A. J. Arkell
|A. J. Arkell|
29 July 1898|
Hinxhill, Kent, England
|Died||26 February 1980
Arkell was born in Hinxhill, Kent, England. He saw service with the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force in World War I before joining the Sudan Political Service in 1920. A former official of the British colonial government, Arkell conducted several surveys, documenting among other things: the existence of massive iron works in Meroe, which he dubbed "the Birmingham of Africa", and the extensive pre-dynastic culture of Egypt, notably the Badarians. Arkell was instrumental in ending the slave trade between the Sudan and Ethiopia, and in establishing villages for the freed slaves, who named themselves "the Sons of Arkell". In 1938, he was appointed commissioner for archaeology and anthropology and undertook a series of digs that revealed information about Sudanese prehistory for the first time. In 1948, he became the curator of the Flinders Petrie Collection of Egyptian Antiquities and professor of Egyptology at University College, University of London, where he catalogued the collection and wrote his History of the Sudan (1955).
Arkell retired in 1963 and was ordained a minister. He died in Chelmsford at the age of eighty-one.
Arkell and Afrocentrism
Arkell's work has received recent attention resulting from the debate over Afrocentrism. Some have criticised Arkell's conclusions, alleging that he divided Sudanic areas into vaguely defined populations including a superior "Brown" race (Arab or Semitic) and "Negro" races, and that he held that progress among the Negro aborigines was due to Egyptianisation, rather than to independent development. Others point, however, to Arkell's surveys as proof against what they consider to be racist assumptions about Africa, namely that any significant cultural or technological development is due to the outside influence of Caucasoid invaders or migrants.
- School of Oriental and African Studies entry
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- Works by or about A. J. Arkell in libraries (WorldCat catalog)