The African Origin of CivilizationAlex Graham
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently staging an exhibition entitled “The African Origin of Civilization.” Inspired by Cheikh Anta Diop’s eponymous book, one of Afrocentrism’s central texts, it juxtaposes African artifacts dating mostly from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries with ancient Egyptian artifacts. The obvious aim of the exhibition is to imply the existence of biological and cultural ties between sub-Saharan Africa and ancient Egypt. This notion is discredited even among mainstream scholars.
The exhibition showcases 21 pairs of objects, each with a different theme. The juxtaposition of ancient Egyptian and modern African artifacts has the opposite of the intended effect upon the viewer. The exhibition fails to illuminate any supposed similarities between ancient Egyptian and sub-Saharan African art. The curators strain to evoke a resemblance where there is none.
Despite having been created much earlier, the Egyptian artifacts evince a greater degree of craftsmanship than their sub-Saharan counterparts, and viewing them side by side makes this all the more apparent. One example of this is the juxtaposition of a figurine of Isis nursing Horus with an African sculpture depicting a mother and her child. The figurine, which dates from the Ptolemaic period, is proportional and elegantly carved, while its African counterpart, created about two thousand years later, is, to be blunt, ugly. The contour of the sculpture is crude, and the mother’s protruding jaw and sagging breasts are difficult to look at.
In another pairing, a graceful sphinx dating from Egypt’s Late Period is juxtaposed with a nondescript African headdress, also about a century old. The African sculpture shown below was created nearly 4,500 years later than the Fourth Dynasty statue with which it is paired, but it looks like it was made much earlier (though we are assured it was carved with the precision of a “mathematical equation”).
The exhibition also highlights the phenotypic differences between ancient Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans, juxtaposing the face of Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Senwosret III (a fragment from a temple statue) with the bust of a Nigerian ruler (oba). The two men could not look more different. Senwosret has thin lips, a relatively thin nose, and angular eye orbits, while the oba has a wide nose, thick lips, and rounder eye orbits. In short, Senwosret has Caucasoid features, while the oba has Negroid features.
What conclusions is the viewer meant to draw from these pairings, precisely? The wall labels are of no help. They mostly just describe the history of the Met’s Egyptian and African collections.
A museum exhibition comparing the art of two different civilizations is an interesting concept, but it is the curators’ role to shed light on what such comparisons reveal. Simply assembling objects together in a more or less random fashion and making a vague pronouncement about their shared history shows a lack of intellectual rigor and discernment.
It’s a mystery how the exhibition, described as an “homage” to Diop, conveys parallels between sub-Saharan Africa and ancient Egypt and validates Diop’s Afrocentrist worldview. There are no stylistic similarities among the objects on display; the similarities are only thematic. Given that the African artifacts displayed are much younger than their Egyptian counterparts, they obviously cannot support the claim that sub-Saharan Africans influenced the Egyptians, or, as Diop claims in The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, that the Egyptians were themselves of sub-Saharan ancestry. The Met acknowledges this but nonetheless claims that the works on display “share deep and underrecognized histories.” No elaboration is provided.
Diop, writing amid African countries’ struggle to obtain independence from colonial powers, had a political incentive to characterize Egypt as an African civilization, and a political motive is similarly evident here. The curators likely are aware of the exhibition’s inconsistencies but are indifferent to them — they simply want to draw up a vague association between sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt to make a political statement.
An even more egregious example of this is the Met’s installation of African artworks in galleries across the museum. These “guest appearances” are supposed to illuminate “unexpected cross-cultural connections” between Africa and other cultures. For instance, a nineteenth-century sculpture from the Congo was placed beside the well-known “New York kouros,” an ancient Greek statue of an aristocratic Athenian youth. There are no connections to be found here. The point of this juxtaposition is presumably to make a statement about how African artworks belong alongside the art of great civilizations, but it only highlights the fact that the stumpy wooden fellow looks rather out of place in a sea of Greek statues. It looks like he was wandering around the museum and got lost. Is this an elaborate troll?
