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Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology

Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology

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by Cheikh Anta Diop

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Challenging societal beliefs, this volume rethinks African and world history from an Afrocentric perspective.


Challenging societal beliefs, this volume rethinks African and world history from an Afrocentric perspective.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This last work of the well-known Senegalese scholar (1923-86) is a summation and expansion of his two previous volumes-- Precolonial Black Africa (1987) and The African Origin of Civilization (1974)--and offers a refined statement of his life's work, to prove the primacy of African culture by proving that ancient Egypt was a black society, first in many cultural achievements later claimed by the following Indo-Aryan cultures. To this end, Diop discusses the paleontology, sociology, anthropology, and intellectual history of the ancient Egyptians set against contemporaneous cultures and also the modern Wolofs. This is a fascinating and frustrating volume. The organization is patchy; one central section seems to have gone off-course into an apology for Marxist political theory; the translation stumbles badly, especially in the early chapters; and one feels that history is being stretched (a la Velikovsky) on the author's Procrustean bed of African genesis. But Diop's erudition is patent, his place in African letters is secure, and his major works should certainly be available. For academic and large public collections.--Jo-Ann D. Suleiman, SANAD Support Technologies, Rockville, Md.

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Civilization or Barbarism

An Authentic Anthropology

By Cheikh Anta Diop, Yaa-Lengi Meema Ngemi, Harold J. Salemson, Marjolijn de Jager

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 1981 Cheikh Anta Diop
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-742-1




The research conducted in humanistic paleontology, particularly by the late Dr. Louis Leakey, has helped to place the birthplace of humanity in East Africa's Great Lakes region, around the Omo Valley.

Two ramifications that have not been sufficiently emphasized until now have come to light as a result of this research:

1. Humankind born around the Great Lakes region, almost on the Equator, is necessarily pigmented and Black; the Gloger Law calls for warm-blooded animals to be pigmented in a hot and humid climate.

2. All the other races derive from the Black race by a more or less direct filiation, and the other continents were populated from Africa at the Homo erectus and Homo sapiens stages, 150,000 years ago. The old theories that used to state that Blacks came from somewhere else are now invalid.

The first Black who went out to populate the rest of the world exited Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar, the Isthmus of Suez, and maybe through Sicily and Southern Italy. The existence of a cave and parietal African art of the Upper Paleolithic period has confirmed this point of view (figs. 1, 2, 3).

The Djebel Ouenat carvings in Libya were dated as those of the Upper Paleolithic Age, according to Abbé Henri Breuil. In Egypt, the most ancient carvings are of the Upper Paleolithic period. In Ethiopia, near the Dire Dawa site, the paintings discovered in the Porcupine Cavern are of the type found in Egypt and in Libya. According to Leakey, the most ancient art form, in East Africa, is from the Upper Paleolithic period. The presence of the Stillbayen in districts rich in paints (west shores of Lake Victoria, Eyassi, and Central Tanganyika) attest to their antiquity. The archaeological layers containing colored pallets and other coloring materials descend to about five meters. In Swaziland, the men of the Upper Paleolithic Age mined iron 30,000 years ago in order to extract the red ore. It is the most ancient mine in the world.

It is the advent of absolute chronology, meaning the radioactive dating methods, particularly that of Potassium-Argon, that allowed science to make great progress and thereby disparage the dogmatism that prevailed not long ago in this domain. In fact, the stratigraphical methods did not offer a clear-cut choice between the scholars' differing views. Thus, as pertaining to the main issue, it has been shown that the first inhabitant of Europe was a migrating Black: the Grimaldi Man. But a prominent authority, the late French scholar Raymond Vaufrey, had decreed that Africa was backward. From then on, to the eyes of the scholar, the prehistorical facts of Africa were made to appear more recent in order for them to explain a prior antiquity of Europe. Obviously, neither the Grimaldi Man nor the Combe-Capelle Man, both being Black, could have been indigenous to Europe. However, a chronological difficulty related to the limits of the stratigraphical methods would not allow that these men originate from Africa.

