The mystic adventurer, Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866-1949), is said to have visited Egypt and searched the ruins, looking for clues to the meaning of life. Although he might be speaking in parable, Gurdjieff explains he had come across a Map of Pre-Sand Egypt.

Totally Awesome History presents a homemade dramatization:

An actual “parchment” might have never existed. Gurdjieff’s teachings were designed to challenge your preconceptions and the map might have been symbolic of the path to knowledge.

Interestingly enough, satellite imagery confirms the Sahara was indeed a wet and green pre-sand place. The satellites reveal large lakes and multiple rivers throughout North Africa that have long since dried up. If Gurdjieff’s map existed, we might locate an earlier Egypt and have more clues as to how the civilization jumped so quickly from the pastoral and agricultural society of 3100 BC (just over 5000 years ago) to builders of stone temples and the Great Pyramid (2500 BC) in such a short space of time.

Some wonder if the advanced technology and math involved in pyramid and temple building were inherited from a lost, older civilization.

The Sphinx

The iconic and enigmatic Great Sphinx of Egypt continues to be an attraction for tourists but some believe the Egyptians of the 2nd millennium BC were not the true builders of this carved statue.

After reading the works of researcher René Schwaller, tour guide and author John Anthony West decided to investigate the age of the Sphinx. He invited Boston University Geologist Robert Schoch to have a look. Schoch traveled to Egypt in 1990 and studied the ware from water erosion on the Sphinx mentioned by Schwaller that seemed to challenge the accepted date of 2500 BCE.

Schoch was initially skeptical and only expected to confirm the date assigned by mainstream Egyptolgists. He was astonished to find “the core body was weathered by by rainfall, by rain water (and) water run-off”. He returned to Giza many times and with a geophysicist performed multiple tests and gathered data. The results left him with no doubt – the core body of the Sphinx was older than the Pharaohs of Egypt!

Although subsequent investigations by other geologists confirmed many of his finds (for example, see geologist David Coxill, “The Riddle of the Sphinx” published in the Spring 1998 issue [Issue 2, pp. 13-19] of the journal INSCRIPTION: JOURNAL OF ANCIENT EGYPT), Schoch’s ideas were considered outrageous by Egyptologists. Other geologists gave alternate explanations for the ware but could not account for all areas of the Sphinx.

Despite Schoch’s dating, Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian minister of state for antiquities affairs, objected to the new dating and asked what civilization could have possibly built the Sphinx in pre-dynastic times:

“…it is not possible for one reason …. No single artifact, no single inscription, or pottery, or anything has been found until now, in any place to predate the Egyptian civilization more than 5,000 years ago (or approximately 3000-3100 BCE).”

(see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pyramid/explore/howold.html )

As Schoch’s opinion was based on geological science, he had no answer for Hawass until a site in modern day Turkey came to light.

Gobekli Tepe
In 1994, Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute began digging at a site in Turkey known as Gobekli Tepe and found a fascinating array of giant 10-20 ton T-shaped stone pillars with “carved in relief” animal sculptures. Because the site was deliberately buried, the researchers were able to radiocarbon date the material surrounding the stone, dating the site to be over 10,000 years old!

Gobekli Tepi pillar: High relief carvings of animals.

A video of Hawass and Hancock in debate seems to show Hawass as being unaware of the archaeological site at Gobekli Tepe and acting as though the ancient history of nearby lands is irrelevant to a discussion on Egypt:

Gobekli Tepe dates to 10,000-8,000 BCE, the time-frame Schock presently considers plausible for construction of the Sphinx. The site features many complex megalithic structures. Evidently, there were construction-savvy people who conceivably could have carved the Sphinx before Egypt went dry. Schmidt believed it was a holy site but others suggest it was a settlement (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe).

Currently, only 5 percent of the Gobekli site has been excavated but we can clearly see ancient people in the Near East were skilled and able to build large-scale structures much earlier than archaeologists thought. The Gobekli circular structures are much more refined than what was later built at Stonehenge (dated to approximately 2600 BCE)!

