock tombs from the Israelite Period have been found. Lions flank the steps descending from the entrance at Tomb One. Two scarabs were found in this tomb.

The sides of the passage of Tomb Two are raised by courses of large stones. In this tomb a cross was scratched on the wall near one of the niches.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kushite Burial Practices

Alice C. Linsley

Biblical Kush was a vast region that included Egypt, Sudan, Nubia, the coastal areas of the Horn of Africa, and the Afro-Arabian populations living in Ramah, Sheba and Dedan.

DNA studies show "genetic unity and linkage" between the Sudanic, Egyptian, Nubian and other Nilotic peoples, as well as some populations of the Horn of Africa. (Yurco (1996), Keita (1993, 2004, 2005) Lovell (1999), Zakrewski (2003, 2007). The Copts are one of the oldest Egyptian populations. This is based on the relatively high frequency of the B-M60 marker (c.60,000 BP), indicating early pre-dynastic colonization of Egypt by Upper Nilotes.

These are the peoples among whom the themes of Genesis 1-3 are found. 

The Nilotic Kushites were expert pyramid builders, as were their European kinsmen the Kushan. They build thousands of pyramids across the ancient world. Some have been located in Niger and other parts of the Sahara. Many along the Nile Valley. Pyramids have also been found in Bosnia, and Southern China.

In addition to building pyramids, the Kushites buried their dead in underground tombs. Here is a report on excavations at this Nile cemetery near the modern-day village of Dangeil.

Several of the tombs have been excavated and archaeologists have found artifacts such as a silver ring, engraved with an image of a horned deity. They also discovered a faience box, decorated with large eyes, called "udjat" and generally recognized as the eyes of Horus.

The construction of such tombs required skills in mining engineering. The Kushites were known to have sophisticated mining operations in the Nuba Hills where they mined gold and in Edom where they mined copper.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Jesus' Home in Nazareth?


Archaeologists working in Nazareth — Jesus' hometown — in modern-day Israel have identified a house dating to the first century that was regarded as the place where Jesus was brought up by Mary and Joseph.

The house is partly made of mortar-and-stone walls, and was cut into a rocky hillside. It was first uncovered in the 1880s, by nuns at the Sisters of Nazareth convent, but it wasn't until 2006 that archaeologists led by Ken Dark, a professor at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, dated the house to the first century, and identified it as the place where people, who lived centuries after Jesus' time, believed Jesus was brought up.

Whether Jesus actually lived in the house in real life is unknown, but Dark says that it is possible. 

Jesus' House? 1st-Century Structure May Be Where He Grew Up

"Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds," Dark wrote in an article published in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review. "On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such an identification should be discounted."

Jesus is believed to have grown up in Nazareth. Archaeologists found that, centuries after Jesus' time, the Byzantine Empire (which controlled Nazareth up until the seventh century) decorated the house with mosaics and constructed a church known as the "Church of the Nutrition" over the house, protecting it.

Crusaders who ventured into the Holy Land in the 12th century fixed up the church after it fell into disrepair. This evidence suggests that both the Byzantines and Crusaders believed that this was the home where Jesus was brought up, Dark said.

Read it all here.

This is a fascinating article and there is anthropological support for the identification of this structure as a possibility, but nothing like proof.

The ruler-priest caste/clans, to which Jesus' mother and Joseph belonged, were known to be mining experts who also were the builders of stone tombs. They also lived in similar stone structures. Their skill is evident in Joseph of Arimathea who was a mining expert (with connections in Cornwall) and a tomb builder. Jesus was laid in Joseph's personal stone tomb, one fitting for a high ranking member of the Sanhedrin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Removal of Wisdom's Tongue

Alice C. Linsley

An African friend recently noted that one focus of Biblical Anthropology is the recovery or unveiling of the African antecedents of the Hebrew (Habiru) and their religion. This is done by focusing on the anthropologically significant data in Genesis 1-12. Here we find evidence of the Nilo-Saharan cultural context of Abraham's ancestors.

My friend wrote that this research has given encouragement and hope to many Africans seeking to connect with the beliefs of their ancestors. He explained, "I've have studied constantly for the past 6 years, and I thought I knew a lot until I read your blogs. What's your secret in piecing your facts together?"

