Posts Tagged ‘Ancient Ethiopian Civilization’
Published June 7 2015 – By Dalya Alberge
British archaeology team uncovers stunning Aksumite and Roman artefacts
Spectacular 2,000-year-old treasures from the Roman empire and the Aksumite kingdom, which ruled parts of north-east Africa for several centuries before 940AD, have been discovered by British archaeologists in northern Ethiopia.
Louise Schofield, a former British Museum curator, headed a major six-week excavation of the ancient city of Aksum where her team of 11 uncovered graves with “extraordinary” artefacts dating from the first and second centuries. They offer evidence that the Romans were trading there hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.
Schofield told the Observer: “Every day we had shed-loads of treasure coming out of all the graves. I was blown away: I’d been confident we’d find something, but not on this scale.”
She was particularly excited about the grave of a woman she has named “Sleeping Beauty”. The way the body and its grave goods had been positioned suggest that she had been beautiful and much-loved.
Schofield said: “She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring. She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner.”
The woman was also wearing a necklace of thousands of tiny beads, and a beaded belt. The quality of the jewellery suggests that she was a person of very high status, able to command the very best luxurious goods. Other artefacts with her include Roman glass vessels – two perfectly preserved drinking beakers and a flask to catch the tears of the dead.
There was also a clay jug. Schofield hopes that its contents can be analysed. She believes it would have contained food and drink for the afterlife.
Although “Sleeping Beauty” was covered only with soil, her grave was cut into a rock overhang, which is why the finds survived intact.
The team also found buried warriors, with each skeleton wearing large iron bangles. They may have been killed in nearby battlefields.
Other finds include another female skeleton with a valuable necklace of 1,065 coloured glass beads, and, elsewhere, a striking glass perfume flask.
In 2012, the Observer reported that Schofield’s earlier excavations in the region had discovered an ancient goldmine that may solve the mystery of from where the Queen of Sheba of biblical legend derived her fabled treasures.
Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom, was a major trading power from the first to the seventh centuries, linking the Roman Empire and India. Aksumites were a literate people. Yet little is known about this so-called “lost”’ civilisation.
“Ethiopia is a mysterious place steeped in legend, but nobody knows very much about it,” said Schofield. “We know from the later Aksumite period – the fourth and fifth centuries, when they adopted Christianity – that they were trading very intensely with Rome. But our finds are from much earlier. So it shows that extraordinarily precious things were travelling from the Roman Empire through this region centuries before.”
In return, the Romans sought ivory tusks, frankincense and metals. Schofield’s excavations also found evidence of iron working.
The finds will go to a new German-funded museum, opening in October. Schofield hopes to organise a loan to the British Museum, but first the finds must be conserved: the mirror, for example, is corroded and slightly buckled. Germany is sending nine conservators.
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/luxury/travel/72794/divine-ethiopia-religion-churches-and-incredible-travel-sights.html (May 29th 2015 by Stanley Stewart)
Ethiopia “resembles no other country in Africa”, wrote the great explorer Wilfred Thesiger, “or anywhere else.”
Sunday Service in the church of Abuna Yemata Guh requires nerves of steel. Yet they assured me the congregations were good. “Don’t worry,” the priest fussed. “Pregnant women are attending, old people are attending, tiny children are attending.”
I wasn’t sure I would be attending. I was standing on a narrow ledge. Below me was a 1,000ft drop to the valley floor. Somewhere above me, beyond a sheer polished cliff, was the church. My legs felt like water. I was sweating in places I had never sweated before. At that moment, the eye of a needle seemed easier to negotiate. “You must try,” the priest whispered. “God is watching.”
There are moments when Ethiopia seems to belong to an atlas of the imagination – part legend, part fairy-tale, part Old Testament book, part pulling your leg. In this land of wonders there are medieval castles of a black Camelot, monasteries among Middle Earth peaks accessible only by rope and chains, the ruined palace of the Queen of Sheba and the original Ten Commandments in a sealed box guarded by mute monks with killer instincts.
In the northern highlands priests with white robes and shepherds’ crooks appear to have stepped out of a Biblical painting. In the southern river valleys bare-breasted tribeswomen, who scar their torsos for erotic effect and insert plates the size of table mats in their lower lips, seemed to have emerged from a National Geographic magazine circa 1930. Ethiopia “resembles no other country in Africa”, wrote the great explorer Wilfred Thesiger, “or anywhere else.”
