Saturday, February 2, 2008

Race of ancient Egyptians

The race of ancient Egyptians is a subject that has attracted some controversy, especially within Afrocentric circles. The debate over the racial characteristics of the ancient Egyptians usually occurs outside the field of Egyptology today.[1] Studies have shown that modern Egyptians have genetic affinities primarily with populations of North and East Africa,[2][3][4][5] and to a lesser extent Middle Eastern and European populations.[6] Studies done on ancient Egyptians' remains have shown uniformity and homogeneity among the samples, and cranial/limb ratio similarity with populations from North Africa, Somalia, Nubia, Southwest Asia and Europe.[7][8][9][10][11] Blood typing and DNA sampling on ancient Egyptian mummies is scant; however, blood typing of dynastic mummies found ABO frequencies to be most similar to modern Egyptians[12] and some also to Northern Haratin populations. ABO blood group distribution shows that the Egyptians form a sister group to North African populations, including Berbers, Nubians and Canary Islanders.[13] DNA extraction (namely from the 12th dynasty) indicates multiple lines of descent, including sub-Saharan Africa, while the other lineages were not identified, but may be African in origin as well (according to Keita, 1996).[14][15] Egyptologists generally consider the ancient Egyptians to have been a continuum from the lighter northern population of Lower Egypt to the darker Upper Egyptians.[16]

Historically there have been differing accounts of the appearance of ancient Egyptians as compared to people of other nations. The Egyptians have alternately been described as lighter than the Moors,[17] similar in appearance to northern Indians,[18] and as having brown and black skin.[19] Modern classical scholars and anthropologists dispute the reliability of ancient accounts asserting that the terms used have different meanings from modern concepts of racial characteristics.[20][21] Ancient Egyptians generally noted the difference between themselves and other peoples; however, such differences frequently were based on culture or politics opposed to physical characteristics.[16]

1 Population characteristics
2 Egyptian self-view
3 Material Culture
4 Language
5 Mummy reconstructions
5.1 Possible difficulties of forensic reconstruction
6 Relations with Nubia
7 Historical perspectives
7.1 Accounts by ancient writers
7.2 Great Sphinx of Giza
7.3 History of Egyptology
7.3.1 Hamitic hypothesis
7.3.2 Mesopotamian influence
8 Controversies
8.1 Afrocentric views
8.2 King Tutankhamun
8.3 Alleged racism in Egyptology
8.4 Kmt
8.5 Cleopatra
9 Other views
9.1 Hamitic hypothesis
9.2 Dynastic race theory
10 See also
11 References
12 Further reading
13 External links

Population characteristics
Studies performed to determine the population characteristics of ancient Egyptians have used various methods including examining craniometric pattern and variation of skeletal remains. A 2007 study which examined craniometric variation among ancient Egyptians of the predynastic and early dynastic periods found high levels of diversity but concluded that the formation of the Egyptian state was predominantly indigenous in development, with some, but limited migration from elsewhere.[22] A craniofacial study by C. Loring Brace et. al. concluded that; "The Predynastic of Upper Egypt and the Late Dynastic of Lower Egypt are more closely related to each other than to any other population" and that they show ties with North African, Somalian, European, Nubian and, more remotely, Indian populations, but not with Sub-Saharan Africans or populations from other continents.[23] Anthropologist Shomarka Keita and geneticist Rick Kittles have criticized this study because of what they describe as "a socially constructed typological paradigm" in which Sub-Saharan Africans are treated as a monolithic, and biological African groups such as Nubians, Somalians and Egyptians are viewed essentially as non-African for having a craniometic pattern more similar to that of non-African populations.[24] In addition, a 2005 study by Keita of Badarian crania in predynastic upper Egypt in comparison to North and Central European and tropical African crania found "a greater affinity to indigenous Africans while not being identical" than with Europeans.[25] According to Keita, "This affinity is relative and not to be taken as indicating identity" and that the findings can be interpreted as showing "a particular broad similarity" in the samples under study.[26] He adds that, "The dendrograms of Brace et al. (1993) would seem to illustrate in the main a facet of indigenous African diversity observed elsewhere: a subset of African series evincing similarity to non-African groups not primarily due to gene flow..."[27]

