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 Ancient Oromo History

A reconstruction of the history of a people very much alive today

By Prof. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis

The Kingdom of Kerma (2050-1580 BCE)

• Around 3000 B.C., a town began to develop near the Neolithic dwellings.

• Pre-Kerma (c. 3500-2500BC) No C-Group Phase

• Early Kerma (c. 2500-2050BC) C-Group Phase Ia-Ib

• Middle Kerma (c. 2050-1750BC) C-Group Phase Ib-IIa

• Classic Kerma (c. 1750-1580BC) C-Group Phase IIb-III

• Final Kerma (c. 1580-1500BC) C-Group Phase IIb-III

• Late Kerma – ‘New Kingdom’ (c.1500-1100?BC) ‘New Kingdom

Egyptian control over Kush (1580 – 800 BCE)

Under Tuthmosis I, Egypt made several campaigns south. This resulted
in their annexation of Kerma/ Kush) c.1504 BCE. After the conquest,
Kerma culture was increasingly 'Egyptianized' yet rebellions continued
for 220 years (until c.1300 BCE).

During the New Egyptian Kingdom, Kerma/ Kush nevertheless became a key
province of the Egyptian Empire - economically, politically and
spiritually. Indeed, major Pharaonic ceremonies were held at Jebel
Barkal near Napata (today’s Karima), and the royal lineages of the two
regions seem to have intermarried. However, examples of fake maps made up because of political agendas are plentiful.


The Rise of Meroe - ca. 400 BCE

The Meroitic alphabets and the Meroitic Language: Ancient Afaan Oromo
Despite the fact that F. L. Griffith has identified the 23 Meroitic
alphabetic scripture’s signs already in 1909, not much progress has
been made towards an ultimate decipherment of the Meroitic.
Scarcity of epigraphic evidence plays a certain role in this regard,
since as late as the year 2000 we were not able to accumulate more
than 1278 texts.

If we now add to that the lack of lengthy texts, the lack of any
bilingual text (not necessarily Egyptian /Meroitic, it could be
Ancient Greek / Meroitic, if we take into consideration that
Arkamaniqo / Ergamenes was well versed in Greek), and a certain lack
of academic vision, we understand why the state of our knowledge about
the history of the Meroites is still so limited.

According to partially deciphered Meroitic texts, the name of Meroe'
city was Medewi or Bedewi

The End of Meroe I

Amidst numerous unclear points of the Kushitic / Meroitic history, the
end of Meroe, and the consequences of this event remain a most
controversial point among scholars. Quite indicatively, we may mention
here the main efforts of historical reconstitution.

A. Arkell, Sayce and others asserted that Meroe was captured and
destroyed, following one military expedition led by Ezana of Axum.

B. Reisner insisted that, after Ezana’s invasion and victory, Meroe
remained a state with another dynasty tributary to Axum.

C. Monneret de Villard and Hintze affirmed that Meroe was totally
destroyed before Ezana’s invasion, due to an earlier Axumite
Abyssinian raid.

D. Torok, Shinnie, Kirwan, Haegg and others concluded that Meroe was
defeated by a predecessor of Ezana, and continued existing as a vassal

E. Bechhaus- Gerst specified that Meroe was invaded prior to Ezana’s
raid, and that the Axumite invasion did not reach lands further in the
north of Meroe.

With two fragmentary inscriptions from Meroe, one from Axum, two
graffitos from Kawa and Meroe, and one coin being all the evidence we
have so far, we have little to reconstruct the details that led to the
collapse of Meroe. One relevant source, the Inscription of Ezana (DAE 11, the
‘monotheistic’ inscription in vocalized Ge’ez), remains a somewhat
controversial historical source to be useful in this regard.

One point is sure, however: there was never a generalized massacre of
the Meroitic inhabitants of the lands conquered by Ezana. The aforementioned DAE 11 inscription mentions just 758 Meroites killed by the Axumite forces.
The Christianization of Kush took place in the years 360 – 400 CE .
The Meroitic - Oromo Migration from Kush


What is even more difficult to comprehend is the reason behind the
scarcity of population attested on Meroitic lands in the aftermath of
Ezana’s raid. The post-Meroitic and pre-Christian, transitional phase of Sudan’s
history is called X-Group or period, or Ballana Period and this is
again due to lack to historical insight.


Contrarily to what happened for many centuries of Meroitic history,
when the Meroitic South (the area between Shendi and Atbara in modern
Sudan with the entire hinterland of Butana that was called Insula
Meroe, i.e. Island Meroe in the Antiquity) was overpopulated, compared
to the Meroitic North (from Napata / Karima to the area between Aswan
and Abu Simbel, which was called Triakontaschoinos and was divided
between Meroe and the Roman Empire), during the X-Group times, the
previously under-populated area gives us the impression of a more
densely inhabited region, if compared to the previous centre of
Meroitic power and population density.


