Sunday, December 9, 2012


AFRO-ASIAN DISPERSALS: How Scholarship has Come Around to the Truth about the Roots of Semitic Speech and Culture 

            by Dana Reynolds


Above are Afro-Asiatic women of Omotic group. These African-Asiatics began immigrating from Africa over thousands of years ago. 

“As for Palestine, there was no drastic change for the main type during the transition from the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Summing up, striking similarities link the physical characteristics of the predynastic Egyptians and of the contemporary Bedja population and the main Berber type and of the Palestinian skeletons of the early Bronze Age.”
 From Edward Lipinski’s - Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar, 2001, p.47.
"...the crucial linguistic finding is that the three deepest clades of the Afro-Asiatic family are localized in Eritrea and Ethiopia. All the other languages of the family outside that region belong to subclades of just one of those deep clades. This kind of cladistic distribution is a basic criterion of the genetic argument for the genetic lineage origins well understood by geneticists. It applies to linguistic history as well." (Ancient Local Evolution of African mtDNA Haplogroups in Tunisian Berber Populations). Frigi et al. Human Biology, 82:4, August, 2010)
Dassanech young woman of Ethiopia -  The Dassanech are Omotic-speaking. They speak  an "Afro-Asiatic" dialect 

        It should now be realized by Africans, if by no one else, the global spread of Afroasiatic culture begins much further back than has lately been suspected. The 12th millenium B.C. pre-pottery neolithic (PPN) site of Gobekli Tepe in Anatolia (now modern Turkey ) has now shown clear connections between the earliest cultures of Turkey (such as Catal Huyuk) and those of megalithic Europe and Northern Africa some of which were of course pointed out by scholars over a century ago.  
      One author - Andrew Collins - calling himself a science writer (but more like a pop science writer) has this to say:
    "The main relationship between key PPN sites such as Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori is the fact that their layout, design and art are the same. They were constructed by the same unique race of people. They connect with Çatal Hüyük because this was a latter development of the same high culture, and so this city - excavated first in the early 1960s by British archaeologist James Mellaart - can tell us much about the earlier cults at places such as Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori. Like, for example, the Neolithic cult of the dead. At Çatal Hüyük we find frescoes of vultures accompanying the soul of the deceased into the next world, and also of shamans taking the form of vultures for presumed shamanic practices, such as contacting or journeying into the other world. Since statues of birdmen, as well as those of vultures, have been found at both Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori, we can be pretty sure that the same cult existed here as far back as 11,500-10,000 BP.
       However,  leaving out the comment about a "unique race of people", the truth is that these people of the "high culture" of Catal Huyuk and  pre-pottery Neolithic cultures of the Levant were in fact a link between the very ancient culture of Nilotic northeast Africa, Mesopotamia and the megalithic cultures of western Europe and north Africa - all for the most part occupied  predominately by a population that has skeletal or morphological affinities and  traits "unique" to the Africans now called "sub-Saharan".
      The discovery of Gobekli Tepe also lends credence to the supposition by some scientists that the pyramid complex and sphinx in Egypt dates back much earlier than is being formally acknowledged and to the supposition by Ehret, Bauval and other open-minded thinkers dating back to Higgins and Massey that the civilization of African-Asiatics was once more widespread and global in nature and more ancient than is presently believed.
     After all, some say the Ishango bone tracking lunar phases and purportedly having some connection to the Rhind papyrus in ancient Eygpt dates back some 25,000 or more years ago. These connections, however, are a subject to be discussed in a forthcoming page of this blog. : )

Neolithic man in Catal Huyuk in Turkey (Anatolia) performs cattle jumping ritual similar to modern east Africans. The skeletons of such people have been misnomered "Mediterranean".

 Ancient practices of jumping cattle continue among Africans such as the Omotic-speaking Hamer tribe of Ethiopia

       In order to truly understand the traditions of these ancient cultures which are African and Afroasiatic in origin most of us will have to leave behind the impressions from Western movies and Sunday school or Hebrew school classes that have presented a rather distorted view of who the ancient peoples – especially who people of the Bible were and what they looked like. Scientists who have looked at the ancient world objectively know that the majority, if not all of the early peoples speaking the so-called “semitic” dialects, for example, between 4 and 7 thousand years ago were in fact African and Afro-Asian, predominantly represented by peoples in Africa now speaking "Cushitic" and Nilo-Saharan dialects and once known euphemistically as the “hamites”. (We can probably throw in the Woodabe or early Fulani, Bahima and Watutsi and some other groups now speaking other dialects for good measure.)

