Saturday, November 11, 2006
Black and White of Ancient Egyptian Race
I heard a stunning report from my local radio station, as well as a broadcast on FNC (Special Report with Brit Hume). Apparently, a group of NAACP members protested the King Tutankhamen exhibit it the LA County Museum of Art because the recent bust generated using CAT scan data depicted the young pharaoh as “white” instead of “black”. I am livid with anger, because this blatant racism is being allowed to play out and no critical comment is given. I am also saddened by this display of ignorance about the actual “race” of the ancient Egyptians. Therefore, I have rapidly developed this essay.
Here are the source materials:
- http://www.catchpenny.org/race.html (my main reference source, and the one to which I most specifically refer).
- “Black Spark, White Fire” by Richard Poe
- The Great Courses on Tape – The History of Ancient Egypt by Bob Brier
I will begin this piece by clearly stating that I firmly believe that current, scientific evidence indicates that the ancient Egyptians were a blended group of people. In fact, the ancient Egyptians had one of the healthiest attitudes toward race – they basically thought of people as “Egyptian” or “foreign”, the actual ethnic group of an individual not being of particular concern to them. In fact, I think that the ancient Egyptians are best classifiable as members of the human race, and beyond that, the race or color of a specific individual is going to be exceedingly difficult to ascertain.
This essay will explore the definition and meaning of race. It will also provide information on the information that the ancient Egyptians transmitted themselves about their race. Then, it will address probably one of the most significant tools that are available to us to understand which groups of people actually contributed genetically to the ancient Egyptians – mitochondrial DNA. Then, I will conclude with my theory of the “race history” of the ancient Egyptians. (NOTE: The original essay contained links to images that helped highlight the point. Limitations of this format permit only one image, above. Please click to the links, as I think you will find them interesting).
RACE – WHAT DOES IT GOOD FOR? A PERSONAL COMPARISON.
I want to start this section with personal description. I am half Romanian gypsy in heritage (with distant ancestral roots, therefore, in Northern India). I have a good friend who is half “African American”, half “German American” – she looks rather like Lena Horne. Here are some graphics showing what we basically look like.
(Gypsy like me)
(Blended, like my friend)
When I am out of the sun, I am a light golden color – just like my friend. When I am in the sun, I tan darker than my friend. In fact, she burns a toasty pink. Who, then, is really “black”? Here in the USA, she is. But in Europe, I also would be referred to as “black”. Germans and many other Europeans refer to gypsies as “schwartzers”, “black ones”, or other similar terms, because gypsies tend to be darker than the typical Caucasian European.
Eventually, she and I will both pass away. In about 1000 years, our remains are discovered and a reconstructive bust of each of us is made. How would that artist/scientist know how to color each of is? My friend’s face bears some classically “black” features – but my ancestors have given me a skin tone far darker than hers.
LOOKING AT ANCIENT EGYPT AND RACE WITH PERSPECTIVE
Review the map of ancient Egypt. Some very important considerations must be given when “determining” the race of the ancient Egyptians, as noted by looking at the area itself.
- Egypt is fully connected to the Sudan and exceedingly close the Horn of Africa (i.e., Ethiopia, Somalia).
- Egypt is fully connected to Libya.
- Egypt is partially connected, via a land bridge, to the Sinai and the Levant.
- People tend to migrate from areas of less prosperity to areas of greater prosperity.
- Egypt was a highly successful and prosperous area for 5000 plus years.
