|B O O K R EV I E W|
Were the Pharaohs?
And what about
Hittites, Amorites, and Philistines?
reviewed by Thomas Jackson
Race in Ancient Egypt & the Old Testament is a scholarly and detailed account of the racial origins of the dozens of peoples who are mentioned in the Old Testament. The original text was written by A.A. Sayce, but R. Peterson has brought it up to date in light of recent findings. The book makes short work of the view that the Egyptians were black.
Mummies and Murals
For anyone who wants to circulate fables about the racial makeup of an ancient people, the Egyptians are perhaps the worst choice. The most obvious inconvenience is the existence of mummies; it is
The authors explain that modern Egyptians are, in fact, somewhat darker than the ancients. Under the more recent universalistic influence of Islam, Egyptians intermarried with other populations more readily than when they followed the more exclusionist teachings of Egyptian religion. Today, the people most representative of the racial type of the pyramid builders are Coptic Christians. They have been considerably more traditionalist than Muslims, retaining aspects of the ancient Egyptian language in their rituals and refraining from marriage with outsiders.
Well-preserved corpses are not always the best source of information about the races of Old Testament peoples. The authors explain that the artists of ancient Egypt made thousands of bas relief carvings, wall paintings, and decorative objects that leave an accurate visual record of the races with which they had contact.
From Greeks to Gergashites, Egyptian artists drew their subjects from life and carefully noted racial differences, in both skin color and facial features. The only exception is the depiction of the eyes which, for unknown reasons, Egyptians always drew in the same stylized fashion no matter what the subject’s race. This book contains many illustrations that demonstrate clear racial distinctions in art.
As the authors explain, Egyptian artists were so careful about depicting race that their work sometimes appears to be as much taxonomy as art:
“The oldest surviving attempt to construct what we may call an ethnographic chart – that made in the tomb of the Theban prince Rekhm-Ra about a century before the birth of Moses – distinguishes the Egyptians and their neighbors by portraying the black-skinned Negro, the olive-colored Syrians, the red-skinned Egyptian, and the white-skinned Libyan (then unmixed with the Arab hordes) . . . .”Early Whites
It may come as a surprise to some readers to learn that many of the early inhabitants of the Middle East may have had typically North European coloration. The authors speculate that before the arrival of the Egyptians – probably from the Arabian peninsula – the Nile delta was settled by a sandy-haired, blue-eyed people very similar to the Kabyles, who still inhabit the hill country of Morocco and Algeria. The authors suspect that they were descended from the Cro-Magnons whose remains have been found in southern France. These “Libyans” were driven west of the Nile by the more powerful Egyptians, and are depicted as having white skin.
To the East, Egyptians were also in contact with Amorites and Hittites, who also are likely to have originated in Europe. They appear in Egyptian art with the same light hair and blue eyes as Libyans, Greeks and the inhabitants of Asia Minor.
Like many peoples throughout history, Egyptians were often ruled by kings of lighter-skinned stock than themselves. Nefertiti, whose famous bust depicts a virtually European face, was probably of Hittite birth.
The Philistines, who so harried the Israelites in the Old Testament, were probably related to Spartiate Greeks. They were from Asia Minor and established a small but vigorous kingdom in Gaza.
As this book makes clear, Egyptian artists depict the Israelites themselves as a clearly Semitic people. Like the Egyptians, their origin was probably in the Arabian peninsula, though they appear to have emerged from it much later. In Abraham’s time they were still nomadic tent-dwellers, and the Egyptians among whom they sought permission to settle were much more culturally advanced than they.
The Israelites had a strong tribal sense, bolstered by their belief that they were God’s chosen people. They were fiercely racialist, and were constantly urged by their prophets to disdain intermarriage. Nevertheless, they mixed to some degree with the more European Hittities and Amorites whom they displaced in their conquest of Canaan. King David is likely to have been fair-skinned, and one of his most trusted lieutenants was the Hittite, Uriah. King Solomon’s harem was one of the largest and most racially varied in all of ancient history.
As the authors explain, black Africans are frequently represented in ancient Egyptian art, but their role is almost always that of captive or slave. Sesostrus I, a XIIth dynasty king of the 20th century B.C., conquered parts of Nubia and established a barrier at the border to ensure that no black would enter Egypt except as a slave. Egyptians regarded blacks as indolent and superstitious but nevertheless favored them as slaves because they were affectionate and faithful. They found blacks to have a very good sense of rhythm but wrote derisively of their constant dancing.
The authors believe that one reason why the creativity of ancient Egypt continued for 3,000 years while that of Islamicized Egypt lasted only a few centuries may be due, in part, to different views on intermarriage; miscegenation was much more common within the universalist embrace of Islam. The authors also note that although blacks to the south were in contact for thousands of years with the technology and learning of Egypt, they appear to have absorbed almost nothing into their own societies.
Although this book is primarily concerned with establishing racial identities of peoples it does not shrink from evaluating group accomplishments in explicitly racial terms. A willingness to consider the cultural implications of race makes this an invaluable and welcome volume.
On the debit side, the book assumes a more detailed knowledge of geography and physical anthropology than some readers may have attained, though laymen will still find it rewarding. The book’s greatest defect is its almost complete lack of references – a surprising omission for a work that defends positions many would find controversial. On balance, though, Race in Ancient Egypt & the Old Testament is a thoroughly informative addition to the Scott-Townsend catalogue.
This book is available from the publisher for $11.00, including postage. The address is Box 34070, Washington, DC 20043.
How did the Egyptians view their Black neighbors?
The White Egyptians left many written references to the Black population in Nubia and in their own midst: and at one point, even forbade Blacks from entering their country at all.
An overview of these written inscriptions is highly worthwhile and devastates claims by pro-Black historians that the ancient Egyptian civilization was Black in racial origin. A full review of these writings is made in chapter 8 of March of the Titans.
The most complete record and translation of these scripts was undertaken by professor James Henry Breasted, Professor of Egyptology and Oriental History in the University of Chicago in his work "History of Egypt, from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest", Second Edition, 1909 - for anyone interested in a detailed overview, based on original Egyptian sources, this book is well worth reading.
During the Twelfth dynasty, the inscription on the stela of Sihathor, an "Assistant Treasurer" is now to be found in the British Museum., reads as follows:
"I reached Nubia of the Blacks, ... I forced the Nubian chiefs to wash gold."
This is a reference to the fact that the White Egyptians exacted a yearly tribute from their Black neighbors - and there is an illustration of this "washing of gold" at work, dating from this era:
Blacks - depicted in graphic racial detail - presenting gold tributes to the Egyptians. This was how the White Egyptians depicted their Black neighbors.