Not Out of Africa

If radical Afrocentrists have their way, soon all schoolchildren will learn—as some are now learning—a version of ancient Mediterranean history that gives credit for the Greek achievement to the ancient Egyptians. The Afrocentrists contend that what most people have learned about the origins of Western civilization is untrue. According to them, the ancient history we have studied is a concatenation of racist lies designed to prevent the world from knowing the true extent of the African contribution.

The notion of a conspiracy of European historians allows Afrocentrists to make other specific claims about the past. They insist that the Greek people have African origins, and that Aesop, Socrates, Hannibal, Terence, and Cleopatra did as well. Even more importantly, they assert that Greek philosophy was Egyptian philosophy, that after studying in Egypt, the Greek philosophers returned home and passed off what they had learned as original contributions of their own. In particular, they contend that Aristotle went to Egypt with Alexander, stole books from the Alexandrian Library, and put his name on them.

How true are these claims? It is relatively easy to show that most of them are false, supported by assertions about possibilities rather than evidence. For example, the claim that Socrates had African ancestors is based entirely on the fact that he is shown with thickish lips and a snub nose in portrait sculptures....

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