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The Story of Man: A History of the Human Race,  J.W. Buel, Historical Publishing Co. Philadelphia, 1890

This book is heavily illustrated and presents the entire history of the human race from the Stone Age through the modern period, at least for "wild races of modern times."  It was clearly intended to be sensational and is quite clearly for a general audience.  The chapter that deals with Egypt makes it clear how important this civilization was and continues to be:
"Always, to imaginative minds, Egypt has been and must ever continue to be, the most attractive of all the countries of the earth.  The source of its fascination is a less profound mystery than the sources of its own mysterious river, the Nile.  For, the antiquity of Egypt, the marvellous originality of its population, the vagaries of its seasons, its desert environment, are sufficient of themselves to create the glamour that surrounds one's thoughts at the mention of Egypt's name" (p. 181).

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.


Illustration from Story of Man 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 book also contains a moral message, though it is perhaps less obvious than in Rambles in Bible Lands:
"Children were brought up among the Egyptians, as among the Jews of the Old Testament, to show the most marked deference to their parents, and to treat them with many outward signs and ceremonies indicative of the highest respect.  Even to this day, in Egypt, it is considered eminently improper for a son to sit down in the presence of his father without express permission, much less would he even dream of smoking in his company. "In the education of youth," says Plato, "the Egyptians were particularly strict; they knew that children ought early to become accustomed to such gestures, looks and motion as are decent and proper; and not to be suffered to hear any other poetry than that which is calculated to inspire them with virtue; and they consequently took care that every dance and ode  introduced at their feasts and sacrifices should be subject to certain regulations" (pp. 201-202).

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.


Illustration from Story of Man <<< 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?  >>>
Illustration from book

Victorian tourists would have been very familiar with the temples at Karnak which are now the second most visited ancient Egyptian site after the pyramids. There is a sound and light show there today. Karnak is located near the ancient city of Thebes.  The temples are located some 2.5 km north of Luxor.  The site consists of four main parts, with only one currently open to the public.  The main complex was devoted to the worship of Amon. The complex of temples is the largest temple complex built by man, covering some 100 ha (247 acres).  It was built and re-built many times over a 1300 year period. The hypostyle hall is considered to be one of the greatest architectural achievements of antiquity still surviving.  It was begun under Ramesses I (reigned 1292-1290 BC), the founder of the 19th dynasty, and work continued under Seti I (1306-1290 BC) and was completed by Ramesses II.  Most of the hall would have originally been in shadows, with shafts of light from small windows piecing the gloom.  Yet on a hot day it is shade that would be most highly prized in ancient as well as modern Egypt.
Catacombs ithe the Temple at Karnak 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. sphinxes

(3) Mallory, J.P. (1991).  In Search of the Indo-Europeans, Language, Archaeology, and Myth.  Thames and Hudson: London.

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