The author of the book goes on to extol the virtues of ancient Egypt, and expresses sentiments that were not based on fact but on what should have been true, at least from a western perspective: "The blue-blooded Egyptians, according to the latest theory, are of Asiatic, not African origin; are members of the Caucasian, not of the Ethiopian race." The author goes on to state that the shape of the skulls of the mummies also indicates a Caucasian origin, and that the dark skins of the ancient Egyptians was the result of an outdoor life style. The language, again according to the author, has "some affinity with Aryan tongues" but the author does also admit that there is also more affinity with Semetic languages (pp. 182-183). While it would be too much to go into the intricacies of the diffusion of languages, the family known as "Aryan" and now usually known as "Indo-European" has no affinity with ancient Egyptian.(3) Indeed, the main point here is that Egypt was such an advanced civilization there would be little difficulty in assuming (or perhaps asserting) that it was European. While this might be flattering for Europe, it was not borne out by facts even in 1890. Sadly, such mis-information may also be encountered today.
|Figure 2 (from p. 202). Many of the illustrations in the book The Story of Man are of ancient Egyptians as viewed though a western lens. This images shows more Victorian era sentiment than interest in historical accuracy. The lure of the exotic was a major interest to general readers. The prostrate figure in the foreground appears to be in a position of prayer that would not be out of place in a Mosque. The inspiration for the position of this figure is clearly from modern and not ancient sources.|
The statement above requires careful consideration. The first issue is that there is a clear link between the Old Testament and ancient Egypt. There is particular emphasis placed here on the importance of a social hierarchy, which was an obsession with Victorian society. The note on a son smoking in front of his father is interesting. It is regarded as common politeness even today throughout the Near East and not just Egypt. It is notable that tobacco is a plant from America that would have been unknown to the ancient Egyptians. The text makes is if the author appreciated this fact. It is quite difficult to appreciate an ancient society the way it was without imposing one's own viewpoint, particularly one around so basic an issue as smoking. Perhaps more significant still is that a Greek, Plato, is used to comment upon ancient Egypt. It is unclear how much Plato would really have understood of ancient Egyptian society, but it is clear that Plato is making an unfavorable comparison between Greek and Egyptian youth. This is a common technique used to point to the virtues of other societies in an effort to improve one's own. It is certain that the author of The Story of Man included this passage in an effort to suggest that such discipline was one of the reasons why ancient Egypt was such a successful civilization.
Not everything in the book consists of value loaded information. Indeed, there are many scenes of daily life that were designed to appeal to a broad audience. These do not follow ancient evidence but depict what would have been seen in Victorian era Egypt or what should have been seen at that time, according to western viewers.
|<<< Figure 3 (from p. 209). From the caption it is unclear if this is a
scene from ancient or modern (Victorian) Egypt. The style of dress and
the hair style of the child indicate that it is closer to the latter.
Figure 4 (from p. 218). This scene is like nothing one would expect from ancient or modern Egypt. Can one imagine carrying a load of cats in one's arms - much less being in the desert - without a shirt? >>>
|Figure 5 (from p. 222) "Catacombs in the Temple at Karnak." It is somewhat strange that the hall is not depicted, but the particulars of this fanciful illustration leave little doubt that it is supposed to represent the Karnak complex of temples. As an aside, in no area are there sarcophagi and other portable objects still to be found in the open. The drawing draws upon a large amount of fanciful reconstruction.|
|Figure 6 (from p. 224). It is uncertain exactly what this illustration is supposed to represent. There are several smaller sanctuaries located outside the main walls of the four main parts of the complex that are accessed via avenues lined with ram headed sphinxes (such as to the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amon-Re, and the Luxor Temple). The sphinxes are of course on a raised platform and spaced apart. They look only superficially like the depictions here.|