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Amarna Controversy
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is irritating. I've met a number of people who favor the Afrocentric argument, but luckily none of them were overbearing about it. I'm still trying to figure out how I'll handle it at our museum when the day comes (and it will) that I meet some militant Afrocentric person on one of my tours or talks.

These people are pushing a personal agenda not founded on history or logic. They are to be dismissed for what they are: abusive and revisionist charlatans.

Gee, do you get the idea that I don't like these types of people much? Mad
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Osiris II
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't envy the day, kmt_sesh, you will be in a position to debate Afrocentrism v Eurocentrisim! Perhaps you can tactfully have to go to the bathroom!
The subject of how such debate can spoil a interesting site was brought home to me very imphatically. I used to go to a web-site--egyptsearch.com--that I enjoyed very much. The discussion, debates and the general attitude of the people there was very pleasant. Then the Afrocentrist took over--slowly, insidiously. No matter the subject of any thread that was posted, it soon became a soap-box for their views. I'm not saying their views were not legetimate, but it bacame a bit boring and very irritating. After being insulted several times, becoming very angry, I realized such anger was not healthy for me. I no longer go there, more's the pity!
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anneke
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's just sad when people start to make arguments personal. It does take the fun out of it. Luckily that is not tolerated on this board. Insulting others is reason to have one's account suspended.

It seems to me that it is clear that there are plenty of black people in Egypt and hence those contributed to this great society. There were also many immigrants from other areas, so some are not black while others are bi- or multi-racial.

As we have said before the Nubians were all black and had a great culture throughout this timeperiod as well.

I just like to stick to the culture, the history and the art myself. The question if they were all black, some were black or even most were black just isn't that interesting to me.
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Osiris II
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The point is, anneke, not one of whether the ancient Egyptians were black, mostly black or all white--I'm sure the Ancient Egyptians themselves could have cared less. The question does not rile me--it's the answers that do. There are, unfortunately, rabid people out there--both black and white who think it is their "duty" to enlighten us all concerning the biological color of the Egyptians. Personally, I can live without such biased enlightenment.
Some of the claims made are laughable--Cleopatra VII black for instance. Nefertiti obviously Asiatic princess, another. These people do not use common sense, but only recite any doctrine they have learned, be it correct or incorrect.
On this board, thank Heaven, everyone seems to be more "relaxed" about racial issues. And that's the way it should be--blacks need to get a little objectivity, and whites need to "cut a bit of slack"! There is no white agenda to wipe out any trace of blackness in Egypt, nor is there a supreme black presence that is completely ignored.
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anneke
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL I think we've meandered from one topic to another in this thread.
Mansoor collection -> the ossuary of James-> egyptian fakes -> race debate, and our dislike of some people's attitude concerning that.

Keeps things interesting though....
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

FROM OSIRIS II:
Quote:
I don't envy the day, kmt_sesh, you will be in a position to debate Afrocentrism v Eurocentrisim!


I don't plan to let it turn out that way because I am not Eurocentric, either. I'm fully aware that Europeans (i.e., Aegeans) had only a peripheral effect on ancient Egypt through most of its history. But I tell you, on the rare occasion that I come across someone at the museum who starts spouting Afrocentric extremism, I feel the heat start to rise and I have to cool down. It's not only the visitors. My friend and coordinator, Bob, has told me of applicants who were turned down for docent positions because they were so Afrocentric about Egypt...and they have to be turned away very carefully because otherwise you're looking at lawsuits. Man, it can get ridiculous! Surprised

Quote:
I used to go to a web-site--egyptsearch.com--that I enjoyed very much.


I had not heard of egyptsearch until I joined Egyptian Dreams. Hearing people on this forum talking about that one, I decided it wasn't even worth checking out. And I never did. In fact, I've found that Egyptian Dreams is the only ancient Egypt forum I need, and I've stopped visiting others. But it's sad that egyptsearch was once a good forum but descended into juvenile race-related bickering. A forum exists to enlighten and educate and share--not to spread acrimony. I'm glad you found Egyptian Dreams, Osiris II. And I'm glad to hear that people who ridicule others in this forum stand a good chance of being booted out: there's no room for that on Egyptian Dreams.

FROM ANNEKE:

Quote:
It seems to me that it is clear that there are plenty of black people in Egypt and hence those contributed to this great society. There were also many immigrants from other areas, so some are not black while others are bi- or multi-racial.


Good show! That's exactly how I look at it, and how I argue the point myself. Ancient Egypt was a magnificantly cosmopolitan society--as far as I see it, yet more proof of how advanced that ancient land was. As Osiris II put it in his response to you about the blending of cultures there: "I'm sure the Ancient Egyptians themselves could have cared less." I believe that is true. While the Egyptians were certainly xenophobic and tended to look down on other societies, I don't think it had much (if anything) to do with skin color. It was a socio-cultural thing that we see even among Native American tribes during the time of European contact and intrusion: we're better than they are because of who we are!

