Facts – Africa’s Major Contributions to Civilization

6 min


On Monday on MSNBC, Iowa Republican representative Steve King, with his white supremacist mentality, made an ignorant claim that white people have made more contributions to western civilization than other “sub-groups.” He stated, “I’d ask you to go back to your history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?” I continue to be in awe of the ignorance that many with his mindset spew from their mouths.
If they have read anything at all, they seemed to have read the works of many European historians who have credited the Greeks, Romans, and other Europeans for the sciences and technologies that contributed to the development of civilization. Those historians revised history to support their ideology of white supremacy. They have even claimed that ancient Egyptians (Kemites) were “dark-skinned whites” who built the pyramids. Maybe they did not know that even “Egypt,” a country in North Africa, means “Black.” Maybe they closed their eyes to the fact that “Kemet” means “Land of Black People.” They deliberately tried to hide the fact that Kemites (people of Kemet) and Nubians had migrated across central and northern Africa to West Africa, greatly influencing the diverse, West African cultures from which we African Americans descend from. Contrary to their mendacious history, many groups of people have greatly contributed to civilization. However, I want to take a quick break from genealogical and DNA blog postings to highlight some of the many contributions from Africa. Civilization and humankind emanated from Africa.
A plethora of sources unmistakably show that the origins of many scientific inventions truly hailed from Africa. Unfortunately, we – the descendants of Africans who were forcibly extracted from their homeland and enslaved in America – have been falsely taught that our ancestors had little or nothing to do with the development of civilization.  Obviously that was a huge lie. Anthropological evidence has shown that advances in engineering, mathematics, navigation, physics and other fields of science occurred in purely African societies long before it was previously believed possible (1). Many things that we utilize today should be credited to the historical accomplishments of Africa. I will expound on a few.
Paper, Alphabet, Ink, and Pen
Many inventions from Africa contributed to the birth of every technology that exists today. Of those many inventions, scholars such as John G. Jackson (1993) believed that the greatest inventions were the paper, alphabet, ink, and pen.  The Kemites of northern Africa discovered the need for something other than stone to write upon; therefore, they invented the paper from stripes of papyrus reed. The word “paper” was derived from the word “papyrus,” a Kemetic word that originally meant “that which belongs to the house.” The ink was made from a combination of vegetable gum, soot, and water. James Henry Breasted (1915) asserted that writing has played the single most important role in the uplifting and advancing of civilization – a greater role than any other intellectual invention in the history of Humankind (2).  Clearly, many technologies of today would not have been conceived efficiently without the Kemites’ ingenious inventions of the paper, alphabet, ink, and pen.  

Another great invention of mankind was the invention of the calendar by the people of ancient Kemet. Through their meticulous study of the sun, moon, and stars, they were able to precisely calculate the flooding of the Nile River which was vital to their ability to farm. The Kemites discovered that the movement and position of the sun and the moon had a direct effect on all objects on the planet Earth. From this revelation, the astronomers of Kemet were the first to develop a solar calendar which divided the year into 365 days with 12 months of 30 days each. An additional five days were interjected in the end of the year. These five days corresponded to the birth of the Gods (Netcherw) Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set, and Nephthys, who were the progenitors of the human race (3).  Successive civilizations went on to create their own calendars, owing much to the pioneering development in ancient Kemet.    
Electricity is the “fuel” for most technologies today. Many devices simply will not operate without electricity. The world has now become so dependent on electricity, that many people will find it extremely difficult to live without it. When I researched to determine the inventor of electricity, several sources credit that invention to the Greek scientist, Thales of Miletus. Even in their book entitled Electricity by C.A. Coulson and T.J.M. Boyd, the following statements were made:
The fact that a piece of amber, when rubbed, will attract small particles of matter was known 2500 years ago by Thales of Miletus.  From this simple experimental fact has developed the whole science of electrostatics, which deals with the properties of electricity at rest.  Indeed the very word electricity is derived from the Greek word for amber, η’λεκτρον.  Since the beginnings of physics with the Milesian school of philosophers in the sixth century B.C., a great deal of experimental knowledge of electricity has accumulated, especially in the last 200 years (4).
Numerous other sources also extended credit to Thales of Miletus. Scholars claimed that he discovered that when amber was rubbed with other materials, it became charged with an unknown force that had the power to attract objects such as dried leaves, feathers, bits of cloth, or other lightweight materials. Of all the sources investigated, all of them omitted the fact that Thales of Miletus received an education in ancient Kemet. His ability for keen observation can be contributed to the Black people of ancient Kemet. He studied in Egypt and Babylon, bringing back knowledge of physics, astronomy and mathematics. Documented evidence shows that the Babylonians copied and obtained all of their knowledge from the people of ancient Kemet. Although the Kemites did not directly invent electricity, their influence and teachings enabled Thales of Miletus to discover this invention that had an enormous effect on the world of the successive generations.
In the area of mathematics, the papyrus rolls, the limestone chips, and the leather rolls clearly outlined many of the rules of arithmetic and geometry by the people of ancient Kemet. The longest roll, which was written by the Kemetic scribe, Ahmose, is known as the “Rhind Mathematical Papyrus” after Alexander Rhind who brought it to Europe. Some of the mathematical equations in this papyrus included the Pythagorean Theorem, methods for determining the surface of the triangle, rectangle, and circle, and methods for determining the volume of a sphere.  Long before the Ahmose papyrus was written, Kemetic mathematicians were already guiding the construction of pyramids and measuring the cotangent to guarantee that the pyramids would be stable. Even our present-day decimal system is a direct result of mathematics originated by the Kemites.
Ancient Kemetic mathematics did not die; it simply blended into the new mathematics of the classical period.  Books by Greek classical mathematicians fully acknowledge their debt to ancient Egypt (5). As Greek city states developed, a number of Greeks traveled to Egypt to study. In fact, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said that “Egypt was the cradle of mathematics.”  Eudoxus, who was Aristotle’s teacher and a foremost mathematician of his time, had also studied in ancient Kemet before teaching mathematics in Greece. Isokrates and Plato were profoundly influenced by ancient Egyptian philosophy. Euclid learned mathematics in Ancient Kemet before applying it elsewhere. However, many Western historiographers will vehemently deny that the origins of mathematics came from ancient Kemet.

