Friday, December 5, 2008

The Kmt-famed Pwnt ("Punt"): Exactly where was it located!

The name "Pwnt", known by many in the "West" as "Punt", has come to us by Kemetic accounts and legends of journeys to this exotic land, generally given an air of veneration, i.e. ancestral veneration, one perhaps predicated on the idea of distant ancestors coming from the south. One sees recurring themes of this air of respect in both wall reliefs depicting journeys to and descriptions invoked legends around this 'exotic' land. Without these accounts, all else about this land would have been lost to us, at least in so far as we now know it—as "Pwnt", as it only appears by that moniker in Kemetic records; no actual scripts of the "Puntites" have been uncovered in archaeological areas "of interest", that researchers suspect, again from Kemetic descriptions, to have hosted the community of "Pwnt" that we all have heard time and again about from Kemetians. Because of this, the precise whereabouts of "Pwnt" remains mysterious to some degree; if Kemetic descriptions have provided a hint that narrows down the most plausible general location, then the same cannot be said about either the precise location of the center of administration or the territorial extent of "Pwnt". This leaves the "Land of Punt" becoming a subject of speculation and debate. One recurring theme in debates, is the physiological appearance of 'Pwnt' occupants on wall reliefs. That aside, other groups are invoked in the "Land of Punt". The following is a well known snapshot of a disfigured wall relief painting that has seen much circulation on the web:

Snapshots like that above have been used to reach the conclusion that the "Puntites" had a single physiological appearance, wherein the facial characteristics resembled that conventionally applied to Kemetic figures or personalities; in a word, "Puntites" seemingly lacked intra-population diversity. Some discussants have used this as proof that "Puntites" must have lived on the Red Sea coast of Africa or the African Horn, as if to suggest that diversity does not occur in that region itself. Other images though, don't paint a picture quite so simplistic; they show occupants in and around "Punt" that present an air of diversity about the region. An example of this can be seen below:

(click for hi resolution)

The old Them "Negroes" or "Nubians" aspect of the aforementioned subject of speculation and debate...

The resolution of the repro above apparently isn't high enough, but closer examination [click on the image above] shows that the four beardless kneeling figures for instance, on the topmost upper far right hand side, have facial characteristics distinct from figures that follow them [as well as the four kneeling figures immediately below them], whom in turn at least differ in clothing styles and other gear. Some have explained off this "anomalous" situation by suggesting that they happen to be "Nubians". One proponent in this regard is Jack Phillip, whom in his reproduced wall relief renditions, as provided below, deduces that the said beardless kneeling figures on the upper right hand side of the image must be "Nubians"; Phillip's motivation and basis for this apparently comes respectively, from the curiosity inspired by the apparent diversity in the wall relief in question, and in a zeal to explain off the distinctive facial characteristics of said kneeling figures relative to the bearded counterparts, he sought to find the answer in the Mdu-Ntr accompanying the figures, which reads in hieroglyphic signs as follows; n - m - j - w . Hence, Phillip reads "Nmjw" as "Nubians"; it matters not, if these folks were occupants of Kush or in regions between Kemet's southern nome and Kush, which "Western" scholars have traditionally and indiscriminately called "Nubia" even though such a geographical or political entity never actually existed, or yet, they were a segment of populations inhabiting the so-called land of "Punt". It is convenient for Phillip to do so, because in traditional "Western" discourse "Nubian" is essentially tantamount "Forest Negro" archetype, that is to say—any occupants along the Nile Valley that are deemed to not facially meet the "caucasoid" archetype. Hence, "Nubian" in this context is more than just a Eurocentric-created geographical moniker. Now of course, there is also another glyph accompanying the figures immediately below the two figures [whom Phillip says are "Nubians"], but their faces appear to have disappeared in a disfigured area of the wall relief; this glyph is apparently distinct from the one just read as "Nmjw"; it is relatively hard to make the words out there, save to say that the glyphs for either "ir" or simply an ideogram for "see, observe, or watch", followed by "m", and then what appears to be the determinative for "lake" [at the least], are visible. Is this another name yet for "Nubians"? Well, no word on that yet.

Courtesy of Jack Phillip, Punt and Aksum,...

Looking at that close-up repro above, are another set of four kneeling figures; this time bearded, and are right below the figures whom Phillip deems to be "Nubians". Aside from their beards, these kneeling figures have a relatively more "generalized" [facial] appearance relative to the remainder of personalities in this snapshot repro of the larger wall relief. Accompanying the bearded kneeling figure at the bottom end, on the far right, are glyphs that read respectively, p - wn - n - t + determinative for land. Right above this hieroglyphic ensemble of "Pwnnt", which is generally read as simply "Pwnt", there are recurring glyphs of three birds followed by some hard-to-make-out signs [due to bad resolution of the images]. These could perhaps either be ideograms presenting an air of "subordination" of the kneeling figures, or else some yet-to-be sort out word; the [bird] glyphs themselves are usually associated with the letters "wr".

The first figure immediately following the kneeling beardless [Phillip's "Nubians"] figures on the top half of the image above, appears to have no goatee, and has a relatively more rounded and short [light toned] wig(?). On the bottom half of the same image, again the first personality immediately following the four kneeling figures, i.e. the bearded ones, sports a relatively short & round wig(?) that is distinct from both the kneeling figures preceding him from the right hand side, and the figures following him, who sport longer wigs (hair) with head bands; moreover, he is wearing a loincloth-garment that is stylistically distinct from those of the figures behind and in front of him, and has a goatee that is relatively shorter than those of said figures to his either side. His distinctive "short" goatee also sets him apart from the aforementioned standing figure immediately above him, who sports no goatee. It's also necessary to note the stylistic differences between the last three bearded standing figures on the bottom section/register of the image, from the left hand side; the one on the far left, holding the leash of a baboon [we will later examine the exotic animals], has a loincloth-garment (Schenti) that sports a two-pronged strap of cloth draped from the waist over the genital area that we generally see on "Puntite" figures in other images, but the two fellows immediately preceding him, sport the "one piece" strap of cloth draped from the waist over the genital area. Is this just a matter of garment variety in 'Pwnt', a matter of social-class distinctions, or a matter of ethnic distinction? This deserves to be examined.

Some interpret this one occasion as an "anomaly", in its supposed depiction of what some deem "Negroid" characters; however, it is not alone in displaying diversity in imagery associated with 'Pwnt'; take the image below, for instance:

Once again in the above, we come across figures not only displaying a variety of garments, but also apparent physiological diversity. The distinctive plants generally invoked in imagery of the exotic land of "Pwnt" recur here; in particular, the "palm-tree" looking plants and the stunted "tree-like" plants sporting "dome-looking" branch-leaf ensembles on top of their trunks [possibly myrrh trees], or alternatively, the latter type of plants could be compared in shape to a spade. Also, hard not to notice as a recurring theme, is the "dome-topped" architecture or dwelling of some sort, usually with small ladder placed against an opening carved into that dome-like top; this [recurring] architecture seems to be a distinctive feature of the "Land of Punt". We will see these themes again in other imagery associated with 'Pwnnt' or 'Pwnt'. When finally coming to terms with recurring themes of diversity, at least in so far as diversity actually exists in imagery associated with 'Pwnnt/Pwnt', what is the next predictable recourse of some ideologically-inflexible dogmatists in explaining the apparent diversity? Yes, you guessed it: the 'Pwnt' occupants who do not meet their "ideal" perception of who the "Puntites" ought to or should be, and these are occupants who are inclined to also be dismissed as "Negroids, Negroes or black Africans" in some quarters, are branded as "slaves"; of course, these are claims with no textual or primary Kemetic support to them—suggesting that one group of 'Pwnt' occupants here are slaves and the other are just 'freely-living' locals. It is the old answer to the "Negro" question; if their presence cannot be explained as merely that of the "foreigner" in the land under discussion, then they must surely be "slaves". In what can only elicit one's amusement, one forum discussant went as far as invoking 'slavery' in Ethiopia back in ca. 4th century, presumably as his idea of evidence for said claim, concerning wall relief renditions that are dated substantially well before the common era. Some of these ideologues, in a halfhearted attempt to partake in what to them essentially allows them self-expression in a 'politically correct' way, replace "Negroes" with "Nubians" when it comes to dealing with Nile Valley affairs. Adolf Erman presents an interesting case, wherein he acknowledges not only the idea of "Negroes of Punt", but also sees the latter as "natives of "Punt"; careful examination of this at first glance, tells one that this is predicated on the notion that there are presumably people of other ethnicity or "races" who are also natives of "Punt". Indeed, the context of this should be placed within Erman's perception of "Punt" as more of a generalized geographical descriptive that spans the tropical Red coast regions of Africa and coastal portions of southern Arabia [the geographical and political question will follow here soon], rather than a name of a specific centralized state or polity. Here is a copy of paper citing such references by Erman:

Click on the image for hi resolution.

In the same image [scenary of goods being carried in 'Pwnt'] above, reproduced [in black and white below] in Jack Phillip's work, we come across the following:

Noticeably absent in Phillip's repro, is the third piece in the colored version of the image above, on the right hand side, with a very dark-skinned worker holding the leash of a dog or else a "dog-like" animal in one hand, and carrying a shaft of some sort on his shoulder. Alternatively, the colored image above, does not display the "c" piece in Phillip's repro, but it is taken into account elsewhere 'separately'. Could this be indicative of one of the factors behind Phillip's [seemingly] overlooking the diversity in imagery associated with 'Pwnt', and instead, consider the people he sees as "Negroid" in appearance [though doesn't necessarily have to say it out loud] to be "Nubians"? If Phillip's repro doesn't exactly show the big picture of the actual diversity seen in the wall relief, then it may be relatively easy for him to assume [or yet, play it off] that the said renditions don't exist, and hence, overlook them. Under such a circumstance, any "Negroid" looking figures invoked in "Pwnt" imagery [as provided in the example above, with the kneeling figures] would be treated as an anomaly, and conveniently labeled as simply "Nubians". It also appears from the repro above, that Phillip sees the figure in the register "a", as a "woman"; the colored image makes it quite clear that there is nothing particularly feminine about the figure in question, who happens to be a participant in carrying heavy goods, including the myrrh trees. One is predisposed to taking it that Phillip's first impression as such, was likely influenced by the long skirt-like garment of the figure. Such garments as worn by men [which are wrapped around the waist in a fashion almost akin to how men wrap bathroom towels around the waist], are not uncommon in certain areas of the African, but Phillip might not have taken that into consideration.

This "Negroid, Negroes, or Black Africans" theme has been noted elsewhere, as if to say that other 'Pwnt' occupants were of a different "race" or anything but the aforementioned, even going as far as [in some cases, and as noted above] to suggest that these occupants were not really 'Pwnt' natives. To the extent that these sources acknowledge diversity in 'Pwnt' wall relief scenery, it is in this context. Some excerpts from around the net that come to mind in this regard, are as follows:

"The reliefs also showed the features of the Puntine people, who were black Africans, as well as another race much resembling Egyptians.The later group of inhabitants was depicted as red colored (as the traditional color of Egyptians in ancient art), wearing a small beard resembling those of Egyptian priests and the short Egyptian shirts. Donkeys were depicted as the method of transporting goods, and white dogs guarding the people’s houses. Birds, monkeys, leopards and hippopotamus are also seen, as well as giraffes which are typical African animals, to live in Punt. Nehsi is then shown in front of his tent with a banquet offered to his guests, and observing the gifts presented.

