Tag Archives: Egyptian race

Egyptians are not Arabs, they are Egyptians.

Modern Upper Egyptians


A strange title for a blog entry I know. But this is a result of a little nosing through the DNA studies available of modern Egypt, and some irritation at modern Egyptians being incessantly called ‘thieving Arabs’ by on-line Afrocentrists.

This is more focussed on the Egyptians around Luxor, where old upper Egypt was located. A recent DNA study by Cruciani that focused on the Y chromosome E-M78 revealed that it was ‘born’ in North East Africa , not East Africa as previously thought. This means, that an Egyptian with an m78 Y chromosome has had a male line ancestry reaching back to the Pleistocene inhabitants of Egypt; as far back as the Halfan culture about 24,000 years ago.

Southern Egyptians Y Chromomses are mainly native to Africa, both sub and supra Saharan. This makes a grand total of 80.3% definitively African non-Arab ancestry in the upper Egypt region. Y chromosomes possibly attributable to Arab males are very much in the minority in this area. A rough estimate (since no women invaded Egypt) is that about 5% or less of this population are from non dynastic Egyptian peoples, and not all of these would be Arabs.

Northern Egyptians are a bit more cosmopolitan in their ancestry  64.8% indigenous African. About 20% of the Y chrom0somes are near Eastern in origin, and 10.5 % are R Y chromosomes. However, some of these near eastern and European Y chromosomes show an ancient entry to Africa (G, K2, R1, R1b are 8,000 BP and older) and any historical contribution from foreign men is more likely to be in the 15% area. Divided by two (no recent female contribution to speak of). This makes non-dynastic Egyptian population around the 7% mark in Lower Egypt; and only some of this is Arab.

As for the maternal inheritance; this is more varied. From a study at Gurna (of modern upper Egyptians):

H 14.7%, I  5.9%, J   5.9%, L1a   11.7%, L1e   5.9%, L2a   2.9%, M1   17.6%, N1b   8.8%, T   5.9%, U   8.8%  U3   2.9%, U4   5.9% ,L3*(a)  5.9%, L3*(b)  2.9%, Other   2.9%.

Of these, the L haplotypes are typically sub Saharan (23.7%), M1 and U are ancient Eurasian, present at least 30,000 years and many of the other Eurasian haplotypes have been found in 12,000 year old bones in Morocco. The N an I  are possibly attributable to Arab ancestry, about 15% non-Arab in upper Egypt. But still, most of that would easily be attributable to the Neolithic input from Asia- and very little of this would be attributable to Arabs

To sum up, there doesn’t seem to be majority ‘Arab’ genetic component to the Egyptian DNA pool,  20% absolute maximum. And a lot of the non African DNA is traceable to the Neolithic farming expansion that swept across North Africa, so it would be a lot lower in reality.

In upper Egypt a maximum of 20% of the Y chromosomes are non African (the Mt DNA has been shown to be the same since dynastic times from Nubian mummy studies).. so how these people are supposed to have magically changed appearance in the past few thousand years with so little foreign input I’d like to know.

Egyptians are Egyptian, not Arab.


Very simplified Y chromosome information from Lucotte 2003.

Y-Chromosome Haplotypes in Egypt

Brief Communication: Y-Chromosome Haplotypes in Egypt
G. Lucotte* and G. Mercier

We analyzed Y-chromosome haplotypes in the Nile River Valley in Egypt in 274 unrelated males, using the p49a,f TaqI polymorphism. These individuals were born in three regions along the river: in Alexandria (the Delta and Lower Egypt), in Upper Egypt, and in Lower Nubia. Fifteen different p49a,f TaqI haplotypes are present in Egypt, the three most common being haplotype V (39.4%), haplotype XI (18.9%), and haplotype IV (13.9%). Haplotype V is a characteristic Arab haplotype, with a northern geographic distribution in Egypt in the Nile River Valley. Haplotype IV, characteristic of sub- Saharan populations, shows a southern geographic distribution in Egypt. 

