Saturday, September 20, 2008


The Sinai junction has at times been the subject of geopolitical gymnastics in anthropology, wherein any archaeological findings is given an non-African interpretation. In fact, many anthropological findings have exemplified just how this region is an extension of the Nile Valley, and hence, Africa since antiquity, as it is today. Take for instance the 'Proto-Sinaitic' script, which had been uncovered in Sinai; similar examples of the type were initially found further east, in the Levant, prompting explanations that propose the concept's spread from the Sinai into Levant. Yet even then, despite claims of the scripts located in both regions being considered to be essentially of the same type, this had not stopped references to the Levantine example of the type as "Proto-Canaanite". Perhaps more subtle, is the treatment of Sinai as an agent that can be used to demarcate what is no longer African, or Nile Valley for that matter, with developments within the Sinai region itself usually discussed from a non-African context. Look at the term "Proto-Sinaitic" itself; it is as though that region isn't recognized as part of Egypt, when indeed, it is every bit geopolitically a part of Egypt today, as it was in antiquity. If nothing else shows this, then please consider the following...

Cairo, July 22: Egypt announced on Sunday the discovery of the largest-ever military city from the Pharaonic period on the edge of the Sinai desert, part of the forts that stretched to the Gaza border.

The three forts are part of a string of 11 castles that made up the Horus military road that went from Suez all the way to the city of Rafah on the Egyptian-Palestinia border and dates to the 18th and 19th dynasties (1560-1081 BC)," said antiquities supreme Za-hi Hawwas.

Teams have been digging in the area for a decade, but the Egyptian discovery of the massive Fort Tharo and the discovery of two other fortresses confirmed the existence of the Horus fortifications described in ancient texts...

One of the biggest ancient Egyptian military fortresses dating back to about 3,500 years ago has been discovered in north Sinai, an Egyptian antiquities official said on Sunday.

The fort was believed to be built at the time of King Thutmos III (1504 BC-1452 BC), Mohamed Adel Maqsoud, head of the Higher Antiquities Council team that made the discovery, was quoted by the Egyptian MENA news agency as saying.

The fort was unearthed on the ancient Horus military road between Egypt and the Palestinian territory, some 3 km off the Suez Canal in the area of Qantara Sharq, he said.

Maqsoud said that the newly discovered fort remains indicated the once gigantic military fort was 500-meter long and 250-meter wide, built with 13-meter-wide brick walls.

It also has a 12-meter-wide southern entrance with two-meter- high walls, he added.

Egyptian armies in the era of the pharaonic modern state took the military fort, which was the eastern front of the ancient Egyptian town of Tharo, as the starting point to protect the country's eastern gateway, according to Maqsoud.

Courtesy of and Xinhua

As the present author has noted elsewhere before, Egyptians had fortresses both on the northern and southern borders to control movements into the country. Naturally, this should tell us that 'foreigners' didn't come in droves as they pleased without the Egyptian authorization, as many laypersons are predisposed to believing, given all the hype and portrayal of ancient Egyptians as some sort of mystical "Mediterranean" types. Listening to the way some people frame history, showing just how much thought they put into their claims, one gets away with the idea that somehow the north was sort of a no-man's land, while the southern border was heavily guarded to restrict movement of people from further south. Some others make it seem like both the southern and northern ends of the country had a "no-man's land" type of situation, allowing unfettered flow of people from the northern and southern neighboring regions, thereby turning Egypt into what they call a 'melting pot'. Undoubtedly, these fortresses were there to primarily protect Dynastic Egypt from potential rivals mainly to its east and its south, and also oversee 'controlled' movement of people in and out of the country. This would have meant gradual and controlled inflow of migrants into the region over time, barring military incursions or attempts at military incursion; these militarized fortresses served a role no different than militarized borders of many nations today.

There is a perception in some quarters that Egypt's southern neighbors may not have been a potent of threat to ancient Egyptians as their eastern neighbors were; the wisdom here, is that when the Kushitic complex was not paying tribute to the Egyptian state under Egyptian control, it was generally an ally. In geo-politics strange things can happen, where allies can also be rivals suspicious of one another; "strange bedfellows" comes to mind as a descriptive word. Is there any reason to assume that Kushites weren't considered as potent a threat to the Egyptian state as any other outside the state's immediate borders? Kushites were not only a rival during the Middle Kingdom in particular, but even during the Roman occupation. The Romans experienced first hand just how much of a pain the Kushites could be. Heck, they even ruled the Nation in the 25th dynasty, and nearly came close to doing so even earlier, according an Egyptian inscription in a richly decorated tomb at El Kab, near Thebes, in Upper Egypt, dating to about the same time as the date of the above mentioned military fortress on the Sinai region ca. 3,500 years [see: Tomb reveals Ancient Egypt's humiliating secret, by Dalya Alberge, 2005] . So apparently, the Egyptian knew the Kushites better than to entertain the idea that they posed little potential threat, and so, made no qualms about building militarized fortresses to their southern border as well. That said, Kushites were also most counted on in helping restore native consolidation of power in Dynastic Egypt, especially under Kushitic rule in the 25th Dynasty. It appears that Kushite mercenaries were even used in the Levant to help "Israelites" fight Assyrians ca. 8th century BC [see: The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance Between Hebrews and Africans in 701 B.C., by Henry T. Aubin (April 1, 2003)].

Going back to that issue of "Proto-Sinaitic" script, it apparently served as another sign of the region being essentially an extension of the Nile Valley, aside from its prehistoric role as a corridor for the movement of people from [Mushabians or ancestors of Natufians as an example] and into the region, when the elements of the script where found deep in the Nile Valley, in a tomb [belonging to a King Scorpion] located in Abydos, dating back to ca. 3400 BC or so, earlier than the examples found in the Sinai region itself. The importance of the script of course, particularly to cultures outside of Africa, is that it is parent to a great deal of scripts that are used to communicate both Afrasan (Afro-Asiatic) and Indo-European languages [like almost all the languages of western Europe]. Certain themes of this posting will be revisited in future postings here.