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From: Black Athena

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THE PREVIOUS VOLUMES AND THEIR RECEPTION I n 1879 the pioneer anthropogist E. B. Tylor published his famous article comparing the Mexican game patolli with the Indian board game pachisi. He argued that the two were not independent inventions but the result of diffusion from one to the other.1 He based his case on the great number of similarities between the two games. As he wrote in a later article: “The probability of contact increases in ratio to the number of arbitrary similar elements in any two trait-complexes”2 [my italics]. Volume 3 of this project is based on this principle. It is concerned with language, different aspects of which are more or less arbitrary. Phonology is ultimately limited by the mouth and tongue. Therefore, to link two items convincingly they must share multiple phonetic similarities either within the word or in its context. Morphology , syntax and lexicon, however, are inherently arbitrary, though most languages have more onomatopoeia and phonesthemics than Ferdinand de Saussure supposed, when he declared the absolute distinction between signifier and signified. In any event, words are not fishhooks . Phonetic and semantic similarities between items in different languages should be taken much more seriously than similarities among fishing gear. Language is the most controversial aspect of the Black Athena project. INTRODUCTION Mixture is the ultimate engine of growth in society. (Laurence Angel, 1971) 2 BLACK ATHENA Many reviewers of the first two volumes have taken the position that the historiography was more or less all right, the archaeology was dubious and the language was crazy. This is a thoroughly liberal or broad-minded response: “on the one hand, on the other and in the middle. . . . ” After the publication of Volume 2, The Archaeological Evidence, the reaction to this aspect of the work became more nuanced. Reviewers generally disliked my “methodology” or rather of what they saw as my lack of method. On the other hand, there was a reluctance to challenge my conclusions especially those concerning the closeness of relations around the East Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, 3000–1000 BCE. The generally hostile anonymous reviewer in the archaeological journal Antiquityput his or her finger on this sense of unease: “Bernal has the alarming habit of being right for the wrong reasons.”3 It seems to me that if “being right” is not merely the result of a fluke but has become habitual then one should question why the conventional “reasons” could have led to the wrong conclusions. I believe that the answer is quite simple. Where I have merely aimed at “competitive plausibility ” conventional scholars in these fields have required “proof.” Specifically they have tended toward minimalism in both time and space. This tendency leads to an acceptance of the argument from silence. On questions of time they assume that a phenomenon was not present until shortly before it is first attested. Spatially, they have given the privileged position to isolation and required proof of contact between different cultures and societies. The ideological reasons for this latter requirement as it affected the East Mediterranean were considered at length in Volume 1 of Black Athena. Essentially, they were to preserve a pure, and purely European, image of Ancient Greece. During the past three decades the historiography of the ancient East Mediterranean has shifted significantly. In the first place, archaeologists have discovered increasing evidence of close contacts between Egypt and the Levant on the one hand and the Aegean on the other: an Egyptian statue base with place names from the Aegean; Egyptian and Levantine styles and representations on the wonderful frescoes uncovered under the volcanic deposits of Thera, which erupted in the seventeenth century BCE.4 Others include the Mesopotamian and Syrian seals found at the Greek Thebes; the astoundingly rich and cosmopolitan fourteenth-century shipwreck found off the South Turkish coast near Kas∫‘; the paintings with Egypto-Minoan motifs found at Tel Ed Daba’a, INTRODUCTION 3 the capital of the Hyksos, who were Syrian rulers of lower Egypt in the seventeenth century BCE. There are also the newly published pictures of Mycenaean Greeks found in Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptian representations . Lead isotope analysis indicates that some copper and silver found in fourteenth-century Egypt was mined at Laurion in Attica.5 Finally, there is a strong possibility that two Egyptian-style pyramids long known in the Argolid in the northeast of the Peloponnese should now be dated to the first half of the Third Millennium BCE, the pyramid age in Egypt. Previously they were...


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