archaeology:

Hollywood’s Hercules Stirs Racial Angst
“Wasn’t Hercules White?” “What is a person of colour doing playing a white Hercules?”
Believe it or not, these questions have Twittersphere in a tizzy. Some die-hard Hercules fans are upset that Black-Samoan wrestling hulk, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is playing the Greek demi-god in the recently released movie.
Tweeps like Haley Bostic exclaim, “I want to go see Hercules buuuutt why is Dwayne Johnson playing him? Isn’t Hercules white with blonde hair.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, a perplexed Andres Zepeda cranks it up a notch. “Black Hercules?,” he Tweets. “Couldn’t just stop at black president ay? Black people pushing the whitemans [sic] buttons what’s next a black Toby Keith?”
Even some African Americans are upset. An irate Monty tells the world, “still pissed that the Rock is playing Hercules. Hercules is a fictional whiteman. foh.”
Clearly, director Brett Ratner struck a nerve. Casting The Rock in the lead role has revealed rather unexpectedly that the mythical Greek hero still has a powerful hold on our imagination, but for all the wrong reasons.
For in a supposedly “post-racial” America, the online uproar has all the semblance of a dream gone bad. Why has the race of a character that never actually existed stirred so much passion? 
Would the Ancient Greeks have bristled at the sight of The Rock, clad in brown body armour, channelling his inner-Hercules? Surly not.
In fact, the ancients’ own testimony actually shows that they had absolutely no qualms with a Hercules whose origins lay in a land of dark women and men.
Classical Greek historian Herodotus, generally considered the “Father of History,” for example, was unequivocal on the matter. In his lengthy account of Egyptian civilization, he wrote, “Amphitryon and Alcmena, father and mother to the Grecian Hercules, were both of Egyptian descent.”
Three-hundred years later, distinguished Greek historian Diodorus Siculus echoed Herodutus’ assertion. Without any question, he averred, Hercules was originally an Egyptian god. 
That very idea of an Egyptian descended Hercules could explain why a 6th century (BCE) Greek artist used a vase to depict the legendary hero as a dark-skinned and tightly-curly haired man, alongside unambiguously Black Egyptian soldiers and priests. At the time, it was standard practice for Greeks to paint and even describe Egyptians as possessing Black skin and tightly curled hair. 

Herodotus, for example, wrote of “black-skinned” and “woolly haired” Egyptians. Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus described Egyptians, in his play the Suppliants, as having noticeably black limbs. Even Aristotle recounted in his work Physiognomy that both Egyptians and Ethiopians had Black skin. 

Scholars have and will likely continue to debate the merits of these contentious descriptions. 
But for our purposes, the matter is clearer cut: the canonical writing passed down from figures like Herodotus and Diodorus prove that a non-European Hercules did not offend Ancient Greek sensibilities. Quite the contrary. Greece’s most famous historians embraced a Hercules with Northern African roots.
So if the Ancient Greeks didn’t have a problem, why does a light-brown complexioned Hercules bother some today? Could this unease with a non-European Hercules be a symptom of a deeper and yet to be resolved problem?
If anything, the Twitter uproar reminds us that race still matters. That race continues to affect the way many of us try to make sense of the world, even when it is an imaginary world!  
Perhaps with their vision of an African Hercules, the Ancient Greeks have a few things to teach us about embracing diversity, despite the inequalities endemic in their city-states.
Peter Frederick Flegel

Hollywood’s Hercules Stirs Racial Angst

“Wasn’t Hercules White?” “What is a person of colour doing playing a white Hercules?”

Believe it or not, these questions have Twittersphere in a tizzy. Some die-hard Hercules fans are upset that Black-Samoan wrestling hulk, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is playing the Greek demi-god in the recently released movie.

Tweeps like Haley Bostic exclaim, “I want to go see Hercules buuuutt why is Dwayne Johnson playing him? Isn’t Hercules white with blonde hair.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, a perplexed Andres Zepeda cranks it up a notch. “Black Hercules?,” he Tweets. “Couldn’t just stop at black president ay? Black people pushing the whitemans [sic] buttons what’s next a black Toby Keith?”