Its isolation is legendary. Not only was Ethiopia never colonised, but it also inflicted the greatest defeat on a European army in the history of the continent – at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. It was only the Italians, of course, but it still counts. Ethiopians were “forgetful of the world”, Edward Gibbon wrote, “by whom they were forgotten”. For long medieval centuries Europeans believed that Ethiopia was home to Prester John, legendary Christian ruler, descendant of one of the three Magi, keeper of the Fountain of Youth, protector of the Holy Grail, and all-round good guy who would one day rescue the Holy Land from the Muslims.
Crossing the threshold of the church of Medhane Alem in Lalibela , I seemed to step back a thousand years. Cut by shafts of dusty light from high windows, the interior gloom was scented with frankincense. I came round a pillar to find a dozen priests leaning on their croziers, chanting in Ge’ez , a language no one has spoken since the Middle Ages. The sound was a curious cross between Gregorian plainsong and a nasal Arabic call to prayer. These were among the earliest Christian rites, unchanged for well over 1,500 years. Worshippers sat on the ground against the bare stone walls, wearing clothes that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Book of Genesis. They gazed mournfully at a pair of threadbare theatrical curtains. Beyond the curtains lay the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies , which held the Ark of the Covenant .
For a country with so much to offer, it is surprising to find tourism in Ethiopia still in its infancy. The war and famine of the 1970s and 80s, though now almost ancient history, may be partly responsible. But a deeper issue may be a feature of the national character – a lack of entrepreneurial urgency. Ethiopia may not be big on stylish boutiques hotels, littered with objets d’art and architectural magazines, but it is a delightfully old-fashioned place, with ravishing landscapes, sleepy villages and friendly, unhurried people.
It is difficult to pick a single destination from Ethiopia’s treasure chest, but first-time visitors shouldn’t miss Lalibela and its remarkable churches, all below ground level, and all carved from the rock as entire buildings with surrounding courtyards, exterior walls and roofs. Historians are uncertain about much of their history but Ethiopians have a handle on it. A celestial team of angels came in at night to help out after the terrestrial workforce had clocked off.
There are always two histories in Ethiopia: the history of historians, sometimes a trifle vague, often tentative; and the history of Ethiopians, a people’s history, confident, detailed, splendid, often fantastical. The two rarely coincide. Historians are still wringing their hands about the mysteries of Aksum in Tigray in the north, with its colossal stelae, its underground tombs, its ruined palaces and its possible connections to the Queen of Sheba. For a thousand years, until about AD 700, it was a dominant power in the region, “the last of the great civilisations of antiquity”, according to Neville Chittick , the archaeologist, “to be revealed to modern knowledge”.
Fortunately, the Ethiopians are on hand to fill in most of the historical blanks. The city was founded, they say, by the great-grandson of Noah. For 400 years it was ruled by a serpent who enjoyed a diet of milk and virgins. Historians may be divided about the Queen of Sheba but Ethiopians know she set off from here to Jerusalem with 797 camels and lot of rather racy lingerie to seduce King Solomon. Historians carelessly lost track of the Ten Commandments not long after Moses came down from Mount Sinai. Ethiopians have the originals under lock and key in a chapel in Aksum, guarded by those mute monks, assigned to kill all intruders.
The landscapes of Tigray are appropriately Biblical. It is a world where everything comes and goes by foot or hoof, a world of timeless villages perched beneath vast mesas and plunging ravines, a world where it is possible to imagine startling young men turning water into wine. With my bag loaded onto a Palm Sunday donkey, I set off on a three-day walk down the Erar Valley . I strolled through the latticed shade of eucalyptus trees, past scented banks of sage and mint, past stands of prickly pear and neatly ploughed fields framed by irrigation channels. I rested under the shade of vast fig trees beneath colonies of hornbills, bee-eaters and firefinches. A man in a white robe was winnowing wheat, tossing yellow forkfuls into the air, allowing the wind to take the chaff. Children ghosted out of orchards with home-made toys: a ball of goatskin and twine, a doll of twigs and wool. In the late morning I passed people coming back from the weekly market, two hours’ walk away. They were carrying some of life’s essentials: bags of rice, new sickles, bolts of bright cloth, blocks of salt that had come up from the Danakil Desert by camel caravan. Everyone stopped to greet me with handshakes and smiles.
