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AFROASIATIC RELATIONS: EGYPT & AKKAD

©Robert F. Smith
July 13, 2019

The Nile Valley was a significant means of communication and trade both north and south. This
was especially true following the desiccation of the Pleistocene green Sahara with its many
lakes. As it dried up, nearby people congregated to the fertile land along the Nile.1

ANCIENT DNA

Scholars at the Max Plank Institute promise that many DNA studies will soon be forthcoming
which will remedy our lack of complete and specific information on ancient Egyptian DNA,2 but
we do have some studies which give a preliminary indication of the nature of that indigenous
population along the Nile. Some scholars speak of it as represented by a “Coptic component”
which goes back to earliest time in Egypt and is related to a West Eurasian Berber and Maghreb
element – the divergence having been pre-Holocene, i.e.,

North Moroccans as well as Libyans and Egyptians carry higher proportions of


European and Middle Eastern ancestral components, respectively, whereas
Tunisian Berbers and Saharawi are those populations with the highest
autochthonous North African component.3

We are all African.4 In fact, based on the most recent analysis of hominid remains from Apidima
Cave, Greece, we are all descended from successive waves of small bands of hunter-gatherers
who came out of north Africa beginning around 210,000 years ago.5
DNA studies on mummies from north Egypt (1388 BC – 426 AD) published in 2013 and 2017
found one each from mtDNA haplogroup 12 (Western Asia), Y-DNA haplogroup J (Middle

1
Lorraine Boissoneault, “What Really Turned the Sahara Desert From a Green Oasis Into a Wasteland?”
Smithsonian.com, March 24, 2017, online at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-
really-turned-sahara-desert-green-oasis-wasteland-180962668/ ; C. L. Fox, “mtDNA analysis in ancient
Nubians supports the existence of gene flow between sub-Sahara and North Africa in the Nile Valley,”
Ann Hum Biol, 24/3 (May-June 1997):217-227, online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9158841 ;
M. Krings, et al., “mtDNA analysis of Nile River Valley populations: A genetic corridor or a barrier to
migration?” Am J Hum Genet. 64/4 (Apr 1999):1166-76, online at
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10090902 .
2
T. Page, "DNA discovery unlocks secrets of ancient Egyptians," CNN, June 23, 2017, online at
https://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/22/health/ancient-egypt-mummy-dna-genome-heritage/index.html .
3
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_history_of_Egypt ; Coptic component in B. Dobon, et al., "The
genetics of East African populations: a Nilo-Saharan component in the African genetic landscape,"
Scientific Reports. 5 (May 2015): 9996. doi:10.1038/srep09996 .
4
M. Robbins, “Our Genes May Prove It: We Are Family,” Discover, 25/1 (Jan 2004):56.
5
K. Harvati, et al., “Apidima Cave fossils provide earliest evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia,” Nature,
10 July 2019, online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1376-z ;
https://www.sciencealert.com/ancient-skull-found-in-greece-may-contain-a-shocking-twist-about-early-
humans ..
East), and haplogroup E1b1b1 (North and East Africa). The mtDNA of 90 mummies from
Abusir el-Meleq showed “a high level of affinity with the DNA of the populations of the Near
East,” and that “ancient Egyptians are most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age
samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and European populations."6
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 Sub-Saharan 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.
Recent results from south Egypt could not be more different: The J-P. Gourdine, et al.,
“analysis of STRs from Amarna and Ramesside royal mummies with popAffiliator18 based on
the same published data indicates a 41.7% to 93.9% probability of SSA affinities (see Table 1),”
i.e., Sub-Saharan African affinities.7
Previous genetic studies have suggested a history of sub-Saharan African gene
flow into some West Eurasian populations after the initial dispersal out of Africa
...However, there has been no accurate characterization of the proportion of
mixture, or of its date. We analyze genome-wide polymorphism data from about
40 West Eurasian groups to show that almost all Southern Europeans have
inherited 1%–3% African ancestry with an average mixture date of around 55
generations ago, consistent with North African gene flow at the end of the Roman
Empire and subsequent Arab migrations. Levantine groups harbor 4%–15%
African ancestry with an average mixture date of about 32 generations ago,
consistent with close political, economic, and cultural links with Egypt in the late