And, as a final note to this section, let’s consider what race really means. Per my main reference cited above:
Biologists define "race" as a group or population differing in gene frequency from that of others in the same species. Such differences usually occur as a result of some type of geographic barrier limiting interbreeding, so that the two otherwise similar genetic populations begin to drift apart. Thus there are distinct "races" of fruit flies – separated perhaps by mountainous or desert conditions. However, with very limited exceptions there are no such separated groups within the human population, and those that do occur do not map on to what are in conventional speech regarded as separate "races." The consensus view among population geneticists and biological anthropologists is that the concept of "race" to indicate analytically distinct subgroups of the human race is biologically meaningless. [From a public lecture given at Gresham College, London, reported in The Independent, 28 January 2002]
"Race is a social construct, not a scientific classification," Robert S. Schwartz, M.D. wrote (in "Race Is a Poor Measure," New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 344, No. 18, May 3, 2001). "Any attempt to establish lines of division among biological populations is both arbitrary and subjective." The Human Genome Project determined that 99.9% of the human genetic complement is the same in everyone, regardless of race. This means that the DNA of any two people will differ in one out of every thousand nucleotides, the building blocks of individual genes. With more than 3 billion nucleotides in the human genome, about 3 million nucleotides will differ among individuals. While statistically small, this does allow for some variation. "Admittedly," wrote Dr. Sally Satel, "race is a rough marker. A black American may have dark skin - but his or her genes may well be a complex mix of ancestors from west Africa, Europe and Asia. No serious scientist, in fact, believes that genetically pure populations exist. Yet an imprecise clue is better than no clue at all." ("A question of colour" in The Guardian, 9 May 2002) But these differences between people are relatively insignificant: skin pigment, eye shape, and hair texture. The physical "stereotypes" of race, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza wrote in The History and Geography of Human Genes, "reflect superficial differences."
ANCIENT EGYPTIANS TELL US ABOUT THEIR OWN RACE
The ancient Egyptians provided some very important clues to their race on tomb walls. Here are two examples:
(Four peoples of the world: Syrian, Nubian, Libyan, and Egyptian, from the Tomb of Seti I.)
(Foreign prisoners of Ramesses III: Libyan, Nubian, Syrian, Shasu Bedouin, and Hittite.)
The ancient Egyptians were very consistent as to how they painted themselves – dark reddish brown for men, yellow for women. They also recognized and were willing to paint other races with classic racial characteristics of that particular group. Looking at the tomb painting above, the ancient Egyptians recognized that Nubians (i.e., Sudanese) were black, and that Libyans and Syrians were “white” (actually, in this case, a light yellow). Culture characteristics were also carefully recorded. Basically what the ancients were telling the viewer: We aren’t as black as our southern neighbors, nor are we as light as our western/eastern neighbors. We Egyptians are a separate group of people entirely.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians did what we Americans did to Betty Crocker a few years ago: blended all the colors of all the people together and came up with one standard color for everyone:
(American Blended Race Image of Betty Crocker).
The main reference I cited above expresses this concept very nicely:
Tomb paintings depicting captive Nubians may show them as being very dark, but this is an artistic convention stereotyping a nationality, and to conclude there were therefore no very dark Egyptians would be a non sequitur. Similarly, the skin tones in art depicting the Egyptians themselves adhere to convention rather than an absolutely accurate description of reality…We can safely conclude that the ancient Egyptians were of various skin colors, few of which were light judging by the climate.
OLD SCIENCE: A CLASSIC STUDY OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN RACE
The “race” of the ancient Egyptians were studied in the 1940’s. My main essay reference provides this analysis:
In the 1940's, A. Batrawi made a detailed examination of ancient skeletal material from Egypt and Lower Nubia, comparing such physical features as craniological data and the length of limb bones, while recording changes through time. His resulting theory of racial continuity in the early Egyptian population has been supported by more recent research. In his seminal two-part article "The Racial History of Egypt and Nubia" (The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 75:1945, pp. 81-101; 76:1946, pp. 131-56), Batrawi does categorize physical types into racial groups, but his description of migration and interaction remains valid.