Several anthropologists have identified northern and southern craniometric patterns in the Egyptian population of the early predynastic period, which Keita describes as "northern-Egyptian-Maghreb" and "tropical African variant" (overlapping with Nubia/Kush) respectively. He shows that a progressive change in Upper Egypt toward the northern Egyptian pattern takes place through the predynastic period, though the southern pattern continues to predominate in Abydos in Upper Egypt by the First Dynasty but lower Egyptian, Maghreb and European patterns are also observed thus making for a great diversity.[28] A 2006 bioarchaeological study on the dental morphology of ancient Egyptians by Prof. Joel Irish shows that a continuity extends from the dynastic to the post-dynastic periods, and that the Egyptians exhibit dental traits characteristic of indigenous North Africans, and to a lesser extent, Southwest Asians. Also all samples particularly the ones from the dynastic are shown to be significantly divergent from neolithic west saharan sample from lower Nubia.[9] Some studies have also shown that Nile Valley populations possessed more tropical body proportions, suggesting that the Egyptian Nile Valley was not primarily settled by cold-adapted peoples, such as Europeans.[21][7]

In summary, ancient Egypt is thought by many scholars to have been a melting pot of various Nile Valley, North African, Saharan and Levantine peoples since earliest times.[9][22] Some theories have postulated that the ancient Egyptians received significant demographic influence from the Near East[29] while others postulate that the ancient Egyptians belonged to a primarily African descent group, with relatively little significant outside influences from the Near East.[22][30] Recent demographic analysis done by some anthropologists has led to the conclusion that there was an overall population continuity stretching from the Neolithic into dynastic times, with small amounts of foreign admixture.[31] Jared Diamond states:

"local hunter-gatherers simply added Southwest Asian domesticates and farming and herding techniques to their own diet of wild plants and animals, then gradually phased out the wild foods. That is, what arrived to launch food production in Egypt was foreign crops and animals, not foreign peoples"[32][33]
Archaeologist Bruce Trigger cites what he saw as a deliberate obfuscation of racial politics, asserting that the early Nile valley populations (including Egyptians) were all Africans and need not be defined by arbitrary constructs of race, devoid of any contextual significance.[34] Egyptologist Frank Yurco shared a similar sentiment, identifying Egyptian civilization as comprising a mix of North and sub-Saharan African elements that typified Egyptians ever since, and that the Egyptian people were generally coextensive with other Africans in the Nile valley.[16] Many researchers note a wide range of variability in ancient Egypt and the Nile Valley, but assert that many Egyptians, especially southern, would be identified as "black" by American classification standards.[35]

Some genetic studies done on modern Egyptians suggest that most do not have close relations to most tropical Africans,[36] and other studies show that they are mostly related to other North Africans,[37] and to a lesser extent southern European/Mediterranean and Middle Eastern populations.[5] A 2004 mtDNA study of upper Egyptians from Gurna found a genetic ancestral heritage to modern East Africans, characterized by a high M1 haplotype frequency, and another study links Egyptians in general with people from modern Eritrea and Ethiopia.[3][38] A 2003 Y chromosome study was performed by Lucotte on modern Egyptians, with haplotypes V, XI, and IV being most common. Haplotype V is common in Berbers and has a low frequency outside Africa. Haplotypes V, XI, and IV are all supra/sub-Saharan horn of Africa haplotypes, and they are far more dominant in Egyptians than in Near Eastern or European groups.[39]

Egyptian self-view
The ancient Egyptians considered themselves part of a distinct group, separate from their neighbors, and viewed themselves simply as Egyptians.[16] In their wall paintings, they distinguished themselves from Nubian, Libyan, Semitic, Berber, and Eurasian peoples. The Egyptians saw themselves as darker than the Asiatics and Libyans but lighter than the Nubians, and with different facial features and body types from the other groups.[1] The Egyptians viewed the Land of Punt in the south as their ancestral homeland.[40][41][42]

Today Egyptians have occasionally voiced their opinion regarding some of the controversies that have erupted over the origins of the ancient Egyptians. A 1993 anthropological study on Egyptian skeletal remains made reference to an incident in 1989 when the Dallas Museum of Natural History sponsored an Egyptian exhibit showcasing Egyptian culture at the time of Ramesses II. When the local Blackology Speaking Committee threatened to boycott the exhibit because Ramesses II was not depicted as "black", the Director of the Cultural Office in the Egyptian Embassy, Latif Aboul-Ela, complained that the event was being distorted by an "American form of 'racial politics'".[43] In an Associated Press release, Aboul-Ela said, "Ramesses II was neither black nor white but Egyptian.... This is an Egyptian heritage and an Egyptian culture 100 percent.... We cannot say by any means we are black or white. We are Egyptians."[44]

