With Black Athena into the third millenium CE

TitleWith Black Athena into the third millenium CE
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsW.M.J. van Binsbergen
EditorR.F. Docter, and E.M. Moormann
Secondary TitleClassical archaeology towards the third millenium: Reflexions and perspectives: Abstracts of XVth international Congress of classical archaeologu: Amsterdam, July 12-17, 1998
Pagination425 - 427
Date Published1998///
PublisherAllard Pierson Museum
Place PublishedAmsterdam
Publication Languageeng
Keywords1991, Africa, Antiquity, cultural history, Greece, history, violence

In 1987 and 1991 Martin Bernal published two volumes on the Afroasiatic roots of classical civilization. His theory that ancient Greek culture derived from Egypt and Phoenicia opened a discussion known as the debate on 'Black Athena'. This article sorts out whatever lasting contribution Bernal has made to classical archaeology. In 'Black Athena' Bernal described how one particular view of ancient Greek history has served Eurocentric interests. But his own alternative serves other ideological interests, viz. the rapprochement to Afrocentrism. According to Bernal, the name of the Greek goddess Athena derived from the ancient Egyptian Ht Nt, "temple of Neith". Even though Bernal's etymology has been effectively refuted on the grounds of historical linguistics, the iconographic and semantic details which Bernal adduces make it quite conceivable that the link between Athena and Neith was more than superficial. The present author suggests, however, that Neith and Athena both derive from a common prototype which, throughout the ancient eastern Mediterranean, has produced Great Goddesses with connotations of underworld, death, violence and rebirth. Such a view - although inspired by Bernal - effectively explodes the Black Athena thesis, since it dissolves the very contradiction between Indo-European and Afroasiatic as the source of Aegean civilization, and draws on a common substratum which cannot readily be relegated to an African provenance. In conclusion, the present author advocates continued research in the spirit of Martin Bernal, with vastly increased personal, disciplinary, financial and temporal resources. (A shorter French version of this article is published in: Afrocentrismes : l'histoire des Africains entre Égypte et Amérique / sous la dir. de François-Xavier Fauvelle-Aymar, Jean-Pierre Chrétien et Claude-Hélène Perrot. - Paris : Karthala, 2000, p. 127-150.)

IR handle/ Full text URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1887/9593
Citation Key1257