African Inquiry Into Natural Phenomena – A View of African GrandmotherLand

Majid Ali, M.D.

African Inquiry Into Natural Phenomena


In any civilization, questions about the nature of illness and remedies arise only within the larger context of an inquiry into other natural phenomena. Archaeological evidence clearly establishes advances in tool-making, agriculture, metallurgy, and architecture in Africa before progress in these fields was made in Mesopotamia, India, China, and Europe. Such knowledge clearly supports the Eastern Track hypothesis. In southern Africa, mining took place as early as 42,000 years ago.13 There is evidence for a cultural flow that diffused the pottery and related microlithic advances from the southeast of Subsaharan Africa to the present-day Sahara and through to West Africa. Such evidence has been found in Cameroon at Shum Laka (30,600-29,000 B.C.), in the Ivory Coast in Bingerville (14,100-13,400 B.C.), in Nigeria in Iwo Eleru (11,460-11,050 B.C.), and finally in Ounjougou (9,000 B.C.).14

Mesopotamia continues to be considered by some as the birthplace of tool-making and agriculture (7,000 to 8,000 B.C.). However, grain-harvesting occurred at Wadi Tushka (Nubia) and Wadi Kubbaniya (Egypt) at least 10,000 years earlier.14,15 Even in northern Africa (present Sahara) impressive agricultural developments preceded those in Mesopotamia—the Kiffian and Tenerian cultures began 10,000 years ago—and archaeologic evidence reveals well developed ideas of diet and health.16 Some knowledge in these fields must have been developed de novo in Mesopotamia, India, Far East, and China, but the general direction of the spread undoubtedly was from Africa to the East, along the Eastern Track. Humankind spread medical knowledge as it spread knowledge in other physical sciences. If we accept that, then why didn’t the ancient Indians and Chinese focus on observable facts of anatomy, physiology, and pathology in their healing traditions? I address this question in a later section.

As for medical ethics, professional conduct, and negligence, the Code of Hammurabi (2200 B.C.) is given the distinction of being the oldest. The Code includes references to incest, adultery, rape, and diseases of slaves. Notwithstanding its historical importance, the priority claim of the Code is suspect—the Edwin papyrus, for instance, pre-dates the Code by 300 to 600 years and Nubian physicians were held accountable for their clinical work.

Africans in South India

There is remarkable convergence of evidence of the Nubian rule over India—and, by extension, of the Eastern Track hypothesis—from historical records of diverse regions of the world. Before summarizing the salient aspects of this evidence, below I describe one major source of the prevailing and mistaken beliefs on the subject.

An important player in my story is Friedrich Max Müller (1823 – 1900), the German philologist and Orientalist who is credited with virtually creating the discipline of comparative religion.18,19 In 1846, he went to England and joined Christ Church, Oxford in 1851. Later he was appointed as the Taylorian Professor of Modern European Languages at Oxford University. Based on linguistic work, professor Müller proposed that the people of Indo-European languages descended from Japheth—a favored son of Noah—while those who spoke Hebrew were descendents of Shem. In his version, peoples of African and Indian Dravidian languages were the progeny of Ham, Noah’s least favored son. Mueller asserted that: (1) Noah’s Flood can be dated from Biblical genealogy to approximately 2500 B.C.; (2) ancient Indian Vedas were written before the time of the Buddha (around 1,200 500 B.C.); and (3) the Aryans defeated the Dravidian descendants of Ham around 1500 B.C. He went on to speculate that the Israeli descendants of Shem defeated other descendants of Ham, the Canaanites. Specifically, the invaders were “virile people—blue-eyed and fair-skinned warriors—who subdued the “short and black” locals. The ancient Harappan civilization was annihilated. Furthermore, the invaders vigorously shunned their subjects in order to prevent mixing of bloods and accordingly established themselves as the superior caste. Mueller’s legacy is uncritical acceptance by generations of scholars who perpetuated his story: Aryans invaded India in 1500 B.C. and conquered the indigenous people commonly designated as the Dravidians. Below is a revealing quote from a letter Müller wrote to his wife20:

The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years.

