There is a folk tale of an Egyptian princess in Ireland around 1700 BC. Is there credible evidence of early contact between the two places?
In "Ptolemy's map of Ireland: a modern decoding,"* R. Darcy and William Flynn discuss Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia, a map (among many other things) mentioning what is believed to be Ireland, dating back to the early second century. Wiki says 140 AD but I could find no other source to corroborate that claim-- but logic suggests Ptolemy made Geographia in his life time, roughly AD 90 to AD 168. Note that although Claudius Ptolemy was of Greek origin, he lived and wrote in Egypt.
Based on these examples, the earliest documented connection between Egypt and Ireland is the early second century. Darcy and William make the point that because there is documentary evidence, including a map, that that knowledge would take time to acquire-- so the first connection between Ireland and Egypt may stretch closer to the first century.
*(Irish Geography, Vol. 41, No. 1 March 2008, pp. 49-69)
The Faddan More Psalter, dating from around 800 AD, found in a bog in Ireland, is lined with papyrus, leading to suggestions of links between the early Irish Christian Church and the Middle Eastern Coptic Church.
I haven't heard of a connection between Ireland and Egypt, but I have heard of Vikings making it to Greece closer to 1200 BC. I didn't see much about it on Wikipedia, but this article by Ellis Peterson is pretty reflective of what I had heard in a history class several years ago. He describes a Viking invasion at a time when the Greeks were weak.
If the Vikings could do it, I could see arguments that the Egyptians and Irish could as well. Still, it seems a little far-fetched that either the Irish or the Egyptians would accomplish it 500 years before the Vikings, who were renown for their abilities on the sea.
Alright, I tried googling "Irish Egyptian connection" and anything that actually referenced pre-Christian times also mentioned "Scota" or "Scotia" (the Egyptian princess from the folktale.) I also noticed that all of sites were outside of what one would consider standard academic history.
1. This was the first one I looked at, and by the time I got to this passage, I stopped reading:
I know from my own intuitive experiences that more of the story of Scota and the Egyptian connection to the Celts will indeed by revealed. On the Summer Solstice of 2006, I had this dream about Tara and its importance as a sacred site to the healing of our world, of finding unity amongst our current state of chaos.
I had no interest in reading about Ms. Adams' dream. I'm looking for actual historical evidence. Earlier, though, she talks about 1950s archeologist Dr. Sean O’Riordan who found the skeleton of young prince at Tara in Ireland. On the body, he found a necklace with "faience beads". The following year, they were carbon-dated to 1350 BC, and J. F. Stone and L. C. Thomas (she doesn't explain who they are), stated that the beads were Egyptian, "identical" to the type of beads found on King Tut.
2. My next hit was this forum for fans of a paranormal radio station. The highlights I noticed were mentions of the Berbers, who were apparently fair-skinned and fair-haired, connected to the Scottish, and (at some point) kings (pharaohs, maybe?) in Egypt.
3. Then I found this blog by Walter Bower, who keeps calling us "Earth Pilgrims". I have no idea what those are, but it gave me the same vibe as the previous two paranormal sites. He mentions Ralph Ellis, who is apparently a real expert on Egypt without being a stuffy actual historian. Maybe he's credible. Maybe he's not. I don't know. But Bower cites Ellis' work with more mentions of the special beads and the same quote from Stone and Thomas, but without the citation.
4. Next was this site which opened with these two sentences:
It has not gone unnoticed that the history of the Celtic and Gaelic races is replete with motifs of magic and mysticism. But those who are conversant with the various myths have been significantly more hesitant to accept that there are, behind the façade of faerie folklore, evidences of super-technologies which would, if existent, have rivaled and even surpassed anything manufactured in our own Silicon Age.
Maybe I'm too entrenched in limits of historical academia, but I'm pretty much gave up on this one when I got to "super-technologies." But there is this short bit regarding the actual Irish-Egyptian connection:
After the legendary [Tuatha] de Danaans [basically, the Irish Olympians] came the Milesians headed by king Mil. His consort was Scota, daughter of an Pharaoh Akhenaton. Her name is commemorated in Scotland. The connection between Ireland and Egypt has been consciously avoided by most modern historians. Ireland was, in fact, the destination of first of Pharaoh of the first dynasty, King Menes, whose grave was found, strangely enough, in Derry.
Again, more mention of Scota and more mention of real historians being jerks who won't think outside the box.
5. The last site I wasted my time on was pretty much more of the same. Ralph Ellis pops up again. We hear again that Menes, the first pharaoh, was buried in Ireland. I did also see the name Thoth cited. The very first site is "book-of-thoth.com", but I kind of breezed by that. I guess The History of Thoth: The Atlantean is a collection of ancient tablets. I'm not sure how credible they are, though.
And that's as far as I got before my toddler woke up from her nap. :) I think there's some decent evidence to support a connection. I'm not sure how much truth exists in the story of Scota, but it sounds like there's at least a grain of it. Too bad you have to sift through a lot of crap to find much hard evidence.
According to Irish central, an archaeologist named Dr Sean O'Riordan found skeletal remains of a young boy carbon-dated to 1350BC that was wearing a necklace matching those of Egyptian beads. This might indicate trade along the amber roads, or even more direct contact.