I responded: There is no secret. The work involves using solid principles of kinship analysis and cultural anthropology. Then I double check my data. I find much valuable information in the first 12 chapters of the Hebrew Bible. Many words there are not originally Hebrew, but Nilo-Saharan. The ancient Nilo-Saharan peoples moved many directions inside and outside of Africa. This has been confirmed by artifacts, DNA studies, linguistics and anthropology. The world owes much to the earliest Africans. They are the founders of astronomy, medicine, math, agriculture, animal husbandry, systems of writings, navigation on the great water systems, theology, and philosophy (Plato studied for 13 years under a Horite priest in Memphis, Egypt).

My friend wanted to know about connections between Africa and ancient Sumer. This is what I told him:

There is little doubt that the rulers of the various ancient African kingdoms married within their ruling lines and some of those ruling lines were in Sumer. When we study Africa and the ancient Near East, we must remember that the society of rulers was different than the society of the common people. The rulers were very high, seen as deified, divinely appointed, not to be touched. Powerful men who built kingdoms. The people they ruled over included different clans and castes, but all were
called by the name of the ruler.

The Sumerians were ethnically Kushite,as far as I can tell. They were cattle-herding peoples with darker skin, though some had a lighter red skin tone, more like burnished copper. All physical features found in humans today were already present in ancient African populations. This is why it
is not accurate to speak of Africa as the continent of black people. It is the mother land of all humans! For example, there were red and black Nubians before the time of Abraham. They were brothers, but like tended to marry like; red with red, and black with black. Eventually this led to the distinction between Haplogroups R1a and R1b. 

To this my friend responded: "Can you explain why this information is suppressed from mainstream learning? It would stop all the confusion of the world in a instance. Some leaders have always known this knowledge that you know so well but never utter a word."

To this question, I responded:

There are many reasons why such knowledge is not widely known and embraced.

1. True wisdom is always veiled. It must be pursued. One must draw close to the mystery before God will reveal.

2. The demons wish to keep us from knowing the truth. We struggle against higher powers that always distort, corrupt, tarnish, and make what is pure impure.

3. Racism exists and it cuts many directions. Racism makes people lie about others. It also keeps people from seeing the truth about others.

4. The American system of education is based on the educational philosophy of the Marxist atheist John Dewey. Dewey insisted that students in American public schools should not discuss metaphysical topics such as eternity, the divine nature, the soul, the relationship of humans to other living creatures, the binary feature in the order of creation, God, etc. This means that we can't talk about things that matter very much to Africans.

5. The prevailing Western philosophy is that there is no Truth. There is only opinion and feelings, and one person's opinions/feelings are as valid and good as the other person's. In this context wisdom cannot be recognized. It is as if Wisdom's tongue has been cut out.

6. European and American Bible scholars have neglected the African context of Genesis, but Africans who read this material recognize the African tones immediately. In this study native speakers of Hausa, Luo and Oromo (Somali) demonstrated the thematic and linguistic parallels between Genesis 1-3 and their traditional beliefs.

7. It takes courage to speak the truth. Truth is constantly challenged by those who impose their lies for personal gain. Truth often extracts as high price. That is why they kill prophets in every generation. The tongue that speaks truth is a sacrifice.

Related reading:  Recovering the African Foundations of GenesisWho Laid the Foundations of Science?; Seats of Wisdom; Red and Black Smiths; Common Questions About Genesis; Learning to Question Narratives; Pragmatism and American Education; Abusing Biblical Lists; The Wisdom of Yeshua Ben Sira

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stone Work of the Ancient World

Alice C. Linsley

One of the earliest occupations of Man was stone work. Sharp-edged flakes, flake fragments, and cobbles have been dated to between 2.5 and 2.6 million years. These were discovered at three sites along the Gona River in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Similar stone tools, known as Oldowan, have been found at Omo in southern Ethiopia, Lokalalei in northern Kenya, and Hadar, five miles east of the Gona River study area.

At Kathu in South Africa, archaeologists collected many thousands of stone tools and products of tool making in a few sample pits over a several acres. The archaeologists estimated that there are on average 900 artifacts per 100x100x10 cm volume of material in this area with much of the area up to 2 meters deep in artifact rich soils. This high concentration of stone artifacts along with available source rock in nearby outcrops suggests that this was a tool making center between 800,000 and 500,000 years ago. (Also see Foley RA, Lahr MM (2015) Lithic Landscapes: Early Human Impact from Stone Tool Production on the Central Saharan Environment.)

