Ancient Egyptian race controversy
The question of the race of ancient Egyptians was raised historically as a product of the scientific racism of the 18th and 19th centuries, and was linked to models of racial hierarchy based on skin color. A variety of views circulated about the racial identity of the Egyptians and the source of their culture. These were typically identified in terms of a distinction between the "Black African" and pale or "darkened Caucasian" (including Eurasian and Asiatic) racial categories. Some accounts argued that Egyptian culture emerged from more southernly African peoples, while others pointed to influences from the Near East, and yet others proposed that at least the upper classes were pale or "darkened" Caucasians. Some scholars state that, in Europe and especially America, the very origin of ethnology, anthropology and eugenics lay in the attempt to define the characteristics of race and how it applied to ancient Egyptian remains, and that from the beginning, these studies of Egyptian remains were at the core of the ideas of race and the debates over racism and slavery.
Since the second half of the 20th century, anthropologists have rejected the notion of race as having any validity in the study of human biology. Typological and hierarchical models of race have increasingly been rejected by scientists in favour of models of societal development based on geographical origin. "The basic overall genetic profile of the modern population is consistent with the diversity of ancient populations that would have been indigenous to north-eastern Africa and subject to the range of evolutionary influences over time, although researchers vary in the details of their explanations of those influences."
However, the question of the skin color of the ancient Egyptians remains a point of study, discussion, and debate in the domain of African scholarship, partly as a result of the criticism of college academic studies as being Eurocentric. This criticism is led by scholars who created a new curriculum named Afrocentrism which sought to correct the alleged omissions and distortions of history by European scholarship. One of the key points of this movement was the rejection of white historical scholarship on Africa and Africans as racist, and it suggested instead that Ancient Egypt was a "black civilization". This includes a particular focus on links stemming from various Sub Saharan cultures and the questioning of the race of specific notable individuals from Dynastic times, including Tutankhamun, Cleopatra VII, and the king represented by the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Kemp states that the "black/white argument is understandable as a symptom of modern political expression … The over-simplified choice that it offers, however, does not lead to an appropriate evaluation of such evidence and understanding as we have." The 2001 Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt states that "Any characterization of race of the ancient Egyptians depends on modern cultural definitions, not on scientific study”, adding "Thus, by modern American standards it is reasonable to characterize the Egyptians as "blacks", while acknowledging the scientific evidence for the physical diversity of Africans." Frank M. Snowden asserts that "Egyptians, Greeks and Romans attached no special stigma to the colour of the skin and developed no hierarchical notions of race whereby highest and lowest positions in the social pyramid were based on colour."
- 1 Position of modern scholarship
- 2 Specific current-day controversies
- 3 Historical hypotheses
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
Position of modern scholarship
Modern scholars who have studied Ancient Egyptian culture and population history have responded to the controversy over the race of the Ancient Egyptians in different ways.
Since the second half of the 20th century, scholars have rejected the notion of race as having any validity in the study of human biology. The 2001 Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt states that "Any characterization of race of the ancient Egyptians depends on modern cultural definitions, not on scientific study. Thus, by modern American standards it is reasonable to characterize the Egyptians as "blacks", while acknowledging the scientific evidence for the physical diversity of Africans.” Frank M. Snowden asserts that "Egyptians, Greeks and Romans attached no special stigma to the colour of the skin and developed no hierarchical notions of race whereby highest and lowest positions in the social pyramid were based on colour." Additionally, typological and hierarchical models of race have increasingly been rejected by scientists in favour of models of geographical origin. Scholars such as Frank Yurco believe that Modern Egyptians are largely representative of the ancient population, and the DNA evidence appears to support this view.
It is now largely agreed that Dynastic Egyptians were indigenous to the Nile area. About 5,000 years ago the Sahara area dried out, and part of the indigenous Saharan population retreated East towards the Nile Valley. In addition peoples from the Near East entered the Nile Valley, bringing with them wheat, barley, sheep, goats and possibly cattle. Dynastic Egyptians referred to their country as "The Two Lands". During the Predynastic period (about 4800 to 4300BC) the Merimde culture flourished in the northern part of Egypt (Lower Egypt). This culture, among others, has links to the Levant in the Near East. The pottery of the later Buto Maadi culture, best known from the site at Maadi near Cairo, also shows connections to the southern Levant as well. In the southern part of Egypt (Upper Egypt) the predynastic Badarian culture was followed by the Naqada culture. These people seem to be more closely related to the Nubians and North East Africans than with northern Egyptians.
Due to its geographical location at the crossroads of several major cultural areas, Egypt has experienced a number of foreign invasions during historical times, including by the Canaanites (Hyksos), the Libyans, the Kushites (Nubians) the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonian Greeks, the Romans (Byzantium in late antiquity/early Middle Ages), the Arabs, the Ottoman Turks, the French and the British.
UNESCO convened the "Symposium on the Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering of the Meroitic Script" in Cairo in 1974. At that forum the "Black Egyptian" theory was rejected by 90% of delegates, and the symposium concluded that Ancient Egyptians were much the same as modern Egyptians. The arguments for all sides are recorded in the UNESCO publication General History of Africa, with the "Origin of the Egyptians" chapter being written by Diop.
In 1996, the Indianapolis Museum of Art published a collection of essays, which included contributions from leading experts in various fields including archaeology, art history, physical anthropology, African studies, Egyptology, Afrocentric studies, linguistics, and classical studies. While the contributors differed in some opinions, the consensus of the authors was that Ancient Egypt was a Northeast African civilization (although ethnic type was not mentioned), based on Egypt's geographic location on the African continent.
In 2008, S. O. Y. Keita wrote that "There is no scientific reason to believe that the primary ancestors of the Egyptian population emerged and evolved outside of northeast Africa.... The basic overall genetic profile of the modern population is consistent with the diversity of ancient populations that would have been indigenous to northeastern Africa and subject to the range of evolutionary influences over time, although researchers vary in the details of their explanations of those influences."
Specific current-day controversies
Since the 1970s, the issues regarding the race of the ancient Egyptians have been "troubled waters which most people who write (in the United States) about ancient Egypt from within the mainstream of scholarship avoid." The debate, therefore, takes place mainly in the public sphere and tends to focus on a small number of specific issues.
A few scholars (including Diop) have claimed that Tutankhamun was black, and have protested that attempted reconstructions of Tutankhamun's facial features (as depicted on the cover of National Geographic Magazine) have represented the king as "too white". Evidence led Chancellor Williams to believe that King Tut, his parents, and grandparents were Black.
Forensic artists and physical anthropologists from Egypt, France, and the United States independently created busts of Tutankhamun, using a CT-scan of the skull. Biological anthropologist Susan Anton, the leader of the American team, said the race of the skull was "hard to call." She stated that the shape of the cranial cavity indicated an African, while the nose opening suggested narrow nostrils, which is usually considered to be a European characteristic. The skull was thus concluded to be that of a North African. Other experts have argued that neither skull shapes nor nasal openings are a reliable indication of race.
Although modern technology can reconstruct Tutankhamun's facial structure with a high degree of accuracy, based on CT data from his mummy, determining his skin tone and eye color is impossible. The clay model was therefore given a flesh coloring which, according to the artist, was based on an "average shade of modern Egyptians."
Terry Garcia, National Geographic's executive vice president for mission programs, said, in response to some of those protesting against the Tutankhamun reconstruction: "The big variable is skin tone. North Africans, we know today, had a range of skin tones, from light to dark. In this case, we selected a medium skin tone, and we say, quite up front, 'This is midrange.' We will never know for sure what his exact skin tone was or the color of his eyes with 100% certainty. ... Maybe in the future, people will come to a different conclusion."
When pressed on the issue by American activists in September 2007, the current Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass stated that "Tutankhamun was not black."
Ahmed Saleh, the former archaeological inspector for the Supreme Council of antiquities stated that the procedures used in the facial re-creation made Tut look Caucasian, "disrespecting the nation's African roots."
In a November 2007 publication of Ancient Egypt Magazine, Hawass asserted that none of the facial reconstructions resemble Tut and that, in his opinion, the most accurate representation of the boy king is the mask from his tomb. The Discovery Channel commissioned a facial reconstruction of Tutankhamun, based on CT scans of a model of his skull, back in 2002.
Scientific examination of the remains of Tutankhamun have revealed that the boy king was: 1) significantly dolichocephalic, or long-headed; 2) had enlarged incisors; and 3) had a pronounced alveolar prognathism, resulting in an overbite and a concomitant receding chin. Some people in the fields of forensic criminology and forensic anthropology still believe that these characteristics indicate a Negroid person. However various experts have pointed out that skull shapes etc. are not actually a reliable indication of ancestry.
Cleopatra's race and skin color have also caused frequent debate, as described in an article from The Baltimore Sun. There is also an article entitled: Was Cleopatra Black? from Ebony magazine, and an article about Afrocentrism from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that mentions the question, too. Scholars[who?] generally suggest a Caucasian skin color for Cleopatra, based on the following facts: her Greek Macedonian family had intermingled with the Persian aristocracy of the time; her mother's identity is uncertain, and that of her paternal grandmother is not known for certain.
The question was the subject of a heated exchange between Mary Lefkowitz, who has referred in her articles to a debate she had with one of her students about the question of whether Cleopatra was black, and Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of African American Studies at Temple University. In response to Not Out of Africa by Lefkowitz, Asante wrote an article entitled Race in Antiquity: Truly Out of Africa, in which he emphasized that he "can say without a doubt that Afrocentrists do not spend time arguing that either Socrates or Cleopatra were black."
In 2009, a BBC documentary speculated that Arsinoe IV, the half-sister of Cleopatra VII, may have been part African and then further speculated that Cleopatra’s mother, thus Cleopatra herself, might also have been part African. This was based largely on the claims of Hilke Thür of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who in the 1990s had examined a headless skeleton of a female child in a 20 BC tomb in Ephesus (modern Turkey), together with the old notes and photographs of the now-missing skull. Arsinoe IV and Cleopatra VII, shared the same father (Ptolemy XII Auletes) but had different mothers.
Great Sphinx of Giza
The identity of the model for the Great Sphinx of Giza is unknown. Virtually all Egyptologists and scholars currently believe that the face of the Sphinx represents the likeness of the Pharaoh Khafra, although a few Egyptologists and interested amateurs have proposed several different hypotheses.
Numerous scholars, such as DuBois, Diop, Asante, and Volney, have characterized the face of the Sphinx as Black, or "Negroid." Around 1785 Volney stated, "When I visited the sphinx...on seeing that head, typically Negro in all its features, I remembered...Herodotus says: "...the Egyptians...are black with woolly hair"..." Another early description of a "Negroid" Sphinx is recorded in the travel notes of a French scholar, who visited in Egypt between 1783 and 1785, Constantin-François Chassebœuf along with French novelist Gustave Flaubert.
|km biliteral||kmt (place)||kmt (people)|
Ancient Egyptians referred to their homeland as Kmt (conventionally pronounced as Kemet). According to Cheikh Anta Diop, the Egyptians referred to themselves as "Black" people or kmt, and km was the etymological root of other words, such as Kam or Ham, which refer to Black people in Hebrew tradition. A review of David Goldenberg's The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity and Islam states that Goldenberg "argues persuasively that the biblical name Ham bears no relationship at all to the notion of blackness and as of now is of unknown etymology."  Diop, William Leo Hansberry, and Aboubacry Moussa Lam have argued that kmt was derived from the skin color of the Nile valley people, which Diop et al. claim was black. The claim that the Ancient Egyptians had black skin has become a cornerstone of Afrocentric historiography, but it is rejected by most Egyptologists.
Mainstream scholars hold that kmt means "the black land" or "the black place", and that this is a reference to the fertile black soil which was washed down from Central Africa by the annual Nile inundation. By contrast the barren desert outside the narrow confines of the Nile watercourse was called dšrt (conventionally pronounced deshret) or "the red land". Raymond Faulkner's Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian translates kmt into "Egyptians", Gardiner translates it as "the Black Land, Egypt".
At the UNESCO "Symposium on the Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering of the Meroitic Script" in Cairo in 1974, Professor Sauneron clarified that the Egyptians never used the adjective Kmtyw to refer to the various black peoples they knew of, they only used it to refer to themselves.
Ancient Egyptian art
Ancient Egyptian tombs and temples contained thousands of paintings, sculptures, and written works, which reveal a great deal about the people of that time. However, their depictions of themselves in their surviving art and artifacts are rendered in sometimes symbolic, rather than realistic, pigments. As a result, ancient Egyptian artifacts provide sometimes conflicting and inconclusive evidence of the ethnicity of the people who lived in Egypt during dynastic times.
In 1839, Champollion states in his work "Egypte Ancienne" that the Egyptians and Nubians are represented in the same manner in tomb paintings and reliefs. University of Chicago scholars assert that Nubians are generally depicted with black paint, but the skin pigment used in Egyptian paintings to refer to Nubians can range "from dark red to brown to black." This can be observed in paintings from the tomb of the Egyptian Huy, as well as Ramses II's temple at Beit el-Wali. Also, Snowden indicates that Statius spoke of "red Ethiopians" and Romans had accurate knowledge of "negroes of a red, copper-colored complexion...among African tribes." Conversely, Najovits states that "Egyptian art depicted Egyptians on the one hand and Nubians and other blacks on the other hand with distinctly different ethnic characteristics and depicted this abundantly and often aggressively. The Egyptians accurately, arrogantly and aggressively made national and ethnic distinctions from a very early date in their art and literature." He continues that "There is an extraordinary abundance of Egyptian works of art which clearly depicted sharply contrasted reddish-brown Egyptians and black Nubians."
However Manu Ampim, a professor at Merritt College specializing in African and African American history and culture, claims in the book Modern Fraud: The Forged Ancient Egyptian Statues of Ra-Hotep and Nofret, that many ancient Egyptian statues and artworks are modern frauds that have been created specifically to hide the "fact" that the ancient Egyptians were black, while authentic artworks which demonstrate black characteristics are systematically defaced or even "modified." Ampim repeatedly makes the accusation that the Egyptian authorities are systematically destroying evidence which "proves" that the ancient Egyptians were black, under the guise of renovating and conserving the applicable temples and structures. He further accuses "European" scholars of wittingly participating in and abetting this process.
Ampim has a specific concern about the painting of the "Table of Nations" in the Tomb of Ramses III (KV11). The "Table of Nations" is a standard painting which appears in a number of tombs, and they were usually provided for the guidance of the soul of the deceased. Among other things, it described the "four races of men," as follows: (translation by E.A. Wallis Budge: "The first are RETH, the second are AAMU, the third are NEHESU, and the fourth are THEMEHU. The RETH are Egyptians, the AAMU are dwellers in the deserts to the east and north-east of Egypt, the NEHESU are the black races, and the THEMEHU are the fair-skinned Libyans."
The archaeologist Richard Lepsius documented many ancient Egyptian tomb paintings in his work Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien. In 1913, after the death of Lepsius, an updated reprint of the work was produced, edited by Kurt Sethe. This printing included an additional section, called the "Ergänzungsband" in German, which incorporated many illustrations that did not appear in Lepsius’ original work. One of them, plate 48, illustrated one example of each of the four "nations" as depicted in KV11, and shows the "Egyptian nation" and the "Nubian nation" as identical to each other in skin color and dress. Professor Ampim has declared that plate 48 is a true reflection of the original painting, and that it "proves" that the ancient Egyptians were identical in appearance to the Nubians, even though he admits no other examples of the "Table of Nations" show this similarity. He has further accused "Euro-American writers" of attempting to mislead the public on this issue.
The late Egyptologist, Dr. Frank Yurco, visited the tomb of Ramses III (KV11), and in a 1996 article on the Ramses III tomb reliefs he pointed out that the depiction of plate 48 in the Erganzungsband section is not a correct depiction of what is actually painted on the walls of the tomb. Yurco notes, instead, that plate 48 is a "pastiche" of samples of what is on the tomb walls, arranged from Lepsius' notes after his death, and that a picture of a Nubian person has erroneously been labeled in the pastiche as an Egyptian person. Yurco points also to the much-more-recent photographs of Dr. Erik Hornung as a correct depiction of the actual paintings. (Erik Hornung, "The Valley of the Kings: Horizon of Eternity", 1990). Ampim nonetheless continues to claim that plate 48 shows accurately the images which stand on the walls of KV11, and he categorically accuses both Yurco and Hornung of perpetrating a deliberate deception for the purposes of misleading the public about the true race of the Ancient Egyptians.
The earliest examples of disagreement in relatively recent times, regarding the race of the ancient Egyptians, occurred in the work of Europeans and Americans early in the 19th century. For example, in an article published in the New-England Magazine of October 1833, the authors dispute a claim that the Ancient Egyptians "were adduced, affirmed to be Ethiopians." Among other things, they point out (at pg 275), with reference to tomb paintings: "It may be observed that the complexion of the men is invariably red, that of the women yellow."
In his Principes Physiques de la Morale, Déduits de l'Organisation de l'Homme et de l'Univers, Constantin-François Chassebœuf, Count Volney writes that "The Copts are the proper representatives of the Ancient Egyptians" due to their "jaundiced and fumed skin, which is neither Greek, Negro, nor Arab, their full faces, their puffy eyes, their crushed noses, and their thick lips."
Just a few years later, in 1839, Champollion states that "The first tribes that inhabited Egypt, that is, the Nile Valley between the Syene cataract and the sea, came from Abyssinia to Sennar. In the Copts of Egypt, we do not find any of the characteristic features of the Ancient Egyptian population. The Copts are the result of crossbreeding with all the nations that successfully dominated Egypt. It is wrong to seek in them the principal features of the old race."
W. M. Flinders Petrie believed that the Dynastic Race came from or through Punt and E. A. Wallis Budge stated that “Egyptian tradition of the Dynastic Period held that the aboriginal home of the Egyptians was Punt…”. While the exact location is still under debate, Punt is generally believed to have been located to the south-east of Egypt.
Asiatic Race Theory
The Asiatic Race Theory holds that the ancient Egyptians were the lineal descendants of the biblical Ham, through his son Mizraim. This theory was the most dominant view from the Early Middle Ages (c. 500 AD) all the way up to the early 19th century. The descendants of Ham were traditionally considered to be the darkest skinned branch of Humanity, either because of their geographic allotment to Africa or because of the Curse of Ham. Thus, Diop cites Gaston Maspero "Moreover, the Bible states that Mesraim, son of Ham. brother of Chus (Kush) the Ethiopian, and of Canaan, came from Mesopotamia to settle with his children on the banks of the Nile."
By the 20th century the Asiatic Race Theory and its various offshoots were abandoned but were superseded by two related theories: the Hamitic Hypothesis, asserting that a Caucasian racial group moved into North and East Africa from early prehistory subsequently bringing with them all advanced agriculture, technology and civilization and also the Dynastic Race Theory, proposing that Mesopotamian invaders were responsible for the dynastic civilization of Egypt (c. 3000 BC). In sharp contrast to the Asiatic Race Theory neither of these theories propose that Caucasians were the indigenous inhabitants of Egypt. However, it is now largely agreed that Dynastic Egyptians were indigenous to the Nile area, in Africa.
The Hamitic hypothesis developed directly from the Asiatic Race Theory which asserted the descendants of Ham through Mizraim were Caucasian. However it argued that Caucasians were the inventors of agriculture and brought civilization to East Africa, not only Egypt. It also rejected any Biblical basis (despite using Hamitic as the hypothesis name). The Hamitic Hypothesis was influenced by certain Asiatic Race Theory proponents who were less strict with their Biblical interpretation such as George Rawlinson and subsequently could push back the arrival of the Caucasians into Egypt to an earlier date, such as the Neolithic. John Hanning Speke is widely considered to have been an early predecessor of the Hamitic Hypothesis, while Daniel Garrison Brinton’s Races and Peoples (1890) was also an influential work, but the theory was not fully developed until the early 20th century.
Among the earliest proponents was the British ethnologist Charles Gabriel Seligman, who put forward the first scientific argument for the Hamitic Hypothesis in article printed in 1913. Seligman argued in his Races of Africa (1930) that the ancient Egyptians were Caucasian "Nilo-Hamites" who had arrived in Egypt during early prehistory and introduced technology and agriculture to primitive natives they found there. The archaeologist Hermann Junker another notable proponent of the Hamitic Hypothesis argued that these primitive natives were Bushmen (Capoids) and not Negroids. The renowned linguist Carl Meinhof also supported the Hamitic theory.
The Hamitic Hypothesis was still popular in the 1960s and late 70’s and was supported notably by Anthony John Arkell and George Peter Murdock. However, it is now largely agreed that Dynastic Egyptians were indigenous to the Nile area, in Africa.
Caucasian race hypothesis
In 1844, Samuel George Morton, one of the pioneers of scientific racialism and polygenism, published his book Crania Aegyptica with the intention of proving that the Ancient Egyptians were not black. In 1855 George Gliddon and Josiah C. Nott published Types of Mankind with the same intention. All three authors concluded that Egyptians were intermediate between the African and Asiatic races. They acknowledged that Negroes were present in ancient Egypt but claimed they were either captives or servants. George Gliddon in his book Ancient Egypt: Her monuments, hieroglyphics, history and archaeology (1844) wrote: "The Egyptians were white men, of no darker hue than a pure Arab, a Jew, or a Phoenician." However, it is now largely agreed that Dynastic Egyptians were indigenous to the Nile area, in Africa.
Eurafrican "brown" race hypothesis
The Italian anthropologist Giuseppe Sergi (1901) believed that ancient Egyptians were the African (Hamitic) branch of the Mediterranean race, which he called "Eurafrican". According to Sergi, the Mediterranean race or "Eurafrican" contains three varieties or sub-races, which evolved "in accordance of differing telluric and geographic conditions": the African (Hamitic) branch, the Mediterranean "proper" branch and finally the Nordic (depigmentated) branch. Sergi split the African branch into two further groups: Eastern Hamites and Northern Hamites – the ancient Egyptians of whom he classified as Eastern African Hamites. The Copts, Sergi considered being examples of modern Eastern Hamites, and the closest modern living group affiliated with the ancient Egyptians. Sergi maintained in summary that the Mediterranean race (excluding the depigmentated Nordic or 'white') is: "a brown human variety, neither white nor Negroid, but pure in its elements, that is to say not a product of the mixture of Whites with Negroes or Negroid peoples."
Influenced by Sergi’s identification of the ancient Egyptians as the African branch of the Mediterranean race, Grafton Elliot Smith modified the theory in 1911. Smith believed the ancient Egyptians were a dark haired "brown race", most closely "linked by the closest bonds of racial affinity to the Early Neolithic populations of the North African littoral and South Europe". This "brown race" was not Negroid, as according to Smith the hair of the "Proto-Egyptian was precisely similar to that of the brunet South European" and "presented no resemblance whatever to the so-called ‘wooly’ appearance and peppercorn-like arrangement of the Negro’s hair". Smith’s "brown race" is though not synonymous or equivalent with Sergi’s Mediterranean race. However both Sergi and Smith agreed that the ancient Egyptians were brunet with "brown" complexions.
Turanid race hypothesis
The Egyptologist Samuel Sharpe (1846) proposed the ancient Egyptians belonged to the Turanid race, linking them to the Tatars, because some ancient Egyptian paintings depict Egyptians with sallow or yellowish skin. He said "From the colour given to the women in their paintings we learn that their skin was yellow, like that of the Mongul Tartars, who have given their name to the Mongolian variety of the human race...The single lock of hair on the young nobles reminds us also of the Tartars." However, it is now largely agreed that Dynastic Egyptians were indigenous to the Nile area, in Africa.
Dynastic race theory
In the early 20th century, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, one of the leading Egyptologists of his day, noted that the skeletal remains found at pre-dynastic sites at Naqada (Upper Egypt) showed marked differentiation. Together with cultural evidence such as architectural styles, pottery styles, cylinder seals, and numerous rock and tomb paintings, he deduced that a Mesopotamian force had invaded Egypt in predynastic times, imposed themselves on the indigenous Badarian people, and become their rulers. This came to be called the "Dynastic Race Theory." The theory further argued that the Mesopotamian founded state or states then conquered both Upper and Lower Egypt and founded the First Dynasty.
In the 1950s, the Dynastic Race Theory was widely accepted by mainstream scholarship. Scholars such as the Senegalese Egyptologist Cheikh Anta Diop, fought against the Dynastic Race Theory with their own "Black Egyptian" theory and claimed, among other things, that European scholars supported the Dynastic Race Theory "to avoid having to admit that Ancient Egyptians were black". Bernal proposed that the Dynastic Race theory was conceived by so-called Aryan scholars to deny Egypt its African roots.
Black African hypothesis
Scholars such as Chancellor Williams, Cheikh Anta Diop, John G. Jackson, Ivan van Sertima, Martin Bernal Robert Bauval  and more recently Segun Magbagbeola have supported the theory that the Ancient Egyptian society was indigenous to Africa and mostly Black. The oft criticized Journal of African Civilizations has continually advocated that Egypt should be viewed as a Black civilization. Supporters of the Black theory saw the Ethiopians and Egyptians as racially and culturally similar, while others felt that the Ancient Egyptians and Ethiopians were two ethnically distinct groups.
Early advocates of the Black African model relied heavily on writings from Classical Greek historians, including Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and Herodotus, and on the disputed translation of the Greek word “melanchroes”, which some authors translate as “black”. Snowden claims that Diop is distorting his classical sources and is quoting them selectively.
There is also dispute about the historical accuracy of the works of Herodotus. Some scholars support the reliability of Herodotus and provide corroboration regarding his Nile Valley observations, while other scholars regard his works as being unreliable as historical sources, particularly those relating to Egypt.
Other points used to support the Black Hypothesis included testing melanin levels in a small sample of mummies, arguing that the Ancient Egyptian language was related to Diop's native Wolof (Senegal), interpretations of the origin of the name Kmt, conventionally pronounced Kemet, used by the Ancient Egyptians to describe themselves or their land (depending on your point of view), biblical traditions, and interpretations of the depictions of the Egyptians in numerous paintings and statues. Other points of the hypothesis include claimed cultural affiliations, such as circumcision, matriarchy, totemism, and kingship cults. Artifacts found at Qustul (near Abu Simbel - Modern Sudan) in 1960-64 are seen as showing that ancient Egypt and A-group Nubia shared the same culture and were part of the greater East African sub-stratum,. More recent finds in Egypt indicate that the Qustul rulers may have adopted/emulated the symbols of Egyptian pharaohs.
The controversy was reignited in 1987 when Martin Bernal produced the work "Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization." In his work, Bernal claimed that the Egyptian civilization was fundamentally African and that the most powerful pharaohs could "usefully" be called black. The claims made in Black Athena were heavily questioned by Mary Lefkowitz in her book "Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth As History."
The findings from the UNESCO conference debated the points of agreement and disagreement concerning the Black hypothesis and other theories, and concluded that the ancient Egyptians were not black. The current position of modern scholarship is that the Egyptian civilization was an indigenous Nile Valley development (see population history of Egypt).
- Demographics of modern Egypt
- Dynastic race theory
- Archaeogenetics of the Near East
- Biological Anthropology
- History of Anthropology
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- Mona Charen ,"Afrocentric View Distorts History and Achievement by Blacks". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 14, 1994. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
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- Ancient Egypt: Anatomy Of A Civilization, by Barry J. Kemp, pg 58, at http://books.google.co.za/books?id=lkhjGQYS1KQC&pg=PA393&dq=Rienzo,+Egyptian+DNA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eAkzUerKGO2V0QWcuoHwBw&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=DNA&f=false
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