Religious Studies - 4 pages at least

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AFRICAN CONTRIBUTION TO HUMANITY,

CIVILIZATION AND WORLD SPIRITUALITY

PART 1. THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM: WHO WERE THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS? PART 2. AFRICAN CONTRIBUTION TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION INTRODUCING THE PARADIGM Cheikh Anta Diop: "Imperialism, like the prehistoric hunter, first killed the being spiritually and culturally, before trying to eliminate it physically. The negation of the history and intellectual accomplishments of Black Africans was cultural, mental murder, which preceded and paved the way for their genocide here and there in the world" (Cheikh Anta Diop, From Civilization or Barbarism, 1981, pp.1-2) Martin Luther King,Jr. - “Racism is the absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of history and alone can assure the progress of the future. It is the dogma that the hope of civilization depends upon eliminating some races and keeping others pure.” (Martin Luther King,Jr., Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community ? Boston: Beacon Press, 1968); p.69-70. Malcolm X “Now what effect does the struggle in Africa have on us? Why should the Black man in America concern himself since he’s been away from the African continent for three or four hundred years? Why should we concern ourselves? What impact does what happens to them have upon us? Number one, you have to realize that up until 1959 Africa was dominated by the colonial powers. Having complete control over Africa, the colonial powers of Europe projected the image of Africa negatively. They always projected Africa in a negative light: jungle savages, cannibals, nothing civilized. it was so negative that it was negative to you and me, and you and I began to hate it. We didn’t want anybody telling us anything about Africa, much less calling us Africans, we ended up hating ourselves, without even realizing it. Because you can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can’t hate your origin and not end up hating yourself. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself. (Malcolm X, February 1965: The final Speeches. New York; Pathfinder, 1992. p.93) Basil Davidson

“Old views (views of Victorian evolutionists) about Africa are worth recalling because, though vanished from serious discussion, they still retain a kind of underground existence. The stercoraceous sediment of Burton’s opinions, and of others such as Burton, has

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settled like a layer of dust and ashes on the minds of large numbers of otherwise thoughtful people, and is constantly being swirled about. What this leads to, despite all factual evidence to the contrary, are endless suspicions that writers such as Lothrop Stoddard were or are just possibly right when they wrote or write about the ‘natural and inherent inferiority’ of Africans; that ‘in the Negro, we are in the presence of a being differing profoundly not merely from the white man but also from (other) human types’; or that ‘the Negro... has contributed virtually nothing’ to the civilization of the world. However scientifically mistaken, these notions apparently remain part of our culture. Often it is the aggressive violence of such opinions that most surprises.” (Basil Davidson, The African Genius.. Boston: Little, Brown and Company,1969); p.25.

“The Negro, many have believed, is a man without a past. Black Africa-Africa south of the Sahara desert-is on this view a continent where men by their own efforts have never raised themselves much above the level of the beasts. “No ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences,” commented David Hume. “No approach to the civilization of his white fellow creatures who he imitates as a monkey does a man,” added Trollope...Africans, on this view, had never evolved civilization of their own; if they possessed a history, it could be scarcely worth the telling. And this belief that Africans had lived in universal chaos or stagnation until the coming of Europeans seemed not only to find its justification in a thousand tales of savage misery and benigned ignorance; it was also, of course, exceedingly convenient in high imperial times. For it could be argued (and it was; indeed, it still is) that these peoples, history-less, were naturally inferior or else they were ‘children who had still to grow up’; in either case they were manifestly in need of government by others who had grown up.”

Davidson, Basil, The Lost Cities of Africa. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959); p.ix. Colonialism, Racism and the distortion of African History

“When our Grand children reflect on the middle and later years of the twentieth century, above all on the years lying between about 1950 and 1980, and think about us writers of African history, of the history of the black peoples, I think that they will see us as emerging from a time of ignorance and misunderstanding. For these were the liberating years when accounts began at last to be squared with the malice and mystification of racism. And by racism I do not mean, of course, that phalanx of old superstitions, fears and fantasies associated with ancient white ideas about blackness, or not less ancient black ideas about whiteness, the ideas of an old world in which distance always induced distortion. By racism I mean the conscious and systematic weapon of

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domination, of exploitation (...) , which first saw its demonic rise with the onset of the trans-Atlantic trade in African captives sold into slavery, and which, later, led on to the imperialist colonialism of our yesterdays. This racism was not a “mistake,” a “misunderstanding” or a “grievous deviation from the proper norms of behavior.” It was not an accident of human error. It was not an unthinking reversion to barbarism. This racism was conceived as the moral justification - the necessary justification, as it was seen by those in the white man’s world who were neither thieves nor moral monsters - for doing to black people what church and state no longer thought it permissible to do to white people: the justification for enslaving black people, that is, when it was no longer permissible to enslave white people. This weapon of exploitation has its own history, developing new uses in new situations, as many of us know or remember or even now may still experience. But this has been a history, nonetheless, which began to come to an end in the middle and later years of the twentieth century. One of the reasons why it began to come to an end has been the emergence of the Africans from their colonialist subjection.” (Basil Davidson, African Civilization Revisited from Antiquity to Modern time. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1991);pp.3-4.