Even some African Americans are upset. An irate Monty tells the world, “still pissed that the Rock is playing HerculesHercules is a fictional whiteman. foh.”

Clearly, director Brett Ratner struck a nerve. Casting The Rock in the lead role has revealed rather unexpectedly that the mythical Greek hero still has a powerful hold on our imagination, but for all the wrong reasons.

For in a supposedly “post-racial” America, the online uproar has all the semblance of a dream gone bad. Why has the race of a character that never actually existed stirred so much passion? 

Would the Ancient Greeks have bristled at the sight of The Rock, clad in brown body armour, channelling his inner-Hercules? Surly not.

In fact, the ancients’ own testimony actually shows that they had absolutely no qualms with a Hercules whose origins lay in a land of dark women and men.

Classical Greek historian Herodotus, generally considered the “Father of History,” for example, was unequivocal on the matter. In his lengthy account of Egyptian civilization, he wrote, “Amphitryon and Alcmena, father and mother to the Grecian Hercules, were both of Egyptian descent.”

Three-hundred years later, distinguished Greek historian Diodorus Siculus echoed Herodutus’ assertion. Without any question, he averred, Hercules was originally an Egyptian god. 

That very idea of an Egyptian descended Hercules could explain why a 6th century (BCE) Greek artist used a vase to depict the legendary hero as a dark-skinned and tightly-curly haired man, alongside unambiguously Black Egyptian soldiers and priests. At the time, it was standard practice for Greeks to paint and even describe Egyptians as possessing Black skin and tightly curled hair. 

Herodotus, for example, wrote of “black-skinned” and “woolly haired” Egyptians. Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus described Egyptians, in his play the Suppliants, as having noticeably black limbs. Even Aristotle recounted in his work Physiognomy that both Egyptians and Ethiopians had Black skin. 

Scholars have and will likely continue to debate the merits of these contentious descriptions. 

But for our purposes, the matter is clearer cut: the canonical writing passed down from figures like Herodotus and Diodorus prove that a non-European Hercules did not offend Ancient Greek sensibilities. Quite the contrary. Greece’s most famous historians embraced a Hercules with Northern African roots.

So if the Ancient Greeks didn’t have a problem, why does a light-brown complexioned Hercules bother some today? Could this unease with a non-European Hercules be a symptom of a deeper and yet to be resolved problem?

If anything, the Twitter uproar reminds us that race still matters. That race continues to affect the way many of us try to make sense of the world, even when it is an imaginary world!  

Perhaps with their vision of an African Hercules, the Ancient Greeks have a few things to teach us about embracing diversity, despite the inequalities endemic in their city-states.

Peter Frederick Flegel

A groundbreaking Canadian initiative to promote safe, inclusive and healthy communities for LGBT and Two-Spirit youth. 

My opinion piece on injustice in the Dominican Republic

My Letter on Blacks, Latinos and Baseball published in the New York Times!

My Letter on Blacks, Latinos and Baseball published in the New York Times!

Memorizing my Notes

Memorizing my Notes

Tweet Quoted by Al Jazeera English's The Stream TV show during its program on human rights in Russia!

RIP MARTIN BERNAL
Today, I mourn the passing of a man who exerted a major intellectual influence on my life: Dr. Martin Bernal. An acclaimed Sinologist, who later ventured into the world of classics and ancient history, Bernal was subjected to the most vitriolic attacks for having the audacity to expose entrenched racism and antisemitism permeating Western historical scholarship, in his groundbreaking triology, Black Athena. Branded a “revisionist,” an “afrocentrist” and even an extremist, during the cultural wars of the 90s, Bernal used his position in academia to reveal the extent to which much of Western thought has its roots in the intercivilizational encounter between Ancient Greece and much older South Western Asian and Northeastern African civilizations. Through his bold scholarship, Bernal has inspired countless and radically transformed our understanding of contemporary historiography. He will be missed by many.
Peter Frederick Flegel

RIP MARTIN BERNAL

Today, I mourn the passing of a man who exerted a major intellectual influence on my life: Dr. Martin Bernal. An acclaimed Sinologist, who later ventured into the world of classics and ancient history, Bernal was subjected to the most vitriolic attacks for having the audacity to expose entrenched racism and antisemitism permeating Western historical scholarship, in his groundbreaking triology, Black Athena. Branded a “revisionist,” an “afrocentrist” and even an extremist, during the cultural wars of the 90s, Bernal used his position in academia to reveal the extent to which much of Western thought has its roots in the intercivilizational encounter between Ancient Greece and much older South Western Asian and Northeastern African civilizations. Through his bold scholarship, Bernal has inspired countless and radically transformed our understanding of contemporary historiography. He will be missed by many.