The trek was part of a new community project. The guides and the transport – my faithful donkey – were provided by local villagers who, with the help of NGOs, have also built hedamos, or guesthouses. There is something special about these Tigrayan guesthouses – their location. Tigray is a mountainous region, characterised by ambas: dramatic, sheer-sided, flat-topped mountains. Most of the treks are easygoing, following the valley floors through pastoral landscapes. But towards the end of each day I started to climb with the guide, following steep paths along narrow rising ledges, to the summits of these anvil-headed ambas.
On the top, we emerged into a whole new world of luminous light and distant views. Here we found our home for the night, the community hedamo, perched in splendid isolation on the lip of a colossal escarpment, perhaps 3,000ft above the landscapes below. The views were breathtaking. We looked straight down, past circling eagles, to the world we had just left – ploughed fields, stone tukuls, eddying sheep, tiny white-robed figures trailing along dust lanes. Farther away, rivers carved swathes of ancient earth, canyons yawned open and valleys tumbled into one another. Farther still, mountains patrolled the horizons. With a slight turn of the head, I took in hundreds of miles.
At Erar and Shimbrety , the stone-built guesthouses, with their little courtyards and roof terraces, were comfortable but basic. Village women prepared delicious Ethiopian dinners that made little concession to Western tastes. The loos, Western-style, were in spartan huts. Washing facilities were wooden buckets of warm water. There was no electricity, just lanterns and candles. Yet these felt like the most luxurious places I had ever stayed. It was the luxury of unique experience, of meeting local villagers on their own ground, of engaging with an ancient way of life, of being far from tourism’s well-trodden trails. And it was the luxury of spectacular location. I have never been anywhere with more stunning views.
At Erar, night came with equatorial suddenness. A troop of gelada baboons , 30 or so strong, made their way home across the summit of the amba after a day’s feeding. They climbed down over the edge of the escarpment to precipitous ledges where they would be safe from leopards. The sun set over distant, mythical-looking mountains. When I turned round, a fat full moon was rising directly behind me. The world seemed to be in perfect balance.
Tigray, too, has its remarkable buildings. Scattered across these mountains are more than 120 ancient churches, most excavated in remote rock-faces like caves. Until the 1960s they were virtually unknown to the outside world. Older than the churches at Lalibela, they are little understood by historians. Which means we are left with the fabulous oral history of the Ethiopians.
Abuna Yemata Guh is one of the more challenging churches to reach. A rock butte soared above us; I was getting a crick in my neck and a serious case of vertigo just looking at it. I imagined, as with the sheer-sided ambas, that there would be some circuitous path, some scrambling route to the top. It was only when we had trekked up from the valley floor and gained the narrow ledge that I began to realise I was going to have to climb a cliff-face, in fact several cliff-faces, to get to church.
A priest was waiting on the ledge, with the kind of morbid face usually reserved for the last rites. He advised me to remove my shoes and socks; bare feet would give me a better grip. It turned out that two men, who I had assumed to be casual passers-by, were in fact there to try to prevent me from plummeting to my death.
We started to climb. My two assistants, one above and one below, guided me to precarious foot- and hand-holds. This was rock climbing without the ropes, the safety harness or the Chris Bonington confidence. Spread-eagled on the cliff-face, clinging to the minor indentations that passed for handholds, I felt a trifle out of my comfort zone. Had I know what was in for, I would probably not have chosen Abuna Yemata Guh for a casual visit.
But once I reached it, I was thrilled I had. The climb might be hair-raising but the church is unmissable.
At the top of the cliff, not daring to look down, I gazed ahead, just in time to see a side-chamber full of bones – the priest insisted they were deceased clerics, not fallen visitors. Then I shuffled along a narrow ledge and came to a cave-like opening. The priest wrestled with a key the size of a cricket bat. A door opened and I stepped into the gloom of the tiny church, hardly larger than a modest drawing room. As my eyes adjusted, I became aware of faces round the walls. Then the priest lit a torch and held it aloft. Suddenly the dark walls were alive with figures: apostles and saints, prophets and the archangels, Mary and the infant Christ. The famous Nine Saints from the Levant , who had brought Christianity to Ethiopia in the fifth century, were here, as was Saint Yared, who wrote so many of the early Ethiopian chants. The builder of this cliff church was here, Abu Yemata, mounted on a horse and accompanied by his nephew Benjamin, who had painted the murals.