Fortunately, all of this can be readily dismissed in light of mitochondrial genetic studies of migrations of populations.17-19 Mitochondrial genetics strongly point to a single dispersal of modern humans from east Africa. More importantly, such dispersal first occurred through southern India. Many generations of such Africans lived in India until the climate improved allowing them to migrate North and West out of India about 45000 years ago.21

More pertinent to the Eastern Track hypothesis are the later African influences on India, the Far East, and China. The Naga were early indigenous people of India.22 They are mentioned in the ancient Indian classics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Dravidian classic, the Chilappathikaran, indicates that the first great kingdom of India was Naganadu. The Naga appear to have been the descendents of the pre-Nubian and Nubian (Kush-Punt/Ethiopia) peoples. Among them were the Puntites, the great sailors of ancient times. Egyptian inscriptions refer to the Puntite ports of Outculit, Hamesu and Tekaru (corresponding to Adulis, Hamasen, and Tigre port of Massawa) on the Red Sea coast of the Ethiopian/Eritrean region. Mahabharata also informs us that the Naga had their capital city in the Deccan (a region in south India), and other cities spread between the Jummna and Ganga rivers before the Aryan invasion of India.

Outside India, some Sumerian texts indicate that the Puntites traded with the people of the Indus Valley,23 not surprising since later sailers, such as Arabs, also sailed up the Indus river in their conquests. In the Greek tradition, Kushites ruled India up to the Ganga. The Aryan traditions of Mlechchas—the Sanskrit name for some of the non-Aryan people—refers to Kushites/Puntites as one of the aboriginal groups of India. The accounts of Naga kings of Sri Lanka described the Dravidians as having descended from the mixed Indian aboriginal and the visiting Kushites/Puntites peoples.

Equally important, on the African side the ancient Ethiopian traditions refer to the rule of Puntites/Ethiopians in India.24 The Kebra Nagast (the Book of the Glory of Kings, kept at Bodleian Library at Oxford University) is an account written in Ge’ez of the Solomonic line of the Ethiopian Emperors.25 The present text is at least seven hundred years old. The Kebra mentions the Ethiopian king Arwe who ruled India. The dynasty was founded around 1370 B.C. by Za Besi Angabo. Kerba also calls the Ethiopia-Indian kings Nagas. Their dynasty began around 1370 BC. To lend further weight to the account, the Kebra gives accounts of Queen Makeda and her son Menelik I. The Queen “had servants and merchants who traded for her at sea and on land in the Indies and Aswan.” Menelik I campaigned in the Indian Ocean and accepted gifts from the King of India. He ruled an empire extending from the Blue Nile to the west to south Shoa to eastern India (see http://tseday.wordpress.com/2008/08/24/the-african-presence-in-india-by-runoko-rashidi/for documentation).

Taken together, these diverse historical accounts conjured a picture, as incomplete as it might be, that provided tenable historical case for genomic mixing of pre-Nubia and Nubian people with aboriginal groups of India. A look at the world map and the proximity of the Ethopian coast to Yemen and Oman—then on to the valleys of the Indus River and India—adds a supportive geographic perspective to this picture. Together the historical and geographic perspective fully explains the unmistakeable similarities in facial features of the peoples of the two continents—and establishes the primacy of the Africans over the Indians—and strongly supports the Eastern Track hypothesis

What were the healing traditions in Neanderthall Europe before the Afro-Indian treatment methods reached Europe via the Eastern Track? They must have had some. However, no data are available on the subject. Genetic studies show that the lineage of Euroasian Neanderthall diverged from that of modern humans about 370,000 years ago. The last of the Neanderthalls appear to have lived in Gibralter about 28,000 years ago. By contrast, the earliest modern humans reached Euroasia from Africa and the Middle East about 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthalls were short and stocky—the average males were five feet and weighed 180 pounds)—and engaged in cannabalism. The reasons for their extinction was a mystery until recently. Recent DNA studies reveal that they succumbed to climatic changes. They were not pushed to oblivion by the newcomers from the south. In any case, they left no evidence of how they cared for the sick.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric burial place in England. Composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of massive iconic stones, it is believed to have been erected around 3,000 B.C.—about the time the Edwin Smith papyrus was penned. Recent studies have added a new dimension to Stonehenge. A high proportion of skeletons recovered from the area show signs of serious diseases, and the analysis of their teeth reveals that about half were from outside the Stonehenge area. It seems probable that the stone icons were thought to possess healing properties.

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