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The Nubian Origin of the American Presidency Brandon Pilcher Can you name the current Chief Justice

of the Supreme Court of the United States of America? According to a 2006 national survey carried out by FindLaw.com, only sixteen percent of Americans can (if youre curious, it is John Roberts). Now can you name the current Speaker of the House of Representatives? It is John Boehner, but a Pew survey on American political knowledge found that only forty percent of respondents know that. How about the current President? That question is easy for the comparison. Whereas the former two individuals are likely to be familiar only to those digging deep into political media, it is impossible for the layperson not to have encountered the name Barack Obama at least once, whether on magazine covers, posters, or TV. That is not only because of Obamas charisma, for out of all the various politicians in Washington, the President has always been the most recognizable to the general public. Americans may take pride in having a three-branched government that checks and balances itself, but while we are woefully ignorant of almost the entire judicial and legislative branches, everyone in the country---and many throughout the world---knows the leader of the executive. The reason for the Presidents unparalleled familiarity relative to the rest of the American national government is not difficult to figure out, for the President is the one we tend to think of as the archetypical leader figure of the whole land. Presidents are the people we praise if everything goes well in the country and the people who blame if they do not, even if many other, more complex trends are at work. Regardless of whatever

checks and balances the other branches of government may press upon the President, we believe that he (or she, though so far it has always been a he) is the most powerful politician in the country, as reflected by titles like Commander in Chief and Head of State. It is as if we need a single person to represent and run the enormity of our entire government. Why do we, despite being citizens of a supposed democracy, vest so much power into one human being? The facile answer would attribute it to an innate human need to rally behind a single alpha individual. Yet that notion is challenged by the fact that oneman rule, though historically common, has never been universal. Although practically every large food-producing society has undergone some kind of social stratification since its inception, it has not always followed that only one person lay at the top of the pyramid. An alternative system of government is oligarchy, in which it is a council of multiple leaders rather than one despot who are responsible for governance. The Sumerians, a people living in what is now southern Iraq between seven and four thousand years ago, appear to have begun with this system of government, with a clique of high priests running each Sumerian city-state. Other examples include some ancient Greek city-states and possibly the Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. The lesson here is that a civilization does not have to limit itself to one leader. If oligarchies are a viable system of government, then how did governments headed by singular persons---the core idea behind the American Presidency---come to be in the first place? Why did our Founding Fathers choose a Presidency over an oligarchy?

To find the answer to that question, we must travel several thousand years back in time to the faraway land of ancient Nubia. Nubia---the section of the Nile River Valley that stretches between the southern Egyptian city of Aswan and the Sudanese capital of Khartoum---may not seem a likely candidate for the origin of the American Presidency. Very few Americans can claim direct ancestry from this area, and certainly not the Founding Fathers. Yet it was in Nubia that the basic concept underlying the Presidency, the concept of one-man rule, first developed, and the evidence for this was discovered back in 1964 by archaeologist Keith C. Seele. While digging in the desert near the modern Sudanese town of Qustul, Seele discovered a cemetery of thirty-three tombs dating back to around 3800 BC, twelve of them tremendously large enough to have served prehistoric kings. Although much of the tombs contents had been stolen by generations of tomb robbers, they still had riches such as bracelets of gold and electrum, gemstone necklaces, and abundant pottery, much of which came from Egypt and the Middle East and therefore attested to extensive trade networks between Nubia and these other regions. These artifacts by themselves suggested that the Nubians of 3800 BC were very wealthy, but the discovery from the tombs that was most intriguing and is most relevant to our discussion was neither jewelry nor pot but a drum-shaped stone incense burner. When another archaeologist, Bruce Williams, studied this objects intricate decoration in 1977, he noticed that some of the images carved into the stone resembled iconography that would abound in later Egyptian art. Particularly important was a scene showing a procession of three ships sailing towards what looked like a royal palace; the

middle ship had sitting on its deck a man wearing a conical hat which clearly resembled a type of crown commonly worn by later Egyptian pharaohs. Hovering over the crowned man were two symbols, a falcon and a rosette, which would both become symbols of royalty in Egypt. Williams came to the conclusion that these images were unmistakably ancestral to classical Egyptian iconography associated with kingship, yet not only had the incense burner been found far south of Egypt, but the stone it was hewn from was of a distinctly Nubian kind, so it could not have been imported from Egypt. What this meant was that the oldest evidence for kings along the Nile---and anywhere else in the world--was of Nubian origin. In other words, the Nubians had invented the institution of monarchy. Between 3800 and 3100 BC, the idea of kingship would travel from this early Nubian kingdom downriver into Egypt, where it would blossom for several thousand years under powerful pharaohs. From Egypt it would then diffuse into the Middle East, with kings replacing the initial oligarchic priest councils in Sumer around 2900 BC, and from there it would penetrate the forests of Europe, where after growing for centuries it would culminate in the absolutist monarchies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was this last style of kingship with which the Founding Fathers would have been familiar. Popular American mythology claims that the Founders were unanimously opposed to monarchy, yet this belief is refuted by one particularly influential Founder by the name of Alexander Hamilton. Known for being a leading Federalist and the architect behind George Washington's fiscal policy, Hamilton was if anything a dedicated fan of the very

style of kingship his compatriots were supposedly breaking away from. In his view, a single strong leader (preferably elected for life) was preferable to pure republican democracy, for if the President had a lot of power bestowed upon him, he could counteract the irrationality of the masses. As argued by political scientist William E. Scheuerman, it is thanks to Hamilton's infatuation with monarchy that the President of the United States has the power to veto laws and pardon people, both powers traditionally possessed by kings, but the very presence of a Presidency betrays monarchical influence on the American government because it requires vesting a great deal of power in a single person. The Founders could have designed the executive branch to be an oligarchical council, as in early Sumer, or even a direct democracy like classical Athens in which citizens voted on policy rather than representative leaders. That they instead chose to implement a Presidential system shows that they were influenced by the institution of one-man rule as invented in Nubia over five thousand years earlier. As we have seen, the United States' Presidency owes its existence to a system of government which can be ultimately traced to early Nubia. This is of great interest because it shows how our society, along with many others in the modern world, has been heavily molded by an ancient culture whom few people today know about, much less appreciate their historical significance. Whether this influence was for the better or worse will be left for readers to decide, but whatever their answers, the time to acknowledge Nubia's pivotal role in shaping American (and world) history is long overdue.

Works Cited "Most Americans Can't Name Any Supreme Court Justices, Says FindLaw.com Survey ."FindLaw.com. Accessed June 24, 2011. Last modified January 10, 2006. http://company.findlaw.com/pr/2006/011006.supremes.html. Poe, Richard. Black Spark, White Fire. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1997. "Political Knowledge Update." Pew Research Center. Accessed June 24, 2011. Last modified March 31, 2011. http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1944/political-news-quiziq-congress-control-obesity-energy-facebook. Scheuerman, William E. "American kingship? Monarchical origins of modern presidentialism." Polity 37, no. 1 (2005): 24-53. Williams, Bruce B. "Excavations Between Abu Simbel and the Sudan Frontier, Part 1: The A-Group Royal Cemetery at Qustul, Cemetery L." The University of Chicago Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition 3 (1986).