Cleopatra and the historical race of the ancient Egyptians

Written by admin   // July 1, 2010   // 0 Comments

Computer generated 3D likeness of Cleopatra

by Taki S. Raton

A UK wire news service article by Fiona Macrae reports that a Cambridge University researcher may have “pieced together” the closet likeness ever of Cleopatra.

Egyptologist Sally Ann Ashton’s research has created a computer generated 3D likeness of the Egyptian queen.

Aston is quoted in the December 16, 2008 Macrae writing that this image is “the best likeness of the legendary beauty famed for her ability to beguile.”

This technical 3D imaging, according to reports, was constructed from ancient artifact images to include a ring dating from Cleopatra’s reign 2,000 years ago.  This effort is said to be a culmination of more than a year of what is described as “painstaking research.”

The outcome of this work is an image, in Aston’s words, of a “beautiful young woman of mixed ethnicity, very different from the porcelain-skinned westernized version portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1961 movie ‘Cleopatra.’ “

She adds that Cleopatra “was not completely European” revealing that her family descendants had actually lived in Egypt for 300 years by the time she came into power. The article shares that this latest 3D imaging will be included in a five documentary broadcast on Cleopatra exploring her Greek heritage as well as her African ancestry.

The historical record, particularly from an African Centered perspective, would thank both Ashton for her research and Marcrae for the published documentation on these findings. This 3D imaging is indeed the most “Negroid” likeness of Cleopatra to date.

But we must now make the necessary cultural transition from Euro-centric reporting and interpretation to our own Aficentric accounting.  We must now take Aston’s magnificent work and view it from our own Black/African historical lens within the context of how this subject of Cleopatra’s ethnicity has been traditionally viewed in scholastic and Euro-imaged accountings. According to our esteemed scholar of Classical African Civilizations, Anthony Browder, following centuries of African rule, Kemet (Egypt) finally fell under foreign occupation with the invasion of the Persians in 525 B.C.E.

Upon a series of fierce battle engagements between the African Kemites and the Persians for over 182 years, Persian occupation finally became solidified in 343 B.C.E.  In his work “Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization,” Browder informs us that from that fateful moment, “Kemet would never again be ruled by an indigenous African population.”

But it is critical to herein note, that up until the Persian occupation and with the exception of the 107 year invasion and occupation by the “Hyksos” from 1630 B.C.E. to 1523 B.C.E., Kemet (Egypt) was under Black/African rule for well over 2,300 years from 3,000 B.C.E. to 525 B.C.E..

This historical backdrop is necessary to counter the Euro-centric persuasion that Kemet/Egypt was not a totally “Black Land” because of the accepted fact that Cleopatra was of mixed lineage – the continuing assumption being (in the Euro-eye) that Kemet/Egypt was always of mixed heritage which was/is a false assumption.

Noting Browder’s chronology, the Persians were driven from Egypt by Alexander of Macedonia in 332 B.C.E.  Ptolemy I became the successor to Alexander and honored his fallen commander by completing plans for the building of a new city he named “Alexandria” in honor of his former commander-in-chief as cited by the “Nile Valley” author.

There were 12 Ptolemy kings ruling Egypt from 323 B.C.E. to c.51 B.C.E.  Browder informs us that the rule of the Ptolemaic kings was unique because of their desire to immerse themselves into the traditions of Ancient Kemet.

Following an “age-old custom,” in the words of Browder, these Greek rulers married into the Egyptian royal families in an attempt to maintain dynastic rulership, which was then passed on by the queen to her offspring.

He reminds us that all of the queens who bore the name “Cleopatra” were descended from the bloodline of Greek soldiers who conquered Egypt in 332 B.C.E. under the command of Alexander. The tradition of Greek generals and soldiers marrying the women of the nations that they conquered was a practice encouraged by Alexander.

As a result of this practice, cites Browder, all of the descendents of the Ptolemies were the product of mixed marriages – a custom beginning only from 332 B.C.E. forward.

It is at this point that we have Cleopatra VII who is said to have come into her queenship power at age 17 in 51 B.C.E.  And it is only within this context that we have the beginnings of her Greek Ptolemaic linage resulting from invasions and wars crumbling Black Kemet beginning in 525 B.C.E.

In his essay “Bringing MAAT, Destroying ISFET – The African and African Diasporan Presence in the Study of Ancient Kempt,” Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III (Sertima, 2007) says clearly that this controversy is about “race” or the phenotype and ethnicity of the Ancient Kemites. He adds:

“At its base, the controversy is over the true place of African people in world history. The focus of this struggle boils down to the matter of whether the greatest recorded civilization of ancient times, Kemet, belongs to Africa proper, or to Asia, or to Europe, or even to an unknown people of unknown origins.” Hilliard adds that we even hear little lately “of the idea that people from outer space constructed the pyramids.”

Again to the point of “going here” with all this data, every time someone brings up the name “Cleopatra” it always has this subliminal echo that Egypt/Kemet during the dynastic periods was not Black.

Hilliard positions that he wonders at the “widespread reporting of false information” concerning Cleopatra and of her relationship to the true African heritage and Black lineage of Egypt.

Browder asserts that many so called European “experts” who in their research writings position that any attempt to associate African people with ancient Egyptian history “was nothing less than pure fantasy.”