Basil Davidson and the Decolonization of knowledge: “Having taken possession of Africa in the 1880s and soon after, the dispossessors were bound to assure themselves, if only for their own peace of mind, that they had also acted for the benefit and eventual welfare of the peoples they had dispossessed. Left to their pre-industrial and pre-scientific primitivism, said the colonialists, Africans could never have modernized their communities, their ideas and beliefs, their ways of self-government. Colonialism might be a rough and though business; never mind, foreign rule was what Africa needed if any real progress were to become possible. The Africa of a century ago, it was said, was lost in the futile ties of a bygone age, unable to help itself. Davidson, Basil, Modern Africa: A Social and Political History (London: Longman, 1994); p.269. “It is an old and true saying that you cannot develop other people, you can only develop yourself. Other people either develop themselves, or they do not at all. Peoples in Africa, before the long colonial interruption, had developed themselves. From this self-development had come a rich variety of social and political systems: self-governing communities, complex patterns of trade and

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of production for trade, valuable techniques like the skills of tropical agriculture, metal-working, textile weaving and so on. History also shows that this self-development, in all its complexity, had derived from indispensable principles of statecraft. Communities which upheld these principles had been able to succeed and prosper. Communities which ignored or denied these principles had failed and fallen into confusion. These pre-colonial principles were concerned with preventing the abuse of executive power; with ensuring that power was shared across the community in question; and, to safeguard this participation, with upholding the rule of law. Every successful community in old Africa had operated in one way or another on these principles of statecraft; and such communities had been many. These were the truths that the colonial powers, and their ideologists, had always denied. Colonial ideologists had said that black people had never known how best to govern themselves: white people must do it for them. Such was the ideological basis of colonialism. And the same idea, however muted, was also the basis of...new- colonialism.” Davidson, Basil, Modern Africa: A Social and Political History. (London: Longman, 1995); p.265.

PART 1. THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM: WHO WERE THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS? On the Race of Ancient Egyptian: Martin Bernal, Herodotus, and Basil Davidson WHO WERE THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS? A controversial question in American universities Ann Macy Roth, one of the few Egyptologists to reflect on the challenge raised by “Afrocentrism,” published in 1995, in the American Research Center in Egypt Newsletter, an article entitled “Building Bridges to Afrocentrism: A letter to My Egyptological Colleagues” in which she made two important points: 1. It is no longer useful for Western Egyptologists to avoid or ignore the questions raised by Afrocentrism: “The number of African-Americans who are taught this material is growing, and we will increasingly have to deal with its inaccuracies and exaggerations simply in order to teach our students. This gap between our field and the Afrocentric version of it is not going to go away. And by setting ourselves against the whole

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phenomenon in an adversarial and often condescending way, we make it impossible for the responsible educators involved in the movement (and there are many) to tap our expertise and improve the accuracy of the materials they teach. 2. On why Western Egyptologists avoid the question of the blackness of ancient Egyptians she wrote: - “ ‘What color were the ancient Egyptians?’ This is a question that strikes FEAR into the hearts of most American Egyptologists... Few of us have devoted much thought or research to the contentions of the Afrocentric movement, so we NERVOUSLY try to say something reasonable, and hope that the questioner won’t persist and that we won’t end up looking silly or racist or both.” - “Egyptology tends not to be taken quite seriously by people who study other parts of the ancient world. Already many noted departments of Near Eastern Studies with extensive faculty in ancient Mesopotamia and the Levant do not feel it necessary to teach or support research in Egyptology at a similar level. We fear, perhaps, that if we endorse the view that ancient Egypt was a “black civilization,” we will further cut ourselves off from our colleagues who study other civilizations contemporary with ancient Egypt. At the same time, there is no place for us in African studies departments, which generally tend to address questions related to modern history and current political and social problems.” Richard Poe, Black Spark White Fire: Did African Explorers Civilize Ancient Europe? (New York: Prima Publishing, 1997); pp.476-77. The Egyptian Problem The “Egyptian problem” is the debate among Western scholars regarding the identity of the authors of the civilization of Ancient Egypt: “How could Africans have produced such a high civilization? If it had been scientifically ‘proved’ that Blacks were biologically incapable of civilization, how could one explain Ancient Egypt - which was inconveniently placed on the African continent. There were two, or rather three solutions. The first was to deny that the Ancient Egyptians were black; the second was to deny that the Ancient Egyptians had created a ‘true civilization’; the third was to make doubly sure by denying both. The last has been preferred by most 19th-and 20th-century historians…After the rise of black slavery and racism, European thinkers were concerned to keep black Africans as far as possible from European Civilization. Where men and women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were uncertain about the colour of the Egyptians, the Egyptophil Masons tended to see them as white. Next, the Hellenomaniacs of the early 19th century began to doubt their whiteness and to deny that the Egyptians had been civilized. It was only at the