The priest, a humble villager, told me the stories that swarmed across these walls. He told the stories as they had been told to him, as they had been handed down from one priest to the next from the earliest days of the Christian era. He referred to the apostles as if they were old friends. He talked of the saints as if they were men who had known his grandparents. He told me about the groom who had neglected Yemata’s horse. Yemata had turned him into a weasel. There, he said, bringing his torch near to the wall, illuminating a small weasel-headed man beneath the horse.
I asked why the church was here, so difficult to access, so high in these cliffs. The priest said it was for reasons of safety – it may well have been built when Christianity was still vulnerable. Then he added: “We are closer to God here, away from our world, and closer to His.” He lifted an ancient text enclosed in an ox-hide satchel from a nail on the wall. He asked if he should say prayers. I said I thought a few words might be a good idea. After all, I still had to get down that cliff-face.
25 May 2011
An ancient settlement has been discovered in the Ethiopian highlands with the help of a special instrument used in geophysical surveys. The find will help tell the story of ancient indigenous cultures in the Horn of Africa and their exchange with nearby civilizations.
In early May, geophysicist Jorg Fassbinder from the Geophysics Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) in Munich and his colleague Margaret Schlosser of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) took to a joint campaign.
Together, they surveyed the ground of a suspected settlement in the north-western Ethiopian highland region of Tigray, home to the town of Yeha believed to be a major centre of the Diamat Kingdom established around 700 BCE.
The team used a magnetometer to detect local anomalies in the geomagnetic field which could be indications of hidden objects beneath the subsurface including structural walls, graves, hearths and refuse pits. Such technology has been used only rarely in countries near the equator, however, as the magnetic field lines here run parallel to the Earth’s surface making it difficult to identify buried archaeological structures. Magnetometers are particularly useful, however, as non-evasive, non-destructive tools.
“The new evaluation method developed by Fassbinder’s research team was successful,” said the on-sight excavation director Pawel Wolf. “With the first test excavations, stone walls, burial sites and local waste items like animal bones and pottery shards were found dating back to different eras. Among them were also ceramic shards with characteristics from the Ethio-Sabaean Period dating back to the first millennium BCE.”
In 2008, Ethiopian archaeologists made the astonishing discovery of a perfectly preserved sacrificial altar in neighbouring Meqaber Ga’ewa, a previously unknown location near the city of Wuqro. The altar bore a remarkable royal inscription in Old South Arabian bearing the name Yeha, located about 80 km from the find.
According to Kebede Amare, head of the Tigray Cultural Department, this is the southernmost find believed to belong to the Diamat Kingdom. Located in present day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, the civilization had sophisticated irrigation plans, made use of plows, grew millet and made iron tools and weapons.
Of particular importance to researchers, is whether the kingdom was comprised of indigenous peoples or a mix of indigenous peoples with the ancient Sabaeans who came to dominate the Red Sea.
Since very little archaeological research has been done on the Diamat Kingdom, the discovery of the royal inscription takes on special importance. According to Norbert Nebes of the University of Jena, the royal inscription is the first such recorded evidence of the ancient town of Yeha.
Since 2008, DAI archaeologists have excavated not only a temple dedicated to the Sabaean moon god Almaqah in Meqaber Ga’ewa, they’ve discovered additional sites of a previously unknown settlement from this important historical period. In Ziban Adi, one of the most promising sites uncovered, they excavated the foundation walls of another sanctuary atop a 3-meter high hill of ruins in 2010.
Countless pottery chards found in the surrounding grain fields suggest an intensive settlement was located around the ancient religious building. For the archaeologists, who are concerned not only with the cultural influence of the South Arabian Kingdom of Saba in the Horn of Africa, but in the study of indigenous African cultures, the settlement’s discovery raises high hopes that the remains of a town from this period will eventually be discovered. Thus far, only a few archaeological sites are known.
