Friday, 15 July 2011


High Court of Uganda

“How are we astonished when we reflect that to the race of Negroes at present our slaves and the objects of our extreme contempt, we owe our arts and science,” Count Volney, 1791 (Egypt vs Greece, by M.K. Asante and Ama Mazama, 2002).
The quotation above epitomises one of history’s greatest paradoxes the fall of Africans from the pinnacle of civilisation to the status of the wretched of the earth (to borrow Franz Fanon’s phase). Count Volney accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt (1799 – 1801) in the latter’s quest to establish his short-lived empire. Volney was a scholar of great insight and objectivity. He went on to observe that original Egyptians “must have been real Negroes of the same species with all the natives of Africa.” He was a French man and so he had no desire or motive to falsify history in favour of Africans against Europeans.
Readers will have noticed from media publications that Japan and China, as examples are interested in the way each other’s history text books are written. The way history is taught affects our attitudes towards ourselves and other people we interact with, and thus can have practical implications. In this column, I have attempted to show from available academic publications, without any embellishment, that Africans should think of themselves as people who once “advanced and civilized the rest of the world, but due to certain factors, especially violence against them, later declined. It is significant emphasize that I am not a professional scholar or academic. I rely mainly on proven authorities to advance my views. In this discourse it is intended to show that science as learnt by Europeans in modern times is African in origin. The controversy as to whether the classical Greeks acquired their science and other form of knowledge from Africans (Egyptians) continues to engage the minds of intellectuals and general readers and observers. Greeks in European tradition are regarded as the paragons of rationality, abstract thinking, and the scientific spirit. Hence, to contend that Greeks were civilized by Africans is to challenge the whole edifice of European claim (on the part of racists) to superiority over “people of colour”, and equally important, to lay a ground for Africans demand to be treated with dignity. Your presenter is alive to famine, poverty and civil strife engulfing many parts of Africa; by pointing out some of our positive qualities and achievements it is hoped, to some measure, we can start thinking positively and eventually get our priorities right.
In academia and scholarship generally, writers talk about white triumphalism – the phenomenon of white preponderance globally in the last 500 years, in the exercise of power, influence in military, economic and cultural spheres. Martin Bernal, [a well-known author, who wrote Black Athena, The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation (1991, Vol. I)] and a European himself argued that Greeks acquired their civilization from Egyptians and some Asiatics. Leading intellectuals in America were up to arms against him. An entire book, Heresy in the University – Berlinerbalu (1999) was written largely based on the fact that Bernal was not trained in anthropology or sociology. One of the writers referred to Martin Bernal as the son of an infamous scientist. Dr. Martin Bernal’s father, Dr. David Bernal, wrote Science in History, in 4 volumes and was quite critical of the abuse of science (both physical and social) in some quarters in Europe and North America. Yet other authors raised doubts about his evidence and reasons in arriving at the conclusions that Greece was influenced by black – Egypt. He responded yet in another volume Black – Athena – Vol. II, the Archaeological and Documentary Evidence.” Of interest to readers, I hope, is Martin Bernal’s intention from his own explanation in writing his book, (a third volume, providing a linguistic proof that the Greek language has many of its roots, more than 25% in Egyptian was in the offing when I last acquainted myself with his works) to the effect that he wanted to curb European arrogance – by demonstrating that European achievements owe a lot to other cultures as well. My humble endeavor is to show the vital role-played by Africans in the crucial inventions and discoveries in European civilization – the spread of African knowledge to the rest of the world was traced in earlier presentations in this column. As earlier as indicated, if we go by the invention of writing by Africans, Africans became civilized over 6000 years ago: European dominance is only 500 years old; starting with the defeat of Moors (Blacks originating from North Africa) in 1492 at the hands of the Spanish when they were finally pushed out of Southern Europe into Africa. Moors were Islamized Africans who carried civilization to Europe after the European Dark Ages.
As matters of historical fact, the decisive inventions and discoveries in human affairs (culture and civilization) before modern times were made by people other Europeans. Among some of the crucial inventions and discoveries are printing, gunpowder, and the prismatic compass. The leading ‘discoveries’ made by Johannes Kepler on movement of the planets, Nicolaus Copernicus on the central position of the sun in our solar system, the foundation of modern mechanics by Isaac Newton, circulation of blood by William Harvey, were in fact African in origin.
The punishments meted out to Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno for their sins in opposing the Church will be compared to demonstrate European hostility to African ideas, and argue that the Eurocentricism should be tempered with acknowledgement of other people’s contribution to culture and civilization. The wonder of wonders, Atomic Theory and gravitation are black African ideas in essence.
