ETHIOPIA:THE OLDEST PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

ETHIOPIA
HISTORY & ORIGIN
           (Extracted from the book, Reality as Myth)
BY
ONYEJI NNAJI
                


 Those piles of ruins which you see in that narrow valley watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the pride of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. ... There a people, now forgotten, discovered while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe (Count Volney).
Because of the position of Ethiopia in the Bible story as one remarkable black nation with ancient history, it becomes almost impossible to see any other nation as being of more ancient than Ethiopia. Ethiopia suddenly became the yardstick for the analysis of the Negro race. And with the influence of Christianity in the inner part of Africa, the adherents were provided with bold pictures of the cradle of the human race. Ethiopia became seemingly hallowed, glorious and heaven-like-home to the listeners. We had the same idea as children. In this sense, Ethiopia became the most desired place to visit. Those glory became somewhat watered down when findings began to become clearer about the origin of Ethiopia. Ethiopia no longer appears like a people that grew from the ground like grasses to form the beginning of the human race. The excerpt by Count Volney above reflects and attempted to re-enact the nature of the ancient glory which Ethiopia had in the time past.

Ethiopia was the first African nation to have an empress. The involvement of a woman leader as empress or queen appeared to create certain impression about their belonging to the African cultural tradition. Africa in the early time gave no recognition to female leadership. But this diversification of leadership instead attempted to show Ethiopia contributions to the global civilization and Africa as well. It is beyond question to ask whether Ethiopians were Blacks seeing their skin which is ostensible. No nation of the world had Blacks without having encountered Africans in the past. Colour then aided immensely in deciding who was African and who was not, it doesn’t matter the part of the world the people concerned may have found themselves. By that we may assert without recourse to any faculty that Ethiopia had been, was and are Africans. J.G. Jackson noted thus:
Now that we have straightened out ourselves on the issue of the classification of races, we may properly turn to the main subject matter of this essay, i.e., the ancient Ethiopians and their widespread influence on the early history of civilization. In discussing the origin of civilization in the ancient Near East, Professor Charles Seignobos in his History of Ancient Civilization, notes that the first civilized inhabitants of the Nile and Tigris- Euphrates valleys, were a dark-skinned people with short hair and prominent lips; and that they are referred to by some scholars as Cushites (Ethiopians).
Regurgitating this nature of glory and adornment ascribed to the ancient Ethiopia as the cradle of the human society, especially Africa, the summary becomes not difficult to pinpoint that all African nation originated from here. For as the western historians had esteemed Ethiopia; associating the inhabitants as having originated from the direct trace of Noah’s family, Ethiopia appeared before people eyes as the point from where Africa as a people should be defined. Our discussion of Ethiopia here shall cut across the various research works kept about Ethiopia. We shall concentrate attention on what the oral tradition says; not the succinct history adopted by the White race who would or may have undermined what Africa had said about herself.  

(i) Ethiopia at Inception.        

Several research works have been carried out on the history of Ethiopia, especially when her contributions to global civilization are called to mind. We have pointed out some of these works in chapter one, especially those that proved false about the real issue about the nation. Prominent among our refuted claims is that which was suggested by Rudolph remarks thus:
There were two Ethiopian nations in the ancient times (eastern Ethiopia and western Ethiopia). There was an Ethiopian civilization in southern Mesopotamia (Babylon), but the people in that area did not use their tribal name, Ethiopia, to designate their nationality. They called themselves by the name of the city they have constructed and inhabited, or they called themselves by the event that happened there,... this is why the Ethiopian tribes called themselves Babylonians, referring to the name to the name of the city they constructed  
We have clarified why we considered no air of truth in this assertion. There was however instances of the coopting of the inhabitants of Babylon at the end of the fall of the Babylonian empire. As the first to settle at the region of the Nile River, Ethiopia stood a better chance to civilize the rest of the Nile communities, even up to the Euphrates and Tigris valleys. Their civil position exposed them to the descendants of those who survived the flood in Noah’s ark (the descendants of Adam). We do not doubt that there is spittle of this population that joined Ethiopia from Babylon. We only insist that this handful number of people is not logical enough to be defended as forming the source of Ethiopia or constituting another Ethiopia at another location to give way to two types of Ethiopia.

Another aspect of the discussion on Ethiopian history was still masterminded by the suggestions of the white race that proved supreme even historically. These idealists suggested that Ethiopia descended from Noah. According to this idea, which had been fanned to flame even by some Ethiopians, Ethiopia descended from Cush. Ethiopians applauded this suggestion because it enlisted Ethiopia as the first people to exist among the Black race. We are yet to clarify this claim. But before this, we should ask; is history turning upside-down? Where then is credibility in the fact that the entire human race emanated in West Africa as proved by several researches including archaeology, anthropology, DNA reports and other? We found this claim in some history books that developed in the Northern part of Africa, especially Egypt and Ethiopia. The irony which had never been stated still boils down to the White’s xenophobic and hegemonic intention to label Africa accursed. Why is Africa associated with the very son of Noah whom the father had cursed?

Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy gave the following explanation about the history of Northern part of Africa.
In the Book of Genesis, Ham is one of the sons of Noah. Ham’s children are Mizraim, Cush, Put, and Canaan, but in the Bible the names of Ham’s children are also used to denote geographical places: Egypt (Mizraim), Ethiopia (Cush), Libya (Put), and Palestine (Canaan). Many biblical scholars have proposed that the name Ham meant, in ancient Hebrew, “black” and “hot,” implying that the Land of Ham was a warm, tropical region populated by Black people (African Genesis, 73).
Egypt (Mizram), Ethiopia (Cush); that is the history as the connectivity with the white race could present it. We have said this before that the Cushites may have been the population of Ethiopia that came much later after the land had been inhabited by the Black race. Otherwise, there is no possibility of any Cush found in the history of Ethiopia of the earliest race, for the country had been inhabited by Black population before the inception of Nubia and Egypt. Arthur Dyot Thomas, in the 1872 publication by M.A. of Balliol College, Oxford, made the following remark about the origin of the Cushite idea.
According to Arabian tradition, the old race or the Cushites, consisted of twelve tribes, the name of the one of which, Amlik, is Biblical being the same as Amalek. Both the Ethiopian countries had adopted the reform brought about under the name of Abraham. This was why the southern Ethiopians pretended to be the descendants of the ancient Hebrews who practiced the law before Moses wrote it (On Mankind,11).
How may we reconcile this with the long lasted claim that Ethiopia was Cush? Africa generally had had certain practices and tradition which the Arabians, especially Israel had copied and sustained as having originated from them. Circumcision, for instance, was the original practice of the African ancestors before the exodus of the Negro fathers. The Igbo hold to the view that circumcision has to take place on the eighth day from birth as a mark of assuming the fullness of flesh as a human being. The highest level of spirituality to the Igbo is seven. And the Igbo believe that a child remains spirit up till the seventh day. On the eighth day the child turns human, and at such should be welcomed into the human world via circumcision. The Igbo fathers were gods until the eighth generation of their days when they had encounter with the daughters of the created humans and were defiled. This belief akin to the biblical words thus, “And the LORD said, my spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3).

It was to commemorate the evil day when the gods lose their godhood that circumcision was remarkable. There are other traditions that were copied by the westerners. That is what Ethiopia had defended. It is a restatement to indicate that they existed before even Cush himself who was claimed to have founded them. Should there be certain numbers of Ethiopians founded by Cush, then such people must be of the later population of Ethiopians; not the first.
Igbo (Africa) people did not construct a rigid and closely argued system of thought to explain the universe and the place of man in it, preferring the metaphor of myth and poetry, anyone seeking an insight into their world must seek it along their own way. Some of these ways are folks-tales, proverbs, proper names, rituals and festivals.
In our research on the Igbo (African) history and neighbours, one of the elders told us that the Igbo history cannot be completely documented without oral tales. To assist in the research, he advised that we should ask for the original, real or first name given to any people or things. According to him, “The first name gives information on the origin and purpose of the existence of such a people or thing(Reminiscence, 46)
The search for the original, real name of Ethiopia took us to the discovery of the clan that settled first in Ethiopia. According to the Wikipedia records and other sources, the oldest tribe in Ethiopia is the inhabitants of the country which reside at the Afar region. This tribe is known as Kambata. The Kambata are an ethnic group dwelling on the lip of the rift valley about 350 miles south of Addis Ababa in south-western Ethiopia. They are referred to as the boiling point of Ethiopia because of the Afar region. The Kambata are bordered on the north by the Hadiya and Alaba, on the south by the Tembaro and Wolayta, on the west by the Wolayta and Hadiya, and on the east by the Billate River, which separates them from the Arsi Oromo. They are predominantly sedentary agriculturalists cultivating enseteedulis and some grains. Because of the Ensete cultivation, which is carried out in close proximity to the residence, closely clustered villages predominate throughout the area.