This research is part of the German-Ethiopian scientific cooperation between the DAI’s Orient Department, the Tigray Cultural Agency and the University of Jena. The geophysical measurements are based on cooperation between the DAI and the LMU München.
This research paper is on point! I agree with the author…i wonder why Modern Historians fail to realize (maybe willingly) the connection…THIS changes the status quo on Religion.
The Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA)
By Ghelawdewos Araia – April 7, 2007
Over the last two decades I was engaged in extensive research in African and international studies, which are in effect the domain of my specialization and vocation. My research particularly focused on African cosmology, ontology, and epistemology. In due course of my investigative inquiry, I have encountered fascinating similarities in cultures and belief systems and hence this title for our present discussion.
In 1996 in one of my articles entitled What is Wrong with Afrocentrism? I argued the following, “There is no doubt that the mythology of Osiris and Isis is the foundation for the Judeo-Christian tradition: The concept of metempsychosis [the transmigration of the soul after death], the myth of the jealous brother who kills his twin (Set kills Osiris), the idea of resurrection (Osiris came back to life), the last judgment (Osiris presides over the Last Judgment), the first Madonna (Isis).”1
The ancient Egyptians virtually gave us all major attributes of civilization: agriculture (irrigation), architecture (pyramids, obelisks, temples etc), mathematics (numerical and standard measures), medicine (Imhotep’s legacy –he is the first physician, not Hippocrates-, herbal pharmacology, anatomy, mummification etc), art of government (Egypt is the first nation), and collection of wealth. These magnificent Egyptian contributions are manifestations of ancient African philosophy, ontology, and cosmology. In brief, Kemetic (Kemet is ancient Egypt) philosophy was not simply an abstraction of primordial wisdom but a specification of conceptualization, a body of formally represented knowledge, and a systematic account of life experience. The latter, in effect, was systematically woven into the Egyptian cosmology of spatio-temporal relations of the universe, and this ultimately led the Egyptians to their mystery system (theology) in general and the creation theories in particular.
With respect to the creation of the universe, there are two important Egyptian documents, namely the On (Ani) or Heliopolis Creation Narrative and the Memphite Declaration of Deities. In both narratives, the Spoken Word was central to the creation of all beings, animate and inanimate. As per the On account, “all things are brought into existence through the spoken word; nothing that exists is without the word being spoken…” Similarly, in the Memphite Declaration, “Ptah taught that aspects of himself are manifested in all nature, in the mouth of all gods, and in every human, and in animals, plants and all other living beings. Thus, whatever Ptah conceived came into being through utterance…and the nine deities of Ptah came forth from the teeth and lips in his mouth which pronounced the name of everything, from which Shu and Tefnut also came forth.”2
The spoken word of Egyptian theology, the On and Memphite, were documented during the Sixth Dynasty (2300-2150 B. C. ) and the Tenth Dynasty (2135-2133 B. C. ) respectively. Later on, it was adopted by the Judeo-Christian tradition in Genesis: At the beginning there was word! And it is in Genesis that we encounter the creation of all universe and all living beings including Adam and Eve. And on the Seventh day, God rested. As we shall see later, ‘seven’ (7) for the Egyptians signified ‘completion’.
Long before Adam and Eve, however, the first humans were Shu, Tefnut, Osiris and Isis and as noted above, Osiris (Ausar) was killed by his brother Set but he was resurrected to life. This story (or mythology if you will) is replicated by the Abel and Cain story in the Bible. In both instances, we have now witnessed the first murder incident among humans.