6
J. Krause, V. Schuenemann, et al., "Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-
Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods," Nature Communications. 8 (30 May 2017): 15694.
doi:10.1038/ncomms15694 ; R. Khairat, et al., "First insights into the metagenome of Egyptian mummies
using next-generation sequencing," Journal of Applied Genetics, 54/3 (Aug 2013): 309–325.
doi:10.1007/s13353-013-0145-1 .
7
J-P. Gourdine, et al., “Ancient Egyptian Genomes from northern Egypt: Further discussion,”
OpenScienceFramework, August 17, 2018, online at https://osf.io/9v84b/ , and 10.31219/osf.io/ecwf3 ;
Zahi Hawass, et al., “Revisiting the harem conspiracy and death of Ramesses III: anthropological,
forensic, radiological, and genetic study,” BMJ, 17 Dec 2012, 345:e8268 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e8268, at
https://www.academia.edu/2308336/Revisiting_the_harem_conspiracy_and_death_of_Ramesses_III_anth
ropological_forensic_radiological_and_genetic_study ; M. Habicht, et al., “Identifications of Ancient
Egyptian Royal Mummies from the 18th Dynasty Reconsidered,” Yearbook of Physical Anthropology,
159:S216–S231 (2016), online at https://www.academia.edu/7413256/
Identifications_of_Ancient_Egyptian_Royal_Mummies_reconsidered_2016_ .
middle ages. We also detect 3%–5% sub-Saharan African ancestry in all eight of
the diverse Jewish populations that we analyzed.8
HISTORY & ARCHEOLOGY
Gourdine, et al., assert that “Ancient Egyptian culture originated southern Upper Egypt.”9 Yet
from the very beginning of civilization, Egypt and the Levant have had close relations,
oscillatory though they may have been. There was, for example, more or less continuous contact
between Egypt, Syro-Palestine, and even Mesopotamia from before the rise of the Pharaohs, and
this contact has continued down to our time.10 So complete has evidence of this become that
Gregory Mumford produced a massive four-volume doctoral dissertation (a record in size!) in
order to cover even a small part of that close relationship.11
Egyptian influence reached Beersheba already by 3500 B.C.,12 and “intensive foreign contacts
are certain” during the Predynastic Gerzean (Naqada II) period:13 Egypt is found using
characteristic mud-brick Mesopotamian architecture, Jamdat-Nasr cylinder seals, the slow
pottery-wheel, incised and “decorated” ware, lapis beads, obsidian, silver, rebus script, etc. They
were being imported into the Nile Valley, with similar signs of diffusion appearing
simultaneously along the Orontes River and in the ˁAmuq region of Syria as well as at Ugarit
(Ras Shamra) on the Mediterranean coast.14