The animal carvings on the Gobekli Tepe pillars are done in high relief – meaning they are carved out of the blocks of stone. Likewise, the Egyptian Sphinx was carved out of existing rock. It seems high relief sculpture existed thousands of years before dynastic Egypt and the skill might have migrated from Turkey.

Nearby settlements exhibiting many other elements of civilization are located at Catal Huyuk and Nevalı Çori, also in Turkey. These sites date to 7500 BCE and 8500 BCE respectively and also feature carvings done in high relief (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%87atalh%C3%B6y%C3%BCk#Culture and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neval%C4%B1_%C3%87ori).

Elements of an earlier civilization might be present in Egypt as well.

Foreign Influences:
One of the oldest sculptures know to humankind is from Germany and is known as the “Lion Man” or “Löwenmensch”. It dates to 38,000 BCE by carbon dating of material from the same layer in which the figurine was found. Instead of a Lion with a human head like the Sphinx, it has a lion’s head on a human body, similar to many half-animal / half-human painted cave figures dating back to 38,000 BC and found throughout Europe and Asia (Mind you, some think the sculpture is of a lioness standing on her hind legs). Such finds beg the question; could carvings from other or older non-African cultures have influenced the ancient Egyptians?

The animal with a human head is a common motif in the ancient Near East. For example, we find them in places such as Ebla (located in Eastern Syria) around 3000 BCE and pre-dating the accepted date for the Great Sphinx. The earliest “lamassu” or winged animals with human heads had the bodies of lions and are thought to represent the zodiacs, parent-stars, or constellations [Hewitt, J.F. History and Chronology of the Myth-Making Age. p. 85.
^ Jump up to: a b W. King, Leonard. Enuma Elish Vol 1 & 2: The Seven Tablets of Creation; The Babylonian and Assyrian Legends Concerning the Creation of the World and of Mankind. p. 78.].

Traditionally, academics date the first Mesopotamian civilizations to approximately a thousand years prior to Dynastic Egypt. Many have noted similarities between the civilizations. In 1992, H.S. Smith collected existing research to summarize the evidence (see http://www.egyptorigins.org/earlymigr2.htm). Smith notes similarities in how Egyptian and Mesopotamian heroes and rulers are portrayed as a Tamer of Animals and Victor over Enemies. There are similarities in Temple and Palace Facades and the same Floret Motif is found in Sumer and Egypt.

At one time, scholars thought the Mesopotamian practice of making sun-dried bricks and architectural building such as the use of archs and recessed walls were borrowed by the Egyptians. [see Carl Roebuck, The World of Ancient Times (Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, 1966) p. 52-53.] Some architectural influences may have come to Egypt via trading or Near Eastern people migrations to the Nile valley. Just North of Africa, the ancient megalithic temples of Malta (in the Mediterranean just South of Sicily) also existed prior to the stone temples and pyramids of Egypt. These date from 5000-3600 BC and some feature high relief carvings. Is it possible that foriegners brought stone work technology to Egypt?

Ancient Stome-Building in Malta:

The pre-dynastic Nile valley “Naqada” culture was not isolationist. Evidence suggests they traded with Ethiopians and later with peoples of Canaan and the Byblos Coast of the Near East. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egypt#Predynastic_period).

While influences from the Near East likely played a role in Egypt, one cannot deny the civilization along the Nile had “local” or African influences as well and developed its own uniqueness. In Part One of this series we discussed the Black Mummy of Libya and how Africans from the West could have influenced Egyptian mummification and beliefs about the after-life. The Nile Valley also had several pre-dynastic cultures that survived along the river, hunting, gathering and working farms and it is probable much of what we call “ancient Egyptian culture” – such as the pottery, early hieroglyph writing, Egyptian religion, etc – developed in the Nile valley itself ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egypt#Predynastic_period).