On the Arabian Peninsula, the Qafzeh population created stone tools 125,000 years ago at Jebel Faya. These suggest that humans reached the Arabian Peninsula not from the Lower Nile Valley 119,000 to 81,000 years ago or from the Mediterranean shores 65,000 to 40,000 years ago, but much earlier from the Horn of Africa. The oldest tools were dated to approximately 120,000 years ago, and included denticulates, end-scrapers, foliates, hand axes, and side-scrapers.

Stone knapping involved health hazards for the workers. The inhalation of siliceous dust would have led to lung disease. The fact that this work was done most often in the open air improved the working conditions. When mining operations began, the risk of the disease increased. Neolithic miners and Egyptian mine workers suffered from the disease, but the workers who mined in the Lebombo Mountains 90,000 years ago would have suffered from respiratory problems also.

Some prehistoric stone artifacts were not used as tools. The Blombos Cave Plaque, dating to 80,000 years PB, may have served as a calendar or a counting device.

Blombos Cave Plaque
The Lebombo Mountains of South Africa mines were in operation between 100,000 and 80,000 years ago. These were not small hallows in the earth, but major mining operations in which thousands of mining tools have been found. Red ochre was extracted from large mining operations in the Lebombo Mountains. Red ochre was used almost universally in the burial of nobles between 45,000 and 2000 B.C.

The oldest known stone temple is at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. Göbekli Tepe is classified as a Pre-Pottery Neolithic site (PPN). It is designated PPNA (ca 10,500 to 9,500 BC) which puts it in the same class as Jericho, Netiv Hagdud, Nahul Oren, Gesher, Dhar', Jerf al Ahmar, Chogha Golan and Abu Hureyra. This site is located in the "land between the rivers" and was an ancient crossroads. The temple here predates by about 3000 years the oldest temple built by Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors at Nekhen.

Tombs at Nekhen

This early 18th Dynasty tomb is heavily carved as befits a tomb of an Overseer of Stone Carvers.

Many artifacts of great importance have been found at Nekhen. These include funeral masks, statues, jewelry, beer vats, large flint knives, and the pillared halls characteristic of later Egyptian monuments and temples. Nekhen is where the oldest life-sized human statue was found: a priest from the temple of Horus, dated about 3000 BC.

The oldest known temple (c. 5000 BC) to have association with Abraham's ancestors is the predynastic temple at Nekhen. The temple was located on the Nile, making it easier for temple officials to weigh and measure goods and assess tolls on the vessels that docked there. The temple consisted of a large oval courtyard surrounded by a mud-plastered reed fence. The courtyard was paved with multiple layers of compressed mud. This temple closely resembles shrines depicted on seals from the First Dynasty.

A later temple (c.3500 BC) was built within the precincts of the city. The earliest phase of this temple was a circular stone wall surrounding a large mound of sand supported by limestone blocks on which there may have been an Early Dynasty shrine. A number of limestone fragments, likely the footings for large pillars, were found within the stone enclosure wall. The central shrine consisted of three rooms and four 20-foot high wood pillars. Animals, including cattle, goats, fish and crocodiles, were sacrificed in the oval courtyard.

By this time, Nekhen had a population estimated at 10,000 inhabitants and was the most important settlement along the Nile. The city stretched for over two miles along the edge of the floodplain and was an important shrine city and commercial center. There were stone masons, weavers, potters, and beer brewers. Metal workers crafted sacred objects of gold and copper. 

Narmer Palette

In 1898 J.E. Quibell and F.W. Green found the macehead of Scorpion and the macehead and palette of Narmer at the main deposit of the temple of Horus. Also found at Nekhen were a seated red pottery lion and the great gold plumed falcon representing Horus, the son of Ra. Nekhen was named for Horus of the Falcon: Nekheny.

Stone tombs of El-Amarna

The capital of Akhenaten is at ancient Amarna, about 365 miles south of Cairo. It is set between cliffs at a narrow stretch along the Nile. 

Tomb of Tutu
Tutu was a very high ranked ruler-priest of Akhenaten. His titles included:

Overseer of all the craftsmen of the Lord of the Two Lands (Upper and Lower Nile)
Overseer of all the works of His Majesty
Overseer of silver and gold 
Chief spokesman of the entire land

Tombs at Giza and Abusir

Egyptian archaeologists discovered a 4400-year-old tomb, south of the cemetery of the pyramid builders at Giza, Egypt. The ancient tomb was unearthed near the pyramid builder's necropolis. The tomb belongs to a priest named Rudj-Ka (or Rwd-Ka), and is dated to between 2465 and 2323 BCRudj-Ka was a priest who performed purification rituals for those who bore blood guilt and who had become contaminated through contact with blood or a corpse.

