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Crania Americana; or, A Comparitive View of the Skulls of Various Aboriginal Nations of North and South America: To which is Prefixed An Essay on the Varieties of the Human Species

Philadelphia: J. Dobson, 1839


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THE NILOTIC FAMILY. 29

singular people had attained a high degree of civilisation and refinement at a time when, the whole western world was still involved in barbarism when the history of Europe had not yet begun; and long before Carthage, Athens and Rome were thought of."

NOTE.—On the Supposed Affinity between the Egyptians and Negroes.--I trust I shall be excused for offering, in this place, a few brief remarks in reference to an opinion which, however much at variance with multiplied facts, has still some strenuous advocates: I allude to that hypothesis which classes the ancient Egyptians with the Negro race. Among the advocates of this opinion was Volney, the celebrated traveller. He looked upon the Sphinx, and hastily inferred from its flat features and bushy hair, that the Egyptians were real Negroes: yet these circumstances have no weight when we recur to the fact, that the Budhists of Asia (the most numerous sect in existence) represent their principal god with Negro features and hair, and often sculptured in black marble;* yet among the three hundred millions who worship Budha, there is not, perhaps, a solitary. Negro nation, The Egyptians borrowed many of their mythological rites from their southern neighbors, in the same way that, in after time, the Greeks borrowed from the Egyptians, and the Romans from the Greeks: but such facts are no proofs of the affiliation of races. The ruins of Pompeii contain a temple of Isis; yet would any one thence infer that the inhabitants of that city were Egyptians? There is no absolute proof, moreover, that the Sphinx represented an Egyptian deity: it may have been a shrine of the Negro population of Egypt, who, as traffickers, servants and slaves, were a very numerous body; whence the boast of the Egyptian kings, recorded by Diodorus, that the vast structures of Karnak and Luxor were erected by the labor of foreigners, and that none of the native Egyptians were employed on them. This remark may be coupled with another statement of the same historian, that the people of Egypt followed their own fancies in religion, every one being allowed to worship that object which his ancestors had worshipped before him.t Hence the number and diversity of their gods, from a leek or a reptile to the deified Osiris.

Another point much insisted on is the following: Herodotus, speaking of the Colchians, says that the Egyptians believed them "to be descended from part of the troops of Sesostris." He then adds, "to this I myself was, also inclined, because they are black, and have hair short and curling."$ This description, however, is not sufficient to characterise a Negro, and would apply with ,equal truth to a large proportion of the Nubians of the present day, merely making allowance for the well known vagueness with which the Greeks applied the term black to all complexions darker than their own. Even if it be admitted that these Colchians were real Negroes, it does not prove the - point at issue; for the remark that they were "part of the troops of Sesostris" leads to the reasonable inference that they were either wholly or in part derived from the servile or Negro caste in Egypt, and not of the Egyptian race. This opinion is sustained by another passage in the same historian, who tells us that in the army of Xerxes which invaded Greece, there was a legion of western Ethiopians; who, he adds, "have their hair more crisp and curling than any other men."§ Now, if the Persian army was composed in part of genuine Negroes, how much more likely were the troops of Sesostris to embrace a portion of that race, he being himself a king of Egypt? But it may be said

* HEBER, Narr. I, p. 254. Am. ed. t Hum. Sic. Hist. (Booth's Tr.) B. I, chap. 7.

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