Foreword of “The Children of Ham”, Book One of The Cyrenian Chronicles

Homo sapiens, with its larger brain, evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago and remained there for more than 100,000 years. During that time the human race developed skills of communication through language, the formation of family groups and clans. Their uncertainty about the elements that affect them, rain, lightning and thunder and illnesses, made them aware of powers beyond their control. There appeared rituals and custom which later became the rudiments of social and cultural behaviour. Discoveries such as the use of weapons for hunting, the control of fire, the use of herbs for healing, cave painting and pictorial writing gradually appeared before the mass migration to Asia 50,000 years ago.

It is therefore not surprising that Africa, with the world’s oldest and largest collection of ancient writing systems, has taught the world to write. The earliest evidence of African writing dates back to 5000 BC on tablets found in Nubia. Egyptian hieroglyphics date to 4000 BC. The Nsibidi script used in Central West Africa by the Efik and Igbo nations of Nigeria, are believed to have been in use since 5000 BC with archaeological support, found in Ikom, Nigeria, dated at 2000 BC. By contrast, the oldest evidence of Asian scripts were dated at 3000 BC. The oldest European writing was found in Greece in 1400 BC and were largely derived from an older African script called Proto-Sinaitic.

The author was introduced to the concept of the Speaking Sticks by Victor Mfika Mubumbila, a professor of biochemistry at Louis Pasteur University in Strassbourg, France. He had a photograph of a priest wearing the “Har Kwain” breastplate and explained its use in designing pictograms as described in this book. He is the author of several works, including “Sur le Sentiers Mysterieux des Nombres Noirs”, published by l’Harmatan, expounding on the now forgotten African numeral system. The cult of secrecy that pervades much of African culture has contributed dearly to the loss of knowledge of the achievements on this continent.

In this novel, the Yoruba name for God is used. It is interesting that Olòrún is manifested in three forms, similarly to the Christian Trinity. This is prevalent in many African cultures. Adding to that is the concept of living, cognisant spirits of ancestors and those guarding the rivers and forests. Some anthropologists misinterpret these beliefs as polytheism. Could it be that such polytheism in India and Europe was born of the African belief in the existence of powerful spirits which, on those continents, were later deified and given human and animal forms?

Four facts are interesting in relation to African animism. Firstly, Judaism and Christianity, with a single God-creator, are closer to African beliefs, than they are to the polytheism that was prevalent in Europe and Asia before the adoption of Christianity. Secondly, the Japanese and Chinese, the East Asian nations furthest from Africa, and would therefore have been in the vanguard of the Homo sapiens migration, are inherently animists who practise ancestor worship. Thirdly, by 70 AD, the Nilotic nations, as far south as Sudan, were converted to Christianity, which continues to survive in the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox religions, whereas the rest of Europe, with the exception of Greece, adopted Christianity only 200 years later. Fourthly, whether they are Christians or Muslims, Africans firmly follow the principles of one God-creator, while many in Europe are rejecting this in favour of hedonistic atheism.

In 1928, the discovery of the life-sized terracotta statues at Nok in Central Nigeria, has led to the unearthing of the oldest known sub-Saharan civilisation. It had existed from, 900 BC to 300 AD and was the home of the Ham nation, centred around Har Kwain. Recent excavations in this region has led to the finding of kilns used for the extraction of iron from the haematite rocks that are scattered on the surface over an wide area. Based on the existence of known deposits of cassiterite, a known ore of tin, and the use of large kilns for the firing of the statues for which Nok is now famous, the author, who is an experienced technologist, speculates on the independent discovery, by the Ham nation, of the technology for extracting iron. Two facts are interesting to note in this respect. Firstly, iron extraction kilns have been discovered in this region dating from 1400 BC to 1000 BC, which indicates that this nation advanced to the Iron Age at least 200 years before the Europeans. Secondly, although the Ham knew how to extract tin, they could not produce bronze because of the lack of copper in the region. They appear to have progressed from the Stone Age, directly to the Iron Age, with stone and iron implements existing alongside each other. Because of the difficulty of its extraction, iron was substantially more expensive than European bronze. The easier extraction of Iberian copper and Britannic tin, locked Europe in the use of bronze well into the era of the Roman Empire.

All of the southern shores of the Mediterranean were inhabited by Africans, centuries before the arrival of sea-faring nations of Europe and Asia Minor. Modern historians tend to refer to these inhabitants collectively as Berbers but it is more likely that they were a conglomerate of various other nations, including those from Sub-Saharan Africa.

