Egyptology: Hanging in the Hair
West Africa Magazine (July 8, 2001)
by Anu M’bantu and Fari Supia
F0R YEARS, EGYPTOLOGY has been fighting a losing battle to hold onto an ancient Egypt that is Caucasian or, at worst, sun-tanned Caucasian.
At the 1974 UNESCO conference Egyptology was dealt a fatal blow. Two African scholars wiped the floor with 18 world-renowned Egyptologists. They proved in 11 different categories of evidence that the ancient Egyptians were Africans (Black). Following that beating, Egyptology has been on its knees praying to be saved by science. Their last glimmer of hope has been the hair on Egyptian mummies.
The mummies on display in the world’s museums exhibit Caucasoid-looking hair, some of it brown and blonde. These mummies include Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao of the 17th dynasty and the 19th dynasty’s Rameses II. As one scholar put it: “The most common hair colour, then as now, was a very dark brown, almost black colour although natural auburn and even rather surprisingly blonde hair are also to be found.”
Many Black scholars try skillfully to avoid the hair problem. This is a mistake! In 1914, a white doctor in Detroit initiated divorce proceeding against his wife whom he suspected of being a “closet Negro”. At the trial, the Columbia University anthropologist, Professor Franz Boas (1858-1942), was called upon as a race expert. Boas declared: “If this woman has any of the characteristics of the Negro race it would be easy to find them . . . one characteristic that is regarded as reliable is the hair. You can tell by microscopic examination of a cross-section of hair to what race that person belongs.”
With this revelation, trichology (the scientific analysis of hair) reached the American public. But what are these differences?
The cross-section of a hair shaft is measured with an instrument called a trichometer. From this you can get measurements for the minimum and maximum diameter of a hair. The minimum measurement is then divided by the maximum and then multiplied by a hundred. This produces an index.
A survey of the scientific literature produces the following breakdown:
In the early 1970s, the Czech anthropologist Eugen Strouhal examined pre-dynastic Egyptian skulls at Cambridge University. He sent some samples of the hair to the Institute of Anthropology at Charles University, Prague, to be analyzed. The hair samples were described as varying in texture from “wavy” to “curly” and in colour from “light brown” to “black”. Strouhal summarized the results of the analysis:
“The outline of the cross-sections of the hairs was flattened, with indices ranging from 35 to 65. These peculiarities also show the Negroid inference among the Badarians (pre-dynastic Egyptians).”
The term “Negroid influence” suggests intermixture, but as the table suggests this hair is more “Negroid” than the San and the Zulu samples, currently the most Negroid hair in existence!
In another study, hair samples from ten 18th-25th dynasty individuals produced an average index of 51! As far back as 1877, Dr. Pruner-Bey analyzed six ancient Egyptian hair samples. Their average index of 64.4 was similar to the Tasmanians who lie at the periphery of the African-haired populations(1).
A team of Italian anthropologists published their research in the Journal of Human Evolution in 1972 and 1980. They measured two samples consisting of 26 individuals from pre-dynastic, 12th dynasty and 18th dynasty mummies. They produced a mean index of 66.50
18th Dynasty Egypt
The overall average of all four sets of ancient Egyptian hair samples was 60.02.
Sounds familiar . . . just check the table!
Since microscopic analysis shows ancient Egyptian hair to be completely African, why does the hair look Caucasoid? Research has given us the answers.
Hair is made of keratin protein. Keratin is composed of amino acid chains called polypeptides. In a hair, two such chains are called cross-chain polypeptides. These are held together by disulphide bonds. The bulk of the hair, the source of its strength and curl, is called the cortex. The hair shafts are made of a protective outer layer called the cuticle.
We are informed by Afro Hair – A Salon Book, that chemicals for bleaching, perming and straightening hair must reach the cortex to be effective. For hair to be permed or straightened the disulphide bonds in the cortex must be broken. The anthropologist Daniel Hardy writing in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, tells us that keratin is stable owing to disulphide bonds. However, when hair is exposed to harsh conditions it can lead to oxidation of protein molecules in the cortex, which leads to the alteration of hair texture, such as straightening.
Two British anthropologists, Brothwell and Spearman, have found evidence of cortex keratin oxidation in ancient Egyptian hair. They held that the mummification process was responsible, because of the strong alkaline substance used. This resulted in the yellowing and browning of hair as well as the straightening effect.
This means that visual appearance of the hair on mummies cannot disguise their
racial affinities. The presence of blonde and brown hair on ancient Egyptian mummies has nothing to do with their racial identity and everything to do with mummification and the passage of time. As the studies have shown, when you put the evidence under a microscope the truth comes out. At last, Egyptology’s prayers have been answered. It has been put out of its misery.
Its tombstone reads Egyptology, R.I.P June 2001.