The youth’s erect stance and foot placement call to mind Egyptian statues, including, coincidentally, two items displayed in “The African Origin of Civilization” — an Old Kingdom ka statue of a nude male and a Middle Kingdom statuette. Indeed, the kouros is a good example of Egyptian influence on ancient Greek art, which came about as a result of the founding of Naucratis, a Greek trading post in the Nile Delta, in the seventh century BC. In the exhibition, the Egyptian nude figure is juxtaposed with the sculpture below. Again, it’s not clear what the point of this comparison is. Why not juxtapose the Egyptian figure with the kouros instead? I suppose that would have made too much sense.
Other examples: An African bust is juxtaposed with Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, and a wooden female figure is juxtaposed with a portrait of a French countess by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
There are many challenges one could pose to Diop’s thesis, but the most conclusive evidence against it comes from genomic information gleaned from mummies’ bones and teeth. The ancient Egyptians had very little in common genetically with sub-Saharan Africans. They most resembled Neolithic samples from the Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia, as well as both ancient and modern European populations. Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians were genetically closer to Europeans than they were to modern Egyptians, who have a substantial degree of sub-Saharan admixture. Their genetic composition remained remarkably stable over the course of their history, and the flow of sub-Saharan DNA into Egypt did not occur until after the Roman period.
Blacks can be forgiven for wanting a uniting racial myth based on a great past, but their fantasies should not be enabled by the largest museum of art in North America. The fact that the Met is willing to promote discredited theories in order to make a political statement is an embarrassment to the museum. The exhibition is so risible and mushy-headed that one would be forgiven for wondering if the curators are secret White Nationalists who wanted to poke fun at Afrocentrists.
The impetus for this exhibition, and the installations in other galleries, was the recent closure and ongoing renovation of the Met’s Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, which houses their collections of art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The story of Michael C. Rockefeller is interesting and darkly ironic. The fifth child of Nelson Rockefeller, he had an interest in ethnography and collected many of the New Guinean artifacts on display at the Met. At 23, he disappeared while on an expedition to the Asmat region of New Guinea. It is highly likely that he was killed and eaten by natives who practiced cannibalism and who wanted to exact revenge on white people after some of their leaders were killed by Dutch colonial officials. Hooray for diversity! In all seriousness, this anecdote illustrates the cold reality that some peoples are profoundly different from us, and to pretend otherwise is silly at best and dangerous at worst. The premise of “The African Origin of Civilization” is wacky and flaky rather than dangerous, but its naïveté can, in other contexts, be deadly.
Despite the curators’ wishes, “The African Origin of Civilization” serves as a decent crash course on differences between ancient Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa. In that sense, it is instructive. Ancient Egypt was a Mediterranean civilization and was genetically and culturally very different from the rest of Africa. The juxtaposition of Egyptian and sub-Saharan artifacts makes this clear.
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Dogon sculpture of a seated couple
Only I see that the seated couple are so similiar to extraterrestrial aliens? Dogons believed that their ancestors had come from Sirius.
Well, I bet it was a Space Lizard who came up the idea of this museum exhibit!
Here is a Rockefeller mentioned, and Rockefellers are even reptiloids.
Not exactly, though the Rockefellers are honorary Space Lizards for sure.
Sorry, maybe I was wrong and confused them with Rothschilds. They ARE reptiloids.
The conflation of Ancient Egyptians, Libyans and Berbers with sub-Saharan Bantu cultures is a standard ploy of Afrocentric revisionist historians. Most know full well that classical times ‘Africa’ referred to (non-Egyptian) North Africa, a Greek or Latin speaking region of Semitic and Mediterranean peoples. Black Africans, to the extent that they were present in any numbers at all, would have been referred to as ‘Aethiopans’ and were understood to be a completely different ethnic group.
Benin bronzes excepted, the extant artefacts of sub-Saharan civilisation cut a laughably poor shape when placed next to the art of Ancient Greece and Rome, as the article notes. It is absurd to imagine a Phidias or a Callimachus being inspired by them! And what were the actual texts of sub-Saharan philosophers and poets that Homer and Plato supposedly borrowed from? Until some evidence is produced we shall continue to discount Afrocentrism a nothing more than réssentiment.