The migration of the Ham people, on foot or on horseback, to the part of Libya later to become Cyrene, was conveniently expedited by the growth of Lake Chad, about 2800 years ago. The Mega-lake Chad, fed by the Chari, a river originating in equatorial Africa, grew to a size greater than that of the Caspian Sea in Europe, and is evidenced by the presence of mollusc shells in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Grasslands and forests extended well into present-day Libya. The author proposes that the original inhabitants of Cyrene included the technologically advanced Ham nation, who settled there before 700 BC. In this novel, it is postulated that the early inhabitants of Cyrene were descendants of the Ham nation and had brought with them their iron age, as well as their stone age expertise.

Present-day Central Nigeria, the region covered by the Ham civilisation, is characterised by the presence of granite outcrops. The Ham people, using iron implements, would have been competent in stone masonry and could have built dwellings and other edifices, similar to those in Zimbabwe, which date to 1100 AD. There existed stone structures in Cyrene before the arrival of the Theran Greeks who constructed their temples and amphitheatres now surviving. This leads the author to assert that the iron-age Ham cattle herders of Har Kwain settled along the Mediterranean coast before Lake Chad retreated to the level assumed during the period covered by this series.

The Mbumboi is the forerunner of the carnivals celebrated in Africa and its diaspora. In Nigeria it is called the Masquerade because of the wearing of traditional masks. Such festivities are held throughout Africa and have no relation to the French masked balls or the Venice Carnival, held on the Tuesday before Lent. Nevertheless, over the past century, it has developed into the traditional Mardi Gras parades of New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. Similar diasporan celebrations in the United Kingdom, notably the Notting Hill and the Hackney Carnivals, not linked to Mardi Gras, have been annual events that drawn many tourists and followers. The Coon Carnival is held in Cape Town, South Africa, on New Year’s Day. The rhythmic back-and-forth dances such as the samba, rhumba, mambo, cha-cha-cha, have African names. Originating in West and Central Africa, they were carried to South America and the Caribbean by slaves. The “mincing” steps performed at the Mbumboi developed into the delightfully sensuous dances that we love today.

Taruga’s musical bows were the forerunners of the stringed instruments played with a bow. The violin is the national musical instrument of the Sudan and other African nations. It was introduced to Europe by gypsies, with whom they are traditionally associated. The violin were first used in European orchestras in the fourteenth or fifteenth century and was later refined by Stradivarius and others to the magnificent instrument we now know. It is significant that while European and Asian indigenous string instruments are strummed or plucked, Africa is the continent on which the bow is used, even by the Xan nation of the Kalahari in Southern Africa.

The Greeks who arrived in Cyrene were not a colonising army. They were refugees from Thera, fleeing from a devastating famine. Africans allowed them to stay. The combined intelligence and abilities of the Africans and the Greeks caused Cyrene to prosper. Cyrenaica produced grains, olive oil, wine, fruit, wool, sheep, cattle, and sylphion, an herb that grew only here and was used for birth control. Carthage, Alexandria, and Cyrenaica benefited from the Africa hinterland, supplying gold, silver, tin, iron and other metals, gemstones, ivory, hard woods, as well as wild animals not found in Europe. There is evidence that Rome traded with the Ashanti and Nubians for gold at the time of the Roman Empire.

Cyrene became one of the greatest intellectual and artistic centres of the Mediterranean world, famous for its medical school drawing on the use of African herbs, its learned academies, as well as its architecture. The role of Africans in the development of the southern Mediterranean ports is promoted in this novel. Africans tend to adopt non-African names for variety. That often hides the originators of the discoveries made by the Cyrenians. Greek, Roman or Hebrew names, as used in Cyrenaica, are not sufficient for such identification. Simon was not a Judean, nor was Mark a Roman. They were Africans.

This series challenges the Old Testament injunction that the Children of Ham are cursed to be the servants of their northern brethren. It discards the notion that Africa contributed nothing to the development of the Mediterranean trade and development. Why were the most important ports of the Roman Era in Africa: Alexandria, Cyrene and Carthage? Why were the Carthaginians, under Hannibal and his brother Hasdrubal, Africans with Phoenician names, the only people to launch an attack on Italian soil at the height of Rome’s power? This series attempts to answer these and many other questions.

Cyrenian Chronicles: Background

This is a quadrilogy of books about Simon of Cyrene. He is the central character in a series of novels examining the role of Africa in the development of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea at the time of the Roman Empire. The first three novels entitled “The Children of Ham”, “The Voyages of the Iyanda” and “Redemption”, respectively, cover the period from about 6 BC to about 43 AD. It is intended to continue with a fourth novel entitled “The Tax Collector” telling the story of the conversion of Alexandria to Christianity by Mark, the evangelist, friend and compatriot of Simon, and of Nubia and Ethiopia by Matthew, the tax collector, apostle and evangelist. This novel covers the period from 46 AD to 72 AD and ends with the destruction of Jerusalem and the revolt of the Cyrenians against the Romans.