Yes, medicine! Society has become accustomed to crediting the beginnings of scientific medicine to Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived in the 5th century B.C. He was given the distinction as being the “Father of Medicine.” Physicians all over the world take the semi-sacred Hippocratic Oath upon completion of their medical studies. Although Hippocrates has exercised an immense influence on medicine for nearly 25 centuries, he never gave himself the title of “Father of Medicine.” Additionally, it is very evident that Hippocrates and his students drew heavily upon the theories and practices of ancient Egyptian medicine (6). 
Researchers have discovered that the Edwin Smith Papyrus is the oldest medical manuscript in existence.The papyrus was published in 1930 by James H. Breasted. He spent ten years translating the document. It is believed to have been written by Imhotep, a descendant of a distinguished architect named Kanofer and who was recognized as the “Egyptian God of Medicine” (7). Although written during the 18th dynasty of ancient Kemet, this manuscript is actually a late copy of an original first produced early in the Old Kingdom sometime between 4400-4200 B.C. (8) 
In ancient Kemet, the first anatomical descriptions appeared in a systematic way in the Edwin Smith Papyrus.  More than 200 different anatomical parts have been described in the manuscript. Also, forty-eight different injuries to the head, face, neck, thorax and spinal column and the appropriate surgical methods for attending to them were also described in this papyrus. Other medical information related to dermatology, dentistry, gynecology, tumors, cardiovascular system, obstetrics, and many more were found in the Ebers Papyrus, which was written around 1500 B.C. From these extensive medical transcripts of ancient Kemet, Europeans were able to grasp vital knowledge of the field of medicine.
The descendants of Africans in America endured many years of physical, inhumane bondage known as chattel slavery, the worst kind of slavery that ever existed. However, a new form of bondage permeates throughout our society. Mental slavery has been implemented by the deliberate withholding of African history and the rewriting of history by people of European descent to justify their self-proclaimed superiority. Also, mental slavery thrives because of an ignorance of the correct history of this world that is not being taught in our schools. It is of dire importance that the truth is told and passed down to the next generations. Our history did NOTbegin with slavery!

(1)   Ivan Van Sertima (Ed.), Egypt, Child of Africa (New Brunswick:  Transaction Publishers, 1995), 262.(2)   Antoinette T. Jackson, Why Kemet? A Cultural Awakening, An African-Centered Journey into Ancient Egypt, (Oak Park, IL:  Seshat, 1998), 24.(3)   Anthony T. Browder, Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization, (Washington, D.C.:  The Institute of Karmic Guidance, 1992), 75.(4)   C.A. Coulson and T.J.M. Boyd, Electricity, 2nd ed. (London:  Longman, 1979), 1(5)   Sertima (Ed.), Egypt, Child of Africa, 325-326.(6)   Ivan Van Sertima, Egypt Revisited (New Brunswick:  Transaction Publishers, 1993), 325.(7)   Jamieson B. Hurry, M.A., M.D., Imhotep, The Egyptian God of Medicine (Chicago: Ares Publishers, 1987), 4.(8)   Sertima, Egypt Revisited, 329.

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