8
P. Moorjani, D. Reich, et al., "The History of African Gene Flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines
and Jews," PLoS Genetics, 7/4 (April 21, 2011): e1001373 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001373 , online
at https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1001373 . Harvard Medical
School, "Population genetics reveals shared ancestries: DNA links modern Europeans, Middle Easterners
to Sub-Saharan Africans," ScienceDaily, 24 May 2011, online at
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110524153536.htm .
9
Gourdine, et al., “Ancient Egyptian Genomes,” 1, citing Agut-Labordère & García, L’Égypte des
pharaons: de Narmer à Dioclétien : 3150 av. J.C.- 284 apr. J.-C. (Belin, 2016).
10
R. Gophna, Qadmoniot, 5:14-15; J. M. Weinstein, BASOR, 217:1-16; cf. Bible et Terre Sainte, 123
(July-Aug 1970).
11
Mumford, "International Relations Between Egypt, Sinai, and Syria-Palestine in the LB Age to Early
Persian Period (Dynasties 18-26; ca. 1950-525 B.C.): A Spatial and Temporal Analysis of the
Distribution and Proportions of Egyptian(izing) Artefacts and Pottery in Sinai and Selected Sites in Syria-
Palestine," 4 vols., doctoral dissertation (University of Toronto, 1998).
12
Ucko & Arkell, Current Anthropology, 6:152.
13
Current Anthropology, 6:156.
14
Emery, Archaic Egypt (Pelican, 1961), 30; E. Baumgartel, “Predynastic Egypt,” Cambridge Ancient
History, 3rd ed., I, passim; J. Payne, Iraq, 30:58-59; L. Wooley, Digging Up the Past (Pelican, 1960), 89;
H. J. Kantor, Chronologies in World Archaeology, 13.
Ivory figurine with lapis inlay - http://www.egyptarchive.co.uk/html/british_museum_05.html ,
and https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3804199 (Naqada I); steatite cylinder
seals, 994.233.49-50, http://www.rbmason.ca/seals.html (fig. 5).
The niched facades of First Dynasty tombs at Saqqara seem Mesopotamian. The same is true of
recurved bows, boats (Uruk seal type), turban, long coat, and waist-band on the Predynastic
Gebel el-ˁAraq knife-handle, which actually came from Abydos (Louvre):15

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80052789 (CC BY-SA 3.0 fr).


All this takes place during the fabled “Primeval Time of the Two Lands” (pЗwt tЗwy), which is,
incidentally, an account in line with the theory of the Naqada II (Gerzean) Asiatic or Semitic
“Dynastic Race”16 – possibly the elite “Followers of Horus” (šmsw Ḥr) – who entered Egypt at

15
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gebel_el-Arak_Knife ; M. E. L. Mallowan, Early Mesopotamia and Iran
(N.Y., 1965), 56-57.
16
P. Locavara, “Predynastic Egypt,” in Meyers, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near
East, 5 vols. (ASOR/Oxford Univ. Press, 1997), II:194, citing the work of Helen Kantor, JNES, 11
(1952):239-250; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt-Mesopotamia_relations .
that time,17 perhaps accounting for the swift social and political centralization of Egyptian
society and the uniting of the Two Lands (smЗ tЗwy) then.18
. . . proponents also point out similarities in the names of divinities and places
in the religious beliefs of the two cultures, and in depictions of regalia. For
example the primeval mound of the Egyptian first creation was called the
Island of Nun, and was surrounded by the Waters of Nun, while the Sumerian
name for the great temple in their original city of Eridu was Nun.ki—the
'Mighty Place'—and it was built on an island in the reed swamps. Several
scholars have also noted that the name Osiris is a Greek pronunciation, and
that the god would have been called Asar in Egyptian, while the Sumerian
god of the Eridu area was also called Asar (the Babylonian Marduk).19
Though less striking, the Egyptian-Palestinian correlations are fully evident in the same
period.20 It is clear, for example, that there were Egyptian enclaves in southern Palestine
during Early Bronze I contemporary with the Egyptian Late Predynastic and 1st Dynasty
periods (ca. 3500-3050 B.C.). At ˁEn Besor in the Negeb, bricks made to Egyptian
dimensions were used for buildings constructed without stone foundations –
characteristic Egyptian practice – while Egyptian alabaster and ceramic vessels were
found at the same site and elsewhere (only 20% of the ceramics were Palestinian, the rest
were Egyptian); also found there were jar stoppers with 1st Dynasty seals which had once
been attached to sacks and skins imported from Egypt, along with the incised serekh of
Egyptian King Hor-Aha.21 Pharaoh Narmer serekhs (Dyn 0) were found engraved on
Egyptian vessels at Arad, Tel Erani, Tel Halif,22 etc., and the serekhs of unidentified
Egyptian kings were found in Rafiah (Gaza), and at Tel Malhata near Beersheba,23 In
addition to all that, the verso of the magnificent early Egyptian Narmer Palette (Cairo