Since early neolithic times there existed two distinct but closely related types, a northern in Middle Egypt and a southern in Upper Egypt. The southern Egyptians were distinguished from the northerners by a smaller cranial index, a larger nasal index and greater prognathism. The geographical distinction between the two groups continued during the Pre-Dynastic Period. The Upper Egyptians, however, spread into lower Nubia during that period. By the beginning of the Dynastic era the northern Egyptian type is encountered for the first time in the Thebaïd, i.e., in the southern territory. The incursion, however, seems to have been transitory and the effects of the co-existence of the two types in one locality remained very transient until the 18th Dynasty. From this time onwards the northern type prevailed all over Egypt, as far south as Denderah, till the end of the Roman period.
In Lower Nubia a slight infiltration of negroid influence is observed during the Middle Kingdom times. In the New Empire period, however, the southern Egyptian type prevails again. After the New Empire a fresh and much stronger negro influence becomes discernable till the end of the Roman period.
NEW SCIENCE: DNA TESTING OF MUMMIES AND POPULATIONS
The Basics of DNA Testing
With the advances in science technology, there is now a new "weapon" that can help Egyptologists in their quest to construct the definitive chronology of Egyptian kings, namely DNA testing. The process involves taking minute amounts of tissue samples from a donor that can be broken down into their constituent parts, allowing the identification of individuals, by comparisons to other known samples.
First developed and used as an identification technique in 1985. DNA testing underwent further refining until in 1991, a process known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was developed; whereby DNA can be cloned to produce multiple copies of specific regions of human DNA. These regions can then be examined to see if they are linked genetically to other individuals.
(DNA Analysis Example)
DNA testing may be able to provide answers to the chronology and genealogy of Egypt's mummies. DNA has been termed as the "genetic fingerprint" of each individual, passing genetic information from one generation to the next by making exact replicas of its self. Therefore, the closer a genetic sequence match is, the higher the probability that the donors share a common ancestry.
Furthermore, an individual's genetic fingerprint is influenced by ones parents' genes; each contributing half of their genes to their offspring. There are two specific types if DNA that can be studied : Mitochondrial DNA and Nuclear DNA.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited from the mother, whilst Nuclear DNA is derived from both parents and is much harder to obtain for study. In fact, when someone mentions human DNA, they often are referring to “Nuclear DNA”. “Nuclear DNA” are the 46 chromosomes that inhabit the nucleus of almost every cell that comprises a human body. These chromosomes hold the vast bulk of genetic information inherited from both parents. Outside the nucleus, but still within the cell, lie mitochondria. Mitochondria are tiny structures that help cells in a number of ways, including producing the energy that cells need. Each mitochondrion -- there are about 1,700 in every human cell -- includes an identical loop of DNA about 16,000 base pairs long containing 37 genes. In contrast, nuclear DNA consists of three billion base pairs and an estimated 70,000 genes. (This estimate has been revised upward several times since the announcement that the human genome had been decoded, and likely will be again.)
One of the problems of trying to harvest ancient DNA is that it is one of the first things to undergo decomposition, breaking the strands of DNA into fragments, resulting in the danger of false sequencing. MtDNA is a hardier than nuclear DNA, and easier to replicate, therefore, it is easier to do genetic studies with it.
However, far and away the biggest threat in using DNA is the fear of cross contamination. If a single modern cell contaminates the sample under analysis, it becomes worthless. Therefore, it is imperative that any samples harvested are carried out under the most practically stringent conditions possible. Through the advent of experimentation, it has been found that teeth are the best source of harvesting "clean" DNA. The outer layer is vigorously cleaned, then the tooth is drilled to gain access to the inner un-contaminated pulp, which is then pulverized and used for DNA testing.
Since mtDNA is maternally inherited, one obvious limitation is in an instance when a mother bears no daughters. Her mtDNA effectively comes to a screeching halt. Later generations will not have a trace of the former generation's mtDNA in this case.