Source: Courtesy of

M. Edouard Naville found at Thebes many remains of the Punt sculptures. The Puntites appear with their aquiline features, their pointed beards, and their long hair; **negroes** also of black and brown varieties are represented adjoining the Puntites proper. There are wickerwork huts, and a figure of a large white dog with its ears hanging down. Long-billed birds also appear flying about in the trees. Their nests have been forsaken and robbed, and the men are represented as gathering incense from the trees. Altogether, much invaluable information has been gathered concerning the famous people who lived in the Land of Punt, and with whom for a long period the Egyptians held intercommunication. Other discoveries were made near the great temple of Karnak, and the buildings of Medinet-Habu were cleared of rubbish in order to show their true proportions.

Source: Revue Archeologique, xxix., p. 127

Source: HISTORY OF EGYPT From 330 B.C. to the Present Time By S. RAPPOPORT, Doctor of Philosophy, Basel; Member of the Ecole Langues Orientales, Paris; Russian, German, French Orientalist and Philologist

Even reactionary critiques of an African based "Punt", such as the following, have taken notice...

“the Deir el Bahri reliefs do show a number of African people and apparently African animals, such as at least one rhinoceros and a giraffe. For Bimson, and for many of his readers, this was decisive evidence in proving an African location for the territory. Decisive enough to make them ignore or forget all the other evidence that clearly located Punt/the Divine Land in Palestine/Phoenicia. But if Punt really was Phoenicia, why then such an African influence? Why the large amount of space devoted to seemingly African animals and people with clearly Negroid features? This is a question that cannot be ignored. Velikovsky himself suggested that the African elements were imports, and stressed that the Puntites themselves were not Negroes, but Semites or Hamites. This in fact is true. The Puntites look very much like the Egyptians, and curiously enough, sport long pointed beards of a type worn in Egypt only by the pharaoh. (It should be noted also in this regard that the earliest Egyptian monarchy, the Horus kings of the First Dynasty, claimed to have originated in Punt: and this incidentally provides yet another dramatic connection with Asia; for, as David Rohl has illustrated (Legend: The Genesis of Civilization: 1998), the god Osiris, form whom the Egyptian royalty claimed descent, was not only specifically linked to Byblos, but was himself in origin a Mesopotamian god named Asar. Rohl also shows, in the same place, how the peoples of Lebanon also traced their origin back to Mesopotamia).” - by Emmet Sweeney

Of course, all of these citations are working with biologically "bankrupt" premise of "races", whereby the "negro" represents a strictly narrow and "non-variant" typological archetype.

An interesting feature about 'Pwnt's' diversity, is that the Kemetians professed to have had access to what they called the "dancing dwarf" from the region. Indeed, one sees a recurring theme here, as exemplified by the "dancing pygmies" figurines carved out of *ivory*, found amongst the Kemetic item collection brought in from journeys to their south.

The geographical and political question aspect...

The speculations and debates around the precise location of 'Pwnt' and whether it was even a centralized state named as such, has generated several ideological camps over the years. For instance, the implication that 'Pwnt' may have been located somewhere in the African Horn has spurred interest amongst peoples of this region, but since this region also comprises of modern nation states which are not all necessarily on friendly terms at the state level, competing ideologues from these regions have developed, with each professing 'Pwnt' to actually be primarily their heritage over the other. In other words, there are Eritrean ideologues who claim that it was actually located in what is now Eritrea, and so, must be Eritrean heritage as opposed to Ethiopian. Likewise, Ethiopian and Somali ideologues respectively claim 'Pwnt' to be their heritage as opposed to the other. Another group of ideologues who fall outside of the aforementioned groups from the Horn of Africa, span reactionary ideologues of various nationality who have disdain for things "sub-Saharan African", who reject an African-based 'Pwnt', and instead, prefer to locate it on the other side of the Red Sea. In some occasions, these distinct ideological camps temporarily converge in their perspective, as exemplified by the need to "cleanse" Pwnt off what is deemed to be "Negroid" occupants; neither of these camps generally find comfort in any notion of "native Negroid Puntites", as examined above with examples. To this extent, members of said ideological camps prefer to present "Negroid" occupants as merely servants, slaves or foreigners [whom some conveniently call "Nubians", while others dismiss them as "southern Sudanese" elements], no matter how frivolous the case may be. When the question of the "Puntite dwarf" comes up, members of these ideological camps seek to explain them off as either "Negritos" or "imports from central Africa" respectively, and even as rare and funny as it may seem, some have gone as far as implicating "Khoisans" as these dwarfs, as if Khoisans can be mistaken for pygmies or dwarfs. In a letter to Harkhuf from Pepi II, we come across such "dancing dwarfs", who have apparently been brought in from Yam and Punt respectively ...

A letter to Harkhuf from King Pepi II (aged about 8)

Royal Seal, Year 2, third month of the first season, day 15. Royal decree (to) the Sole Companion, the Ritual Priest and Overseer of Caravans, Harkhuf.

I have noted the matter of this thy letter, which thou hast sent to the king, to the palace, in order that One might know that thou hast descended in safety from Yam with the army which was with thee. Thou hast said (in) this thy letter, that thou hast brought all great and beautiful gifts, which Hathor, mistress of Imaaw, hath given to the ka of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nefer-ka-re [ i.e., Pepi II], who liveth forever and ever. Thou hast said in this thy letter, that thou hast brought a dancing dwarf of the god from the land of spirits, like the dwarf which the Treasurer-of-the-god Bawer-djed brought from Punt in the time of King Isesi. Thou hast said to my majesty: "Never before has one like him been brought by any other who has visited Yam."

Come northward to the court immediately... thou shalt bring this dwarf with thee,.. living, prosperous and healthy from the land of spirits, for the dances of the god, to rejoice and gladden the heart of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nefer-ka-re (Pepi II), who lives forever. When he goes down with thee into the boat, appoint excellent people, who shall be beside him on each side of the vessel; take care lest he fall into the water! When (he) sleeps at night appoint excellent people who shall sleep beside him in his tent; inspect ten times a night! My majesty desires to see this dwarf more than the gifts of Sinai and of Punt! If thou arrivest at court, this dwarf being with thee alive, prosperous and healthy, my majesty will do for thee a greater thing than that which was done for the Treasurer of the god, Bawer-djed, in the time of King Isesi, according to the heart's desire of my majesty to see this dwarf!

Commands have been sent to the Chief of the New Towns, the Companion, and Superior Prophet, to command that sustenance be taken from him in every store-city and every temple, without stinting therein.

Indeed, stories like these recall previous expedition endeavors to the region [Pwnt], and sure enough, various inscriptions or letters either by envoys and/or Pharaohs [responding to envoy-recounts of such expeditions] have been left to us—"the living"; apparently, these expeditions were, or at least seemed to be, a source of pride to the Kemetian authorities, not only given that the said expeditions were considered to be major sea-faring undertakings, which were often seen as risky [as we shall see below, in the 'inscriptional' example that Erman cites], but also largely preconceived as one of the few or rare occasions of peaceful projects in relatively distant exotic territories amongst the many which are otherwise generally accommodated by strategic military goals, to fend off Kemet's potential rivals, and as one which yielded substantial, and in certain ways, exceptional commercial gifts. The reproduced inscription below for instance, serves as an example of such retelling:

"Fig. 1. Stela of Khentykhetywer, recovered in the Wadi Gawasis, describing his return from Punt. The relevant portion of the text reads: '...after his return in safety from Punt, his expedition being with him, sound and healthy ., and his fleet resting at Sww...' (From A.M.A.H. Sayed, in Revue d' Égyptologie, XXIX [1977], 139, pl. VIII; translation of A. Nibbi, in [i]Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, LXII [1976], 50)"
Here's another perspective on the matter of the "dancing pygmies", as well as the issue of diversity mentioned earlier [notwithstanding questionable descriptions like "central African features"], from net...

"As more Egyptian expeditions were sent deeper into Nubia, other peoples began to appear in Egyptian art with more markedly central African features, hairstyles, and characteristics. That Egyptian explorers penetrated the Sudan to a great distance at this period is suggested by the contemporary carved ivory group, preserved in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, which was used as a child's toy. It represents three pygmy men, which could be made to dance when a string was pulled. To the Egyptians, these people were the "horizon dwellers", who were seen only once in many generations. They were famed among the Egyptians for their dancing, and when any of these people were brought to Egypt, they were made to perform "the dances of the gods." They would no doubt have come from the extreme reaches of the Upper Nile tributaries and the northern Congo area. -
Courtesy of

At least one site sought to explain the reason behind the dancing dwarfs being sought after by the Kemetian royalty:

The strange way in which Bes is represented has lead some scholars to think that Bes was of Mesopotamian or of African origin. The epithets "Lord of Punt" and "Lord of Nubia" also seem to point in that direction. On the other hand, Bes is known to the Egyptians from the Old Kingdom on, or before. There are . Bes may owe the epithet "Lord of Punt" to his dwarf-like figure: Punt, a legendary African society, was populated, among others, by pygmies.

There were two kinds of dwarfs known in ancient Egypt, the African pygmies and the Egyptian dwarfs. The African pygmies had hereditary dwarfism. These pygmies originated in the equatorial forests of Central Africa. The Ancient Egyptians brought them to Egypt from their trade stations in Nubia. The first pygmy was brought from Punt in the time of King Asosi of the Fifth Dynasty. Another was brought by Herkhuf from the land of Iam in Upper Nubia for the child King Pepi the Second.

The role of the African pygmies was to perform a dance called "the dance for god" or to dance in the royal palace to rejoice the king's heart.

The Egyptian dwarfs had a deformity in their bodies. A big head, a normal trunk, and short arms and legs characterized these dwarfs. These dwarfs were frequently placed in charge of pet animals. The Egyptian dwarfs also engaged in jewelry making.

Since the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, they served as attendants to their masters. The most famous Egyptian dwarf was Seneb, who lived during the Fifth Dynasty. He was a high official with many social, religious, and honorary titles. He was married to a normal-sized woman... Courtesy of, Dwarfs in Ancient Egypt.

The question of what would have been the territorial extent of 'Pwnt', even if one were to assume that 'Pwnt' were a state right off the bat, never seems to cross the minds of the aforementioned ideologues, who are just eager to promote their respective viewpoints, regardless of the weight of evidence. Apparently, "dancing dwarfs" have been brought in by expeditions to territories to Egypt's south and beyond Kush, including 'Pwnt', as noted above. Certainly pygmies are rare in the African Horn today, but they do occur in central Africa, which is right next to the Sudanese border. On the other hand, we hear about items like Teff, found in 4th Dynasty pyramids of Senefru for example,...

Abyssinian milliet, Teff [Eragotrs Tef Trotter], is cultivated for it's grain only on the Ethiopian High Plataeu.

Many plants resembling it are known locally as Teff; some of them are in addition cereals which are collected [eg. E pilosa P.B.].

Apart from the recent times, this cereal has not penetrated elsewhere. The present writer has shown that the term teff was not of Semetic origin but rather of ancient Egyptian origin. While the ancient Egyptians do not appear to have been familiar with the cultivation of Abyssinian Teff, they made use of Eragrostis pilosa in exactly the same as is done today in the valley of the Nile and North-East Africa [Barth 1858 and Kotschy 1862] Unger [1866-67] found grains of it in the pyramids of Dashur Pyramid [3359 B.C.] Fourth Dynasty and in the blocks of clay from the ancient town of Rameses [1400-1300 B.C.] built at the begining of the New Empire. As a name, Teff [tief] appears to come from 'provisions' food.

