Saturday, June 18, 2011

Afro-Asiatic Metal Workers

Alice C. Linsley

Here are photos of related peoples whose ancestry is Kushite or Proto-Saharan. Both photos are of BJA people. Some Beja are nomadic. Linguist Penelope Aubin notes, "In Demotic sources they are called Brhm while in classical sources they are the Blemmyes, ancestors of the modern Beja."

Beja of Sudan

Beja of Pakistan

In ancient Egypt the Beja were called "Medjayu." These metalworking nomads from the eastern Nubian desert were recognized for their military skills. They served as mercenaries in the Egyptian army and policed the desert in the late Old Kingdom. At the end of Egypt's Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1640–1550 B.C.) they played a role in expelling the Hyksos from the Nile Delta. The Medjayu buried their dead in a distinctive way in circular "pan graves" which they marked with the decorated skulls of bulls, gazelles and goats. These have been found in cemeteries of Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia beginning in the Second Intermediate Period. (Source: Sudan, 2000–1000 B.C., Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art) They brought gold to Egypt from mines deep in the heartland of Nubia and Kush.

The Beja (Arabic: البجا‎) are Kushitic people who live in parts of Sudan, Egypt and the Horn of Africa. Their name comes from the ancient Egyptian word for meteoric iron - bja (metal from heaven), and they were metalworkers. Beja corresponds to the Sanskrit word bija, meaning semen or seed. Meteoric iron was used in the fabrication of iron beads in Nubia about 6000 years ago. These beads may have been perceived as seeds from heaven which brought divine power to the wearer. Meteoric iron was used in the fabrication of crooks and flails, the symbols of the Egyptian and Kushite pharaohs. These symbols were believed to give the ruler powers from heaven.

Prehistoric painting of warrior-priests carrying crooks and flails, found in Sudan.
In other paintings from Hierakonpolis figures are shown wearing beads around their necks.

"Around 4000 BC small items, such as the tips of spears and ornaments, were being fashioned from iron recovered from meteorites." R. F. Tylecote, A History of Metallurgy (2nd edition, 1992), page 3.

Meteoric iron was prevalent on the Arabian Pensinsula due to iron meteoroids which caused hypervelocity cratering. Iron meteoroids are able to pass through the atmosphere intact. The so-called Wabar craters of Rub' al Khali or the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia were caused by iron meteoroids. These were discovered in 1932 by a British explorer, Harry St. John "Abdullah" Philby, father of Soviet spy Kim Philby. Buried fist-sized iron balls and smooth sand-blasted fragments at the site indicated a meteorite impact, as there are no iron deposits in the region. Storzer's fission-track dating analysis of glass fragments found at the site suggested the Wabar impact took place thousands of years ago.

Metal Work and Serpent Symbolism

According to II Kings 18:4, King Hezekiah destroyed the Nehustan, the bronze serpent on Moses' wand. “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it [dismissively] Nehushtan.”

When bitten by vipers in the wilderness the people who looked upon the rod/wand or staff with the serpent were saved. Jesus compared his crucifixion to Moses raising up the rod with a brass serpent: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14,15). Why the comparison? Because Moses’ staff was a symbol of Horus, who was called the "son of God."

Biblical anthropologist Susan Burns reports, "Jewelry work requires coils of metal. Coiling makes the metal stronger and easier to work. I have a picture of a bronze coil with a flattened nose resembling a snake from the Neolithic."

The flat part was where the metalworker held the coil to work it. Such coiled bronze serpents have been recovered at Neolithic metal working sites in the Arabah.

Mining operations were always under auspices of Hat-Hor, the virgin mother of Horus, as at the Timna Valley copper mines near Eilat.

A Hausa Legend

BJA is likely the root of the Hausa name Bayajidda. He too is associated with metalworkers.

Bayajidda (also known as Tu-peshe) is a legendary character of the Hausa of Nigeria. The root his name is bja. Bayajidda's closest biblical counterpart is Cain. Cain was sent away from his father, married a princess who he met at a well, and was involved with metalworkers. Most of the heroes of Genesis met their wives at sacred wells or springs. Abraham married Keturah at the Well of Sheba (Beersheva). Issac (Yitzak) found a wife at a well in Aram. Moses encountered his wife at a well sacred to the Midianites and won her had after he delivered the women and flocks from Egyptian raiders.

