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Ethiopia and the Origin of Civilization

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A Critical Review of the Evidence of Archaeology, Anthropology, History and Comparative Religion: According to the Most Reliable Sources and Authorities

By John G. Jackson (1939)



Much more could be said on this subject, but since this essay is addressed mainly to readers who have little time for the study of history, it must be made as concise as possible. The numerous citations from standard scientific and historical works, it is hoped, will be of some benefit to students who are out of reach of large public libraries, or who lack the leisure time necessary for reading and research along these lines.


“It is pretty well settled that the city is the Negro’s great contribution to civilization, for it was in Africa where the first cities grew up.” E. Haldeman-Julius

“Those piles of ruins which you see in that narrow valley watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the pride of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. … There a people, now forgotten, discovered while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.” Count Volney

“The accident of the predominance of white men in modern times should not give us supercilious ideas about color or persuade us to listen to superficial theories about the innate superiority of the white-skinned man. Four thousand years ago, when civilization was already one or two thousand years old, white men were just a bunch of semi-savages on the outskirts of the civilized world. If there had been anthropologists in Crete, Egypt, and Babylonia, they would have pronounced the white race obviously inferior, and might have discoursed learnedly on the superior germ-plasm or glands of colored folk.” Joseph McCabe


The late Professor George A. Dorsey noted that “H. G. Wells’ heart beats faster in nearly every chapter of his Outline of History, because he cannot forget that he is Nordic, Aryan,
English British, white, civilized.” (Why We Behave Like Human Beings, p. 40.) This patriotic zeal of Mr. Wells’ has, in truth, caused him to suppress certain facts that do not
fit into his pet theories. In the latest edition of his Outline of History, Mr. Wells ends his
chapter on The Early Empires with the following remarks: “No less an authority than Sir
Flinders Petrie gives countenance to the idea that there was some very early connection
between Colchis (the country to the south of the Caucasus) and prehistoric Egypt. Herodotus remarked upon a series of resemblances between the Colchians and the
Egyptians.” (Wells’ New and Revised Outline of History, p. 184, Garden City, 1931.) It
would have been proper for Wells to have quoted the remarks of Herodotus, so as to give
us precise information on the series of resemblances between the Cholchians and the
Egyptians. Why he did not do so we shall now see. In Book II, Section- 104, of his
celebrated History, Herodotus states: “For my part I believe the Colchi to be a colony of
Egyptians, because like them they have black skins and frizzled hair.” (See any English
translation of The History of Herodotus. The translation by Professor George Rawlinson
is the best. See also W.E.B. DuBois, The Negro, p. 31, and Count Volney’s Travels in
Egypt and Syria, Vol. I. pp. 80-81.) After discussing the civilizations of Egypt, Babylonia and India, Wells had already referred to them as a “triple system of white man
civilizations.” (Outline of History, Chap. XIII, Sect. 5, p. 175) On concluding that the
civilization of Egypt was a white man civilization, he naturally would be careful not to
quote the above passage from Herodotus.

Most history texts, especially the ones on ancient history, start off by telling us that there
are either three, four or five races of man, but that of those races only one has been
responsible for civilization, culture, progress and all other good things. The one race is of
course the white race, and particularly that branch of said race known as the Nordic or
Aryan. The reason for this is obvious; the writers of these textbooks are as a rule Nordics,
or so consider themselves. However, prejudice alone will not account for this sort of
thing. There is a confusion among historians and anthropologists concerning the proper
classification of races, and this confusion is used by biased writers to bolster up their
preconceptions. It is therefore necessary that we discuss the subject of race classification
in a rational manner before proceeding further.

The early scientific classifications of the varieties of the human species were geographical in nature. The celebrated naturalist, Linneaus (1708-1778), for instance, listed four races, according to continent, namely: (1) European (white), (2) African (black), (3) Asiatic (yellow), and (4) American (red). Blumenback, in 1775, added a fifth type, the Ocieanic or brown race. This classification is still used in some grammar school Geographies, where the races of man are tabulated as: Ethiopian (black), Caucasian (white), American (red), Mongolian (yellow) and Malayan (brown). During the year 1 800, the French naturalist, Cuvier, announced the hypothesis that all ethnic types were traceable to Ham, Chem and Japhet, the three sons of Noah. After that date race classification developed into an amazing contest; a struggle which still rages. By 1873, Haeckel had found no less than twelve distinct races of mankind; and to show the indefatigable nature of his researches, he annexed twenty-two more races a few years later, bringing the grand total of human types up to thirty-four. Deniker, in 1900, presented to the world a very imposing system of race classification. He conceived of the human species existing in the form of six grand divisions, seventeen divisions and twenty-nine races. And despite all this industry among anthropologists, ethnologists and the like, there is yet no agreement on the classification of races. Where one anthropologist finds three racial types, another can spot thirty-three without the least difficulty.

The Classifiers of race, however, regardless of how abundantly they disagreed with each
other as to the correct groupings of human types, were of unanimous accord in the belief
that the white peoples of the world were far superior to the darker races. This opinion in
still very popular, but modern science is making it hard for intelligent people to accept
the fallacy. Many years ago the German philosopher, Schopenhauer, remarked that,
“there is no such thing as a white race, much as this is talked of, but every white man is a
faded or bleached one.” Schopenhauer possessed keen and sagacious foresight on this
point. For example, the English scholar, Joseph McCabe, expresses the following view as
the consensus of opinion among modern anthropologists: “There is strong reason to think
that man was at first very dark of skin, woolly-haired and flat-nosed, and, as he wandered into different climates, the branches of the race diverged and developed their characteristics.” (Key to Culture, No. 11, p. 10.)

Professor Franz Boas, the nestor of American anthropologists, has divided the whole
human race into only two divisions. This classification of Boas’ is admirably explained
by Professor George A. Dorsey:

Open your atlas to a map of the world. Look at the Indian Ocean: on the west, Africa; on the north, the three great southern peninsulas of Asia: on the east, a chain of great islands terminating in Australia. Wherever that Indian Ocean touches land, it finds dark-skinned people with strongly
developed jaws, relatively long arms and kinky or frizzly hair. Call that the Indian Ocean or Negroid division of the human race.

Now look at the Pacific Ocean: on one side, the two Americas; on the other, Asia. (Geographically, Europe is a tail to the Asiatic kite.) The aboriginal population of the Americas and of Asia north of its southern peninsula was a light-skinned people with straight hair, relatively short arms, and a face without prominent jaws. Call that the Pacific Ocean or Mongoloid division. (Why We Behave Like Human Beings, pp. 44-45.)

Professors A. L. Kroeber and Fay-Cooper Cole are of the opinion that the peoples of
Europe have (been) bleached out enough to merit classification as a distinct race. This
would add a European or Caucasoid division to the Negroid and Mongoloid races of the
classification proposed by Professor Boas. If we accept this three-fold division of the
human species, our classification ought to read as follows: the races of man are three in
number; (1) the Negroid, or Ethiopian or black race; (2) the Mongoloid, or Mongolian or
yellow race; and (3) the Caucasoid or European or white race. This is the very latest
scheme of race classification.

Now that we have straightened out ourselves on the issue of the classification of races,
we may property turn to the main subject matter of this essay, i.e., the ancient Ethiopians
and their widespread influence on the early history of civilization. In discussing the origin
of civilization in the ancient Near East, Professor Charles Seignobos in his History of
Ancient Civilization, notes that the first civilized inhabitants of the Nile and Tigris-
Euphrates valleys, were a dark-skinned people with short hair and prominent lips; and
that they are referred to by some scholars as Cushites (Ethiopians), and as Hamites by
others. This ancient civilization of the Cushites, out of which the earliest cultures of
Egypt and Mesopotamia grew, was not confined to the Near East. Traces of it have been
found all over the world. Dr. W. J. Perry refers to it as the Archaic Civilization. Sir
Grafton Elliot Smith terms it the Neolithic Heliolithic Culture of the Brunet-Browns. Mr.
Wells alludes to this early civilization in his Outline of History, and dates its beginnings
as far back as 15,000 years B.C. “This peculiar development of the Neolithic culture,”
says Mr. Wells, “which Elliot Smith called the Heliolithic (sun-stone) culture, included
many or all of the following odd practices: (1) Circumcision, (2) the queer custom of
sending the father to bed when a child is born, known as Couvade, (3) the practice of Massage, (4) the making of Mummies, (5) Megalithic monuments (i.e. Stonehenge), (6)
artificial deformation of the heads of the young by bandages, (7) Tattooing, (8) religious
association of the Sun and the Serpent, and (9) the use of the symbol known as the
Swastika for good luck. . . . Elliot Smith traces these associated practices in a sort of
constellation all over this great Mediterranean / Indian Ocean-Pacific area. Where one
occurs, most of the others occur. They link Brittany with Borneo and Peru. But this
constellation of practices does not crop up in the primitive home of Nordic or Mongolian
peoples, nor does it extend southward much beyond equatorial Africa. … The first
civilizations in Egypt and the Euphrates-Tigris valley probably developed directly out of
this widespread culture.” (Outline of History, pp. 141-143).

This ancient civilization is called NEOLITHIC by Wells. This is a mistake; for we have
overwhelming evidence that these ancient peoples had long passed out of the New Stone
Age stage of culture, and were erecting edifices which could only have been constructed
by means of hard metal tools. Iron is the very backbone of civilization, and the Iron Age
began very anciently in Africa. The researches of scholars like Boas, Torday and DuBois
would lead us to believe that the art of mining iron was first developed in the interior of
Africa, and that the knowledge of it passed through Egypt to the rest of the world. (See
W.E.B. DuBois, The Negro, pp. 114-116, Home University Library, New York and
London, 1915.)