In 1955, archaeologist Dr Sean O’Riordan of Trinity College found skeletal remains of a young boy, carbon-dated to around 1350 BC, at the Mound of Hostages at Tara. A necklace found with the skeleton was made of faience beads, matching the design and manufacture of Egyptian beads. The collar matched the collar laid around the neck of Tutankhaum, who lived during the same time as the boy found in Ireland, according to Ancient Origins.
5,200 years ago
According to the Irish Times a study carried out by geneticists and archaeologists from Trinity College and Queens University respectively has concluded evidence of migration from the Middle East to Ireland dating as far back as 5,200 years ago. Though, this is not necessarily Egypt.
Evidence of massive migration to Ireland thousands of years ago has emerged from the sequencing of the first genomes from ancient Irish humans, carried out by geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen’s University Belfast.
Sequencing the genome of an early woman farmer, who lived near Belfast 5,200 years ago, showed her majority ancestry originated in the Middle East, where agriculture was invented.
What is the earliest evidence of contact between Ireland and Egypt?
The earliest evidence of direct contact appears to be 1350BC. There may have been earlier contact and migration, but nothing can be said for definite because the genetic study covers to wide an area to conclude direct migration from Egypt to Ireland.
There was a link between ancient egypt and middle or even northern europe through amber trade. Amber was regarded as sacred in ancient Egypt, so it had a high value, but could only (mostly) be found by the northern sea. I don't know, if this link can be expanded, but I suppose an ancient connection between Ireland and e.g. Germany is quite obvious.
See the Wikipedia article about the Amber-road with more sources:
From at least the sixteenth century BC amber was moved from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean area. The breast ornament of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen (ca. 1333-1324 BC) contains large Baltic amber beads.
In the way of clarification, the tradition concerning this post pertains to the Gaels, who are one specific ethnic invader of Ireland (there were many others). According to the Gaels they are "Feeny" meaning Phoenicians who originated in the Levant. They travelled first to Egypt (where they were guests), then to an island in the Mediterranean (Crete?), then to North Africa (Carthage), then to Spain (Galicia), then finally to Ireland and Britain where they invaded and settled. This occurred, according to them, in approximately 1500 B.C. (the invasion of Ireland).
One evidence that this tradition is fundamentally true is the similarity of the Phoenician language and ancient Gaelic. For example, in both languages the language for a citadel or fortress is "Kathair" which is often abbreviated to "kair" (for example, Carthage). Another example is from Plautus, the Roman playwright who includes the Punic (Phoenician) language in one of his plays in which he has a Carthaginian character. The character says "palum erga dectha" which means "I will submit to the commands of heaven" and is identical to the phrase "Ba lion earga deacta" which means exactly the same thing in Gaelic.
Another reason to suspect the migration is the worship of the same god, Bel. The pre-Christian Gaels worshipped a god to whom they sacriced and called "Bel" (pronounced "bale" like Christian Bale) which is exactly the same name as the god of the Phoenicians, which is often spelled "Baal" and is pronounced the same way. Believe it or not this god is still celebrated today in Ireland in the holiday called "Beltane" and you can attend Beltane celebrations if you travel to Ireland in early May.
As far as Egyptian culture which the Phoenicians may have transported to Ireland there are several interesting connections. One is the use of bagpipes. Another is the wearing of kilts.
It's not mainstream history, but The Throne of Britain: Its Biblical Origin and Future contains some interesting information about early contact between Ireland and the countries of the eastern Mediterranean.
The Tuatha de Danaan chapter for instance says:
The Annals of Ireland report: "The Dan’ans were a highly civilized people, well skilled in architecture and other arts from their long residence in Greece, and their intercourse with the Phoenicians. Their first appearance in Ireland was 1200 B.C., or 85 years after the great victory of Deborah."
The Tuatha de Danaan, then, must be synonymous with the Danaans of Greece and thus the Israelite tribe of Dan. This is not at all farfetched. Indeed, it is widely accepted that the Phoenicians established trading outposts or colonies as far away as the British Isles: "The Phoenicians are believed to have played an important part in spreading the early bronze culture by their trade in tin, which their ships brought to the eastern Mediterranean from Great Britain and Spain at least as early as 1100 BC" ("Industries, Extraction and Processing," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, Vol 21, 1985, p. 424).
Appendix 6: Dating the Milesian Arrival in Ireland argues that the legendary dates are over a thousand years too soon:
Thirdly, there is clear proof that the aforementioned Irish and Scottish records are not completely trustworthy in relating what happened. The Egyptian pharaoh of Moses’ day is referred to as Nectanebo. Yet while there were indeed two pharaohs by this name, notice when they reigned: "Nectanebo, also called Nekhtnebf, or Nekhtnebef …. Nectanebo I, first king (reigned 380-363 BC) of the 30th dynasty of Egypt … Nectanebo II, third and last king (reigned 360-343 BC) of the 30th dynasty of Egypt" ("Nectanebo," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, p. 578). That’s about 1,100 years after the Exodus.
But now a new book, Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scots, by Ralph Ellis, claims to prove that this origin myth was no made-up story but the actual recording of an Egyptian exodus that did indeed conclude in Scotland.