Black Athena

Examines the claims of Professor Martin Bernal who questions the assumption of the Europeans of our civilization placing instead the Black Egyptians and Phoenicians at the center of the West’s origins.

Black Athena examines Cornell Professor Martin Bernal’s iconoclastic study of the African origins of Greek civilization and the explosive academic debate it provoked.

This film offers a balanced, scholarly introduction to the disputes surrounding multiculturalism, political correctness and Afrocentric curricula sweeping college campuses today.

In his book Black Athena, Prof. Bernal convincingly indicts 19th-century scholars for constructing a racist “cult of Greece” based upon a purely Aryan origin for Western culture. He accuses these classicists of suppressing the numerous connections between African and Near Eastern cultures and early Greek myth and art.

Leading classical scholars, on the other hand, contend that Bernal, like the 19th-century classicists he attacks, uses evidence selectively, uncritically and ahistorically to support his own Afrocentric agenda.

They argue that cultural diffusion alone can’t account for the distinctive achievements of the Greeks during the Classical Period. Black Athena can help students begin to distinguish between sound scholarship and cultural bias – whether inherited from the past or imposed by the present.

Part 2. View Dr.Clarke vs. M. Lefkowitz video -The Black Athena Debate .

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Volume 1)
Winner of the American Book Award and a Socialist Review Book Award What is classical about Classical Civilization? In one of the most audacious works of scholarship ever written, Martin Bernal challenges the whole basis of our thinking about this question. Classical civilization, he argues, has deep roots in Afroasiatic cultures. But these Afroasiatic influences have been systematically ignored, denied, or supressed since the eighteenth century–chiefly for racist reasons. The popular view is that Greek civilization was the result of the conquest of a sophisticated but weak native population by vigorous Indo-European speakers–or Aryans–from the North. But the Classical Greeks, Bernal argues, knew nothing of this “Aryan model.” They did not see their political institutions, science, philosophy, or religion as original, but rather as derived from the East in general, and Egypt in particular. Black Athena is a three-volume work. Volume 1 concentrates on the crucial period between 1785 and 1850, which saw the Romantic and racist reaction to the Enlightment and the French Revolution, and the consolidation of Northern expansion into other continents. In an unprecedented tour de force, Bernal makes meaningful links between a wide range of areas and disciplines–drama poetry, myth, theological controversy, esoteric religion, philosophy, biography, language, historical narrative, and the emergence of “modern scholarship.” Martin Bernal is Professor Emeritus of Government Studies at Cornell University; he was formerly a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge.

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (Volume 2: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence)
‘North African’ Athena:
Recently, attention has been redrawn to the thesis that classical Greek civilization owed a great deal to Egyptian civilization. One of the more provocative books, at least for an historian of philosophy, is ‘Stolen Legacy,’ by Professor George James who dares to contend and labor to prove, that ‘the Greeks were not the authors of Greek philosophy’, mainly based upon ideas and concepts borrowed, without acknowledgement, from the ancient Egyptians. The Greeks were not the authors of archaic Greek culture, not even their own Alphabet, but the Egyptians and/or Canaanite of Sinai or Upper Egypt, is a corner stone in Bernal’s thesis. He provides evidence that Ancient Egyptians, the people who has inhabited North east Africa. In 1987, Bernal published Black Athena (vol. 1), in which he argued that many of the cultural accomplishments traditionally attributed to the ancient Greeks originated in Ancient Egypt. He also argues that in the 19th and early 20th centuries, European writers purposefully ignored or distorted evidence of the Oriental (Afro-Asiatic) roots of Greek cultural achievements. He further argues that, because many of these scholars were overt racists and anti-Semites, they wanted those features, considered to be the cornerstones of Western civilization, to be the work of white race, in particular Aryans, who invaded Ionian Greece. The first two volumes of Martin Bernal’s projected three-volume study, Black Athena, strongly defended the earlier thesis of Dr. James. The controversial thesis attracted a great deal of popular media attention. It met also with withering criticism from some archeologists, linguists and classicists, scholars of the same disciplines from which Bernal, documented and defended his evidence. “The central claims of Afrocentrism were prominently set forth in a controversial book, Black Athena, 2 vol. (1987-91), by white historian Martin Bernal. Since that time, Afrocentrism has encountered significant opposition from mainstream scholars who charge it with historical inaccuracy, scholarly ineptitude, and racism.” — Encyclopedia Britannica

