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Origin of the Egyptians ?

 
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Amon Isis
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 12:38 pm    Post subject: Origin of the Egyptians ? Reply with quote

Can an expert of the Ancient Egypt tell us who where the ancient Egyptians and where did they come from?

I have read a lot of things on this and the answers are not always the same.

The book from the UNESCO: General History of Africa says that they were at the begining Africans from the South, and I have read that it has been approuved at the 1974 Conference of Egyptology in Cairo, that there language was too African.
However, I've read too that some Egyptologists of the UofC don't agree and say they were Semitic.

Can someone bring light to this interesting question about those people that fascinate us?

Thank you
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think anyone here would be too quick to call himself or herself an "expert," but we can lend you a hand. First off, if this is a subject in which you're truly interested, I'd have to recommend Toby Wilkinson's book Genesis of the Pharaohs (Thames & Hudson, 2003). This is a subject about which we still have much to learn, but scholars like Wilkinson are answering a lot of questions that need to be answered. It's a terrific book.

The subject of the origin of the ancient Egyptians has been heatedly debated for years, but we now know that these origins are not so black and white (pardon the pun Very Happy ). Wilkinson's book sheds a lot of light on this argument. Most definitely many of the first Egyptians came from the south, from Africa, but it didn't end there. They also came from the west (ancestors of the Bedouin and Libyans) and from the northeast (ancestors of the Syrio-Palestinians and Canaanites). It was a blend of people from north to south and very cosmopolitan by ancient standards.

What we can dismiss is the notion that a primitive people were barely scraping along in prehistoric times in the Nile Valley when some great "foreign" invaders came and fashioned dynastic Egypt. That was a popular theory for many years and too tied into Eurocentric concepts, and many of the greatest ealry thinkers in Egyptology were guilty of it--not the least of whom was Flinders Petrie. No, dynastic Egypt evolved in a set fashion from the people already occupying the Valley and Delta.

The subject of language is not so cut and dried, either. Ancient Egyptian wasn't just Semitic or African--it belonged to a family that linguists call Afro-Semitic, a blend of the two. The Semitic languages evolved in Africa and only later spread to the Levant and its environs. In fact, there are more Semitic tongues today in Africa than there are in the Levant. Linguists have been able to show that ancient Egyptian was similar to such tongues as Berber, Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew. Wink
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Amon Isis
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 8:14 am    Post subject: Thank you Reply with quote

Thank you very much great kemet Sesh for your answer.

On the language of the ancient Egyptians however I have read that they had about 100 words of Semitic language origin for more than 1000 of African origins.

And I am starting to read Wilkinson's book. I'm only at the beginning, but his theory seems to be a very interesting one!

I'll surely have more questions in the future but for the moment I'm quite satisfied Wink
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2006 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
On the language of the ancient Egyptians however I have read that they had about 100 words of Semitic language origin for more than 1000 of African origins.


I don't think I've heard that before. But remember that the Semitic language family originated in North Africa (extending well into the Sahara), so I don't know how that percentage of words was figured. Though the Afro-Semitic tongue of the ancient Egyptians has many similar sounds to related languages like Hebrew and Arabic, it's neither simply African nor Semitic--I see it as more of a transitional tongue as peoples from north and south intermixed.

A particularly good book to read for understanding how these languages evolved and spread is Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Diamond's study is not specific to ancient Egypt (though it's included) and does not cover language alone, but as someone who loves languages, I pulled a lot of worthwhile and interesting facts from it.

Quote:
And I am starting to read Wilkinson's book. I'm only at the beginning, but his theory seems to be a very interesting one!


I think you'll enjoy the book. Predynastic history is not one of my key interests in the study of ancient Egypt, but that's why I read Wilkinson's book--to gain a better understanding of these formative times.
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neseret
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
The subject of language is not so cut and dried, either. Ancient Egyptian wasn't just Semitic or African--it belonged to a family that linguists call Afro-Semitic, a blend of the two. The Semitic languages evolved in Africa and only later spread to the Levant and its environs. In fact, there are more Semitic tongues today in Africa than there are in the Levant. Linguists have been able to show that ancient Egyptian was similar to such tongues as Berber, Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew.


Actually the overall language family is called "Afroasiatic", but is often referred to as Hamito-Semitic. It includes these subdivisions:

Semitic
Berber
Cushitic
Chadic
Egyptian (extinct)
Omotic


The Afroasiatic language family includes 300 + languages. However, as you can see from the subdivisions, ancient Egyptian is distinct from Semitic languages, and developed independently. However, while some words are similar, ancient Egyptian is not considered a Semitic language.

The leading work on ancient Egyptian linguistics is

Loprieno, A. 1995. Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

HTH.
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Oriental Studies
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dreamregent
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Thank you Reply with quote

Amon Isis wrote:
On the language of the ancient Egyptians however I have read that they had about 100 words of Semitic language origin for more than 1000 of African origins.


I think you'll find that there is a wide range of thought on this issue...as well as on any other issue regarding ancient Egypt (or ancient times, in general, for that matter). In fact, the further you go back, the more diverse the opinions will be. It sounds like you've got a good start on your research. I would just add that it's important not to take any single opinion to the bank. You kind of have to sift through multiple opinions to distill what makes sense because each opinion writer has their axe to grind and, no matter how objective they try to be, their axe always seems to find its way into the finished product.
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