Summarized herein in the form of an essay is a review of two books written by two distinguished authors of European origin. The books, Eternal Egypt: the Civilization of Egypt from Earliest Times to Conquest by Alexander the Great[i] by Frenchman Pierre Montet translated from the original French by Doreen Weightman and Africa: a Biography of the Continent[ii] by Anglo-Saxon, John Reader.
In his book, Africa: A Biography of the Continent, John Reader, eulogizes the prevalence of domesticated plants and animals, technological innovation, the establishment of villages and increasing level of social interdependence in the now empty and waterless Sahara desert even before the pyramids were built (Reader, p. 151). On the other hand, he articulately and meritoriously adduces evidences regarding the cultivation of food-crops such as wheat, barley, peas, and lentils along the Nile River despite these crops being cultivated earlier some 9,000 years ago in the “fertile crescent” of the Near East in reference to “the land between the two rivers”, formerly in the ancient nation of Mesopotamia and currently in the modern state of Iraq. Thus, cultivation of indigenous African plants did not begin in
but rather in the south, an indication of the ancient nation of Nubia.
Nubia, a vast land
straddling the Nile valley to the south of Egypt
was once a colony of Egypt.
Both authors unanimously confirm the colonization of Nubia
Pierre Montet further explicates how Nubians had their own form of arts and
crafts and at the same time borrowed Egyptian artistic traditions (Montet, p.
Rich in natural resources,
Nubia was, for over 1,000 years, a major
supplier of gold, ivory, timber, animal products, and slaves to Egypt until the
emergence of powerful Nubian rulers who instituted a centralized authority that
would have severe repercussions on the dwindling pharaonic empires. The arrival
of powerful invading Assyrian armies wielding weapons of iron[iv]
eventually led to the collapse of the once powerful Cushitic kingdom in Nubia. Both
authors acknowledge the majesty of the civilization that thrived in Meroe. “Yet the Kingdom
of Meroe can be given credit for having carried Egyptian civilization further
south than the pharaohs themselves had ever succeeded in doing”, says so Pierre
while John Reader concludes its downfall accordingly: “Meroe was effectively an
expression of Egyptian civilization rooted in what the pharaohs had called the
land of punt-indigenous black Africa.” [vi]
The absence of genuine documentation, as Montet claims, is convincing evidence that Egyptians did not reach the confluence of the two
Perhaps, by the two Niles, the author is referring
to the two tributaries the Blue Nile originating at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and the White Nile which originates in Lake Victoria and is at the confluence of the Bahr
al-Ghazal and Bahr al-Jabel Rivers.
At least the two authors agree on the name “punt” to which they separately refer to as “the land of the God” (Montet, p. 120) and “God’s land” (Reader, p. 196). On the contrary, the authors fail to agree on the exact location of punt in our modern world map. Pierre Montet suggestively assumes the location of punt to have been in the
Bay of Hafun
figuratively pointing it to the south of .
In a nutshell, he is of the view that the incense-bearing tree Queen Hatshepsut
sought after to exploit is plentifully found in Cape Guardafui Africa
and Arabia Felix respectively.
Pierre Montet, despite employing persuasive historical and scientific research methodologies gained from his many years of distinguished career as an Egyptologist and his accumulated experience during work at the German Archaeological Institute of Berlin, fails to garner convincing consensus to uncovering the validity of the
He implausibly postulates two unrelated localities and as a final point fails
to make amends with the reader. In their pursuit of literary reputation, no
wonder, many writers tend to huggermugger. On the contrary, John Reader,
relying on available evidence, easily recapitulates without making mangled
assumptions by placing the location of punt “between the Red Sea and the
southern Kordofan province of the Land of Punt Sudan.”[vii] Several
African tribes and states lay claim to the historical Cush kingdom.
Most notably, Somalis, Amhara,
Tigre, Nubians, Oromo,
and Sudanese-Arabs place profound hereditary and historical inclination to the
Cushitic kingdom of old. Currently, in the modern state of Somalia, there is a
region known as Puntland located on the eastern corner of Somalia bordering the
Red Sea and closest the Gulf of Aden where frankincense and myrrh -the two most
prominent products sought after by ancient Egyptian pharaohs abundantly grow in
the wild to this day.
Whichever claim is true; our reliance on historical inscriptions found in the tombs and pyramids of
Nubia and Egypt and information gathered from
archeological excavations should be enough to serve as concrete and compelling
evidence for the moment simply for educational purposes until novel exposures
reveal otherwise in the future. What amuses the skeptical reader is the
paragraph in John Reader’s book that states, “the concept of the Nile as a
corridor through which the civilizing influence were conveyed to sub-Saharan
Africa is the basis of an essentially Eurocentric interpretation of African
history, implying that Africans were incapable of developing their own versions
of civilization. It has an appealing simplicity, but is contradicted by the
In one way one or the other, the author himself seems not to the point as regards whether Africans were civilized or not. The judge who could arbitrate on the flimsy and much-debated issue of who-was-who in African civilization is the infant and tender baby archeology whose distinct brushes and micro-blades have failed to go beyond the borders of
America, North Africa, and Europe.
John Reader reports that, according to the high official Henu, the expedition
was undertaken on behalf of Montuhotep III c.1975 BC. On the other hand, Pierre
Montet states that the ships were built in Chaldea and that they “sailed down
the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf, went round the enormous Arabian Peninsula
and eventually reached the .”[ix]
Reader tries to make a case in point by claiming the ship was carried piece by
piece across 150 km of desert to the land
of Punt Red Sea
coast. (Reader p. 196)
[i] Pierre Montet, Eternal Egypt: The Civilization of Egypt from Earliest Times to Conquest by Alexander the Great, 5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane,
WC2H 9EA London
[ii] John Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent, Alfred A. Knopf,
[iii] Ibid. (Montet, p. 118)
[iv] Ibid. (Reader 197)
[v] Ibid. (Montet, p. 120)
[vi] Ibid (Reader p. 199)
[vii] Ibid (Reader, p. 196)
[viii] Ibid (Reader p. 195)
[ix] Ibid (Monetet p. 124)