In modern geography the name Ethiopia is confined to the country known as Abyssinia,
an extensive territory in East Africa. In ancient times Ethiopia extended over vast
domains in both Africa and Asia. “It seems certain,” declares Sir E. A. Wallis Budge,
“that classical historians and geographers called the whole region from India to Egypt,
both countries inclusive, by the name of Ethiopia, and in consequence they regarded all
the dark-skinned and black peoples who inhabited it as Ethiopians. Mention is made of
Eastern and Western Ethiopians and it is probable that the Easterners were Asiatics and
the Westerners Africans.” (History of Ethiopia, Vol. I., Preface, by Sir E. A. Wallis
Budge.) In addition Budge notes that, “Homer and Herodotus call all the peoples of the
Sudan, Egypt, Arabia, Palestine and Western Asia and India Ethiopians.” (Ibid., p. 2.)
Herodotus wrote in his celebrated History that both the Western Ethiopians, who lived in
Africa, and the Eastern Ethiopians who dwelled in India, were black in complexion, but
that the Africans had curly hair, while the Indians were straight-haired. (The aboriginal
black inhabitants of India are generally referred to as the Dravidians, of whom more will
be said as we proceed.) Another classical historian who wrote about the Ethiopians was
Strabo, from whom we quote the following: “I assert that the ancient Greeks, in the same
way as they classed all the northern nations with which they were familiar as Scythians,
etc., so, I affirm, they designated as Ethiopia the whole of the southern countries toward
the ocean.” Strabo adds that “if the moderns have confined the appellation Ethiopians to
those only who dwell near Egypt, this must not be allowed to interfere with the meaning
of the ancients.” Ephorus says that: “The Ethiopians were considered as occupying all the
south coasts of both Asia and Africa,” and adds that “this is an ancient opinion of the of
the Greeks.” Then we have the view of Stephanus of Byzantium, that: “Ethiopia was the
first established country on earth; and the Ethiopians were the first who introduced the
worship of the gods, and who established laws.” The vestiges of this early civilization have been found in Nubia, the Egyptian Sudan, West Africa, Egypt, Mashonaland, India,
Persia, Mesopotamia, Arabia, South America, Central America, Mexico, and the United
States. Any student who doubts this will find ample evidence in such works as The Voice
of Africa, by Dr. Leo Froebenius; Prehistoric Nations, and Ancient America, by John D.
Baldwin; Rivers of Life, by Major-General J. G. R. Forlong; A Book of the Beginnings by
Gerald Massey; Children of the Sun and The Growth of Civilization, by W. J. Perry; The
Negro by Professor W.E.B. DuBois; The Anacalypsis, by Sir Godfrey Higgins; Isis
Unveiled by Madam H. P. Blavatsky; The Diffusion of Culture, by Sir Grafton Elliot
Smith; The Mediterranean Race, by Professor Sergi; The Ruins of Empires, by Count
Volney; The Races of Europe, by Professor William Z. Ripley; and last but not least, the
brilliant monographs of Mr. Maynard Shipley: New Light on Prehistoric Cultures and
Americans of a Million Years Age. (See also Shipley’s Sex and the Garden of Eden Myth,
a collection of essays, the best of the lot being one entitled: Christian Doctrines In Pre-
Christian America.) These productions of Mr. Shipley, have been issued in pamphlet
form in the Little Blue Book Series, published by Mr. E. Haldeman- Julius, of Girard,

The efforts of certain historians to classify these ancient Cushites as Caucasoids does not
deceive honest historical students any longer. This may well be illustrated by a passage
from the pen of our scholarly friend Bishop William Montgomery Brown: “For the first
two or three thousand years of civilization, there was not a civilized white man on the
earth. Civilization was founded and developed by the swarthy races of Mesopotamia,
Syria and Egypt, and the white race remained so barbaric that in those days an Egyptian
or a Babylonian priest would have said that the riffraff of white tribes a few hundred
miles to the north of their civilization were hopelessly incapable of acquiring the
knowledge requisite to progress. It was southern colored peoples everywhere, in China,
in Central America, in India, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and Crete who gave the
northern white peoples civilization.” (The Bankruptcy of Christian Supernaturalism, Vol.,
p. 192.)

Quite a few Egyptologists have defended the idea that the ancient Egyptians
originally came from Asia. There never was any evidence to back up this view; and the
only reason it was adopted, was because it was fashionable to believe that no African
people was capable of developing a great civilization. Geoffrey Parsons refers to
Egyptian civilization in his Stream of History, p. 154, New York & London, 1932, as
“genuinely African in its origin and development.” Herodotus came to the same
conclusion over 2,000 years ago, but he is not taken seriously by the majority of modern
historians, except where his facts agree with certain theories of said historians. Theories
are more precious to some scholars than facts, even when the facts flatly contradict their
theories. Dr. Froebenious, the great German anthropologist, has examined the ruins of
ancient cultures in southern, eastern and western Africa, of an antiquity rivaling those of
Egypt and Sumer. Sir John Marshall and Dr. E. Mackay have uncovered the remains of a
great Dravidian civilization in India, which rose to its peak over 5,000 years ago. The
newspaper generally report these discoveries as startling and unexpected. They tell us
that nobody ever dreamed that these ancient nations ever existed. This novelty, however,
does not exist for real students. Anyone familiar with the works of G. Elliot Smith, W. J. Perry, Sir Godfrey Higgins, Dr. H.R. Hall, Sir Henry Rawlinson, John D. Baldwin,
Gerald Massey and General Forlong, will not be surprised at the very novel
archaeological discoveries announced by the press. Since we are dealing with historical
sources and authorities, a study of the researches of Sir Henry Rawlinson, the Father of
Assyriology, on the Ethiopians in the ancient East, is in order. The following extract is
condensed from an essay entitled: On the Early History of Babylonia:

1 . The system of writing which they brought with them has the closest
affinity with that of Egypt — in many cases indeed, there is an absolute
identity between the two alphabets.

2. In the Biblical genealogies, Cush (Ethiopia) and Mizraim (Egypt) are
brothers, while from the former sprang Nimrod (Babylonia.)

3. In regard to the language of the primitive Babylonians, the vocabulary is
undoubtedly Cushite or Ethiopian, belonging to that stock of tongues
which in the sequel were everywhere more or less mixed up with the
Semitic languages, but of which we have probably the purest modern
specimens in the Mahra of Southern Arabia and the Galla of Abyssinia.

4. All the traditions of Babylonia and Assyria point to a connection in very
early times between Ethiopia, Southern Arabia and the cities on the lower

5. In further proof of the connection between Ethiopia and Chaldea, we must
remember the Greek tradition both of Cepheus and Memnon, which
sometimes applied to Africa, and sometimes to the countries at the mouth
of the Euphrates; and we must also consider the geographical names of
Cush and Phut, which, although of African origin, are applied to races
bordering on Chaldea, both in the Bible and in the Inscriptions of Darius.

(Essay- VI, Appendix, Book-I, History of Herodotus, translated by
Professor George Rawlinson, with essays and notes by Sir Henry
Rawlinson and Sir J. G. Wilkinson.)

The opinions of Sir Henry Rawlinson are reinforced by the researches of his equally
distinguished brother, Professor George Rawlinson, in his essay On the Ethnic Affinities
of the Races of Western Asia, which directs our attention to: “the uniform voice of
primitive antiquity, which spoke of the Ethiopians as a single race, dwelling along the
shores of the Southern Ocean from India to the Pillars of Hercules.” {Herodotus, Vol. I.,
Book. I., Appendix, Essay XL, Section-5.) Rawlinson adds an explanatory note to this
section of his essay, which we here reproduce: “Recent linguistic discovery tends to show
that a Cushite or Ethiopian race did in the earliest times extend itself along the shores of
the Southern Ocean from Abyssinia to India. The whole peninsula of India was peopled
by a race of their character before the influx of the Aryans; it extended from the Indus
along the seacoast through the modern Beluchistan and Kerman, which was the proper
country of the Asiatic Ethiopians; the cities on the northern shores of the Persian Gulf are
shown by the brick inscriptions found among their ruins to have belonged to this race; it
was dominant in Susiana and Babylonia, until overpowered in the one country by Aryan,
in the other by Semitic intrusion; it can be traced both by dialect and tradition throughout
the whole south coast of the Arabian peninsula.”

In the study of ancient affairs, folklore and tradition throw an invaluable light on
historical records. In Greek mythology we read of the great Ethiopian king, Cepheus,
whose fame was so great that he and his family were immortalized in the stars. The wife
of King Cepheus was Queen Cassiopeia, and his daughter, Princess Andromeda. The star
groups of the celestial sphere, which are named after them are called the ROYAL
family — (the constellations: cepheus, CASSIOPEIA and ANDROMEDA.) It may seem
strange that legendary rulers of ancient Ethiopia should still have their names graven on
our star maps, but the voice of history gives us a clue. A book on astrology attributed to
Lucian declares that: “The Ethiopians were the first who invented the science of stars,
and gave names to the planets, not at random and without meaning, but descriptive of the
qualities which they conceived them to possess; and it was from them that this art passed,
still in an imperfect state, to the Egyptians.” The Ethiopian origin of astronomy is
beautifully explained by Count Volney in a passage in his Ruins of Empires, which is one
of the glories of modern literature, and his argument is not based on guesses. He invokes
the weighty authority of Charles F. Dupuis, whose three monumental works, The Origin
of Constellations, The Origin of Worship and The Chronological Zodiac, are marvels of
meticulous research. Dupuis placed the origin of the zodiac as far back as 15,000 B.C.,
which would give the world’s oldest picture book an antiquity of 17,000 years. (This
estimate is not as excessive as it might at first appear, since the American ast5ronomer
and mathematician, Professor Arthur M. Harding, traces back the origin of the zodiac to
about 26,000 B.C) In discussing star worship and idolatry, Volney gives the following
glowing description of the scientific achievements of the ancient Ethiopians, and of how
they mapped out the signs of the zodiac on the star-spangled dome of the heavens:

Should it be asked at what epoch this system took its birth, we shall answer on the testimony of the monuments of astronomy itself, that its principles appear with certainty to have been established about seventeen thousand years ago, and if it be asked to what people it is to be attributed, we shall answer that the same monuments, supported by unanimous traditions, attribute it to the first tribes of Egypt; and reason finds in that country all the circumstances which could lead to such a system; when it finds there a zone of sky, bordering on the tropic, equally free from the rains of the equator and the fogs of the north; when it finds there a central point of the sphere of the ancients, a salubrious climate, a great but manageable river, a soil fertile without art or labor, inundated without morbid exhalations, and placed between two seas which communicate with the richest countries; it conceives that the inhabitant of the Nile, addicted to agriculture from the facility of communications, to astronomy from the state of his sky, always open to observation, must have been the first to pass from the savage to the social state; and consequently to attain the physical and moral sciences necessary to civilized life.