To the question of “Was Cleopatra Black?” he says this inquiry is irrelevant as it is now generally agreed by all scholars that she is of mixed lineage. But it is still clear that she is more “Black/African” than European. Says Browder:

“At best she was a mulatto.  Under no conditions would she have passed for white in the United States.  Had she lived in the Jim Crow era of the 1940’s, she most certainly would have been classified as Black or Negro. Under the racist system of apartheid as it existed in the Union of South Africa, Cleopatra would surely be classified as colored.”

Chronologically submits Browder, Cleopatra VII was born in 69 B.C.E., 1,322 years after Queen Tiye and 1,400 year after Queen Hatshepsut. The author asserts that neither Tiye nor Hatshepsut were used to qualify the ethnicity of the ancient Egyptians because they were too “African” in appearance

Numerous studies have surfaced documenting the Black/African characteristics of the Egyptians. Howard University School of Medicine lecturer and National Institute of Health research associate Dr. Keith W. Crawford in his essay “The Racial Identity of Ancient Egyptian Populations Based on the Analysis of Physical Remains” (Sertima) list the findings of Brauer (1990), Coon (1965), Comes (1950),  Strouhal (1971), and Nutter (1958) to mention a few.

He quotes Montet (1965) who describes Dynasty III-VI Old Kindom rulers as having “unusually large, almost flat noses, thickish lips and somewhat low foreheads.  Such were without exception the kings of Egypt at the time of the Old Kingdom.”

Ivan Van Sertima in “Egypt is in Africa, But Was Ancient Egypt African?” (Sertima) further cites the 1973 study done by A.C. and R.I. Berry demonstrating that the Egyptian skull samples show a genetic continuity from the Pre-Dynastic era through the Old and Middle Kingdom – a span of two thousand years – where African features are dominant.

We can cite again Crawford’s continuing research (Sertima) where he unfolds early skeletal remains in the Nile Valley dating as early as 20,000 B.C.E. In 1982, a discovery was made at Wadi Kubbaniya, located north of Aswan in Egypt. The remains are described with affinities consistent with “broad African variants.”

And this was not the earliest find. The earliest human fossil found in Egypt was the skeleton of the Nazlet Khater man found near Tahta, Egypt dated to 35,000-30,000 B.C.E. And according to the Crawford essay, the Nazlet Khater man is of “Negroid morphology.”

Ancient Egypt/Kemet was a Black land ruled by Africans. It was the Black man who built the pyramids of Saqqara, Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure. It was the Black man who wrote the first medical literature (“Ebers Papyrus” – c.1500 B.C.E.) detailing chapters on the pulse and cardiovascular system, dermatology, dentistry, gynecology, obstetrics, tumors, burns, fractures, intestinal disorders, contraception.

It was the Black man who gave the world its first 365 day calendar and it was the Black man in Egypt/Kemet who was the inventor of art, writing, music, agriculture, architecture, engineering, mathematics, cosmetology, metallurgy, maritime science,  astronomy, astrology, heavier-than-air flight technology, philosophy, morality, and ethics.

Within the realm of spirituality, it was the Black man, the Classical African Kemite who gave first thought, title, language and praise to the concept of God and to what we would today label the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth, the Adoration, and indeed the 42 Negative Confessions from which the Ten Commandments were inspired.

And it was in the image of our sista-queens that the world’s first statue of the so-called “Virgin Mother and Child” was that of Aset and her son Heru, dated over 2,000 years before the Christian era.

It was the genius of the African mind that created the foundations for humankind civilized order as the people of the world came to our feet; to our temples to drink from what Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers terms “our deep well of thought and knowledge.” It was not the Macedonians nor was it Mediterranean people who were the Egyptians.

The underlying premise of this writing is again certainly not a critique of Ashton’s research which is herein highly regarded, but an expanded exploration of the historical context in which the name and likeness of Cleopatra is immersed in regards to the question of the “race” of the ancient Egyptians.

We, therefore, as African Americans – as African ascendants – have to be careful when reading the views of others concerning our historical realities. African American Historical and Cultural Society historian Manu Ampim (Sertima) notes, quoting Chancellor Williams in “Destruction of Black Civilization:”

“There is still too much dependence on white scholars to do the work for us. They write from the Caucasian viewpoint, and we are naïve indeed if we expect them to do otherwise – all the ballyhoo about ‘scientific objectivity’ to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Like all other people in the world, we need to use our history to win. We need to use our history to reclaim for ourselves, for our children, and for the global record our rightful place on the world stage of time and achievement.

We need to use our history to heal and rescue ourselves, our children and our future from the continuing effects of our mentally enslaved brainwashed condition (Burrell) and the still impacting evidence of our Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (DeGruy). It would be our chore to employ our scholarship to set the historical record on its proper footing. We owe it to our children to reclaim this truth for them and to restore a sense of honor, dignity, and self-respect to and for their future.

And it is our duty to stand on the law of Birthright to further evolve into our full humanity by journeying on this “Great and Mighty Walk” towards the resurrection of the essence of our Higher Order Perfect Black African ascendancy here in America.

Taki S. Raton is a school consultant in the African Centered curriculum model and founder of Blyden Delany Academy in Milwaukee. He is a writer and lecturer detailing African World historiography, urban community issues with emphasis on education, the social development of Black youth and African American male concerns. He can be reached at

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