Source: Papers in African Prehistory ed. J. D. Fage and R. A. Oliver. Cambridge, page 53, 1970.

Such items suggest origins in the African Horn, as noted. Other popular items obtained from 'Pwnt' such as myrrh, gold, spices and ebony, are found in the general region of southern Sudan, Eritrea, and northern Ethiopia. As noted, carved ivory sculptures do occur and could have arrived from central Africa, bordering Sudan. The areas [particularly southwest of] near Port Sudan were known for gold. In that same area, including the general region where the borders of Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia meet, the short-horned and the humpless long-horned cattle types—shown on wall relief imagery of 'Pwnt'—were also located, while the western region of Eritrea [e.g. Erkowit area] and the Tigris plateau area were known for incense and myrrh [courtesy references of Dr. Karl H. Leser]. Apparently exotic animals [*some* of which are now relatively rare in region] like giraffes, various feline [like say, panthers], dogs, bears, monkeys [notably including the baboon], donkeys, elephants, rhinos and a variety of birds [including "stalk-like" types] were available that far north, in that same general area. One particular animal of interest, i.e. the single-horned rhino, has been pointed to by the ideological camp of a "non-African Pwnt" to suggest that it serves as evidence of—well, a non-African based 'Pwnt'. However, it simply suggests, at the least, that a part of 'Pwnt' was not too far from the Red Sea; this still falls short of telling us the actual geographical extent of 'Pwnt'. Almost all other animals depicted are largely common tropical African exotic types; the same applies to the flora, as exemplified by the "palm-tree like" plants and the myrrh trees of 'Pwnt'. Word is that even the examination of the marine fauna depicted in 'Pwnt' imagery, though in some cases hard to relate them to highly-*specific* existing [subspecies] variants, all appear to be of tropical or subtropical water-body types; they have been related to general species types—see below:

Above, are examples of some of the fauna & flora mentioned, including the evident marine fauna. Click on this last image to see the "short-horned" humpless cattle type [also take note of the aforementioned dome-topped dwellings—shown on the 2nd top colored image of this page as well—on piles].

Below, is a colored photo of a wall relief at Luxor displaying wild animals from the "Land of Punt" being escorted by workers, who may or may not [or both situations apply] have come from 'Pwnt' along with the animals. Myrrh trees typical of 'Pwnt' imagery can be also seen in the image:

This tomb is in the valley of the nobles. It is a typical tomb of the 18th dynasty, with a vestbule and chapel. the paintings are very interesting with painting of different animals brought from the land of Punt. There are paintings of monkeys, bears, horses ,elephants and giraffe. There is also scenes of men working on a huge statue of a pharaoh. This is another tomb to include in your list - Courtesy of

Noticeable above, is the variety in the garment of the workers. Looking at the garment of workers in other 'Pwnt' scenery, we have...

Note the short white loincloth garment in proportion to the single strap of linen draped from the waist over the genital area. Certain group of workers uniformly sported these short with garments. Contrast this with the variety displayed above. Click on image to see an enlarged version taken from another angle.

Again, notice the style of the garment. Not different from the examples immediately above. Now, contrast the type with those worn by the bearded "Pwnt" workers.

Even amongst these bearded workers, there are variations in garment. There are garments with the two-pronged linen strip hanging from the waist over the genital area, wherein said strip is partially hidden under the kilt, and then there is the garment type with a single-pronged linen strip draped from the waist over the genital area, wherein again said strip is partially hidden from view underneath the kilt; figures wearing these aforementioned garment types are accompanied by other workers who are not necessarily bearded, and characterized by garments with a two-pronged linen strip draped from the waist over the genital area, which in this case is fully visible on the skirt. Click on the image for hi resolution.

Perhaps one aspect of 'Pwnt' occupants that should not be overlook before we come to a close in the "political and geographical" questions surrounding 'Pwnt', is the range of skin tones displayed, which generally parallel those in the lower Nile Valley regions all the way from Kush to Kemet. The dark reddish-brown tinge of skin tones displayed by the bearded 'Pwnt' workers, including the aforementioned chief and queen, parallel the conventions applied to Kemetic figures. This generally contrasts most Aamu ["Western" scholars generally know them as "Asiatics"] who are more often than not, depicted in Yellowish pigmentation as opposed to the dark reddish-brown.

Some interesting figures appear on the scenery, such as those of troops accompanied by the Egyptian expedition crew. Recalling one of the images already posted, we have [this is the photograph version]:

An envoy, allegedly by the name of "Nehesj", backed up with a troop. So goes the saying: Better safe than never!

The garments that the troops are shown wearing, is somewhat stylistically distinct from the conventional plain white loincloth garments usually associated with regular Egyptian personalities. Obviously as seen here, the body postures of the soldiers are suggestive of the group coming in peace. Elsewhere, this occasion has been interpreted as that of the soldiers coming along to "promote a one-sided trade", wherein Egyptian weaponry was presented as part of the trade items, with beads being the other, in exchange for the more elaborate variety of 'Pwnt'. Click on the image above, to see another version of troops, but this time, in marching body postures; the stance still seems to be that of a peaceful one.

Adolf Erman's interpretation—of the coming along of the soldiers in an 11th Dynasty expedition to 'Pwnt'—follows that of the protection of the expedition crew from potential enemies along the journey route, and he purportedly supports this by citing an inscription allegedly by chief treasurer Henu under Senekhkere-Mentuhotep III during the 11th Dynasty:

Click on the image for hi resolution.

Erman's description of 'Pwnt' was less than flattering, if not with an element of disdain; he presents 'Pwnt', which he does not regard as a name for a nation state but as a general descriptive for a region, as being exagguratingly admired and ascended to a legendary status primarily due to the products that it endowed Kemetians with, certain aspects of which were apparently relatively rare in Kemet, but that in reality, the people of 'Pwnt' were not all that much respected by Kemetians; rather, as he suggests, the locals of 'Pwnt' were seen as being less cultured than the Kemetians themselves; see below:

Click on the image for hi resolution.

Erman's disdain for Queen Ety is particularly noticeable. Her chubby appearance has been commented on; some discussants see this feature of the queen as yet another indicator of the African situation of 'Pwnt'. Certainly some members of the aforementioned ideological camps, i.e. those who argue for some African Horn country or the other, are inclined to argue that it is not uncommon to see male appeal for women "on the heavy side" in that region; though, it is questionable whether these are not appeals for "medically healthier" situations, or at least perceived as such by the eyes of the beholders, as opposed to appeal for females who are "heavy" because of medical adversity. Many observers see Queen Ety's weight issue as more of a mal medical condition. At any rate, even Erman tacitly interprets the situation as further indication of Pwnt's location in Africa. One thing that Erman mentions that shouldn't be overlooked, is the idea that donkeys were employed as the main "beasts of burden or for riding". Indeed, as another source put it, we have:

"In order to transport the material to build their ships, donkey were used, as camels were not available until after the invasion of the Persians much later:

To every man I gave his rations, a water-bottle, a staff, two jars of water, twenty loaves of bread. The donkeys carried the jars. When one of them tired, another was substituted. I excavated twelve holes in the wadi, two holes at Idahet, twenty cubits wide and thirty deep. One hole at Idahet ten cubits in every direction, at a place where water sprang.

Courtesy of

The keywords here being "camels were not available"; whereas in the Arabian peninsula, right across the Red Sea, one would expect camels as a beast of burden to have been around by then.

Images of Queen Ety, in the company of her husband Chief Perehu (Prhw); these have been displayed in repros already posted, but here is another variant:

Click on the image to see the color blown-up of the piece pasted in the repro above.

The chief Perehu (Parahu) is described as wearing a skull cap on his head, in a manner similar to some Egyptian deities, like Ptah in particular. Otherwise, like the bearded 'Pwnt' workers, he sports a goatee [which in Egyptian renditions is usually reserved for deities or divine personalities], and the loincloth garment sporting a partially-visible two-pronged linen strip over the genital area. The mentioning of chief Perehu and his queen could invoke a sense of a centralized polity in the Pwnt that Hatshepsut sent her treasurer. However, it is of note that Jack Phillip in one of his repros, mentions the "two" chiefs of 'Pwnt' [image below]; Erman, in the extract immediately prior to his last one above, also speaks of princes and chiefs in plural tense. Whether this implies that there were several other chiefs identified with 'Pwnt', or else that these were lesser chiefs of a hierarchically higher central one, is something that remains to be sorted out. Even so, while the idea of one supreme ruler of the land may serve as an indicator of a centralized polity, it doesn't tell us the geographical extent of 'Pwnt's' political borders at any given time.

As perhaps further indication of its geographical proximity translating into its localization on the African continent, we are told about another inscription that implicates 'Pwnt', but this time, not as an element of legendary admiration or as allies, but rather, as an adversarial element to the state of Kemet; we get this picture in an article by Dalya Alberge, in the article headed "Tomb reveals Ancient Egypt's humiliating secret"...

The tomb belonged to Sobeknakht, a Governor of El Kab, an important provincial capital during the latter part of the 17th Dynasty (about 1575-1550BC). The inscription describes a ferocious invasion of Egypt by armies from Kush and its allies from the south, including the land of Punt, on the southern coast of the Red Sea. It says that vast territories were affected and describes Sobeknakht's heroic role in organising a counter-attack.

The text takes the form of an address to the living by Sobeknakht: "
Listen you, who are alive upon earth . . . Kush came . . . aroused along his length, he having stirred up the tribes of Wawat . . . the land of Punt and the Medjaw. . ." It describes the decisive role played by the "might of the great one, Nekhbet", the vulture-goddess of El Kab, as "strong of heart against the Nubians, who were burnt through fire", while the "chief of the nomads fell through the blast of her flame".

The discovery explains why Egyptian treasures, including statues, stelae and an elegant alabaster vessel found in the royal tomb at Kerma, were buried in Kushite tombs: they were war trophies

The grammar of the inscription piece, as translated above, clearly presents the "land of Punt" amongst entities that represent an ethnic group and inhabitants of a designated locale that doesn't necessarily represent a nation state; namely, the Medjay and the tribes of Wawat respectively. Although from the looks of it, in that pieces of the text seem to be missing and thus, possibly warranting further examination, the cotexts of the "land of Punt" suggest that it is more likely placed within the context of the latter camp—that is to say, inhabitants of a designated broad or general locale that need not be a centralized state. Like the "tribes of Wawat", it is associated with a designated region or locale, while Medjay as cited, is invoked without a specified territory, which would implicate them as either nomadic types or as a geographically scattered group across territories of multiple polities. In other words, neither of the three named groups here appear to be players of a centralized state, but rather, are implicated as an ethnic group or inhabitants of a designated generalized region who have allied with Kushitic state; Kush is the only other entity that is unequivocally presented grammatically as a state player; that is, acting on behalf of a centralized polity. A curious feature about hieroglyphic invocations of the appellative "Pwnt" (Punt), is that they are generally accompanied by the determinative for "land", at least as demonstrated by the different occasions that have been implicated in this blog post, rather than the glyph of a 'circle enclosing a cross', i.e. "pwntcopyyu3.jpg"[often verbalized as "nwt", where verbalization is warranted] , usually synonymous with a polity or a nation.