Three different Models:
Herodotus Ancient Model suggested that in the 21st century BC, Egyptians had set up colonies in Thebes and Athens, initiating the Greek civilization. The Aryan Model suggests that civilization started with the indigenous creation of a civilization in Greece, and that there were Nordic invasions of Indo-Europeans (Aryans) who mixed in with the indigenous population to acquire a related Indo-Hittite language. Martin Bernal’s thesis, that ancient history can be seen as having two different Models or narratives: The Ancient Model, and The Aryan Model, is supplemented by his own Revised Ancient Model, proposing some updated historical timelines. Bernal answers specific criticism of Black Athena, amending shortcomings in his original work and supporting his thesis with new findings. In both works, Bernal cites anthropological, archaeological and new linguistic discoveries as the basis for his thesis, revealing historical and contemporary racial concepts. Bernal notes the hypocrisy in the American academia, steeped in the Eurocentrism which reluctantly credited Ancient Egypt’s contributions to Western civilization. “The standard scholarly position on Egypt and the Greeks goes as follows: The Greeks had great respect for Egyptian culture, which was (far) older than theirs, and they observed parallels in their religion and thought to what they found in Egypt. So they supposed that they had borrowed from the Egyptians. However, in the 20th century we can show with the analytical tools of scholarship (above all, source criticism and documentary material such as inscriptions, coins and papyri) that they were wrong.” – Glen Bowersock

Evidence for Black Athena II:
More recent discoveries in upper Egypt, support Bernal’s thesis, which shows phelological roots, supporting that Phoenician alphabet could have evolved from Proto-Sinaitic into a more linear form. The immediate offshoots of Phoenician during about the 12th century BC, were the old Hebrew alphabet, and Aramaic, as well as Archaic Greek. Two archaeological finds in Sinai, and Thebes in upper Egypt are proposed for initiating the adoption of Egyptian signs onto a Semitic language that occurred 3200 – 3300 BC, proposing a process of adoption that is quite interesting. There is much studies to be developed before Bernal’s cases could be supported by conclusive archeological reconstruction, headed by professor Drewer of the German Archeology instituter in Egypt. Much of the Bernal’s archaeological interpretations though boldly genius, with striking examples that may develop a stronger potential in light of these recent finds. Globally, he still needs established evidential examples to convince. Bernal advanced cases that have been neglected by the Hellencists. His blunt reconstructions are bold and much advanced than warranted, in John Lenz words, “In fact he rejects a model of multiculturalism in favor of a scenario of widespread Egyptian colonization and domination.”
“By crossing the boundaries of established disciplines and mixing evidence that is not usually discussed in the same breath, Bernal has adopted a procedure that is virtually guaranteed to annoy those technicians who resent incursions into their domains by outsiders or the uninitiated” — Thomas Patterson

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: The Linguistic Evidence, Vol. 3
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.

Coptic Etymological Dictionary (Cambridge Library Collection – Linguistics)
Coptic was the language spoken in Egypt from late ancient times to the seventeenth century, when it was overtaken by Arabic as the national language. Derived from ancient Egyptian, the language of the hieroglyphs, it was written in an adapted form of Greek script. This dictionary lists about 2,000 Coptic words whose etymology has been established from ancient Egyptian and Greek sources, covering two-thirds of the known Coptic vocabulary and complementing W. E. Crum’s 1939 Coptic Dictionary, still the standard in the field. The Egyptian forms are quoted in hieroglyphic and/or demotic forms. An appendix lists the etymologies of Coptic place-names. The final work of Czech Egyptologist Jaroslav ?erný (1898-1970), Professor of Egyptology at Oxford, the Dictionary was brought through to publication by colleagues after his death.

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