Archeologists have never figured out where the Egyptians came from. Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson says, “They don’t seem to have an ancestry, they don’t seem to have any period of development, they just seem almost to appear overnight. This has left people pondering, and of course it has been fertile ground for the unorthodox who suggest it was all planted by aliens, or visitors from Atlantis.” But he has the answer: they were there all the time.

From examining early rock art which contains images similar to those inscribed on the great Egyptian monuments, Wilkinson decided that they were once stone-age nomads who moved their herds when the Nile flooded every summer. There are no written records from the early Egyptians, but their carvings tell the story of seasonal nomads who left the river valley when the Nile flooded. It was only later that they learned to tame the Nile and began farming. Once that happened, they had the leisure to develop a complex government, hieroglyphics and monumental building techniques.

“I think one of the most striking things is the shape of the boat, with an upright prow and an incurved, sickle-shaped stern, very distinctive in the rock art,” Wilkinson says. “It is found throughout Egyptian history, and particularly in the Valley of the Kings, where it is quite specifically a divine boat, a boat associated with the king’s voyage in the afterlife. I feel strongly that this particular shape of boat, already in 4,000 BC, is associated with the spiritual dimension.”

Their cattle herding past may explain some puzzling artistic motifs. Wilkinson says, “On the coffin of Tutankhamun, there is the king, holding across his chest symbols of kingship which people have never thought about – and these are symbols of animal husbandry. Why does the king wear a bull’s tail, why does he carry a crook?”

Maurice Cotterell might have some more interesting answers to that question!

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