At any rate, the extract serves as further indication that the "land of Punt" is within geographical proximity to Kush, such that they would conveniently forge political ties and create a unified military front to confront a common foe, which in this case, was the state of Kemet. If the Kushites had to cross the Red Sea, in order to get to the other side only to seek allies, then that undertaking would have involved more work and time consuming. In other words, the indicators point to the African localization of "Pwnt". In light of this adversarial relationship between Kush and Kemet at this particular point in time [since they are known to have more friendly relations in other occasions], from the web, at least one site gathered that,...

The historical frequency of commercial contacts and also the way how the Egyptians had reached Punt indicate - as stated by Fattovich - that it must be located on an area southeast from Nubia. A historical comparison of the contacts lets assume therefore:

- that in the Old Kingdom the goods from Punt had been brought to Egypt on an overland route, whereby this was controlled by the people from Kerma;

- that in the Middle Kingdom the sea route was preferred to travel to Punt, in order to evade the area of Kerma (however, this does not exclude additional contacts on an overland route);

- that in the 2. intermediate period the trade with Punt was controlled by nomads of the eastern desert who for their part had contact with the Kerma culture;

- that in the New Kingdom again ships were sent to Punt, until Nubia was fully controlled by Egypt; thereafter, the goods came also on an overland route, whereby the trade was controlled by nomads of the eastern desert; probably at the same time the trade with the west coast of the Arabian peninsula was started;

- that the contact during the 20. Dynasty was stopped due to climatic changes and resulting political weakness of Egypt;

- that thereafter until Ptolemaic times the trade with Punt and the southern areas of the Red Sea had been under control of people from Arabia, thus, Punt became a mythological idea.

All hints support a localization of Punt in the area at the border between Ethiopia and Sudan

Source: Courtesy of

The Mythical or Spiritual aspect...

'Pwnt' ascended to a legendary status at some point in time, and it is here one comes across mythical themes centered on the region. One good example of this can perhaps be seen in the tale of The Shipwrecked Sailor [ca. 2200 BC] , as found elsewhere on the net:

The wise servant said, "Let thy heart be satisfied, O my lord, for that we have come back to the country; after we have been long on board, and rowed much, the prow has at last touched land. All the people rejoice and embrace us one after another. Moreover, we have come back in good health, and not a man is lacking; although we have been to the ends of Wawat [Nubia], and gone through the land of Senmut [Kush], we have returned in peace, and our land---behold, we have come back to it. Hear me, my lord; I have no other refuge. Wash thee, and turn the water over thy fingers; then go and tell the tale to the majesty."

His lord replied, "Thy heart continues still its wandering words!
but although the mouth of a man may save him his words may also cover his face with confusion. Will you do then as your heart moves you? This that you will say, tell quietly."

The sailor then answered, "Now I shall tell that which has happened to me, to my very self. I was going to the mines of Pharaoh, and I went down on the sea in a ship of one hundred and fifty cubits long and forty cubits wide, with one hundred and fifty sailors of the best of Egypt who had seen heaven and earth, and whose hearts were stronger than lions. They had said that the wind would not be contrary, or that there would be none. But as we approached the land, the wind arose, and threw up waves eight cubits high. As for me, I seized a piece of wood; but those who were in the vessel perished, without one remaining. A wave threw me on an island, after that I had been three days alone, without a companion beside my own heart. I laid me in a thicket, and the shadow covered me. Then stretched I my limbs to try to find something for my mouth. I found there figs and grain, melons of all kinds, fishes, and birds. Nothing was lacking. And I satisfied myself; and left on the ground that which was over, of what my arms had been filled withal. I dug a pit, I lighted a fire, and I made a burnt offering unto the gods.

"Suddenly I heard a noise as of thunder, which I thought to be that of a wave of the sea. The trees shook, and the earth was moved. I uncovered my face, and I saw that a serpent drew near. He was thirty cubits long, and his beard greater than two cubits; his body was as overlaid with gold, and his color as that of true lazuli. He coiled himself before me. Then he opened his mouth, while that I lay on my face before him, and he said to me, 'What has brought you, what has brought you, little one, what has brought you? If you say not speedily what has brought you to this isle, I will make you know yourself; as a flame you shall vanish, if you tell me not something I have not heard, or which I knew not, before you.'

"Then he took me in his mouth and carried me to his resting-place, and laid me down without any hurt. I was whole and sound, and nothing was gone from me. Then he opened his mouth against me, while that I lay on my face before him, and he said, 'What has brought you, what has brought you, little one, what has brought you to this isle which is in the sea, and of which the shores are in the midst of the waves?'

"Then I replied to him, and holding my arms low before him, I said to him: 'I was embarked for the mines by the order of the majesty, in a ship, one hundred and fifty cubits was its length, and the width of it forty cubits. It had one hundred and fifty sailors of the best of Egypt, who had seen heaven and earth, and the hearts of whom were stronger than lions. They said that the wind would not be contrary, or that there would be none. Each of them exceeded his companion in the prudence of his heart and the strength of his arm, and I was not beneath any of them. A storm came upon us while we were on the sea. Hardly could we reach to the shore when the wind waxed yet greater, and the waves rose even eight cubits. As for me, I seized a piece of wood, while those who were in the boat perished without one being left with me for three days. Behold me now before you, for I was brought to this isle by a wave of the sea.'

"Then said he to me, 'Fear not, fear not, little one, and make not your face sad. If you have come to me, it is God who has let you live. For it is He who has brought you to this isle of the blest, where nothing is lacking, and which is filled with all good things. See now, you shall pass one month after another, until you shall be four months in this isle. Then a ship shall come from your land with sailors, and you shall leave with them and go to your country, and you shall die in your town.

Converse is pleasing, and he who tastes of it passes over his misery. I will therefore tell you of that which is in this isle
. I am here with my brethren and my children around me; we are seventy-five serpents, children, and kindred; without naming a young girl who was brought unto me by chance, and on whom the fire of heaven fell, and burned her to ashes. As for you, if you are strong, and if your heart waits patiently, you shall press your infants to your bosom and embrace your wife. You shall return to your house which is full of all good things, you shall see your land, where you shall dwell in the midst of your kindred.'

"Then I bowed in my obeisance, and I touched the ground before him. 'Behold now that which I have told you before. I shall tell of your presence unto Pharaoh, I shall make him to know of your greatness, and I will bring to you of the sacred oils and perfumes, and of incense of the temples with which all gods are honored. I shall tell, moreover, of that which I do now see (thanks to him), and there shall be rendered to you praises before the fullness of all the land. I shall slay asses for you in sacrifice, I shall pluck for you the birds, and I shall bring for you ships full of all kinds of the treasures of Egypt, as is comely to do unto a god, a friend of men in a far country, of which men know not.'

"Then he smiled at my speech, because of that which was in his heart, for he said to me: 'You are not rich in perfumes, for all that you have is but common incense. As for me, I am prince of the land of Punt, and I have perfumes. Only the oil which you say you would bring is not common in this isle. But, when you shall depart from this place, you shall never more see this isle; it shall be changed into waves.'

"And behold, when the ship drew near, according to all that he had told me before, I got up into an high tree, to strive to see those who were within it. Then I came and told to him this matter, but it was already known unto him before. Then he said to me: 'Farewell, farewell, go to your house, little one, see again your children, and let your name be good in your town; these are my wishes for you.'

"Then I bowed myself before him, and held my arms low before him, and he, he gave me gifts of precious perfumes, of cassia, of sweet woods, of kohl, of cypress, an abundance of incense, of ivory tusks, of baboons, of apes, and all kinds of precious things. I embarked all in the ship which was come, and bowing myself, I prayed God for him. Then he said to me: 'Behold you shall come to your country in two months, you shall press to your bosom your children, and you shall rest in your tomb.'

After this I went down to the shore unto the ship, and I called to the sailors who were there. Then on the shore I rendered adoration to the master of this isle and to those who dwelt therein.

When we shall come, in our return, to the house of Pharaoh, in the second month, according to all that the serpent has said, we shall approach unto the palace. And I shall go in before Pharaoh, I shall bring the gifts which I have brought from this isle into the country. Then he shall thank me before the fullness of the land. Grant then unto me a follower, and lead me to the courtiers of the king. Cast your eye upon me after that I have both seen and proved this. Hear my prayer, for it is good to listen to people. It was said unto me: 'Become a wise man, and you shall come to honor,' and behold I have become such."

This is finished from its beginning unto its end, even as it was found in a writing. It is written by the scribe of cunning fingers, Ameni-amenaa; may he live in life, wealth, and health!

Courtesy of this Link [click here], that provides additional references in an attempt to simply the language.

It is of note that the narrator of the story repeats the theme of having gone first through Wawat and Kush before landing in the land of Punt, which is not inconsistent with what we've seen with regards to the alliance forged between Wawat, Kush, and the Land of Punt in the excerpt above, as mentioned in the inscription found in the tomb of Sobeknakht, Governor of El-Kab, since they each relate the proximity of 'Pwnt' to these other two regional entities. Here too, we come across exotic animals already described above. All that aside, one noticeable mention here, is that of the Serpent prince of 'Pwnt'. Several discussants have pointed to this as another supposed evidence of its location in the African Horn, presumably predicated on the account that serpent worship traditions occurred in that region. However, servent reverance, deification or worship has been seen in a number of parts of the world, including ancient Egypt itself. The narrative around this Serpent prince of Pwnt has taken mythic proportions; for one, it is purported to be a gaint talking one. An interesting feature of the Serpent ruler, is that he was also "bearded" or sported the goatee type that recurringly appears in occupants of 'Pwnt' imagery. These resemble the false beards [or rather, goatees] generally associated with Kemetian Neteru figures, including as an item of symbolism on artistic renditions of pharoahs, who were deemed to be "divine" mortal rulers of the land. While it's possible that the people of 'Pwnt' were generally unshaven characters, the recurring theme, even on a mythified personality such as the sailor's Serpent ruler/prince of 'Pwnt', suggests that it is more likely that this is more a product of ascension of 'Pwnt' to semi-mythical porportions; returning to Adolf Erman, he provides an interesting prespective on what might have precipitated this level of admiration for 'Pwnt', wherein he implicates the relative abundance of goods, that the Kemetians deemed "precious", in the "Land of Punt" as partly responsible for this phenomenon, and indeed, the sailor does mention some of these purported "precious" goods or items, and talks about taking them with him to Kemet; recall for instance, from the story, the following:

Utterance by the Serpent prince of "Pwnt"...

"Then said he to me, 'Fear not, fear not, little one, and make not your face sad. If you have come to me, it is God who has let you live. For it is He who has brought you to this isle of the blest, where nothing is lacking, and which is filled with all good things. See now, you shall pass one month after another, until you shall be four months in this isle. Then a ship shall come from your land with sailors, and you shall leave with them and go to your country, and you shall die in your town.

And the sailor's interaction with the Serpent prince...

"Then I bowed myself before him, and held my arms low before him, and he, he gave me gifts of precious perfumes, of cassia, of sweet woods, of kohl, of cypress, an abundance of incense, of ivory tusks, of baboons, of apes, and all kinds of precious things. I embarked all in the ship which was come, and bowing myself, I prayed God for him. Then he said to me: 'Behold you shall come to your country in two months, you shall press to your bosom your children, and you shall rest in your tomb.'

Now, a look at how Adolf Erman builds the aforementioned case, as noted immediately above; in the process, it may be too tempting not to compare Erman's version of the translations with that provided above about the 'The Shipwrecked Sailor', to see if there are no translatory variations. Recalling an earlier posted Erman's piece, we have [with emphasis on the last sentence of the second paragraph and from thereon]:

Click on the image for hi resolution.