Recently, Krings et al. (1999) reported analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in contemporary Nile River Valley populations in Egypt, Nubia, and southern Sudan. The present study concerns a corresponding analysis of the paternal component, characterized by Y-chromosomal haplotypes, in Egypt. their locations in the valley, and in each case their genealogy goes back for several generations of paternally local ancestry. These 274 males included 162 inhabitants of Alexandria and the surrounding region (representating the Delta and Lower Egypt), 66 from Upper Egypt, and 46 from Lower Nubia.

Haplotypes V, XI, and IV are the main Y-chromosome- specific haplotypes in Egyptian males detected in the present study. Haplotype V (E3b1b, I should think) is characteristic of Arab and Berber populations of North Africa (Lucotte et al., 2000), where it defines a major similarity among coastal populations in a one-dimensional pattern: the frequency of haplotype V is 53.4% in Tunisia, 56.7% in Algeria, and 57.9% in Morocco, reaching 68.9% among Moroccan Berbers where it is in the wide majority; the frequency of haplotype V is 44.7% in Libya, and was established to be 40.4% in a previously studied population of 52 males originating from the northern part of Egypt (Lucotte et al., 2000). Haplotype XI (E3b1 probably) is one of the three most important haplotypes found in Ethiopia (Passarino et al., 1998; Lucotte and Smets, 1999), where it attains 25.9% in frequency. Haplotype IV is characteristic of sub-Saharan populations in Africa (Torroni et al., 1990; Spurdle and Jenkins, 1992), where its geographical distribution can be an indication of Bantu expansion: for example, in Central Africa (Lucotte et al., 1994), the frequency of haplotype IV is 55.2% in Cameroon, and reaches 80.3% in Zaı¨re and up to 83.9% in the Central African Republic.

As for mtDNA (Krings et al., 1999), the present study on the Y-chromosome haplotype shows that there are northern and southern Y-haplotypes in Egypt. The main Y-haplotype V is a northern haplotype, with a significantly different frequency in the north compared to the south of the country: frequencies of haplotype V are 51.9% in the Delta (location A), 24.2% in Upper Egypt (location B), and 17.4% in Lower Nubia (location C). On the other hand, haplotype IV is a typical southern haplotype, being almost absent in A (1.2%), and preponderant in B (27.3%) and C (39.1%). Haplotype XI also shows a preponderance in the south (in C, 30.4%; B, 28.8%) compared to the north (11.7% in A) of the country. In mtDNA, sequences of the first hypervariable HpaI site at position 3592 allowed Krings et al. (1999) to designate each mtDNA as being of northern or southern affiliation, and proportions of northern and southern mtDNA differed  significantly between Egypt, Nubia, and the Southern Sudan.

It is interesting to relate this peculiar north/south differentiation, a pattern of genetic variation deriving from the two uniparentally inherited genetic systems (mtDNA and Y chromosome), to specific historic events. Since the beginning of Egyptian history (3200–3100 B.C.), the legendary king Menes united Upper and Lower Egypt. Migration from north to south may coincide with the Pharaonic colonization of Nubia, which occurred initially during the Middle Kingdom (12th Dynasty, 1991–1785 B.C.), and more permanently during the New Kingdom, from the reign of Thotmosis III (1490–1437 B.C.). The main migration from south to north may coincide with the 25th Dynasty (730–655 B.C.), when kings from Napata (in Nubia) conquered Egypt.

