Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Ancient Kemetic Roots of Library and Information Science

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Ancient Kemetic Roots of Library and Information Science

Article excerpt


The knowledge of knowledge, and its acquisition, should not be a mystery to the African, because historical evidence indicates that it was his/her ancestors, the ancient people of Kemet (KMT), "the black land" (the words Kemet and Egypt are used interchangeably throughout this presentation), who built and operated the first major libraries and institutions of higher education in the world.

Thus, the African should take his/her proper first place in library history, a well-deserved first place, based upon historical evidence.1 That evidence directs us to begin our discussion of library and information science with ancient Kemet (KMT), "the black land", Egypt, the home of all humankind, a high culture, and the African world community, and consequently, an essential starting point in any discussion of civilization and history that will allow us to define and develop new realities and visions for human development.

The great Cheikh Anta Diop (1923-1986), author, Egyptologist, Kemetologist, historian, linguist, and scientist, stressed the importance of the above when he wrote:

For us, the return to Egypt in all domains is the necessary condition for reconciling African civilizations with history, in order to be able to construct a body of modern human sciences, in order to renovate African culture. Far from being a reveling in the past, a look toward Egypt of antiquity is the best way to conceive and build our cultural future. In reconceived and renewed African culture, Egypt will play the same role that Greco-Latin antiquity plays in Western culture (Diop, 1991, 3).

Hence Kemet is to Africa what Greece is to Europe, a foundation/introduction to civilization, and in the case of Africa, the oldest civilization, developed in part 6,000 years ago by people of African descent in the rich Nile valley.

The Ancient Egyptians: An African People

Now the Black civilization that shook the white man up the most was the Egyptian civilization, a Black civilization. (He) was able to take the Egyptian civilization, write books about it, put pictures in those books, make movies for television and the theater---so skillfully that he has even convinced other white people that the ancient Egyptians were white people... They were African; they were as much African as you and I (Malcolm X, January 24, 1965).

There is an ongoing debate concerning the race of the ancient Egyptians. Some have said the Egyptians were not Black, and thus African people have no claim to Egyptian culture, and that the Black folks pictured in the temples and on the monuments of Egypt were only slaves in a racially mixed Egyptian population, and thus did not play a significant role in Egyptian civilization.

To debate the issue here isn't necessary. However, we can briefly explore this important topic and remind ourselves and others that "... human lineage began in Africa some 2.5 million years ago... ", and as a result, all humans are genetically linked to an African woman who lived 200,000 years ago (Williams, 1991, 56-57).

Cheikh Anta Diop, author of "Origin of the Ancient Egyptians" in Egypt Revisited (Van Sertima, 1982, 9-37), understood the significance of the above facts. His research uncovered seven key aspects of this race/culture debate:

(1) He asked the curator of the Cairo Museum to allow him to perform a melanin (skin color) test to determine the pigmentation of the ancient Kemetics and thus end the debate. The curator refused to allow him to perform the test. The test would, according to Diop, "... enable us to classify the ancient Egyptians unquestionably among the Black races." (Ibid, 15)

(2) He reported that, by osteological measurements (body size as determined by muscles and bones) used in physical anthropology, the ancient Egyptians were an African people (Ibid).

(3) He discussed the connection of the Group B blood type among the modern and ancient Egyptian populations, and the African population of West Africa (Ibid, 16). …

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