Our findings show that this name, Kambata, carries the expression that is purely Igbo. Kambata is an Igbo expression whose meaning is realized in the manner of a plea. As a plea, Kambata is relatively used to appease human beings and gods. It explains a circumstance where one comes to a place which had been inhabited by another person(s), to settle, he had to plead acceptance. On another condition, one may plead with a superior being or god; monster or spirit that had already inhabited a place beforehand. He pleads this way to let the superior being grant him the permission to dwell in the place. When translated, Kambata means “let me come in”. In the Ethiopia situation, I suppose this condition came into place following the situation the first inhabitants were confronted with at the time of inception. Tesfaye Habisso is an indigene of Kambata. In his account of the origin of Kambata, he remarked thus,
Oral tradition recounts that the name Kambata was given by the first inhabitants of thisarea themselves, known in Kambata oral history as the “Ambericho Seven” (‘Ambericholamala’) who were a group of seven wondering tribes of the Sidama-Omotic peoples, namely Gozuta, Ebbejena, Effegena, Tazuta, Hinnira, Bazata and Saga. It is said that when these seven groups reached the area around the Ambericho massif they found the place very suitable for human settlement and decided to settle there. They said, “this is the place where we shall live”, “this is a place of our choice” (in Kambata language “he’ nnami bu kembata” and thus the name Kambata).
The vernacular expression in the parenthesis above looks like the Igbo expression, I he mnasi bu kambata. This expression has the same meaning with the Kambata local expression in the excerpt above. Looking at the translation of the word Kambata thus, “this is the place where we shall live” or the second translation, “this is a place of our choice” draws attention to the explanation made above about the situation that could lead to the saying kambata in Igbo language. In line with the above explanation, it was possible that the founding fathers of Kambata may have been faced with difficult challenges at the time of inception such that, in stating or declaring the reason they had to live there, they said so. Retaining this name for so long despite the influx of many more population that trooped into the settlement later clearly shows the irreplaceable role of the word to the existence of the people of Kambata.

Another oral account states that the name ‘Kambata’ was first given by the Oromos and it meant, “we have surrounded you; how can you get out of your encirclement?” This encirclement by the Oromo may probably imply the period of the Oromo expansions and the numerous wars fought between the Oromos and the Sidama peoples. The expression here still follows the same line of meaning. “We have surrounded you; how can you get out of your encirclement” as mentioned here does not have to mean Kambata. If the situation presented by the Oromos oral tradition about Kambata is true, then it is evident that the meaning of Kambata is not buried in the expression; instead it came simply as a response to the challenge. In this case, the Oromos must have had Igbo origin. This second oral tradition cannot be true since it appears to present the Oromos on an elderly seat that the Kambata.

Again, the Oromos war with the Sidama people which was believed to have given birth to this name took place far later in the years 1550-70 and later. By this time Ethiopia had become a nation with established legendary monarchy for over one thousand years earlier. History even made us to know that Arabians entered Ethiopia before the days of the Oromos. They formed a greater part of the population of Habesha people in the earliest time. Habesha population formed the second earliest tribe in Ethiopia. With the influx of people from different directions boundary bound, Habesha has similar historical problem like the Kambata. The only difference is on the direct discovery of the term “Kambata” as the most possible trace to their original population.

Our discovering reveals that the first set of travellers to go beyond the eastern boundary via the North-Sahara outpost ended their journey in Kambata. Added to this suggestion are similarities in the ancient potteries found in the area. Among the potteries, we chose to sample this chair and examine the similarity between it and the Igbo traditional seat. The Igbo have several seats of this nature and with varying styles. It was the form of their craft.

                    Kambata                                     Igbo
It was the settlement of these populations in the Lower Nile valley that encouraged the later populations that followed that part. And as had been the Igbo tradition, new comers do not reside with the old settlers in the same place. The instinct of every Igbo as it concerns expansion tells him the needs of exploring a new ground. This was the policy that guided the later emigrants that founded Nubia and Egypt respectively. J.A. Bailey wrote on these later migrations, stressing the period to be around 125,000 BC. In his words, “Around 125,000 BC a group of Africans moved northward towards the Nile.” (African Bible Messages, Feb. 2014).

          (ii) The Spread of Ethiopia Population
Centuries after the arrival of Kambata in Ethiopia, the area became suddenly flooded by populations of people from different places. Researches proved that the population that marked the A Group, Nubia, first arrived the area and were  beckoned to stay by the people in the land, but the travellers turned down the offer and moved on to the place where they finally settled. The ability of these two different set of people to communicate and understand themselves in the manner of offer and rejection tells a little, if not much about them belonging to a same language group. Ethiopia was later populated by other groups of traveller; some which had travelled from inner Africa and others belonging to the Arabic population. The Oromo were significant because of their war with the later population, the Sidama, but Habesha and Aksum appeared more popular.