Some Egyptians also embrace what they describe as their African heritage, while criticizing some of their fellow compatriots for not doing the same. Egyptian film-maker Yusry Nasrallah claims in a recent publication by "AfricaNews", that he likes his African share and that Egypt owes much to Africa, especially because of the Nile river.[45]

Material Culture
Located in the extreme corner of Northeast Africa, ancient Egyptian society was at a crossroads between African and Near Eastern regions. During the Naqada phase, the predynastic Egyptians of Upper Egypt shared an almost identical culture with A-group peoples of the Lower Sudan.[46] In fact, the cultures were so similar, as indicated by royal tombs at Qustul, along with the earliest examples of what was thought to have been distinct Egyptian iconography, some scholars have even proposed an Egyptian origin in Nubia among the A-group.[47][48] Indeed, in 1996, Lovell and Prowse published a paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology citing evidence for endogamy. They reported the presence of individual rulers buried at Naqada in what was designated as elite, high status tombs, showing them to be related morphologically to populations in Northern Nubia, more so than those in Southern Egypt.[49] While others find this prospect intriguing, however, many scholars are not swayed by the evidence and cite the presence of royal tombs that are contemporary with that of Qustul and just as elaborate, while also addressing what they see as difficulty with the dating techniques.[50]

Excavations from Nabta Playa, located about 100km west of Abu Simbel, suggest that the Neolithic inhabitants of the region were migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa. There is some speculation that this culture is likely to be the predecessor of the Egyptians, based on cultural similarities and social complexity which is thought to be reflective of Egypt's Old Kingdom.[51][52]

Toby Wilkonson, in his book "Genesis of the Pharaohs", proposes an origin for the Egyptians somewhere in the Eastern Desert.[53] He presents evidence that much of predynastic Egypt was representative of the traditional African cattle-culture, typical of Southern Sudanese and East African pastoralists of today. In addition, Wilkonson cites the iconography on rock art in the region as depicting what he suggests to be the first examples of the royal crowns, even pointing to Qustul in Nubia as a likely candidate for the origins of the white crown, being that the earliest example of it was discovered in this area.


African languages.The Ancient Egyptian language (a language most closely related to Berber, Semitic, and Beja) is part of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Initially, it was believed that Semitic languages originated in the near east, however, linguists soon began to reveal a connection between them and several African Languages, it was found that they were more related to languages in Africa than to languages in most parts of Asia and Europe. Joseph Greenberg, based on these observations proposed the term Afro-Asiatic(formerly known as Hamito-Semitic) to encompass all of these languages. The origin of Proto-Afro-Asiatic languages is still debated. An African origin is often proposed since five of the six Afro-Asiatic subfamilies are spoken on the African continent and only one in the middle east. Furthermore, some scholars have proposed Ethiopia, because it includes the majority of the diversity of the Afro-Asiatic language family and has very diverse groups in close geographic proximity, often considered a telltale sign for a linguistic geographic origin. Hence, many scholars cite this as evidence of a primarily African origin for the Ancient Egyptians as opposed to a near eastern origin.

Mummy reconstructions

Possible difficulties of forensic reconstruction

King TutSome forensic anthropologists assert that attempts to apply criteria from craniofacial anthropometry sometimes can yield seemingly counterintuitive results, depending upon the weight given to each feature. For example, some contend that their application can result in finding some East and South Indians to have "Negroid" cranial/facial features and others to have "Caucasoid" cranial/facial features. While many East Africans for instance, have "Caucasoid" skulls,[55] and many of the Khoisan who inhabit southwestern Africa have cranial/facial traits that are distinct from many other sub-Saharan Africans and resemble "Mongoloid" characteristics.[56] A recent study of ancient Nubian crania was critical of assigning the traditional racial labels to skeletal remains. The study concluded that the assignment of racial origins to skeletons can sometimes misrepresent fundamental patterns in human biological diversity.[57]

These seeming contradictions, however, are related to the vagaries of racial classification, particularly of ethnically diverse or miscegenated populations, as exist in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Cranial analysis is still used by some forensic scientists to determine the identity and geographic ethnic origin of human remains, even though the accuracy of ethnicity-related conclusions drawn from cranial analysis is not absolute -- particularly when treating populations possessing varying degrees of "racial", or ethnic, admixture. Though modern technology can reconstruct Tutankhamun's facial structure with a high degree of accuracy based on CT data from his mummy, but due to lack of facial tissue and embalming issues, correctly determining his skin tone,shape of the top part of his nose and eye color is nearly impossible.[58] The problem is not a lack of skill on the part of Ancient Egyptians. Egyptian artisans distinguished accurately among different ethnicities, but sometimes depicted their subjects in totally unreal colors, the purposes for which aren't completely understood. Thus no absolute consensus on the skin tone and various other features of reconstructed mummies such as Tutankhamun is possible.