Racial differentiation took place in Europe, probably in southern France and in Spain, at the end of the last Würm glaciation, between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago (fig. 4). We understand now, because of the above-cited facts, why the first inhabitant of Europe was the Grimaldi Black man, who was responsible for the first lithical industry of the European Upper Paleolithic period called Aurignacian industry. Some believed they saw in the Lower Perigordian a strictly European industry anterior to the previous one, whose creator would have been truly indigenous to Europe, as opposed to the Grimaldi Black invader. This refers to the Combe-Capelle Man. It has been forgotten that the latter is as typical a Black as the Grimaldi Man himself and that both individuals belong to the same anthropological type. This is the reason why the Lower Perigordian and the Aurignacian were first viewed as forming a sole and same industry. It is not possible to give here all the reasons that led to the making of these later distinctions. We refer you to our article cited above and to the following discussion.

The resemblance between these two figures separated by more than 10,000 km is striking. Even today, these "masterly" disguises of men as animals in the secret societies of initiation contribute to maintaining, even among university-trained Africans, naturalists moreover, the superstitious belief according to which human beings can change into animals and vice versa, like the Neurres who, according to a legend recorded by Herodotus, changed themselves into wolves: relics from prehistory. (Raymond Furon, Manuel de préhistoire générale, fourth edition [Paris: Payot, 1959], fig. 57, p. 213 and fig. 105, p. 316)

The Grimaldi Negroids have left their numerous traces all over Europe and Asia, from the Iberian Peninsula to Lake Baykal in Siberia, passing through France, Austria, the Crimea, and the Basin of Don, etc. In these last two regions, the late Soviet Professor Mikhail Gerasimov, a scholar of rare objectivity, identified the Negroid type from skulls found in the Middle Mousterian period. Marcellin Boule and Henri-Victor Vallois insist on the fact that the localizing layers of the Grimaldians are always in direct contact with those of the Mousterian period in which the last Neanderthal lived; in other words, there is no other variety of Homo sapiens that precedes the Grimaldi Negroid in Europe or in Asia.

If one bases one's judgment on morphology, the first White appeared only around 20,000 years ago: the Cro-Magnon Man. He is probably the result of a mutation from the Grimaldi Negroid due to an existence of 20,000 years in the excessively cold climate of Europe at the end of the last glaciation.

The Basques, who live today in the Franco-Cantabrian region where the Cro-Magnon was born, would be his descendants; in any case there are many of them in the southern region of France.

The Chancelade Man, who would be the prototype of the Yellow race, appeared in the Reindeer period, about 15,000 years ago in the Magdalenian Age. Is he a mongrel, born in a cold climate, from both stocks of the last Grimaldi in Europe and the new Cro-Magnon?

In any case, considering his dolichocephalic trait, he could only have been a Paleosiberian and not a true Yellow man (like the Chinese or the Japanese), because the latter is a brachycephalus in general, and we know that this morphological trait did not exist in the Upper Paleolithic Age; the mesocephalic trait appeared during the Mesolithic Age (around 10,000 years ago) and the brachycephalic trait much later.

The brachycephalic races — Yellow, Semites — appeared only around the Mesolithic Age, probably following great migratory currents and interbreeding.

Thus, humanity was born in Africa and differentiated itself into several races in Europe, where the climate was sufficiently cold at the end of the Würmian glaciation.

If the human being had been born in Europe, it would have been first white and then it would have negrified (darkened) under the Equator, with the appearance of the formation of melanin at the level of the epidermis, protecting the organism against the ultraviolet rays.

Therefore, this is not a value judgment: there is no particular glory about the cradle of humanity being in Africa, because it is just an accident. If the physical conditions of the planet had been otherwise, the origin of humanity would have been different.

Hence the interest of this exposé resides solely in the necessity to show, with the most possible scientific rigor, the unfolding of the facts relative to the human past, in order to restore to them all their meaning and also to extricate from them the foundation of both science and civilization.

One can thus measure the greatness of the damage perpetrated by ideologies that knowingly falsify their data.

In light of the above-mentioned facts, it seems normal that Africa, which did not see the birth of the Cro-Magnon and Chancelade men, did not know their respective industries: the Solutrean and the Magdalenian. Instead, Africa had an Aurignacian industry (Egypt, Kenya, etc.) whose age would have to be reexamined in light of the new dating techniques.