The new California Ethnic Studies requirement is chock full of such Afro-nonsense. The sequence of sample lessons goes like this:
Ancient Egypt was secretly run by Sub-Saharan Africans. The evidence given is that a minor late state Pharaoh came from what is now Sudan. (not sure if this is even true but it is known that Egyptians enslaved SSA)
Then… Greeks and Romans copied Egypt (a half truth at best)
Then… America copied the Romans. See! There’s a pyramid right there on the dollar bill! And the Washington Monument is an obelisk!
Obviously the conclusion you’re meant to draw is that white people stole everything. They even throw in fake “facts” like the so-called Africa’s Stonehenge – “Adam’s Calendar” – which was proven be less than 500 years old. I’d laugh at them but given the state of education, kids are going to believe these lies.
Whenever anyone tells me that Africans created civilization, I say, “Then what happened? They got lazy?”
If there was any civilisation, it was imported. For example, by semitic peoples of Lemba, who have imported the Jewish religion and some traditions from the Near East
Indeed so. Then it’s too bad that Zimbabwe has so few decent delicatessens left!
Da white man done stolded it!
Seriously, Afrocentrists are comically dumb.
Okay, I don’t believe subsaharan africa has much to do with ancient egypt, but I don’t really agree with the criticism of African sculpture being simplistic. It is no more “simplistic” than a lot of art and sculpture created by Germanic barbarians. The Romans and Greeks had an obsession with hyper-realism, and had a long artistic tradition. Most of Africa didn’t. It’s not a measure of intelligence like this article seems to insinuate.
‘[D]eep and underrecognized histories’ sounds a lot like conspiracy theory to me.
I have an Art History B.A. from UCLA, 1970, and even to my old eyes today, I am — not actually offended, but rather saddened — that anyone would place these pairings together and expect viewers to accept the obvious differences in ‘Beauty”, which is for me the very basis of art, and certainly of civilizational art.
The “out of Africa” hypothesis is one the key tools globalists use to discredit whites and “prop up” blacks (out of a sense of convenience). In this “sense” the “link” between Sub Sahara and Egypt must be established and “proven” so as to fortify this theory. Far more likely a scenario ( as improbable and ridiculous as it may seem) is that modern civilization emerged simultaneously around the world after the flood of the Atlantean continent. Just ask Plato.
Here is a heretical view: I wonder whether fully-modern Homo Sapiens did in fact emerge in Africa first before spreading world-wide? Certainly it seems that modern behaviour, such as art and trade, appeared in first in Europe, the Middle East and Asia where Sapiens had become admixed with other hominids (Neanderthals and Denisovans). Could it be that African populations (apart from those in the Horn of Africa, such as Ethiopians, who are known to be partially Semitic/Caucasoid due to back-migration into Africa) are not either fully modern or even admixed with earlier Erectus-like hominids? This would explain the relative scarcity of Palaeolithic art in Africa not to mention the gulf in achievement between African/Negrito/Australid (what I call ‘Gondwanan’) peoples and the rest of mankind (the “Borel” or “Laurasian” peoples)
Maybe there was not ONE Homo Sapiens in the whole world, but there were multiple Homos Sapiens, originated in different places of the Earth, and maybe in different times too.
There’s some information about that here, though the H. Erectus (or whatever the mystery meat was) is only referenced in the first graphic.
Human Dispersal Out of Africa: Multiple dispersal hypothesis [study] – Thuletide (wordpress.com)
Thank you! A very interesting blog with some good science-based hypothesising. A welcome antidote to the Afrocentric fantasy ‘history’ now taking over British schools and colleges (‘Black’ Mesolithic Cheddar Man, Black Romans lording it over the ancient Britons, Black Tudors, Black Regency-era aristocracy &c &c).