Professor Xavier Carelse is a physicist and an electronic engineer. He has lectured at four universities  in Africa and was appointed as a visiting professor of physics at three in USA. He is a dedicated technologist and has worked as an industrial research physicist with ERA Technology Ltd in UK, at the SIRDC, the Scientific and Industrial research and Development Centre, in Zimbabwe, and at the Microprocessor Laboratory at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. He was the inaugural  General Manager of SIRTECH-SLATE a production unit of SIRDC.

He was born in Kimberley, South Africa and is a graduate of the University of Fort Hare, Rhodes University, the University of the Witwatersrand and Brunel University (UK). He has worked in five African countries and travelled to seventeen, attending conferences and workshops or as a tourist. He is an inveterate globe trotter, having worked at more than fifteen jobs, in eight countries on three continents. He has traveled to more than 75 countries on six continents, either as a tourist, attending conferences and workshop, or working. He has travelled twice around the world, from east to west and from west to east.

He has been married to Dr Orseline Carelse, a biotechnologist, for 47 years. They have four children and three grandchildren. His wife and children share his love of traveling.

Africa at the time of the Roman Empire

There were two highly important seaports that existed on the African coat. Carthage, from 600BC and Cyrene, from 400 BC. Both became important ports because of the extensive African hinterland from which they were able to import metals, minerals, gemstones, ivory, hardwoods, skins and hides, and wild animals. All of these products were in high demand in the other ports around the Mediterranean.

The Cyrenian Chronicles

Book One: The Children of Ham


The lead character in this book is Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross behind Jesus on the way to his crucifixion. This story deals with his early years as an African growing up in Cyrene, his maturing to adulthood and culminates in his marriage.

The objective of the book is to consider the cultural nature of Cyrene, the home of Africans, Greeks and Jews. There does not exist any record of internal conflict between these diverse cultures, except for a common resentment, in the background, of the Roman colonisers. Simon grows up in this harmonious melting-pot environment. His father, Taruga, is an African and a first generation Cyrenian. While adhering ardently to his animist origins, he takes an intense interest in the Jewish religion because of various similarities that exists between Judaism and Animism. He marries Esther, a Jewess who bears his only son, Simon.

The story begins with Simon’s first journey, at the age of twelve years, across the Great Desert to Har Kwain, the royal city of the ancient Ham Kingdom, the land of his forebears. Har Kwain as the oldest known Sub-Saharan civilisation, existed from about 800BC to 200AD. It was rediscovered in the last century and is known archaeologically as the Nok Culture. He is introduced to the African rites of passage, including the rites that confer the status of honorary ancestor on his dead grandfather, confirms the status of spiritual medium and oracle to a young girl, and prepares him for adulthood. He is confronted with the cult of secrecy that pervades African culture. He realises that this secrecy has kept hidden, from the rest of the world, many of the cultural and technological discoveries and advances that originated on this continent. He is torn between loyalty to his animist origins and the need to explore further the nature of Judaism. Under the tutorship of his Uncle Levi, a rabbi, he becomes a Jew and a Bar Mitzvah.

His life is enriched by his friendship with Ursula and Penelope, the  daughters of Alexandros, a Greek shipping merchant, and Olivia, a herbalist and healer. His other friends include Jonathan, the younger brother of his mother, and Hector, a Greek boy. The five friends frequent the Greek theatre while attending the local Greek school, run by Pelagios who had assimilated the various cultures that co-exist in Cyrene.

Simon makes what could be his final journey to Har Kwain, accompanied by Jonathan and Taruga. He discovers more about the cultural nature of the Ham people, as well as their technological achievements such as the extraction of iron  and tin, the preparation of indigo from the plant, and origin of the terracotta statues for which the Nok Culture is world-famous. The Ham nation entered the Iron Age at about 1400 BC. Archaeological evidence exists that this technological achievement in Africa happened while most of Europe were locked in the Bronze Age. His resourcefulness in the face of danger is tested when he solves a murder mystery, thereby establishing the innocence of a Roman scribe, Mark, and revealing the true murderer, who becomes his enemy, and is determined to wreak vengeance on Simon and Mark. An ambush at a desert oasis is foiled and Simon, Taruga, Jonathan and Mark return safely to Cyrene.

In the final chapters, Simon is apprenticed to Alexandros with the aim of engaging in the sea trade. He marries Ursula in a wedding ceremony that incorporates all the cultures and traditions of the Cyrenian melting pot: African, Greek and Jewish. Continue reading