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racial wars in egypt myth
Posted By: Sopdet
Date: 27, January 03, at 7:04 p.m.
My favorite authority on matters anthropological is Dr. Shomarka Keita. He
would agree that some progress has been made, in these matters. But Shomarka
made very clear in a recent article that, in his opinion, the lingering
ghosts of 19th-century-style racialism have yet to be exorcised from the
See Shomarka O.Y. Keita and Rick A. Kittles, "The Persistence of Racial
Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence," American Anthropologist, vol.
99, no. 3, September 1997.
Of even greater concern, in my opinion, is the extent to which supposedly
defunct anthropological notions continue to hold sway OUTSIDE the
anthropological discipline, among laymen and specialists alike.
An excellent example of such fossilized notions can be found in a 1992
article by Harvard archaeologist Emily Vermeule, in which she attacks Martin
Bernal's Black Athena in these words:
"Bernal also believes that Egypt was essentially African, and therefore
black. But he does not say what we are to make of the historical accounts of
Egyptian pharaohs campaigning against black neighbors to the south, in the
Land of Kush, as when Tuthmosis I of Egypt, around 1510 B.C., annihilated a
black Kushite army at the Third Cataract and came home with the body of a
black Kushite prince hanging upside down from the prow of his ship. Perhaps
Bernal thinks of this as African tribal warfare?"
(Emily Vermeule, "The World Turned Upside Down," The New York Review of
Books, March 26, 1992, p. 41.)
Vermeule is clearly arguing that the very savagery of the fighting between
Egyptians and Nubians proves that they must have belonged to different
"races." I can find no other way to interpret Vermeule's argument except as
an expression of the old notion that a "natural antipathy" exists between
people of different races.
19th-century-style racialism is far from dead. It is simply better
The reason for the virulence of the Egyptian attack on Kush in early Dynasty 18, is not based on racial hatred as Vermuele claimed, but has its roots in the discovery that Kamose made and which he inscribed on his second stela, discovered in 1954. In that stela, he states that his troops captured a Hyksos messenger on the oasis road headed south to Kush. His message was, Kamose is attacking the Hyksos king on the southern end of Hyksos ruled Egypt. You have arisen as king without letting me (the Hyksos king) know, but as Kamose is attacking me, you strike him in the rear (from Kush into Upper Egypt), and then we will divide up this Egypt between your land and mine. That is why the attack when it came was so virulent. The Egyptians had realized that the Hyksos were allied to the Kushites, with the Dynasty 17 squeezed in between. The capture of this message drove home the plight of Egypt. Already Seqenenre Ta'aa had died in battle against the Hyksos, and now this, a Hyksos-Kushite alliance. Proof of the alliance has also come from seals with Hyksos names found in the Kushite burial mounds, and Hyksos style pottery also. So, this accounts for the virulent attack on Kush that really took off only after the Hyksos were driven from Egypt. However, since the Kushites had been in this alliance that could have wiped out Egypt in a moment, the Egyptians obviously had it in for both powers once they became masters of their own fate again. Thus there is no need to invoke racial hatred, in Thutmose hanging the Kushite chief head downward from his flagship, but solely the political realization that the Kushites had been allied with the Hyksos, and that the two allied powers had come within a blink of wiping out Egypt and its pharaonic state. Most sincerely, Frank J. Yurco University of Chicago
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