The new situation contradicts earlier descriptions and narrations by
Dio Cassius and Strabo.

Furthermore, the name ‘Ballana period’ is quite indicative in this
regard. Ballana lies on Egyptian soil, whereas not far in the south of
the present Sudanese - Egyptian border is located Karanog with its
famous tumuli that bear evidence of Nubian upper hand in terms of
social anthropology. The southernmost counterpart of Karanog culture
can be found in Tangassi (nearby Karima, which represented the ‘North’
for what was the center of earlier Meroitic power gravitation).

Certainly, the motives of Ezana's raid have not yet been properly
studied and assessed by modern scholarship. The reasons for the raid
may vary from a simple nationalistic usurpation of the name of
'Ethiopia' (Kush), which would give Christian eschatological
legitimacy to the Axumite Abyssinian kingdom, to the needs of
international politics (at the end of 4th century) and the eventuality
of an Iranian - Meroitic alliance at the times of Shapur II (310-379),
aimed at outweighing the Roman-Abyssinian bond.

Yet, this alliance could have been the later phase of a time honored
Meroitic diplomatic tradition (diffusion of Mithraism as attested on
the Jebel Qeili reliefs of Shorkaror). The Jebel Qeili Reliefs of Shorkaror 1st c. CE do provide that evidence.

What we can be sure of are the absence of a large-scale massacre, and
 the characteristic scarcity of population in the central Meroitic
provinces during the period that follows Ezana’s raid and the
destruction of Meroe.

The only plausible explanation is that the scarcity of population in
Meroe mainland after Meroe's destruction was due to the fact that the
Meroites in their outright majority (at least for the inhabitants of
Meroe's southern provinces) fled away and migrated to areas where they
would stay independent from the Semitic Christian kingdom of Axumite
Abyssinia. This explanation may sound quite fresh as approach, but it actually is
not, since it constitutes the best utilization of the already existing
historical data.


From archaeological evidence, it becomes clear that during X-Group
phase and throughout the Makkurian period the former heartland of
Meroe remained mostly uninhabited. The end of Meroe is definitely abrupt, and it is obvious that Meroe's driving force had gone elsewhere. The correct question should be
‘where to?’

There is no evidence of Meroites sailing the Nile downwards to the
area of the 4th (Karima) and the 3rd (Kerma) cataracts, which was
earlier the northern circumference of Meroe and remained untouched by
Ezana. There is no textual evidence in Greek, Latin and/or Coptic to
testify to such a migratory movement or to hint at an even more
incredible direction, i.e. Christian Roman Egypt. If we add to this the impossibility of marching to the heartland of the invading Axumites (an act that would mean a new war), we reduce the options to relatively few.


The migrating Meroites could go either to the vast areas of the
Eastern and the Western deserts or enter the African jungle or
ultimately search a possibly free land that, being arable and good for
pasture, would keep them far from the sphere of the Christian
Axumites. It would be very erroneous to expect settled people to move
to the desert. Such an eventuality would be a unique oxymoron in the
history of the mankind. Nomadic peoples move from the steppes, the
savannas and the deserts to fertile lands, and they settle there, or
cross long distances through steppes and deserts. However, settled
people, if under pressure, move to other fertile lands that offer them
the possibility of cultivation and pasture.


The few scholars who think that Meroitic continuity could be found
among the present day Beja and Hadendawa are oblivious to the
aforementioned reality of the world history, and of the fact that it
was never contravened. In addition, the Blemmyes were never friendly to the Meroites. Every
now and then, they had attacked parts of the Nile valley and the
Meroites had had to repulse them thence. It would rather be
inconceivable for the Meroitic population, after seeing Meroe sacked
by Ezana, to move to a land where life would be difficult and where
other enemies would wait them!

It is essential to stress here that the entire environmental milieu of
Sudan was very different during the times of the Late Antiquity that
we examine in our approach. Butana may look like a wasteland nowadays, and the Pyramids of Bagrawiyah may be sunk in the sand, whereas Mussawarat es Sufra and
Naqah demand a real effort in crossing the desert, but in the first
centuries of Christian era, the entire landscape was dramatically

In ancient times, Butana was not a desert but a fertile cultivated
land. We have actually found remains of reservoirs, aqueducts, various
hydraulic installations, irrigation systems and canals in Meroe and
elsewhere. Not far from Mussawarat es Sufra there must have been an
enclosure where captive elephants were trained before being
transported to Ptolemais Theron (present day Suakin, 50 km in the
south of Port Sudan) and then further on to Alexandria. Desert was in
the vicinity, certainly, but not that close.

