Knowledge from Africa

Alright, I know this is on the SD somewhere (at least I’m pretty sure), but I can’t find it. I’ve searched and searched and I am becoming frusterated.

In any event, my Fiance’ says to me that her Bosses Boss made the claim that all early knowledge was stolen from africa, by the greeks. I know I’ve heard this before, and I’m fairly certain that Cecil debunked it. Can someone either fill me in on the pertinent details or point me to the proper place?

I don’t have the answer to your question. Sorry.

However, I’m aware of a “theory” that makes a claim almost the opposite of what your fiance’s boss’s boss said: that all the achievements of the Africans were do to them stealing knowledge from the Greeks. This seems to be a theory espoused by certain racists explaining how some “barely human” groups of people could accomplish such miracles as building the Pyramids and such. Bullshit says I, but I hear this theory from time to time, most recently by some white supremist on a TV talk show. I also remember seeing a fictitious discussion that said something like this in some movie about racists (American History X perahps–something like that). Could this idea be what your FBB referred to?

BTW, congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

Thanks! :smiley:

This is derived from, among other works, Martin Bernal’s work Black Athena ( though there are a number of other writers in the same vein ) and is referred to as Afrocentrism. The idea is that many of the Greeks’ great cultural achievements ( and the Romans’ ) came second-hand via cultural diffusion from Egypt. Along with this , it is sometimes claimed that the inhabitants of Egypt were “black”, rather than Mediterranean-type caucasians ( put forward by another major author in this field, George James in his book Stolen Legacy ), Socrates was black ( or at least African ), and at the very extreme end of the scale, that Egyptian scientists were vastly more advanced than is commonly believed ( i.e. they had flying machines and the like ).

The afrocentric take has been widely disputed of course and there are a whole slew of dueling books ( history and otherwise ) out there. A major reply to the afrocentric perspective is Mary Lefkowitz’s Not Out of Africa - How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History.

  • Tamerlane

I assume the Afrocentric theory, in its complete form, also explains how Africans were technologically outmatched by Europeans the first time they met. That is, sub-Saharan Africans, in the West especially, had a thing going, with metallurgy, agriculture, and trade. When the Portuguese or whoever sailed around the coast, it was they who dominated the indigenous Africans, not the other way around.

It seems a shame that the hypothetical advanced Africans failed to teach their continental brethren a few tricks.

The closest I can find is David’s Staff Report that specifically addresses the issue Was Cleopatra black?.

Most of this seems to be a bit of the sort of Historical Revisionism that let Geoffrey of Monmouth have King Arthur conquer Rome to prove that the Brits were as good as anyone else. Unfortunately, historiography has moved on, a bit, from the 12th century and we tend to hold such claims to tighter scrutiny.

There are two types of information that are genuine that tend to provide support for people who dearly want to believe this sort of historical invention. On the one hand, there have been genuine contributions by blacks that have been ignored by history. (Garret Morgan was a black businessman and inventor who patented a gas mask and a traffic light, yet was generally ignored for years. He actually used his gas mask to enter a gas-filled tunnel with his brother to rescue several miners trapped under Lake Erie during the cnstruction of the Cleveland water intake pipe, but was noted in the newspapers of the day simply as “two colored men helped in the rescue.”) On the other hand, there are cases where blacks have probably been involved to some extent that have been traditionally portrayed as purely “white” endeavors. (There are strong suggestions–I have not seen conclusive proof–that Beethoven had one black grandparent.)
Egypt tends to fall into the later category. In the course of its 3,000 years of pre-Roman history, the Nile valley was constantly subject to invasions and migrations of many peoples. While the people on the Lower Nile are generally regarded as white in history books that extoll the beginning of civilization (and were often seen as non-white when European powers wanted to exert control over the region), the people of the Upper Nile are Nubians. In the course of several periods, the Egyptians conquered the Nubians, the Nubians conquered the Egyptians, and they actually maintained a joint kingdom for a period or two. During these periods of conquest or cooperation, the people tended to intermix to some extent and we have Egyptian paintings that display emperors with both “white” or with “black” features (depending on who looks at the paintings and what axe they are grinding).

Given the contradictory approach among some Europeans and Americans regarding the “white” founders of civilization and the “non-white” current inhabitants of Egypt, it is not difficult for some people with their own agendas to turn that inconsistency into a declaration that the whites “stole” the “black” civilization.

