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Philosophical Arguments and Controversies

The Lie about Tutankhamun

The ancient "Egyptians are not Arabs and are not Africans despite the fact that Egypt is in Africa," - Dr Zahi Hawass

Update: Dr Hawass was jailed for one year for deceit and theft. However the transitional military government promptly pardoned him. But Egyptians, who long distrusted him, have now come out to express openly what most Egyptologists knew but allowed because they needed a Hawass who would cooperate with them in the falsification of things Egyptian. 
Ancient Egypt being the originator of much of the modern civilisation, as we know it, has been claimed and alienated from Africa by some in the "mainstream" Egyptology and the obvious African nature of the ancient inhabitants denied. The most famous of Egyptian pharaohs - fame coming from the fact that his tomb was discovered relatively recently, and intact - is Tutankhamun. The obviously black young pharaoh, black as most pre-Cambyses (525 BC) Pharaohs were: black as portrayed in the art of his time and confirmed by his mummy, has lately been made Caucasian in art right in front of our own eyes. This happened under the watch of Egyptian authorities, then led by an Egyptian Egyptologist named Dr Zahi Hawass. Now read on as we unravel the lie with incontrovertible evidence.

Dr Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian head of Antiquities, who is neither an African nor an Arab himself !

This is Dr Zahi Hawass, who has just resigned - following the Egyptian revolution of 2011 - as Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. Being a Copt, he belongs to an Egyptian population segment that is neither Arab nor African - by implied self description, notwithstanding the fact that they owe allegiance to an Arabic-speaking country located in Africa. That now-Arabic-speaking "non-Arab", "non-African" population, is the population segment that he alludes to without using so many words here as he struggles to paint the image of a raceless ancient Egypt that was not confined to geographical environment such as a continent. The bulk of the Coptic population traces origin to native Egyptian and Greek mixed parentage.  Some Arab blood has been thrown into the mix since - making it impossible to tell between Muslim  (mostly Arab) and Coptic Egyptians by physical appearance. Hawass' position is a bit tricky, he has to accommodate his Euro and Asian tourist clientèle with a story that doesn't ruffle their ego as today's leaders in science and technology and bringers of the much-valued tourist dollars. He also has to explain, without using too many words, his Caucasian appearance while presenting  - and trying to represent - images of part of his heritage that paint an obviously black reality. With knowledge of this personal background, Hawass should be easy to understand.

People of el-Qurnah, Thebes, Egypt, on a festive day (Humboldt Uni 22233). The original African stock is still highly pronounced here in the locality of Tutankhamun's burial site. But why they never make it to Egyptian television is another matter. Save, of course, for the late President Anwar Sadat, who seems to have hailed from this Africoid population segment of Egypt.

Dr Hawass prepared a personal presentation to accompany a road show that included the bust of a reworked, whitened, Tutankhamun, to America. But this was an America that, unbeknown to him, was ready psychologically and only two years away from electing  its first African-American president, putting a black first family in the White House, a reality Hawass & Co. could not admit for ancient Egypt's royal houses even in the face of screaming evidence. Hawass was not ready for the shock that was in store for him: protests by African Americans,  Attorney LeGrand Clegg of Compton at the head, and backed - quite unexpectedly  then but not unexpected anymore in a more integrated less racially prejudiced post Obama America - by the occasional white academic. The tour through America, 2005 - 2007, had to proceed, after encountering the protest, with a bit of shyness on the part of the Hawass' team over the embarrassingly whitened image of Tutankhamun. But this near admission of error on the part of Dr Hawass was only for immediate convenience while on American soil, what he went to utter from Egypt was a total reversal and the world press paid attention. An attention that was almost absent while he was met with protests in America.

Read more on the controversy and protest here by Anthony T. Browder

Now, for the report posted by AFP, titled:

Tutankhamun was not black -- Egypt antiquities chief

Agence France-Presse
CAIRO -- Egyptian antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass insisted Tuesday that Tutankhamun was not black despite calls by US black activists to recognize the boy king's dark skin color.
"Tutankhamun was not black, and the portrayal of ancient Egyptian civilization as black has no element of truth to it," Hawass told reporters.
"Egyptians are not Arabs and are not Africans despite the fact that Egypt is in Africa," he said, quoted by the official MENA news agency.
Hawass said he was responding to several demonstrations in Philadelphia after a lecture he gave there on September 6 where he defended his theory.
Protesters also claimed images of King Tut were altered to show him with lighter skin at the "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibit which leaves Philadelphia for London on September 30.
The exhibition sparked an uproar when it kicked off in Los Angeles in June 2005 when black activists demanded that a bust of the boy king be removed because the statue portrays him as white.
The face of the legendary pharaoh, who died around 3,300 years ago at the age of just 19, was reconstructed in 2005 through images collected through CAT scans of his mummy.
The boy king's intact tomb caused an international sensation when it was discovered by Briton Howard Carter in 1922 near Luxor in southern Egypt.
- End of AFP story.

When the said Briton, Howard Carter, finally opened the front part of the tomb in 1924 (discovered in 1922), he further made a small aperture and was able to peer further in: he was confronted, though perhaps not surprised, by this image of a black man standing sentinel, seeming to guard the treasures further behind him. There were two life-size wooden images of the same man that were almost identical. Carter knew he had seen the image of the king. His financier, Lord Carnarvon, of Britain, had, meanwhile, died in Cairo in 1923. After thus peering at the "sentinel" image of the pharaoh, he closed the aperture that he had made and went away.
The undisturbed double image of King Tut guarding his own treasures that confronted Carter in 1923 when he made an aperture to peer in, alongside his financier, Lord Carnarvoron (see and The East African Standard, various dates,1922-1926 preserved at McMillan Library, Nairobi).

