American Egyptomania Search

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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Art & Architecture


At the entrance of the temple of Ipsamboul, in Nubia, Burkhardt saw the remains of several colossal statues, cut out of the solid rock; of the most perfect of them he remarks: "The head which is above the surface [of the sand] has a most expressive, youthful countenance, approaching nearer to the Grecian model of beauty than that of any ancient Egyptian figure I have seen."'

But with reference to the physical character of the Egyptians, there is a source of evidence to which some allusion has already been made, and which is more conclusive than any other : I refer to the embalmed bodies of the Theban catacombs. These vast cemeteries are crowded with genuine Egyptians, whose remains even now retain almost every feature in perfection. Here are the very people who walked the streets of Thebes, they who built Luxor and the Pyramids; and yet among the thousands whose bodies curiosity and avarice have dragged from their tombs, I am not aware that a solitary Negro has been discovered.

"It is now clearly proved," says the illustrious Cuvier—"yet it is necessary to repeat the truth, because the contrary error is still found in the newest works—that neither the Gallas, (who border on Abyssinia,) nor the Bosjesmans, nor any race of Negroes, produced the celebrated people who gave birth to the civilisation of ancient Egypt, and of whom we may say that the whole world has inherited the principles of its laws, sciences, and perhaps also religion. It is easy to prove, that whatever may have been the hue of their skin, they belonged to the same race with ourselves. I have examined in Paris, and in the various collections of Europe, more than fifty heads of mummies, and not one amongst them presented the characters of the Negro or Hottentot."t

It may justly be inquired, if science, art and literature, had their origin with a Negro tribe on the skirts of Africa, how does it happen that the stream of knowledge has never flowed into, but always from that country ? For while it has been permanently diffused through Asia and Europe, in Africa itself it cannot be traced beyond the mountains of Nubia. Again, it is now proved almost beyond controversy, that Egypt, and not Nubia, was the mother of the arts; and that the stupendous monuments of the Upper Nile, and especially those of Merde, were the works of the Pharaohs, and indicate the great marts of commerce between Egypt and the other nations of Africa.t

The passages from the Greek poets which bear on this subject, have been ingeniously analysed by Dr. Prichard, to whose work on the Physical History of Mankind, the reader is referred for much valuable information on this subject. "Some of these passages," says Dr. Prichard, " are very strongly expressed as if the Egyptians were Negroes; and yet it must be confessed that if they really were such, it is singular that we do not find more frequent allusion to the fact. The Hebrews were a fair people, fairer at least than the Arabs; yet in all the intercourse they had with Egypt, we never find in the Sacred History the least intimation that the Egyptians were Negroes; not even on the memorable occasion of the marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh's daughter. Were a modem historian to record the nuptials of an European monarch with the daughter of a Negro king, such a circumstance would surely find its place. And since Egypt was so closely connected with Grecian affairs when under the Ptolemies, and afterwards with the rest of Europe when it became a Roman province, it is very singular, on the supposition that this nation was so remarkably different from the rest of mankind, that we have no allusion to it."§

* Tray. in Nubia, p. 91. t Lawrence's Lect. on Zool. p. 347, &c. HEEREN, Anc. African Nations, I, p. 426.—WILKINSON, Anc. Egypt, I, p. 4, 13. § Res. I, p. 319.

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