Having established the initial premise, of course, some later writers have gone hog wild in their claims for “theft” of technology and culture, asserting that all Egyptians were really sub-Saharan Africans and that all technology originated with them. (There is even an extreme couple of nuts who claim that all the civilizations of the Americas were actually a gift from a great sea-faring African. It is interesting to see them try to re-write history in such a way that they deprive the Americans of the ability to build their own civilizations, but when you’re on a roll, you ride it, I guess.)

The Greeks actually did inherit (or take) much of their technological information from the Egyptians. They were quite open in their acknowledgement of that debt, however, never claiming that they had invented it and always acknowledging the Egyptian influence. (In fact, they blended attributes of Hermes with those of the Egyptian god Thoth/Tehoti, giving Hermes the title Tresmagister (thrice great) for his Egyptian-associated knowledge.) As to the Egyptians, they were the Egyptians. They included many people from Africa and Asia who wandered back and forth across their land. The contradictory attitudes of the people who wrote about “white” Egyptian civilization and “dark” “backwards” Egyptians who needed colonial rule to regulate them are a good reflection on the varied backgrounds of the people who have long lived in the Nile Valley.

who gives a goddamn?

Did you miss a meeting? Have any clue where you are?

I’m just a little worn out from reading an endless stream of that crap at

Tom, once again with the knowledge, what don’t you know?
In any event, I seem to recal a claim that either Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle stole/built something, that afrocentrics claim was stolen. The counter evidence was something along the lines that Socrates (or one of the other two) had built it before it would’ve even have been possible for him to have “stolen” the knowledge.

Do you know what I’m referring to? My memory is shaky on this. Fortunately, for her, my fiance has off this week, so she won’t get a chance to meet with the guy who brought this up.

That’s why God invented the remote control. Also, I give a crap whenever someone is trying to “re-invent” history in order to serve some agenda. I especially give a crap when teachers are teach this stuff to college students (IIRC one of the proponents of this “stolen” legacy is a teacher).

Just to clarify, this is not the only bit of revisionist history out there that I don’t like, just the most recent to fly into my radar.

Also, I told you I heard this from my fiance’s bosses boss, who as far as I know, doesn’t watch BET, or any television. He’s quite an educated man too, having at least 2 PHD’s (one in psychology) and several undergrads (I ask him, does he sleep??). The thing that bothers me is that he IS so educated, and he believes this.

The claim ( roughly ) is that Aristotle based a lot of his work off of ancient Egyptian philosophy stolen from the library of Alexandria. Plato was also said to have done the same thing earlier. The claim is that the Greeks did not have the native ability to develop their own philosophy - it had to be stolen from Africans.

Of course the library was built after Aristotle’s death and there is no evidence he or Plato ever visited there, but what the hey? It’s a good story ;).

  • Tamerlane

Yes, that’s it exactly!

Isn’t the idea that knowlege and culture can be “stolen” rather abhorrent?



I know! I know!

Star Trek. Dr. Daystrom! “The Ultimate Computer!”

Zev Steinhardt

And Dr. Daystrom was black! In the sixties!!

The picture isn’t up yet, but here’s the statue of King Aspelta I wrote a paper on back in college. There were a couple of later dynasties that were dominated by Nubians from what is now roughly Sudan; Aspelta reigned from 593–568 B.C. And there’s a funerary head, quite lovely, of the prominent wife of an Old Kingdom official who, like Aspelta, has clearly African features.

The Egyptians weren’t really interested in realism per se, but when they portrayed themselves, they had reddish-brown skin for the men and yellowish skin for upper-class women. Probably depended on the pigments available and conventions. And while I don’t have the time to find them now, I’ve seen Egyptian art where they portray ‘foreigners’–Phoenicians and Greeks and sub-Saharan Africans and such–and the skin color is definitely plain white and black to show these exotic folks.

There’s some very realistic looking portraits of later Roman-era Egyptians on coffins, and they’d be considered dark olive-skinned, wavy-haired, black eyed Caucausians today. And has there been huge population shifts in Egypt since ancient times? Maybe the people there today are sort of what the ancient Egyptians looked like anyway [/ignorant statement].

Russian mobster, taunting: “And where are the Romans today?!”

Tony Soprano: “You’re lookin’ at them!”