Reflecting the appearance of the earliest Semitic-speakers are East Africa's "Cushites"
       This has been acknowledged for at least a century by the more objective and learned amongst the Western linguists, archaeologists and physical anthropologists alike, although there are still a few stragglers in different disciplines that don’t seem to be cognizant of this (hence the uproar in the study of classics and world history, and the still raging conflict of Afrocentric and Eurocentric thinkers.) In other words, the individuals that have familiarized themselves with more than one discipline, i.e. linguistics, physical anthropology and the archaeological background of the ancient Near East and Africa in particular - are the ones that have most often accepted these facts.
      Not too long ago, Edward Lipinsky, a well- known specialist in the “semitic” dialects and grammar had the following to say about the movement of the original “semite” from Africa as well as the rather widespread geographical situation of their ancestors in ancient times. 

       "This implies that the speakers of Proto-Semitic were still dwelling in Africa in the 5th millennium B.C., in the Neolithic Sub-pluvial (ca. 5500-3500 B.C.), when the Sahara’s climate was much wetter, so that erosion took place as in other moist temperate subtropical regions…Settlement was undoubtedly widespread in the Sahara at that time and there is ample evidence of Neolithic culture with rock drawings showing animals that no longer live there.  A worsening of environmental conditions is indicated in North Africa ca. 3500 B.C.  with disappearance of vegetation, a major faunal break, desertification and desertion.  This might have been the period when the speakers of Proto-Semitic passed through the Nile delta from the West to the East, and reached Western Asia, where written documents of the third millennium B.C. preserve noticeable traces of Pre-Semitic and, in Mesopotamia, also of Pre-Sumerian substratum.   The collapse of the Ghassulian culture in Palestine around 3300 B.C. and the Egyptian finds in southern Palestine from the Early Bronze period I (ca.3300-3050 B.C. ) may testify to the arrival of these new population groups.  The Palestinian tumuli, belonging to the culture of seminomadic groups during much of the fourth and third millenia B.C. seem to confirm this hypothesis, since a very similar type of sepulture characterizes prehistoric North Africa, especially Algeria and it is a typical feature of the old Libyco-Berber tradition. It is now attested also in the Eastern Sahara, where the megalithic complex and the tumuli of Nabta Playa, about 100  km west of Abu Simbel, are dated from the fifth millennium B.C.  Thus, from North Africa, wave after wave of Semitic migrations would seem to have set forth. The earliest of these migrants and those who went furthest to the East, were the Akkadians who, journeying along the Fertile Crescent through Palestine and Syria, and crossing over into Mesopotamia, reached Northern Babylonia ca. 3000 B.C. and founded the first Semitic Empire at Kish ….The Amorites and their congeners would appear to have followed as far as Syria before the 2500 B.C. The Southern Semites would seem to have reached the moister highlands of the Yemen and Hadramawt after 2000 B.C. following the collapse of the Early Bronze culture in Palestine, while the Ethiopians would have crossed over to the Horn of Africa when drier conditions prevailed in South Arabia ca. 1500-500 B.C. …The Libyco-Berbers continued, instead, to occupy the original language area of the speakers of Afro-Asiatic.  Their African origins may even be confirmed by a possible relationship of Afro-Asiatic with Bantu languages which form the central group of the large Niger-Congo family …” (Lipinski, 2001,  pp. 44 and 45)

      Lipinski acknowledges in those paragraphs that the ancestors of the original “semites” left in “wave after wave” from Africa and colonized certain regions of the Near East and that some immigrated back into Africa or Abyssinia. Since he published this book a little over 10 years ago there have been new discoveries showing that the southern Arabian landscape was filled with an ancient Afro-Asian culture as early as the 3rd and 4th millenium BC - and even earlier in some areas.  Thus, he was a little off in the dating of the presence of Semites there through no fault of his own.
      More is also known about the dates of the astronomically-based, megalithic complexes of Nabta Playa in the Nubian desert, and the African peoples occupying that area at the time. The culture in this region dates back before the 6th millennium B.C.