Out of Africa remains a contested origins hypothesis, but what if it were true (as many good prowhite scholars have believed)? What does it actually change, esp. for us? The first humans evolved from earlier hominids into Homo sapiens, and then further divided into discrete races over thousands of centuries of climatically and ecologically different evolution. Had there been no white exploration and scientific revolution, eventually the races, as with other mammalian sub-species, would have speciated. This did not happen, but the races as they now exist have evolved different modal abilities and temperaments.
Whether crossing the barrier from hominid to human happened in what we call “Africa” or elsewhere is irrelevant to the threats facing whites today, or their solutions.
‘Out of Africa’ is one of those lazy and inaccurate slogans used to downplay or ‘justify’ the replacement of indigenous European populations by Afro-islamic incomers. For if we are all Africans under the skin, why worry? Strangely this argument is never deployed to nullify the claims of indigenous peoples in the New World … I wonder why?
Out of Africa is the greatest cope of useless blacks. All of their other ahistorical revisionisms, pseudo-religions (mad scientists in caves, flying pyramids) ethnogenesis demonstrates that blacks cannot function in reality from the way they hold their firearms sideways to defy physics to the way they pretend to be descendants of orange Pharaohs. They run the gamut. They are black Hebrew Israelites (blacks are the real Jews). They are Moors (blacks are the real Arabs. They are Egyptians (we wuz kangz). Blacks are Greeks, Romans and all the first settlers in Britain (cheddar man). I’ve heard black nationalists explain how Asians have black DNA too. They claim South Africa was founded by blacks rather than Boers despite much of Southern Africa being sparsely populated to this day. Only within the last generation have blacks started doing this Native American bit despite no history of Amerindian-black intermarriage besides the Seminoles in order to double their oppression antecedents. Some tribes to this day are anti-miscegenation with blacks. Only white women and blacks claim this ‘garnish’ of indigenous ancestry as some sort of exotic legitimacy to America.
If we devolved from the African, why do we have Neanderthal DNA, but they don’t? We are almost a different species. It’s true we share a common ancestor because we wouldn’t be able to interbreed otherwise, but this is called gene flow, which usually flows in one direction (male to female) rather than intermingling. The same outbound gene flow that created the Ashkenazi (roughly 50-50 matrilineal European-Khazar/Hebrew ancestry) and the American black (1/5th patrilineal European ancestry). There was no assimilation, but rather European genetics gifted to the nonwhite.
They are black Hebrew Israelites (blacks are the real Jews).
The Ethiopian Falasha-Jews untill the end of the 19th century believed that they are only Jews in the world, and when European travellers (English ones) told them that there are another Jews in the world, the Falashas were astonished when learned, that another Jews are white, and not black, as they should be.
All life possesses a “common ancestor”. What does that fact add to the racial discussion?
I believe the common ancestor was some kind of fish.
“Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians were genetically closer to Europeans than they were to modern Egyptians, who have a substantial degree of sub-Saharan admixture”
Trust me, I do not like brown people, but this is not true at all. Modern Egyptians are indeed shifted away from ancient Egyptians but they are still much closer to ancient Egyptians than any Europeans are. Making these (easily debunked) claims makes you: 1: Lose credibility to any objective or serious observer. 2: No better than the afrocentrists you are mocking.
Read the study I linked
The two PCAs and ADMIXTURE analysis on Wikipedia’s DNA history of Egypt, which come from the Schuenemann et al study you cited, do indeed show ancient Egyptians didn’t have negroid ancestry unlike modern Egyptians, but they also show ancient Egyptians more closely resemble Neolithic Levantines and modern Palestinians than Europeans. The study authors do state ancient Egyptians bear more genetic affinity with Europeans than modern Egyptians do, but overall they were closer to modern Palestinians than modern Europeans.
Only the Kopts/Copts are direct descendants of the Ancient Egyptians. All others are “immigrants”. The ancient Greeks (like well-known woman-scientist Hypatia, the heroess of the film Agora) and the Romans were “immigrants”. Later the Arabs came as “foreigners” in Egypt. The Mamluks were Türkic Kipchaks and Northern Caucasians (and maybe some Slavs), sold to Arabian rulers as slave-warriors by Cingizid Tatars. Then there are Bedouins there, and Nubians in the south, and of course later descendants of Greeks, Osman Türks and another peoples.
