By Gezaee Hailemichael
I have been reading for a while the controversial new book released by you. I have also viewed and listened to your podcast posted on social media a while ago. I have read articles written and addressed to you by Professors Paulos Milkias and Getachew Haile. I do not want to go deep into the content of those articles. I would however like to express what I think is the right thing to do and also give my personal opinion on your point of view and the judgement of other Ethiopians regarding your book.
First and foremost, one single person cannot and does not have the right to rewrite the history of 100 million people that has spanned 4,000 years based on studies done in ancient Egypt and existing documents found in Ethiopia. Studies which have been done so far in Egypt have shown that Egypt was at one time part and parcel of an Ethiopian domain. The problem however is that due to the fact that as more studies have been done in Egypt, our regions is neglected and it has become more difficult to differentiate between present day Ethiopia, Nubia and ancient Egypt.
All the studies which have been done in Egypt have been done based on science by anthropologists, geologists, paleontologists, dendrochronologists using carbon dating, Raman dating, Infrared dating, X-ray dating and many other techniques. History it should be stressed, is science and fact, and thus, can and must be tested or questioned to verify authenticity.
Dr. Fikre: you have claimed that you have examined the documents you used as a source for your book and you swear about the authenticity of your sources. Yet, in an interview you gave to Riyot anchored by journalist Tewodros, you admitted that you have not even seen the so called Meriras discovered Ge’ez manuscript you refer to scores of times in your book. How can you examine something you have not seen? This defies logic.
One way of another, whatever sources you use must not only be read by you but must pass through authentication procedures. You admitted in the interview that you simply trusted Meriras Belay by your gut feeling. But the authenticity of a source used to write a history book cannot be taken for granted by trusting people without seeing a manuscript or by how you feel about them in person. It is not even enough to look at a manuscript used so widely to quote it: you have to make a scientific test. Furthermore, you cannot use or cite Wikipedia as a source which you did in your book. As a professor, you should have known by now that when you’re doing academic research, you should be extremely cautious about using Wikipedia which is changed by readers, some of whom are not knowledgeable about the subject, constantly.
Others sources must also be vetted carefully. They must pass through authentication processes and procedures. Before one writes a book that is for public consumption or to change or rewrite the entire history of Ethiopia, Ethiopians historians must have been part and parcel of the process of rewriting the Ethiopia’s entire history, and all the sources must have been authenticated first by Ethiopian and Ethiopianist historians. How is authentication done? Well, there are many techniques of dating or authenticating a written material. The following are some techniques which are commonly used to vet important Manuscripts across the world:
1. Infrared Spectroscopy
2. Raman Spectroscopy
3. Mass Spectroscopy
4. LIDAR Spectroscopy
5. Polarimetric Spectroscopy
6. Laser Doppler Techniques
7 Laser Desorption Mass Spectroscopy
8. Photon or Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
9. X-ray Fluorescence
10. X-ray Powder diffraction
11. Particle-induced X-ray emiss
12. Scanning acoustic Microscope
13. Scanning Auger Microscope
14. Dendrochronology used to date wooden artifacts.
15. NSOM or SNOM , near field scanning optical microscopy
16. Carbon dating or Isotope dating
All the above and more other techniques are used to authenticate manuscripts, books, anything that is written on parchment or rock or on hide on woods or caves, statues and mummies For example take the specific case of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were all examined and dated using carbon dating. Some of the materials put to the test can self-destruct so they had to take samples that may not be used after testing. It is a price paid to prove authenticity. Others are non-destructive and non-invasive which means you can check or test the material without touching then mechanically or without damaging the material using lasers which is used to authenticate delicate antiquities or remains.
Therefore the claimed precious findings you refer to that were discovered in Jebel Nuba half a century ago, if ever that can be proven, must pass through any of the authentication tests mentioned above. There is no need for argument or fighting over the claims. The claimed material must be verified before it is being doled out in different forms for the consumption of the general public.
It is indeed wrong to release un-authenticated source for public consumption. This is an unethical and an un-professional practice. Thus Dr. Fikre and your friend must submit the said document to trusted institutions in Ethiopia or other countries where the materials for testing are abundant to be examined for authenticity or be passed on to a panel of Ethiopian historians or to UNESCO. One person cannot claim he knows everything and has proved the sources without involving Ethiopians historians, let alone without even seeing it.
Dr. Fikre Tolossa: you have not answered any single question forwarded to you by Professor Paulos except defending yourself blindly by referring people to your sources or citations. You must present evidence to be believed. Do not think you are being attacked personally because your work is being questioned and scrutinized. Ethiopians have right to question your sources or claims, and it is up to you to prove your claim scientifically. Note that you are trying to change the entire Ethiopian history?