Megaliths from the Nubian desert - Nabta Playa - displayed in an Aswan Museum 

   Christopher Ehret one of the world's  foremost specialists in African archaeology and linguistics also has even more recently suggested a different scenario than Lipinskys suggesting the ancestors of the semitic speakers, which he considers “Eritraeans”, could have left Africa with an even earlier culture called the "Capsian" dating before the 6th millennium  in Northern Africa west of Egypt.  

     In his book, History and the Testimony of Language, (2011), we read the following: "Among the Erythraite peoples who made Capsian civilization archaelogical cultures of those areas, domestic cattle were probably present in by sometime in the 7th millenium, if not before" (Ehret, 2011. p. 77).

     Before that he states, "...Erythraite communities, speaking a language ancestral to the later Semitic languages moved northward at some point across the Sinai and Arabian peninsula and into the Palestine-Syrian region of far southwestern Asia." p. 76

"Megalithic stones of the Tihama". Black Africans made their way to the Sinai and the Levant, Hijaz and Tihama of Arabia bringing their megalithic cultures with them. The Sabir culture of the Tihama  was disovered to have megalithic ruins similar to those found in prehistoric Nubia.

           Like Lipinsky,  Ehret and others have connected the bearers of  “proto-semitic” or Afro-Asian culture and language to the modern East African populations formerly classified as “hamites”- the so-called "brown" or dolichocephalic "Mediterranean race" of Sergi Elliot-Smith and early physical anthropologists.   
    Continuing with his discussion of the African roots of semitic-speakers, Lipinski importantly states the following:

“…any linguistic mapping of Afro-Asiatic speakers should be complemented by an anthropological approach.  The data are not so abundant as might be wished, but enough evidence is available to establish the fact that the Afro-Asians belonged basically to the long-headed or dolichocephalic Mediterranean peoples widespread in distribution in Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic times….”  “…skeletal evidence seems to indicate that the same Neolithic peoples from North Africa entered the Iberian peninsula and moved into the Egyptian upper valley of the Nile in predynastic times. They are well represented by the Naqada cranial series, dated ca. 3900-3300 B.C. It reveals an increasing diversification from the preceding Badari period (4400-3900 B.C.), which probably reflects a northern or northwestern immigration…The modern descendants of the Naqada people – though frequently mixed with negroes – are found among the speakers of Cushitic languages in the Horn of Africa and the Bedja people in the desert between the Nile and the Red Sea. Characteristic artefacts of the Naqada period, suggesting connections with prehistoric Libyco-Berbers, are statuettes of bearded men wearing phallic sheaths, like those of the  Libyans in historical times.”  (Lipinski, pp. 44-45)

     Thus, Lipinski like earlier specialists acknowledge that the ancient Bedja and other east Africans were at one time representative of the ancient dolichocephalic populations that once dominated the Mediterranean in large numbers, including those who came to populate Egypt and Bronze Age Palestine and those who passed into Europe through Iberia and Anatolia (Catal Huyuk) contributing to the Neolithic and Pre-Pottery Neolithic populations there.

So-called "gracile", dolichocephalic "Mediterranean type" (alias the "black African": ) whose crania and skeletal remains have been found throughout Neolithic Europe and western Asia
       These dispersed populations are frequently found in rock art throughout East Africa, Syria, Arabia, the Sahara and Mediterranean ( including on the European side of the Mediterranean) depicting themselves as near black in complexion and in art stylistically reminiscent of the Saharan artwork.  

Early Africans ("long-headed Mediterraneans") in late stone age Spanish Levant (site Barrancos de la letras)
     According to Antonio Martinez this Saharan-Iberian connection is particularly true of what is called the Spanish Levantine art. He writes

"...the use of perspective tordue must remain in suspense for depicting the horns and antlers of animals depicted seen in profile is a convention common to both cave art and Levantine paintings. According to Brueil, it was first used in the Perigordian ...the same convention is found in neolithic paintings in North Africa and even later in situations which can have nothing to do with the neolithic" (Martinez, 1982, p. 67 ).

     An author of Indian Rock Art and its Global Context  also writes "The chronological attributions of Saharan rock arts have followed a pattern that is rather similar to that which we have noted in the Spanish Levantine rock art" (Chakravarty and Bednarik, 1997, p. F-26).