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end of the 19th century, when Egypt had been entirely stripped of its philosophic reputation, that its African affinities could be reestablished.” Martin Bernal, Black Athena, vol.I; pp.30, 240-241 ANCIENT EGYPTIANS AS AFRICANS Nearly all of the historiography of Ancient Greece in the past 180 years has been written to glorify Hellas and, by extension, Northwestern Europe, and to diminish the significance of outside influences; Neugebauer and his school are great exceptions here. Given this background, I believe that a revival of emphasis on the Egyptian and Levantine contributions to Greek civilization serves a double purpose. On the one hand, it solves some historical puzzles and poses interesting new questions. On the other, it removes the spurious notion that only “white men” can be culturally creative. Not that many ancient historians today hold such views, but they do tend to be working within scholarly frameworks established by men of previous generations who were convinced of it.(p.255-256). Although there is no discussion of bones and genes by the Egyptologists in Black Athena Revisited, the authors are unhappy at my use of the adjective ‘black.’ Unlike some critics, Baines and O’Connor have read my work carefully enough to realize that I have never suggested that the ancient Egyptian population as a whole looked like stereotypical West Africans. Nevertheless, they find my statement that some dynasties and pharaohs can ‘usefully be described as black’ distasteful. They argue that such categories make no sense biologically and were meaningless to the Ancient Egyptians themselves and, further, that my raising the issue exacerbates the tense situation between whites and blacks today. As I have said and written a number of times, I should have preferred the title African Athena. On the other hand, I stand by my references to certain rulers as ‘usefully described as black.’... Most Egyptologists formed before 1945 accepted the view held generally in the societies in which they lived that ‘Negroes’ were categorically incapable of civilization. Thus the extent to which the Ancient Egyptians were civilized was seen as the measure of their ‘whiteness.’ This belief has weakened since the 1960s, but it has not disappeared. It was for this reason that I have insisted that Ancient Egypt was both civilized and African and, further that its population included some men and women of what we now think of as Central African appearance in political and culturally important positions. (pp.23-24). Martin Bernal, Black Athena Writes Back. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001; pp.23-24; 255-56.

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Feel Good Education: Martin Bernal’s reply to Mary Lefkowitz There is no reason why the fact that Greek is a fundamentally Indo- European language should not be combined with the Ancient model’s multiple reports of Egyptian and Semitic influences. However, such cultural and linguistic mixture was intolerable to the Romantic racists who established the Aryan model and who, like Mary Lefkowitz today, insisted that there had been no significant Egyptian influence on Greece. The European abandonment of the Ancient model and the emergence of the Aryan model in the face of the new image of a black Egypt raises an amusing irony. Lefkowitz reiterates Arthur J. Schlesinger’s charge that Afrocentric history is purely an attempt to promote group self-esteem. ‘Real’ history, he argues, should consist of ‘dispassionate analysis, judgment and perspective.’ In fact, however, this is far from the way history is taught in schools anywhere in the world. In virtually every case, the nation or locality is always emphasized and placed above others. For instance, when I was sent to France at the age of seventeen, my French companion and I knew completely different sets of battles between the English and French. We had been told of our country’s victories, not of the defeats. Thus, for African American children to be taught about African and diasporic triumphs is not unusual, and is particularly useful given the constant psychological battering they receive in a racist society. On the other hand, I agree with Schlesinger and Lefkowitz that historical researchers should try to transcend their own environments and achieve objectivity as far as it is possible to do so. However, the Aryan model, with its denial of Ancient tradition and its insistence on a purely white, purely European Greece, is a supreme example of “feel-good” scholarship and education for whites, who have far less need of it than blacks. Martin Bernal, Black Athena Writes Back. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001; p.394.