Peter Frederick Flegel

guardian:

Their genes are exactly the same, so why don’t identical siblings’ lives follow more similar patterns? The scientist behind a pioneering 21-year study believes he has the answer.
Photograph: Some of the twins studied by the department of twin research at King’s College, London. Credit: King’s College, London

guardian:

Their genes are exactly the same, so why don’t identical siblings’ lives follow more similar patterns? The scientist behind a pioneering 21-year study believes he has the answer.

Photograph: Some of the twins studied by the department of twin research at King’s College, London. Credit: King’s College, London

MY JUSTIN TRUDEAU MOMENT (this is not an endorsement)
It was December 28, 2012, and I was at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, awaiting my delayed flight to Havana.To prepare for what would be 12 days of cultural immersion in Cuba’s capital, I decided to read up on Canada’s bilateral relations with Cuba. And of course, I had to start by reading an online book about one of Canada’s most prolific Prime Ministers, the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and his relationship with Latin America.
After reading, a fascinating chapter, which challenged everything I thought I knew about the late Trudeau’s relationship with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, I decided to look above my laptop.
And low and behold… guess who was sitting plonk, right in front of me?! The recently elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau! What a crazy coincidence!
I went to introduce myself to him. He was gracious and chatted with me for a moment, before he went off with his wife and kids!That was my Justin Trudeau Moment (again this is not a political endorsement).

MY JUSTIN TRUDEAU MOMENT (this is not an endorsement)

It was December 28, 2012, and I was at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, awaiting my delayed flight to Havana.To prepare for what would be 12 days of cultural immersion in Cuba’s capital, I decided to read up on Canada’s bilateral relations with Cuba. And of course, I had to start by reading an online book about one of Canada’s most prolific Prime Ministers, the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and his relationship with Latin America.

After reading, a fascinating chapter, which challenged everything I thought I knew about the late Trudeau’s relationship with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, I decided to look above my laptop.

And low and behold… guess who was sitting plonk, right in front of me?! The recently elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau! What a crazy coincidence!

I went to introduce myself to him. He was gracious and chatted with me for a moment, before he went off with his wife and kids!That was my Justin Trudeau Moment (again this is not a political endorsement).

MENTUHOTEP, RACE AND ARCHAEOLOGY
Did Black Africans ever rule over Ancient Egypt? The answer is a nuanced and polemical yes.
The standard answer goes as follows: Black Africans did rule over Ancient Egypt but only at the tail end of its three-thousand year-old civilization.
In its highly acclaimed “The Black Pharaohs,” for example, National Geographic painstakingly retold the story of King Piye, who, in the 8th century BCE, led a Sudanese army deep into the heart of Egypt to found one of the civilization’s most prolific dynasties.
While the feature article provided a rich and accessible portrait of Egypt’s “Nubian Dynasty,” one is left with the distinct impression that Piye actually made history by becoming Egypt’s first Black African ruler. The perspective also suggests that before 700 BCE, non-Black Pharaohs governed a civilization, in which Blacks were either foreigners, captives, slaves, or, if lucky, foot soldiers.
Reminiscent of the modern-day confusion over the existence of people who are both Black and Latino, the notion that Ancient Egypt knew pharaohs who were ethnically Egyptian and phenotypically Black African, apparently defies imagination (so much so that some Classicists have expressed confusion at the Ancient Greek tendency to portray the Ancient Egyptians as both Black and “yellow-skinned”).
This viewpoint is puzzling since, at least one other historical figure stands out as a dark-skinned, fleshy-lipped king of Egypt. He is Mentuhotep II who, in approximately 2055 BCE, united a divided kingdom and established a golden age of military, literary, religious, scientific and architectural achievements.
Ancient iconography depicts him with black skin and sub-Saharan features. For example, on his most famous statue, currently lodged at the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo, Mentuhotep is painted with dark-skin and sculpted with “negroid” features.
Many scholars have tried at length to dismiss the statue’s “racial” connotations by alleging that the skin color is merely “symbolic.” Yet other, lesser-known statues, such as the one on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, present the ruler with distinctly Black African features.
Moreover, paintings of the Pharaoh’s favorite wife and one of his daughters defy the ancient Egyptian convention of painting the civilization’s women with light skin. The Queen and Princess are portrayed with unabashedly black skin and with what appear to be short Afros. The women are also shown to be attended upon by yellow-skinned female servants with straight hair.
As a result, some scholars have gone so far as to conclude that Mentuhotep II was Nubian (i.e. Sudanese) in origin. That may very well have been the case. Or he could have simply been an Egyptian who happened to be Black. Regardless, Mentuhotep II’s reign suggests that Black Africans held the reins of power in Egypt at least two-thousand years earlier than many scholars would like us to believe.
Peter Frederick Flegel

