Woke Egyptology

A recent article in The Daily Wire noted that a UCLA professor who is a “self-described ‘Egyptologist’”  stated in a book she authored that Kyle Rittenhouse had shot two black men. The “self-described ‘Egyptologist’” designation led me to believe the author was probably a professor in some field like Gender Studies who felt like dabbling in Egyptology but was actually a crackpot in that field; real Egyptology demands an academic rigor that would never allow someone in that field to make such a stupid statement, and in a publication no less. I know whereof I speak because my intellectual curiosity led me on a foray into the world of real Egyptology.

I have a long-standing interest in ancient mathematics that led me to peruse a work called the Demotic Mathematical Papyri edited by the late, great Brown University Egyptologist Richard Parker. (The word demotic, by the way, refers to a later stage of the ancient Egyptian language.)  In one of the papyri, a particular word had the meaning of circumference, while in another it had the meaning of diameter, Parker attributing this discrepancy to scribal error. But I had been learning Middle Egyptian, an earlier stage of the language, and I came across a related word in the Middle Egyptian vocabulary that was used in one compound form to describe the oceanic band surrounding the earth disk (there’s your circumference) and in another compound form to describe the transit of the sun across the earth disk from horizon to horizon (there’s your diameter). I also referenced the depiction of both of these ancient cosmological assumptions in a particular work of Egyptian art.

I wrote up my findings in a short article that I submitted to a top-notch, peer-reviewed Egyptology journal, and it was green-lighted a couple of weeks after it was received; typical submissions often take months to evaluate. Quite some time after the article appeared in print, I found out that the University of Chicago was publishing online, volume by volume, the Chicago Demotic Dictionary; moreover, the volume that should contain an entry for the word I had researched was one of the completed volumes. I could now look up the word and compare notes with scholars whose works were sure to be cited as references in the listing. Hot diggity, was I ever excited! Well, I looked up the word (p. 193 of the aforementioned volume), and there was but a single article cited as a reference in the listing—and guess whose article that was?

Back on point with our “Egyptologist,” one Kara Cooney. She turns out to be a real Egyptologist with a Ph.D. in Egyptian Art and Archaeology from Johns Hopkins University, and she is the chair of UCLA’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Her book, published by National Geographic, is The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World, the offending paragraph appearing on p. 341:

Or consider 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who used his semi-automatic weapon to kill two Black men in Kenosha, Wisconsin, while waging a glorious race war on behalf of his inherited White power. That’s not to mention the White people who rallied behind him to post his bail. Fear has gripped the patriarchy, and the threat of righteous violence—or the lethal use of it—is the patriarchy’s response.

What a steaming pile! When wokeness attacks the brain, academic rigor goes right out the window.

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