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Language: [[::Cheikh Anta Diop|English]]  • [[::Cheikh Anta Diop/wo|Wolof]]
Cheikh Anta Diop
Cheikh Anta Diop

Diourbel, Senegal
Dakar, Senegal
OccupationHistorian, anthropologist, physicist, professor
Known forProving Egyptians were Afrikans and not Europeans or Asians, Two Cradle Theory
Notable work
Civilization or Barbarism, Precolonial Black Africa, The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality

Cheikh Anta Diop (29 December 1923 in Thieytou, Diourbel Region - 7 February 1986 in Dakar) was a historian, anthropologist, physicist,and politician who studied the human race's origins and pre-colonial African culture. He is an important figure in the development of the Afrocentric viewpoint, in particular for his work proving that the Ancient Egyptians were Black Afrikans. Cheikh Anta Diop University, in Dakar, Senegal is named after him.

Early Life

Diop was born to a Muslim Wolof family in Senegal where he was educated in a traditional Islamic school. Diop's family was part of the Mouride sect, the only independent Muslim group in Africa according to Diop. He obtained a bachelor's degree in Senegal before moving to Paris for graduate studies.


At the age of twenty-three, he journeyed to Paris, France to continue advanced studies in physics. Within a very short time, however, he was drawn deeper and deeper into studies relating to the African origins of humanity and civilization. Becoming more and more active in the African student movements then demanding the independence of French colonial possessions, he became convinced that only by reexamining and restoring Africa's distorted, maligned and obscured place in world history could the physical and psychological shackles of colonialism be lifted from our Motherland and from African people dispersed globally. His initial doctoral dissertation submitted at the University of Paris, Sorbonne in 1951, based on the premise that Egypt of the pharaohs was an African civilization--was rejected. Regardless, this dissertation was published by Presence Africaine under the title Nations Negres et Culture in 1955 and won him international acclaim. Two additional attempts to have his doctorate granted were turned back until 1960 when he entered his defense session with an array of sociologists, anthropologists and historians and successfully carried his argument. After nearly a decade of titanic and herculean effort, Diop had finally won his Doctorate! In that same year, 1960, were published two of his other works--the Cultural Unity of Black Africa and and Precolonial Black Africa.

Research in Senegal

After 1960, Diop went back to Senegal and continued his research and political career. He established and was the director of the radiocarbon laboratory at the IFAN (Institute Fundamental de L'Afrique Noir). Diop dedicated a book about the IFAN radiocarbon laboratory "to the memory of my former professor Frédéric Joliot who welcomed me into his laboratory at the College de France."[1] (After his death the university was named in his honor: Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar.) He had said, "In practice it is possible to determine directly the skin color and, hence, the ethnic affiliations of the ancient Egyptians by microscopic analysis in the laboratory; I doubt if the sagacity of the researchers who have studied the question has overlooked the possibility."[2]

Diop published his technique and methodology for a melanin dosage test in scholarly journals. Diop used this technique to determine the melanin content of the Egyptian mummies. Forensic investigators later adopted this technique to determine the "racial identity" of badly burnt accident victims.[3]

Some critics have argued that Diop's melanin dosage test technique lacks sufficient evidence. They contend the test is inappropriate to apply to ancient Egyptian mummies, due to the effects of embalming and deterioration over time.[4]

In 1974, Diop participated in a UNESCO symposium in Cairo, where he presented his theories to specialists in Egyptology. He also wrote the chapter about the origins of the Egyptians in the UNESCO General History of Africa.[5]

Diop's first work translated into English, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, was published in 1974. It gained a much wider audience for his work. He proved that archaeological and anthropological evidence supported his view that Pharaohs were of Negroid origin. Some scholars draw heavily from Diop's groundbreaking work,[6], while others in the Western academic world do not accept all of Diop's theories.[7] Diop's work has posed important questions about the cultural bias inherent in scientific research.[8]

Diop showed above all that European archaeologists before and after the decolonization had understated and continued to understate the extent and possibility of Black civilizations.

The Swiss archaeologist Charles Bonnet's discoveries at the site of Kerma shed some light on the theories of Diop. They show close cultural links between Nubia and Ancient Egypt, though the relationship had been acknowledged for years.[9] This does not necessarily imply a genetic relationship, however. Mainstream Egyptologists such as F. Yurco note that among peoples outside Egypt, the Nubians were closest ethnically to the Egyptians, shared the same culture in the predynastic period, and used the same pharaonoic political structure.[10] He suggests that the peoples of the Nile Valley were one regionalized population, sharing a number of genetic and cultural traits.[11]

Diop argued that there was a shared cultural continuity across African peoples that was more important than the varied development of different ethnic groups shown by differences among languages and cultures over time.[12]

Two Cradle Theory

Two Cradle Theory is the supposition that that the severe climate and environment of Europe and Asia caused biological and cultural changes in the original human type resulting in the loss of pigmentation biologically and the development of an individualistic, xenophobic, aggressive, nomadic culture among the white isolates, in contrast to the cooperative, xenophillic, peaceful, sedentary culture among the darker skinned people who still inhabited the more benign climatic and environmental zones. Not only did nature fashion the instincts, habits and ethical concepts of the two subdivisions before they met after a long separation, Dr Diop’s Theory also claims that these early molds had permanent effects on the two civilizations which have endured until the present time.


  1. Diop, C.A., African Origins of Civilization - Myth or Reality: Chicago, Ill, Lawrence Hill Books 1974. pp. X, Footnote 4.
  2. Chris Gray, Conceptions of History in the Works of Cheikh Anta Diop and Theophile Obenga, (Karnak House:1989) 11-155
  3. Cheikh Anta Diop, The Pharaoh of Knowledge - Free Speech Mauritania (2006)
  4. Alain Froment, 1991. "Origine et evolution de l'Homme dans la Pensée de Cheikh Anta Diop: une Analyse Critique", Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines, XXXI-1-2: 29-64.
  5. UNESCO, "Symposium on the Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering of the Meroitic Script; Proceedings", (Paris: 1978), pp. 3-134
  6. John G. Jackson and Runoko Rashidi, Introduction To African Civilizations, (Citadel: 2001), ISBN 0806521899, pp. 13-175
  7. Lefkowitz, M.R. (1996). Not Out of Africa: How" Afrocentrism" Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. pp. 27-193
  8. Jackson and Rashidi, op. cit
  9. Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle, The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile, (AUC Press: 2007), pp. 34-183
  10. F. J. Yurco, "Were the ancient Egyptians black or white?", Biblical Archeology Review (Vol 15, no. 5, 1989), pp. 24-9, 58.
  11. Frank Yurco, "An Egyptological Review", 1996 -in Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers, Black Athena Revisited, 1996, The University of North Carolina Press, pp. 62-100
  12. Cheikh, Anta Diop, The Cultural Unity of Negro Africa, (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1963), English translation: The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Patriarchy and of Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity, (Karnak House: 1989), pp. 53-111