martes, 26 de julio de 2016

Ancient Egytpians and Race

There has been an intense (and sometimes bitter) polemic about what the race of ancient Egyptians may have been. This debate concerns philosophy, to the extent that part of the dispute is also about where the origins of philosophical activity lay.
Historian Martin Bernal defended the controversial claim that ancient Greeks stole arts and philosophy from the ancient Egyptians, and the latter were originally black Africans. Thus, the founding fathers of philosophy were not the (presumably white) Greek presocratics, but rather, black Africans. This claim drew attention from proponents of Afrocentrism. Afrocentrics propose black racial superiority, and they considered that Bernal’s hypothesis enforced their views.
Bernal’s theses, however, have been severely criticized, most notably by Mary Lefkowitz. She has detected a considerable number of methodological mistakes and erroneous assumptions. Although the debate is far from settled regarding the race of ancient Egyptians, the consensus has inclined in Lefkowitz’ favor. Ancient Egyptians were not blond blue-eyed peoples, but neither were they black Africans.

Ironically, this type of discussion would have been very alien to ancient Egyptians themselves; and in fact, it is a typical example of how contemporary preoccupations are sometimes projected upon the past. Ancient Egyptians were largely unconcerned about racial differences. It is true that some Egyptian art evidences marked racial differences with regards to the neighboring Nubians. But, by and large, Egyptians assimilated Nubians well, and although slavery was practiced in Ancient Egypt, it never assumed a racial dimension.

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