But as one would expect, physical anthropology, using the latest findings of genetics, molecular biology, and linear analysis, denies race and admits only the reality of differing populations. It is sophisticated science strongly coated with ideology! But when dealing with the transmission of a hereditary defect as in the case of sickle-cell anemia, the notion of race reappears: sickle-cell anemia, genetically speaking, strikes only Black people, says the same science that denies race. In the case of thalassemia, another hereditary defect that afflicts the Alpine race, or the White Mediterraneans, physical anthropology asserts that this disease attacks only the inhabitants of the Mediterranean periphery.

Race does not exist! Is it to say that nothing allows me to distinguish myself from a Swede, and that, a Zulu can prove to Botha (Prime Minister of the White minority government of South Africa) that they both are of the same genetic stock, and that consequently, at the genotypical level, they are almost twins, even if accidentally their phenotypes, meaning their physical appearances, are different?

Certainly, the dilution of the human species' genes during prehistoric times is very important; but from there to deny race, in the sense that it impacts on history and on social relations, meaning at the phenotypical level, which is of interest solely to the historian and to the sociologist, is a step that the daily facts of life prohibit anyone from taking.

Why does a certain physical anthropology use this scholarly manner to duck the questions? Is it loathe to rigorously derive all the implications of the monogenetic origin of humanity and, in the same vein, to take into consideration the real development of the appearance of the races? But an avant-garde West has already begun to courageously spread these ideas; and it was a White American who wrote: "I proceeded to explain that the first human beings were Black, and that light-skinned people developed later, by natural selection, to survive in temperate climates; it made us all feel much closer."

The Paleolithic industry has been attested to in the Nile Valley. It therefore appears that this valley was necessarily populated solely by Blacks from the origin of humanity up to the appearance of the other races (20,000 to 15,000 years ago). Prior to some infiltrations at the end of the fourth millenium, Whites were absent from Egypt, and it practically remained that way until 1300 B.C., the period of the great invasions from the peoples of the sea under the XIXth Dynasty, not taking into account the Hyksos's invasions.

The genetic table of the races represented in the tomb of Ramses III (twelfth century B.C.) shows that the Egyptians perceived themselves as Blacks (fig. 17). In fact, the Egyptian artist does not hesitate to represent the genetic type of the Egyptian as a typical Black, a Nubian; Karl Lepsius, a White scholar from Germany who made this discovery, was surprised and wrote: "Where we expected to see an Egyptian, we are presented with an authentic Negro." This ruins all of the tendentious studies of ideologists and demonstrates that the Egyptians did not establish any ethnic difference between themselves and other Africans; they belonged to the same ethnic universe.

What then happened, from an anthropological standpoint, after the appearance of the Cro-Magnon in Europe? This question will be debated for a long time to come. But there is sufficient reason to suppose that the Alpine race is indigenous to Europe and therefore the descendant of the Cro-Magnon, whose survivors are the Basques. Thus, the Basques's language could very well be the oldest in Europe.

With the abatement of the cold toward the end of the Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago), a group of these Cro-Magnons moved to the North. This stock would give rise to the Scandinavian and the Germanic branches.

A first group detached itself from the northern branch at a yet undetermined time, but surely at a time posterior to 10,000 years ago. This group occupied the eastern part of Europe, and then descended all the way to Scythia, at the outskirts of the Meridional cradle: the Slavs.

Other branches probably descended the Rhine and the Danube Rivers to Caucasia and the Black Sea; from thence would originate the secondary migrations of the Celts, the Iberians, and the other Indo-European tribes who did not under any circumstance come from the heart of Asia. One therefore sees how this illusion was created.

Around 2200 B.C., the Greeks separated themselves from the northern branch, and in a north-south migration, arrived in Hellas.

The Latins, much later perhaps, occupied Italy where they found the descendants of the Alpine race (Ombrians) mixed probably with the Sicilians, the Scytheans, and the Pelasgians who must have been of a type close to that of the pre-Latins.

In 1421 B.C., the explosion of the Santorini Island of the Cyclades had migratory consequences that have been neglected and not studied until now. This event may explain the great migration of the Nordics toward India, whence the name Indo-European or Indo-Aryan? (See p. 102, as well as my work: l'Unité culturelle de l'Afrique Noire, Présence Africaine, 1959).