Here is the important point to mtDNA: Even though everyone on Earth living today has inherited his or her mtDNA from one person who lived long ago, our mtDNA is not exactly alike. Random mutations have altered the genetic code over the millennia. But these mutations are organized, in a way. For example, let's say that 10,000 years after the most recent common ancestor, one of the mtDNA branches experienced a mutation. From that point on, that line of mtDNA would include that alteration. Another branch might experience a mutation in a different location. This alteration would also be passed on. What we would eventually end up with are some descendants who have mtDNA that is exactly or very much like that of some people's, somewhat like that of others, and less like that of yet others. By looking at the similarities and differences of the mtDNA of all of these individuals, researchers could try to reconstruct where the branching took place.
What mtDNA Testing Can Mean to Egyptology
When a group of people migrates to an area, they tend to combine their DNA with the local population. The mtDNA can be used to determine when certain populations “commingled” within Egypt. Since the mT DNA mutates at a fairly steady rate, there are a questions that may be answered with further study:
· What populations today are most similar to the ancient Egyptians?
· How much of a “genetic contribution” did each population make?
· How long has it been since the “genetic contribute” was initially made?
For example, using mtDNA and samples from ancient and modern sources, it can be determined that Population X of ancient Peoples has many characteristics of Population Y, and that group X became separated from its “home” Population Y 5000 years ago. About the same time, Population X met new population Z and began the enjoyable process of “blending DNA”. Then about 2600 years ago, another group, Population S, arrived to contribute other distinct genetic characteristics. And, looking at the DNA structure of a specific individual, it could be estimated that the individual had 50 % X, 25 % Y and 25 % Z characteristics. Therefore, mtDNA studies could be really valuable at looking for the populations that contributed most strongly to the ancient Egyptian nation, and the approximate percentage and chronology of this contribution can be reasonably determined in a scientific manner.
Mitochondrial DNA studies have been recently use to show Neanderthal man did not contribute significantly to the current human population – even in Europe, where it was thought such interactions may have been occurring. Also, mtDNA shows we all have a shared maternal ancestor about 32 generations back. Forensically, mT DNA is used in many criminal prosecutions (e.g., Westerfield trial in San Diego).
Currently, I am not aware of any mtDNA study that focuses on looking at the populations that contributed to ancient Egypt. I have made some inquiries, and will provide an update if I get information that such studies are being conducted. At the present time, the only mtDNA studies conducted of mummies have been to show the familial relationships between individuals.
In the example of mtDNA conclusions utilizing populations X, Y, Z and S that I have detailed above, there are three specific populations I am considering in actuality. My candidate populations for these theoretical population interactions are as follows:
POPULATION X/Y – HORN OF AFRICA GROUPS
(Populations from the Horn of Africa; note that the bone structure here would be hard to distinguish from many Caucasian/European populations)
POPULATION Z: LIBYAN/NORTHERN AFRICAN GROUPS
POPULATION S: LEVANT GROUPS
(Libyan populations, generally with classic Mediterranean features)
(Levant populations, with classic Semitic features).
It is my theory, and one I would enjoy seeing studies using DNA analysis (instead of heated rhetoric) to prove or disprove, is that these three groups combined to make the “ancient Egyptian” race. Later in this essay I will demonstrate how I think this blending took place. Only if the NAACP group can prove the African Group provides a preponderance of the mtDNA contribution in a specific individual will I concede that an specific ancient Egyptian was “black”. Otherwise, I will assume the individual was a blended version, containing contributions from 2-3 of these groups, and the actual color of an individual is an estimate (unless it is reasonably concluded by looking at hair samples, the race of directly related mummies, and portraiture that is painted in a fashion that tends to reflect the individual’s look instead of ancient Egyptian artistic funerary convention).
THE RACE OF SPECIFIC ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
The “Black” Ancient Egyptians
As I indicated toward the beginning of this essay, an individual’s race can be difficult to conclude. However, I think we can look at the artwork, mummies, and recorded history to come up with reasonable racial estimates for specific individuals. Let me start this process by conceding a point to the NAACP – I strongly suspect that the earliest Egyptians in the southern portion of the country were probably “Horn of Africa” types, and therefore, what we consider “black” in today’s lingo. For example, King Khufu’s son, Rahotep and his wife Nefer have been depicted in painted statuary thusly:
(Rahotep and Nefer, 4th dynasty).
