Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization - Vol. 3

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization - Vol. 3

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization - Vol. 3

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization - Vol. 3

Synopsis

Could Greek philosophy be rooted in Egyptian thought? Is it possible that the Pythagorean theory was conceived on the shores of the Nile and the Euphrates rather than in ancient Greece? Could it be that much of Western civilization was formed on the "Dark Continent"? For almost two centuries, Western scholars have given little credence to the possibility of such scenarios.

In Black Athena, an audacious three-volume series that strikes at the heart of today's most heated culture wars, Martin Bernal challenges Eurocentric attitudes by calling into question two of the longest-established explanations for the origins of classical civilization. To use his terms, the Aryan Model, which is current today, claims that Greek culture arose as the result of the conquest from the north by Indo-European speakers, or "Aryans," of the native "pre-Hellenes." The Ancient Model, which was maintained in Classical Greece, held that the native population of Greece had initially been civilized by Egyptian and Phoenician colonists and that additional Near Eastern culture had been introduced to Greece by Greeks studying in Egypt and Southwest Asia. Moving beyond these prevailing models, Bernal proposes a Revised Ancient Model, which suggests that classical civilization in fact had deep roots in Afroasiatic cultures.

This long-awaited third and final volume of the series is concerned with the linguistic evidence that contradicts the Aryan Model of ancient Greece. Bernal shows how nearly 40 percent of the Greek vocabulary has been plausibly derived from two Afroasiatic languages-Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic. He also reveals how these derivations are not limited to matters of trade, but extended to the sophisticated language of politics, religion, and philosophy. This evidence, according to Bernal, greatly strengthens the hypothesis that in Greece an Indo-European-speaking population was culturally dominated by Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic speakers.

Provocative, passionate, and colossal in scope, this volume caps a thoughtful rewriting of history that has been stirring academic and political controversy since the publication of the first volume.

Excerpt

Mixture is the ultimate engine of growth in society
(Laurence Angel, 1971)

THE PREVIOUS VOLUMES AND
THEIR RECEPTION

In 1879 the pioneer anthropogist E. B. Tylor published his famous article comparing the Mexican game patolli with the Indian board game pachisi. He argued that the two were not independent inventions but the result of diffusion from one to the other. He based his case on the great number of similarities between the two games. As he wrote in a later article: “The probability of contact increases in ratio to the number of arbitrary similar elements in any two trait-complexes” [my italics]. Volume 3 of this project is based on this principle. It is concerned with language, different aspects of which are more or less arbitrary. Phonology is ultimately limited by the mouth and tongue. Therefore, to link two items convincingly they must share mulphonetic similarities either within the word or in its context. Morphology, syntax and lexicon, however, are inherently arbitrary, though most languages have more onomatopoeia and phonesthemics than Ferdinand de Saussure supposed, when he declared the absolute distinction between signifier and signified. In any event, words are not fishhooks. Phonetic and semantic similarities between items in different languages should be taken much more seriously than similarities among fishing gear.

Language is the most controversial aspect of the Black Athena project.

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