FROM OSIRIS II:
Quote:
Some of the claims made are laughable--Cleopatra VII black for instance.


That one cracks me up every time. I saw a special (on the Discovery Channel, I think) a couple of years ago that talked about this very issue. It lies in the fact that we cannot pinpoint the identity of one of her grandparents or great-grandparents--perhaps anneke can enlighten us on exactly who this is. Anyway, Afrocentrists use this unimportant mystery to twist history to their agenda, and claim this missing ancestor was black! There's no proof of this, of course; it's just a convenient excuse. And it's ridiculous. Cleopatra VII was Macedonian Greek, and the Ptolemies who preceded her were not know to marry people from the local population.

Quote:
There is no white agenda to wipe out any trace of blackness in Egypt, nor is there a supreme black presence that is completely ignored.


Of course there isn't, but you've hit on one of the things that drives the Afrocentric argument. Many of these scholars with an African heritage are extremely sensitive about their backgrounds, and it's understandable that they should be. So much has been stolen from them, especially those who come from the descendants of slaves and whose heritage is almost entirely unknown. So I sympathize with them there. But I cannot sympathize with anyone--white, black, yellow, brown--who knowingly turns history on its ear and tries to revise historical truths to serve some extremist agenda.

It's amazing how misinformed some people are. I once met a Sudanese gentleman at our museum, and he was a delight to talk with, a very intelligent and gentle person. He was also a college professor (he was visiting the States). He fervently believes all of ancient Egypt was populated by blacks but that Europeans came and drove them all out of the country and to the south. He was otherwise so kind and amiable that I decided to keep my mouth shut and just nod. He was a treat to talk with beyond that little rant.

FROM ANNEKE:
Quote:
LOL I think we've meandered from one topic to another in this thread.
Mansoor collection -> the ossuary of James-> egyptian fakes -> race debate, and our dislike of some people's attitude concerning that.


Is that how this thread started? Oh yeah, the Mansoor collection. I seem to remember reading something about that. And I think you and I were recently joking about this very issue of wandering posts. Oh well, it's fun. Very Happy
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Meritaten
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just had a look at the collection online, and (although very late to this discussion) some of the pieces look questionable to me - in some cases very questionable! One that stands out is No. 39 - Two Seated Princesses (Bas Relief). This carving looks like almost a straight copy of the rescued wall painting fragment of the two pricesses at the feet of their older siblings and parents. This looks like a copy of the portion that was saved and rendered in stone, minus some of the original details (in the surviving wall fragment, Akhenaten and Nefertiti's feet are visible, as well as the lower legs of the older princesses). Here's the wall painting fragment:

http://members.tripod.com/~ib205/amarna/princesses/princesses_3.jpg

The 'Meritaten and Smenkhare' images are startlingly familiar, eh? Virtually every image there looks derivative - an imitation of a piece with a more established provenance. Several seem derived from the Akenaten colossi, but on a smaller scale. Art historians believe that the originals may have owed their 'distorted' appeance to the fact that these large statues were meant to be viewed from below. As rendered in the objects in this collection, however, they look more like they're constructed on the scale of objects to be viewed eye to eye - in which case the 'distortions' make less sense. In addition, the grooves for inlays look too deep to me.

Just my humble opinion, but my gut is telling me 'no'.
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This discussion recently started anew in another ED discussion. A piece from the collection is (or was?) on sale at e-bay, and we've been questioning its authenticity. I tried finding it on e-bay again but I think it's gone now. Maybe the $200,000 price tag was a bit much for something from a questionable collection!
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

I thought I would finally post on here (after watching in the wings for quite some time!). Sorry it's such a long one...

I first came across the Amarna Mansoor collection whilst surfing the net a while back and felt as many of you do that instinctively the pieces just didn't look 'right'. I posted a comment in the guestbook on the website, and was amazed to receive some weeks later an email from Edmund Mansoor thanking me for my interest and discussing the matter further (I had asked whether any of the pieces were on public display, as I'd read somewhere that the Louvre had one). He stated that several pieces had been gifted or sold to institutions, including the Louvre - however the sculptures had been taken off display some years earlier when the authenticity issue had reared its ugly head. Apparently the Mansoor family had then offered to buy back some of the pieces, but interestingly no-one wanted to relinquish them (hedging their bets, perhaps!).

I then tried to read around the subject a bit more, and got hold of a book by Christine Mansoor, which was entertaining, but sadly a little lacking in objectivity. I also found a booklet from an exhibition that was held in the States some years ago, with pictures of a lot of the pieces. One of the issues that concerned me most was the fact that all the exhibits seemed to be copies of known works. The Mansoors dispute this, but I don't recall any specific reference to the supposed unique pieces. Also, I recall a claim that some of the Mansoor pieces were apparently discovered before the 'authentic' pieces, though again specific examples aren't cited.

