Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hazards of recreating ancient Egyptian faces

National Geographic (Chris Sloan)

Thanks again to David Petersen for this link. This page looks at the difficulties and controversies of trying to recreate the faces of the ancient Egyptian kings.

I’ll never forget attending opening night of the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles in June 2005. As I approached the exhibit entrance with Elisabeth Daynes, the French sculptor who created a likeness of King Tut for the cover of National Geographic magazine, we passed a patch of animated demonstrators whose placards read “King Tut’s Back and He’s Still Black.” A few steps further I was informed by other National Geographic staff attending the event that Dayne’s sculpture, which she had traveled from Paris to see on display, was out of the show.

I was disappointed, but not surprised. Every time the magazine’s art department attempted to depict ancient Egyptians, we received letters complaining about their appearance. This was despite every effort of talented artists and hard-working researchers to be accurate and fair. For the King Tut reconstruction we went to the extreme of commissioning a second model by a team that was not informed of the identity of the skull cast we provided. . . .

Our story about ancient Egypt’s 25th dynasty in the February issue of National Geographic provides an opportunity to look again at questions about the appearance of ancient Egyptians and whether Egypt’s, ergo Africa’s, contribution to civilization has been ignored. If you’d like to comment on our story or this topic, here’s the place.

Before you respond on the skin color issue, I recommend that you review how scientists currently view race at

See the above page for the full story.

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