The importance of printing in modern times is that during the European Renaissance, the Bible became available in large numbers and so an average person could acquire and read it. This was very important in the reformation of the Church (Protestant) and Counter-Reformation (Catholic). Printing was invented by the Chinese Europeans acquired the art at the time of the Renaissance.
The decisive role played by gunpowder in warfare and conquest of the rest of the world by Europeans is beyond contention. According to David Bernal, (Science in History, 1981) debate on who get credit for its invention centres on Arabs, Greeks, Chinese (and Egyptians) but the scales lean in favour of Chinese. The Egyptians knew the chemical composition of gunpowder. The ancients used it for fireworks in ceremonies: it was modified to propel a missile in Europe in the middle ages. The Egyptians were the pioneers of the discipline of Chemistry – the etymology of the word, KHEM, being the same as KEMET (black people of Egypt). The heating of equipment and substances turned the apparatus black and, probably, gave its name to the subject (Cheikh anta Diop [1981].
The prismatic compass makes the navigation of the high seas possible without losing direction, and hence in decisive in voyages of discovery of other lands. The builders of the Great Pyramid at Giza, near Cairo had knowledge of the compass because the pyramid is aligned to the cardinal points of the earth (Martin Bernal).
From information on the Pyramid (Great) one can also tell that Ancient Black Egyptians had discovered movement of the planets round the sun because the measurements at the base of the pyramid are a comparison with the distance marked by the planet Venus in its revolution around the sun and our present calendar is based on approximately 265 days our earth takes to move around the sun. Incidentally to the best of my knowledge, only the King (Pharaoh, Cheops in Greek; Khufu in Egyptian) is named among the giant brains behind the amazing Great Pyramid. African approach tends to be communal rather than individualistic and does not insist on personal fame. But evidently Kepler [1571-1630] was not the first person to explain the movement of planets. He was preceded by Blacks (Egyptians).
Copernicus is credited with marking the end of the Church’s supremacy in scientific thought by demonstrating that the earth is not the centre of the universe Heliocentricity (the idea that the earth moves round the sun and not the other way round) was commonplace among the ancients. The Egyptians worshipped the sun because of its central position in our solar system, and as the chief divinity and life giving force. They were aware that without the un there can be no life on earth.
Isaac Newton [1440-1700], the father of modern mechanics, in his book Principia Mathematica, made it clear that he was convinced after studying Egyptian systems, that Egyptians knew gravity and were acquainted with the Atomic Theory.
Although Dr. Harvey is thought to have discovered circulation of blood in the body, Dr. Charles Finch III of Morehouse University reminds us that 6,000 years ago, in a book entitled The Book of the Heart and Vessels, Nile Valley doctors had realized the heart is the centre of a circulatory system that sends blood through the major vessels emanating from the heart to the body’s vital organs, and as expected, measured the pulse as an aid to diagnosis (M.K. Asante and Ama Mazama – Egypt vs Greece and The American Academy 2002).
When classical Greeks appeared on the historical scene as men of great learning (650 – 300 B.C.), Egyptians had, which is evident from above observations, mastered science, astronomy, mathematics, medicine etc. The clearest indication of African anteriority in scientific thought as opposed to European ideas is available in the Memphite Theology, formulated by Pharaoh (King) Shabaka, dated 750 B.C. The king made it clear that he had compiled the wisdom of his ancestors from the interior of Africa. The civilization of Egypt emanated from the interior in Sudan as can be demonstrated beyond contention and subsequently spread northwards. Classical Greeks never disputed their debt in scientific thought to Africans and readily studied under the tutelage of Egyptian Priests who at the time were the most advanced in matters of learning of all types – Theology, Philosophy, the Arts, Law Medicine, Mathematics, Astronomy, Music etc. Egypt in Greek means black and the name was given to mean the land of Black people.
 Historians and general readers alike will recall the empire of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) a Greek, encompassed Egypt and its capital eventually was shifted from Greece to Alexandria. Egyptians of today’s Egyptian Republic retain the name of their city of more than 6 million people on the Mediterranean Coast. At the time of Alexander the city had the biggest collection of books (Library) in the whole world, based and containing ideas from African civilization. All these facts were taken for granted until the era of racist ideologies, after enslavement of Africans and decimation of the native populations of America (North and South) as well as Australia. The motive was to justify colonialism and slavery.
