Discover more from Grey Goose Chronicles
The Return of 'Dynastic Race Theory'?
Genetic results from Egypt may resurrect some old and unwelcome ideas
An intriguing thread appeared on X/Twitter a few days ago, from an account called MiroCyo. He presented a set of results which might appear in a future publication about the genetics of modern and prehistoric Egyptian populations. There were lots of interesting points made in subsequent posts, but two things in particular stood out:
The presence of roughly 15% Italian Bell Beaker/Steppe ancestry in the genome of Djehutynakht (end of the 1st Intermediate Period)
The introduction of Mesopotamian ancestry during the last Predynastic phase (Gerzeh/Naqada II)
The reason the last point in particular is so striking is that it potentially resurrects a long abandoned theory about the invasion/migration of Mesopotamian elites into Egypt, founding the first Pharaonic Dynasties. The material culture of the Gerzeh period is well known for the sudden appearance of cylinder seals, Mesopotamian relief art and resources such as silver and lapis lazuli - all of which points to a sudden and extensive contact period with the Near East.
Long-time readers might have a sense of déjà vu here, another 19th century theory brought back to life after a century of refutation, thanks to modern genetics. We’ve seen this with the invasions from the steppe, the Bell Beakers, the Anglo-Saxons, the Swahili-Persians, the introduction of agriculture into Europe and many more places. Old ideas about invasions and migrations were shut down, but genetic ancestry reopens the case.
We don’t have definitive evidence yet for any Mesopotamian invasion, but I think it is worth re-visiting ‘Dynastic Race Theory’ and waiting to see what happens. It should surprise no-one at this point if it turns out to be correct.
So, what is Dynastic Race Theory?
We have to start with the work of Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942). Petrie is one of those men we don’t make anymore, an archaeologist from birth, endowed with the 19th century spirit of boldness, luck, confidence and a broad education, he remains one of the pioneers of scientific excavation methods and Egyptology. The list of objects, cities and time periods he discovered is too huge to cite - but one of his greatest achievements was deducing the existence of a Predynastic period - the Badarian Culture.
Skeletal remains from the Naqada excavations in Upper Egypt began to be compared to later remains, and Petrie (among others) became convinced that there had been an introduction of physically different people, who went on to build the pyramids. In the language of the day these were described as different races, today we would speak about different genetic ancestry.
While Petrie was working on his excavation report on Naqada, in which he outlined his New Race theory, these letters show that he was discussing this theory in context of the skulls found and biometric measuring. His published excavation report repeated his assertion to Pearson that the skulls had a ‘marked type with massive brows, deep-cut bridge to the nose and a short but very prominent nose’ (Petrie 1896: 35)
-Skull Triangles: Flinders Petrie, Race Theory and Biometrics (2016) Debbie Challis
Naturally after making this discovery I was asked where the invaders had come from. My reply was that quite definitely they had not come from the south as the Dynastic people were far removed from any negroid element. It was improbable that they had entered Egypt from the west, both on account of the difficulties involved in crossing the desert and still more because no such people have ever been identified west of Egypt. If these people came from the north, they must have come across the sea and traces of their presence should be found in the Delta, or if the latter in ancient times was impassable owing to its swampy condition, then on one or other side of the Delta where it is bounded by the west and east deserts; but nothing of the sort has ever been found. We are left then with the east as the most probable region from which an invasion could take place
-The Dynastic Race in Egypt (1956) D.E.Derry
That the Dynastic race came from outside Egypt cannot as yet be definitely proved; indeed historians are somewhat coy on this all-important subject, but the probability that they did is so strong as to make it practically a certainty. Once it is assumed that a vigorous race of fighters occupied Egypt, notorious for its extreme fertility, many subsequent events, great and small, which are provable, seem to slip into their places almost automatically.
-An Essay on the Advent of the Dynastic Race in Egypt and its Consequence (1943) R. Engelbach
Of course, this theory is not at all accepted anymore, with all its rootedness in colonial racism and tacit acceptance of ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ races. Egyptology has instead opted for an indigenous or local model of state development, with little outside interference.
The later model of indigenous development is based upon both agriculture and warfare, with the Upper Egyptian nomes or districts conquering the Northern nomes in Lower Egypt. This model of state formation avoids population migrations along the Nile Valley, and is reliant only on in situ development by the indigenous population
-Population Continuity or Population Change: Formation of the Ancient Egyptian State (2007) Sonia R. Zakrzewski
If it does turn out that Neolithic Egypt was invaded from Mesopotamia, which ultimately led to the development of a Pharaonic elite complete with a new religion, alphabet, art style and so on, it would mark a new chapter in archaeological history. Much older ideas about military elites imposing themselves on agricultural populations would have to be revived, as they already are.
We are of course jumping the gun slightly here, as of today there is still no genetic sequence of any Sumerian to compare to, and we await the publication of these prehistoric Egyptian samples. But my cards are on the table, watch this space….