MENTUHOTEP, RACE AND ARCHAEOLOGY

Did Black Africans ever rule over Ancient Egypt? The answer is a nuanced and polemical yes.

The standard answer goes as follows: Black Africans did rule over Ancient Egypt but only at the tail end of its three-thousand year-old civilization.

In its highly acclaimed “The Black Pharaohs,” for example, National Geographic painstakingly retold the story of King Piye, who, in the 8th century BCE, led a Sudanese army deep into the heart of Egypt to found one of the civilization’s most prolific dynasties.

While the feature article provided a rich and accessible portrait of Egypt’s “Nubian Dynasty,” one is left with the distinct impression that Piye actually made history by becoming Egypt’s first Black African ruler. The perspective also suggests that before 700 BCE, non-Black Pharaohs governed a civilization, in which Blacks were either foreigners, captives, slaves, or, if lucky, foot soldiers.

Reminiscent of the modern-day confusion over the existence of people who are both Black and Latino, the notion that Ancient Egypt knew pharaohs who were ethnically Egyptian and phenotypically Black African, apparently defies imagination (so much so that some Classicists have expressed confusion at the Ancient Greek tendency to portray the Ancient Egyptians as both Black and “yellow-skinned”).

This viewpoint is puzzling since, at least one other historical figure stands out as a dark-skinned, fleshy-lipped king of Egypt. He is Mentuhotep II who, in approximately 2055 BCE, united a divided kingdom and established a golden age of military, literary, religious, scientific and architectural achievements.

Ancient iconography depicts him with black skin and sub-Saharan features. For example, on his most famous statue, currently lodged at the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo, Mentuhotep is painted with dark-skin and sculpted with “negroid” features.

Many scholars have tried at length to dismiss the statue’s “racial” connotations by alleging that the skin color is merely “symbolic.” Yet other, lesser-known statues, such as the one on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, present the ruler with distinctly Black African features.

Moreover, paintings of the Pharaoh’s favorite wife and one of his daughters defy the ancient Egyptian convention of painting the civilization’s women with light skin. The Queen and Princess are portrayed with unabashedly black skin and with what appear to be short Afros. The women are also shown to be attended upon by yellow-skinned female servants with straight hair.

As a result, some scholars have gone so far as to conclude that Mentuhotep II was Nubian (i.e. Sudanese) in origin. That may very well have been the case. Or he could have simply been an Egyptian who happened to be Black. Regardless, Mentuhotep II’s reign suggests that Black Africans held the reins of power in Egypt at least two-thousand years earlier than many scholars would like us to believe.

Peter Frederick Flegel

Sporting the Spring Look

Sporting the Spring Look

dynamicafrica:

This past weekend the small town of KwaDukuza, in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, was set abuzz as a young couple said “I do” in what has been marked as the area’s ‘First Traditional African Gay Wedding’, taking place between a Zulu and Setswana man.

Both men’s families were actively involved in the ceremony, and the couple plans on having a ‘white wedding’ later this year.

(via emmetttrill)