Relations with Nubia
Nubia (Ethiopia of Greeks) appears often in the history of Egypt. According to Manetho, if the number of years of reigns before the dynasties is in excess, "it must be supposed that perhaps several Egyptian kings ruled at one and the same time; for they say that the rulers were kings of This, of Memphis, of Saïs, of Ethiopia, and of other places at the same time".[59] Diodorus Siculus, in the Volume III of Bibliotheca historica (The Library of History) writes that the Ethiopians consider the Egyptians as one of their colony brought in Egypt by Osiris.[60] In the same book, Diodorus Siculus notes that the Ethiopians have black skin and wooly hair.[61] And Alan Gardiner translates "Tз-Seti", the "Ist nome of Upper Egypt", as "Nubia", and "Styw", its inhabitants, as "Nubians".[62] In fact, Jean-François Champollion has already revealed that ancient Egyptians might have originated either from Abyssinia or from Sennar.[63]

Mayassis states that Isis was considered as a Black and Red goddess, a Nubian,[64] and that the soul of Osiris flies from the left side,[65] which is, according to Plutarch, the south of Egypt.[66]

Nubia was also referred to by the Egyptians as "miserable Kush", and the Nubians as kilt wearers, bow people and blacks. Egypt saw Nubia as a source of slaves and raw materials such as gold. When Pharaoh Thutmose I conquered Nubia his scribe wrote this in the Hymn of Victory:

He hath overthrown the chief of the Nubians, the black is helpless, defenseless in his grasp. He hath united the boundaries of his two sides, there is not a remnant among the curly-haired who can come attack him. There is not a single survivor among them. The Nubian troglodytes fall by the sword and are thrust aside in their lands. Their foulness, it floods their valley and their mouths like a violent flood, the fragments cut from them are too much for the birds,carrying off the prey to another place.[67][68][69]

Historical perspectives

Accounts by ancient writers

Herodotus, the "father of history", wrote that Egyptians had black skin and woolly hair.Many ancient writers commented of the 'racial affinities' of ancient Egyptians. While some held them to be people with 'black skins and woolly hair' similar to 'Kushites', others described them as 'medium toned' or similar to that of northern Indians. Greek historian Herodotus commented on a perceived relationship between the Colchians (from the modern Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus) and the Egyptians. He states that he was told by several Egyptians that the Colchians were descended from the Egyptian soldier Sesostris and further draws a connection from the skin tone and "kinky hair" of the Colchians as well as their practice of circumcision. Herodotus described the Colchians as melanchros, black.[70] Some scholars, such as Yaacov Shavit are of the opinion that since Egyptians were not described as Aethiopes, they were in fact distinguished from "black" Africans.[71] According to Classicist Frank M. Snowden, Jr., Herodotus seems to have been following a Graeco-Roman practice of describing people darker than themselves as melanchros, which did not mean that the people they described were black.[72] Other interpretations have pointed out that Herodotus could have been speaking in relative terms, since the Colchians were noted as residing near the Black Sea, close to modern day Russia where there are virtually no dark skinned, woolly haired people today; There are also others who question whether or not Herodotus ever visited the Black Sea region in the first place.[73] Professor of African Studies at Temple University, Molefi Kete Asante however, cites other examples from Herodotus, one where he asserts that "the flooding of the Nile could not be caused by snow, because the natives of the country (Egypt) are black from the heat".[74]

Other ancient writers testify that there indeed was an ancient population of dark skinned, woolly haired people residing in Colchis, giving at least some support to Herodotus' claim that they were left there by the armies of the legendary Sesostris after initial campaigns in the region. Indeed, there is further description from ancient writers describing the populations of Colchis in this fashion. A Greek poet named Pindar described the Colchians, whom Jason and the Argonauts fought, as being "dark skinned". Also around 350 to 400 AD, Church father Saint Jerome and Sophronius referred to Colchis as the "second Ethiopia" because of its 'black-skinned' population.[75]