The tomb of the priest Shepseskaf-ankh's is the third tomb found at Abusir belonging to a physician. A huge false door inside the offerings chapel carries the names and titles of the tomb owner: “Priest of Re in the Temples of the Sun” and “Priest of Khnum” with other titles that indicate the high rank of this ruler-priest. Originally the huge limestone tomb was marked by a pyramid. The discovery was made at Abusir near Cairo, not at the Abusir in Sudan.

The Czech mission, led by Miroslav Barta, stated that the construction of the tombs in Abusir began during the mid 5th Dynasty and many priests and officials who worked in the Abusir Pyramid complex of the 5th Dynasty and the Sun Temples were buried there.

Tombs built by the Hittite sons of Heth

Sarah died at Hebron (Arba) (Gen. 23:2-11) and Abraham requested a burying place for her of the sons of Heth. They offered him his choice of their stone tombs. It is likely that the deed to the cave with these tombs was part of the property that Abraham passed to his son Isaac (Gen. 25:5–6). According to Genesis 49:29, the cave tombs that Abraham bought with the field of Ephron were used to bury Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah.

Many tombs from the Early to the Middle and Late Bronze Ages have been found throughout Palestine. The most usual tomb was a natural cave or chamber reached through a vertical shaft which could be sealed by a stone slab (see image above). This is probably the type of burial place Abraham purchased from the Hittites who recognized him as "a great prince among us" (Gen. 23:6).  Genesis 10:15-19 indicates that the people of Heth were kinsmen of Abraham. They too were descendants of Noah from whom came Sidon and Heth.

HT is the Hebrew and Arabic root for copper - nahas-het. Nahash means serpent. As an adjective it means shining bright, like burnished copper. The clans of HeT were Bronze Age copper smiths who ranged from Timnah to Anatolia. The serpent image was sacred for them, just as it was for Moses the Horite ruler who fashioned a bronze serpent and set it on the standard (Numbers 21:9).

Royal Tombs in Anatolia

Royal tombs made of stone have been discovered in Alaca Hüyük and Horoztepe in Anatolia, dating to c. 2400–2200. The word "tepe" means hill in Turkish. "Horoz-tepe" is a reference to Horus and his devotees, the Horite ruler-priests, who were in Anatolia.  They are referenced in ancient texts as the Nes. In addition to stone work, they were smiths who introduced iron work to Anatolia. They called themselves the Nes (NS) and their language was called Nesli. Many magnificent artifacts have been recovered from these tombs, including this Sun disk from Alaca Hüyük (shown right).

Other rock tombs in Anatolia include stone sarcophagi and pillar tombs. The rock cut tombs at Myra resemble the rock-cut facades at Petra.

Rock-cut tombs at Myra

Rock-cut tombs at Petra (Note the red Edomite soil.)
Photo: Dennis Jarvis

The 3-story stone temple at Petra exhibits the typical Divine Triad of Supreme God, the Divine Son Horus, and the Mother Goddess Hathor. The connection to the kings of Egypt is evident in the name of Petra's central temple: Qasr al-Bint al-Faroun which means "The Fortress of the Daughter of Pharaoh." Its walls rise to over 75 feet. The temple was built between the late first century BC and the first century AD. Its precinct covers about 81,376 square feet or 7,560 square meters. A large open plaza was lined with 120 columns. The columns were adorned with Asian elephant-head capitals and provide evidence of connections between ancient Edom and India and other lands of the ancient Near East.

Tombs and Mining Operations

Oral tradition holds that the ruler-priest Joseph Ar-Mathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a follower of Jesus, came to Cornwall in connection to mining operations there. Because mining and tomb construction involve the same skills and knowledge, these were the work of a select group who were related to the ancient priestly families. The same was true for metal work. Aaron fabricated the golden Horus calf and Moses made the bronze serpent. Along the Nile, royal priests were involved in the construction of tombs. From the time of the earliest pharaohs mining and tomb construction were the work of ruler-priests.

There is no reason to doubt the historicity of Joseph Ar-Mathea's connection to Cornwall. He had business in Cornwall as a metal tradesman and a mining expert.  Joseph provided the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest. It was his own tomb, so it was fitting for a priest of an ancient royal bloodline.