Habesha, as mentioned earlier, has a complicated history in terms of their origin. May scholars had insisted that Habesha had migrated from Yemen. According to Eduard Glaser, in The Academy, Volume 48, p. 415,
Habeshas were originally from Southeastern Yemen who lived east of the Hadhramaut kingdom in the modern district of Mahra. 
He was of the opinion that the etymology of Habesha must have derived from the Mahri language which means “gatherers”, (as in gatherers of incense), for the Habeshas were remarkable with their earliest trade on incense. He asserted that the Mahrites and their language should be regarded as the descendants of the people and speech of ancient Habeshas. This claim by Glaser is conflicting a little to ordinary historical analysis. The earliest relationship revealed between the Habeshats and the Yemenites does not give ways towards believing that they may have migrated from Yemen. Documents kept about the relationship of these two people show that Yemen and Habesha were war partners. The explanation given in the book, Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity by Stuart Munro-Hay, 1991, p.73, reveals Habesha deal with wars, alliances and peace treaties among rivaling Yemeni kingdoms. 
Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and Himyar had called in the help of the clans of Habashat for war against the kings of Saba; but Ilmuqah granted ... the submission of Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and the clans of Habashat.
Thinking of this, it is clear that no normal clan anywhere in Africa is summoned to partner in the very war that befalls the community. Instead, courtesy demands that a neighbouring community or clan may partner with her neighbour in war when according to demands. Even the Habeshats could not tell of their oral tradition, instead had depended on the pieces of historical pointers found in their relationship with neighbouring communities. A nation without oral tradition is not only lose to her historical reality but also lose in her true existence as a people.

In fact, the earliest time the word “Habesha” was associated with the Horn of Africa, as revealed in the Sabaean-Himyaritic inscriptions made two thousand years ago, was only in the 4th century CE by the Aksumite king Ezana. This idea shows that even the Oromo and Sidama were earlier in age according to the time they settled in Ethiopia. The Aksumites may have been Igbo emigrants who also settled in Ethiopia after the Kambata. The tribe was organized under the leadership of an Ezana (king of the land). And just like the Pharaoh culture in the ancient Egypt, every king in each generation was addressed as Ezana. In the 4th A.D. the reigning Ezana took up a task to install himself as King of kings. He fought the rest of the tribes in Ethiopia, save Kambata, and conquered them. After conquering neighboring kingdoms and territories on both sides of the Red Sea, Ezana declared himself the:    
Ezana, king of Aksum, and of Himyar, and Kasu, and Saba, and Habashat, and Raydan, and Salhen and Tsiamo, and Beja, the King of Kings                           (Cultural History; 49).
Ezana constructed an obelisk in the heart of Aksum to sustain his name. This obelisk lived till this day as the glory of his conquest.


  
                         Obelisks from the kingdom of Aksum standing in the modern city of the same name.
It was in his days that Christianity came into Ethiopia. Records showed that after the Ezana’s conquest of the tribes, Habesha ceased to be heard of. Based on the inscriptions the Aksumites left behind, they certainly did not regard themselves or their territory as Habesha. For them, Habeshas likely meant people who collected incense in South Arabia. Even Cosmas Indicopleustes, the famous Greek-speaking Egyptian traveler who visited the Aksumite kingdom in 525 CE, made no reference to Habesha. In reference to Ezana's inscription, Professor Max Müller, a German philologist, believed the King of the Habashat had no common territory with the King of Aksum and the fact that the two kingdoms were separate appeared to be credible evidence to him.

He points out that since both the kingdoms named before and after Habashat are found in Arabia it was clear to him that the Habashats were in Arabia as well. It was not until long after Aksumite kingdom had ended that Arab travelers and geographers began to describe the Horn region and its inhabitants as Habeshas. The first among these travelers was Al-Ya'qubi, who visited the region in 872 CE. From his chronicles, we learn there were five independent and rivaling Beja kingdoms in present-day Eritrea and that Habeshas were living alongside them. He also mentions an important Habesha capital near the Eritrean coast called Ku'bar.

We may conclude here that any debate targeted at defending that Ethiopia was original Blacks, except for the earliest days of Kambata settlement in the Afar region, would hold no water. Also, the claim that Ethiopia was founded by Kush or any figure connected to the Arabian tribes, or the possibility of having another Ethiopia elsewhere as suggested by Dr. Spenser above and Rudolph R. Windsor shown in chapter one above will be dully fallacious. Every instance sampled here on Ethiopia history shows direct involvement of the Black, although instances of the handful number of Arabians in the later involvement is undisputable. Arthur Dyot Thomas, in the 1872 publication by M.A. of Balliol College, Oxford, made it clear in the excerpt below thus.
According to Arabian tradition, the old race or the Cushites, consisted of twelve tribes, the name of the one of which, Amlik, is Biblical being the same as Amalek. Both the Ethiopian countries had adopted the reform brought about under the name of Abraham. This was why the southern Ethiopians pretended to be the descendants of the ancient Hebrews who practiced the law before Moses wrote it (On Mankind,11).

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