He goes onto reiterate this feeling of admiration for things "Pwnt" on pg 511 that is already posted above [the last Erman piece posted prior to this], and the corresponding semi-mythification of that region, but then turns around and speaks of how Kemetians did not see "Puntites" as their equals, in that the latter were perceived as the lesser cultured ones.

The following pages, 508 to 511, recount the same story about the shipwrecked sailor as that already provided above, but also taking into account why Erman says it has that mythical character just talked about...

Click on the image for hi resolution.

Click on the image for hi resolution.

Click on the image for hi resolution.

Click on the image for hi resolution.

Aside from the extraordinary claims about the "bearded" Serpent talking to the author, who was presumably a victim of a shipwreck, the tale also talks of this taking place on an isle or island. Is this simply the product of mistranslation? If not, then should that too not be taken literally? Certainly, the African Horn is the furthest thing from an island. A case could be made that the sailor had experienced moments of hallucination while being stranded alone near the shores of a land foreign to him, before a ship came to his rescue and helped him return to his country and/or else he decided to be a little "creative" about retelling circumstances of his sea-fairing journey, in an effort to not disappoint fellow-Kemetian audiences when recounting his experiences on this exotic land of 'Punt', knowing fully well that back in his homeland, that the average person had this 'semi-mythical' preconceived-notion of the "land of Punt". Against that backdrop, staying true to the series of events of one's experiences as they *actually* happened in an exotic land that was otherwise supposed to have this air of a semi "larger-than-life-as-usual" persona to it, would be seen as "life-as-usual", if not boring and unworthy of special attention; but such are the plausible options of motives behind the character of this storytelling, given the mythical aspects of the sailor's recounts.

As always, aspects of this post too will be continuously built on. Watch this space for updates.

The portrayal of the Submissive African

From watching "Western" mass media day in and out, one could swear that there is no other image of the African, other than being that of the needy and submissive type. It's either that, or the needy or savage type that goes around killing fellow Africans. One form of imperialism and perhaps a stealthy one at that [with 'stealth' naturally accounting for success here], is psychological imperialism. Imperialists utilize it to keep the subjugated/victims at bay, by conditioning them to think lesser of themselves. Consistent broadcasting of a desired image of the African, from the "Western" imperialistic standpoint, is purposefully implemented to make it appear natural to the target audiences in the so-called West and elsewhere, that the African is as such, and at the same time, relieve "Western" audiences from any sense of guilt about "western" colonial and neocolonial legacy. What better way is there to do this, than to propagate negative stereotypes of the oppressed so often that the oppressed or victims of the disinformation campaign themselves come to believe it, along with other target audiences. So, what of the “the submissive African” image; was this really the case? Were even the post-World War "independence" movements that swept the continent themselves, not exemplary of the potential of Africans to be antonymous of the "submissive" type?

As with many important historical moments in Africa that are glossed over, it isn't exactly an astonishing aberration that in 'western' scholastic venues there is almost no mention or review of notable African resistance movements against invading forces, like say, the protracted Samore Toure-led armed conflict with the illegal French intruders, which took little over “ten” years or so before the French finally lucked out, or another that comes to mind, on the other side of the continent, led by whom came to be known to the British forces as the "Mad Mullah" in Somalia [which took over a decade]and not for nothing, not to leave out the humiliating 1896 Italian defeat in Ethiopia on their first attempt at subjugating Ethiopians. Also, who could forget the famous Amistad revolt by the African captives on-board the ship, involving the famed Sengbe Pieh, or the drawn out protracted battles fought between Omar Mukhtar’s resistance fighters of Libya and the Italian intruders for about two decades, and that of the Isandlwana and the Hlobane battles between Zulu fighters and British invaders. As the Romans before him, British Governor-General Charles Gordon found out the hard way just how tough the Sudanese could be; he was to never leave the country aliveall that was left of him was a head placed on a tree branch.

Male-led armed counteraction were not the only ones to give intruding imperialists a run for their money. The strong-willed Nzingha Mbande of what would become modern day Angola kept the Portuguese militarily and psychologically preoccupied for well over 40 decades. It is often said in "western" venues that European imperialists often capitalizedif not foment them in many cases—on divisions among Africans and pitted them against one another; well, Queen Nzingha played her European enemies against one another, by capitalizing on and pitting the Dutch against the Portuguese. This theme of African figures playing their antagonistic European counterparts and pitting them against one another surfaces every now and then in history, as will be seen in the case of the liberation movements in Haiti. al-Kāhinat is another name that comes to mind, as a powerful female head-figure who managed to give her enemies a run for their money.

While many of the above mentioned examples appear to be largely defensive undertakings, since many of them involved Africans being visited upon in their own land and thereby defending those lands, in other occasions, Africans actually took offensive [military] courses in their dealings outside of mainland Africa. In other words, rather than the enemy bringing the battle to the Africans, the Africans took the battle to the enemy. The ancient Egyptians for example, put a defensive apparatus in place at certain times of the dynastic epoch, by going on the offensive outside Dynastic Egypt's borders. The colony in the Levant was not merely just resource driven, it was also a defensive move. It was also meant to act as a means to keep potential "southwest Asian" rivals at bay. After all, what better way to deal with a potential regional rival or threat, than by situating ready-to-act military bases or posts near them, in the region they reside? This strategy was buttressed with putting into place, military fortresses on the northern and southern borders of the ancient Egyptian state.

As noted here before, some time ca. 8th century BC, the Kushitic-manned forces were dispatched into the Levant to fight against Assyrian forces. It was during such campaigns that the Nile Valley under Kushitic leadership came to the aid of ancient Israelite peoples, in the face of harassments from the likes of Assyrians [see: The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance Between Hebrews and Africans in 701 B.C., by Henry T. Aubin (April 1, 2003)].

Kushites: a tough nut to crack?

Under the Roman sphere of influence in Egypt, shortly after Augustus took control in ca. 31 B, Kush undertook an offensive policy towards Egypt, which no doubt brought it head to head with the Romans. Though on the continent, and knowing fully well that the Romans were planning to expand their control beyond Egypt and to their territory, the Kushite state decided to take matters into its hand, and preemptively attack territories between them and the then Dynastic Egypt/Kemetian borders, and well into the area of Aswan against a non-African opponent, where they would attack the Roman legionaries stationed there. The Romans would find out just how tough an adversary the Kushites were in the course of their conflict, so much so, that they would eventually cede Qasr Ibrim [and areas north of Qasr Ibrim in the southern portion of the "Thiry-Mile Strip"] to the Kushites ca. 22BC , and sign a peace treaty with the latter in the Island of Samos ca. 21 BC [and follows an earlier attempt at peace negotiations ca. 24 BC], which would put it in writing that the Romans would stay clear of the said regions and absolve the Kusthite state of any responsibility of paying tribute to Rome...

Between 28-21 B.C.E., his administrators were confronted with disturbances in the Arabian peninsula directly across the Red Sea from Egypt. Wishing to address the situation as expeditiously as possible, the Romans decided to dispatch legions already stationed in Egypt to the troubled area. Once the legions had departed, the Nubians of Lower Egypt [probably a typo; "Nubia" might be what the author had in mind] appear to have revolted and stormed the frontier at Aswan, sacking the area and toppling official monuments, including recently erected statues of Augustus himself. The head of one of these bronze images of Augustus was severed from its body and carried off to Meroe, where it was intentionally buried beneath the threshold of one of the palaces so that each time the Meroites entered and exited, they would be symbolically trampling the head of their foe underfoot.
About 27-25 BC
From Meroe, Sudan
This head was once part of a statue of the emperor Augustus (ruled 27 BC-AD 14). It was taken during a Kushite raid on Roman-occupied Egypt as a symbol of their defiance of Roman might. It was buried in front of the steps of a Kushite temple of Victory at Meroe in Upper Nubia and was probably placed there so as to be permanently underneath the feet of its captors. Height: 447 mm. - Courtesy the British Museum

The Classical authors credit a Candake as the leader of the Meroites. As one has seen earlier, they had mistaken the title, kdke, for the personal name of the female ruler of kingdom of Meroe. Her identity remains unknown, although there are attempts to identify her with the Queen Mother Amanirenas, who is suggested to have ruled during this period of time. She apparently shared power with the pqr, Akinidad. If one's reading of the monuments is correct, Akinidad continued to rule after her demise with another kdke, Amanishakheto by name. Akinidad exercised personal control over both Upper and Lower Nubia, as his titles attest. He is to date the only Meroite known to have held the office of pqr and pesato, "viceroy [of Lower Nubia]," simultaneously.

A number of Meroitic queens called Ka'andakes (Candaces) ruled Nubia-Kush just before the birth of Christ. Candace Amanirenas and her son Prince Akinidad along with the Meroitic Army kept the Romans out of Nubia-Kush. In this scene, they are witnessing the burning of the Roman Garrison in Aswan. Meroitic-Kush never became part of the Roman empire. The formidable leader greatly impressed classical writers, who mistook the royal title of Candace for a personal name. - Reference and photo from Splendors of the Past: Lost Cities of the Ancient World, National Geographic Society, 1981, page 171-173

In order to address this insurrection, the Romans dispatched new legions to the region in anticipation of a military confrontation and began their march into Lower Nubia. The Meroites, in an attempt to meet the Roman challenge, mustered their own forces and marched north. Both forces marched into the vicinity of Qasr Ibrim (Primis). A pitched battle was avoided when representatives from both sides agreed to discuss the matter. The Meroites indicated that their revolt against Rome was prompted by certain grievances that had not been remedied. The Roman geographer, Strabo, writing in Greek shortly after the actual events, is decidedly prejudiced in his account, incredulously posing a question to the Meroites inquiring as to their reason for not bringing their concerns to the emperor Augustus. As if to portray the Meroites as individuals ignorant of current affairs, Strabo records their reply by stating that the Meroites did not know where to find Augustus. In point of fact, the Meroites were correct because Augustus himself had been on the move as a result of his inspection tour of the East. 

It was then resolved that an embassy of the Meroites would be granted safe conduct to the Greek island of Samos, where Augustus was temporarily headquartered. This was perhaps the first recorded instance in the entire history of Africa when diplomats representing a Black African ruler independent of Egypt traveled to Europe to effect a diplomatic resolution. The Meroites and Romans signed a peace treaty that not only remitted their tax liability to Rome, but also established the Dodekaschoinos as a buffer zone. In order to gain the favor of the inhabitants of this region, Augustus directed his administrators to collaborate with the priesthoods of the region in the erection of a temple at Dendur. In its relief and inscriptions, Augustus himself appears as the chief celebrant of the local deities but there pays particular homage to two youths [brothers, Pahor and Pedese, who are believed to have been sons of a local Nubian elite ruler], whose deaths had elevated them to the status of divine intercessors. They are enrolled among the local deities in this temple and are the recipients of a cult. The temple of Dendur also served as their cenotaph. - Robert Steven Bianchi, Daily Life of Nubians, 2004.

Here's another look at the matter, by an unnamed author who seems to have at least used the above author as one of his/her references, though unstated [paying attention to the highlighted pieces immediately above and below]...