Nabta Playa
In Southern Eygpt there was also a pre-dynastic culture that built with stone and like the later Egyptians devloped a deep fascination for astronomical alignments. The structures at Nabta Playa are not as technologically crafted as the later temples and pyramids but demonstrate that pre-dynastic Egyptains worked with large-scale stone earlier than once thought, around the the 5th millineum BCE.

According to researchers Wendorf and Schild:

“Nabta may have been a contact point between the early Neolithic groups along the Nile who had an agricultural economy and the cattle pastoralists in the Eastern Sahara. The functional separation of these two different economies may have played a significant role in the emergence of complexity among both groups…”

(Wendorf and Schild, https://web.archive.org/web/20110806140123/http://www.comp-archaeology.org/WendorfSAA98.html ):

The European of the 19th century might have thought many Africans “primitive” but failed to understand the extent a culture is deeply linked with its physical environment. A pastoral culture developed to survive a harsh arid environment such as that of the Dinka of Southern Sudan, may not seem technologically sophisticated but they do have an elaborate social system and resilient means for survival. Some video of the Dinka:

In Part One, we learned that the ancient Egyptians were not the first to practice advanced mummification in Africa. The so-called “primitives” were more advanced than Europeans once thought and seemed to have placed an emphasis on the possibility of an after-life.

The Egyptian goddess Isis who assisted in resurrecting Osiris and gave birth to Horus. Note the sun disk and cattle horns.

Italian professor Savino di Lernia believes ancient cattle herders were responsible for the Black Mummy. Not far from Uan Muhuggiag, Savino discovered evidence for an ancient cattle cult in Libya but the extent of the cattle cult in North Africa is what he finds most striking. For example, there existed a cattle cult at Nabta Playa as well:

“The archaeological evidence gathered at Nabta is really spectacular. The cattle burials found and excavated there represent the greatest concentration in prehistoric North Africa.”

(see Savino di Lernia , Aridity, Cattle, and Rites. Social responses to rapid environmental changes in the Saharan Pastoral societies, 6500-5000 yr BP by Di Lernia, Savino. 1994. http://at.yorku.ca/c/a/m/u/24.htm)

According to researchers Wendorf and Schild:

“… there are many aspects of political and ceremonial life in the Pre-dynastic and Old Kingdom (of Dynastic Egypt) that reflects a strong impact from Saharan cattle pastoralists…”
(AND)
“A major change occurred in the character of the Neolithic society at Nabta occurred around 7500 years ago, following a major drought which drove the previous groups from the desert. The groups who returned to the desert now clearly had a complex social system that expressed a degree of organization and control not previously seen in Egypt. They sacrificed young cows and buried them in clay-lined and roofed chambers covered by rough stone tumuli, they erected alignments of large, unshaped stones, they built Egypt’s earliest astronomical measuring device (a “calendar circle” which appears to have been used to mark the summer solstice), and they constructed more than 30 complex structures having both surface and subterranean features.”

( see https://web.archive.org/web/20110806140123/http://www.comp-archaeology.org/WendorfSAA98.html )

The stone circle at Nabtya Playa is especially interesting due to its astronomical alignments and seeming calendar-like function. Some believe it to be the oldest such calendar on Earth. Archeo-astronomers have been trying to decipher the meaning of its alignments.

Stone circle of Nabtya Playa

It is clear than the people of Nabta Playa placed much significance on the stars, just like the dynastic Egyptians. The pyramids and Sphinx have astronomical alignments.

It begs the question, ‘Did the ancient people of Nabta Playa move to the Nile valley and eventually build the pyramids and temples of Egyptian civilization?’

Egyptologist Mark Lehner cautions:

“It makes sense, but not in a facile, direct way. You can’t go straight from these megaliths to the pyramid of Djoser”.