Numerous postdynastic population influences, corresponding to additional migrations documented during the Ptolemic (300–200 B.C.)—Alexandria being a Macedonian city—Roman (since Egyptian annexation by Augustus), and later Arabic, Mameluk, and Ottoman times, are also likely to have contributed in a complex fashion to the current distribution of Y-chromosome haplotypes along the Nile River Valley. Concerning less frequent Y-haplotypes in Egypt, haplotype VIII is characteristic of Semitic populations, originating in the Near East (Lucotte et al., 1993). For example (Lucotte et al., 1996), the frequency of haplotype VIII is 26.2% among North African Jews (where it represents the majority haplotype) and 77.5% among Jews from the island of Djerba (Tunisia), reaching 85.1% among Oriental (from Iraq, Iran, and Syria) Jews. Similarly, haplotype VII had a general geographical distribution fairly identical to that of haplotype VIII (which it often accompanies as a secondary haplotype); haplotype VII distinguishes itself by increased preponderance north of the Mediterranean and in Eastern Europe (Lucotte et al., 1996). Haplotype XV is the most widespread Y-haplotype in Western Europe (Lucotte and Hazout, 1996), where its frequency decreases from west to east (Semino et al., 1996; Lucotte and Loirat, 1999). Haplotypes VIII, VII, and XV are less common haplotypes in Egypt (7.3%, 6.6%, and 5.5%, respectively), and tend to be located in the north of the country, near the Mediterranean coast. Possibly haplotypes VIII, VII, and XV represent, respectively, Near East, Greek, and Roman influences.

Just one quibble with this about hg XV, which would be R1b from it’s description. This is pretty widespread in Africa right down into Cameroon and the Sudan, so assigning all XV as a result of the Greco Roman era is probably a mistake. It should be remembered also that the C group is in what was once Nubia, not ancient Egypt.

Mt DNA Analysis of Nile River Valley Populations

So, I admit having posted this before, but I couldn’t find the whole item. Now I have.

mtDNA Analysis of Nile River Valley Populations: A Genetic Corridor or a Barrier to Migration?

To assess the extent to which the Nile River Valley has been a corridor for human migrations between Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa, we analyzed mtDNA variation in 224 individuals from various locations along the river. Sequences of the first hypervariable segment (HV1) of the mtDNA control region and a polymorphic HpaI site at position 3592 allowed us to designate each mtDNA as being of “northern” or “southern” affiliation. Proportions of northern and southern mtDNA differed significantly between Egypt, Nubia, and the southern Sudan. At slowly evolving sites within HV1, northern-mtDNA diversity was highest in Egypt and lowest in the southern Sudan, and southern-mtDNA diversity was highest in the southern Sudan and lowest in Egypt, indicating that migrations had occurred bidirectionally along the Nile River Valley. Egypt and Nubia have low and similar amounts of divergence for both mtDNA types, which is consistent with historical evidence for long-term interactions between Egypt and Nubia. Spatial autocorrelation analysis demonstrates a smooth gradient of decreasing genetic similarity of mtDNA types as geographic distance between sampling localities increases, strongly suggesting gene flow along the Nile, with no evident barriers. We conclude that these migrations probably occurred within the past few hundred to few thousand years and that the migration from north to south was either earlier or lesser in the extent of gene flow than the migration from south to north.

This is a good guide to how Eurasian ancestry tails off as you move South down the Nile. As it can be seen, it’s at about 20% in the Southern Sudan, roughly even in Nubia. This is a classic example of a clinal gradient in DNA.

The conclusion of the study was

Nonetheless, we can infer that the migration of northern mtDNA types to the south is older than the migration of southern mtDNA types to the north (or that there has been less gene flow from north to south than from south to north along the Nile River Valley) and that Egypt and Nubia have had more genetic contact than either has had with the southern Sudan. Moreover, we can tentatively infer that these migrations occurred recently enough to fall within the period of the documented historical record of human populations in the Nile River Valley. Thus, it is tempting to try to relate these migrations to specific historical events (Shaw and Nicholson 1995). For example, the migration from north to south may coincide with the Pharaonic colonization of Nubia, which occurred initially during the Middle Kingdom (12th Dynasty, 1991–1785 B.C.) and more permanently during the New Kingdom, from the reign of Thotmosis III (1490–1437 B.C.). The migration from south to north may coincide with the 25th Dynasty (730–655 B.C.), when kings from Napata in Nubia conquered Egypt. Of course, additional migrations documented during the Ptolemeic, Roman, and Arabic times are also likely to have contributed to the current distribution of mtDNA types along the Nile River Valley.

The faces of Ancient Egypt.

The average Egyptian

This contains over 400 images, and will require some time to load. It is also is under more or less permanent construcion, I will finish sorting them all by dynasty eventually.

