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Help needed: African presence in early history British Isles & Scandinavia

Discussion in 'Amon Amarth' started by Belgar, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. Belgar

    Belgar The Wallonian Redneck.

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    I am calling on this forum, Tyra and all to help me out with this topic.

    I am taking a class on political economy of race and one of our section is African presence in early Europe.

    I have to lead a one hour discussion on the above topic.
    The above title refers to an essay written by Don Luke. The main premise of the essay in on the presence of African people in northern and N-W Europe within historic and late pre-historic times. The argument is to demonstrate that as early as Aurignacian period African had made their way up to these regions and left not only a physical but also cultural presence in these regions.

    The work also draws from writers such as George Gomme and Charles Squire who assert that the original inhabitants of the isles were not Celts and non-Teutonic but also philologically allied with people which spoke a non-Aryan language.

    Further authors that I am reading also include Gerald Massey and Albert Churchward who exhamined the Nile Valley origins of British culture.

    My question here, is how this early presence is rendered in Norse mythology?
    Some reference hint at Halfdan "The Black" and the arrival of Ynglings who came to these regions bringing with them new skills and knowledge, especially customs of dealing with the dead.
    Other references relate to the Edda and the Light Elves, Dark Elves and Black Dwarves and the realm of Svartheim.
    Here authors point to the early inhabitants Twa of the Dorset culture referred to as Skraelings, Lapps and Ainu culture.

    The essay makes mention of Thrall as an Africoid character in the Edda. The offspring of Odin's son Heimdall.
    In Green's version Thrall is not identified as being black but he is in Gwyn Jones' book.

    I think this is open for debate, some might find it interesting, others would simply, refute the possibility of any African presence in those regions. Black Dwarves, Dark Elves are the Twa who Eric the Red discovered already occupying Greenland; "Skraeklings".

    There are many other references but I don't want to make this thread overly complicated.

    I am looking for people's opinion on that, maybe something some had not thought about, possibly some article, references, links to other sagas like LOTR.
    I'd be interested in hearing Tyra's opinion and others who might have scholarly reference to share.
     
  2. Tyra

    Tyra Member

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    Interesting topic!
    OK, so in the sagas, ethnic Africans are refered to as blue men. These were the Africans that inhabited the northern arts of Africa and who, still to this day, trade in Spain and the Arabic areas. Their skin is not brown, but very balck, so black that it sometimes comes across as having a blue tint to it. Halfdan the Black is someone who has a dark complexion and who has only one parent who is Danish. Could just as well be someone who is a child of a Dane and a Black Irish...if he were half black, I would have expected him to have a name alluding to that, rather than his "degree of Danishness", if you get my drift (kind of like "Halfblue" or "Halfdan the Blue").
    There are African finds in the Swedish archaeological material dating back to the Stone Age, an ostrich egg for example. The consensus among Scandinavian researchers is that we're then seeing trade goods that have travelled from Africa and may have been passed through many hands on the way, rather than that a black person would have brought it in person. Unfortunately many things that can be considered as exotic luxuries don't keep in the archy material (feathers, leopard skins and expensive fabrics for example), so we can assume there may have been more that we don't know about. A good book on that is The Allure of the Exotic by Jaqueline Taffinder. Having said that, though, ideas can travel with objects without the person who started the idea necessarily going with the object, as seen by how certain religious aspects emanating from the Levant made its way all the way up to Sweden and Denmark during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age (Rise of Bronze Age Society, Kristiansen and Larsson, Cambridge). At the moment, I am working on a three year plus project mapping out how standards of weight travelled in pre-history (with emphasis on the Viking Age). Some of the weight systems, such as the one used in Sweden at the time, started in areas close to or in the Fertile Crescent. African people as well as Northern Europeans traded with the inventors of these systems, so the standard weight units would have spread to Northern Europe and Africa both. That I can prove, but since our article is in press still, you can't refer to that research - yet. The point is that weights from one country can travel up and down through back roads as far back as the Bronze Age for sure. The Africans had The Incense road long before there was the Silk Road, so why not? It connected into areas that the Scandinavians trades with early on - very early on, even.
    In terms of the other things you mention, like the svartalfar and so on, there are some reasonably solid explanations for what they represented in the anthro sources, and skraelingar were Inuit and First Nations people. I bet you almost anything, though, that you can find things in the sagas about thralls who could possibly be black. I have not really thought about it before, but there must be something there, as we have stories about the Vikings trading slaves from northern Africa. They may not have been there "collecting them" themselves, but it could be that they, like ostrich eggs, went through several hands. Vikings would have been exposed to black people regardless, as the trade from Sweden went to Constntinopel and Byzantium, where there were whole quarters of black people. We have some very specific agreements in writing between Swedes and the rulers of these cities as to what a Viking with his sought after trade goods but scary weapons and hot tempers could and could not do while in Byzantium, for example.
    Gotta go for now - supposed to be working still. Bounce something back at me and I'll see if I can think of a better reply!
     