HERODOTUS (THE FATHER OF HISTORY) Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), History, Book II. *50. Almost all the names of the gods came into Greece from Egypt. My inquiries prove that they were all derived from a foreign source, and my opinion is that Egypt furnished the greater number. For with the exception of Neptune and the Dioscuri, whom I mentioned above, and Juno, Vesta, Themis, the Graces, and the Nereids, the other gods have been known from time immemorial in Egypt. This I assert on the authority of the Egyptians themselves. The gods, with whose names

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they profess themselves unacquainted, the Greeks received, I believe, from the Pelasgi, except Neptune. Of him they got their knowledge from the Libyans, by whom he has been always honoured, and who were anciently the only people that had a god of the name. The Egyptians differ from the Greeks also in paying no divine honours to heroes. *51. Besides these which have been here mentioned, there are many other practices whereof I shall speak hereafter, which the Greeks have borrowed from Egypt… * 52. In early times the Pelasgi, as I know by information which I got at Dodona, offered sacrifices of all kinds, and prayed to the gods, but had no distinct names or appellations for them, since they had never heard of any. They called them gods (Theoi, disposers), because they disposed and arranged all things in such a beautiful order. After a long lapse of time the names of the gods came to Greece from Egypt, and the Pelasgi learnt them, only as yet they knew nothing of Bacchus, of whom they first heard at a much later date. Not long after the arrival of the names they sent to consult the oracle at Dodona about them. This is the most ancient oracle in Greece, and at that time there was no other. To their question, "Whether they should adopt the names that had been imported from the foreigners?" the oracle replied by recommending their use. Thenceforth in their sacrifices the Pelasgi made use of the names of the gods, and from them the names passed afterwards to the Greeks.

• 104. There can be no doubt that the Colchians are an Egyptian race. Before I heard any mention of the fact from others, I had remarked it myself. After the thought had struck me, I made inquiries on the subject both in Colchis and in Egypt, and I found that the Colchians had a more distinct recollection of the Egyptians, than the Egyptians had of them. Still the Egyptians said that they believed the Colchians to be descended from the army of Sesostris. My own conjectures were founded, first, on the fact that they are black-skinned and have woolly hair, which certainly amounts to but little, since several other nations are so too; but further and more especially, on the circumstance that the Colchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians, are the only nations who have practised circumcision from the earliest times. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine themselves confess that they learnt the custom of the Egyptians; and the Syrians who dwell about the rivers Thermodon and Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macronians, say that they have recently adopted it from the Colchians. Now these are the only nations who use circumcision, and it is plain that they all imitate herein the Egyptians. With respect to the Ethiopians, indeed, I cannot decide whether they learnt the practice of the Egyptians, or the Egyptians of them- it is undoubtedly of very ancient date in Ethiopia- but that the others derived their knowledge of it from Egypt is clear to me from the fact that the Phoenicians, when they come to have commerce with the Greeks, cease to follow the Egyptians in this custom, and allow their children to remain uncircumcised. I will add a further proof to the identity of the Egyptians and the Colchians. These two nations weave their linen in exactly the same way, and this is a

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way entirely unknown to the rest of the world; they also in their whole mode of life and in their language resemble one another.

BASIL DAVIDSON (British historian): What one needs to hold in mind is the enormous value and direct relevance of the Pharaonic records to Africa’s remote history… In this I follow an eminent Egyptologist, Professor Jean Leclant (from France), in holding that “African studies may draw to their great advantage on the immense documentation comprised in the abundant monuments, texts and graphic descriptions of five thousand years of history; and that perhaps the greatest service Egyptology can offer is to furnish, as no other branch of study can, precious chronological points of departure for the ancient history of Africa.” The records of ancient Africa begin with Egypt, yet the Egyptian contribution has been little studied on its African side. A familiar habit has considered old Egypt merely and strictly in her relationship to the civilizations of Asia and the Mediterranean. We have had, in consequence, a lopsided view of the true position. Egypt’s connections with the Middle East have been lit with brilliant clarity; those with the rest of Africa have remained in darkness, rather as though they had never been. In this aspect, too, a new approach to African history has lately begun to right the balance. The Pendulum swings the other way. Egypt’s influence on Old Africa, and Africa’s on old Egypt, are seen to have had a fertile past, even a crucial one: a past, moreover, in which continental Africa’s part was certainly the earlier, and Egypt, as part of Africa, the receiver as well as the giver. “Egyptian art,” in the words of a famous Egyptologist, “is the product of the soil of Africa, like the rest of Egyptian civilization.” If the history of early Africa is unthinkable without Egypt, so too is the history of early Egypt inexplicable without Africa. Ancient Egypt was essentially an African civilization. It follows that the Ancient Egyptians were Africans even if immigrants also trickled in from Asia and southern Europe. Whether the Ancient Egyptians were as black or as brown in skin color as other Africans may remain an issue of emotive dispute; probably they were both. Their own artistic convention painted them as pink, but pictures on their tombs show that they often married queens shown as entirely black, being from the south (from what a later world knew as Nubia): while the Greek writers reported that they were much like all the other Africans whom the Greeks knew. None of this rather fruitless argument, as to the skin color of the Ancient Egyptians before the arrival of the Arabs in the seventh century A.D., would have arisen without the eruption of modern European racism during the 1830s. It became important to the racists, then and since, to deny Egypt’s African identity, Egypt’s black identity, so that they could deny to Africans any capacity to build a great civilization. We should dismiss all that.

