The Dogon Tribe and Their Incredible Knowledge About the Universe

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The Dogon are an indigenous group of people who currently live in the west African country of Mali. Essentially untouched by outside cultures, they have been able to maintain independence from external influence and continue a civilization that is believed to have begun before 3000 B.C.. Evidence suggests that the Dogon migrated from ancient Egypt to their present location to escape a forced conversion to Islam in the 1500s. Due to their isolation and commitment to preserve indigenous teachings and tradition, they have a unique and vast knowledge of astronomy, biology and social and political philosophy. Each aspect of Dogon life has a practical and spiritual value. They have been able to maintain a unique social harmony among their civilization where murder, theft, suicide and even greed are rare. Disputes are handled by debate in an open forum. Their deep understanding of matter, life and the origin of the universe has sparked the interest of modern scholars and academics.

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Tribal legend tells us that beings called Numo descended from the brown dwarf star, Sirius B, appeared before the Dogon ancestors and entrusted 366 symbols given without meaning. The Dogon were charged with interpreting them and preserving the knowledge for future generations. The symbols reveal a fascinating scope of astronomical knowledge. The tribe peaked interest from contemporary and academic science because of their advanced knowledge although considered a primitive tribe without access to resources, like telescopes. The Dogon were aware of the brown dwarf star invisible to the naked eye, Sirius B, thousands of years ago. Modern science hadn’t been able to capture the dwarf star until the 20th century, approximately in 1918 (Laird Scranton, 2015). The Dogon are also familiar with the orbital periods of the tiny star of which have only recently been confirmed by modern science. 

Secret Tradition Preserved by Dogon Elders

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Most of the sacred knowledge is kept by the ‘Hogon,’ the high priest of Aru and chief of Dogon religious knowledge. He is selected by signs and prophecies and lives as a prisoner in a sacred temple compound. He is revered and provided for by the village people but cannot engage in human contact. He is the living repository of all that is known within the tribe. Isolated from worldly needs and concerns, the sacred knowledge is insured to be kept pure.  Should the Hogon be contaminated by human touch, he will be killed. 

French Anthropologist and scholar, Marcel Griaule visited the Dogon over the course of 30 years. During his studies, he developed a trust with the elders and high priest of Aru. It important to note that the Dogon have been able to preserve their ancient knowledge for thousands of years by revealing their secrets only to those worthy and righteous enough to maintain the tradition of secrecy. Their knowledge is available to those in the tribe who are inquisitive but it is the role of the student to continue along the path of enlightenment. If someone were to ask a question that is inappropriate to their status as an initiate, the Dogon elders and teachers are instructed to respond with silence or if necessary, a lie. Griaule’s work has proven to decode many of the symbols found carved and engraved on the walls of Dogon temples and artifacts. The Dogon do not have a phonetic written language. They use symbolism and imagery - many of which has been connected to the civic traditions of ancient Egypt and rituals similar to Judism. The Dogon and ancient Egyptians have much in common including the same set of complicated calendars, they both identify their domain by upper and lower lands and share the same dualistic interpretation of their symbols (Laird Scranton, 2015). 

Facts about the Dogon tribe

They discovered the circulation of blood in the body long before it was discovered by the English Physician William Harvey in the 17th century. 

Many of the Dogon words are Egyptian and Hebrew.

They have recorded information about the process of mitosis.

They have a written history of the science of a gene.

The have evidence to suggest that universes emerge in pairs. 

They claim that our universe in the 4th in a series of 7 pairs of universes that evolve as a helix. The helix is a conceptual equivalent to DNA.

One universe is material in nature, the other is non-material in nature. The non-material in nature can see the material in nature but not vice versa. The Dogon masks represent this belief. 

The Dogon have also been linked to the Hopi Indians - currently the oldest continuous civilization in the western hemisphere.

More questions linger considering the vast knowledge of this west African tribe. If they have information about DNA sequences, cosmological geography and origins of humanity, what else could they possibly have answers and information about? 

RTK* note

A couple useful sources of information about the Dogon tribe can be found by researching Laird Scranton’s work and Marcel Griaule’s accounts of his time with the Dogon tribe.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this ancient tribe. Have you visited the tribe in Mali? Are you familiar with their teachings? Leave a comment below!

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