How Long Is Long Ago ?
updated Sept 2018
When we say that the origins of certain communities can be traced to Egypt, many think that the Pharaonic era is too remote; too far removed from modern people for us to connect with it. But that is not so. The days of Akhenaten, or Ramses could have been charted on a family tree if everybody was literate and we would know their living relatives today. Imagine being neighbours with John Ramses, or Yusuf Akhenaten? To show that these ancients lived just the other day, let us look at the life span of humans.
Humans, according to the bible have a life expectancy of about seventy years (70). There are of course a few who live to one hundred and thirty years (130) but they can be counted on the fingers of two hands. If you take care of yourself by eating a balanced and healthy diet, keeping away from avoidable health risks and being conscious of safety procedures to avoid accidents, you can easily live to be one hundred (100) years old. Almost everybody can remember someone who lived to be one hundred years.
The Octogenarian scale - Now God planned that children are born every day all over the world. We have agreed that it is common for at least some people in any community to live to be one hundred (100) years old. On the day that any one of these octogenarian dies, several children are born. In fact many are born all over the world. Out of all the children that were born when the Octogenarian died, several will live to be one hundred (100) years old. When one of this second lot of Octogenarians dies, there will have been two (2) Octogenarians in a period of two hundred (200) years. And the day that one of these Octogenarians dies, several children will be born and at least some of them will live to be one hundred (100) years old. The cycle of life and death is continuous. Now you can see how in five hundred years only five Octogenarians will have lived back to back.
In five hundred years only five Octogenarians will have lived back to back!
Vasco Da Gama made the trip to find a sea route to India round the Cape of Good Hope in 1497. Between that time and 1997, only five (5) Octogenarians had lived back to back anywhere in the world, including in his native country, Portugal. We can wait till 2097, and only six (6) Octogerians will have lived since Vasco’s journey.
How many Octogenarians had lived between the Battle of Hastings and Vasco da Gama's sea voyage?
The Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066, in Britain. By the time Vasco Da Gama was setting off for the new world, only four (4) Octogenarians had lived back to back since that Battle. By 1966, an additional five (5) had lived in this world bringing a total of nine (9). Now you get the gist. Nine (9) Octogenarians since the Battle of Hastings! Had they been keeping family records, and had they been all related to each other, their families would have quite a commendable archive. That family exists - You and me and every other human being. All the records in this world belong to you and me – to us, inheritors of the earth and we must maintain them for our children.
When Vasco Da Gama arrived at Mombasa he put a commemorative pillar that exists to this day. His story became a Kenyan story and his records became our records. That pillar laid the foundation for a larger Portuguese presence and the building of Fort Jesus, which is today maintained by the National Museums of Kenya. That Portuguese story became a Kenyan story as well, and after colonial occupation by Britain, Kenya shared a British experience.
Now back to our question - how long is LONG AGO. Maybe the Battle of Hastings is very long ago, but then, only nine Octogenarians had lived by 1966. Does that sound like long ago? Is LONG AGO when one hundred Octogenarians live back to back? One thousand octogenarians or even One million? I suggest that we settle for one hundred (100), because it is not as remote as one million and it is a figure we can easily relate to. This one Hundred (100) Octogenarians living back to back is our 100% of LONG AGO.
The common era (BCE)
Going by our current calendar, Jesus was on earth around 1AD. By the year 2000 AD, some twenty (20) Octogenarians had lived since the birth of Christ. That is only 20% of our LONG AGO.
Now, the Exodus that took Mosses and the Israelite's out of Egypt is said by some experts to have taken place in 1270 BC. That would be twelve (12) Octogenarians before the birth of Christ – add the twenty (20) after the birth of Christ – thirty two (32) Octogenarians back to back by the year 2000 since Mosses left Egypt! Well, a mere 32% of our LONG AGO. Maybe if we think of ancients like Mentuhotep we will get closer to 100% of LONG AGO.
Only 32 Octogenarians have lived between the time that Mosses left Egypt and the year 2000!
In a "A History of Ancient Egypt," Nicolas Grimal places Mentuhotep’s reign at the year 2040 to 2009. The figure 2009 is closer to what we know in AD years. In one of my hubs, I have indicated that Mentuhotep is closely tied to the Kisii people of Kenya.
2009 BC had twenty (20) Octogenarians back to back before the birth of Christ, and another twenty (20) Octogerians back to back by 2009 AD. That is a total of forty (40) Octogenarians since the Kisii moved out of Egypt and only 40% of LONG AGO!
I have said repeatedly that the Kikuyu can trace their roots to Akhenaten, if only we accept that all written records on Akhenaten belong to them as well. Now Akhenaten quit the throne, either forcefully or by decamping around 1334 BC. Thirteen (13) Octogenarians had lived back to back before Christ and another twenty (20) by year 2000 AD – giving us a total of thirty three (33) Octogenarians, back to back since the Kikuyu started to leave Egypt. This is only Seven (7) Octogenarians fewer than the Kisii who had left earlier and only 33% of our benchmark of one hundred (100) Octogerians. In other words, my estimation is that the Kikuyu and the Kisii were separated by about seven hundred years. From my argument, that was not even long ago yet. LONG AGO has yet to be attained. This is what I call the Octogenarian scale, my own concept, so you can quote me as the inventor and put me in history books.
The migration of the Kikuyu and the the Kissii is separated by 700 years (approximately) when one uses the Octogenarian Scale.
Incidentally, to mean very long ago, the Kikuyu say Tene na Agu. Is the AGU of the Kikuyu the AGO (Long Ago) of the English? Think about it, after all, we share the same records, both written and oral.
For those who were not born when Martin Luther King died and think that it is very long time ago, think again. The Reverend Jesse Jackson witnessed the crime, and he is still alive. It’s not even one Octogenarian ago! For the Bombing of Hiroshima, we have to wait till 2045 for the first person born on that day to die at 100 years old! Is it still long ago?
Some points to ponder
Now here is a short Exercise. Use the Octogenarian scale above to answer the following:
1. How many Octogenarians (back to back) since the American Independence?
2. How many since Columbus landed in America?
3. How many since the death of Alexander the great?
4. How many since Genghis Khan?
5. How many since the end of the first World War?
6. How many since Shaka Zulu?
7. How many since the building of the Great Wall of China?
8. How many since the settling of Hawaii?
9. How many since potatoes, onions and tobacco were introduced in Europe from the Incas?
10. Which event would you say is 100 Octogenarians old (100% of LONG AGO)?
From the above, I hope I have shown that LONG AGO is a relative term. It is easy to see that the Egyptian era was not as distant as it first sounds. We are connected to it by less than one hundred (100) Octogenarians who lived and died back to back. Let us delve more into these records left by our forefathers because ‘to live fully in the present and the future, we must know our past.’
This is an original concept by Emmanuel Kariuki. Use it and and give credits appropriately