Hence the latest explanations to explain the nature of reality and the character of matter – attributed to John Dalton (Atomic Theory) cannot be fully and properly appreciated in its historical context unless the Egyptian (African) basis of Greek learning is addressed. Dalton (1766-1844) postulated that matter exist in small particles which can neither be created nor destroyed (among other things). Of course now, since the era of Dr. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) it is common knowledge that matter is destroyed (changed) in nuclear reactions and converted into energy. The theory in actual fact is traceable back to Greek philosophers such as  Democritus (420 – 310 B.C.) As we all remember the European Renaissance was said to be a return to Greek learning and ideas after the Dark Ages but Egyptians had much earlier than the Shabaka era put forward theories which indicate that they are the originators of Atomic Theory (as Isaac Newton himself acknowledged) in that according to them, creation came after chaos, commenced with the sun God Atum (Atom) from which all other planets sprang. George G. M. James, [1992, 1998] informs us that the current theory associated with Laplace [1749-1827] to explain the origin of the solar system based on the Memphite Theology - so known because it was worked in the city of Memphis in Egypt. The practice of learned Greek intellectuals visiting Egypt for acquisition of knowledge has been noted. Incidentally ancient Egyptians did not assert that matter cannot be destroyed. According to the sourced authorities the Greek inclusion in the Atomic Theory on the indestructibility of matter was due to a misinterpretation of Egyptian science and philosophy (George G.M. James).
As the debate as to whether Greeks were civilized by Africans rages on, two factors settle the question in favour of Africans once and for all, unless racism is permitted to continue to blur our sense of judgment. These factors are melanin and hieroglyphics.
Melanin is the substance in the body that most sharply defines Africans, because Africans have the most of it. In the course of evolution through mutation, European lost it (Cheikh Anta Diop). African genes are the most diverse an original of all human beings. The presence of melanin in the (mummified) bodies of Egyptians in pyramids 3000 BC, which is the same degree as Africans south of the Sahara, settles the debate conclusively. According to Cheikh Anta Diop, melanin can survive for millions of years and so no amount of testimony will change the character of African civilizations from black to any other colour. At the risk of repetition, Greek science and philosophy surfaced more than 2500 years after Egyptians had perfected all ideas that led to European civilization.
Hieroglyphics as a system of writing was peculiarly Egyptian in character. It is pictorial with phonetic signs for ‘letters’, which indicate the category of the word’s meaning. It first appeared in the 4th millennium B.C. (Martin Bernal).  Classical Greeks (650 – 300 B.C.) wrote in the alphabet and therefore if any scientific or mathematic principle (or any other idea for that matter) is written in hieroglyphics it is Egyptian and not Greek. The hieroglyphics gradually developed into hieratic and eventually into demotic, which survives in the Coptic Church liturgy but still cannot be mistaken for the alphabet, which is a late development, applied by Phoenicians and other people. Many scholars including Cheikh Anta Diop believe Phoenicians were black in race: as great men of commerce in many countries the alphabet was much simpler than hieroglyphics and was meant to simplify communication.
The Egyptian elite, on the other hand, jealously guarded their knowledge and hieroglyphics achieved this end by concealing the inner meaning from those who were not initiated into their secret knowledge system. For this reason, by the way, many observers, such as George G.M. James, believe classical Greeks never mastered Egyptian ideas. Proof of scientific and mathematical ideals lies in the hieroglyphics writings available before Greek Classical Civilization.
Any attempt to portray Egyptian civilization as non-black is not tenable. Egypt as a world power was not militarily defeated by Assyria till 6th century, and it was not until 525 BC, that Black (Egypt) was defeated, occupied and colonized on a large scale by another power – Persia in 525 B.C. It is then that mass movement of Black Egyptians headed southwards and might as well have marked mass migrations of Black Africans from Egypt to other parts of the continent. Thereafter, Greek, Roman, Arab, Turkish and European conquerors followed. Egyptian civilization, then by 525 B.C. had reached its apogee.
The arts, religion, philosophy, science and mathematics had been established – the latter were highly theoretical and abstract in nature – giving the lie to racist claims that Africans are incapable of thinking at abstract level. The theory of the origin of the universe covered in Memphite Theology, 750 B.C., on which present day scientific theories are based could not have been put forward by people without capacity to think at abstract level. Cheikh Anta Diop, [Civilization or Barbarism – An Authentic Anthropology, 1981, 1991] has devoted a whole chapter to Africans’ contribution to science and mathematics. The theories cover geometry, Pythagorean Theorem, irrational numbers, quadratic equation of the circle, surface of the triangle and trapezium, volume of the cylinder, the parallelepiped, the sphere, algebraic equations, the calendar, phases of the moon, engineering monuments, medicine, mummification, astronomy, etc. And you guessed right. The mathematical and scientific writing covered by Cheikh Anta Diop were not in Greek but rather in Egyptian.
Greek legends and documentary records in Egyptian language suggest a period of Egyptian colonization of Greece (Martin Bernal). A crucial chapter in our heritage as Africans must cover an explanation of how the culture and civilization came to be lost and how we can achieve an African Renaissance.
The author is a judge of the High Court of Uganda.

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