17
D. Rohl, Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation (Arrow Books, 1998), 332 (discussion in
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynastic_race_theory ); Baumgartel, Cambridge Ancient History, 3rd ed., I,
and JEA, 61:28-32; G. A. Wainwright, JEA, 49:13-14,17-18; cf. JEA, 39:36ff.; Urk., IV, 86, 4; R. M.
Boehmer in Meyers, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, V:295..
18
Michael Dee, et al., "An Absolute Chronology for Early Egypt Using Radiocarbon Dating and Bayesian
Statistical Modelling," Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 469/2159 (November 2013), online at
http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/current : “Our data cover the full trajectory of Egyptian
state formation and indicate that the process occurred more rapidly than previously thought. We provide a
timeline for the First Dynasty of Egypt of generational-scale resolution that concurs with prevailing
archaeological analysis and produce a chronometric date for the foundation of Egypt that distinguishes
between historical estimates."
http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/469/2159/20130395.full.pdf+html .
19
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynastic_race_theory , citing G. Algaze, The Uruk World System: The
Dynamics of Expansion of Early Mesopotamian Civilization, 2nd ed. (Univ of Chicago Press, 2005).
20
R. Amiran, Israel Exploration Journal, 20:170-179; cf. B. Rothenberg, Palestine Exploration
Quarterly, June 1970.
21
A. Ben-Tor, The Archaeology of Ancient Israel (Yale/Open Univ., 1992), 94.
22
A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 106-107, and fig. 4.5.
23
A. Ben-Tor, The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, 93-94, fig. 4.8.
Museum), with Mesopotamian serpopard design,24 has a symbol at bottom which has
been interpreted as identical to the huge V-shaped funnels found laid out in the
wilderness of the Negeb for the herding of wild or domestic animals into pens.25

Serpopard design on Uruk cylinder seal, and on Narmer Palette,


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt-Mesopotamia_relations .
In addition, it is quite possible that the Egyptians were exploiting the nearby copper source at
Wadi Fidan,26 and bitumen from the Dead Sea.27 Early Bronze II Syro-Palestinian jars and jugs
were found in Egyptian tombs of the late 1st Dynasty (from the reign of King Djer), and 2nd
Dynasty at Abydos and Saqqara.28
HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS
Despite an appeal by Gourdine, et al., to “borrowings from other African language phyla,”29 the
fundamental basis of ancient Egyptian as Afro-Asiatic places it most closely to Old Akkadian (an
East Semitic language of Mesopotamia). That is, the morphology, pronouns, and verbal systems
of both ancient Egyptian and Old Akkadian show them to have been one common language at a
slightly earlier horizon.30 This factor strongly supports the historical and archeological
indicators.

24
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt-Mesopotamia_relations .
25
See the ancient illustration of a fortified sheepfold in Jordan in P. J. Achtemeier, ed., Harper’s Bible
Dictionary (SBL/ HarperSanFrancisco, 1985), 938.
26
Thomas E. Levy & Mohammad Najjar, “Edom & Copper: The Emergence of Ancient Israel’s Rival,”
Biblical Archaeology Review, 32/4 (July-Aug 2006), 24-35,70.
27
A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 107,136.
28
A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 108,135.
29
Gourdine, et al., “Ancient Egyptian Genomes,” 5, citing G. Takács, “Sibilant and velar consonants of
South Cushitic and their regular correspondences in Egyptian and other Afro-Asiatic branches.” in
Afroasiatica Tergestina. Papers from the 9th Italian Meeting of Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic) Linguistics,
Trieste 393–426 (1998).
30
R. F. Smith, “Conjugating Northern Afroasiatic Verbs: Semitic & Egyptian Linguistic Parallels,”
March 28, 2001, online at https://www.scribd.com/document/416352567/CONJUGATING-
NORTHERN-AFROASIATIC-VERBS-SEMITIC-EGYPTIAN-LINGUISTIC-PARALLELS .