The creation of Adam also finds antecedence in many African creation theories, most notably the Yoruba mythology in which Olorun (the Sky God) fashioned Odudwa (the founding father of Oyo) out of dirt, breath unto him and gave him life. However, unlike Odudwa and Adam, who were essentially human and down-to-earth, Osiris was elevated to the stature of the gods. Thus, according to Ani the Scribe, hymn to Osiris goes as follows: “Praise be unto Osiris Un-Nefer, the great god who dwelleth in Abtu, king of eternity, lord of everlastingness, who passes through millions of years in his existence. He is the firstborn son.”3
As we shall see below in some detail, Osiris, the son-of-god (and in a different context god himself) is very much like Jesus Christ. “There is nothing in the texts which justifies the assumption that Osiris knew,” says Wallis Budge, “that he would rise from the dead and that he would become the king and judge of the dead, or that the Egyptians believed that Osiris died on their behalf and rose again in order that they also might rise from the dead. But from first to last the resurrection of Osiris is the great and distinguishing feature of the Egyptian religion, for Osiris was the first fruits of the dead, and every worshipper of Osiris based his own hope of resurrection and immortality upon the fundamental fact of the resurrection of Osiris.” 4
For Ethiopians of Orthodox Christian faith, Easter or Fasika, more than Christmas, is ‘the great and distinguishing feature of their religion.’ Fasika for Ethiopians is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and a grand holiday after the long lent. However, pre-Christian Ethiopians may have also celebrated Osiris’ triumph, for the ancient Egyptians believed that Osiris traveled to Ethiopia and took his son Horus (Apollo in Greek), Anubis, Macedo, Pan and other talented individuals. During his stay in Ethiopia, he taught the Ethiopians the art of farming and husbandry, art of government, and the construction of canals to control the flow of the Nile.
Osiris was also the first to make and drink wine and he taught the Egyptians how to mange a vineyard as well as process and preserve wine. It is common knowledge to all people of Christian faith that Christ not only enjoyed drinking wine but he also blessed it as his attribute to his own blood.
In the Book of the Dead Osiris declares, “I am the Great One, son of the Great One… I am Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow…I am the Soul, which is god. I am the Souls of everlastingness, and my body is eternity. My form is everlastingness.” This is incredibly similar to what Jesus Christ preached to the Jews and Gentiles or believers and non-believers alike.
Isis like her brother and husband Osiris is invoked in Christian theology as Eve or as Mary. In fact the first Christian hermits in Egypt were compelled to associate St. Mary with Isis and Jesus with Horus (the son of Osiris) and their rationale is justified because Isis claims that she is the divine among women and she ‘burdened women with the newborn babe in the tenth month’, ‘ordained that parents should be beloved by their children’ and she would ‘inflict retribution on those that feel no love for their parents’. Above all, Isis claims that she is ‘the eldest daughter of Keb (Earth-god), and for this apparent reason, now historians (especially Afrocentrists) depict Isis as the first Madonna.
What I personally found an interesting commonality between Isis and the Ethiopian Christian tradition is the fact that Isis is credited for establishing lent and instructing the ancient Egyptians to fast from meat and fish and to observe celibacy during the entire period of lent. Isis may have not traveled to Ethiopia as her husband did, but it looks that she had a profound clout on the Ethiopian Christian doctrine in whatever form the latter is incorporated into the dogma of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Beyond Egypt, Osiris and Isis were worshipped in the Aegean, Crete, Greece, Italy, and other neighboring countries such as Nubia, Ethiopia, and Libya. In point of fact, around 80 B. C. the Italians founded an institute by the name College of the Servants of Isis in Rome and by 44 B. C. the Italians had affixed festival dates for Isis and Osiris in their official calendar.
There is no doubt that Isis may have existed conceptually among Ethiopians although there is no credible evidence documented in Ethiopian historiography (at least for now), but some Ethiopian names are similar to Isis’ (Aset or Eset in Egyptian). Moreover, even if we cannot prove the existence of Isis in pre-Christian Ethiopia, the similarities between St. Mary and Isis indeed makes the latter the first Madonna as stated earlier, and this is why: “Egyptian inscriptions do not mention any tomb of Isis. Whether the Egyptians believed that she passed from this world to the Other World unchanged in respect to her body cannot be said, but there is little doubt that, at least in the latest days of her cult in Egypt, it was her immunity from death which most impressed the Egyptians and the nations around and made them to exalt her powers over those of Osiris.”5 The ascension of Mary (and Elijah before her) clearly corroborates the Egyptian mythology of the powers to negate death.