The war then entered an indecisive phase of stalemate, where massive Roman attacks into Kushite territory, and counterattacks by the Kushites northward into Roman held territory went back and forth. The Roman established forts at Qasr Ibrim, and the Kushites raided Roman garrisons in Egypt. Finally in 24 BC, in the fifth year the exasperating struggle, a massive Roman invasion pushed a large Kushite force southward to the city of Dakka. The fight was brutal and Strabo mentions that the Candace's son, the paqar [prince] Akinidad, was killed during this campaign. The ferocity and battering at Dakka caused the two sides to start again to negotiate peace. However, the negotiations failed, and the Romans then pushed their forces deeper into Kushite territory as far as Sara.

Sara proved to be the turning point of the war. The Kushites counterattacked and retook Sara, but didn’t stop there. They pushed the Romans back north and out of the encampments elsewhere. The Kushites overrun the Roman garrisons at Qasr Ibrim, Dakka, Pselchis, and other places in remorseless and continuous assaults. It seems that the Kushites had obtained reinforcement from the African interior, and that until that time they had not been able to mobilize their troops, and had been fighting a defensive war. After the death of Akinidad, and the Capture of Sara, the Kushite armies went on the attack.

As the forward units of the Kushite army, now numbering thousands of men, prepared to retake the largest and last major Roman garrison, Premnis, the Roman governor Gaius Petronius arrived from Alexandria with fresh Roman reinforcements, and “entering the fortress before the approach of the enemy, secured the place by many expedients”, according to one classical writer. But on realising that he could not hold Premnis any longer, Petronius sued for peace and sent envoys to the Candace to start negotiations.

The Kushite ambassadors at Premnis, during the negotiations with Petronius apparently told him in jest that they did not know who Caesar was, nor where to find him. Several of the Kushite officials could speak Latin, Aramaic, Greek and other languages, as some of the Kushite inscriptions were in Greek. Prior to this war and after, Kushites always maintained ambassadors in state abroad, and many foreigners also lived in Kushite cities, so that they would have had no problem communicating their intentions to Petronius. Petronius appointed persons to conduct the Kushite envoys to meet Caesar Augustus. Caesar received the Kushite envoys at a place on the island of Samos.

An amazing record exists in tradition and in stone, of the envoys discussions with Caesar. One of the Kushite envoys gallantly presented Caesar with a beautiful Kushite “fasces” [a bundle] of golden arrows and said the following words: “This gift is from the Candace. If you want peace, this is a token of her warmth and friendship. If you want war, keep the arrows because you are going to need them.” According to the classical writers, the Kushite ambassadors obtained all that they desired, and Caesar even remitted the tribute which he had imposed. Caesar capitulated and renounced the tribute exacted from the Kushites in Egypt, soften the Roman burden on Egyptians, and a border was demarcated between Roman Empire and the Empire of Kush.
It was then resolved that an embassy of the Meroites would be granted safe conduct to the Greek island of Samos, where Augustus was temporarily headquartered. This was perhaps the first recorded instance in the entire history of Africa when diplomats representing a Black African ruler independent of Egypt traveled to Europe to effect a diplomatic resolution. The Meroites and Romans signed a peace treaty that not only remitted their tax liability to Rome, but also established the Dodekaschoinos as a buffer zone. In order to gain the favor of the inhabitants of this region, Augustus directed his administrators to collaborate with the priesthoods of the region in the erection of a temple at Dendur. In its relief and inscriptions, Augustus himself appears as the chief celebrant of the local deities but there pays particular homage to two youths [brothers, Pahor and Pedese, who are believed to have been sons of a local Nubian elite ruler], whose deaths had elevated them to the status of divine intercessors. They are enrolled among the local deities in this temple and are the recipients of a cult. The temple of Dendur also served as their cenotaph.

To mark the end of the war, Candace Amanirena had monuments erected to honour the prince Akinidad and others who had served as commanders. The toll of the war on her personally had been great. Amanirena had also lost her consort-husband Teriteqas [also written Teriteqa or Teritega] during the war. Her elder son Kharapkhael, Akinidad’s elder “bother” had died before the war broke out. Amanirena probably had daughters as well, but they were not in the direct line of succession. Another member of the royal house, Princess Amanishakhete, was the designated crown princess, and as tradition required, she was “adopted” by Amanirena. However, Amanishakhete may have been a niece to Amanirena, or the grand niece of a past Candace. It is also possible that Amanishakhete was unrelated to the royal house and was a commoner who had been appointed and trained by the priesthood in preparation for her to become Candace.

Amanirena died in 10 BC, and was succeeded by Candace Amanishakhete. Although Amanishakhete’s rein was troubled by mutinies generated by the war, she nonetheless was able to repair most of the damage the Romans had caused, and to build new temples and forts. Her rein was opulent and spectacular, although rather short. It lasted only ten years. Amanishakhete was succeeded by the Candace Amanitore.


Had the Kushites destroyed the Roman army at Premnis it is probable that the Roman occupation of Egypt would have collapsed immediately, and shortly after it the Roman Empire itself would have ceased to exist. The roman troops massed in Egypt were the elite units of the empire, and controlled the most precious estate of the empire, Egypt. The war with Kush forced a number of decisions on the Romans, most notably the creation of a standing army to contain the Kushites, and also had the unfortunate effect of ending the Roman republic. Egypt was the bread basket of both the Kushites and the Romans. It was so valuable for Rome, that Augustus Caesar refused any ranking Roman from travelling to Egypt without his personal permission.

The most noteworthy effect of the war on Roman civilization was all of the grandeur we associate with Rome materialized and was made possible by the peace achieved at Samos. At the time of Augustus, Rome looked like a dusty village in comparison to any of the cities in Egypt or Kush. After the reign of August, Rome had become wealthy from access to Egyptian grain and Kushite gold, ivory and other products.

Given Augustus Caesar’s response to the Candace, and the record left by classical writers and observers such as Josephus, Petronius {her enemy], Strabo, Deo Cassius and others, even though biased for the most part, it is obvious that Augustus believed that the Kushites were quite capable of overruning and collapsing the Roman Empire. It is also clear that the Kushites were genuinely uninterested in going to war with anyone, and were merely defending themselves regardless of their capacity to defeat the Romans.

The effects on Kush were less benign. The Romans never really meant the end the war, and so continued to undermine Kush by fomenting rebellion in territories belonging to the Kushites. They stationed the Third Augustan Legion in Algeria, and used it to funnel funds to the Garamante, the Wangara, the Beja, and others in order to cause them to revolt against the Candaces. However, the Kushite Empire lasted another 400 years.

Much of what we consider African culture is a legacy of the Kushites under the Candaces. Take for example the fact that today Africans languages are classified under four language groups, all of which derive from an extinct language called Proto-Kordofanian, which is believed to have originated in southern Sudan, coincidentally the centre of the Kushite Empire. From Senegal to Ethiopia, from Egypt to South Africa, the common ties that bind Africans together are essentially components of a culture that dates back to the days of the Kushite Empire. - Courtesy AUFwebpage

Another major African offensive venture against a non-African opponent, is the well-known expansion of the Moorish empire into southwest Europe, in the Iberian peninsula. Although some writers start off the Moorish rule in Europe with that of the Almoravids, there were actually much earlier "Moorish" African conquest attempts in southwest Europe, which predate even those of the Arab rule [starting with the Umayyads], which some indiscriminately [and erroneously] use interchangeably with the term "Moorish" rule. The term "Moors" comes from Greco-Roman references to northwest Africans, as north Africa was largely the extent to which they came into contact with the continent; it was not a term coined for "Arabs", who were absent in Africa at the time.

172–175 A.D. The Moors from northern Africa invade Spain.

Under Roman control, the Iberian Peninsula prospers commercially and politically in the first and second centuries A.D., until the Moors attack from North Africa in the latter part of the second century.

711–718 An army of Arabs and Berbers, unified under the aegis of the Islamic Umayyad caliphate in Damascus, lands on the Iberian Peninsula and, through diplomacy and warfare, brings the entire peninsula—except for Galicia and Asturias in the far north—under Islamic control. The Visigothic leadership is forced out of Toledo, but a large Christian population remains under Muslim rule. In 718, a Christian kingdom is formed in the Asturian region, the northern part of the peninsula beyond the Duero River. The new Muslim territories, called al-Andalus, are administered by a provincial government centered in Córdoba... - Courtesy

...and of course, thereafter, the Almoravids come to power in al-Andalus ca. 1085, marking the start of actual "Moorish" rule in the Iberian peninsula. Though not much is said about the outcome of the earlier Moorish attack in southwest Europe, it is clear from the timeline, that it well predates the 'Arab' rule under the Umayyads, which marks the beginning of actual 'Arab' rule in that region. At any rate, "Moorish" African rule would continue until at least under the Almohads. The Arab-Moorish African rule in the Iberian peninsula would go onto to have a profound effect on Europe, as noted earlier on this site, essentially bringing it out of the so-called "Dark Age", which is actually a red herring code word to account for the fact that Europe was mostly a non-player in the then preexisting international arena of geopolitics, where the Arab-speaking and Islamic world played a dominating role.

The Aksumite occupation in Southern Arabia provides yet another example of African offensive outside of the mainland of the continent...

At the kingdom's height, its rulers held sway over the Red Sea coast from Sawakin in present-day Sudan in the north to Berbera in present-day Somalia in the south, and inland as far as the Nile Valley in modern Sudan. On the Arabian side of the Red Sea, the Aksumite rulers at times controlled the coast and much of the interior of modern Yemen. During the sixth and seventh centuries, the Aksumite state lost its possessions in southwest Arabia and much of its Red Sea coastline and gradually shrank to its core area, with the political center of the state shifting farther and farther southward.

Inscriptions from Aksum and elsewhere date from as early as the end of the second century A.D. and reveal an Aksumite state that already had expanded at the expense of neighboring peoples. The Greek inscriptions of King Zoskales (who ruled at the end of the second century A.D.) claim that he conquered the lands to the south and southwest of what is now Tigray and controlled the Red Sea coast from Sawakin south to the present-day Djibouti and Berbera areas. The Aksumite state controlled parts of Southwest Arabia as well during this time, and subsequent Aksumite rulers continually involved themselves in the political and military affairs of Southwest Arabia, especially in what is now Yemen. Much of the impetus for foreign conquest lay in the desire to control the maritime trade between the Roman Empire and India and adjoining lands. Indeed, King Zoskales is mentioned by name in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea (the Latin term for the Red Sea is Mare Erythreum), a Greek shipping guide of the first to third centuries A.D., as promoting commerce with Rome, Arabia, and India. Among the African commodities that the Aksumites exported were gold, rhinoceros horn, ivory, incense, and obsidian; in return, they imported cloth, glass, iron, olive oil, and wine...

The growth of imperial traditions was concurrent with the expansion of foreign holdings, especially in Southwest Arabia in the late second century A.D. and later in areas west of the Ethiopian highlands, including the kingdom of Meroë...

Sometime around A.D. 300, Aksumite armies conquered Meroë or forced its abandonment. By the early fourth century A.D., King Ezana (reigned 325-60) controlled a domain extending from Southwest Arabia across the Red Sea west to Meroë and south from Sawakin to the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden. As an indication of the type of political control he exercised, Ezana, like other Aksumite rulers, carried the title negusa nagast (king of kings), symbolic of his rule over numerous tribute-paying principalities and a title used by successive Ethiopian rulers into the mid-twentieth century...