(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabta_Playa)

In a relatively short period of time, the ancient Egyptians were able to gain the technology and know-how to build the Great Pyramid. With it’s astronomical alignments and 2.3 million blocks of stone, some weighing 70 tons (like those above the King’s chamber), the formidable task of building the Great Pyramid would require knowledge of math, physics and engineering. Some will point out that the Great Pyramid was not the first in Egypt. The earliest is the Pyramid of Djoser, built sometime between 2630 BCE–2611 BCE . Did the ancient Egyptians acquire the knowledge and skill to construct the Great Pyramid over a 140-year time span? Or, was there an older stone-working craft that might have helped them? Mysteriously, ancient pyramidal structures are found throughout the world and seem to be centers of cultural and religious significance.

The first Egyptian pyramids were built around the same time as the first pyramidal Ziggaruts of the Mesopotamians. Did the civilizations inherit their stone building from a more ancient people?

Mesopotamian pyramidal structure know as the Ziggurat.

The Osirian at Abydos, Egypt
Alternative writer Robert Anthony West argues that some ruins in Egypt are older than most Egyptologists believe. He cites the Osirian Temple (or Osireion) at Abydos, Egypt as an example.

A viewing of the Osirian is available on Youtube (The footage from 00:42 to 04:09 shows the Osirian):

The Osirion is officially thought to have been built during the reign of Seti I but even the editors of Wikipedia seem to allow contributors to question official assumptions:

“The Osirion was originally built at a considerably lower level than the foundations of the temple of Seti, the new kingdom pharaoh who ruled from 1294 – 1279 BC. While there is disagreement as to its true age, Peter Brand says it “can be dated confidently to Seti’s reign” despite the fact that it is situated at a lower depth than the structures nearby, that it features a very different architectural approach, and that it is frequently flooded with water which would have made carving it impossible had the water level been the same at the time of construction”.

(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osireion).

The megalithic granite, 25 foot 50-60 ton titanic blocks used in its construction are very out-of-step with most Egyptian dynastic temples, especially that of Seti I, who did build the temple next door out of smaller blocks of limestone. Some researchers have commented that the Osirion is similar to the limestone valley temple (adjacent and close to the Sphinx) at Giza but unusual for temples in Egypt, the Osirion was built below ground level.

Pioneering archaeologists Finders Petrie and Margaret Alice Murray wondered if the Osirion existed before Seti I. After excavations were completed, Miss Murray explained:

“The temple of Seti is “L” shaped, the Osirion located beyond the central chapels. Thus the support areas are located on the side, rather than behind the central chapel, as they are in other temples. This conveys the idea that either the Osirion was considered more important than the chapels (Egyptian temples are arranged in a progression from the common to the most holy), or that it was pre-existing and Seti built his temple carefully in line with it… this was the building for the special worship of Osiris and the celebration of the Mysteries, and this appears to me to be the true explanation, for many reasons. Each reason may not be convincing in itself, but the accumulation of evidence goes to prove the case. There is no tomb even among the Tombs of the Kings that is like it in plan… It is only to be expected that Osiris, one of the chief deities of Egypt, should have a special place of worship at Abydos, where he was identified with the local god. And that it should be a part of the temple dedicated to the worship of the dead, and which had special chambers set apart for the celebration of the Osirian mysteries is very natural….”

(quoted from The Osirion at Abydos (Abtu) by Sir William Flinders Petrie and Margaret Alice Murray, 1904. Originally published in: Egyptian Research Account — Ninth year: 1903, see http://ascendingpassage.com/Osirion-at-Abydos.htm for a copy of the report)

Recently in 2016, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities found very old sections of Abydos dating to 5,316 BCE. This pre-dates the dynastic period of the pharaohs and the ruins were buried only 400 meters away from the temple of Seti I and the Osirion (see http://observer.com/2016/11/egyptian-archaeologists-just-discovered-a-7000-year-old-lost-city-along-the-nile/ ).

Osiris was often portrayed in green – the color of re-birth. The story of Osiris and Isis involves the dismemberment of the god Osiris (who becomes the god of the underworld replacing Anubis to some extent) by the deity of chaos and destruction, Set (or Seth). Isis searched the ancient world for the pieces of his body and helped to resurrect Osirus to conceive their child, the god Horus, patron god of the Egyptians. Researchers attempt to envision what unusual rites took place at the Osirion. Was it built underground to facilitate a sort of communion with Osirus, the god of the After-life and the underworld? Or was Osiris the symbol of the re-birth of an older civilization drowned by flood? In some versions of the Osiris myth, Osiris is drowned or his corpse is thrown into the water.