Going back to Osiris again, we find the most fascinating similarities between himself and Christ in the second coming and the Day of Judgment. In Judgment Day the dead will face the presiding judge Osiris and make confessions as follows:
I never took away anything by force from any man
I never did an act of oppression to any man
I was beloved by my father, praised by my mother, well disposed toward my brother, sweet-tempered with my sister
I never spake evil of any kind
I gave bread to the hungry man and clothes to the naked
I never gave a verdict in a case between two brothers
The confession and the judgment takes place in the Hall of the Two Maat (Truth and Justice) whereby Goddesses are seated by the doors and holding the scepter of ‘serenity’ in the right hand and ‘ankh’ (life) in the left. Also in the Hall is present the symbolic scale of Maat and two-and-forty gods (42 gods) or spirits to whom the confessor declares his innocence. Incidentally, the 42 gods could find parallel to 44 spirit saints in the Ethiopian context. Gonder, for instance, is famous for its forty-four Adbarat (abode of the spirits).
The Declaration of Innocence, as documented in the Papyrus of Ani or the Book of the Dead (18th Dynasty, 1550-1305 B. C.) is an elaborate version of the confessions enumerated above and sequentially runs as follows:
I have not done iniquity
I have not robbed with violence
I have not stolen
I have done no murder
I have not defrauded offerings
I have not diminished oblations
I have not plundered the gods
I have spoken no lies
I have not snatched away food
I have not caused pain
I have not committed fornication
I have not caused shedding of tears
I have not dealt deceitfully
I have not transgressed
I have not acted guilefully
I have not laid waste the ploughed land
I have not been an eavesdropper
I have not set my lips in motion against any man
I have not been angry and wrathful except for a just cause
I have not defiled the wife of any man
I have not defiled the wife of any man*
I have not polluted myself
I have not caused terror
I have not transgressed**
I have not burned with rage
I have not stopped my ears against the words of Right and Truth
I have not worked grief
I have not acted with insolence
I have not stirred up strife
I have not judged hastily
I have not been eavesdropper***
I have not multiplied words exceedingly
I have done neither harm nor ill
I have never cursed the king
I have not worked treason
I have never befouled the water
I have not spoken scornfully
I have not cursed God
I have not acted with arrogance
I have not been overweeningly proud
I have never magnified my condition beyond what was fitting
I have never slighted the god in my town.6
Any intelligent person who reads the Bible in general and the Ten Commandments in particular could be perplexed by the input of Egyptian theology in Christian dogma although believers generally tend to deny any plausible logical deduction that may unseat the foundation of their respective religions. The fact, however, remains steadfast. After all Moses was Egyptian and the disciple of Amenhotep (Akhenaten) who popularized (not invented) monotheism in Egypt. Although the Egyptian mystery system was predominantly polytheistic, early on during the course of the Egyptian civilization monotheism was pretty much established with a low profile. Thus, the Jews, Christians and Moslems borrowed the idea of one god from the Egyptians.
On top of the many similarities and shared dogmas between Egyptian theology and Christianity, the two belief systems are allegorically connected. For instance, Egyptian magical numbers such as 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 12 do not only represent simple computation but they also symbolically reflect philosophy, ontology and cosmology as related to human nature and truth. For example 3 represents the manifestation of Osiris-Harmachis-Temu, a triad (3) representing the morning sun, the evening sun, and the night sun. The triad manifestations in Christianity, of course, are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that constitute the Trinity. Christians believe that Christ rose from the dead three days after he was dead and buried. In many traditional African societies, the accused or the sickly invokes the name of God three times in order to absolve him or herself from his/her crime or be cured from ill health. Among the Yoruba a nursing mother and child pass three times through [sacred] dripping water poured on top of the thatched roof of their house. In Ethiopia, especially in the areas of Tigrigna and Amharic speakers, if a female baby is born the women gathered to celebrate and welcome the newly born ululate three times.
Four (4) represents the four sons of Horus or the grandsons of Osiris, and in turn, the four cardinal points of East, West, North, and South. Depicted like the pharaohs, Osiris holds in his hands four symbols of stability, life, serenity, and power (dominion). “Moreover, in Egyptian astrology, we encounter the four gods of Amset (man), Hapi (ape), Tuamutef (jackal) and Gebhsennuf (hawk) which became the Four Beasts of lion, calf, man, and eagle in Christianity (Book of Revelation).” 7 Egyptian mythologies further symbolize plethora of ideas such as the Four Rejoicing Ones, Four Nemset Vases, Four Faces, Four gods etc. In many traditional African societies the Four Elements that characterize human nature are the body, the soul, the double, and the shadow.