It was, then, on the borders of the upper Nile, among a black race of men, that was organized the complicated system of the worship of the stars, considered in relation to the productions of the earth and the labors of agriculture. … Thus the Ethiopian of Thebes named stars of inundation, or Aquarius, those stars under which the Nile began to overflow; stars of the ox or bull, those under which they began to plow, stars of the lion, those under which that animal, driven from the desert by thirst, appeared on the banks of the Nile; stars of the sheaf, or of the harvest virgin, those of the
reaping season; stars of the lamb, stars of the two kids, those under which these precious animals were brought forth. … Thus the same Ethiopian having observed that the return of the inundation always corresponded with the rising of a beautiful star which appeared towards the source of the
Nile, and seemed to warn the husbandman against the coming waters, he compared this action to that of the animal who, by his barking, gives notice of danger, and he called this star the dog, the barker (Sirius). In the same manner he named the stars of the crab, those where the sun, having
arrived at the tropic, retreated by a slow retrograde motion like the crab of Cancer. He named stars of the wild goat, or Capricorn, those where the sun, having reached the highest point in his annuary tract, . . . imitates the goat, who delights to climb to the summit of the rocks. He named stars of the balance, or Libra, those where the days and nights being equal, seemed in equilibrium, like that instrument; and stars of the scorpion, those where certain periodical winds bring vapors, burning like the venom of the scorpion. (Volney’s Ruins of Empires, pp. 120-122, New York, 1926)

The traditions concerning Memnon are interesting as well as instructive. He was claimed
as a king by the Ethiopians, and identified with the Pharaoh Amunoph or Amenhotep, by
the Egyptians. A fine statue of him is located in the British Museum, in London. Charles
Darwin makes a reference to this statue on his Descent of Man which is well worth
reproducing: “When I looked at the statue of Amunoph III, I agreed with two officers of
the establishment, both competent judges, that he had a strongly marked Negro type of
features.” The features of Akhnaton (Amennhotep IV), are even more Negroid than those
of his illustrious predecessor. That the earliest Egyptians were African Ethiopians
(Nilotic Negroes), is obvious to all unbiased students of oriental history. Breasted’s claim
that the early civilized inhabitants of the Nile Valley and Western Asia were members of
a Great White Race, is utterly false, and is supported by no facts whatsoever. A similar
racial bias is shown by Elliot Smith in his work, The Ancient Egyptians and Their
Influence Upon the Civilization of Europe, p. 30, New York & London, 1911. “Not a few
writers,” says he, “like the traveler Volney in the 18 th century, have expressed the belief
that the ancient Egyptians were Negroes, or at any rate strongly Negroid. In recent times
even a writer so discriminating as Ripley usually is has given his adhesion to this view.”
(The writers referred to here, are Count Volney, the French Orientalist and Professor
William Z. Ripley, of Harvard University, an eminent American Anthropologist.)
Professor Smith is convinced that these men are wrong, because he holds that there is a
“profound gap that separates the Negro from the rest of mankind, including the
Egyptian.” (Ancient Egyptians, p. 74.) Another English scholar, Philip Smith, is far more
rational in discussing this point:

No people have bequeathed to us so many memorials of its form complexion and physiognomy as the Egyptians. … If we were left to form  an opinion on the subject by the description of the Egyptians left by the Greek writers we should conclude that they were, if not Negroes, at least
closely akin to the Negro race. That they were much darker in coloring than the neighboring Asiatics; that they had their frizzled either by nature or art; that their lips were thick and projecting, and their limbs slender, rests upon the authority of eye-witnesses who had traveled in the country and who could have had no motive to deceive. . . . The fullness of the lips seen in the Sphinx of the Pyramids and in the portraits of the kings is characteristic of the Negro. (The Ancient History of the East, pp. 25-26, London, 1881.)

We read of Memnon, King of Ethiopia, in Greek mythology, to be exact in Homer’s Iliad,
where he leads an army of Elamites and Ethiopians to the assistance of King Priam in the
Trojan War. His expedition is said to have started from the African Ethiopia and to have
passed through Egypt on the way to Troy. According to Herodotus, Memnon was the
founder of Susa, the chief city of the Elamites. “There were places called Memnonia,”
asserts Professor Rawlinson, “supposed to have been built by him both in Egypt and at
Susa; and there was a tribe called Memnones at Moroe. Memnon thus unites the eastern
with the western Ethiopians, and the less we regard him as an historical personage the
more must we view him as personifying the ethnic identity of the two races.” (Ancient
Monarchies, Vol. I, Chap. 3.) The ancient peoples of Mesopotamia are sometimes called
the Chaldeans, but this is inaccurate and confusing. Before the Chaldean rule in
Mesopotamia, there were the empires of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and
Assyrians. The earliest civilization of Mesopotamia was that of the Sumerians. They are
designated in the Assyrio-Babylonian inscriptions as the black-heads or black-faced
people, and they are shown on the monuments as beardless and with shaven heads. This
easily distinguishes them from the Semitic Babylonians, who are shown with beards and
long hair. From the myths and traditions of the Babylonians we learn that their culture
came originally from the south. Sir Henry Rawlinson concluded from this and other
evidence that the first civilized inhabitants of Sumer and Akkad were immigrants from
the African Ethiopia. John D. Baldwin, the American Orientalist, on the other hand,
claims that since ancient Arabia was also known as Ethiopia, they could have just as well
come from that country. These theories are rejected by Dr. II. R. Hall, of the Dept. Of
Egyptian & Assyrian Antiquities of the British Museum, who contends that Mesopotamia
was civilized by a migration from India. “The ethnic type of the Sumerians, so strongly
marked in their statues and reliefs,” says Dr. Hall, “was as different from those of the
races which surrounded them as was their language from those of the Semites, Aryans, or
others; they were decidedly Indian in type. The face-type of the average Indian of today
is no doubt much the same as that of his Dravidian race ancestors thousands of years ago.
. . . And it is to this Dravidian ethnic type of India that the ancient Sumerian bears most
resemblance, so far as we can judge from his monuments. … And it is by no means
improbable that the Sumerians were an Indian race which passed, certainly by land,
perhaps also by sea, through Persia to the valley of the Two Rivers. It was in the Indian
home (perhaps the Indus valley) that we suppose for them that their culture developed. . . On the way they left the seeds of their culture in Elam. . . . There is little doubt that India
must have been one of the earliest centers of human civilization, and it seems natural to suppose that the strange un-Semitic, un-Aryan people who came from the East to civilize
the West were of Indian origin, especially when we see with our own eyes how very
Indian the Sumerians were in type.” {The Ancient History of the Near East, pp. 173-174,
London, 1916.) Hall is opposed in his theory of Sumerian origins by Dr. W. J. Perry, the
great anthropologist, of the University of London. “The Sumerian stories or origins
themselves tell a very different tale,” Perry points out, “for from their beginnings the
Sumerians seem to have been in touch with Egypt. Some of their early texts mention
Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha. . . . Dilmun was the first settlement that was made by the
god Enki, who was the founder of Sumerian civilization. … Magan was famous among
the Sumerians as a place whence they got diorite and copper, Meluhha as a place whence
they got gold. Dilmun has been identified with some place or other in the Persian Gulf,
perhaps the Bahrein Islands, perhaps a land on the eastern shore of the Gulf. … In a late
inscription of the Assyrians it is said that Magan and Meluhha were the archaic names for
Egypt and Ethiopia, the latter being the south-western part of Somaliand that lay
opposite.” {The Growth of Civilization, pp. 60-61, 2 nd Edition, Harmondsworth,
Middlesex, England, 1937, Published by Penguin Books, Ltd.)

Another great nation of Ethiopian origin was Elam, a country which stretched from the
Tigris River to the Zagros Mountains of Persia. Its capital was the famous city of Susa,
which was founded about 4,000 B.C., and flourished from that date to its destruction by
Moslem invaders about the year 650 C.E. (Christian Era). In speaking of the Elamites, H.
G. Wells H. H. Johnston, to have been Negroid in type. There is a strong Negroid strain
in the modern people of Elam.” {Outline of History, p. 166.) Archaeological evidence
favors this view. Reginald S. Poole, the English Egyptologist noted that: “There is one
portrait of an Elamite (Cushite) king on a vase found at Susa; he is painted black and thus
belongs to the Cushite race.” (Quoted by Professor Alfred C. Haddon, in his History of
Anthropology, p. 6, London, 1934. Thinker’s Library Edition, published by Watts & Co.,
5 & 6 Johnson’s Court, Fleet St., London, E. c-4, England.)

We cannot devote much space to the early inhabitants of India, though they were beyond
all doubt an Ethiopic ethnic type. They are described by Professor Lynn Thorndike as
“short black men with almost Negro noses.” {Short History of Civilization, p. 227, New
York, 1936.) Dr. Will Durant pictures these early Hindus as “a dark-skinned, broad-nosed
people whom, without knowing the origin or the word, we call Dravidians.” {Short
History of Civilization, Part I, p. 396, New York, 1935.) The student is advised to consult
pp. 650-666, of the new edition of Sir John A. Hammerton’s Wonders of the Past, in
which there is an instructive article, with fine illustrations, by S. G. Blaxland Stubbs,
entitled: Wonder Cities of Most Ancient India. That Mr. Stubbs is a candid writer may be
seen from the following excerpt:

The early Aryan literature of India, the Hymns of the Rigveda, which, it is commonly agreed, date from about 1,000 B.C., speak of the people whom the proud Aryan invaders found in India as black-skinned barbarians, Dasas or slaves. But Aryan pride of race has received something of a shock from archaeological investigations carried out by Sir John Marshall and, more recently, by Dr. E. Mackay in the valley of the Indus. Here ample evidence has been found of a race whose complex civilization and high culture were equal, and in some respects superior to those of early Mesopotamia and Egypt.

These Asiatic black men were not confined to the mainland, for we are informed by no less an authority than Sir Harry H. Johnston, that:

In former times this Asiatic Negro spread, we can scarcely explain how, unless the land connections of those days were more extended, through Eastern Australia to Tasmania, and from the Solomon Island to New Caledonia and even New Zealand, to Fiji and Hawaii. The Negroid element in Burma and Annam is, therefore, easily to be explained by supposing that in ancient times Southern Asia had a Negro population ranging from the Persian Gulf to Indo-China and the Malay Archipelago.
(See An Introduction to African Civilizations, by Willis N. Huggins. Ph.D. and John G. Jackson, pp. 188-190, New York, 1937.)

Most readers of history know about the Celts, ancient inhabitants of Europe, whose
priests were known as the Druids. It is generally thought that these Celts were
Caucasoids, but Sir Godfrey Higgins, after much study came to the conclusion that they
were a Negroid people. Higgins wrote a ponderous volume entitled The Celtic Druids. In
the following passage from his Anacalypsis he modestly refers to it as an essay: “In my
essay on the Celtic Druids, I have shown that a great nation called Celtae, of whom the
Druids were the priests, spread themselves almost over the whole earth, and are to be
traced in their rude gigantic monuments from India to the extremity of Britain. The
religion of Buddha of India is well known to have been very ancient.” (Higgins is here
referring to the first Buddha, who is supposed to have lived between 5,000 and 6,000
years ago, and not to Gautama Buddha who lived about 600 years B.C. There were at
least ten Buddhas mentioned in the sacred books of India.) “Who these can have been but
the early individuals of the black nation of whom we have been treating I know not, and
in this opinion I am not singular. The learned Maurice says Cuthies (Cushites), i.e. Celts,
built the great temples in India and Britain, and excavated the caves of the former; and
the learned mathematician, Reuben Burrow, has no hesitation in pronouncing Stonehenge
to be a temple of the black curly-headed Buddha.” {Anacalypsis, Vol. I, Book I, Chap.
IV, New York, 1927.)