A fraction of the group that migrated toward India, and who had to pass between the Caspian and Black Seas, must have necessarily lived near the Greeks, as witnessed by the study of their mores and customs (see p. 122, and l'Unité culturelle, op. cit.).

Even in modern times, Goethe will sing of this irresistible pull toward the south of France on northern Europeans.

Do you know the land where the lemon tree blooms,
Where the golden oranges in the somber foliage shines,
A soft wind in the blue sky blows,
The myrtle is always erect and still and the laurel standing.
Do you know it?
Over there! Over there
I must take you there, oh! my love.

The last migrations of the Nordics are those of the Vikings in the Middle Ages. Thule, Iceland, and the Polar Circle are the mythical lands of the ancestors of the gods Ossian, Wotan, etc.

The Saxons separated themselves from the trunk of continental Germany in order to populate England. Thus the Nordics and the Germans were born in the North following the on-site adaptation of the Cro-Magnon. They never came from Asia or from Caucasia; what happened was just the opposite, and the secondary gyratorial migrations that started from these regions complicated the facts and gave the impression, at times, of an initial movement from western Asia.

The England of the Megalithic period felt the impact of a strong Negroid Egyptian-Phoenician influence. In fact, the first Phoenician and Sidonian navigations of the Bronze Age are contemporaneous with the XVIIIth Egyptian Dynasty (see p. 95); the Phoenicians, subjects and brokers of the Egyptians, fetched tin from the Sorlinguan Islands, meaning from England. Today, long and deep mining tunnels have been found. They are so deep that they extend all the way down under the sea. It was in this period that a pre-Christian African vocabulary came into what was to become the English language: ancient Saxon. The population of the island was then very minimal, and this facilitated the penetration of Meridional culture: they numbered less than three million up to the One Hundred Years War.

It is interesting to note that according to Marija Gimbutas there existed an ancient civilization referred to as "of ancient Europe," which came directly from the Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic periods, and which was characterized by a sedentary life, agriculture, a cult of the mother goddess, the fecundator of life, and other feminine divinities — a matriarchal, egalitarian, urbane, and peaceful society. It is said to have lasted for three millenia, from 6500 to 3500 B.C., and it never knew war: therefore a society which, in every aspect, brings to mind the sedentary, agrarian, and matrilineal African societies.


Excerpted from Civilization or Barbarism by Cheikh Anta Diop, Yaa-Lengi Meema Ngemi, Harold J. Salemson, Marjolijn de Jager. Copyright © 1981 Cheikh Anta Diop. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Cheikh Anta Diop is the author of The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality and Precolonial Black Africa.

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Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book 17yrs ago and was so amazed at our ignorances of our own history. It needs to be read by all of us. Civilization started with us the people of Africa. Mr Diop speaks the truth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All one has to do is to read this great piece of literary work to see what Diop is talking about. For thousands of years we have been cheated and lied to about our history, it is only through research that the truth prevails. There has never been a positive book about African history untill African history is written by it's own...the African...Thank you Diop for daring to do what no man has ever done before. From the very onset of written history, the black has always been depicted as a simpleton, someone incapable of thinking for himself, someone dependent on 'massa' for dear life. Cheikh Anta Diop not only dispels these lies, he also brought to light the truth about black history...the glorious history of our ancestors from time unknown. Reading the book is so uplifting and so educating that one has to read it to experience our history. It is only normal to receive criticism on this wonderful piece. It is with great difficulty and pain that 'they' have to respond to save face. Even though Dr Cheikh Anta Diop is no more with us, his writings will do the talking. To all people of African decent, please read this book and find out what you have never been thought in school. To all the negative critics that hate to see anything positive about black people I'd say...EAT YOUR HEARTS OUT!!.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading this book it leave no doubt who the orginal egyptains were before thier country was invaded. It also answer the question where the Greek went to school and learned philosphy. There will be a lots of negative feedback regarding this wonderful book, it is time for people to start being honsest and accept the truth, which is clearly stated in this book. It is unfortunate that the great professor is not present to defend himself. This book is for those of us who are open minded and are willing to accept the truth about history. I would give this book 10 stars. Professor Diop did an excellent job using graphs and symbols to enchance this wondeerful book.