Aristotle, who some have questioned whether or not visited Egypt, also commented on the physical traits of the Egyptians and Ethiopians. Aristotle asserts that skin color is somehow correlated to courage, and also gives his impression on why the Egyptians and Ethiopians are bowlegged and 'curly haired' by contending that "too black a hue marks the coward" as well as "too white a complexion" and that courage rests between the two. Aristotle also asserts that the Egyptians are "bandy legged" and asks if this is due to the fact that their bodies became "distorted by heat, like logs of wood when they become dry", he contends that the hair of the Ancient Egyptians supports the theory as it is curlier than that of other nations.[76]

Strabo wrote that the Egyptians resembled the people of northern India.Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330-after 391) was a Greco-Roman historian who also gave his own brief observations. Marcellinus stated that the Egyptians were "mostly brown and black" with a "skinny and desiccated look".[77][78] Marcus Manilius though described the Egyptians as lighter than the Moors, saying "the land of Egypt, flooded by the Nile, darkens bodies more mildly owing to the inundation of its fields."[79] Ancient writers have also made comparisons between ancient Egyptians and northern Indians of the time. Greek historian, geographer and philosopher Strabo stated that As for the people of India, those in the south are like the Aethiopians in colour, although they are like the rest in respect to countenance and hair (for on account of the humidity of the air their hair does not curl), whereas those in the north are like the Aegyptians.[80] Greek historian Arrian also drew a similarity between northern Indians and ancient Egyptians stating that the appearance of the inhabitants of ancient Egypt was not very different from those in northern India. Arrian further stated that "the northern Indians are most like the Egyptians physically".[81] The writings of Strabo and Arrian were drawn from the earlier accounts of Nearchus, Megasthenes and Eratosthenes.[82]

According to Yaacov Shavit of Tel Aviv University, "[t]he evidence clearly shows that those Graeco-Roman authors who refer to the skin color and other physical traits distinguish sharply between Ethiopians (Nubians) and Egyptians, and rarely do they refer to the Egyptians as black, even though they were described as darker than themselves.... [in addition,] Egyptians and Nubians were both clearly distinguished from the black Africans."[83] However, late professor of classics, Frank Snowden has not made note of any distinction between Nubians, Ethiopians, or modern conceptions of "black African". He concedes that "both Egyptians and Ethiopians were described as black, but only Ethiopians were described as having exceedingly woolly hair".[17]

Classical scholar Frank Snowden cautions that terms used by ancient Greek and Roman writers to describe the physical characteristics of other ancient peoples were different in meaning from modern-day racial terms in the West. Snowden writes:

....the Afrocentrists are mistaken in assuming that the term Afri (Africans) and various color adjectives for dark pigmentation as used by Greeks and Romans are always the classical equivalents of Negroes or blacks in modern usage.... Not all the peoples described by such color terms were blacks or Negroes in the modern sense, but only the inhabitants of the Nile Valley south of Egypt and of the southern fringes of northwestern Africa.... That the pigmentation of the Egyptians was seen as lighter than that of Ethiopians is also attested by the adjective subfusucli {"somewhat dark") which Ammianus Marcellinus (22.16.23) chose to describe the Egyptians.... There was also a mixed Egyptian-Nubian element in the population of Egypt at least a early as the middle of the third millennium B.C.E....[84]

According to the hippocratic text the Egyptians were not unlike the Scythians,though the Scythians were reddened because of cold the Egyptians were reddened due to sun exposure,Also in Hesiod Works and Days it states that black people reside not in the nile valley but in a far off land,by the fountains of the sun,or where it goes to and fro[85]

Keita and Boyce confront this issue in a 1996 article entitled, "The Geographical Origins and Population Relationships of Early Ancient Egyptians". As anthropologists, they point out the danger in relying on ancient interpretation to reveal for us the biological make up of a population. They contend that the relevant data indicates greater similarity between Egyptians and Ethiopians than the former group with the ancient Greeks. They also state that relying on ancient interpretations are problematic since the ancient writers were not doing population biology, even though the Greeks called all groups south of Egypt "Ethiopians".[21]