These are the faces of ancient Egyptians from smaller tomb portraits, not usually including the larger monumental statues, as these have weathered a lot and the facial features are generally indistinct and damaged. These are meant to represent the Egyptian people, in a reasonably accurate and life-like fashion. The older dynastic images are nearer the top. If anyone needs to know the identity of the larger statues for reference, I can supply the names, dates and site found for most, upon request (leave a request in the comments). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the mummy boards and masks.

As some of the more observant readers have pointed out, some images of various portraits either contradict each each (Tutankhamen is a prime offender), or look nothing like their mummy.


Tutankamun’s many faces. The middle image is somewhat redder than it looks here, and is a thought to be a tailors dummy. The mummy of Tutankhamun is seriously damaged by poor storage, hence the ‘decomp-black’ skin colour (he was described as being a ‘whitish grey’ when first unwrapped).

Tiye. Either the ‘elder woman’ mummy isn’t Tiye (it has a tentative DNA ID on it from hairs in Tut’s tomb) or the busts aren’t very accurate portrayals. Tiyes parents Tuya and Yuya are in the mummy section. It’s not obvious from the balck and white shot, but Tiye has auburn hair and a light skin tone. There’s a great view of her here.

If you really want a better idea of what they all looked like in the flesh, the mummy section at the bottom of the page is pretty comprehensive.

Old Kingdom statues and busts

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Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom statues and busts



Unsorted (as yet).






Mummy cases and masks (except Greco-Roman)


Greco-Roman era Mummy boards and masks.

If anyone spots a duplication let me know, as they all start to look the same after the first hundred.

Smaller servant statues and shabti


The Fayum mummy portraits (Greco-Roman era)

These are from around the era of Cleopatra and onwards (Greco-Roman). As you can see by the style of dress these are Hellenised and  Romanised Egyptians. They don’t appear to be physically different from the earlier population, and DNA studies on modern Egyptians have shown only low amounts of European haplotypes in the Northern part of Egypt (about 15% male, so about 7% total).

Studies of the Fayum mummies indicate the only a minority of them were Greeks. They appear to have been the burials of the Greek soldiers/officials, their local wives and Egyptian children and grandchildren. A study on the teeth by JD Irish showed that they didn’t seem to be particularly different from the rest of the population at the time, so the amount of Greek ancestry in them seems to be pretty low.

The mummy gallery


There are also mummy reconstructions here

Here is a montage of modern Egyptians, their descendants.

Not much change, I’d say.
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Descriptions of ancient Egyptians by others.

Reconstruction of Tutankhamun, for National geographic.

Ancient Greco-Roman descriptions of Egyptians

Egyptians had a “medium tone”

The Ethiopians stain the world and depict a race of men steeped in darkness; less sun-burnt are the natives of India; the land of Egypt, flooded by the Nile, darkens bodies more mildly owing to the inundation of its fields: it it a country nearer to us and its moderate climate imparts a medium tone.

– Manilius, Astronomica 4.724 Here the term Ethiopians (= Greek “burnt face”, denoting very dark skin) refers to Africans inhabiting latitudes south of Egypt (Snowden, 1989). The term “Ethiopian,” in that it was a broad category encompassing diverse ethnic groups of tropical Africa, was similar to a modern-day “racial” designation and roughly corresponded to what early anthropologists would have called “Negro.” Yet classical writers, as exemplified by Manilius’ quote above, clearly differentiated the Egyptians from “Ethiopians.” Philostratus, for example, noted that a people living near the Nubian border were lighter than Ethiopians, and that Egyptians were lighter still.

Egyptians resembled Northern Indians
There are cases of Greco-Roman authors likening Egyptians’ appearance to that of northern Indians, who generally do not look like black Africans. According to Arrian (Indica 6.9):

The appearance of the inhabitants is also not very different in India and Ethiopia: the southern Indians are rather more like Ethiopians as they are black to look on, and their hair is black; only they are not so snub-nosed or woolly-haired as the Ethiopians; the northern Indians are most like the Egyptians physically.