The antiquity of the Hausa legend is attested by the role which water plays in the story. In the ancient world shrines were built along rivers and at wells or springs from west central Africa to the Indus River Valley. Serpents inhabited these places and were both venerated and feared. In Sanskrit serpent is “naaga”, in Hebrew “nahash”, and in Hausa “naja.”

Bayajidda then went to the town of Daura in Katsina State, where he asked an old woman for water. She informed him that a serpent named Sarki (Hausa word for emir) guarded the well and that the people were allowed to draw water only once a week. Bayajidda went to the well and beheaded the serpent with the knife the blacksmiths had made for him. The well has since become a tourist attraction.

In the story of Bayajida we note again the association of the serpent with metalworkers. The original root for serpent is probably NS and the same root was likely used for all things serpentine: rivers, veins, sinew, lightening, and veins of ore. According to the Monier-Williams' lexicon ka 'ns means "to shine." The Sanskrit word for bronze or copper-tin alloy is kansa. If the first metal workers were Nilotic peoples, as the evidence suggests, this suggests an older association of KA+NS.  Ka represents Kain, the first ruler in the Bible and the "father" of metal workers. N refers to the Deity and S was originally a pictograph of a serpent. It is easy to see how prehistoric peoples might have regarded lightening as God's serpent connecting heaven and earth.

The Beja were Devotees of Ra and Horus

Until the 6th century the Beja were devotees of Horus and his mother Hathor. They were associated with different Horite temples, especially on the island of Philak (image below) and at Thebes. Today many are Christians and others are Sufi Muslims.

Panaramic view of the ruins of the Temple at Philak

It appears that there were famous ruler-priests among the Beja, and the rulers of the priestly lines intermarried.

Pinedjem I was the High Priest at Thebes from 1070 - 1032 B.C. He was the son of the High Priest Piankh and probably ruled over the southern portion of Piankh's territory beginning in 1054. Pinedjem's mummy was found at Deir el-Bahri. Pinedjem I married Duathathor-Henuttawy (“Adorer of Hathor; Mistress of the Two Lands”), the daughter of Ramesses XI.

Horu-Pasibkhanut I was the second king of the Twenty-first dynasty of Egypt who ruled from Tanis (Biblical Zoan) from 1047 BC to 1001 BC.  His intact tomb was discovered in Tanis.  Here is a description of his funerary mask which is presently housed at the Cairo Museum:  "it proved to be made of gold and lapis lazuli and held inlays of black and white glass for the eyes and eyebrows of the object." Horu-Pasinkhanut I's mask is "one of the masterpieces of the treasure of Tanis" and his "fingers and toes had been encased in gold stalls, and he was buried with gold sandals on his feet. The finger stalls are the most elaborate ever found, with sculpted fingernails. Each finger wore an elaborate ring of gold and lapis lazuli or some other semiprecious stone." (From here.)  His sister bride was named Mutnedjmet, a daughter of Pinedjem I the high priest of the temple at Thebes.

3000-year old gold funerary mask of Horu-Pasinkhanut I discovered in 1940 by Pierre Montet

Afro-Asiatic Metalworkers in Service of their Rulers

The extraordinary quality and workmanship of the ancient metalworkers has been attested repeatedly by finds such as those buried with the Egyptian and Kushite pharaohs. The Kushite metalworkers dispersed wherever their overlords established territories. In Sumeria they were called the "Bira" or "ti-bira." At an ancient city in southern Iraq there is a place call "Bad-tibira" which means "Wall of the Copper Worker." This ancient site appears among antediluvian cities in the Sumerian King List. Its Akkadian name was Dûr-gurgurri. 

Akkadian, the oldest known Semitic language, was used throughout the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. A kingdom builder of this period was of Nimrod. According to Genesis 10:8, Nimrod was ethnically Kushite.

The Asian Beja of Pakistan and India achieved extraordinary metallurgical feats. An example is the 1600 year old pure iron pillar (shown right) near Qutub Minar at New Delhi which has never rusted. There is a long-standing connection between pillars, mountains and shrines. Genesis 28:10-22 tells of how Jacob set up a pillar and called that place Beth-el (House of God). Then Jacob anointed the pillar, as Hindus anoint the lingam.