Women in rock art of Chad (in the Sahara)

Women in art of the Spanish Levant 
       Numerous of these populations in Europe were often associated with megalithic complexes comparable to those in the eastern Mediterranean and Africa and in fact elsewhere and have been euphemistically classified under the term “Mediterranean” - which laymen and certain scholars have unfortunately confused with modern inhabitants of the Mediterranean - Europeans who are the descendants of more recent “Eurasiatics”. (The word “negroes” as used by Lipinski and anthropologists others refers to certain of the Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan-speakers in the area of Nubia.)
      British anatomist Grafton Elliot-Smith, Haddon and other early forensic anthropologists frequently spoke of the close or striking similarities both culturally and osteologically amongsts these Afro-Asian populations.  One variant of these ancient populations present in both Europe and Africa, as well as southern Asia (the Near East extending to central and southern Asia) was described by Smith early on.  He  unabashedly asserted that “a description of the bones of an Early Briton of that remote epoch might apply in all essential details to an inhabitant of Somaliland… The people were longheaded of small stature, skull is long, narrow and coffin shaped, brow ridges poorly developed, forehead is narrow, vertical and often slightly bulging…” (Smith, 1911, p. 58 -59).  

"Table of the Sun?"- Remnants of megalithic culture and capped stone monuments dating as late as the 1st millenium dot the landscape of inner Africa by the hundreds
             Many decades before Lipinski, Elliot-Smith in fact wrote “the physical characteristics of the present day Nubian, Beja, Danakil, Galla, and Somali populations, if we leave out of account the alien negro and Semitic traits… are an obvious token of their undoubted kinship with the proto-Egyptians” (Elliot-Smith, 1911, p. 75)
      Because of the implications of such revelations, which have only been confirmed by more recent anthropological investigation and genetic studies, many apparently offended European scholars since that time have been averse to referring to the work of the early anthropologists, taking it upon themselves to proclaim such work theoretically unsound or “ultra-diffusionist”.  On the other hand, most rhetoric took another direction with some anthropologists insisting that there was some direct connection between these early black “Afro-Asians” with modern Europeans. This diversion was of course based on racist belief that the direct ancestors of modern Europeans were the makers of all or most of early civilization and representative of Biblical peoples whether in Africa or elsewhere - along with the notion that sub-Saharan Africans were in fact, “pre-Adamites”.
      Hence the category of “black Caucasians” was created, otherwise known as “the Hamite”, which was then replaced by the adopted title dolichocephalic Mediterranean race or "long-headed Mediterranean” type. Meanwhile the rest of the people of “teeming”sub-Saharan Africa - except for those the colonialists termed “pigmy” and “bushmen” - were simply classified under the euphemism of “negro”.  The latter is was a word which had many assigned prerequisites and meanings depending on the conjurer, with as much significance as the term “koolie” or “coolie” in south and east Asia, and with the added suggestion of an "uncivilized", child-like primitive, of course. 
     The most recent attribution of the so-called “negro” or “sub-Saharan African”, however,  as seen in popular genetic sites created for public consumption is being “part pygmy”.  The newly espoused, and in fact, rather amusing nature of such suggestions on sites purporting to "scientifically" analyze the amount of African ancestry  - particularly “West African” dna - is implied by the use of the term “pygmy” itself, a colonialist designation for the small-statured groups of Africans such as the Mbuti, Twa and Aka in Africa who probably predate the evolution of most later African types by thousands if not some 10s of thousands of years. These sites, nevertheless, may have been inspired in part by earlier influential scholars now considered pseudo-scholars, such as the eugenicist Carleton S. Coon. His theories were once influential, but based on rather racist and obsolete views, are not by any means taken seriously by most established anthropologists, and for obvious reasons. *
      In reality these black so-called “Mediterraneans”  present in the early European landscapes varied in phenotype or osteological characteristics, if not their obvious African character. The smaller variant was often described as "superficially Negroid” in cranio-facial aspect, as with the early small “gracile, Mediterranean type”  purportedly associated with the Chamblandes and Linear Band Ceramic cultures of France and Anatolia. (Ironically, sometimes as in the case of early anthropologists Guiseppe Sergi, the term “pygmoid” was  applied to them as well.)

