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Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Volume 1) Paperback – January 1, 1987


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Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Volume 1) + Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (Volume 2: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence) + Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: The Linguistic Evidence, Vol. 3
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A work which has much to offer the lay reader, and its multi-disciplinary sweep is refreshing: it is an important contribution to his to historiography and the sociology of knowledge, written with elegance, wit, and self-awareness... a thrilling journey... his account is as gripping a tale of scholarly detection and discovery as one could hope to find." -- Margaret Drabble, The Observer

"An astonishing work, breathtaking bold in conception and passionately written... salutary, exciting, and in its historiographical aspects, convincing." -- G. W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"The next far in book.... A formidable work of intellectual history." -- Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Martin Bernal is a professor of Government Studies at Cornell University; he was formerly a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge.
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Product Details

  • Series: Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985 (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; 1st edition (January 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813512778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813512778
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

228 of 300 people found the following review helpful By ghicks02@sprynet.com on August 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
By all reports Martin Bernal is a respected scholar. Although his professional studies have focused on China, he attacks the problems of ancient Mediterranean history, archaeology, linguistics, and modern European intellectual history with enormous verve, great erudition and amazing breadth. It's therefore fascinating to follow the thread of his argumentation and note at every turn just how wrongheaded it all is. Here is a serious scholar who seems to believe that everything written by Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries is corrupted by their conscious or unconscious racism, but that Greek myths or the self-aggrandizing monument inscriptions of Egyptian pharaohs are to be taken as literal truth. Yes, racism played a role in the development of 19th- and 20th-century historical thinking, but so did increasing knowledge. It was possible to imagine that Greek philosophy, religion and mathematics sprang from an Egyptian source when the Egyptian language was unreadable, but with a real understanding of Egyptian writings it became clear that the content and aims of Egyptian thought and religion were just not compatible with later Greek culture. Likewise, it was easy to imagine Egyptian military dominance, and perhaps even colonization, of broad swaths of Europe and Asia until decade after decade of careful archaeological excavation failed to reveal any more evidence of Egyptian presence than could be attributed to trade. But just as Bernal claims (not entirely correctly) that conventional scholarship was tainted by racist assumptions, twisting the evidence to favor the position that Greece developed without significant Semitic or African influence, so does Bernal pick and choose his evidence to support the opposite conclusion.Read more ›
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By AK Van Deelen on February 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
Back in the day, and Black Athena was first published in 1987, there was 'controversy' about the Afrocentric movement, because it's opponents claimed, made the case that the Ancient Egyptians were Black. However, this was always the most superficial issue about Black Athena.

The real reason it was attacked by Mary Lefkowitz and Guy Mclean Rogers, is that Black Athena re-writes the western Origin Myth that Classicists teach as history.

Black Athena's greatest strength, and why it should be read by everyone, is that it sets out to show how the myth of the Greek origin of civilisation came about. Remember, even the Greeks did not make this claim, because they knew that Egyptian civilisation was much older than theirs. Therefore, the claim of Greece as the origin of civilisation rests on modern claims of a 'categorical difference' between Greece and everything that came before. The problem is that all new civilisations were 'categorically different' from the ones they built on.

Today, post 2005, we have DNA to determine the exact deep genetic history of anyone, and it has to be said, that Ramses III has haplogroup E1b1a, a haplogroup connected today to the Bantu Expansion. The thing is, that Ramses III ruled before or at the time the Bantu Expansion started, about 1000 BC.

However, it is even more revolutionary to understand that our alphabet ultimately is based on Egyptian Hieroglyphs (google: nabatean alphabet wikipedia). And not only the Greek alphabet, but the Hebrew alphabet, and the Arabic alphabet. Ancient Egypt was around for such a long time, that it influenced many civilisations, over thousands of years. Ancient Egypt was to cultural diffusion in the Mediterranean, what India was to Southeast Asia, and China was to East Asia.
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71 of 94 people found the following review helpful By J. Davies on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Few books have caused as much scandal and controversy in the cloistered world of the classics as Black Athena. In this book, Martin Bernal argues with great clarity and a formidable amount of learning that the roots of classical Greek civilisation depended to a far greater extent than is generally acknowledged in Egypt and Phoenicia and that, from the late eighteenth century onwards, the racism (conscious or otherwise) of European scholars resulted in a kind of academic "cover-up", to the extent that nowadays this Eurocentric tradition has become so firmly entrenched in the canons of classical scholarship that it has contaminated all subsequent research.
Therein lies the virtue of this book. Any work which comes along and challenges the basic assumptions of any discipline is of great intrinsic value, as it forces the scholars to sit up and reconsider the foundations of their beliefs, and since Black Athena was first published there has been much "soul-searching" done by many classicists and ancient historians. Unfortunately, the book is deeply flawed in numerous respects. Firstly, the quality of the evidence he quotes is, at a generous assessment, flimsy. Bizarre and deeply questionable etymologies from Egyptian and the Semitic languages are no substitute for the complete lack of any archaeological evidence for a significant Egyptian presence in Greece in the period in question. His "unholy trinity" of Christianity, Romanticism and political conservatism which created the Eurocentricism supposedly inherent in the classics does not work - the best example of a historical person who subscribes to these views he could find was the poet Shelley, who was a radical atheist.
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Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Volume 1)
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