The Birth of Civilization in the Near East

By Henri Frankfort | Go to book overview

APPENDIX

THE INFLUENCE OF MESOPOTAMIA ON EGYPT TOWARDS THE END OF THE FOURTH MILLENNIUM B.C.1

THE problem to which we turn now has been discussed intermittently for the last fifty years, but in the earlier discussions preconceived ideas played a considerable part. For while it is admitted that intercourse stimulates individuals, it is often believed that granting foreign influence to have affected a people is derogatory. The essential difference between mechanical copying and creative borrowing, between a slavish dependence on foreign examples and a free selection of congenial material, is entirely overlooked. Another circumstance, too, has militated against an unbiased weighing of the evidence. When our knowledge of the ancient Near East was fragmentary, it was habitual to explain changes in terms of conquest and immigration from some hypothetical, as yet unknown, region; but the extensive explorations which took place between the two world wars have discredited this type of explanation, and the supposed homelands of the newcomers proved, in cultural matters, to have been peripheral dependencies of the two great centres in Egypt and Mesopotamia. These, on the other hand, were seen to have been unusually resistant to foreign influence and capable of imposing conformity upon all comers.2

Our increased knowledge has thus induced an unwillingness to appeal to foreign influence or migrations as explanations of cultural changes. Now, however, the opposite viewpoint receives exaggerated emphasis, and we fund students proudly proclaiming their ignorance of anthropology and emphasizing, without a critical examination of all the facts, the autonomy and self-containedness of the great cultural centres of the Near East.

Evidence obtained in the decade before the Second World War allows us, however, to solve the problem, at least as far as it concerns the formative phase of Egyptian civilization. For the discovery in

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1
1This subject has been studied in the works named on p. 102, n. I. Since the last of these was published during the war and is hardly known abroad, we have included in this Appendix more matter dealt with on a previous occasion than would otherwise have been justifiable.
2
2Phrased differently, one might say that we had, without justification, used the expansion of the Indo-European and Arabic.speaking peoples as an analogy for the changes observed in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

-100-

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The Birth of Civilization in the Near East
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • The Patten Foundation 5
  • Preface 7
  • Contents 9
  • List of Illustrations 11
  • 1. the Study of Ancient Civilizations 15
  • Ii. the Prehistory of the Ancient Near East 32
  • Iii. the Cities of Mesopotamia 49
  • Iv. Egypt, the Kingdom of the Two Lands 78
  • Appendix 100
  • Chronological Table 112
  • Index 113
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