Narmer Palette. Narmer Palette Video. Description & Photo Credit.
Literate, dynastic Egypt blossomed suddenly with the first documented (dynastic) Pharaoh, Narmer, and rapidly settled into an increasingly well-organized government. Many archaeologists say it wasn’t sudden, because they know something about the preceding, illiterate cultures along the Nile, and reach a conclusion that credits a slow, home-grown growth over preceding millennia. But the earlier “Dynastic Race Theory” will also get a hearing. We’ll present. You decide.
There are powerful incentives for academics to conform to ethnic and other political biases that disavow the possibility of foreign influence advancing indigenous cultures. The past half-century has been a time of disavowing the possibility that invaders (“imperialists”) can actually improve the lives of a conquered people. Carrying that argument to absurdity, the Aztecs could still be cutting out the hearts of P.O.W.s from local kingdoms if the Spaniards hadn’t invaded; Hitler could be ruling Eurasia if the Allies hadn’t invaded Germany; and the Samurai could still be ruling the Far East if the U.S. hadn’t conquered Japan.
Cutting to the chase, archaeology is not immune to political correctness. The intended effect of political correctness is to stifle truly scientific thinking, whenever it casts an inconvenient light on an elite’s political goals, and to redefine “true” as research that gives the ruling elite’s desired answers. I know science. That isn’t science. But, archaeologists have to eat like the rest of us, so they must bend their thinking toward the desires of the people who grant them licenses to dig, or to those who pay their salaries, or to those who write the checks that fund excavations and research.
Political correctness prospers in the “soft sciences,” such as social sciences, history, literature, art, business, government…and much less so in the sciences that rely upon hard data collected and tested for conformation to an hypothesis, in order to accept or reject the hypothesis, and then only temporarily until new data disqualifies the hypothesis. But archaeology, as I point out in the archaeology tab of this website, is increasingly becoming a science, depending more and more upon hard scientific evidence to determine what really happened at a site where the evidence has been carefully collected.
Having worked in many environments on many diverse projects, I, too, have felt the stultifying effects of political correctness. So, we’re not talking about anyone’s sin, but just the vulnerability of truth to the willful (or innocent) injection of false facts and departures from the scientific method during the determination of whether something is true of false.
Beware of anyone who tries to close all further discussion by saying, “it’s determined science,” or “generally accepted by (the professionals, academy, cognoscenti, thousand PhDs, etc.)”
Above, I already introduced the currently popular theory of a home-grown culture that developed over the preceding millennia along the Nile and blossomed into Dynastic Egypt, where substantial human sacrifice was an element in the burial of the first dynasty kings. To do justice to this indigenous development theory, I suggest reading John Romer’s A History of Ancient Egypt: From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid. You’ll also find my five star review at this Amazon link, the book in this website’s Bibliography, and you’ll find Romer with several of his works under the Archaeologist tab. Romer (p. 194) does not deny a Mesopotamian (Uruk) influence in the First Dynasty, but sees it as a poor imitation of architecture and other features of Mesopotamian civilization. As he puts it, “the Uruk influence on the Naqadans (Predynastic and First Dynasty Naqadans) was limited to pattern and to style.” One might imagine that an Egyptian like Sinuhe (see my preceding post #26) had visited Mesopotamia and returned home to imitate architectural and other cultural features, or traders from Mesopotamia had settled in Egypt and tried to reproduce elements from “back home.”
The previously dominant theory about the surprising appearance of the First Dynasty was The Dynastic Race Theory which suggests that Mesopotamians invaded or otherwise seized control of governance on the Nile. The brutality of the first Egyptian dynasty is characterized by the large number of human sacrifices for the burials of their kings, which should remind us of the contemporaneous royal burial sacrifices at Ur, which we studied in post #12 and post #13. Add these contemporary sacrificial practices to the compelling comparisons and conclusions cited in The Dynastic Race Theory link, a host of artistic similarities, and the easiest conclusion (Occam’s Razor) is that the Mesopotamian influence came by force, not persuasion. And that is precisely the theme of my series of novels in the Raising Up Pharaoh epic.