When I look at this, objectively, I believe Rahotep could have looked similar to a Somali. And, like my girlfriend, a golden skin is not unheard of in Horn of Africa types – especially when they stay out of the sun (like women tended to do in ancient Egypt). However, it could indicate some genetic blending with Libyans was occurring, too!
Interestingly, a police sketch artist (Frank Domingo) completed an investigation of the facial features of the Sphinx, which also has an estimated 4th dynasty construction date. Comparing specific, undamaged portions of the Sphinx to a statue of Khafre (the king thought to be the face used as a model), Domingo questioned the conventional Egyptological thinking that the Sphinx depicted Khafre. Looking and angles between specific facial features, Domingo showed that the Sphinx had dramatically greater prognathism (the degree to which the lower face points forward) than Khafre. Pronounced prognasthism is a characteristic of “black” populations. Personally, I believe this is a reasoned interpretation of the data. I find it credible that the early version of the Sphinx represented a “Horn of Africa” type, or one that was blended with a large genetic contribution from African ancestors. Also, since the Egyptians were big on “recycling “ monuments, and the head of the Sphinx is very small in proportion to the body, I find it possible that Khafre did a little reworking of the Sphinx to make it look more like himself. Additionally, the Sphinx was pained a red-brown color (which, I think, points to the blended nature of it’s original race).
(Sneferu, 4th dynasty).
On a more personal note, when I look at this image of Snefru, I think it looks very similar to that of an African-American man I know (and even then, he is “blended”, having a German grandfather). So, in my opinion, Sneferu could have been “black”. This is a very rare depiction of this great king, and it demonstrates an unconventional approach to depicting the Pharaoh. Snefru is shown as imperfect, with a receding jaw.
Also, it is important to note that individual Egyptians have been clearly portrayed as “black”. For example, there was a valued chancellor (Maihepri) within a Late period Egyptian royal court. His Book of the Dead depicts him as “black” – therefore, Egyptians were willing to show a specific individual as “black”.
There are a whole dynasty of kings (the 25th) from the Sudan – all, most likely, “black” in the NAACP meaning of the term. These kings include Piye, Shabaka, Shibitku, Taharqa, and Tanuatamun. Additionally, their daughter’s that became the “Gods Wife of Amen” (e.g., Shepenwepet II) were also “black”.
(King Taharqa of the 25th Dynasty).
NOTE: The only image to appear in this essay is deemed a "Mystery Queen". A contributor at the Egyptological Electronic Forum notes: "During the Egyptian Government excavations around the pyramid of The Pharaoh Teta at Sakkara, a mould was found in the Royal Funerary temple, which is unquestionably a death mask; and the above photographs show the plaster cast which was made at the Cairo Museum from this mould." The face molded from this mask appears to be the "Horn of Africa" type Egyptian. That she was potentially Old Kingdom royalty is consistent with my theory (presented below) that the earliest rulers of ancient Egypt could well be "black", as the southerners conquered and dominated the northerners in the earliest epoch of ancient Egyptian history.
The “White” Ancient Egyptians
However, there are other indications that specific individuals were either “blended” or were strongly “Mediterranean” (i.e., olive skin, straight hair) in their look. For example, the mummy of Tutankhamen’s Great-Grandfather (Yuya, whose daughter Queen Tiye gave birth to Tutankhamen’s reputed father, Akhenaton) had a full head of “gingery”, reddish-blond hair and a beard to match. The mummy of the “Elder Lady”, which was found in a cache of other important 18th dynasty royalty, is strongly suspected to be Queen Tiye herself. This mummy has classically Mediterranean hair, long and straight. The mummy of Ramses the Great has red hair. So, just considering the actual mummies, I think it is reasonable to assume that these individuals were “Mediterranean” types – blended, but with a large contribution from Libyan and Levant group sources.