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Basil Davidson, African Civilization Revisited: from Antiquity to Modern Times.(Trenton: Africa World Press, 1991); pp.49-50. PART 2. AFRICAN CONTRIBUTION TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION

I. The Gift of Humanity itself (Africa the mother or cradle of Humankind)

II. Contribution to Religion and spirituality

• Contribution to Greek religion • Contribution to Judaism • Contribution to Christianity

III. Contribution to Democracy and human Rights IV. Contribution to Greek Philosophy

Response of Western Egyptologists to African revolutionary approach ==================================================== Ann Macy Roth, one of the few Egyptologists to reflect on the challenge raised by “Afrocentrism,” published in 1995, in the American Research Center in Egypt Newsletter, an article entitled “Building Bridges to Afrocentrism: A letter to My Egyptological Colleagues” in which she made two important points: 1. It is no longer useful for Western Egyptologists to avoid or ignore the questions raised by Afrocentrism: “The number of African-Americans who are taught this material is growing, and we will increasingly have to deal with its inaccuracies and exaggerations simply in order to teach our students. This gap between our field and the Afrocentric version of it is not going to go away. And by setting ourselves against the whole phenomenon in an adversarial and often condescending way, we make it impossible

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for the responsible educators involved in the movement (and there are many) to tap our expertise and improve the accuracy of the materials they teach. 2. On why Western Egyptologists avoid the question of the blackness of ancient Egyptians she wrote: - “ ‘What color were the ancient Egyptians?’ This is a question that strikes FEAR into the hearts of most American Egyptologists... Few of us have devoted much thought or research to the contentions of the Afrocentric movement, so we NERVOUSLY try to say something reasonable, and hope that the questioner won’t persist and that we won’t end up looking silly or racist or both.” - “Egyptology tends not to be taken quite seriously by people who study other parts of the ancient world. Already many noted departments of Near Eastern Studies with extensive faculty in ancient Mesopotamia and the Levant do not feel it necessary to teach or support research in Egyptology at a similar level. We fear, perhaps, that if we endorse the view that ancient Egypt was a “black civilization,” we will further cut ourselves off from our colleagues who study other civilizations contemporary with ancient Egypt. At the same time, there is no place for us in African studies departments, which generally tend to address questions related to modern history and current political and social problems.” Richard Poe, Black Spark White Fire: Did African Explorers Civilize Ancient Europe? (New York: Prima Publishing, 1997); pp.476-77.

Almost all the prominent Western Egyptologists maintain over and over again, with Jean-Pierre Corteggiani and Serge Sauneron that Ancient Egyptian civilization constituted a conceptual world or a system of thought so different and so foreign to Western culture and worldview: “To seek an early, albeit still imperfect, version of Graeco-Roman humanism in Egyptian civilization is thus an error, a fruitless approach. Rather, we must come to understand that a form of humanism entirely independent of our own, born of a society with no direct connection to ours, was able to bear fruits as worthy as those stemming from the imperatives of other cultures… We tend to speak of “Mediterranean civilization,” including under this rubric everything beautiful and grand we encounter in the proximity of that sea. But when the seven mouths of the Nile emptied into the Mediterranean, they left everything original to Egyptian civilization far behind them. For Phoenicia, Carthage, Greece, and Rome, the sea was a means of interconnection,

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whether cultural, commercial, or military; it was common center of a world that beheld itself from one shore to another. For Egypt, quite the opposite, it served as the boundary of a world, an African world; as a result the …