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Is Sally Ann Ashton a trustworthy scholar?

 
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Mennefer
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:01 pm    Post subject: Is Sally Ann Ashton a trustworthy scholar? Reply with quote

A while ago, I found a blog called "Kemet Expert" (I don't want to link to it here) run by Sally Ann Ashton, an archeologist and psychologist student who has also written extensively about ancient Egypt and worked with museums in the UK including the Petrie museum.

It is clear that Ashton advocates an Afrocentric view of Egypt and the ancient Egyptians (which she consistently refers to as Kemet / kemetians), and many of the claims featured ion her blog and in online lectures are well within the realm of pseudo-science and fringe-theories. Are Ashton's views accepted by mainstream egyptologists and other scholars? How come reputable museums such as the Petrie museum and Fitzwilliam museum endorse fringe-theories by hiring Ashton to work with their exhibitions?
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neseret
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:37 am    Post subject: Re: Is Sally Ann Ashton a trustworthy scholar? Reply with quote

Mennefer wrote:
A while ago, I found a blog called "Kemet Expert" (I don't want to link to it here) run by Sally Ann Ashton, an archeologist and psychologist student who has also written extensively about ancient Egypt and worked with museums in the UK including the Petrie museum.

It is clear that Ashton advocates an Afrocentric view of Egypt and the ancient Egyptians (which she consistently refers to as Kemet / kemetians), and many of the claims featured ion her blog and in online lectures are well within the realm of pseudo-science and fringe-theories. Are Ashton's views accepted by mainstream egyptologists and other scholars? How come reputable museums such as the Petrie museum and Fitzwilliam museum endorse fringe-theories by hiring Ashton to work with their exhibitions?


I'm not sure that she is an Afrocentric, though I admit her views do not reflect most mainstream Egyptology in this respect. She noted that she refers to Egyptian culture as a general African culture, which a number of Egyptologists do, while other Egyptologists see Egypt as strictly a North African culture. Egypt's definition as a "Middle Eastern" culture, is, however, relatively new, and is based more on politics than location.

Ashton's term Kemetian for the culture is a bit out of the ordinary, but she uses this term to delineate between strictly Egyptian dynasties vs. foreign dynasties (of which she considers the Libyan, Nubian, Assyrian, and Greek/Macedonian as examples of foreign rule). Most Egyptologists do not use the term Kemetian, but I don't see that she is using it in any New Age/Afrocentric way, for example.

Her most recent article, which was one of several I read, on "Understanding the colour black in Kemet", notes that in reference to a painting of Queen Ahmose-Nefertari with black skin "...But what about the colour of her skin?

Here, I am going to suggest that the colour is symbolic rather than simply a realistic representation of Ahmoseís skin colour. In the same way that on Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom statuary and statuettes women are often depicted with very pale and white skin. This does NOT reflect their true complexions. In fact this suggestion by Eurocentrics makes no sense at all, particularly when we consider that the consorts or male equivalents have the more typical dark brown skin colours, which is no doubt closer to that of the population at the time. I suggest this because by the New Kingdom both men and women are depicted with the same range of complexions.

By suggesting that white = racialised White then this means that women were of non-African descent but the men were! Of course this is completely ludicrous. I would imagine that Ahmose Nefertariís skin colour was similar to that of her sonís, who is depicted with brown skin, and who also clearly has African type hair.

There are other posthumous representations of Ahmose Nefertari that show her with black skin. There is also a statue that now has a dark blue appearance, due to the original black pigment having been damaged by light. Using this powerful and potent colour to represent a goddess makes reference to her fertility and rebirth, which is why she was a popular goddess in tombs that were made substantially later than her lifetime.

I find that when people start to explore ĎEgyptí in its African context (Kemet) they focus on the more obvious references to people of African descent. The paintings of Ahmose Nefertari are a case in point. However, as their knowledge expands, they find that ALL aspects of this complex ancient culture are African and it makes no sense to try and remove it from other traditional African cultures. The complexions that depict mortals, as opposed to gods or the deceased, show them with a range of brown-coloured skins (below), as you find amongst people of indigenous African descent people today. It is these depictions that are probably a truer representation of the people of Kemet and also Kush. But letís not forget what an advanced and complex society Kemet was, nor how this is demonstrated by their development and use of symbolism.
"

In one sense, her railing against "Eurocentrics" might put her in an "Afrocentric mode", but what she is arguing about colour symbolism and the colours of men and gods is straight out of mainstream Egyptian art analyses (see on this, Wilkinson 1994). Ashton's comments about Egypt as an African culture is more likely based upon her reasoning that "...I view Egypt as African because this was how the ancient culture was first introduced to me: through the eyes of Greek and Roman artists, philosophers and writers."

The problem I see is any person - Egyptologist or not - who tries to compartmentalise the ancient Egyptian culture into simple racial or single culture formats, simply misses the point. There are numerous different cultures in the sub-Saharan portions of Africa, and many of these have no reference culturally to another. So, beyond Egypt residing on the African continent, which is its only link to being an 'African culture', it exists as an independent civilisation, just as many sub-Saharan cultures are independent of each other. Ashton sees an "African framework" to ancient Egypt, but fails to delineate what that framework is.

If the Romans and Greeks lumped all cultures as "Africa" (which, BTW, they termed mainly to North Africa, as we have no evidence they went into southern sections of Africa), then Ashton would need to stay within the North African civilisations, if that is how she defines it. I am not sure how she defines her terms, though she appears to drawn inferences of a "universal" African culture of which Egyptian civilisation is part, something of which I would wholeheartedly disagree, for reasons given.

Reference:

Wilkinson, R. H. 1994. Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art. London: Thames and Hudson.

HTH.
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Katherine Griffis-Greenberg

Doctoral Candidate
Oriental Institute
Oriental Studies
Doctoral Programme [Egyptology]
Oxford University
Oxford, United Kingdom

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Mennefer
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your interesting comments Neseret. My problem with Ashton's writings is not so much Afrocentrism as her unscientific arguments and selective reading of the sources. For instance, she brings up ancient Egyptian combs which in some parts resemble combs used by subsaharan African societies and African-Americans and deduces that they must have been used by an ethnically African people, while ignoring the multitude of different combs with finer teeth also found in an ancient Egyptian context.

If I'm not mistaken, this questionable link between contemporary African combs and ancient Egyptian ones were on display at an exhibition in the Fitzwiliam museum.
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neseret
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I noted this the other day on the British Museum website;

Kemet: African-centred approaches to Egyptology

Quote:

Monday 24 October, 13.30
BP Lecture Theatre
Free, booking essential

Sally-Ann Ashton, University of Huddersfield, offers an overview how African-centred approaches to the study of ancient Egypt can be used effectively, with reference to parallels from other African cultures
.

One can register online at the URL posted above, and hear Ashton's theories through - or not.

HTH.
_________________
Katherine Griffis-Greenberg

Doctoral Candidate
Oriental Institute
Oriental Studies
Doctoral Programme [Egyptology]
Oxford University
Oxford, United Kingdom

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