Some portraiture also points to Mediterranean racial influences. For example, the pictures derived from the Armana Period (18th dynasty period featuring the heretic King Akhenaton and inclusive of his son, Tutankhamen) clearly show the young Armana princesses (i.e., Tutankhamen’s half sisters) as olive skinned. Armana portraiture was specifically designed to be as close to natural as possible. In fact,. The Armana portrait shows body flaws (e.g., Amenhotep III’s fatness, Nefertiti’s sagging breasts and stretch marks). Therefore, if these individuals were black, they probably would have been painted that way. The famous bust of Nefertiti was found in an artist’s shop. This bust was a “model” upon other works were based. This model clearly shows a Nefertiti with highly “Libyan” features, and I think it is an accurate likeness of the queen at the height of her beauty.
Tutankhamen was a Mediterranean type. His great-grandfather and grandmother clearly were, based on the actual mummies. His reputed mother was Kiya, who is conjectured to be a Mitanni princess. Mitannis were clearly a far lighter population then typical Egyptians, of the "Levant" type from Northern Syria. His portraiture that obviously depicts him in a personal way also shows olive skin. Therefore, the bust developed on the CAT scan data is a reasonable approximation of his skin tone. If any fault could be made, it is that he should have been more “tan”, as he enjoyed hunting (and probably spent a good deal of tie outdoors, as many young men do).
Not only is Ramses the Great “Mediterranean”, evidence points to his chief wife, Nefertari also being “Mediterranean”. The art of this period, the 19th dynasty, was still highly influence by the Armana standard , as the Armana artists began working for the next line of kings. Her tomb paintings show naturalistic pink cheeks on fair skin.
Cleopatra is another individual that Afrocentrists claim is a “black” Egyptian Queen. Cleopatra VII was directly descended from the Macedonian line of kings that ruled after Alexander’s conquest. Therefore, she is at least half Greek. Her father was Ptolemy XII. Her mother was either a Greek sister or cousin, or a Syrian noble woman/princess (the Ptolmeys were marrying into other Alexandrian kingdoms at this point). Though there may be Roman references to Cleopatra being “black”, the term in this context means darker than a western European. True, Cleopatra would have been darker than a Roman, but she is not a Nubian Queen either.
Finally, also consider the cartonage masks of the Graeco Roman period mummies (i.e.,32 dynasty to 400 AD). These masks were designed to exactly look like the mummified individual The faces that a presented on those cartonage masks reflect a population that looks remarkably like the Egyptian population today. This confirms a finding in the “classic” study cited earlier in the essay: the Egyptians have been a relatively homogenous population for a prolonged period of time. Individuals may be far darker (especially in the south), but generally they look similar to many peoples found in the Mediterranean basin.
Afrocentrists counter that there are examples of King Tutankhamen funerary statues depicting him as “black”. Certain other queens and pharaohs (e.g., Ahmose-Nefertari and Amenhotep I) are also shown painted “black”. However, artwork with these features is ALWAYS found in a funerary context, at least for the examples Afrocentrists like to cite. It was one of the Egyptian art conventions that rulers posing as funereal divinities were often painted black or green, to mimic decaying corpses or to represent rich, fertile soil. Therefore, one black funerary portrait does not a black Egyptian ruler make. There needs to be hard, forensic evidence (e.g., mummies, mtDNA) or evidence presented in “living” artpieces or the written record.
MUTNODJMET’S UNIFIED THEORY
I have presented a lot of different types of data into this discussion. Now, I would like to put it together, to demonstrate the population migrations and interactions that occurred along the Nile to generate the “ancient Egyptian race.”.