Re-Enter the Map
So a lot went on before the Pharaohs arrived on the scene. A map of pre-sand Egypt might identify new archaeological sites and give us answers. It might help us link the Black Mummy, Nabtya Playa, the Great Sphinx and the Osirion together into a coherent picture, solving many problems of ancient Egyptian history.

Perhaps there was an older pre-dynastic civilization present in ancient North Africa and the Near East. The Alternative research community have long considered the possibility. Such a civilization might even be the parent to the others, accounting for similarities we find in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

-A.Brown

To be continued in part 3.

If you take the map of Africa and turn it upside down, you might see it through the eyes of an early European explorer. From this perspective, you may be impressed by the enormity of the land. Directly across the Mediterranean, North Africa is almost twice the size of Europe.

Africa was once called the Dark Continent, not because it was thought to be a place of evil but as it was largely unexplored. The extensive reach of the Sahara protected ancient Egypt from military invasion. Even today, huge swaths of isolation keep travelers from penetrating inland, keeping archaeologists at bay and ancient secrets hidden.

Courageous souls such as the explorer “Count” Byron de Prorok sought Atlantis here in the 1920s. His book, “In Quest of Lost Worlds”, is a thrilling account of escapades and adventure. Undoubtedly, the Count made mistakes and is considered a “tomb raider” by modern standards but was one of the few willing to explore this land.

The Count

The Count and Atlantis aside, North Africa holds a special place in almost every imagination. Here is the land of the pharaohs and the river Nile. Even today, you can still hear the trance music of Morocco, ponder the astronomy of the Dogon and journey to Timbuktu. Nomadic Tuareg still disappear into a sand-duned horizon while Berber tribesmen ascend high in the mountains. The people carefully guard the secret of underground tunnels leading to vast reserves of water and some say, lost cities in ruin.

The perfect setting for a romantic, fictional authors have concocted intriguing tales set in North Africa. Although it is possible to imagine the past, the truth is revealed by the explorer.

Savino and the Black Mummy

In a documentary video named Black Mummy of the Green Sahara, we meet an Italian university professor who has taken several trips to the desert. He believes the ancient land holds important keys to our past and despite the obvious dangers, Savino di Lernia relentlessly pursues his quest.

In the video, Savino and others discuss the somewhat “advanced” mummification techniques that were used on the body of a black child discovered in Libya and carbon dated to be from 5600 years past. Uan Muhuggiag is both a place in the Acacus mountains of the Libyan Sahara and the name for the child mummy found there in 1958. The find is of some interest as the infant was prepared a thousand years before mummification was practiced in Egypt!

An animal or person can be dried to a mummy if buried out in the desert sands. Advanced mummification involves removing water-holding organs and other treatments such as the use of materials to combat decay.

In the Uan Muhuggiag case, a substantial amount of care went into preserving the child’s body. Death at such an early age would have been profoundly sad to the ancients, as it is to us, but the preservation seems to indicate hope for an afterlife. Mummification in ancient Egypt was centered around this belief.

The child mummy is not the only link with Egyptian culture. In the same region, Savino and others have found pottery decorative styles, rock art and symbols connecting East to West.

Anubis-like Figures

In the same area of Libya, we find rock paintings of dog-headed human figures resembling the Egyptian god Anubis that seem to date back to the time of the mummy. In ancient Eygpt, Anubis was protector of the dead, lord of the underworld and an embalmer of mummies. This canine-headed figure assisted souls into the afterlife and was involved in weighing of the hearts – a judgement that determined whether one entered the realm of the afterlife or was devoured by a monster.(1) If an Anubis-like god was part of the funeral rites of the Black Mummy, we might be looking at a precursor, or at least, influence for the Egyptian religion.