Though it is generally believed that Columbus discovered America, it is now definitely
known to students of American archaeology that Columbus came late. Professor Leo
Weiner has written a three volume work, Africa and the Discovery of America, in which
he argues that the New World was discovered by Africans long before the time of
Columbus. Professor Weiner was led to this conclusion partly from the following

1. African works in American Indian languages.

2. Vases and pipe-bowls found in the ruins of the Mound-Builders, showing
Negro faces on their surfaces.

3. The presence of African foods in America, such the peanut and the yam.

4. The totemic organization of the Amerindians tribes, very similar to
African totemism. (Totemism is a sort of primitive theory of evolution.
For instance, certain tribes are divided into clans, and each clan is, as a
rule named after some species of animal. Let us suppose a tribe is divided
into four clans, bearing the following names: (1) eagle, (2) Bear, (3) Crow
and (4) Wolf. A member of the Bear Clan will consider himself as
descended from bears, a member of the Wolf Clan will tell you that he is a
wolf and that all of his ancestors were wolves, and so on; this clan
ancestor being known as the Totem. There are numerous definitions of
totemism, the best I have come across being the following one by
Professor A. VB. Haddon: “Totemism, as Dr. Frazer and I understand it in
its fully developed condition, implies the division of a people into several
totem kins, or as they are usually termed, totem clans, each of which has
one or sometimes more that one totem. The totem is usually a species of
animal, sometimes a species of plant, occasionally a natural object or
phenomenon, very rarely a manufactured article. . . . The totems are
regarded as kinsfolk or protectors of the kinsmen, who respect them and
refrain from killing and eating them. There is thus a recognition of mutual
rights and obligations between the members of the kin and their totem.
The totem is the crest of symbol of the Kin.” We see vestiges of totemism
in our political organizations; for example, the Democratic DONKEY and
the republican ELEPHANT. Baseball clubs present an even better example
of totemistic atavism; for instance, who has not heard of baseball teams
bearing such names as: tigers, cardinals, bears, bees, bisons, etc.)
Weiner’s theories have not been kindly received by his colleagues.
Professor H. J. Spinden sneers sarcastically in the following condensed
extract from Culture, the Diffusion Controversy, pp. 53-54, New York,

“Professor Weiner solves the riddle of old American civilizations with an Arabico-Mandingo lexicon and derives everything of importance in the New World from the highly civilized coast of
Gambia and Sierra Leone. From brightest Africa came the principal American food plants, the Mayan calendar and the Mexican religion. It may be added that Professor Weiner swarms
his Negroes across the Atlantic in no less than fifty voyages before Columbus.”

The Indian was not the original American. Professor Ales Hrdlicka of the Smithsonian Institution, as authority on the Amerinds, contends that the ancestors of the Indians came from Asia via Bering Strait 10,000 years ago. American civilization is older than that. The ruins of Tiahuanaco, in Bolivia, according to Dr. Rudolph Muller, a noted German astronomer, are between 10,000 and 14,000 years old. The remains of this ancient city show that it was inhabited by a highly civilized people. (See an article entitled “The
Oldest City in the World,” by A. H. Verrill, in the N. Y. Herald-Tribune Magazine, July 31, 1932.) Excavations in Mexico have produced equally startling results. Dr. Maximus Neumayer, a distinguished Brazilian archaeologist, in cooperation with a group of Mexican archaeologists, has made a very thorough study of the pyramids and monuments in the vicinity of Mexico City. He estimates the monument of Cuicuilco to be about 13,000 years old. An interesting feature of this structure is that it resembles the Assyrio-Babylonian type of architecture, bearing a striking resemblance to the Tower of Babel as it has been restored by the Assyriologists. Dr. Neumayer also examined the pyramids of Teotihuacan, which he estimates to be 4,500 years of age. He thinks that these pyramids were built by a people akin to the Egyptians; and from their arrangement, suggests that they form a sort of model of the solar system, with a pedestal in the center, representing the sun. We must also mention the discoveries of Professor Ramon Mena, Curator of the Department of Archaeology of the Mexican Government. This scientist explored the ruins of the great city of Palenque, and concluded that the ancient metropolis was built over 10,000 years ago. He also found that the inhabitants of the city were familiar with the manufacture and use of Stucco. The celebrated French archaeologist, Desiree Charnay, unearthed statues around Mexico City, more than fifty years ago, with faces showing Negroid features. Pictures of some of them may be seen in Ignatius Donelley’s Atlantis, pp. 174-175. Donnelly also has illustrations of two similar statues, one from Palenque and the other from Vera Cruz. Finding that the Indians show both Mongoloid and Negroid ethnic traces, Charnay justly concluded that the Amerinds were a mixed race of both Asiatic and African ancestry. (See The Ancient Cities of the New World, by Desiree Charnay.) We have perfectly reliable proof of the presence of men of the Ethiopian race in pre-Columbian America. Father Roman, one of he first Catholic missionaries to arrive in the New World, records that a tribe of black men came from the south and landed in Haiti, and that they were armed with darts of guanin (a composition of gold, silver and copper), and were known as the black Guaninis. “These might have been the Negroes of Quareca, mentioned by Peter Martyr d Angleria, or some other American Negro nation,” asserts De Roo, “the like of which there were many, as we may see in Rafinesque’s Account of the Ancient Black Nations of America. Such are the Charruas of Brazil, the black Carabees of St. Vincent in the Gulf of Mexico, the Jamassi of Florida, the dark complexioned Californians who are perhaps the dark men mentioned in the Quiche traditions and by some old Spanish adventures. Such, again, is the tribe of which Balboa saw some representatives in his passage of the Isthmus of Darien in the year 1513. It would seem from the expressions made use of by Gomara, that these were Negroes.” {History of America Before Columbus, pp. 306-307, by P. De Roo, Philadelphia and London, 1900.) Spanish and Portugese explorers found colonies of black men on the eastern coasts of South and Central America, and in Yucatan and Nicaragua. De Roo quotes John T. Short, author of The North Americans of Antiquity, New York, 1880, on the similarity of African and American languages, as follows — “It is worthy of note that several eminent scholars have observed the remarkable similarity of grammatical structure between the Central American and certain transatlantic languages, especially the Basque and some of the languages of Western Africa.” {History of America Before Columbus, pp. 164-165.)

Most of us are familiar with the Mayan civilization of Yucatan and Central America, since American archaeologists have devoted many years of intensive research to these territories. Among the speculations concerning the origin of this culture, those of LePlongeon and Raquena are the most valuable. Professor Rafael Requena, a Venezuelan archaeologist, holds that there was once an island in the Atlantic Ocean, of continental dimensions, known to the ancients as Atlantis, that this island was settled by Egyptians, who in turn established colonies in America before the submergence of Atlantis. The findings of Professor Augustus LePlongeon are of great interest. This Franco-American archaeologist discovered the ruins of a palace in Chichen Itza in 1 874. He found in this structure, known as Prince Coh’s Palace, pictographs and inscriptions which he was able
to decipher. The story, as unraveled by LePlongeon, may be read by the student in Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx, where the professor gives his interpretation of the inscriptions and reproductions of the pictographs. Mrs. LePlongeon’s work, Queen Moo’s Talisman, might also be consulted. The story runs roughly as follows:

About 1 1,000 years ago, two brothers Princes of Yucatan, sought the hand of the ruling monarch of the land, Queen Moo, in marriage. The brothers were named Coh and Aac, respectively. Prince Coh was the successful suitor; which so enraged Prince Aac that he stabbed his brother through the heart with a stone knife, which, needless to say, caused his death. Then Aac attempted to force Queen Moo to wed him. The Queen, rather than submit, decided to flee to Atlantis. On reaching the coast she learned that great earthquakes had submerged Atlantis beneath the sea; so she sailed for Africa instead, and ended her journey in Egypt. There she was hailed as Queen, and erected the Sphinx as a memorial to her slain husband.

The foregoing story sounds like a fable, but there is probably a core of fact in it. If the Sphinx, with its Ethiopian face, is a memorial to an ancient Mayan prince, it shows that the Mayas were of African origin.

Where flows the river Nile,
The queen found rest;

There once again her days
With peace were blessed.

Did Moo a giant Sphinx from
Out of the ground

Cause to arise, and
Thus Coh’s fame renew?

Did she immortalize
Her consort true?”
{Queen Moo’s Talisman, p. 65, by Alice D. LePlongeon.)

That Atlantis was connected with the history of ancient Ethiopia there can be little doubt. The Greek philosopher, Proclus, stated in his works that he could present evidence that Atlantis at one time actually existed. He cited as his authority The Ethiopian History of Marcellus. In referring to Ethiopian history to prove the existence of Atlantis, Proclus plainly infers that Atlantis was a part of Ethiopia. (See Cory’s Ancient Fragments of the Phoenician, Carthaginian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Other Authors, London, 1876. See also, Maynard Shipley’s New Light on Prehistoric Cultures and Bramwell’s Lost
Atlantis.) Although there is scientific evidence that an island of continental dimensions once existed in what is now the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, many students of the problem of Atlantis have located it in other parts of the globe, particularly in Central America and Africa. Count deProrok ways that Atlantis, in the dimness of antiquity, covered the region now occupied by the Sahara Desert. Kirchmaier placed it in South Africa and Froebenius in West Africa. In reviewing James Bramwell’s Lost Atlantis, Mr. Lewis Gannett states that: “The German anthropologist Frobenius definitely locates it in Nigeria, whose ancient civilization he relates to that of the Etruscans and the Assyrians.” {New York Herald-Tribune, Mar. 3, 1938.) Doctor Froebenius found ruins of palaces, terra cotta fragments and beautiful statuary in Jorubaland, a district in Nigeria between the Niger River and the Atlantic Ocean; and he heard among the Jorubians legends of an ancient royal city and its palace with walls of gold, which in the long ago had sunk beneath the waves. The German scholar, Eugen Georg, is a keen student of the Atlantis question, and the following remarks of his are worthy of our attention:

The new age that began after the disappearance of Atlantis was marked at first by the world-wide dominance of Ethiopian representatives of the black race. They were supreme in Africa and Asia . . . and they even infiltrated through Southern Europe. . . . During the present era — that is the last 10,000 years — the white race… has come to possess the world. According to the occult tradition, Semitic peoples developed wherever the immigrating white colonists from the north were subjugated by the black ruling class, and inter-mixture occurred, as in oldest Egypt, Chaldea,
Arabia and Phoenicia.” {The Adventure of Mankind, by Eugen Georg, pp.
121-122, New York, 1931.)