Strabo confirms in Geography 15.1.13, in almost identical wording:

As for the people of India, those in the south are like the Aethiopians in color, although they are like the rest in respect to countenance and hair (for on account of the humidity of the air their hair does not curl), whereas those in the north are like the Egyptians.
Arrian and Strabo concur that the Egyptians resembled northern Indians – who are usually straight-haired and occasionally as light-skinned as southern Europeans – rather than the dark Dravidian types of southern India.

Furthermore, although Arrian and Strabo differentiate Ethiopians from South Indians in terms of facial form and hair texture, they cite no such differences between the Egyptians and northern Indians.

Afrocentric misreadings of classical texts-The meaning of melas and melanochroes

In their efforts to paint the ancient Egyptians “black,” Afrocentrists rely heavily on misreadings of ancient Greek and Roman literature – many of which stem from a severe misunderstanding of the historical use of color terms. In many ages and many cultures, descriptions of human complexion as “white,” “brown” or “black” would correspond in modern usage to “fair,” “tan” or “swarthy.” According to the anthropologist Peter Frost (*): This older, more relative sense has been noted in other culture areas. The Japanese once used the terms shiroi (white) and kuroi (black) to describe their skin and its gradations of color. The Ibos of Nigeria employed ocha (white) and ojii (black) in the same way, so that nwoko ocha (white man) simply meant an Ibo with a lighter complexion. In French Canada, the older generation still refers to a swarthy Canadien as noir. Vestiges of this older usage persist in family names. Mr. White, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Black were individuals within the normal color spectrum of English people.

Ditto for Leblanc, Lebrun, and Lenoir among the French or Weiss and Schwartz among the Germans. In the same vein, the Greek words melas and leukos when applied to skin color were usually equivalent to “swarthy” and “fair” rather than the racial terms “black” or “white” as Afrocentrists would prefer (see definition of melas in the online LSJ lexicon). There are numerous examples of this usage in Greek literature – one unequivocal example describes an aged Odysseus magically regaining his youth (Homer Odyssey 16.172-176):

“With this, Athena touched him [Odysseus] with her golden wand. A well-washed cloak and a tunic she first of all cast about his breast, and she increased his stature and his youthful bloom. Once more he grew dark of color [melanchroiês], and his cheeks filled out, and dark grew the beard about his chin.”

In describing the skin tone of Odysseus, Homer used the word melanchroiês – a form of the same word that other

Greeks sometimes chose to describe Egyptians, and one that is the source of much Afrocentric misunderstanding. If taken literally, the word would mean “black-skinned”; however, it is clear from the context that Homer means “of swarthy complexion” rather than racially “black,” and intends to describe Odysseus regaining his youthful color. Otherwise we would have to assume that during the process of rejuvenation Odysseus transformed into a black African! This despite the numerous ancient artistic portrayals of Odysseus as Greek-looking and certainly not “black” in any modern racial sense.

Likewise, when the ancient writers described Egyptians as melas or melanchroes, they almost surely meant “dark-complected” rather than literally “black.” Any ambiguity in such descriptions can be resolved by noting that other classical writers such as Manilius specifically identified the Egyptians as medium in complexion rather than “black,” and that the Egyptians portrayed themselves as lighter and finer-featured than their African neighbors to the south.

The Herodotus quote
Perhaps the most frequently cited Greek quote among Afrocentrists is that of Herodotus (Histories 2.104.2) describing Egyptians as well as Colchians of the Caucasus as “dark-skinned and woolly-haired.” That the Egyptians were dark relative to Greeks is not surprising, considering that the same is true today. But Herodotus’ description of Egyptian hair would, at first glance, appear to conflict with the physical evidence left by the Egyptians themselves – numerous mummies with hair still attached to the skulls showing more straight, wavy, or lightly curled hair types than “woolly.”