He had argued with Egyptian authorities, it is thought. There is no convincing explanation to one's knowledge, why his immense curiosity ebbed at this stage and he was able to proceed at snail pace each time he returned from his long overseas "sabbaticals". Was it the site and final confirmation of this black fellow that deflated his interest? He reached the twin sentinel-like wooden images of King Tut in 1926 and it was not until 1930 that the clearing of the tomb was completed under Carter's supervision. The mummy that they recovered, being the real body - and not just the portrayed image - of Tutankhamun, was photographed in the black and white available technology of the time and it is what we have below here.

mummy head of Tutankhamun from a 1926 photograph taken as Howard Carter unwrapped him for the first time in 3,400 years

Not only was the Pharaoh's body black, it was African - of the sub-Saharan type - through and through in all other physical respects. Howard Carter had it returned to the tomb later, only to be removed again in modern times by Dr Hawass for CAT scanning. The main aim seems to have been to obtain the skeletal frame of the king then reconstruct soft tissue and thus arrive at what the king might have looked like in life. This was done in 2005 and the following photograph of the mummy was taken, this time in colour. The black subject had deteriorated significantly since the days of Carter.

But this obvious image of an African remained relatively intact and one would think it would settle any arguments regarding the king's ethnic origin. To Dr Hawass and those working under him and on his behalf in France, reproduced the image shown below, working from the scan images.

From The New Face of King Tut,  the June 2005 issue of National Geographic magazine

Its creator, the French sculptor, Elisabeth Daynhs, "used glass eyes and implanted hair for this reconstruction of Tutankhamun. Skin tone, which could have varied from very dark to very light, was based on an average shade of modern Egyptians." The sculptor knew she was working on an ancient Egyptian subject and all she had was a skull frame modeled on the CAT scan of the mummy. She admits here knowing that the body tone of the subject could vary from very dark to very light. She decided that the average colour of the modern Egyptians would do: the modern Egyptians that she knew to be descendants of Arab and European races, mixed with Native Africans in varying degrees. She went ahead and reproduced this Caucasian bust, complete with the narrow nose. She needs to have gone back after being shown the actual subject's mummy, King Tut, with the broad African nose, black body pigment and the general sub-Saharan look. She would produce something entirely different and perhaps more convincing.
As for the body pigmentation, mummies cannot, dead as they are, acquire the dark pigment called melanin which makes Africans black. The colour at death remains with the subject for as long as the skin remains on. There are good examples that illustrate this from South America: the Andean Mummies. Below are two mummies from the Andes, which are thought to be 500 years old and they are as light in tone as the native Americans of that area, which they were.

From The High Mummies
(Written By Liesl Clark)

The same skull models based on the cat scan of Tut's mummy were sent to America, this time blind, i.e., the subject was not revealed to the experts assigned the job by National Geographic. According to National Geographic, Susan Antón, an associate professor of anthropology at New York University, studied the CT scan data with Bradley Adams of New York City's Chief Medical Examiner's office. Professor Anton's team ended up producing the Nilotic-African bust shown below but, curiously enough, they observed that the one done in France, another one done in Egypt under Hawass, and this one, "... closely resembled one another " - not convincing, one would, needlessly, say.

The attempt at reconstructing Tutankhamun by the American team led by Susan Antón, an associate professor of anthropology at New York University as contracted by National Geographic.

The chalk-white bust is obviously of a Nilotic type black African, common in sub-Saharan East Africa. The elongated skull, which actually surprised the people who were trying to reconstruct Tut, is the dolicocephalic skull that is typical of the East African Nilotic population, especially the Kalenjiin and Maasai. These are the populations whose skulls produce a cephalic reading of between 73 and 75, which is what the bust exhibits here. What it means is: if you measure the width of the head from side to side and divide that reading by the length of the head from forehead to the back of the head and multiply the result by a hundred, you arrive at the 73 - 75% manifest in the modern East African populations defined. This is confirmed by Seligman as follows: “Masai, Nandi, and Turkana give a cephalic index of 73-74 (which, being under 75, is dolicocephalic, i.e. the head is prominently long from forehead to back of
head and narrower from side to side)..."(Seligman, 1966:104). For the ancient Egyptian population we have the following authoritative conclusion to compare with the aforegoing: Batrawi (1945/46): “The pre-dynastic Egyptian was of medium height, about 66 inches in flesh, and dolichocephalic, with an index, as regards Naqada crania of 73 (corresponding to 75 in the living).”
Then the National Geographic magazine ends with the following, which is really a caveat and an escape route should they be disproved immediately: "Some aspects of the king's appearance, however, are destined to remain mysterious. The shape of the top of his nose and of his ears, as well as the color of his eyes and skin, cannot be determined by CT scan skull data. These features are likely to remain forever unknown."
The mummy itself, however, answers some of these: the shape of the top of the nose can be arrived at by looking at its maximum breadth, then comparing it to the art left by the ancient Egyptians themselves; the skin is more obvious, Tut died with his black skin and is still black. Mummies from other races, such as those of  the native Americans of the Andes, prove that a light-skinned mummy remains so for as long as its skin is extant.

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