Skip to content

THE BRITISH ETHNOLOGIST JAMES COWLES PRICHARD ON THE COPTS

August 17, 2012

__________

We maintain that the Copts are the undoubted direct descendants of the Ancient Egyptians, and, collectively, the purest and nearest representation of them.

__________

James Cowles Prichard (1786 – 1848) was a British ethnologist and physician.  His influence on ethnology and anthropology is significant. The most influential work of his in this field is Researches into the Physical History of Mankind which was published on stages, coming to completion in its 3rd edition in 1836 – 1847, when it occupied five volumes.[1]

In the second volume of the 3rd edition of his book, Prichard talked about the Egyptians and the Copts. The relevant chapters and sections in his book are:

Chapter X: History of Ancient Egyptians – inquiry into their relations to other races of men (pp. 192 – 226).

This chapter is composed on six sections, with the following been on the Egyptian (Coptic) language:

Section IV: History of the Egyptian language and its dialects (pp. 200 – 207).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/200/mode/2up

Section V: Comparison of the Egyptian language with other idioms (pp. 207 – 217).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/206/mode/2up

Chapter XI: On the physical history of the Egyptian race (pp. 227 – 239).

Section I: General remarks on the physical characters of the Egyptians (pp. 227 – 228).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/226/mode/2up

Section II: Descriptions of the Egyptians, left by ancient writers (pp. 228 – 232).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/228/mode/2up

Section III: Of mummies (pp. 232 – 235).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/232/mode/2up

Section IV: Remains of painting and sculpture (pp. 235 – 237).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/234/mode/2up

Section V: Of the Copts (pp. 237 – 239).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/236/mode/2up

Section VI: Of the Ethiopians (pp. 239 – 249).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/238/mode/2up

Section VII: On some particularities in the teeth, and in the position of the meatus auditorius, in Egyptian heads (pp. 249 – 251).

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/248/mode/2up

This is an old book, and much in it has been found to be outdated. However, much is still relevant, accepted, and cannot be ignored. I am, particularly, interested in Prichard’s Section V of Chapter XI, which he titles “Of the Copts”. The subject of the Copts’ ethnology, their physiognomy, and their relationship with the ancient Egyptians has always drawn attention, and has been discussed by several researchers and western travellers for many long centuries, but particularly from the 18th century. While the topic may be sensitive, especially in relation to the Masalima of the Copts (i.e. the converted Copts to Islam, mainly in the 14th century and beyond مَسَالِمَةُ الأقْبَاط)[2] who feel they share us in the lineage of the great ancient Egyptians, and which we don’t dispute, we cannot abandon our right to take pride in being descendants of that great race, mongrel as it was, and mongrel as we are. As Prichard says, “The Copts are believed, on apparently sufficient grounds, to be the representatives and nearly genuine descendants of the old Egyptians, whose physical characteristics they may be supposed to have inherited.” With Prichard, and without denying any true Egyptian his or her claim to ancient Egypt, I maintain that the Copts are the undoubted direct descendants of the Ancient Egyptians, and, collectively, the purest and nearest representation of them.

I will reproduce here the section that deals with the Copts, with the intention of engendering debate and serving as basis for future articles:

Prichard mentions in p. 238, when he talks about Baron Larrey’s views, “I have already cited Baron Larrey’s description of the Copts”. This the reader will find in the same volume (v. II) under Section III of Chapter VI. The Section is titled “On the physical characters of the Abyssinian races”, pp. 136 – 143. Baron larrey is, of course, Dominique Jean Larrey (1766 – 1842) the famous surgeon in the French army who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt. The reader can find the passages to which Prichard refer in pp. 137 – 138 in the link to the section below:

http://archive.org/stream/researchesintoph02pric#page/136/mode/2up


[1] He first wrote on the subject of the origin of human varieties and races in 1808 in his doctoral thesis at Edinburgh. In 1813, he published Researches into the Physical History of Man, in 2 volumes, which was based on his thesis. In 1836-1847 he published the 3rd edition in five volumes under the title Researches into the Physical History of Mankind. A fourth edition was later published again in five volumes.

[2] Egyptian Muslims are derived from those who were once Christian Copts and converted to Islam mainly under duress, and particularly in the 14th century, and who are called

Advertisements
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Phillip Assaad permalink
    August 18, 2012 12:08 am

    You heard about the crucifixion of the Copts in Egypt?

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink
      August 18, 2012 12:14 am

      No. What is happening?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: