I came across an interesting article while browsing the other day. I freely admit that I am skeptical of the source–it’s on the library website as a scholarly source, but the obvious bias and skewing of information is a little sketchy. Regardless, the article does bring up a few interesting points that I would like to discuss. I know at least one of the other posts has addressed this in part already, but please bear with me.
Essentially, the article is written to draw our attention to the African origin and element of Ancient Egyptian culture. The author is more than a little upset about Egyptians being categorized as “caucasian” back in the day due to Europe’s ethnocentric way of looking at complex civilizations, and he gets a little bit carried away in bashing that concept. I’m not sure how much of his evidence and arguments are actually legitimate, since my own knowledge on the subject is rather sparse. Regardless, he does seem to be onto something.
There is truth in what he says about depictions of Egyptians (especially deities) being painted dark colors. I was always under the impression that it was a stylistic thing–but it is possible that it was meant as a representation of darker-skinned people. Why did I have this assumption that the dark colors were stylistic? I’ve seen pictures of these drawings. I live in a diverse age, where I encounter many people of varying skintones on a daily basis. Why then would I assume, upon seeing a drawing with people painted different colors, that this detail was merely stylistic?
The answer is neither new nor particularly attractive (and I’m sure, at this point, that you can guess where I’m going with this). We, as a part of Western society, recognize that Western society has said and done some pretty horrible things to and about other cultures. Nowadays, we generally try our best to avoid continuing that unfortunate tradition. However, when you have spent your entire life surrounded by Western culture, it becomes difficult to recognize and pick out the remaining subtle traces of stereotypical ethnocentric Western thought. We don’t mean to dismiss the Egyptians’ portrayal of themselves and their gods as dark-skinned people–simply put, we have difficulty (especially when ill-educated on the subject) coming to terms with the reality of the representation when it is so clouded by preconceptions we didn’t realize we had.
The article goes into depth about African identity and the African culture as the origin of complex civilization– I’m not going to go into depth on this, since I don’t know which parts should be taken with a grain of salt. I will say, however, that his argument brings up an intriguing question–Why would Western European states decide to recognize Egypt’s origin as Caucasian rather than African, even when given evidence to the contrary? Why did the concept of admitting the oldest and most advanced society they knew was of African origin gall them to the point where they felt they had no choice but to reject that concept? Truth be told, they should have expected Egypt to identify with other African states simply due to proximity and ease of travel between them (versus Europe, which is on the other side of the Mediterranean from them rather than simply upriver).
The article can be found by searching this information in the MSU library database:
Ancient Egypt: Africa’s stolen legacy
Saafu Khpera. New African 389 (Oct 2000): 18-25.