So far we have given little or no attention to the evidence of comparative religion. The study of ancient religious history is important, for religion, like philosophy, changes but slowly. Institutional religion, being conservative and static in its outlook, has preserved much ancient lore that would have otherwise been lost to the modern student. The Greek philosopher Xenophanes (572-480 B.C.), pointed out a profound truth when he observed that the gods men worship very closely resemble the worshippers. In the words of this ancient sage: “Each man represents the gods as he himself is. The Ethiopian as black and
flat-nosed the Thracian as red-haired and blue-eyed; and if horses and oxen could paint, they would no doubt depict the gods as horses and oxen.” This being the case; when we find the great nations of the world, both past and present, worshipping black gods, then we logically conclude that these peoples are either members of the black race, or that they originally received their religion in toto or in part from black people. The proofs are abundant. The ancient gods of India are shown with Ethiopian crowns on their heads. According to the Old Testament, Moses first met Jehovah during his sojourn among the Midianites, who were an Ethiopian tribe. We learn from Hellenic tradition that Zeus, king
of the Grecian gods, so cherished the friendship of the Ethiopians that he traveled to their country twice a year to attend banquets. “All the gods and goddesses of Greece were black,” asserts Sir Godfrey Higgins, “at least this was the case with Jupiter, Baccus, Hercules, Apollo, Ammon. The goddesses Benum, Isis, Hecate, Diana, Juno, Metis, Ceres, Cybele were black.” (Anacalypsis, Vol. I, Book IV, Chap. I.) Even the Romans, who received their religion mainly from the Greeks, admitted their debt to Egypt and Ethiopia. This may be well illustrated by the following passage from The Golden Ass or Metamorphosis, by Apuleius. The author, as an initiate of the Isis cult is represented as being addressed by that goddess: “I am present; I who am Nature, the parent of things, queen of all the elements . . . the primitive Phrygians called me Press imunitica, the mother or the gods; the native Athenians, Ceropian Minerva; the floating Cyprians, Paphian Venus … the inhabitants of Eleusis, the ancient goddess Ceres. Some again have invoked me as Juno, others as Bellona, others as Hecate, and others Rhamnusia; and those who are enlightened by the emerging rays of the rising sun, the Ethiopians, Ariians and Egyptians, powerful in ancient learning, who reverence by divinity with ceremonies perfectly proper, call me by my true appellation, Queen Isis.” (Doane’s Bible Myths, Note, p. 478.)

A study of the images of ancient deities of both the Old and New Worlds reveal their Ethiopic origin. This is noted by Kenneth R. H. Mackezie in T. A. Buckley’s Cities of the Ancient World, p. 180: “From the wooly texture of the hair, I am inclined to assign to the Buddha of India, the Fuhi of China, the Sommonacom of the Siamese, the Zaha of the Japanese, and the Quetzalcoatl of the Mexicans, the same, and indeed an African, or rather Nubian, origin.” Most of these black gods were regarded as crucified saviors who died to save mankind by being nailed to a cross, or tied to a tree with arms outstretched as if on a cross, or slain violently in some other manner. Of these crucified saviors, the most prominent were Osiris and Horus of Egypt, Krishna of India, Mithra of Persia, Quetazlcoatl of Mexico, Adonis of Babylonia and Attis of Phrygia. Nearly all of these slain savior-gods have the following stories related about them: They are born of a virgin, on or near Dec. 25 th (Christmas); their births are heralded by a star; they are born either in a cave or stable; they are slain, commonly by crucifixion; they descend into hell, and rise from the dead at the beginning of Spring (Easter), and finally ascend into heaven. The parallels between the legendary lives of these pagan messiahs and the life of Jesus Christ
as recorded in the Bible are so similar that progressive Bible scholars now admit that stories of these heathen Christs have been woven into the life-story of Jesus. (These remarkable parallels are discussed and interpreted in a pamphlet, Christianity Before Christ, by John G. Jackson, New York, 1938.)

The late Mr. Maynard Shipley, President of The Science League of America, made a very scholarly study of the various mythologies and religions of the world, and in the concluding passage of a brilliant essay, Christian Doctrines in Pre-Christian America, he offers a profoundly thought-provoking statement:

That the ancient pagan creeds, legends and myths — part of the universal mythos — should be found embodied in the religion of the ancient Mexicans, and that all these again are found to be but the original sources of the modern orthodox Christian religion, is by no means inexplicable, and need not be attribute to the subtlety of the Ubiquitous Devil. The explanation is that all religions and all languages of the civilized races of men had a common origin in an older seat of civilization.

Where that original center of culture was is another story.

The evidence seems to show that the “original center of culture,” referred to by Mr. Shipley, was that vast domain known to the classical geographers and historians as Ethiopia. A study of religious images throws much light on this early civilization. The tau (T-shaped) cross is thought by many Christians to be a unique emblem of their faith. The fact is that this cross is of ancient Ethiopian origin. In the words of an outstanding student of symbolism: “The Ethiopic form of the tau is an exact prototype of the conventional Christian cross; or, to state the fact in its chronological relation, the Christian cross is made in the exact image of the Ethiopian tau.” (Sex Symbolism. P. 9, by William J, Fielding, Little Blue Book No. 904.) The cross was known to all the great ancient nations, and was sometimes shown with the image of a man upon it. The Church Father, Minucius Felix, writing in the early part of the third century, severely rebukes the Pagans for their adoration of crosses: “I must tell you that we neither adore crosses nor desire them; you it is ye Pagans … for what else are your ensigns, flags and standards, but crosses gilt and beautiful. Your victorious trophies not only represent a cross, but a cross
with a man upon it.” Commenting on the preceding extract, the American scholar, T. W. Doane, notes that:

It is very evident that this celebrated Christian Father alludes to some Gentle mystery, of which the prudence of his successors has deprived us. When we compare this with the fact that for centuries after the time assigned for the birth of Jesus Christ, he was not represented as a man on a cross, and that the Christians did not have such a thing as a crucifix, we are inclined to think that the effigies of a black or dark-skinned crucified man, which were to be seen in many places in Italy even during the last century, may have had something to do with it. (Bible Myths, p. 197, 7 th

The same writer also refers to “the Mexican crucified god being sometimes represented as black,” and that “crosses were also found in Yucatan, as well as Mexico, with a man upon them.” (Ibid., p. 201.)

The numerous black madonnas and infants in European cathedrals are discussed in detail by Sir Godfrey Higgins in The Anacalypsis, Vol. I, Book JV, Chap. I, to which the interested student is referred. However, the remarks of Mr. Shipley on this point are worthy of our attention:

Very suggestive is the fact that representations of the virgin mother and infant savior are often black. This is true in the case of the paintings and images of Isis and Horus, of Devaki and Krishna, and in many cases of Mary and Jesus. The most ancient pictures and statues in Italy and other
parts of Europe, which are adored by the faithful as representations of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus, reveal the infant draped in white, but with face black and in the arms of a black mother. . . . How does it happen that the Virgin Mother of the Mexican Savior-God so closely resembled the Black Virgins of Egypt and Europe? Had they not all a common origin?” (Sex and The Garden of Eden Myth, pp. 50-51, by Maynard Shipley, Little Blue Book No. 1 188.)

Mr. A. H. Verrill, an American archaeologist, visited an Indian shrine in a small town in Guatemala a few years ago, and found that on a special festival day Indians traveled to this
little church to bow down to the image of a Black Christ. From the attendant ceremonies, Verrill judged the rite to be of Mayan origin, (see Verrill’s Old Civilizations of the New World, New York, 1938.) The Mayas possessed knowledge of the arts and sciences equivalent to that of the ancients of the Old World, but upon that we cannot dwell, since
limitations of space forbid it. The reader is referred to Professor Paul Radin’s fine book on the American Indians, where after surveying the marvelous scientific achievements of the Mayas of Yucatan and Central America , Dr. Radin admits that: “No excavations have ever revealed to us any civilization of a simpler nature from which this very elaborate culture
could possibly have been developed.” (The Story of the American Indian, p. 77, Garden City, 1937.) Egypt and Western Asia tell the same story. “In each case we have a standard or measuring-rod of authentic historical record,” declares Samuel Laing, “of certainly not less than 8,000 and more probably 9,000 or 10,000 years, from the present time; and in each case we find ourselves at this remote date, in the presence, not of rude beginnings, but of a civilization already ancient and far advanced. We have populous cities, celebrated temples, an organized priesthood, an advanced state of agriculture and of the industrial and fine arts; writing and books so long known that their origin is lost in myth; religions in which advanced philosophical and moral ideas are already developed; astronomical systems which imply a long course of accurate observations. How long this prehistoric age may have lasted, and how many centuries it may have taken to develop such a civilization, from the primitive beginnings of Neolithic and Paleolithic origins, is a matter of conjecture. All we can infer is, that it must have required an immense time, much longer than that embraced by the subsequent period of historical record.”
(Human Origins, by Samuel Laing, p. 30, London, 1913.)

Much more could be said on this subject, but since this essay is addressed mainly to readers who have little time for the study of history, it must be made as concise as possible. The numerous citations from standard scientific and historical works, it is hoped, will be of some benefit to students who are out of reach of large public libraries, or who lack the leisure time necessary for reading and research along these lines.

Why were the Ethiopian Jews the last to arrive in Israel?

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Israel only brought Ethiopian Jews to the country under duress; and since their arrival, it has treated them worse than any other Jews

Interview with Dr. Chen Tannenbaum-Domanovitz

Written by Tseday

January 12, 2017 at 2:07 pm

“Bring Me the Ethiopian Jews”

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Source: World Policy Blog

November 17, 2016
By Omri Bezalel

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin called the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, into his office in 1977 and said to him, “Bring me the Ethiopian Jews.” What followed were a series of missions by land, sea, and air that brought more than 56,000 Jewish Ethiopians through Sudan into Israel over eight years. It was a highpoint in Israel’s history, followed immediately by a massive failure to integrate Ethiopians into Israeli society—a failure that carries immense consequences for today’s young Ethiopian-Israelis who experience racial discrimination and sometimes feel as though they’re not part of Israeli society.

The scale of the calamity can be found in demographic statistics. There are about 140,000 Ethiopian-Israelis living in Israel, about 50,000 of whom were born in Israel. Sixty-five percent of Ethiopian children live in poverty and one-fifth are incarcerated in juvenile detention centers. Less than 11 percent of Ethiopian-Israeli high school students are eligible to graduate. One in five Ethiopian-Israelis—five times the number for the general population—are jailed during their military service, making up 12 percent of the military prison population but only 2 percent of the military. There are fewer than 40 Ethiopians (one out of 3,000) who practice law.

Today’s problems can be traced to the integration process Ethiopians went through when they first came to Israel. Addisu Masale, the first Ethiopian elected to the Knesset, remembers the segregation starting on arrival when he and others were put in permanent public housing. But these projects didn’t exist in prospering neighborhoods, which feared property devaluation; it was the neighborhoods lower on the socio-economic scale that were forced to take in the newcomers. Non-Ethiopian residents soon left, leaving the Ethiopian community isolated from the rest of Israeli society.

