Ancient Egypt in Africaby David O'Connor
Pub. Date: 11/15/2003
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Geographically, Egypt is clearly on the African continent, yet Ancient Egypt is routinely regarded as a non-African cultural form. The significance of Ancient Egypt for the rest of Africa is a hotly debated issue with complex ramifications. This book considers how Ancient Egypt was dislocated from Africa, drawing on a wide range of sources. It examines key issues
Geographically, Egypt is clearly on the African continent, yet Ancient Egypt is routinely regarded as a non-African cultural form. The significance of Ancient Egypt for the rest of Africa is a hotly debated issue with complex ramifications. This book considers how Ancient Egypt was dislocated from Africa, drawing on a wide range of sources. It examines key issues such as the evidence for actual contacts between Egypt and other early African cultures, and how influential, or not, Egypt was on them. Some scholars argue that to its north Egypt's influence on Mediterranean civilization was downplayed by western scholarship. Further a field, on the African continent perceptions of Ancient Egypt were colored by biblical sources, emphasizing the persecution of the Israelites. An extensive selection of fresh insights are provided, several focusing on cultural interactions between Egypt and Nubia from 1000 BCE to 500 CE, developing a nuanced picture of these interactions and describing the limitations of an 'Egyptological' approach to them.
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In 'Ancient Egypt in Africa' twelve academics, with doctorates primarily from Oxford and Cambridge, move with too much caution and academese, yet often with illuminating knowledge too, through the minefield-subjects of Black Africa's debt to ancient Egypt and vice-versa, generally trying to find and assert the truth between the racists who would deny Black Africa's ability to invent anything and those racial cheerleaders who see Black Africa as the fountain of civilization (they taught the Greeks civilization, Egypt was Black, etc. etc.). On the subject of the racial makeup of the ancient Egyptians the contributors say almost nothing. Their hesitancy to address this-- political correctness?-- is a flaw in the book, since race is pertinent to the matter. But in the area of culture there's still much to discuss. Racial cheerleader Martin Bernal-- whose book 'Black Athena' postulates way too great a debt by ancient Greece, and by extension Europe, to Egypt (which he of course sees as a Black civilization)-- has a chapter which can be dismissed. He really doesn't belong in a scholarly volume like this. Anyway, he uses up too much of his space not making his own case but simply discussing old 18th and 19th writings on the subject. In general, the other authors, even in disagreement, treat him and his confrere Cheikh Anta Diop with academic kid gloves. Many contributors also repeat Bernal's mistake of spending too much time talking about the old literature-- this is writing about other writing-- when what we really want is the modern evidence. Other faults: the inevitable repetition when you have twelve different authors, and at times an excess of academic style. The worst example of the latter is Michael Rowland's chapter. Reading it is like trying to walk through calf-deep tar: 'The analogue is with syntax in language construction where content is unimportant by comparison to seeing how variation is structured....' (pg. 42) But there's both sense and solid information to be found in the volume too, as the authors make the case for Africa's indigenous capacity, even in that Black area just south of Egypt, Nubia, as well as parts further south and west. I found particularly interesting, and convincing, the information on Africa's indigenous agricultural developments, its separate crops, which display a lack of outside influence. Several authors discuss it. Yet where there does seem to be some connection between the cultures of Egypt and Black Africa it's talked about too, just not overrated. I'm not going to say the book is a scintillating read, but the subject is inherently fascinating, and if your interest is deep enough its flaws are worth putting up with. If half stars were allowed I'd give it a 2-1/2. Unfortunately, I know the price-- an utterly outrageous $ 50.00 for a 219-page paperback-- is going to tip the decision on buying to 'No' for many.