I really don’t understand why Black Africans need to emphasize some similarity with the works of art of other peoples. I think this desire actually comes not even from them, but from Whites in the globalist environment. It would be much more correct to emphasize not unlikely similarities, but differences, since they testify to the originality of any culture. (We have done something, what the others have not – it is cool. To copy is not so cool.) It is better to have more primitive works, but one´s own, than pure copy-pasted borrowing from others.
For example, my ancestors did not have any visual arts, since the horse-riding and horse-breeding nomads could not engage in painting and serious sculpture. Although there were steles with inscriptions, like the famous steles of Kültegin and Bilge Kagan. But these are not statues, but rather a chronicle carved in stone. There were also balbals and “stone women” (indeed not all those stone images were women, many were men). But it would never occur to me to compare them with the sculptures of the ancient Greeks or the Italians of the Renaissance. Not because they are better or worse. They are just completely different, they have a different purpose, they came of different environment and have different spirit, and they are exceptionally original. I would not like them to be exhibited in museums together, because this makes it difficult to understand their meaning and purpose, since visitors will simply compare them with the works of Michelangelo or Cellini and say that, in comparison with them, those Steppe “barbarians” simply carved primitive ones out of stone objects. But after all, these primitive objects were not supposed to compete with the statues of the Renaissance Italians. They were made differently and for completely different purposes, thus they have to be understood differently.
Well, I can find some parallels in folklore and mythology, for example, the World Tree of the ancient Germans, Yggdrasil, is similar to the World Tree of the Kipchaks Bai-Terek, and the Ases giants from Edda are similar to the Nartla giants from the Nart epic. Or the winged horse Tulpar is someway alike a Greece Pegasus. But here at least one can assume some kind of very deep common roots, while there is nothing in common between the Balbals and Michelangelo’s David, just as there is nothing in common between the works of art of the ancient Egyptians and ones of the Black Africans.
Excellent comment. What is your ethnicity? Turkish? Are you white?
In other words, preserving a culture is something worth doing, and history cautions against that stupid ‘oh don’t worry, burn everything to ashes, we will be fine as long as we have our pure blood!’ credo beloved by mediocrities of every provenance. Because the 19th century racialists attempted to explain the supremacy of Italian culture (and statehood for that matter) in the renaissance by insisting that Italy was in fact Nordic or something, while apparently pretending that most famous renaissance authors did not have self-portraits done during their lifetimes. A civilization losing its complexity, its depth, its subtlety comes at a cost – look no further than modern Europe.
” The ancient Egyptians had very little in common genetically with sub-Saharan Africans.”
Any race that has achieved anything noteworthy has very little in common genetically with those negroids. Negroids have contributed nothing to the betterment of mankind. Oh did someone say peanut butter?!
White men in America landed men on the moon and returned them to Earth in 1969 while those negroids are yet to manufacture a bicycle.
But even so 94% of American whites are more than happy for their offspring to marry and miscegenate with the equally worthless descendants of sub-saharan negroids.
OK, I may be lacking in the Dept of Sarcasm Detection, but you do know that peanut butter was actually invented by a white Southern man, right? CC now hosts the Black Invention Myths archive (or something along those lines), where you can learn the facts about blacks and peanut butter (and much else!).
You are correct.
Everything they claim was invented by a black is fake. Remember these things were incapable of making a wheel.
1500BC Nubians were still cave dwellers?
Good article as always. Reminds me of how Kenneth Clark compares an African tribal mask to the Apollo of Belvedere sculpture in the beginning of Civilisation.
The patron of women and childbirth, the Egyptian god Bes was also the patron of war and guardian of hunters.
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Alexander Dugin, Noomakhia – The Logos of Africa: The People of the Black Sun
There does seem to be a connection between the Negro Race and the Ancient Egyptians. So “sub-Saharan DNA into Egypt did not occur until after the Roman period.” is not exactly correct but I get the point.
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