“In that way,” Massale said, “the schools and kindergartens, the offices, the neighborhoods, everything naturally became 100 percent Ethiopian with no connection to the rest of Israeli society, and no integration whatsoever.”

Masale, 63, was born in a Jewish village 500 miles north of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. He went to a Jewish elementary school where he heard fairytales about Israel as a place without death and illness. The communist regime in Ethiopia at the time had many citizens looking for asylum in neighboring countries, and Zionist Ethiopian Jews, including Masale’s family, escaped to Sudan in hopes of making it to Israel. As many as 4,000 people died during the journey.

Masale recalls a long history of discrimination in Israel that led him to organize protests. In 1985, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel questioned Ethiopians’ Judaism and decreed they all had to convert; in 1996, the Ethiopian-Israeli community found out the blood bank was throwing away any blood they were donating.

Pnina Tamano-Shata immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia in 1984 at the age of three. Even though she excelled in school, she was routinely taken out of class to attend reinforcement lessons with other Ethiopian children.

“The separatism starts with the basic misperception that Ethiopians are weaker, based on the old reality of Ethiopians from 30 years ago who came to Israel with little or no education,” Tamano-Shata said. “Educators have projected this view onto students, many of whom have been tracked down special educational programs that don’t necessarily fit their skills or ability, and that isolate them in a homogenous environment that hinders their development and integration with Israeli society.” This separation leads to isolation, hostility, frustration, and increasing differences between Ethiopian children and their peers.

Israeli society has also been unwilling to accept Ethiopian-Israelis. In a 2013 Ministry of Finance survey asking employers which demographic groups they most preferred hiring, Ethiopians came in last after women, people aged over 45, people with disabilities, immigrants from the former USSR, Orthodox Jews, and Arabs. A 2012 survey by Geocartographica said that less than half of non-immigrant Israelis supported mixed classrooms, and only a quarter would allow their children to marry Ethiopians.

In an opinion piece called “I’m Not Your Cleaning Lady” for Ynet News, Israeli-born Esther Bisur gave examples of society’s institutionalized racism through her day-to-day interactions. These included strangers offering her jobs as a housekeeper, constantly being asked “when did you immigrate to Israel,” and her non-Ethiopian boyfriend being commended for “volunteering with the Ethiopian community” when seen together with her and her family.

This ongoing discrimination—along with greater awareness of the situation, through means such as a viral video of an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier beaten by a police officer—led to massive protests in Tel Aviv last year. The demonstrations were organized by a new generation of Ethiopian-Israelis, most of whom were born and raised in Israel. They claim they’re treated like second-class citizens and refuse to carry on what they consider to be their parents’ generation’s passive mentality.

“The older generation was content in fulfilling the dream of coming to Israel, and then were too busy surviving,” Tamano-Shata said. “The younger generation is fighting for its place within Israeli society, navigating its way between their love for their country and the many blows they absorb based on their skin color.”

While the situation for Ethiopian-Israelis has improved in recent years, many in the community agree they should be more involved in decision making. Various government and civil society programs have attempted over the years to close the gap between Ethiopian-Israelis and the rest of the population, but program leaders have, in the past, mostly been non-Ethiopians. This has led many in the Ethiopian community to see these programs as another means of differentiating them from the general population.

Many in the Jewish community in the U.S. and abroad, out of true concern, have insisted the money they donate be used to help Ethiopians. This has led Israel to fund segregated programs that haven’t helped integrate Ethiopians. Tamano-Shata, who won a seat in the Knesset in 2013, pushed to pass a bill that said donors couldn’t dictate where their money went, allowing funds to be allocated in ways that meet the true needs of the community.

One of Tamano-Shata’s solutions is to have differential treatment in the budget, but integration in practice. For instance, instead of budgeting for Ethiopian youth centers, money would go toward providing Ethiopian children vouchers to attend community centers with the rest of the neighborhood children.

Masale believes there must be one authority in charge of all Ethiopian-Israeli matters, from policy regulation and distributing funds to publicity efforts that inform the public about the community’s history and culture in an effort to get rid of the stereotypes and ignorance that fuel discrimination.

On the one hand, things are better today than they once were. Two Ethiopian-Israeli female judges were recently appointed, the Ethiopian community is becoming more involved in decision-making processes, and there are many people, in and outside of government, who are working toward further improvements. This year, the prime minister signed a policy stating the Ethiopian National Project must spend its $130 million annual budget on programs that promote integration. But social media has also made the Ethiopian-Israeli community more aware of the injustices happening around the country as more cell phone footage, personal stories, and investigative journalism bring to light the harsh barrier of racism Ethiopian-Israelis face today.

“The flag of immigrants still waves in Israel,” Masale said. “People want immigrants in Israel, just not in their backyard.” Israel prides itself in being a beacon for Jews everywhere, and even has a Law of Return that promises citizenship to every Jew who wants it. But the true challenge of that promise isn’t in bringing Jews to Israel, but in what comes after.


Omri Bezalel is an editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.

Written by Tseday

January 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

The Epic of Aesop, the Black Philosopher

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An inspiring audio reading by Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin, Poet Laureate of Ethiopia

“Speaking of African studies or of Africa, the origin of all living things, the origin of all human kind, and the origin of the first civilization, very little is known. Very little has been studied so far. And a great deal more remains to be studied, to be excavated and to be re-discovered. The name Aesop means in the Egyptian-Cushitic hieroglyphs, the Upper Throne, the Higher Throne. Aethop, the name of Aethopia means the Upper Truth, the Higher Truth.”

Ethiopia: Escape to the Land of Origins

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The Brussels Times Magazine

The Brussels Times - Ethiopia: Escape to the Land of Origins The Brussels Times - Ethiopia: Escape to the Land of Origins The Brussels Times - Ethiopia: Escape to the Land of Origins The Brussels Times - Ethiopia: Escape to the Land of Origins The Brussels Times - Ethiopia: Escape to the Land of Origins

Deir Sultan, Ethiopia and the Black World

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By Negussay Ayele

Background to Deir Sultan at a glance

Unknown by much of the world, monks and nuns of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, have for centuries quietly maintained the only presence by black people in one of Christianity’s holiest sites—the Church of the Holy Sepulcher of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. Through the vagaries and vicissitudes of millennial history and landlord changes in Jerusalem and the Middle East region, Ethiopian monks have retained their monastic convent in what has come to be known as Deir Sultan or the Monastery of the Sultan for more than a thousand years. Likewise, others that have their respective presences in the area at different periods, include Armenian, Russian, Syrian, Egyptian and Greek Orthodox/Coptic Churches as well as the Holy See. As one writer put it recently, “For more than 1500 years, the Church of Ethiopia survived in Jerusalem. Its survival has not, in the last resort, been dependent on politics, but on the faith of individual monks that we should look for the vindication of the Church’s presence in Jerusalem….They are attracted in Jerusalem not by a hope for material gain or comfort, but by faith.” It is hoped that public discussion on this all-important subject will be joined by individuals and groups from all over the world, particularly the African Diaspora. At this time, I will confine myself to offering a brief profile of the Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem and its current state of turmoil. I hope that others with more detailed and/or first hand knowledge about the subject will join in the discussion.

Accounts of Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem invoke the Bible to establish the origin of Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem. Accordingly, some Ethiopians refer to the story of the encounter in Jerusalem between Queen of Sheba–believed to have been a ruler in Ethiopia and environs–and King Solomon, cited, for instance, in I Kings 10: 1-13. According to this version, Ethiopia’s presence in the region was already established about 1000 B.C. possibly through land grant to the visiting Queen, and that later transformation into Ethiopian Orthodox Christian monastery is an extension of that same property. Others refer to the New Testament account of Acts 8: 26-40 which relates the conversion to Christianity of the envoy of Ethiopia’s Queen Candace (Hendeke) to Jerusalem in the first century A.D., thereby signaling the early phase of Ethiopia’s adoption of Christianity. This event may have led to the probable establishment of a center of worship in Jerusalem for Ethiopian pilgrims, priests, monks and nuns.

Keeping these renditions as a backdrop, what can be said for certain is the following. Ethiopian monastic activities in Jerusalem were observed and reported by contemporary residents and sojourners during the early years of the Christian era. By the time of the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem and the region (634-644 A.D.) khalif Omar is said to have confirmed Ethiopian physical presence in Jerusalem’s Christian holy places, including the Church of St. Helena which encompasses the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord Jesus Christ. His firman or directive of 636 declared that“the Iberian and Abyssinian communities remain there” while also recognizing the rights of other Christian communities to make pilgrimages in the Christian holy places of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem and the region around it, has been subjected to frequent invasions and changing landlords, stakes in the holy places were often part of the political whims of respective powers that be. Subsequently, upon their conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, the Crusaders, had kicked out Orthodox/Coptic monks from the monasteries and installed Augustine monks instead. However, when in 1187 Salaheddin wrested Jerusalem from the Crusaders, he restored the presence of the Ethiopian and other Orthodox/Coptic monks in the holy places. When political powers were not playing havoc with their claims to the holy places, the different Christian sects would often carry on their own internecine conflicts among themselves, at times with violent results.

“For more than 1500 years, the Church of Ethiopia survived in Jerusalem. Its survival has not, in the last resort, been dependent on politics, but on the faith of individual monks that we should look for the vindication of the Church’s presence in Jerusalem….They are attracted in Jerusalem not by a hope for material gain or comfort, but by faith.”

Contemporary records and reports indicate that the Ethiopian presence in the holy places in Jerusalem was rather much more substantial throughout much of the period up to the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, an Italian pilgrim, Barbore Morsini, is cited as having written in 1614 that “the Chapels of St. Mary of Golgotha and of St. Paul…the grotto of David on Mount Sion and an altar at Bethelheim…”among others were in the possession of the Ethiopians. From the 16th to the middle of the 19thcenturies, virtually the whole of the Middle East was under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. When one of the Zagwe kings in Ethiopia, King Lalibela (1190-1225), had trouble maintaining unhampered contacts with the monks in Jerusalem, he decided to build a new Jerusalem in his land. In the process he left behind one of the true architectural wonders known as the Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela. The Ottomans also controlled Egypt and much of the Red Sea littoral and thereby circumscribed Christian Ethiopia’s communication with the outside world, including Jerusalem. Besides, they had also tried but failed to subdue Ethiopia altogether. Though Ethiopia’s independent existence was continuously under duress not only from the Ottomans but also their colonial surrogate, Egypt as well as from the dervishes in the Sudan, the Ethiopian monastery somehow survived during this period. Whenever they could, Ethiopian rulers and other personages as well as church establishments sent subsidies and even bought plots of land where in time churches and residential buildings for Ethiopian pilgrims were built in and around Jerusalem. Church leaders in Jerusalem often represented the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in ecumenical councils and meetings in Florence and other fora.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the Ottoman rulers of the region including Palestine and, of course, Jerusalem, tried to stabilize the continuing clamor and bickering among the Christian sects claiming sites in the Christian holy places. To that effect, Ottoman rulers including Sultan Selim I (1512-1520) and Suleiman “the Magnificent” (1520-1566) as well as later ones in the 19th century, issued edicts or firmans regulating and detailing by name which group of monks would be housed where and the protocol governing their respective religious ceremonies. These edicts are called firmans of the Status Quo for all Christian claimants in Jerusalem’s holy places including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which came to be called Deir Sultan or the monastery (place) of the Sultan. Ethiopians referred to it endearingly as Debre Sultan. Most observers of the scene in the latter part of the 19th Century as well as honest spokesmen for some of the sects attest to the fact that from time immemorial the Ethiopian monks had pride of place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Deir Sultan). Despite their meager existence and pressures from fellow monks from other countries, the Ethiopian monks survived through the difficult periods their country was going through such as the period of feudal autarchy (1769-1855). Still, in every document or reference since the opening of the Christian era, Ethiopia and Ethiopian monks have been mentioned in connection with Christian holy places in Jerusalem, by all alternating landlords and powers that be in the region.