During the period between 10,000-7000 BC, toward the end of the last Ice Age and a relatively wet period for north Africa, two distinct groups began entering the Nile Valley: The “Horn of Africa” Group (HOA) and the “Libyan” contingent (LB). Ready access to the Nile was available to the Libyans, as the desert was a fully formed barrier to the river valley or delta region during this period. The HOG group dominated southern Egypt, the LB group the northern Delta region. About 5000 BC, these groups began interacting and genetic material started blending. Approximately 3000 BC, Narmer of the South conquered the north and married a delta princess (LB group). The famous Narmer palette shows that Narmer was vanquishing foes with long, straight hair indicative of Mediterranean types. Narmer’s “race” may have been HOA or blended (HOA and LB).
The early dynasty pharaohs continued the process of blending HOA and LB groups. Therefore, certain individuals may have been very dark (i.e., “black”). But, it is also reasonable to assume others would have been fair (i.e., “white”).
Approximately at the end of the Third Dynasty, and certainly by the beginning of the Fourth, there were expeditions to Sinai (for turquoise, other minerals) and the Levant (for cedars of Lebanon, used in barges and pyramid construction). Snefru, for example, developed important turquoise mines and his Bent Pyramid still has beams of large Lebanese cedars visible today (for those brave enough to enter the unstable tomb). Therefore, starting approximately 2600 BC, Egyptians were starting to genetically blend with Levant Group types (LV), which brought the population more in line with the overall complexion of the Mediterranean Basin.
There were definite genetic interactions occurring on the southern border as well. HOA and Nubians were also contributing DNA to the Egyptian population, in what I view as a “steady-state” rate. But, due to the nature of trade and exploration, more and more influence from the LV groups were occurring, overall “lightening” the Egyptians relatively to their original population. For example, the Middle Kingdom rulers (2000 BC) were continually sending expeditions to the Sinai, Levant and were thought to be establishing contacts with Greeks and other groups more distant to Egypt within the Mediterranean basin.
By the time of the New Kingdom (1500 BC), the Egyptians were a blended mix of HOA, LB and LV groups. They looked much the same as they do now, with a bell curve of fewer “white” individuals, most “olive” individuals, and fewer “black” individuals. Overall, they were darker than the average Greek, Roman, Syrian, Hittite, Libyan, but they were also lighter than any Nubian or Southern African type. In the late Period (^60 BC forward), more and more contributions were being made by the Greeks to the genetics of that region.
I think that Afrocentrist theory has been poisonous to a levelheaded discussion of ancient Egypt. My main reference source eloquently explains the ancient Egyptian race “controversy” in this fashion:
There has been a spate of controversy of late between "Afrocentric" authors and their critics, but the truth is that Egyptologists are not involved in some massive conspiracy of lies designed to subjugate black populations, as has often been charged. Indeed, most modern Egyptologists are rather taciturn when it comes to the subject of race. Nor have the black Africans been "robbed" of their legacy. Civilization as it exists today is the culmination of the historical development of mankind, layer upon layer from ancient times to modern, each group contributing its share to the whole. Through human interaction, whether by trade or warfare, ideas, reform, and invention are assimilated, adapted, and again dispersed. It's the nature of history regardless of ethnicity. To make petty and arbitrary distinctions based on human physical appearance is divisive and can only lead to wanton racist misuse.
Summarizing some important facts:
· The ancient Egyptians did not belong to one race, but were a blend of several ethnic groups.
· Though there certainly were “black” pharaohs, King Tutankhamen was not one of them.
· Though there certainly were “black” queens, Cleopatra and Nefertiti were not among them.
· Specific scientific study, in the form of DNA/mt DNA testing, might be valuable to elucidate the actual origins/composition of the ancient Egyptian population.
One final thought: The ancient Egyptians can be claimed by no, one group of people. The entire world can enjoy the wisdom, beauty and mystery of the Kingdom of the Nile. The ancient Egyptians were distinct, in and of themselves. I think that is way they would prefer for us to think of them.