The number 5 was associated with sacrifice. According to Plutarch and other classical historians Osiris was born on the first of the five epagomenal days of the Egyptian year and as per Biblical prophesy Christ was to be born five and half days (interpreted as 5,500 years) after Adam and was to be sacrificed in order to cleanse humanity from its sins, very much like the role of Osiris. The five times of incense in Christian orthodoxy refer to 1) Abel, Genesis 4:24; 2) Noah, Genesis 8:20; 3) Melkhizedek, Genesis 14:18; 4) Aaron in Leviticus, 9, and 5) Zacharia in Luke 1:8, and these Biblical personas are men who offered accepted sacrifices by the Lord. In praise of these altruistic men, the priest and the deacon burn incense and go around the altar three (3) times. The five pillars and five prayers per day of Islam most likely correspond to the incense ritual of Christianity.
As has already been stated seven (7) represents completion for the Egyptians. After a child was born, it was in the Egyptian tradition to wash the baby with water or oil and the latter signifies the Seven Holy Oils used in the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. Likewise after a male child is born in Ethiopia (especially in the central and northern regions) the women ululate seven times. The nursing Yoruba woman that we encountered earlier would perform the three times walk seven days after her child is born. In the Book of Gates of the Egyptians, there are the symbolic seven stands for seven gods. Moreover, in Egyptian theology we come across the Seven Hathors, the Seven Arits, the Seven Cows, the Seven Uraei, the Seven Spirits, and the Seven-headed Serpent. In almost similar fashion, seven is prefixed with either animals or spirits in the Book of Revelation. Nowadays, humanity in general is stuck in the number 7 even if the subject does not logically represent seven: the seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the Group of Seven etc or in more practical terms the seven days of the week or the seven sounds (vowels) of each Ethiopian character of the alphabet. The pious Muslims during pilgrimage walk seven times around the Kaaba and the Luminaries, by the same token, believe in the Seven Chakras (Sanskrit) or energy points of the human body and they assemble in Egypt and walk around the pyramid seven times.
Nine (9) also represents completeness and finality in Egyptian philosophy. The company of the Gods contained nine members and during judgment day, thus, Osiris was accompanied by nine gods who stand on the nine steps that lead to the pedestal where Osiris is seated on a chair. Moreover, we have Nine Mourners, Nine Watchers, Nine Task-masters, and Nine Holders of the Rope for measuring land. In most African societies nine symbolizes sacredness and to be sure there are the most revered Nine Saints in Ethiopia.
Twelve was essentially the 12 points of the Zodiac in Egyptian astronomy but later the Egyptians calculated the revolution of our planet earth after studying the lunar movements. Hence 12×30= 360 plus 5 days for harvest would be 365 days, the calendar that all of us use to this day. In fact, like the Egyptian or Coptic calendar, the Ethiopian Calendar has 12×30 days plus five or epagomenal days. By the same token, the Jewish calendar known as sod ha-ibbur is a derivation of the Egyptian system of intercalating the solar and lunar cycles. In the Book Am-Tuat the Egyptians have illustrations of 12 serpents. Christians then took the Egyptian 12 to mean the twelve Apostles as astronomers did for 12 months. In most African societies the kings council or judges were 12 in number.
There is no doubt that Judaism evolved out of Egyptian polytheism, and Christianity and Islam followed suit. Where else could their origin be?
Ghelawdewos Araia, “What is Wrong With Afrocentrism?” African Link, Vol. 5, No. 5, 1996
Molefi Kete Asante and Abu S. Abarry (editors), African Intellectual Heritage, Temple University Press, 1996, pp. 12-16
E. A. Wallis Budge, OSIRIS & The Egyptian Resurrection, Vol. II, Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1973, p. 66
Wallis Budge, Vol. I, pp. 312-313
Wallis Budge, Vol. II, p. 280
Asante and Abarry, pp. ibid, 73-74
Ghelawdewos Araia, ibid
#21 is repeated because it is addressed specifically to the two-headed serpent
#24 is repeated because it is addressed to the ‘Destroyer’
#31 is repeated because it is addressed to Sekherui
Copyright © IDEA, Inc. April 7, 2007. Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia can be contacted for educational and constructive feedback at email@example.com