  3. Belgar

    Belgar The Wallonian Redneck.

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    Thanks Tyra.
    You mention some of the influences from the fertile Crescent. Some have suggested that i.e. the rites and power of magic connected to black dwarves could be connected to the 'Chaldean Magi' used by Egyptian priests who share common traits (as documented by Romans and Egyptians themselves) and are known to have settled in Babylon.
    I think was question is now more in the sense; could these inhabitants have settled in that region for much longer than had been previously thought?

    There is also some contention on the idea of script 'Tifinag' that some say was taken to Africa during the Nordic attack on the Delta area while others claim that many of the Nordic myths are related to ancient African cults of worship.

    The similarity of the cult of Thor is strangely similar to the West African Niger Delta cult of Shango who was the storm/thunder god, wielded a hammer and shared many other char. with Thor.
    In the Egyptian documents during Ptolemy and Hanno of Carthage, Shango is seen residing atop of a cloudy mountain, a 'chariot of the gods'.

    Interestingly enough, the same area of Africa along with Egypt are known for their Seafaring skills and ship burial practices that have been found in the British Isles and Scandinavia, especially starting with the time of Harald the Fairhaired, son of Halfdan the Black.

    Most of this is detailed in the work of Frobenius who makes interesting parallels of the Norse mythology to many of the cults and deities of the Egyptians.Odin and Frigga as Osris and Isis, Thor and Loki as Horrus and Set.
    While authors see a relation between Greek-Roman and Nordic gods, they fail to see an earlier link to the more ancient cults in Africa that already had the same type of cults of worship.

    Do you have any particular insights on this?

    I was also interested in how you portrayed Halfdan the Black. Again, was he 'Dan' with Black skin? or Black hair? half Dan and half Africoid?

    Thanks again for the info.
     
  4. Celtik Militia

    Celtik Militia Dumb French Bastard

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    I can't help you much for norse myths, but there are elements in welsh myths which may interest you unless you have already heard of them.

    In most published versions of the welsh Mabinogion, in addition to the four main myths which are the "true" Mabinogion cycle, there are usually additional tales, mostly related to the Arthurian legend.

    Some protagonists in these tales are described as "black men". The two tales I remember talking about a black man are "Owein or The Lady of the Fountain" and "Peredur the Son of Evrawc".

    Here's the wikipedia page on these myths dubbed "Three Welsh Romances" :
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_Romances
    Here's an "old" english translation of the Mabinogion :
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mab/index.htm

    I have two translations of the Mabinogion, an english one and a french one. Unfortunately, none care to detail in the notes whether the "black man" is black as in africoid, or simply if its just a dark complexion for a white guy, or if its just his armour/clothes which are black. But I remember being surprised reading about these "black" dudes in welsh myths. If this sparks your interest, I'd happily read those myths again and try to get to the end of this, and see if I can find more info on these black guys.

    As for black africans in Aurignacian Europe, I never heard of this although I'm an advanced student in Paleolithic Europe. I never read of africoid skulls found in Paleolithic Europe for example, and I'm pretty sure that if this was a fact, my very anti-racist teachers would have mentioned it to prove a point about how we're all related and stuff. But sure, there is the "out of Africa" theory on homo sapiens, but the migration was slow so by the time homo sapiens reached Europe they probably weren't black anymore, that is if they ever were.

