Robert Bauval Tries to Save Egypt from Itself with New Book Making It the Center of Global Spirituality
Robert Bauval was born in Alexandria, Egypt, but he is not a descendant of the ancient Egyptians, or modern Egyptians. Instead, his parents were Belgian and Maltese; yet Bauval feels a very deep connection to the land of Egypt, married to the European expatriate’s desire to tell the natives that they are doing their own culture wrong. To that end, Bauval has produced a new book that is apparently being released in October from Inner Traditions, a fringe publisher. The new book is called The Soul of Ancient Egypt: Restoring the Spiritual Engine of the World, written with Ahmed Osman, an elderly Egyptian author who believes Christianity was invented in Egypt and that Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were members of the family of Akhenaten (Moses), with King Tut as Jesus. Their new book is an interpretation of the mystical and spiritual force that Bauval feels animates the ancient land. He released the first chapter to Graham Hancock’s website as a promotion for the book.
Osman and Bauval seem to have come together in the belief that Middle Eastern cultures and religions are corrupted from a primal, pure Egyptian culture that is separate from the modern Egypt they both dislike. (Osman is a Muslim.) They are also united in their belief that mainstream Egyptologists refuse to accept their revisionist histories because they stand to lose money and power if paradigms were to shift. “Egyptologists have established their careers on their interpretations,” Osman said.
This chapter offers some of the same claims Bauval previously made in Black Genesis, and they show that he continues to see Egyptian history from an Afrocentrist perspective, with the upshot that attributing ancient Egypt to Black Africans allows him to discount a direct connection between Arab Egyptians and ancient Egyptians, and between ancient glories and modern realities. The material is so similar to Bauval’s other recent work that it seems to have very little contribution from Osman, though the exact contribution of each I could not say.
To divorce modern Egypt from the ancient, the authors begin by taking issue with the very name of Egypt. Our word for Egypt comes from the Latin Aegyptus, from the Greek Aigyptos. This, in turn, comes from the Egyptian word Hikuptah (the Temple of Ptah), a name of Memphis known internationally as far back as the Bronze Age, according to Hittite and Babylonian records and documented in the Amarna letters (c. 1350 BCE). The Greeks took the name of the capital for the country. Bauval and Osman, however, incorrectly state that the name was invented by the Greeks in the 300s CE, an impossibility since the word appears in Greek texts going back to Linear B, where the word appears as ai-ku-pi-ti-jo. As you can guess, the fact that the name for Egypt comes a title used in the Bronze Age and is found in Mycenaean texts (before 1200 CE) strongly suggests an origin point for Greek contact with Egypt—but for Bauval and Osman this interesting set of interlocking evidence isn’t important—indeed they give a minority view of the etymology of Egypt as coming from Gebtu via Koptos, the name of the Copts. The Copts actually take their name from the Greek, not the other way around, derived from the Arabic adaptation of the Greek name for Egypt to describe the pre-conquest Greco-Egyptians. I know this very well because I had to research the origins of the various names in order to translate them when I translated the Akhbār al-zamān this summer.
Instead, Bauval (I assume, based on previous work that the idea comes from him) is interested in changing the etymology of the ancient name of Egypt. He begins by noting that Egypt’s native name was likely Kemet, which scholars identify as meaning the “Black Land.” Most believe that this refers to the rick, black soil fertilized by the Nile, but Bauval and Osman disagree, arguing that
…the name Kemet stems from the inhabitants themselves or, to be more precise, the color of their skin. It is highly likely that the original inhabitants of Egypt were dark or black-skinned Africans; a fact that can be ascertained even today by the dark-skinned Nubian people who live in the southern part of the country. […] The name, therefore, would then read “Land of the Black-skinned” or simple “Black Country”. […] We are not suggesting, of course, that Egypt should now be called Kemet (although there are some who advocate that it should). What we do think, however, is that it important to highlight this original name so that modern Egyptians be reminded of their true ancestral origins and, more importantly, how perhaps its soul came to be.
Remember, Egyptians: You’re doing your culture wrong! You need to be reminded that you aren’t really tied to the Middle East, with whom you’ve shared cultural traits for 5,000 years, but to sub-Saharan Africa, a wild, free, and pure land.
Bauval and Osman then take issue with defining Egypt as an “Arab” country, saying that this can only apply after the Arab invasion of 642 CE. Well, yes, but before that it was a Greek-occupied country, so what is their point? Their point seems to be to delegitimize some of the cultural layers that make up modern Egypt in order to promote their preferred cultural layers as the true or essential Egypt. This layer of “true” Egypt they make very clear by emphasizing several more times before the end of the chapter that the truest characteristic of the real, glorious, and grand Egypt of the pyramids and the Mysteries is that it is “black-skinned.” They call these “black-skinned” Egyptians the “Star People” and claim that their contributions in astrology, megalithic architecture, and animal husbandry created “the most enlightened and creative civilization the world has known.” (This material previously appeared in Black Genesis.)
This puts Bauval and Osman at odds with Andrew Collins, who attributes all of these same boons to a decidedly white ancient nomadic culture, the Watchers, who came from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus Mountains. However, it follows from the work of Osman, who in previous books has argued for an original an primal Egyptian monotheism, represented by Akhenaten, but older than him, that informed Abrahamic faiths. In other words, the argument serves to rescue Egypt from its troubles by removing it from the cultural milieu that has led to so many political problems.
At the beginning of this piece, I mentioned that Bauval and Osman seem to be united in believing that the modern Middle East and its religions and corruption and strife are all fallen, failed versions of a pure Egypt located in the distant past and isolated from the current people who occupy the land. I want to point out before closing that the book makes very clear that the authors want to subsume all of history under the primal and pure Egypt. A précis prefacing the promotional chapter notes that the authors plan to connect this lost Egypt to the Western mystery tradition, and that they plan to offer “a revised portrait of the life of Muhammad, revealing his connections to the Jewish and Christian traditions”—traditions they trace to Egypt.
In this, Bauval and Osman are reviving an old claim that Egypt is the font of culture, one that was popular in the late 1700s (when Europeans believed Egypt to be the oldest culture in the world), but which can be found still earlier in the Egypt-centric propagandistic histories of the country produced by medieval writers, including the Akhbār al-zamān and the Prodigies of Egypt of Murtadā ibn al-‘Afīf. Such works placed Egypt at the center of history, and made their mysteries and wonders the wellspring of the cultures that would eventually give rise to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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