Little is known about fifth-century Aksum, but early in the next century Aksumite rulers reasserted their control over Southwest Arabia, though only for a short time. Later in the sixth century, however, Sassanian Persians established themselves in Yemen, effectively ending any pretense of Aksumite control. Thereafter, the Sassanians attacked Byzantine Egypt, further disrupting Aksumite trade networks in the Red Sea area. - Courtesy

Even under captivity, Africans rose up violently against their captors, and at times getting the upper hand, as could be exemplified in the aforementioned Amistad mutiny, the Zanj rebellion in what is now Iraq, and even slave rebellions in the Americas, with the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 being one of the notable amongst these. Some of these major 'slave' rebellions may well have even wittingly or unwittingly capitalized on divisions within or between slave owners and/or the ruling authorities [and their external rivals], which to recap, was certainly the case in the Haitian Revolution [and even the Zanj, when one examines that rebellion in detail]; see below, for example...

the divisions among slave owners, the divisions among the whites, the divisions among colonial French and metropolitan French, the divisions among whites and free persons of color, all set the stage to make possible a more successful slave rebellion than had previously been possible...the entry of the slaves into the struggle is certainly an historic event. And the event is so colorful that not even Hollywood would have to improve upon history...

Furthermore, we will learn in the passages below, which will describe the details of divisions among the white oppressors and/or imperialists, Toussainta former slaveworked his way up to leadership of the liberation movement, whereupon he played his European enemies against one another; for example, he would expediently side with French at one point, on the grounds that the slaves would be freed thereupon, but then switched sides and went over to the Spanish side when the prospect of that freedom was suddenly looking to be questionable, so that his liberation movement associates would not only have access to armament supply from the Spanish but also man-power reinforcement from Spanish troops against the French. The French at this time, were facing looming military confrontation from both the British and Spanish, in addition to continued pressure from slave rebellions. This was of course, subsequently followed up with a reversal of alliance, with Toussaint and his troops switching sides, from the Spanish this time around and back to the French side once again, when it seemed that the Spanish were starting to loose military ground. As the reader will see, these actions pave way for military gains for Toussaint and his rebellion movement. Subsequent leaders of Haitian liberation movement would also expediently ally with one European imperialist against another European imperialist, reminiscent of that undertaken by Toussaint...

For several years the slaves had been deserting their plantations with increasing frequency. The numbers of maroons had swollen dramatically and all that was needed was some spark to ignite the pent up frustration, hatred and impulse toward independence.

This event was a Petwo Voodoo service. On the evening of August 14th Dutty Boukman, a houngan and practitioner of the Petwo Voodoo cult, held a service at Bois Caiman. A woman at the service was possessed by Ogoun, the Voodoo warrior spirit. She sacrificed a black pig, and speaking the voice of the spirit, named those who were to lead the slaves and maroons to revolt and seek a stark justice from their white oppressors. (Ironically, it was the whites and not the people of color who were the targets of the revolution, even though the people of color were often very harsh slave owners.)

The man named Boukman, Jean-Francois, Biassou and Jeannot as the leaders of the uprising. It was some time later before Toussaint, Henry Christophe, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Andre Rigaud took their places as the leading generals who brought The Haitian Revolution to its final triumph.

Word spread rapidly of this historic and prophetic religious service and the maroons and slaves readied themselves for a major assault on the whites. This uprising which would not ever be turned back, began on the evening of August 21st. The whole northern plain surrounding Cape Francois was in flames. Plantation owners were murdered, their women raped and killed, children slaughtered and their bodies mounted on poles to lead the slaves. It was an incredibly savage outburst, yet it still fell short of the treatment the slaves had received, and would still continue to receive, from the white planters.

The once rich colony was in smoldering ruins. More than a thousand whites had been killed. Slaves and maroons across the land were hurrying to the banner of the revolution. The masses of northern slaves laid siege to Cape Francois itself.

In the south and west the rebellion took on a different flavor. In Mirebalais there was a union of people of color and slaves, and they were menacing the whole region. A contingent of white soldiers marched out of Port-au-Prince, but were soundly defeated. 

Then the revolutionaries marched on Port-au-Prince. However, the free people of color did not want to defeat the whites, they wanted to join them. And, more importantly, they didn't want to see the slaves succeed and push for emancipation. Consequently, they offered a deal to the whites and joined forces with them, turning treacherously on their black comrades in arms.

This was a signal to the whites in Cape Francois of how to handle their difficult and deteriorating situation. On September 20, 1791 the Colonial Assembly recognized the Paris decree of May, and they even took it a step further. They recognized the citizenship of all free people of color, regardless of their property and birth status. Thus the battle lines were drawn with all the free people, regardless of color, on the one side, and the black slaves and maroons on the other.

Meanwhile, in France word of the uprising caused the General Assembly to re-think its position. The Assembly thought it had gone too far with the May Decree and had endangered the colonial status of Saint-Domingue. Consequently on September 23rd the May Decree was revoked. Then the Assembly named three commissioners to go to Saint-Domingue with 18,000 soldiers and restore order, slavery and French control.

When the commissioners arrived In December, 1791, their position was considerably weaker than the General Assembly had suggested. Instead of 18,000 troops they had 6,000. In the meantime the whites in the south and west had attempted to revoke the rights of free people of color, and broken the alliance. Not only did the free people of color break with the whites and set up their own struggle centered in Croix-des-Bouquets, but many whites, particularly the planters, joined them. Thus thus south and west were divided into three factions, and the whites in Port-au-Prince were in a most weakened position. 

In Cape Francois the Colonial Assembly did not move against the free people of color, but the slaves intensified their struggle and the whites were virtual prisoners in the town of Cape Francois. Most of the northern plain was in ruins.

Back in France it became apparent that the First Civil Commission with its 6,000 troops could not bring peace back to Saint-Domingue. When the authorities in France debated the issue it was clear to them that the problem was to bring unity between the free people of color and the whites against the rebelling slaves. Thus once again Paris reversed itself and with the historic and landmark Decree of April, 4, 1792, the free people of color were finally given full citizenship with the whites.

The Assembly in Paris prepared a Second Civil Commission to go to Saint- Domingue and enforce the April 4th decree... 

By early 1792 the slaves controlled most of the rich northern plain, and Cap Francois (modern Cap Haitien) was under constant siege. Hundreds of whites had been killed, the plantations were in ruins and the slaves were learning their military skills. Yet it was not the slaves whom the Assembly feared. It was the struggle between free persons of color and the white planters. Many of the planters openly favored independence. They were carrying on an illegal and profitable trade with the newly formed United States. Not only were they profiting economically, but the U.S.'s recent revolution against Britain was a model which the planters studied well...

It was the belief of the Assembly [which presided over the aforementioned Decree of April 4] that if the struggle between the white and black property owners (and slave owners) could end, and their loyalty be won back to France, then the "slave question" would be a simple issue. The rebellion would be quickly broken and the slaves returned to their plantations. There had been rebellions in the past, there would be rebellions in the future. But, reasoned the Assembly, slaves could be managed in the long run. 

But a decree announcing this citizenship was one thing; to enforce it another. On June 2, 1792 the French National Assembly appointed a three man Civil Commission to go to Saint-Domingue and insure the enforcement of the April 4th decree.

One of those commissioners was Leger Felicite Sonthonax. He arrived in Saint-Domingue on September 18, 1792. He immediately approached the free men of color and began to form and alliance, promising them that he was the king's representative who would insure their citizenship. In record time Sonthonax won over the free men of color, who united with loyal French troops to fight a dual battle: struggling to defeat the radical independence-minded whites, and to pacify the slaves. Within four months Sonthonax had achieved his three major goals:
  • He had pacified, or at least contained, the slave rebellion.
  • He had defeated the primary white resistance.
  • He had held the colony for France.
It seemed as if Sonthonax had achieved his mission and could soon return home to France in glory. Then came the devastating month of February, 1793. First, France declared war on Britain. This war radically changed Sonthonax' situation. Not only did the superior British navy cut off Sonthonax' supply line to France, but the British soon invaded Saint- Domingue, completely unraveling Sonthonax' three short-lived "achievements." Secondly, in that same month, Louis XVI was guillotined and France became a republic without a king. One immediate affect of this assassination was to provide a new grounds for resistance among some of the white planters. Many remained supporters of independence, and they welcomed the British invasion, but others, believing that the problem was the Revolution in France, became royalists, believing that if only a strong king could be put back in place, then everything could return to the old patterns and they would regain their positions of power and privilege in Saint-Domingue. It is interesting to note that this was exactly the aim of Napoleon when he invaded ten years later.

Toussaint Louverture and the Slave Rebellion

The primary black generals in the earliest days of the slave rebellion were Jean-Francois, Biassou and Jeannot. Jeannot was soon put to death by Jean-Francois and Biassou for excessive cruelty. Shortly after the 1791 uprising, Toussaint Louverture, a former slave who was over forty years old, joined the camp of the rebels as a medical officer. Toussaint practiced herbal and African healing, but unlike most such healers, he was not a Voodoo houngan. However, Toussaint did not remain a medical officer for long. His ability to organize, train and lead men became immediately apparent. Toussaint rose from his position of aide-de-camp to become a general, first fighting under Biassou, and then a general of his own troops. 

By January, 1793 Sonthonax had contained the slave revolt. Negotiations were going on to end the rebellion and for the officers to force their troops to return to their respective plantations. The deal was that some 300 officers would receive freedom and a pardon for their war crimes. The negotiations drug on, but seemed near completion when the execution of Louis XVI became known. After that event the slave officers, especially Toussaint, did not trust the French. They turned to the eastern portion of the island and made an alliance with Spain, who was also at war with France. As Toussaint told Sonthonax, "We cannot conform to the will of the Nation because from the beginning of the world we have executed the will of a King. We have lost the King of France, but we are esteemed by the King of Spain, who bestows rewards upon us and ceases not to give us succor. Consequently we are unable to acknowledge you, the Commissioners, before you have found a King."

February, 1793 was an extremely bad month for Sonthonax! From having seemingly defeated the independence-minded colonists and not only contained the slaves, but nearly arriving at an understanding which would have ended the rebellion completely, he suddenly had a much graver situation facing him.
  • The colonists, split into independence and royalist factions, now had foreign support, and re-opened their struggle against the April decree, and against Revolutionary France's jurisdiction.
  • The slaves had gone over to the Spanish and were being armed and supplied so that they could attack the French in Saint-Domingue.
  • Sonthonax was faced with invasion from British forces out of Jamaica and had to prepare the defense of the colony.
  • Yet, given the gravity of the situation facing France in Europe, and given the power of the British navy in the Caribbean, he could not count on any reinforcements or supplies from France. 
Truly, Sonthonax' world had come crashing down...

Sonthonax and the other commissioners realized the British would probably attack Saint-Domingue, as would the Spanish and their Saint-Domingue slave army. They began to prepare their defenses as best they could. However, they were immediately betrayed from within. General Galbaud, a Frenchman, had been left in charge of Cap Francois while Sonthonax joined the other commissioners to prepare the defenses of Port-au-Prince. Galbaud, himself a land owner, conspired with the planters to deport the commissioners and to work with the British to return the ancient regime, negating the citizenship of free men of color. Sonthonax learned of this and returned to Le Cap with a large force of free men of color. They surprised Galbaud and he seemingly agreed to return to France. However, he convinced 3000 sailors and French troops to fight with him and the battle was joined on June 20, 1793.

