By Mehmet Kurtkaya, Published on February 17, 2019
String of lapis lazuli beads, Predynastic, Naqada II, Egypt, New York Metropolitan Museum
, Tutankhamun's mask Wikimedia
Replica of the golden mask of Tutankhamun in the Egyptian Museum. The mask has lapis lazuli around the eyes and eyebrows. This is in line with Sumerian deity statues with lapis lazuli eyes. For Sumerians, eyes were connected to human soul. Some Sumerian myths mention that the hero "raised his eyes to the heavens above".
The two finds are dated 2000 years apart, but lapis lazuli's significance is not diminished.
The origins of Ancient Egypt is rarely a topic of discussion. The origins of the Etruscan and the Sumerian civilizations are not discussed either, or should I say, very rarely discussed, even when the main stream view that all civilizations developed locally has been proven wrong many times over in the past. Archaeogenetics data of the last 20 years, especially of the last few years has provided a big challenge to the status quo.
More than 100 years ago, Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, one of the pioneers in the field, had noticed the abrupt change in Naqada burial customs and burial goods. He had suggested that the conquest of Egypt by more advanced people was behind the founding of ancient Dynastic Egypt. Whether this was conquest or migration or both is up for debate but the evidence of a quicky developing civilization is obvious and certainly not restricted to the findings from Petrie's time, the 1ate 19th to early 20th century.
Moreover, the suggestion that ancient Egyptian civilization was founded by a migrating people from Mesopotamia, hence Sumerians, was widely accepted until mid-20th century.
Also see: Egyptian Pyramids derive from Sumerian Ziggurats!
I had proven that the Sumerian Turks were, together with the local people, the major driving force in the foundation of Dynastic Egypt starting with the Old Kingdom, with my book on the Sumerian Origins based on four major points:
- Migrations from Siberia and Central Asia
- The trail of Sumerian ziggurats and Egyptian pyramids
- The trail of Lapis Lazuli from Eastern Afghanistan/South Central Asia to Mesopotamia and then to Egypt
- The religious reasons behind both the building of the ziggurats/pyramids and the use of Lapis Lazuli in Sumerian mythology
I had also shown that ancient Egypt was a result of the Uruk Expansion like Minoan Greece. See Sumerian Migrations, Sumerian Original Homeland Central Asia, Ancestral Homeland Siberia, Ugur (Hurrian), and Implications for the Indo-European Homeland for details)
Sumerian Migrations on Eurasian Map click on the map for the article and full size image
In my books, I have shown that migration was key in founding and the spread of ancient civilizations. This fact continues to be proven by archaeogenetics data in 2019. The mainstream idea that all civilizations flourished locally with cultural contacts but without migrations, has been already proven completely false.
For example, farming, the driving force behind neolithic civilizations together with animal husbandry, has first been practiced in Anatolia/Turkey and spread to all corners of Eurasia and Africa. Same can be said of animal domestication, including cattle, sheep domestication in Southeast Turkey. The spread of neolithic revolution involved migrations of the people for the most part and not solely dissemination of ideas as proposed by main stream academics.
One of the best articles on the origins of ancient Egypt is Japanese archaeologist Michinori Ohshiro's A study of lapis lazuli in the formative period of Egyptian Culture: An approach in terms of culture contact written first in Japanese in 1996, while still a PhD student.
Unfortunately, I have found this article only a few days ago, as until now I was not concentrating my efforts on the origins of Egypt, since I had already shown its founders were Sumerians. Ohshiro's article, however, suggests not only exploring the origins of Ancient Egypt by tracing Lapis Lazuli but also the powerful idea to use the change in the supply of lapis lazuli to explain the differences between these two cultures.
Although the author is cautious about diffusionism, he lists major similarities between the two civilizations mentioning the findings of great scholars such as Flanders Petrie, Walter Bryan Emery, Joan Crowfoot Payne, J.A. Wilson, and Helene Kantor (The Early Relations of Egypt with Asia, 1942), and Ichirō Katō.
He also makes a good list of cultural and technological elements connecting ancient Egypt and Sumer, including animal reliefs, Gebel el-Arak knife-handle, the painted wall and cylinder seals at Hierakonpolis, solar calendar, Mesopotamian mythical animals and mythological concepts. Each one of these are by themselves major points indicating the validity of the Sumerian Uruk - ancient Egypt connection.
Above all, he remarks the importance of lapis lazuli trade as a marker of this influence and finishes with: "... it is very strange to say that nobody has used lapis lazuli as the main material in describing ancient Egyptian history, because a large quantity of lapis lazuli are excavated in Egypt as much as Mesopotamia."
Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian HieroglyphsUnlike the evolutionary development of writing from pictograms to logograms and cuneiform in Sumer, Egyptian hieroglyphs appear rather fully developped. J. A. Wilson had suggested that while the two writing systems are different, Egyptians seem to have borrowed the idea.
This parallels the quick development of an advanced civilization from Neolithic Egypt in a short period of time including mythology, architecture and dynastic sociopolitical organization.
In addition to the above, "niched facades" (Egypt origins)characteristic of Mesopotamian culture, Mesopotamian boat depictions in petroglyphs (David Rohl, Legend-The Genesis of Civilisation), (Michael Rice, Egypt's Making), mythological connections, might be added.
I should also add L. A. Waddell (Egyptian Civilization Its Sumerian Origin and Real Chronology) to the list of scholars who were aware of the foundational link between ancient Dynastic Egypt (3000 BC) and Sumerian civilization founded about 1000 years earlier in around 4000 BC.
The importance of the transportation of Lapis Lazuli
Lazurite brute from Afghanistan, Wikimedia
Clearly associated with the sky, its night blue color with white calcite evoke starry nights.
I prefer to use the term transportation rather than trade because the migrating people carried the semi-precious gemstone with themselves for their own religious use. It's hard to imagine Sumerians were trading lapis lazuli with people who may not have valued the stone.
The importance of the transportation of Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan to Egypt was first remarked in 1944, by Helene Kantor who was still a student at the time. She had published "The Final Phase of Predynastic Culture, Gerzean or Semainean" in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies.
Gerzean also known as Naqada II dates to about 3500–3200 BC, hence lapis lazuli in Egyptian tombs dates to mid 4th millenium BC, the era of Sumerian Uruk expansion.
Sumerian Standart of Ur 2500 BC, background lapis lazuli mosaic, Wikimedia Alma E. Guinness