Ancient Egyptian race controversy

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Race theory: Libyans (Berbers), a Nubian (black African), a Syro-Palestinian (Asiatic Levantine), and an Egyptian, drawing by an unknown artist after a mural of the tomb of Seti I, c. 13th century BC (Hornung: The Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I, 1991); Copy by Prussian Generalleutnant, explorer and archaeologist Heinrich Freiherr Menu von Minutol (1772–1846) c. 1820.

The ancient Egyptian race controversy refers to the debate regarding the race(s) of the inhabitants of Ancient Egypt. The issue is politically sensitive as it relates to who created the ancient Egyptian civilization.


Specific races
Ancient Egyptians
East Asians
Han Chinese
Sub-Saharan Africans

The issue is complicated by a number of factors:

  • Egypt has been invaded and conquered many times.
  • Such conquerors, possibly racially different from the rest of the population, may have formed a ruling group separated from and having limited interbreeding with the rest of the population. This means that, for example, the presence of such racially different group may be difficult to detect by analyzing the DNA of modern Egyptians. Well-documented examples of conquering elites were the small minorities of Greeks/Romans in Egypt during the Ptolemaic dynasty/Roman Empire, who ruled the country and who made many important scientific and mathematical contributions, such as Euclidean geometry.
    • "Especially in the Roman Period there may have been significant legal and social incentives to marry within one’s ethnic group, as individuals with Roman citizenship had to marry other Roman citizens to pass on their citizenship. Such policies are likely to have affected the intermarriage of Romans and non-Romans to a degree."[1]
  • Similarly, there may have been a presence of foreign non-conqueror small minority groups, who performed various specialized functions, and who may be difficult to detect by analyzing the DNA of modern Egyptians. One example involving Egypt is the Mamluk "slave soldiers", in practice a ruling elite of foreign origin.
  • Southern Egypt is closer to Sub-Saharan Africa and has often been argued to have had a larger genetic influence from Sub-Saharan Africans.
  • Slave trade involving Sub-Saharan Africans has been argued to have gradually increased the genetic influence of Sub-Saharan Africans.
  • Egypt has a very long history, so the population(s) during, for example, the Early Dynastic period, when many aspects of the ancient Egyptian civilization appeared around 3000 BC, may not necessarily be identical with population(s) during, for example, the New Kingdom period.

Hyksos, Sea Peoples, and Israelites

Just some of the peoples involved in controversies are the Hyksos, the Sea Peoples, and supposedly the Israelites under Moses, as discussed in the articles on these topics.

2017 study

A 2017 study of genetic material from Egyptian mummies (dating from 1400 BC to 400 AD) supported that these ancient Egyptians shared more ancestry with people who lived along the eastern Mediterranean and in Europe than modern Egyptians do. In the Islamic period, the sub-Saharan genetic influence increased, which may be related to increased slave trade.[2][3][1]

Dynastic race theory

The dynastic race theory is theory regarding how predynastic Egypt developed into the sophisticated monarchy of dynastic Egypt around 3000 BC. The theory holds that elements of the ancient Egyptian civilization were imported from the earlier Mesopotamian (Sumerian) civilization by a racially different ruling elite, who invaded or colonized Egypt, arriving either by land or by sailing around the Arabian Peninsula. The less politically correct theory has argued that skeletal remains from the period indicate the presence of two different races, with the foreign and ruling "Dynastic Race" differentiated physically by a noticeably larger skeletal structure and cranial capacity (indicating larger brain size).

The theory had strong support in the Egyptological community in the first half of the 20th century, but has since lost mainstream support, although ancient Egypt is still argued to have been influenced by Mesopotamia, and population differences between northern and southern Egypt may be accepted.

Variants of the theory have been revived by some modern scholars.[4][5]


Main article: Afrocentrism
A favorite Afro-centric fantasy is that the ancient Egyptians were black. In 1990, when news began to seep out that many black “academics” were making this claim, columnist John Leo of U.S. News & World Report telephoned seven prominent Egyptologists to get the expert view. To a man, they agreed that neither the pharaohs nor the common people of ancient Egypt were black or negroid, but not one was willing to be quoted. As one explained, the question was “politically too hot;” people can get in trouble for disagreeing with the most preposterous foolishness if it happens to be asserted by a large number of blacks.[6]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods
  2. The surprising ancestry of ancient Egyptians: First ever genome study of mummies reveals they were more Turkish and European than African
  3. DNA from ancient Egyptian mummies reveals their ancestry
  4. Legend – The Genesis of Civilisation, by David Rohl,
  5. Egypt's making: the origins of ancient Egypt, 5000-2000 BC, by Michael Rice
  6. What Race Were the Pharaohs?