The only way to make the evidence consistent is to assume Herodotus spoke in a relative rather than absolute sense. That is, Egyptian hair was on average curlier than Greek hair, and the tightly-curled (“woolly”) hair type was found more often in Egyptians than in Greeks – as is true today. There is no reason to assume on the basis of Herodotus’ words that all or even most Egyptians had “woolly” hair, nor that such hair found in Egyptians was as “woolly” as that of tropical Africans. Indeed, Herodotus himself mentions only “Ethiopians” – not Egyptians – as having the “woolliest hair of all men” (Herodotus Histories 7.70.1). Moreover, Herodotus’ explanation that being melanchroes or oulotriches “indeed counts for nothing, since other peoples are, too” suggests that these adjectives did not apply exclusively to any one “race” of people.

An analogous example of a stereotype based on relative comparison comes from the medieval Arab scholar Ibn Butlan, who noted the Greeks as having “straight blond hair” and “blue eyes.” Does this mean that all medieval Greeks had a Nordic appearance? Certainly not: it merely suggests that the blond-haired, blue-eyed type is more common among Greeks than Arabs and stood out more as a salient characteristic worthy of mention. The Arabs, like the Greeks, noted characteristics that were unusual in their own population and used these traits to typify the foreigners.

Interestingly, Herodotus mentions the Colchians as another group having “dark skin and woolly hair.” Considering that the Colchians inhabited what is roughly modern-day Georgia in the Caucasus, it would seem that the vast majority of Colchians were most likely – and quite literally – Caucasian. Of course Afrocentric diehards might claim that Colchians too were black Africans, but such a theory runs into trouble when one considers the observations of Hippocrates, who wrote that the Colchians in Phasis “are large and corpulent in body. Neither joint nor vein is evident. They have a yellow flesh, as if victims of jaundice” (Hippocrates, Airs, Waters, Places 15). Nothing in Hippocrates’ description suggests that Colchians look anything like sub-Saharan Africans and this further weakens the Afrocentric argument that Egyptians and Colchians must have looked like “blacks” on the basis of Herodotus’ words.

Other ancient quotes cited by Afrocentrists

There are certain other quotes that some Afro-Egyptocentrists interpret in such a way as to conflict with other descriptions such as the ones at the top of this page. The interpretations have similar failings as the Herodotus quote.

That is, (1) misconstruing melas and its variants as meaning racially “black”; (2) assuming certain traits mentioned in quotes are found in all or even most of the Egyptian population; and (3) assuming that when Egyptians do possess such traits, they are expressed nearly as strongly as in tropical Africans to the south. Using similar faulty methods, Afrocentrists might as well say Jews in the Middle Ages were “black” because Joseph ben Nathan in the 13th century quoted his father as saying “we Jews come from a pure, white source, and so our faces are black.” Of course to do this would be to ignore the fact that in medieval Europe as in ancient Greece, black often meant “swarthy.” Likewise, Afrocentrists could insist that 12th-century Moors were “black” on the basis of their being exaggerated as “blacker than pitch or ink” in the epic Chanson d’Aspremont. But we know on the basis of physical remains and ample pictorial evidence that neither the Jews nor Turks were actually “black” in medieval times.

They never believe you though. I’ve had one insist it meant the ‘real’ Jews were all black.

There’s a quote from Jane Eyre, where she describes a gypsy as being ‘as black as a crock’, and references to gypsies and Spaniards as being black can be found through European literature.

 ‘Black as crock’ Roma girls.

Fakes and mistakes in Egyptology.


The above image is from a book, and it is a somewhat mangled copy of the original wall from the tomb of Ramses II, the original seen below. This is one of the favourite bit of Afrocentric evidence that Egyptians were black. They claim one image is a black African, one is a black Egyptian, although as you can see they are both pretty obviously black Nubians who are together in the real painting. As you can see, it bears little resemblance to the original, and the hieroglyphs don’t mean what Afrocentrists say they do.

They also claim that this image (below) is a fake (it’s an illustration from a book from 1820 that I’ve actually held), created by European historians to deceive people. Its a good thing it was drawn so meticulously, as exposure to moisture has caused a lot of damage to the original (bottom).

Copy of some figures from the Seti I tomb, by Minutoli in 1820.

Photograph from the tomb of Seti I, showing (from left) Syro-Palestinians, Nubians, Lybians, and Egyptian. An example of what I mean on this link.