In Urdu (a language of Pakistan) the word "beja" means inappropriate or incongruous. This suggests that the blacksmiths in ancient Pakistan, like the Gypsy tinkers of Europe, were regarded as a lower class/caste. There is evidence that they once were in the service of rulers and chiefs and as such held high status. However, as with Sarki of Nepal, once royal craftsmen, they were enslaved to ensure that their unique skills were retained by the ruler.
The word sarki designates a priest-ruler from Africa to Nepal. In ancient Egypt, sarki and harwa referred to orders of priests. In Hausa, sarki means king. The term is related to these ancient Akkadian words: šarrum - king, šarratum - queen, and šarri - divine.

The metalworking Inadan of Niger suffered a similar fate. They are subservient to their Taureg overlords. The metal working chiefs of the Inadan who live in the Air Desert maintain two wives in separate households on a north-south axis (National Geographic, Aug. 1979, p. 389). This is the pattern found among the rulers of Abraham's Horite Hebrew people.

The word for blacksmith in Sanskrit is lohakara and in Pali (spoken by the Buddha) it is lohara. The Egyptians did not have the letter L (Barton, "Archaeology and the Bible," 4th ed., note on p. 335.) The Sanskrit lo designates a male who "moves to and fro" and suggests that the smiths of Pakistan and India were itinerant metalworkers like their African counterparts.

The Beja of Ancient Kush 

There has been a good deal of speculation about whether the BJA metalworkers came to Pakistan and India from Africa or came from Pakistan and India to Africa. Genesis indicates that there was a Kushite migration out of Africa. Nimrod, a Kushite, built a kingdom in Mesopotamia. Recent DNA studies have confirmed the Biblical picture of a Kushite migration by demonstrating fairly conclusively that the Beja are originally Kushites.

Biblical Kush was a vast region that included Sudan, southern Egypt, ancient Nubia, the coastal areas of the Horn of Africa and the populations living in the Nile Valley. DNA studies of the Sudan show "genetic unity and linkage" between the Sudanic, Egyptian, Nubian and other Nilotic peoples, as well as some populations of the Horn of Africa. (Yurco (1996), Keita (1993, 2004, 2005) Lovell (1999), Zakrewski (2003, 2007) et. al). The data shows that the Copts are one of the oldest Egyptian populations. This is based on the relatively high frequency of the B-M60 marker, indicating early pre-dynastic colonization of Egypt by Nilotics.

The Copt Y-DNA profile, the genetic strain passed through the male line, suggests that they "represent a living record of the colonization of southern Egypt" by Nubians, something that conforms to recorded history and to Egyptian mythology. See Hisham Y. Hassan 1, Peter A. Underhill 2, Luca L. Cavalli-Sforza 2, Muntaser E. Ibrahim 1. (2008). Also see Y-chromosome variation among Sudanese: Restricted gene flow, concordance with language, geography, and history. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2008.

Haplogroup E-M78, is thought to have an origin in eastern African, is more widely distributed. This haplogroup has been found to depict several well-established subclades with defined geographical clustering (Cruciani et al., 2006, 2007). All clades and subclades correspond to Afro-Asiatic speakers. Although haplogroup E-M78 is common to most Sudanese populations, it has exceptionally high frequency among populations whose ancestral home is the heart of Biblical Kush, including the Beja in eastern Sudan.

The Beja and Amhara from Ethiopia are in one sub-cluster based on shared frequencies of the haplogroup J1, and the distribution of M78 subclades indicates that the Beja are also related to the Oromo living in the Horn of Africa (Cruciani et al., 2007).

Related reading: Archaic and Ancient Symbols of Authority; Iron Seeds from HeavenWho Were the Horites?Who Were the Kushites?; African Religion Predates Hinduism


Anonymous said...

Hello, i really enjoy all your work and everything you post.

Are the Huteimi and Horite the same people?

Alice C. Linsley said...

"Are the Huteimi and Horites the same people?"

No. The Huteimi are a tribe. The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests, devotees of Horus, and were found among various tribes and clans.