Great Sphinx of Giza

Head of the Giza SphinxOver the centuries, numerous writers and scholars have recorded their impressions and reactions upon seeing the Great Sphinx of Giza in relation to its possible racial characteristics. French philosopher Constantin-François de Chassebœuf, Comte de Volney visited Egypt between 1783 and 1785 and is one of the earliest known Western scholars to remark upon what he saw as its "typically Negro" countenance. De Volney stated that the Sphinx's appearance was "typically nergro in all its features"[86] Upon visiting Egypt in 1849, French author Gustave Flaubert stated that he had observations. In his travel log chronicling his trip, he wrote of the Sphinx: "it exactly faces the rising sun, its head is grey, ears very large and protruding like a negro’s...the fact that the nose is missing increases the flat, negroid effect. Besides, it was certainly Ethiopian; the lips are thick…."[87] In his work The Negro, published in 1915, W.E.B. Du Bois asserted that the great sphinx is similar to other statues of the world and represented "black, full-blooded negros" which he stated were described as having "high cheek bones, flat cheeks,.. a massive nose, firm projecting lips, and thick hair with an austere and almost savage expression of power."[88] According to professor of Jewish history, Yaacov Shavit, most of the European travelers and scholars rejected Volney's views about the sphinx, including British Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge, who wrote that '...all attempts to prove that the Egyptians are of the Negro race are overthrown at the outset by facts which cannot be controverted... the fact, however, remains that the Egyptian fellah is exactly what he was in the earliest dynasties.'"[89]

Even modern observers have noted the sphinx's characteristics. In 1992, the New York Times published a letter to the editor submitted by then Harvard professor of orthodontics[90] Sheldon Peck in which he commented on a study of the Giza sphinx conducted by New York City Police Department senior forensics artist Frank Domingo. Peck Wrote that the "This is an anatomical condition of forward development in both jaws, more frequently found in people of African ancestry than in those of Asian or Indo-European stock."[91]

History of Egyptology

Hamitic hypothesis
Main article: Hamitic hypothesis
The "Hamitic Hypothesis" associated the Ancient Egyptians with Berbers, viz. speakers of Hamitic languages.[92] The postulated "Hamitic race" was sometimes credited with the introduction of more advanced culture, such as certain plant cultivation and particularly the domestication of cattle.[citation needed]

Modern scholarship has moved away from earlier notions of a "Hamitic" race speaking Hamito-Semitic languages, and places the Egyptian language in a more localized context, centered around its general Saharan and Nilotic roots.(F. Yurco "An Egyptological Review", 1996)[93]

Mesopotamian influence
Main article: Dynastic Race Theory
The Dynastic Race Theory was the earliest thesis to attempt to explain how predynastic Egypt developed into the Pharonic monarchy. It argued that the presence of many Mesopotamian influences in Egypt during the late predynastic period and the apparently foreign graves in the Naqada II burials indicated an invasion of Mesopotamians into Upper Egypt, who then conquered both Upper and Lower Egypt and founded the First Dynasty

The Dynastic Race Theory is no longer the dominant thesis in the field of Predynastic Archaeology, and has been largely replaced by the theory that Egypt was a Hydraulic empire, on the grounds that such contacts are much older than the Naqada II period,[94] the Naqada II period had a large degree of continuity with the Naqada I period,[95] and the changes which did happen during the Naqada periods happened over significant amounts of time.[96] Some scholars still note that while the Dynastic Race Theory is probably fallacious, the evidence upon which it was based does still indicate significant predynastic Mesopotamian influence;[97] however, recent anthropological studies have also reported biological continuity from the early predynastic, into the dynastic era, suggesting that state formation was a predominantly indigenous process.[22]


Afrocentric views
Afrocentric scholars and authors assert that Egyptians were "black" and contend that modern perceptions of ancient Egyptians are due to racial prejudice on the part of early egyptologists.[98] For example, Cheikh Anta Diop wrote that life for the ancient Egyptians was oriented to the south in the direction of Sub-Saharan Africa[99]

