Black African Pharmacopoeia — Kushitic Tetracycline
By Ogu-Eji-Ofo Anu
For more than two decades, a group of researchers led by George Armelagos an anthropologist from Emroy University Atlanta Georgia have studied bones dated to between A.D. 350 and 550 from Kush (Nubia), another ancient African kingdom south of ancient Egypt along the Nile River.
The researchers are puzzled by the bones of these ancient Kushites because they contain traces of the antibiotic tetracycline. These traces of tetracycline have been found in more than 90 percent of the bones the team examined, including those of 24-month-old infants. The researchers also believe that the tetracycline protected the Kushites from bone infections, as all the bones examined are infection free
Until now antibiotic has been generally assumed to be one of these ultra modern inventions that brought the 20th century man into advanced civilization. Antibiotic use was supposedly invented during the years of the first world war. It was hailed as a revolutionary life saver particularly those involving battle injuries.
Prior to its intoduction, gangere, a life threatening infection of open wounds was one of the biggest killers of soilders wounded in battle field. Today tetracycline is used to treat ailments and infections of different kinds ranging from acne flare-ups to urinary-tract infections. The million dollar question is thus this: since antibiotic only came into commercial use half a century ago how did tetracycline get into the Kushitic bones?
The Egyptians to the north of Kush had amazing knowledge of the human body because of their pervasive practice of mummification of cadavar which required the removal of internal bodily organs. They were renowned for their strong and effective medicines which supposedly could cure any affliction known to man kind.
The medical foundation of the modern world could be traced to Egypt in an unbroken line. The so-called Hypocrates, the Greek father of modern medicine was actually a follower of the original and true Black African father of modern medicine…the prince of peace Imhotep.
Egyptians and Kushites
The first developed societies appeared in the nile valley region developed around Karthoum (modern Sudan, Old Nubia) before the time of the first dynasty of Egypt (3100-2890 BC). For most of the long history of Egypt, Kush was always considered as the motherland, the birth place of the Gods and true Royalties of Egypt. Kush was the cradle of Egypt. Throught their long history, the Egyptians and the Kushites remained kindred nationalities.
Kush is a very ancient nation whose roots extend back into the dim origins of mankind. By the year 2500 BC, it is known that Egyptians had extensive settlements in Kush. A symbiotic form of political relationship and spiritual connection developed between Egypt and Kush (which hack Euro-centered historians are quick to call colonization) and persisted from 1500 to 1000 BC. This relationship collapsed by 1000BC and Kush became more assertive as a separate cultural polity. It virtually re-discovered itself as New Kush.
The new Kush was a glorious and proud ancient Black African civilization which developed along the upper reaches of the Nile about 200km north of Khartoum between 1000 BC and 350 AD. It was sophisticated and cosmopolitan host to a wide selection of immigrants and traders. It played hosts to people of Greek, Persian, Indian and Hebrew nationality — skilled men and merchants. It was the gold and iron center of the ancient world. It was also a major exporter of spices and incense which were much sought after in the ancient times. It had a major presence at sea and its merchant navy traded throughout the mediterranean sea as far as India. By the 8th century BC Kush had come to dominate Egyptian culture and politics.
For many hundred of years, the nobles of ancient Kush thought of themselves as Egyptians. They dressed like Egyptians. Their culture, religion, and philosophy were similar. The kings and nobles lived in riverside palaces much like Egyptians. There were sailboats on the Nile. As in ancient Egypt, many of their leaders were great Queens, not Kings.
Given the range of matters covered in a whole series of Egyptian pharmacopoeias [medicine books], which is still exploited by modern pharmaceutical companies, can one then suppose that the Kushites had somehow discovered tetracycline and clinically applied its properties? In light of the foregoing narrative, it is not far fetched to believe so and to suppose that Africans first discovered and applied tetracycline.
Ancient Kushitic written language is yet undeciphered for the most part. Who knows what other gem lies buried in the soil of ancient Kush waiting to be re-discovered?
19 September 2006
Jean Leclant. “The empire of Kush: Napata and Meroe” UNESCO General History of Africa.
A. Hakem with I. Hrbek and J. Vercoutter. “The civilization of Napata and Meroe” UNESCO General History of Africa.
P.L. Shinnie. “The Nilotic Sudan and Ethiopia c. 660 BC to c. AD 600” Cambridge History of Africa – Volume 2 Cambridge University Press, 1978.