The Amazing and Intriguing Dogons
By Leon Dixon (June 19, 2010)
The first thing about the
Dogons that captures one’s attention and imagination is that they are perhaps
the only African ethnic group that was never captured. How could this be? They live in the upper hills and cliffs of
So how did the world learn of them? Much of the credit goes to the French anthropologist Marcel Griaule. He began his study of the Dogons in 1931. After observing his interest and inquiries of them about their culture for 16 years the Dogons elders held a meeting wherein they decided that his perseverance and character were serious enough that they should reveal to him their “inner knowledge.” They assigned a knowledgeable priest, Ogotemmêli to instruct him. Ogotemmêli met with him for thirty-three days revealing the more esoteric concepts of their religion and culture. This resulted in a thirty-three chapter book, Conversations with Ogotemmêli, wherein the discussion of each day is documented. Griaule and others, mainly his assistant Germaine Dieterlen, continued with their studies of the Dogons. After Ogotemmêli’s death, and later that of Griaule, Dieterlen finished another more indepth book that they had been working on entitled The Pale Fox.
Griaule and Dieterlen’s study of the Dogons revealed that they had in-depth knowledge of the companion stars Sirius A (one of the brightest stars) and Sirius B (a very small extremely dense star and invisible to the naked eye). They even had a seven-hundred year old celebration of the fifty year orbit that Sirius B makes around Sirius A. They are on record of having this knowledge of astronomical phenomena even before that of modern scientists. As the MIT physics professor Kenneth Brecher put it: “The problem for us, therefore, is how the Dogon could have known a host of astronomical facts, all of which are invisible to the naked eye. … They have no business knowing any of this.” 1
But there is even more to be
ascertained from the studying the Dogons.
To paraphrase W.E.B. Du Bois, always out of
The latest purveyor comes
from a seemingly unlikely source—Laird Scranton.
The more he read and studied,
the more he became fascinated with the similarities between the Dogon’s
cosmology, words and symbols and those of ancient Egyptians.
The valuable asset that the Dogons
bring to this endeavor stems from the fact that their culture has remained
intact and uncorrupted all of these years due to the fact that they were never
captured. They are a living repository
of ancient culture. Because they are
still alive and practicing their culture in its original form, their symbols
and words can be used as a modern day analogue of the “Rosetta Stone.”
In addition to this,
As phenomenal as the reach of
the Dogons across the African continent is, it is also worth noting their reach
Of Benjamin Banneker Cerima writes: “… in the late 1700s, Benjamin Banneker reportedly said that Sirius was both his favorite star and his lucky star, and called it a double star many years before professional scientists of the advanced world confirmed that fact.”5 For more information on Banneker’s Dogon ancestry see: “The Dogon Ancestors.”
1Adams, Hunter, III: “African Science,” The Journal of African Civilizations (November, 1979) p. 6.
4 Cerami, Charles A.: Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher, Patriot, Wiley, 2002, p.5.
5 Cerami, p.218.
Adams, Hunter, III: “African Science,” The Journal of African Civilizations
(November, 1979) p. 6.
Cerami, Charles A.: Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher,
Patriot, Wiley, 2002.
Griuale, Marcel; Conversations
Griaule, Marcel & Germaine Dieterlen: The Pale Fox, Continental
Inner Traditions, 2002.
—Sacred Symbols of the Dogon: The Key to Advanced science in the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Inner Traditions, 2007.