to scholarship. So too have his data from Chinese history contributed fresh evidence. But elsewhere, in his own proposed, uncritical Egyptocentric diffusionism, as with the Sesostris legend and theories of Egyptian and Hyksos colonies in Greece and on Crete, he has gone far beyond reasonable interpretation. In his overanalysis of cognates and his proposed pharaonic origins for certain names in Greek legend and other instances, he has again gone beyond the reasonable, failing to follow regular linguistic three-step analysis involving phonetic systems and grammar. Such unevenness and unreliability make the Black Athena volumes difficult to use. Certainly, knowledgeable scholars will find useful data in them, but their misuse by Afrocentrists (see Phillip 1995, 16-17; Lefkowitz, Snowden, this volume) demonstrates the danger of encouraging undocumented and unhistorical pan-African claims.
Bernal's speculations have lent support to the doubtful claim that ancient Egyptian people were like the peoples of Sub-Saharan or West Africa, and to the notion that African colonists expanded worldwide in antiquity. As a result, many who make Afrocentric diffusionist claims cite his work uncritically and are further unwilling to consider contemporary anthropological analysis and the findings of prehistorians and archaeologists; they have now written off Egyptologists as tools of Eurocentrism. Diffusion, even the modified diffusion that Bernal proclaims, cannot be applied indiscriminately as a developmental model onto every ancient society. It has some validity where ancient cultures lay geographically close to one another, as with China, Korea, and Japan, and indeed Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley. But it has none in the evolution of cultures separated by oceans, such as those of the Americas and the Pacific islands. Ancient epidemiological data and data on exchange of crops and domestic animals are our strongest evidence against any pre-Columbian American contacts with Africa -- but that is a topic for another essay.