As surrogates of the weakening Ottomans, the Egyptians were temporarily in control of Jerusalem (1831-1840). It was at this time, in 1838, that a plague is said to have occurred in the holy places which in some mysterious ways of Byzantine proportions, claimed the lives of allEthiopian monks. The Ethiopians at this time were ensconced in a chapel of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Deir Sultan) as well as in other locales nearby. Immediately thereafter, the Egyptian authorities gave the keys of the Church to the Egyptian Coptic monks. The Egyptian ruler, Ibrahim Pasha, then ordered that all thousands of very precious Ethiopian holy books and documents, including historical and ecclesiastical materials related to property deeds and rights, be burned—alleging conveniently that the plague was spawned by the Ethiopian parchments. Monasteries are traditionally important hubs of learning and, given its location and its opportunity for interaction with the wider family of Christiandom, the Ethiopian monastery in Jerusalem was even more so than others. That is how Ethiopians lost their choice possession in Deir Sultan. By the time other monks arrived in Jerusalem, the Copts claimed their squatter’s rights, the new Ethiopian arrivals were eventually pushed off onto the open rooftop of the church, thanks largely to the machinations of the Egyptian Coptic church.

Although efforts on behalf of Ethiopian monks in Jerusalem started in mid-19th Century with Ras Ali and Dejach Wube, it was the rise of Emperor Tewodros in 1855 in Ethiopia that put the Jerusalem monastery issue back onto international focus. When Ethiopian monks numbering a hundred or so congregated in Jerusalem at the time, the Armenians had assumed superiority in the holy places. The Anglican bishop in Jerusalem then, Bishop Samuel Gobat witnessed the unholy attitude and behavior of the Armenians and the Copts towards their fellow Christian Ethiopians who were trying to reclaim their rights to the holy places in Jerusalem. He wrote that the Ethiopian monks, nuns and pilgrims “were both intelligent and respectable, yet they were treated like slaves, or rather like beasts by the Copts and the Armenians combined…(the Ethiopians) could never enter their own chapel but when it pleased the Armenians to open it. …On one occasion, they could not get their chapel opened to perform funeral service for one of their members. The key to their convent being in the hands of their oppressors, they were locked up in their convent in the evening until it pleased their Coptic jailer to open it in the morning, so that in any severe attacks of illness, which are frequent there, they had no means of going out to call a physician.’’ It was awareness of such indignities suffered by Ethiopian monks in Jerusalem that is said to have impelled Emperor Tewodros to have visions of clearing the path between his domain and Jerusalem from Turkish/Egyptian control, and establishing something more than monastic presence there. In the event, one of the issues which contributed to the clash with British colonialists that consumed his life 1868, was the quest for adequate protection of the Ethiopian monks and their monastery in Jerusalem.

Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889), the priestly warrior king, used his relatively cordial relations with the British who were holding sway in the region then, to make representations on behalf of the Ethiopian monastery in Jerusalem. He carried on regular pen-pal communications with the monks even before he became Emperor. He sent them money, he counseled them and he always asked them to pray for him and the country, saying, “For the prayers of the righteous help and serve in all matters. By the prayers of the righteous a country is saved.” He used some war booty from his battles with Ottomans and their Egyptian surrogates, to buy land and started to build a church in Jerusalem. As he died fighting Sudanese/Dervish expansionists in 1889, his successor, Emperor Menelik completed the construction of the Church named Debre Gennet located on what was called “Ethiopian Street.” During this period more monasteries, churches and residences were also built Empresses Tayitu, Zewditu, Menen as well as by several other personages including Afe Negus Nessibu, Dejazmach Balcha, Woizeros Amarech Walelu, Beyenech Gebru, Altayeworq. As of the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century the numbers of Ethiopian monks and nuns increased and so did overall Ethiopian pilgimage and presence in Jerusalem. In 1903, Emperor Menelikput $200, 000 thalers in a (Credileone?) Bank in the region and ordained that interests from that savings be used exclusively as subsidy for the sustenance of the Ethiopian monks and nuns and the upkeep of Deir Sultan. Emperor Menelik’s 6-point edict also ordained that no one be allowed to draw from the capital in whole or in part. Land was also purchased at various localities and a number of personalities including Empress Tayitu, and later Empress Menen, built churches there. British authorities supported a study on the history of the issue since at least the time of kalifa (Calif) Omar ((636) and correspondences and firmans and reaffirmations of Ethiopian rights in 1852, in an effort to resolve the chronic problems of conflicting claims to the holy sites in Jerusalm. The 1925 study concluded that ”the Abyssinian (Ethiopian ) community in Palestine ought to be considered the only possessor of the convent Deir Es Sultan at Jerusalem with the Chapels which are there and the free and exclusive use of the doors which give entrance to the convent, the free use of the keys being understood.”

Until the Fascist invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930’s when Mussolini confiscated Ethiopian accounts and possessions everywhere, including in Jerusalem, the Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem had shown some semblance of stability and security, despite continuing intrigues by Copts, Armenians and their overlords in the region. This was a most difficult and trying time for the Ethiopian monks in Jerusalem who were confronted with a situation never experienced in the country’s history, namely its occupation by a foreign power. And, just like some of their compatriots including Church leaders at home, some paid allegiance to the Fascist rulers albeit for the brief (1936-1941) interregnum. Emperor Haile Sellassie was also a notable patron of the monastery cause, and the only monarch to have made several trips to Jerusalem, including en route to his self-exile to London in May, 1936. Since at least the 1950s there was an Ethiopian Association for Jerusalem in Addis Ababa which coordinated annual Easter pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Hundreds of Ethiopians and other persons from Ethiopia and the Diaspora took advantage of its good offices to go there for absolution, supplication or felicitation, and the practice continues today. Against all odds, historical, ecclesiastical and cultural bonding between Ethiopia and Jerusalem waxed over the years. The Ethiopian presence expanded beyond Deir Sultan including also numerous Ethiopian Churches, chapels, convents and properties. This condition required that the Patriarchate of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church designate Jerusalem as a major diocese to be administered under its own Archbishop.

Contemporary developments related to Deir Sultan

The foregoing pages should give the reader some idea of the deeply rooted but checkered and sinewy Ethiopian tenure in Jerusalem’s Deir Sultan. That the Ethiopian monastery has survived so far against all odds, is nothing short of a miracle. The different powers played havoc with the Ethiopian monks and nuns in Deir Sultan, taking away their key to their own chapel, changing locks on them, burning their precious religious materials, beating and mistreating them and eventually pushing them out of their central holdings in the main chapel of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher onto the rooftop of the Church. Still, they remained there making their own thatched roofs, linoleum ceiling covers, plants for shades, water well and makeshift cookeries and bathrooms. There they stayed fasting, praying, singing hymnals in the style of David of old. They also carried on their religious rituals and ceremonies in accordance with the practices and requisites of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Throughout its history the Ethiopian monastery has been a political football for Egyptian Copts and Armenian Orthodox in particular and the Turks and other overlords of the region in general. Most of the time, the Ethiopian state, was not in a position to do much on behalf of the Deir Sultan Ethiopian monks, as it was itself struggling for its survival and sovereignty in a hostile environment. Only towards the end of the 19thCentury, did the Ethiopian state and the Metropolitan in Addis Ababa start making some difference in stabilizing whatever could be salvaged from centuries of Egyptian/Coptic usurpation sustained by the Ethiopian monastery.

Egyptian government/Coptic cabal against Ethiopian/black presence in Jerusalem became even more politicized and more pronounced after the 1950’s when the Ethiopian Orthodox Church opted to be autocephalous, thereby ending the centuries old tutelage of the Alexandrian Coptic Church, which had until then provided the Metropolitan or Patriarch for the Ethiopian Church. The Egyptian Copts never got over that act of self-determination by the Ethiopian Church, and they were quick to peg their petty or greedy quest for complete takeover of all Ethiopian properties and possessions in the holy places, especially the prized Church of the Holy Sepulcher. To that end, they have leaned on the Egyptian government to pressure different landlords of Jerusalem including the Jordanians until 1967 and the Israelis since then. In one form or another, therefore, the question of Deir Sultan has become intertwined with the larger issue of Arab/Palestinian an Israeli conflict in the region. Technically, the Status Quo firmans issued in earlier times, as adumbrated in foregoing pages, are supposed to govern possessions of the holy places in question and relations among the Christian claimants of same. These firmans are not only rigorous and stringent, but it is also incumbent on all landlords that be–such as Turks, British, Jordanian or Israeli—to enforce them strictly to the letter. A recent report points out, for example, that the Status Quo“prohibits simple renovations, removal of fallen debris from the decaying ceiling, even sweeping has to be done in the dark or the Ethiopians risk being reported to the authorities by their Christian neighbors.” Despite such strict provisions, it is, as we have seen heretofore, the rights and footholds of the Ethiopian monks that have been continuously usurped, to benefit mainly the Egyptian Copts and then the Armenians and to some extent other groups as well. The Ethiopian monks are even victims of internecine rivalries and jockeying for advantages among the other Christian usual suspects.