It looked as though Galbaud's forces would triumph. Sonthonax took the ultimate plunge -- he offered freedom and the rights of French citizenship to 15,000 slaves, part of the slave army encamped just outside Le Cap, if they would fight for France and the commissioners. They accepted and Galbaud was quickly defeated.

Sonthonax, now faced with 15,000 new citizens, had a problem. Most of these men had wives and children who were still slaves. Thus, in short order he also freed the entire families of the new French soldiers...

Sonthonax had long protested that he came to Saint-Domingue to defend the free persons of color. He had explicitly stated that he DID NOT intend to free the slaves. However, the Galbaud affair had forced him to free 30,000 to 40,000 people to protect his position.

Now he was in a major bind. The white planters and petit blancs were totally outraged. Even his allies, the free persons of color, were appalled. They were mainly slave holding property owners. They did not want any more slaves freed. Yet Sonthonax knew his time was running short. The British were preparing to invade, the Spanish were training, arming and supplying a large slave army in Santo Domingo.

Sonthonax' position was difficult. There was no hope of reinforcements or even supplies from France. The European war precluded that. How could he possibly save the colony for France? The slaves seemed his only hope. There were 500,000 of them. Toussaint, Jean-Francois and Biassou had a well-armed, well-trained army in Santo Domingo. Other slaves were not armed or trained, but their sheer numbers might provide some defense. Would they fight to defend France? Certainly not. Would they fight to defend their freedom? It was a gamble Sonthonax felt he had to take.

On August 29, 1793 Sonthonax unilaterally decreed the emancipation of slavery in Saint-Domingue. Robert Stein, Sonthonax' biographer, calls this "...the most radical step of the Haitian Revolution and perhaps even of the French Revolution." may well regard Sonthonax' freeing of the slaves as the most significant event of this period, nonetheless, the volte-face, the changing sides, of Toussaint Louverture, had the most immediate practical effect. Republican France's position in Saint-Domingue was pushed to the wall. The British held many port towns and the white planters were mainly in the British camp. The bulk of the slaves under arms were with the Spanish. However, France's enemies were not without their own problems. France was prohibited from supplying Sonthonax and the commissioners by the British fleet and the press of the war in Europe. But, that same war left the British without supplies and reinforcements too. The British army, suffering desperately from yellow fever, and seemingly ignored by London, was quickly being depleted and suffered from extremely poor morale. The Spanish were in grave difficulty in the European war, and were declining as a force to be reckoned with. Finally, the free persons of color, despising Sonthonax' freeing of the slaves, were nonetheless becoming convinced that neither the British nor Spanish were any real hope for them. More and more of the people of color were returning to the French banner.

The war in Saint-Domingue was going badly for the French, but, despite the British gains in the south, the situation was improving, though it was grave and dangerous.

Clearly the turning point in this war and in all Haitian history was the return to the French side of Toussaint Louverture and eventually all his black and mulatto forces. But when and why did Toussaint return? This is a very difficult question and scholars are not in agreement. I find myself persuaded by the arguments of David Geggus who fixes the date of the volte-face at around May 6, 1794. The reasons for the turn are not quite certain, but Geggus argues it was a collage of several factors:
  • Toussaint was sincerely fighting for general emancipation of slavery, and Sonthonax' emancipation weighed on him. By May 6th it is unlikely that Toussaint knew that the French National Assembly had already ratified Sonthonax' move on Feb. 4th. However, Toussaint had a close relationship with the French General Laveaux, and seems to have already been negotiating with him to come over to the French side. Laveaux may well have convinced him that France was sincere in the emancipation.
  • Toussaint was having serious problems with the Spanish. They did not trust him, perhaps knowing of his discussions with Laveaux.
  • Toussaint knew that the Spanish position in Europe was not strong and perhaps sensed that he was fighting for a loosing side.
  • Toussaint was having serious problems with both Jean-Francois and Biassou and wanted not only to break with them, but to become superior to them.
Whatever the full complement of reasons, Toussaint made his change and that made all the difference. His army fought a guerrilla war and he was known for his lightening attacks, covering territory at seemingly impossible speeds. He attacked both Jean-Francois and Biassou, his former associates and defeated them. He harassed the British, though he could not dislodge them from the coastal towns they held. One chronicler says: "He disappears--he has flown--as if by magic. Now he reappears again where he is least expected. He seems to be ubiquitous. One never knows where his army is, what it subsists on, how he manages his supplies and his treasury. He, on the other hand, seems perfectly informed concerning everything that goes on in the enemy camp."

The Spanish soon ended their war. The French defeated them in Europe and signed a peace treaty on July 22, 1795. A significant part of the treaty was that Spain ceded Santo Domingo to the French, though it was some time before Toussaint's army actually took over the eastern part of the island. The Spanish black armies were disbanded, though many came over to Toussaint. Jean-Francois retired to Spain and Biassou went to Florida...
With the turn of Toussaint Louverture and many former slaves, and the withdraw of the Spanish, the war took on lesser proportions. Britain, too, had developed grave difficulties of maintaining morale and troop strength. Then, when a serious rebellion broke out in Jamaica, the British ceased fighting an offensive war and settled in to trying to hold the main strongholds of it's coastal towns.

This left time for an internal power struggle to begin...

- by Bob Corbett of Webster University.

...and of course, Toussaint would eventually rise to power, having thrown "the British out of Saint- Domingue, overseen the retreat of the Spanish, ousted all genuine French authority and become commander in chief and governor general of the Saint- Domingue". In the course of all this, the strategy went from "initially fighting against the French and for the Spanish", and then "came back over to the French defeating not only the Spanish, but also driving the British out of Saint-Domingue." After encountering only "tentative resistance" and entering "the capital, Santo Domingo City on Jan. 26, 1801", he was able to "quickly consolidate his power and emerge as the governor-general of Hispaniola." This is what Bob Corbett of Webster University says of a later encounter with a renewed French attempt to consolidate power in Saint-Dominique, under Leclerc's lead...

"Leclerc's forces quickly took most of the coastal towns, though Haitians burned many of them before they retreated. Eventually a decisive moment came as Dessalines and his second in command, Lamartiniere, were asked to hold the small former British fort, Crete-a-Pierrot, an arsenal of the Haitians.

Both sides claimed victory. It sort of depends on what measure one uses. The French ended up with the fort, but they lost twice as many men as the Haitians, and were shocked to discover how well the blacks could fight in a pitched battle. The Haitians took great solace in their ability to hold off the French for so long. For the rest of the war they used Crete-a-Pierrot as a rallying cry. After abandoning the fort, the Haitians retreated into the Cahos mountains and fought a guerrilla war from then on..."

With Leclerc eventually succumbing to Yellow Fever, we are told that under Dessalines and Rochambeau,...

Each side was under the leadership of a capable and ruthless leader. Each side traded atrocity with atrocity, the particular description of which are sickening and defy credulity of even those used to human inhumanity to humans. Torture, rape, brutal murders, mass murders of non-combatants, mutilation, forcing families to watch the torture, rape and death of loved ones and on and on. The last year of the Haitian Revolution was as savage as any conflict one can read of in human history. Thomas Ott says this had become a war of racial extermination on both sides.

Despite the ravages of yellow fever and the increasing numbers of Haitians joining the revolution, Rochambeau's forces made considerable gains in early 1803. Napoleon, heartened by the return of slavery to Guadeloupe, sent a further reinforcement of 15,000 troops. Rochambeau seized the moment to launch a vigorous attack on the rebels.

A New European War Helps Shift the Balance

On May 18, 1803 Europe was again plunged into war, and Britain declared war on France. Dessalines was now a welcomed ally of Britain who provided arms and naval support. At the same time this European war announced the end of reinforcements and supplies for the French. The conditions were set for a reversal of the fortunes of the revolutionaries.

By the end of October the French were reduced to holding only Le Cap and were besieged and in danger of starvation. Finally on November 19, 1803 Rochambeau begged for a 10 day truce to allow the evacuation of Le Cap, thus giving Haiti to the Haitians.

Independence Day, January 1, 1804

After 13 years of revolutionary activity France was formally removed from the island and Haitian independence declared, only the second republic in the Americas. The country was in ruins, the masses mainly uneducated and struggling for survival. The western world's large and interested nations, the United States, Britain, Spain and, of course, France, were all skeptical and nervous about an all-black republic. After all, the large nations were all slave-owning states.

Born in dire straights and struggling, nonetheless the nation came to be through the efforts of the revolutionaries."

Other rebellions may not have been on the scale of the above mentioned examples, or may not have been as successful, but word of each such events did spread, and kept slave owners and ruling authorities of the slave society on their toes; examples that come to mind, include the devastating Mackandal rebellion of 1759 — which was eventually put down after a slave was tortured to "spill the beans", the Gabriel Posser revolt which ended in defeat because of a case of factionalism within, likewise that headed by Denmark Vesey — which also ended in defeat after his and his followers' plot were outed by a slave, and then there is that inspired by Nad Turner... 

All his disciples, seven of them, were fired by anger and religious passion. One, Will, had been so abused by his master that he was covered with scars. On the appointed night on Sunday, they left Turner's house and entered the house of his master where, with only one hatchet and one broadax between them, they executed all the members, including two teens, with the exception of an infant. They then moved from house to house throughout the night and executed every European-American they could find with the exception of a white family that owned no slaves; Will chopped up his master and his wife so passionately that Turner called him "Will the Executioner." As they went from house to house they gathered slaves and weapons. By Monday, they were approaching Jerusalem but were turned back by a regiment of European-Americans. Turner dug a cave and went into hiding, but when troops arrived they scoured the countryside and executed slaves by the hundred. Turner, however, was never caught for over two months; during all this time, Virginians were seized with panic. Hundred fled the county and many left the state for good. Turner, however, was eventually captured and hung. This was the last straw; from this point onwards, no slaveowner lived comfortably with slavery now that they understood the anger, the resistance, and the vengeance that boiled beneath the burden of slavery. - Courtesy wsu.ed

And on Amistad, from the same source above, well...

One more revolt, however, would seriously change the entire issue of slavery and slave revolts: the Amistad incident. In general, Amistad is overlooked by historians in favor of the more lurid and more deliberate revolts in Haiti and in the southern United States. The Amistad incident, however, dramatically changed the European-American idea of slave revolt and the moral constitution of slave revolts.

The year is 1839. Slave traffic is officially illegal in every country in the world. Despite this, a Cuban boat, the Amistad, is still trading in human lives kidnapped from Western Africa. On this trip, however, led by a powerful African, who speaks no European language, named Cinque, leads a revolt against the crew and kills everyone except the captain and first mate. He demands that the Africans be returned to Africa but instead the captain sails to New York. Claiming that the Africans are Cuban slaves rather than Africans, the United States put them on trial for murder and revolt. The result, however, was a stunning reversal in European ideas of slave revolts. Defended by no less than John Quincy Adams, the court declares the African revolutionaries to be justified in their murder of the crew. For the first time, Americans applied to slaves the same right to revolt as they believed they had. The southern revolts, from Haiti to Turner, suddenly shifted in the minds of many Americans as representing what they really were: freedom wars. To many Americans, it was becoming increasingly evident that the answer to slavery in the south had to be violent.

So-called "Cinque" above, led the mutiny

Now all these examples of differing situations and contexts together paint a picture that is quite different from the "Western" media-manufactured "submissive" or the "docile needy-type" African persona mentioned earlier, don't they?! And with regards to many of these issues, the perceptive reader will have also taken note of the "economic" question (the conflicting "economic" interests) underlying the conflicts described.