    As for pre-indo-europeans in the Isles, although this is hardly sourced, the last part called "Fact or Fiction" here may interest you, on the genetic composition of Ireland, which apparently is mostly pre-celtic :
    http://www.maryjones.us/jce/leborgabala.html
     
  5. Belgar

    Belgar The Wallonian Redneck.

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    Celtik, sure you can send me the info you might find on the topic, especially if you have info on the Celts and their mythology. I think it's interesting to see how some more ancient elements and cultural aspects might have influenced the notion of the northern regions of Europe.
    That of course of Africoid evolving over to the more Caucasoid type is also of interest but that's moving back much before the common era history.

    What is your take on the Grimaldi presence in south of France? I've read some conflicting views on their presence pre-dating that of cro-magnon.
     
  6. Tyra

    Tyra Member

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    Hey. So, I'm not very well versed in Chaldeans so I hesitate to reply. It's one of those areas that people specialize in because of the sheet mass of information, and I just don't want to confuse matters... However, there is lots that can be said about similarities between religions in geographically widely spaced cultures and even cultures separated by time. For exmple, my prof and others have shown remarkable similarities between current Pacific cultures and Stone Age Swedish ones. What it boils down to is the theory of the human psyche basically being wired for certain things. Jung outlined archetypes common to religions and societies accordingly. The idea is that we as humans have some things that are common to us all. For example, if you were to sit in a cave in a certain spot today, the same spot that a cro magnon sat in when he paited the cave paintings, and someone else in the cave played a drum like the one that the cro magnons had at their disposal, then it would make your central nervous system vibrate just the same way his did and you would have hallucinations that are identical or similar to the ones he painted on the cave walls where you're now sitting. It's to do with physiology, just like everyone gets hungry, everyone has to pee and all that. Some say that religious apparitions are like that, too. Jung says we all have archetypes. Anyhow, we know that Asatru has commonalities with for example Greek mythology by virtue of both being Indo European religions. Ideas, just like religions, rub off on cultures that come in contact in one way or another. Look at the similarities between the Mithras cult and early Christianity. The interesting part is that the Mithras cult was something that came from a whole another area and that was practised by Indo-Europeans. Christianity was not. Obviously similarities can skip across ethnic heritage lines. Then there are the smiliarities between the Indo-European "archetypes" alone. You don't need for a Norseman to have been in direct contact with an African to have a similarity between the religions. All you need is both cultures to have been exposed to a middle man with an archetype for a similar off-shoot to happen. Then the "new" gods will have different names but very similar traits. If I am not wrong, some of the older scholars in the fiels of archaeology pointed out that the Egyptians had a gad that was very similar in his ways to Thor and whose name even sounded like Thor. I wish I could remember more for you...
    Re Egypt, there were whole cultures simultaneous to some of the Egyptian pharaos that were annhilated by the famous Boat People/Sea People. Nobody knows where they came from, who they were and where they went, but we have written evidence from several cultures that this is what happened. Who knows how they influenced other people as well as the Egyptians?

    Colour in people's names in the VA can mean one of two things. Either you are white or black or red because your hair is that colour, much like Harald Fairhair had lovely hair (not blonde as in the British English fair haired, but fair as in fair maiden) or it can be a reflection of your temperament, such as Thor the Red, which was for his temper, not for his hair, folks. Sometimes you can tell from how it is written in teh original text, because just like fair in Fairhair, some words that consist of one word in English consists of two in ON. Fair in Swedish can be translated with both fager (as in the case of Harald Hårfagre) or ljushårig as in fair haired or blonde haired. I'm not entirely sure why any more, but the way I recall it, Halfdan was named so because of his hair rather than his temperament (although there are other "black" names that were a result from someone who was just black to the soul), and either way not because of his skin. Wish I had a reference for you now, but it was so long ago that i studied all that... -T
     

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