Cushitic woman of the Iraqw tribe. Cushites were once wrongly thought to be more closely affiliated with modern Europeans, than with other black Africans
       Some of the early Mesolithic and Neolithic Natufians and Mediterranean types in Iran and Mesopotamia were described as rather robust and significantly very prognathic in character, although Coon tried to group them with modern Englishmen and classified them under a nebulous “Atlanto-Mediterranean” category. While others like Immanuel Anati who studied the rock art of the Arabian peninsula, Syro-Palestine and other parts of the Near East noted an “elongated” “Negroid” type in the deserts of Syro-Arabia that bore likeness in appearance both biological and cultural to modern East African pastoralists and nomadic or semi-nomadic populations in the Neolithic Sahara and Nilotic area.  
      It should be noted that all of these groups depicted themselves in their own art work as near black in aspect or complexion, similar to those appearing in early artwork in Nubia and the Sahara.  Yet it has taken decades for some scholars to acknowledge that this presence in fact was not some monolithic “race” of black “Caucasians”,  but the out-of-Africa expressions of the various black populations that were dispersed since the paleolithic or Holocene period in ancient and tropical Africa.  As the tropical climate and ecology in Northern Africa turned to an arid one, and deserts overtook humid areas the various groups of Africa all still connected by similar haplotypes (L and E) began to modify their lifestyles and food habits, and as a consequence were osteologically modified.
    In most cases the change to a Neolithic diet led to a more gracile form and reduction in the cranial-masticatory complex associated with chewing. Those in the deserts also became more elongated and narrow in their limb and facial proportions to adapt to their environments. Nevertheless, Loring Brace was able to determine the rather direct descent of modern east Africans from these Neolithic and Paleolithic populations.  Their descendants now make up a great proportion of  Saharan Africa, northeast Africa and the Sahel.    
     The Afro-Asians that left Africa within the last 13-15,000 years still share many of the cultural modes and notions concerning the phenomenal world that apparently developed solely amongst black Africans many thousands of years ago. This is implied by the presence of matrifocal customs, totemism and similar practices and ideological views still present among Dravidic-speaking peoples in India  and peoples speaking derivatives of the ancient Himyaritic dialects in Arabia.  This also includes more specific customs, beliefs and mores such as the presence of circumcision and making of porthole tombs among dozens of other things highly reminiscent of their Neolithic forebearers in Africa and Eurasia.

Tamil Dravidian girl from India like many Dravidic speakers probably resembles her Afro-Asian forebearers or the original Dravidic-speakers
       Some scholars are now proposing - based on genetic, cultural and linguistic connections - a link between Afroasiatic speakers and the Dravidians of India.  One linguistic scholar wrote relatively recently, “Blazek (in press) has proposed that Elamite an extinct language of the Ancient Near East, either constitutes a seventh branch of Afroasiatic or is CO-ordinate with it. Elamite is usually classified with Dravidian, spoken in South India, but does show clear resemblances with Afroasiatic. Blazek proposes a structure where Afroasiatic is related to Dravidian at a higher level and Elamite foims a bridge between the two. Whether the links between Elamite and Afroasiatic reflect a genetic relationship or are simply a case of extensive loanwords, remains to be explored” (Blench, R., 2006, p. 147).

Paniyar Dravidian

        There have already been noted several similarities between the cultures of Africans and Dravidians including  "common types of round hut, common music instruments, common forms of snake worship and tree worship." In addition its been noted that a South-Indian board game pallankuli "closely resembles the African game mancalal".
      The famed Professor and anthropologist Mircea Eliade who also spoke about an “Afroasian” culture extending between east Africa and southern Asia noted the Dravidic Hiranyagarbha rite as being similar to a custom documented among ancient Egyptian pharaohs. 
     Just these similarities alone would suggest a Nilotic or Saharan affiliation of the earliest Dravidic-speaking populations before their absorption of other settlers and movement southward from the area of Baluchistan and Elam.

*Just a note of caution for Africans about the Dienekes and some of the newer commercial websites purporting to analyze the dna of Africans.

See also the unique new blog -

Blench, R. (2006) Archaeology Language and the African Past.

Chakravarty, K.  Bednarik, R. G. (1997). Indian rock art and its global context.

Elliot-Smith, G. (1911). The ancient Egyptians and their influence upon the civilization of Europe.

Ehret, C. (2011). The history and testimony of language.

Martino, A. B. (1982). Rock art of Spanish Levant. Cambridge University Press.

Lipinksi, E. ( 2001). Semitic Languages: Outline of a comparative grammar.

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