Was Canaan a True Black?
LIKE SOME other parts of this Paper, this appendix is also speculative. As long as this is clearly understood, no harm will be done, provided the speculation is not divorced entirely from the evidence. The general title of these Doorway Papers was intended to suggest that they could provide room for new approaches to old problems.
No one has ever suggested, to my knowledge, that the Sumerians were negroid — nor do any of the reconstructed “Sumerian Life and Times” series such as have appeared in the National Geographical Magazine, or Life, ever so portray them. Yet there is some evidence to suggest that they may have been black skinned.
According to Samuel Kramer (From the Tablets of Sumer, Falcon’s Wing Press, 1956, p.60), they refer to themselves as “the blackheaded people.” Actually the Sumerian original reads “head-of-black people,” the symbol for head (SAG) being a cone shaped hat hiding all but the neck of the wearer, thus:
which turned through 90° becomes
Hammurabi in his famous Code of Laws, also refers to the natives of Mesopotamia (Deimel’s transcription, 1930, R. 94, line 11) as:
i.e., “blackheaded ones.”
Such descriptive phrases are, I think usually taken to mean
merely “dark-haired.” But it seems likely that 95% or more of all the people who made up the early Middle East cultures were black-haired, whether Semitic or Sumerian, and the feature was hardly a distinguishing one. lndo-Europeans (from Japheth, whose name possibly means “fair”) played little part in it till much later. But the Semitic population according to A. H. Sayce (Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments, London, 1893, p.26) distinguished themselves with racial pride from other peoples by their own light coloured skin, and claimed that Adam too was a white man. They were his racial descendants. Yet they had black hair like the Sumerians and would not be different in this feature, and might therefore just as well have been termed ”blackheaded people.” But they apparently never were.
Evidently, then, it would be no mark of distinction to refer to the hair colour, but it would definitely be such to refer to skin colour. And the Sumerians were apparently proud of their black skin. In his Sumerian Reader, Gadd says they came to equate the term “blackheaded people” with the idea of “men” as real people by contrast with other human beings who are not really men at all.
It is further to be noted that the founders of the wonderful Indus Valley cultures were black skinned, and not merely black haired. The Rig Veda makes frequent reference to the fact that the conquering Aryans triumphed over these black and noseless (!) enemies (S. Pigott, Prehistoric India, Pelican, l950, p.261, and Lord Arundell of Wardour, Tradition: Mythology, and the Law of Nations, 1872, p.84). But there was some real connection if not racial identity, between the Sumerians and these Indus Valley people. It may well be therefore that the phrase does really refer to skin colour.
Now in the famous six sided prism of Sennacherib, the king refers to the conquered Canaanites as “blackness of head people.”
In this case it seems that Canaan could have been a black child, the homozygous offspring of his mulatto parents, Ham and his wife. The black people have a quite remarkable series of high cultures to their credit, and are almost born metallurgists. So were these ancient Canaanites.