Anubis

A constant figure throughout the history of Egypt, Anubis is oft depicted in Eygptian artwork. Strangely enough, Anubis is rarely mentioned in Egyptian myth and was replaced by Osiris as ruler of the underworld during the Middle Kingdom.(2)

Could Anubis be a prehistoric god that came to Egypt from elsewhere? Did the god migrate from a Western land?

In the video, Savino di Lernia tells us he compared the artwork on pottery shards he found in the Uan Muhuggiag region with artwork that appears on pottery in Southern Egypt. The similarities might indicate central Africans interacted with settlements along the Nile.

Ancient African Cattle Herders

In the video, Savino also mentions finding a “cattle cult” site not too far from Uan Muhuggiag. Looking at Libyan rock art, Savino guesses the child’s people were cattle herders and points out a Hathor-looking figure, complete with Apis bull horns and sun disk, in one of the paintings. The Egyptian gods Isis, Apis and Hathor are often portrayed with the ‘disk between horns’ symbol.

There could be a strong connection between the Mummy’s people and the later civilizations of Egypt but an important question arises: Did a nomadic, livestock-herding people have the resources and time to develop mummification techniques?

I wonder.

A Lost Civilization

If speculation is allowable, is it possible that an advanced pre-Egyptian civilization once existed in the African North?

In the BBC documentary presented by Aminatta Forna, “The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu”, we learn that enormous urban areas once existed on the shores of the Niger river. These ancient cities were probably connected to extensive trade routes reaching across North Africa, like those leading to Timbuktu (a city 12 miles north of the Niger River) in medieval times.

Through the Black Mummy in the Green Sahara we are also made aware that the Sahara was once wetter and “greener” with multiple lakes and rivers. Perhaps ancient waterways allowed technologies such as mummification to spread. Throughout much of human history, bodies of water have acted as highways for trade, knowledge dispersion and empire building. Perhaps those who mummified the child enjoyed the benefits of a somewhat technological civilization but practiced a more rural lifestyle, much like ranchers in modern Montana.

Notions of African history are being revised. Once thought to be a mostly primitive place, the continent holds many surprises. For example, a 2002 UNESCO published study suggests that iron smelting at Termit, in Eastern Niger may have begun as early as 1500 BC.(3) According to Wikipedia, the iron age is thought to have occurred between 1500 and 1 BC, so this would place the Africans at the leading edge. It has yet to be established but a well-populated civilization centered in Eastern Niger or another area could have developed the techniques used to mummify the child.

If other mummies could be found, we might find a trail leading back to the origin of such practices. Whether or not these techniques were brought to Egypt from urban centers to the West, there might be a somewhat advanced North African civilization waiting to be discovered.

Still Much to Uncover

Renowned UCL Institute of Archaeology researcher Kevin McDonald suggests there is still much to catalog when it comes to African heritage. In a video interview, he estimates “we probably have an idea of less than 50% of what is actually there”:

As Africa is thought to be the cradle of humanity, North Africa seems to be at a crossroads for emerging civilizations.

Exploration is necessary to connect the dots and truly understand our past. There are many gaps in the available record and much has been covered by the ‘sands of time’.

On the positive side, new advances in ground radar and satellite imaging are helping us find buried secrets and we have many new archaeological sites to investigate. Unfortunately, few have the means and resources to travel to remote Libya.

Recent political developments make such a trip unlikely but it hasn’t stopped explorers like Savino. In any age, those courageous persons willing to leave behind the safety and mindset of the familiar are the first to find answers.

– A. Brown

Coming Soon: Ancient North Africa, Part II

NOTES
1 [“Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani”. Britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 2012-06-15.]
2 [Johnston, Sarah Iles (general ed.) (2004), Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide, – via Questia (subscription required), Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, ISBN 0-674-01517-7.]
3 [IRON IN AFRICA: REVISING THE HISTORY UNESCO, 2002].