Black Genesis (2011) by Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy is a book that seems almost purposely designed to prevent critics from criticizing it without sounding like racists. It claims that the civilization of ancient Egypt derived from “Black” antecedents in sub-Saharan Africa, and I am uncomfortable with the authors’ use of modern racial categories to represent past peoples, who may or may not meet contemporary definitions of socially-constructed “races.” I am also uncomfortable with the idea that civilization should be attributed to a race rather than a culture, as though the Greeks were synecdoche for all Whites or this lost African culture somehow synonymous with everyone with black skin.
The authors write that “Black Genesis [is] not only a scientific thesis but also a testament of respect and admiration of all whose skin happens to be black and who have a direct ancestral line to Black Africa.”
I wonder how discussions between Bauval and his onetime writing partner Graham Hancock went after this book, since Hancock has steadfastly advocated for a white origin for Egypt, from his lost white civilization. Although Hancock later took exception to this characterization of his lost civilization, he mentions their white skin twelve times in Fingerprints of the Gods (1995) as “lean, bearded white men” of “distinctively non-Indian ethnic type.”
The book’s primary focus early on is the site of Nabta Playa, an archaeological site that has become a focus for alternative ideas. Archaeologists recognize it as an early (and small-sized) stone calendar laid out in the Nubian Desert just south of ancient Egypt sometime between 6000 and 3000 BCE. Gavin Menzies claimed in his Atlantis book that the Egyptians used it to teach the Minoans how to build stone circles, which they spread around the world. I covered this back in 2012, and I see nothing in Black Genesis to change my evaluation of Brophy’s extreme theories:
Menzies feels that the Egyptians brought the Minoans to Nabta Playa, a stone circle in the Nubian desert, to teach them about the stars—a neat trick since Nabta Playa is 5,000 years older than the Minoans and would have been long abandoned at 1600 BCE. Menzies’ weird interpretation relies on the work of alternative writer Thomas G. Brophy, who felt (with the help of Robert Schoch and John Anthony West) that the stone circle represented alignments to the stars tens of thousands of years before their construction through knowledge given to the Egyptians by space aliens, which he calls “some other intelligence.” Menzies leaves that part out. Scholars from the University of Colorado criticized these findings: “These extremely early dates as well as the proposition that the nomads had contact with extra galactic aliens are inconsistent with the archaeological record. Inference in archaeoastronomy must always be guided and informed by archaeology, especially when substantial field work has been performed in the region.” Instead, the circle appears to have been aligned to stars at the time of the circle’s construction, of which: duh.
Later, when Brophy appeared on Ancient Aliens this past January to discuss the site, he had somehow revised his dates for the site from 16,000 BCE to 4500 BCE, in keeping with Black Genesis, rather than his own earlier book on the site, The Origin Map. Also: ALIENS. ALIENS!
Mainstream scholars recognize the site as an early calendar, with possible alignments to significant stars, and that it belonged to a pastoral people with a relatively advanced culture (including planned villages and deep wells) whose bones indicate that they came up into Egypt from the southern Sahara during the Mesolithic. Egyptologists believe that some of the cow sacrifice rites (including tomb burials for cattle) may have contributed to the religion of Egypt.
This is the scientific basis for Black Genesis.
The authors talk grandly about the “megalithic” site, using language associated with Stonehenge—it has “gates” and grand alignments and the stones were dragged to their location “with great difficulty” and great purpose. But they also provide this photograph, which I think makes the case for why there is less here than they claim:
A single person could have built this “megalithic” site in short order.
The authors report that the site has suffered extensive damage and that the map made of it includes hypothetical reconstructions; nevertheless, they are so confident in this reconstruction that they are able to conclude that the alignments at the site are so precise as to suggest the presence of a lost civilization of astronomers located in sub-Saharan Africa, presumably somewhere between Zinj and Prester John’s Land. (That’s a joke, Mr. Bauval.)
But first we must sit through a laundry list recitation of every person who ever tried to connect ancient sites to the stars, followed by a lengthy rant from John Anthony West about the way the academic elite conspires to suppress unconventional arguments unless and until television coverage forces them to investigate. Sadly, though, Bauval and Brophy approvingly cite Alexander Thom as a great example of an anti-academic warrior for Truth, with his megalithic yard, an alleged unit of measurement employed by the builders of Neolithic structures in the British Isles. Thom, they say, brazenly challenged his “elderly peers” who in “their zeal to defend their turf” rejected his findings despite the “mathematical logic” of his book. That the megalithic yard cannot be demonstrated independently, let alone to the claimed precision of one-thousandth of a centimeter, was apparently of secondary concern to Bauval’s and Brophy’s interest in complaining about old, befuddled, angry professors. And Brophy has a PhD in physics.
Next they complain about the “firewall of academic Egyptology”: “We too endured from Egyptologists and archaeologists the all-too-familiar war of words and the debunking that is passed off as criticism.” What does one call it when an idea is wrong and someone says so? Bauval and Brophy seem to have adopted Hegelian dialectic as their method of knowledge-creation, whereby they feel that merely proposing the antithesis to the current thesis must, by definition, move the scholarly consensus to a new synthesis, inching ever closer to their position with each new ball of spaghetti they hurl at the walls of the ivory tower to see what will stick. But that isn’t how science works. Sometimes an idea is completely wrong and is therefore rightly rejected, with no gravitational pull on the current understanding.
I just don’t get it: This time the two authors have a book that has a stronger case to be made on the merits—that elements of pre-dynastic Egypt could be traced back to sub-Saharan cultures—and yet instead they devote the entire first chapter of their book to inculcating in the minds of readers reasons to hate academicians, whom they accuse of being too conservative, hidebound, and opposed to “celebrating” Black Africans. Turn on Fox News and then tell me that any of that is true. I thought the anti-academic line was that professors were too liberal, open-minded to the point of incoherence, and enthralled by diversity!
So ends Chapter One. I’m thinking in our next installment I will very briefly summarize the half of the book dedicated to Nabta Playa alignments and focus instead on the weird stuff about a lost Black super civilization.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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