King Tutankhamun

A controversial 2005 rendering of Tutankhamun with hazel eyes and "mid-range" skin tone, from National Geographic magazine.
Golden death mask of Tutankhamun.The racial characteristics of King Tutankhamun has caused some controversy. In 2005, three teams of scientists (Egyptian, French and American), in partnership with the National Geographic Society, developed a facial reconstruction of Tutankhamun from 1,700 three-dimensional CT scans of the Pharaoh's skull. The French and American teams worked plastic molds created from these – but the Americans were never told whom they were reconstructing.[100] All three teams created silicone busts of their interpretation of what the young monarch looked like. In the end, Zahi Hawass, head of Cairo's Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced that the skull as "that of a male, 18 to 20 years old, with Caucasoid features."[100] The French team's reconstruction specifically however, has sparked considerable controversy. In 2005 when a King Tut exhibition was shown in Los Angeles, it was met by black activist demonstrators who protested the exhibition on the grounds that the statues shown portrayed King tut as "white" and demanded that they be removed.[101] Afrocentrists criticize the French team's claim that they selected the skin tone by taking a color from the middle of the range of skin tones found in the population of Egypt today.[102] They claim that these features do not reflect the prevalent eye or skin color of either ancient dynastic Egypt or present-day Egyptians. They further argue that many representations of Tutankhamun portray him with red-brown to dark-brown skin and dark eyes, and that the teams should have used these as references in assigning eye and skin color.[103] In comparison to the 2005 reconstruction, some have commented that the earlier 2002 Discovery Channel reconstruction showed a darker skin tone, among other differences.[104] Terry Garcia, National Geographic's executive vice president for mission programs, said, in response to criticism of the King Tut reconstructions that "The big variable is skin tone." and "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.'"

Zahi Hawass has stated that: "Tutankhamun was not black, and the portrayal of ancient Egyptian civilisation as black has no element of truth to it". Hawass made this statement in light of calls from U.S. black activists demanding egyptologists to recognize that King Tut was black. Hawass also stated that "Egyptians are not Arabs and are not Africans despite the fact that Egypt is in Africa,". Hawass was responding to several demonstrations in Philadelphia where protesters demanded a bust of King Tut be removed because it portrayed him as white.[101] Hawass, in a 2007 publication of "Ancient Egypt Magazine", also asserted that none of the facial reconstructions resemble Tut, claiming for example that the French reconstruction ended up with a person that looked French, whose features do not resemble any known Egyptians. He asserts that in his opinion, the most accurate representation of the boy king is the mask from his tomb.[106] In addition, according to the LA Times, the archaeological inspector for the Supreme Council of antiquities, Ahmed Saleh, disagrees with some of Hawass' statements, stating that the procedures used in the facial re-creation made Tut look Caucasian, "disrespecting the nation's African roots".

Alleged racism in Egyptology
Senegalese historian and activist Cheikh Anta Diop, in his book Nations Nègres et Culture, denounced colonial Egyptology as prejudiced against black historical accomplishments. Diop himself has come under criticism by mainstream scholars for having distorted some of his sources and as a result falsifying history.[108][109] Diop claims that Egyptologists "knew" that ancient Egyptians were "black", But the fact that Africans were colonized, he argued, made it difficult to admit that they were the creators of the Egyptian civilization. He quoted, for example, Champollion-Figeac who said that “black skin and wholly hair don’t make someone to belong to the Black race”.[110] In his book, Egitto e Nubia, Maurizio Damiano-Appia wrote that for many Egyptologists of the past, and even of today, Egypt was the creation of a "white race." Appia alleges that Eurocentrism, mainly of Anglo Saxon orientation, was at the base of this false idea.[111] Aboubacry Moussa Lam, in his book L’affaire des momies royales. La vérité sur la reine Ahmès-Nefertari, argued that Egyptian mummies were falsely described as being caucasian.[112]

Some other more controversial methods have been used to determine the racial characteristics of Ancient Egyptians. Cheikh Anta Diop performed a series of the tests on Egyptian mummies to determine melanin levels and concluded that Egyptians were dark-skinned and part of the "Negro race".[113] Diop noted criticisms of these results that argue that the skin of most Egyptian mummies, tainted by the embalming material, are no longer susceptible of any analysis. Diop contended the position that although the epidermis is the main site of the melanin, the melanocytes penetrating the dermis at the boundary between it and the epidermis, even where the latter has mostly been destroyed by the embalming materials, show a melanin level which is non-existent in the "white-skinned races". However, Diop did not describe any tests that verify his claims that melanin is "non-existent" among the "white-skinned races", nor provide evidence supporting his assertion that the absence of melanin in the epidermis is due to embalming techniques. Diop innovated the development of the melanin dosage test which was later adopted by forensic investigators to determine the "racial identity" of badly burnt accident victims.[114]

J. D. Walker wrote an article for the Journal of Black Studies in 1995 suggesting that Diop's views had been widely misinterpreted by his critics and that Diop's understanding of race and blackness went beyond the "stereotyped caricatured West African physiognomy described in some literature as the True Negro'" Walker writes that his definition of "black" was sometimes all encompassing those with dark complexions, and at times, even non-Africans.[115]