I've often thought that it would be great to have an exhibition of these works, perhaps alongside authenticated works from Amarna. Maybe no museum wants to touch it because of the autheticity issues but I think that would be the whole point of the display - get people to mkae up their own minds. I'm amazed no TV company has picked up on this either, as it would make compelling viewing - not least if some of the Mansoors could be persuaded to give their passionate views! Given the public appetite for all things Egyptian, it's amazing this has been missed.

One final thing that struck me (whether or not the items are the real macoy) was that the Mansoor family vehemently believe them to be so. The issue does appear to be highly contentious with Egyptologists divided. Cyril Aldred stated 'I'm prepared to believe they are ancient. I'm not prepared to believe they are great works of art' (or something to that effect). I almost think it doesn't matter any more whether the pieces are authentic - they've become of interest in their own right because of the contraversy.

I thought they were 'wrong' to begin with (I've seen the real thing in the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge), but the more I look the more I do start to appreciate them - I particularly like the princess figurines and the head that went up for sale Ebay. I'd happily have her on my hall table. You never know, she might just be the real thing.....
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anneke
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to Egyptian Dreams Very Happy

I like your idea of either a documentary or an exhibit in a museum (or even better? Both?)
It would be nice to see these works in context and to be able to compare them a bit better with known works from the Amarna period.

I like you Cyril Aldred quote:
Quote:
'I'm prepared to believe they are ancient. I'm not prepared to believe they are great works of art'


I find it interesting actually that the experts can't seem to agree. You would think that with our modern science we would be able to either authenticate or unmask at least some of the pieces.
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm impressed that Mansoor himself replied to your inquiry. That was classy of him. I don't know whether or not all of the pieces are authentic, but given the offer I certainly wouldn't turn one of them down as a gift!
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
I'm impressed that Mansoor himself replied to your inquiry. That was classy of him.


I thought so too - and it was a really nice email.

I'd love to see these pieces 'in the flesh' - such a shame non appear to be on public display anymore.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I find it interesting actually that the experts can't seem to agree. You would think that with our modern science we would be able to either authenticate or unmask at least some of the pieces.


If they were fakes made with the appropriate rock types and tools that didn't leave a modern signature (like tempered steel) it might be impossible to tell the difference.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If they were fakes made with the appropriate rock types and tools that didn't leave a modern signature (like tempered steel) it might be impossible to tell the difference.


I'd have to echo anneke's sentiment about the science. It's more than just the materials and tools. One of the best ways to analyze the authenticity of a stone object's antiquity is its patina. This is a film that naturally builds up over time on the surface of stone artifacts. The classic case is that of the recent "Jame's Ossuary" and the tablet called the "Jehoash Inscription," both of which had been touted as the most significant archaeological finds of modern times.

Scientists took a hard look at the patinas on the surfaces of the ossuary and tablet. In the region of Jerusalem, a calcareous area, calcite (calcium carbonate) is the main component of naturally formed patinas. The calcite dissolves in the groundwater, and with the loss of CO2 from the groundwater by evaporation, the calcite recrystallizes on the stone's surface. The oxygen within this calcareous coating (patina) has the same isotopic ratio as the water from which it was produced. That value can even be used to determine the temperature at which the crystallization took place.

The scientists determined that although the patinas of these "relics" had ratios that were normal for average ground temperature of the Jerusalem region (64-68 degrees Fahrenheit), the ratios demonstrated that the crystallization took place in heated water (about 122 degrees)--not a natural formation, in other words.

Some of you may be wondering, where on earth did kmt_sesh pull this from? After all, I'm no scientists. Well, I got it from page 198 of Secrets of the Bible, a publication of Archaeology Magazine (they've published a similar book about ancient Egypt). This is a fascinating book. Turns out both fakes were produced by the Israeli forger Oded Golan. The authorities raided his properties and discovered all the tools an expert forger would need for carrying out brilliant fakes.

Sorry I've prattled on so long. Just goes to show, though, that as gifted as some forgers are (and Golan was surely one of the best), science is catching up with them very quickly! Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think another problem relates to the location of the find. Most of the Amarna workshop pieces were well preserved because they'd been buried in sand for years - not exposed to the elements. Likewise, sculptures recovered from tombs can have a high degree of protection from the elements.

I believe the Mansoor pieces were found by a farmer who did not reveal the location, but relinquished the works a few at a time (over a period of many years) to the dealers. The assumption is that they were not 'surface finds' due to their excellent preservation, but we don't know for sure, and this in itself makes them harder to authenticate.
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