We have good reason to believe that, following the Ezana's raid, the
Meroites, rejecting the perspective of forced christening, and the
Abyssinian rule migrated southwestwards up to Khartoum. From there,
they proceeded southeastwards alongside the Blue Nile in a direction
that would keep them safe and far from the Axumite Abyssinians whose
state did not expand as far in the south as Gondar and Tana Lake.
Proceeding in this way and crossing successively areas of modern
cities, such as Wad Madani, Sennar, Damazin, and Asosa, and from there
on, they expanded in later times over the various parts of Biyya


We do not imply that the migration was completed in the span of one
lifetime; quite contrarily, we have reasons to believe that the
establishment of Alodia (or Alwa) is due to the progressive waves of
Meroitic migrants who settled first in the area of Khartoum that was
out of the westernmost and southernmost confines of the Meroitic state.

Only when Christianization became a matter of concern for the
evangelizing Nobatians, and the two Christian Sudanese states were
already strong, the chances of preserving the pre-Christian Meroitic
cultural heritage in the area around Soba (capital of Alodia) became
truly poor. Then another wave of migrations took place, with early Alodian
Meroites proceeding as far in the south as Damazin and Asosa, areas
that remained always beyond the southern border of Alodia (presumably
around Sennar), the 3rd Christian state in Christian Ethiopia, i.e. Sudan.

Like this, the second migratory Meroitic wave may have entered around
600 CE in the westernmost confines of today’s Biyya Oromo, the area
where the Oromos, descendents of the migrated Meroites, still live
A great number of changes at the cultural-behavioral levels are to be
expected, when a settled people migrates to faraway lands. As example.
the Phoenicians had kings in Tyre, Sidon, Byblos and their other
cities-states, but introduced a democratic system in their colonies,
when they sailed faraway and colonized various parts of the

The collapse of the Meroitic royalty was a shock for the Nile valley;
the Christian kingdoms of Nobatia, Makkuria and Alodia were ruled by
kings whose power was to great extent counterbalanced by that of the
Christian clergy. With the Meroitic royal family decimated by Ezana, it is quite
possible that the high priests of Apedemak and Amani (Amun) took much
of the administrative responsibility in their hands, inciting people
to migrate and establishing a form of collective and representative
authority among the Meroitic Elders. They may even have preserved the
royal title of Qore within completely different socio-anthropological
context. But Gadaa system, as it is today, was established only later
and far from the old homeland.

What today’s Oromo People could do in order to better assess their History
A Call for Comparative Egyptian-Meroitic-Oromo Studies Comparative Egyptian-Meroitic-Oromo Studies

A. National diachronic continuity is better attested and more markedly
noticed in terms of Culture, Religion and Philosophical-Behavioral
system. The first circle of comparative research would encompass the world of
the Ancient Egyptian - Kushitic -Meroitic and Oromo concepts, beliefs,
faiths and cults - anything that relates to the Weltanschauung of the
three cultural units under study.

B. Archeological research can help greatly too. At this point one has
to stress the reality that the critical area for the reconstruction
suggested has been totally indifferent for Egyptologists, Meroitic and
Axumite archaeologists so far. The Blue Nile valley in Sudan and
Abyssinia was never the subject of an archaeological survey, and the
same concerns the Oromo highlands. Certainly modern archeologists
prefer something concrete that would lead them to a great discovery,
being therefore very different from the pioneering nineteenth century
archeologists. An archeological study would be necessary in the Blue
valley and the Oromo highlands in the years to come.

C. A linguistic - epigraphic approach may bring forth even more
spectacular results. It could eventually end up with a complete
decipherment of the Meroitic and the Makkurian. An effort must be made
to read the Meroitic texts, hieroglyphic and cursive, with the help of
Oromo language. Meroitic personal names and toponymics must be studied
in the light of a potential Oromo interpretation. Comparative
linguistics may unveil affinities that will lead to reconsideration of
the work done so far in the Meroitic decipherment.

D. Last but not least, another dimension would be added to the project
with the initiation of comparative anthropological studies.

Data extracted from findings in the Meroitic cemeteries must be
compared with data provided by the anthropological study of present
day Oromos. The research must encompass pictorial documentation from the various
Meroitic temples' bas-reliefs. What Comparative Egyptian-Meroitic-Oromo Studies can do

• Bring Identity, Integrity, National Self-determination, Independence, Nation-building and Heritage preservation to the Oromo People

• Create a Model of National Historiography that other nations will
follow (Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, etc.), thus solving their

• Reject Colonial History & Establish a Genuine African Historiography

• Bring an End to the forthcoming Western plans providing for the
total destruction of Africa and for the full Amharization /
Rastafarization of the Black Continent.


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