Are Egyptians black and what race were the ancient Egyptians?

Ancient Egypt was a great civilization that existed in northeastern Africa along the lower Nile from the middle of the 4th millennium BC to the 7th century AD. The Egyptian language spoken by its inhabitants is now dead. It belonged to a separate branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. According to some scholars, it was close to Semitic languages and, according to others – to Chadic.

The modern descendants of the ancient Egyptians, the Copts, live in Egypt. They are Christians. They conduct their church services in Coptic, a language descended from ancient Egyptians. The other (most) modern Egyptians are the descendants of the Arabs who conquered Egypt at one time. They are not the descendants of the ancient Egyptians.

The appearance of the ancient Egyptians seems to be fairly well represented in the frescoes. However, it is still not entirely clear to what race they belonged. Did they look like modern Arabs or like Negroes?

There are, for example, frescoes from the tombs of the pharaohs in which the Assyrians are depicted as lighter-skinned than the Egyptians. The Nubians, for example, are almost black. It is very likely that the skin color of the Egyptians was quite dark, but not as dark as that of the black population of equatorial Africa, of course. At the same time, they had facial features that were more Caucasoid than those of the Negro race.

Queen Nefertiti
Queen Nefertiti

In this connection, there are three hypotheses of the racial origin of the ancient Egyptians.

According to the first theory, they were Negroes. This is confirmed by the fact that in the mummies of pharaohs, scientists have found a large amount of melanin, which is responsible for dark skin color. The more of it, the darker the skin. (But this argument is not valid because, in those latitudes, people were constantly in the sun and sunbathing, so the melanin in the skin was very high).

Also, the supporters of the Negro hypothesis say that the modern black people from Senegal, under the name of Wolof, call themselves “KMT”(Land of Black People), which is very similar to the self-name of the Egyptians – “Kemet”. Here, they are the descendants or relatives of the ancient Egyptians. But it looks more like a simple coincidence, of which there are many in different languages.

And there is also a surviving statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep the Third, who has Negro features. Although, to me, that seems debatable.

Ancient Egyptian races
Ancient Egyptian races

In Europe, too, until the 19th century, it was believed that the ancient Egyptians were black because the Bible says they were descendants of Ham, Noah’s son, who was “dark” because of his father’s curse. So not a scientific theory, of course.

Most modern scholars tend to believe that the ancient Egyptians were of light-skinned, Semitic origin. For example, they were more like modern Arabs, and in general, they combined the features of both Negro and Caucasoid races.

What is confusing about all this is the fact that Egyptian men were depicted as brown and women as white! But it is proven that this was such an artistic convention. Apparently, it was thought that white skin on women was beautiful. This, for example, is what Prince Rahotep and his wife Nofret look like.

what Prince Rahotep and his wife Nofret look like
What Prince Rahotep and his wife Nofret look like

By the way, in the tomb of Ramses, the Third was found a table depicting four peoples: white-skinned Libyans, light-skinned nomads from North Africa, black Africans, and… the red-skinned Egyptians. Apparently, we are talking about a brown skin tone.

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