When in 1948, the State of Israel came into existence in Palestine, Jerusalem was still part of the Kingdom of Jordan. The ever irksome Copts provoked a confrontation with Ethiopian monks in Deir Sultan which required Jordanian intervention or, more properly enforcement of the age-old Status Quo provisions. Given the somewhat frigid relations then between Egypt and Jordan on the one hand and the nascent cordiality between Emperor Haile Sellassie and King Hussein on the other at that moment, the Jordanian government ordered that the Egyptian Copts hand over the keys to Deir Sultan to the Ethiopians. When the Copts failed to comply with the order, the Jordanians went ahead and changed the locks and gave the new keys to the Ethiopians. This was, however, short lived as newfound courtship between Egyptian President Nasser and Jordanian king Hussein resulted in a Jordanian volte-face which reversed their earlier ruling and the keys were once again given to the Copts. As is well known, in its sweeping military victory over its Arab antagonists in the 1967 war, Israel occupied territories of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. More importantly, Israel wrested Jerusalem from Jordanian control and became henceforth the new landlord of the Christian holy places as well. And so, the problem of Deir Sultan was now squarely on Israel’s shoulders. And, it did not take long for their judgment to be tested. The chronic tug-of-war between the Copts and Ethiopian Orthodox monks flared up again in 1970, when the Israeli government is said to have changed the locks and given the keys to the Ethiopians. The Copts, as expected, did not take this lying down. They decided to take the matter to the Israeli courts where they filed papers alleging that they were the sole owners of Deir Sultan and that at best the Ethiopians were only guests with no property rights to the holy places. In 1971, the Israeli High Court is said to have ruled in favour of the Coptic claim and ordered that the government turn over the keys to the Copts. It is reported that the Israeli government did not comply with the court order insisting that “its dispute with the Copts was political and not legal and that the judiciary should desist from pressuring the government to resolve the case in court.” It is to be remembered that through all this, the Egyptian Copts have already usurped the main floor and chapel of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Ethiopians are pushed to the rooftop of the Church. What the Copts want is for the Ethiopians to disappear once and for all from the scene, from the last vestige of presence they have maintained for nearly two thousand years altogether. With such Christian charity who needs enemies.

Despite the fact that the government of Emperor Haile Sellassie broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973, in solidarity with Egypt (an OAU member) which lost its Sinai territory, the Israeli government did not at this time retaliate by siding with the Egyptian Copts. To be sure, the Israelis were, and some say they still are, annoyed by Ethiopia’s decision which they regard as ‘betrayal’ and which also spawned an avalanche of diplomatic break off of ties with Israel by several other African countries, they did not retaliate on Deir Sultan for several reasons. One reason was that in the larger Arab-Israeli scheme of things, Deir Sultan does not figure big either for Egypt, the Arabs or for Israel. Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Red Sea littoral and most importantly, sovereignty over Jerusalem as a whole and, when all is said and done, Palestinian/Arab and Israeli peaceful coexistence in the region are the most important issues. At best, the Deir Sultan issue is a nuisance to them as it has been for all landlords of Jerusalem historically.

Another reason for the Israeli reluctance to tackle the Deir Sultan dispute between mainly the Copts and the Ethiopian monks has to do with yet a different factor in the mix embedded in millennial history of the region. For a very long time, it was recognized by Zionist elements that several thousands of Ethiopians referred to in Ethiopia as falashas and now named bete Israelis as being more or less Jews and in the early 1970’s the rabbinical authorities had authenticated as Jews in exile from one of the lost tribes and therefore eligible for the right of return oraliyah to Israel. Thus, for several years Jewish groups in North America, Europe and Israel had been working painstakingly to safely facilitate the return of the Ethiopian Jews to Israel, and the Israeli government was well advised not to jeopardize this process by antagonizing the Ethiopian government(s) on the Deir Sultan issue. In the event, between the mid-1980’s and 1991 more than 60, 000 Ethiopian Jews have arrived in Israel.

It appears that the Egyptian government and the Copts have left no stone unturned to divest the Ethiopian Church of its rightful heritage in Jerusalem which is as much, if not more, legitimate as that of the Copts and other Christian sects. It is to be recalled that in 1978, then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat were negotiating land for peace through the good offices of U.S. president Jimmy Carter at Camp David. It is believed that in the course of those negotiations, Sadat privately raised the Deir Sultan issue on behalf of the Copts under his suzerainty, and it is intimated that Begin made some kind of personal promise to him. Inasmuch as what transpired or what exactly was promised was all personal, private and unregistered or not declared publicly at the time, one wonders if any responsible state or government would deem to be duty bound to act upon such informal exchanges. The Egyptians are said to have also raised the matter of Deir Sultan at the Israeli-Egyptian Normalization talks in 1986. What is of interest to us here in all of the above litany of Egyptian/Coptic pleas and goadings, is how relentless and dogged the Egyptians/Copts have been in their hostility to Ethiopian/black Christian presence in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

This brings us to the latest physical clashes perpetrated by the Egyptian Coptic clerics in the Deir Sultan holy site in Jerusalem, which has been the subject of several reports by British, American, Israeli and Arab papers.

Unholy violence occurred in Christianity’s holiest place in Jerusalem at the end of  July 2002, when an Egyptian Coptic priest, Father Abdel Malek, decided to bring a chair, go up to the rooftop of the Church, which is the last remaining preserve of the Ethiopian monks, and proceeded to sit there under the shade of a tree in clear violation of the Status Quo. It is to be remembered that, the cleric and his colleagues would not allow Ethiopians to visit, sit or worship in the Coptic chapels. The details are sketchy in terms who did what and when. However, it appears that when Ethiopians naturally tried to resist this wanton violation of their rights to their space by the impudent Copt, violent clashes erupted involving also Israeli policemen. In the melee, nearly a dozen monks, mostly Ethiopians suffered injuries and lascerations. After all that, it is reported that, escorted by Israeli police daily, Coptic cleric Abdel Malek continued to perch at the Ethiopian property, presumably until the Ministry of Religious Affairs issues a ruling on the matter. A question that comes on loudly to an interested observer is, “Why did the Copts choose this particular time to force a confrontation on Deir Sultan?” It seems that, given the volatile and bloody situation in Palestinian and Israeli relations, the Egyptians/Copts may have assumed that the Israelis may at the moment be ready to cave in and Deir Sultan’s rooftop may just be the kind of bone they can throw to them to elicit a possible or putative mediating role vis-à-vis the Palestinians. And the Egyptians/Copts continue to put pressure on Israel by inflaming Arab opinion. Egyptian President Mubarak is said to have boycotted an important regional meeting recently protesting the Deir Sultan affair. An Arab paper reported  that earlier on, Pope Shenuda III of Alexandria lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Israel Sharon, calling on the Arab world to unite and put more effective pressure on Israel, inserting his pet agenda and saying, “the Israelis are occupying since 1970, the Deir Al Sultan church in east Jerusalem by force, and did not implement a ruling issued by the Jewish Supreme Court in favor of the (his Coptic) church.”

Since these shameful events, several deputations and representations to the Israeli authorities have been made by a newly formed “Ethiopian Association for Jerusalem” in the United States. These deputations took the form of written communications to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., and also in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Other concerned groups including the longstanding Association in Ethiopia and individuals of Ethiopian origin are, no doubt making efforts to let the authorities in Israel know their concern on the issue. It is also hoped that the black Jews from Ethiopia and elsewhere will also weigh in on the matter. Though the current regime in Addis Ababa is better known for its systematic destruction of Ethiopian history, culture, and integrity, it sent a delegation to Israel for perfunctory reasons and with no avail on behalf of the Ethiopian monks or the monastery. Given the split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa and in the Diaspora, the Church’s effectiveness in successfully challenging the Egyptian Coptic pressures to eliminate Ethiopian, hence black presence in Jerusalem is a matter of serious concern.

Ethiopia and Black Heritage In Jerusalem

For hundreds of years, the name or concept of Ethiopia has been a beacon for black/African identity liberty and dignity throughout the Diaspora. The Biblical (Psalm 68:31) verse , “…Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God” has been universally taken to mean African people, black people at large, stretch out their hands to God (and only to God) in supplication, in felicitation or in absolution. As Daniel Thwaite put it, for the Black man Ethiopia was always “…an incarnation of African independence.” And today, Ethiopian monastic presence in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or Deir Sultan in Jerusalem, is the only Black presence in the holiest place on earth for Christians. For much of its history, Ethiopian Christianity was largely hemmed in by alternating powers in the region. Likewise, Ethiopia used its own indigenous Ethiopic languages for liturgical and other purposes within its own territorial confines, instead of colonial or other lingua franca used in extended geographical spaces of the globe. For these and other reasons, Ethiopia was not able to communicate effectively with the wider Black world in the past. Given the fact that until recently, most of the Black world within Africa and in the Diaspora was also under colonial tutelage or under slavery, it was not easy to appreciate the significance of Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem. Consequently, even though Ethiopian/Black presence in Jerusalem has been maintained through untold sacrifices for centuries, the rest of the Black world outside of Ethiopia has not taken part in its blessings through pilgrimages to the holy sites and thereby develop concomitant bonding with the Ethiopian monastery in Jerusalem. Apropos to this theme, there is an initiative afoot by a few individuals to launch a “Forum for African Heritage in Jerusalem” website that can serve as a forum for education, dialogue and/or action by any and all concerned on Deir Sultan and the sustenance of Black presence there.

For nearly two millennia now, the Ethiopian Church and its adherent monks and priests have miraculously maintained custodianship of Deir Sultan, suffering through and surviving all the struggles we have glanced at in these pages. In fact, the survival of Ethiopian/Black presence in Christianity’s holy places in Jerusalem is matched only by the “Survival Ethiopian Independence” itself. Indeed, Ethiopian presence in Deir Sultan represents not just Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity but all African/black Christians of all denominations who value the sacred legacy that the holy places of Jerusalem represent for Christians everywhere. It represents also the affirmation of the fact that Jerusalem is the birthplace of Christianity, just as adherents of Judaism and Islam claim it also. The Ethiopian foothold at the rooftop of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the only form of Black presence in Christianity’s holy places of Jerusalem. It ought to be secure, hallowed and sanctified ground by and for all Black folks everywhere who value it. The saga of Deir Sultan also represents part of Ethiopian history and culture. And that too is part of African/black history and culture regardless of religious orientation.

When a few years ago, an Ethiopian monk was asked by a writer why he had come to Jerusalem to face all the daily vicissitudes and indignities, he answered, “because it is Jerusalem.” And the writer makes the perceptive observation that “The Ethiopian church in Jerusalem itself resembles a plant which in Jerusalem has found poor soil, but has continued to grow in defiance of the laws of probability and to survive the hardest winters and the hottest summers.” The number of Ethiopian monks and nuns domiciled in Deir Sultan today has shrank drastically from several hundreds at the turn of the century to a few dozens today. And they are of the view that “if they are forced to leave Deir as-Sultan Monastery, blacks will never again be represented in the sacred place.” It is hoped that henceforth not only Ethiopians but all other Black folks from every land in the African continent and in the Diaspora will embark on annual pilgrimages to the Ethiopian convent of Deir Sultan and assert their rights of representation in this holiest of holy Christian shrines in Jerusalem.

8 November 2002

Written by Tseday

October 8, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Banned from the Bible: Canonical Gospels of the Ethiopian Church

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