There are many Ethiopians who support you simply because they believe your work creates peace and contentment among Ethiopian ethnic groups. But there is also a silent majority that is quiet but is underneath agitated by your hollow claim of rewriting the history of one of the oldest countries in the world. In the process of an attempt to be a creative historian, you have struck out one of the most important gifts paleontology has given us starting in the 20th century and still today. All scientists have accepted the scientific find that Ethiopia is the cradle of humankind. Mind that this is not based on the Bible. This is based on rock solid science of which we as Ethiopians are very proud of. Don’t you feel unpatriotic to try to throw away our pride, Dinknesh Lucy, who is over 3.5 million years old? You simply cannot shirk this responsibility away by using blind defense mechanisms.
Dr. Fikre, you must know that it is not about you anymore. It is about the book you have distributed to the public for mass consumption – a book that is disseminating false information. In doing this, you did not consult Ethiopian historians. And when the book came out, Professor Getachew Haile has put its lack of integrity to rest.
As a knowledgeable debtera and Western educated scholar, he has come to the conclusion that what Meriras claims to be an Ethiopian Orthodox church manuscript is in actual fact, his own creation. Even the supposed Nuba script he has determined are Meriras own creation. And yet you continue to defend the authenticity of this so called medieval manuscript you claim you have not seen.
It is your responsibility to provide proofs for your work by well-reasoned argument and supported by hardcore evidence, to use Professor Paulos’ word, you must provide iron-clad proofs. I am not saying you should, I am saying you must provide solid evidences to your claims. Otherwise, why would Ethiopians erase all their history to suck up your new conjectures without hard evidences and scientific proofs?
You ought to have collaborated with others Ethiopian historian in writing and validating your sources. Had you done so, you would not have faced challenging question from Profs. Getachew and Paulos.
Your book has sown confusion. No Ethiopians really knows what you are talking about. Some young people might be buying your book, but these people do not know much, and they may think you are doing a great job. You are misleading, misinforming and misguiding young Ethiopians if you do not recant your claims and then ask for an apology from all Ethiopians.
For example, if we refer to biblical sources, Melchizedek was a priest, a king of Salem or Jerusalem, and he did not have father or mother or clan or tribe or race or ethnic group. Thus, there is no way Meleketsak can be an Ethiopian. Again going by Biblical reports, if he belongs to an ethnic group, he must have been a Jebusite, ethnic community or tribe he was serving. You brought this out of a complete vacuum for you have no reliable source to back up your claim.
Note that the Amhara and Tigréyans have not questioned their Ethiopianness. So, why do you want them to question their own written history? I do not think Ethiopians need to be tutored by a guardian angel or a magician about their history. Ethiopian history is written on the stones in Yeha and Axum. I do not think it is professional or ethical to come out of the blue in the 21 century, and erase the entire history of Ethiopia and attempt to rewrite it according to your whims.
Dr. Fikre when you claim that there were no Tigrean rulers do you know that you are making yourself laughing stock? Where were the Queen Sheba, King Gebremeskel, King Caleb, General Abraha, King Amha, and Emperor Johanne from? I think Dr. Fikre you are on a mission of distort and destroy Ethiopian history. The fact that you act like a wounded tiger instead of responding with calmness in such situations is a testament to a problem in the background. But you should know that every Ethiopian has the right to question your work and dig facts to ascertain sources are reliable.
Dr. Fikre, you say that you are trying to make peace in Ethiopia but peace must be based on truth and fact of history not on a newly fabricated myth. You are clearly in the quagmire of unprofessional and unethical practice. History is fact. It is based on objective reality… History is not a mirage or illusion or drama or play or hearsay or fairytale. History is not a mythology or astrology or magic. History is hard fact.
Dr. Fikre Tolossa, whether you agree or not, the people of the Western industrialized world whom you do not like to be involved in the scrutiny of your work have the technology to verify your claim and works. In Europe, in North America and other parts of the West, scholars follow a high standard. They have a set of ethical and professional practices that one has to follow when writing history. You do not have to be scared of Western people. They will not steal your manuscript or your sources. If you trust only Ethiopian scholars, well, Professor Getachew has asked you to allow him to examine and to authenticate your sources. The good thing is that Dr. Getachew can do this here in North America where there are ample instruments and skills.
Please separate question that arise from your book and your personal feelings. If you think being questioned about the authenticity of a source is a personal attack on you and on your work and strike back with innuendoes, then you cannot escape from the problem. Sooner or later the truth will come out and you cannot forever protect your integrity by glossing over points or evading questions.
Personally I am with Professors Getachew and Paulos. I have found their argument solid, highly professional and scientific. I suggest that from now on, the manuscript in the hands of your mentor: Meriras Belay, for whatever it is worth, be handled by UNESCO and not by individuals. Please do not let us degenerate into the era of mythology which the world left behind when the age of reason emerged with the scientific philosophies of the Worlds greats such as Zara-Yacob and Descartes.
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Editor’s Note: While borkena.com is committed to freedom of expression and of thoughts, writers are encouraged,and expected, to observe ethical norms. The Opinion expressed in the article above does not reflect the views of www.borkena.com
borkena believes that as is the case with the works of any authors, the work of Dr. Fikre Tolossa is open to criticism. But the purpose has to be focused on filling the gaps rather than demeaning professor Fikre Tolossa.
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