Kmtkm in Egyptian hieroglyphs km biliteral km.t (place) km.t (people)
One of the many names for Egypt in ancient Egyptian is km.t (read "Kemet"), meaning "black land". More literally, the word means "something black". The use of km.t in terms of a place is thought generally to be in contrast to the "deshert" or "red land", e.g. the desert west of the Nile valley. Egypt for millennia depended on the flooding of the Nile to bring fertility to the land, and the resulting soil was very black. Likewise, the word kmt could also refer to the people when followed by the people determinatives, as shown on the far right. Raymond Faulkner's Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian translates it into "Egyptians", as do most sources. However, scholar Aboubacry Moussa Lam prefers what he considers to be a more literal translation and suggests that km.t should be translated as meaning, "land of the black/s" or "black nation" when it applies to the country and as meaning "the Blacks" when it applies to the population,[119] a view rejected by most Egyptologists.

The claim that Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt, was of Black African origin has been espoused by a few Afrocentric academics.[121] Cleopatra, however, was of Hellenistic origin. Mary Lefkowitz argues that Afrocentric scholars are to blame for the proliferation of the myth of African origin. According to Professor of African American Studies at Temple University, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, the idea that Cleopatra was black is not a major aspect of Afrocentrists' arguments, and he asserts that Afrocentricists do not spend a lot of time arguing such.[122]

Other views

Hamitic hypothesis
Complications have also cropped up in the use of linguistics as a basis for racial categorization. The demise of the famous "Hamitic Hypothesis", which purported to show that certain African languages around the Nile area could be associated with "Caucasoid" peoples is a typical case. Such schemes fell apart when it was demonstrated that so-called 'Negroid' tribes far distant also spoke similar languages, tongues that were supposedly a reserved marker of 'Caucasoid' presence or influence.[123] For work on African languages, see Wiki article Languages of Africa and Joseph Greenberg. Older linguistic classifications are also linked to the notion of a "Hamitic race", a vague grouping thought to exclude 'Negroes', but accommodating a large variety of dark skinned North and East Africans into a broad-based 'Caucasoid' grouping. This "Hamitic race" is sometimes credited with the introduction of more advanced culture, such as certain plant cultivation and particularly the domestication of cattle.

This theory has also been discredited by the work of post-WWII archaeologists such as A. Arkell, who demonstrated that predynastic and Sudanic 'Negroid' elements already possessed cattle and plant domestication, thousands of years before the supposed influx of 'Caucasoid' or 'Hamitic' settlers into the Nile Valley, Nubia and adjoining areas.[124] Modern scholarship has moved away from earlier notions of a "Hamitic" race speaking Hamito-Semitic languages, and places the Egyptian language in a more localized context, centered around its general Saharan and Nilotic roots.(F. Yurco "An Egyptological Review", 1996)[125] Linguistic analysis (Diakanoff 1998) has led most scholars to place the origin of the Afro-Asiatic languages in northeast Africa, while some still lean towards Southwest Asia, with older strands south of Egypt, and newer elements straddling the Nile Delta and Sinai.[126][127] The Semitic languages form the only Afro-Asiatic subfamily extant outside of Africa. Some scholars believe that, in historical or near-historical times, Semitic speakers crossed from South Arabia back into Ethiopia and Eritrea. Others, such as A. Murtonen, dispute this view, and suggest that the Semitic branch may have originated in Ethiopia.

Dynastic race theory
The Dynastic Race Theory was the earliest thesis to attempt to explain how predynastic Egypt developed into the Pharonic monarchy. It argued that the presence of many Mesopotamian influences in Egypt during the late predynastic period and the apparently foreign graves in the Naqada II burials indicated an invasion of Mesopotamians into Upper Egypt, who then conquered both Upper and Lower Egypt and founded the First Dynasty

The Dynastic Race Theory is no longer the dominant thesis in the field of Predynastic Archaeology, and has been largely replaced by the theory that Egypt was a Hydraulic empire, on the grounds that such contacts are much older than the Naqada II period,[129] the Naqada II period had a large degree of continuity with the Naqada I period,[130] and the changes which did happen during the Naqada periods happened over significant amounts of time.[131] Some scholars still note that while the Dynastic Race Theory is probably fallacious, the evidence upon which it was based does still indicate significant predynastic Mesopotamian influence;[132] however, recent anthropological studies have also reported biological continuity from the early predynastic, into the dynastic era, suggesting that state formation was a predominantly indigenous process.

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