this is very interesting and I have never thought about it in this way. One could really think of it as equipment, serving a real purpose (or having served and now makes a nice peace of a wall somewhere else).
I wonder what the acient egyptions would think of our appreciation of their statues?
Historically/etymologically, art means "skilled work" or just "stuff made by people" (as in artifact). The word/concept seems to have evolved gradually to its current meaning with all its complex connotations of beauty, metaphorical depth and existing for its own sake.
Even early modern and Renaissance art was probably seen differently to how we see it. A lot of the best statues and paintings had religious purposes, kind of like Egyptians.
I think it's worth distinguishing religious works from religious tools.
As I understand it, religious works were generally made to glorify God in a cultural sense - mostly as commissioned works to make churches and cathedrals more impressive. That's substantially different than pieces with intrinsic religious significance, whether as a literal idol, a vessel for a soul, or an offering to a divinity. For instance, a relief of a Pharaoh might be considered significant while placed in a sealed tomb, even worth opening the tomb to deface, but a pietà shut up in a basement is largely irrelevant.
It's an interesting point, though, because the distinction can definitely get fuzzy. The Stations of the Cross can be performed by simply carrying a blessed cross, but it's hard to deny that the construction of actual stations is the creation of an artistic religious tool. (And of course, an archaeologist would find the stations, but not necessarily have a way to know about the practice without implements.) Rosaries and reliquaries are clearly functional art, and even devotional paintings become ambiguous when literacy and ownership of a Bible aren't standard.
I think there's still a worthwhile distinction here between artistic/instructional and instrumental works, but I'm not sure it would hold across faiths or larger time spans.
MP3 direct: https://hopwag.podbean.com/mf/play/h7m3vi/HoP_303_-_Don_t_Pi...
I've been thinking of our recent technological fetish for digital identity and identifiers as something of a modern cult of idolatry, grounded in many of the same aims, and subject to similar failures: digital IDs are representations through which we interact with the represented, but problems arise when we mistake the icon or idol with the archetype or ideal.
> Even early modern and Renaissance art was probably seen differently to how we see it. A lot of the best statues and paintings had religious purposes, kind of like Egyptians.
Nearly everything artists in the past produced was commissioned work, the dutch old-masters are no different and I would be suprised if the appreciation for arts emerged out of nowhere, it was (as nearly everything is) a gradual process. I am a bit suprised by my lack of knowledge how art evolved as a concept, so I can't really argue much here.
I didn't mean to imply renaissance people had no concept of art, just that the concept (not just word) was likely somewhat different to ours, which has evolved since.
The other connotations assigned to art are just the ways that the wealthy think of themselves.
> ...he face of the Sphinx was vandalized in 1378 A.D. by Mohammed Sa'im al-Dahr, a "fanatical sufi of the oldest and most highly respected sufi convent of Cairo." 
There probably are a lot of examples in the North (they are now part of some "secular" Mosque complex), but it's very apparent in some of the Hoysala temples that were partially/fully destroyed (esp. Halebidu), and in Vijayanagara. It's really quite sad. Then again, I suppose this adequately reflects India's state as a civilization... so SNAFU.
I find that interesting because when I was in Turkey it was common to see the ancient depictions of Jesus Christ on church walls with the eyes scratched off. The explanation given by the locals was the same as what you state for the statues in India.
Technically, it's not the same language, culture, etc. The living culture has changed considerably over the centuries both organically and via outside influences, including Islam.
The surprising thing about India is that it has kept around so much of the really ancient stuff while also adding a huge amount of new stuff along the way. Cultural hoarding, if you will.
It's like the cultural change process is sedimentary, with previous layers being preserved below, while the newer layers get added above, giving a kind of continuity, whereas in other parts of the world, it has often tended to be a more volcanic process, with the destruction of what preceded.
Also, Indian culture long ago accepted what to Western thinking seems like a contradiction of polytheistic icon based religious worship and the belief in a more abstract deity, or even atheism.
In the West, this resulted in the complete disposal of the previous pantheons, but in India, it was rationalized through a "many perspectives" lens where all the viewpoints could be accommodated.
That said, in the same households, people can still be very superstitious, because practically, sometimes being that way helps you explain otherwise difficult things that happen in life.
There are great lessons in both, what they got right and what they got wrong.
But even in the case of Buddhism, one outcome of the repression of Buddhism was the coopting of large parts of it, at least the parts that didn't threaten the Hindu social structure. Whether or not it is widely known today, Buddhism had a major reformatory impact on what we call Hinduism today.
I tried looking it up but couldn't find anything to support that this was true. But this was 2003 so information on the web wasn't as plentiful or easy to find.
A simpler explanation is, as you say, that they are just more easily broken.
I guess it's possible that lesser works were simply defaced instead of being altered, but given how much hand-wringing was devoted to altering statues, it's the sort of practice I'd expect to be well-documented, and I've never seen any evidence to that effect. I'd guess you're right: it's yet another case of Brown grabbing a random pattern and inserting meaning for it.
On a tangent topic, if you have ever wondered why greek statues have so small penises : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8h8vvF7SDk
In the article, they link to the MOMA exhibit captioned "Yuny and his wife" , which depicts a male with a smashed-off nose seated next to, presumably, his wife with her nose very much intact.
If robbers smashed the noses off of statues so their likenesses would not live in the afterlife to seek revenge, why would only one of the two people depicted in the same carving have their nose smashed off?
I don't know that I believe the article either mind you.
Women were considered property of their husbands. If the husband is dead the wife can’t do anything because she is masterless.
Furthermore there was no legal or formal concept of marriage in an official sense. Two people were married when they moved in and lived together and declared it, and divorced when one of them left and they divided their property. As a result, women could unilaterally divorce their husband. The state had no role in it.
Like other ancient Greeks, Herodotus was scandalised: "They Egyptians, in their manners and customs, seem to have reversed the ordinary practices of mankind. For instance, women attend market and are employed in trade, while men stay at home and do the weaving."
On the other hand, the grave robbers in later eras may not have belonged to that culture, but might still have been superstitious about ancient Egyptian curses. I don't believe the theory, but it's difficult to disprove.
Undowned for the edit, very gracious of you.
It's also odd they mention removing the left arm has significance, but show pictures of statues with the right arms removed...
My guess is it is related to some common speech, like a saying, or a gesture of some sort. Like flicking of the nose is a 'fuck you', and so people chop off the noses of things to insult or show objection to the subject. But, like the article, just a guess.
> In statues intended to show human beings making offerings to gods, the left arm—most commonly used to make offerings—is cut off so the statue’s function can’t be performed (the right hand is often found axed in statues receiving offerings).
So they do actually mention the right arm as well.
In addition, would you please stop posting uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments? You've done it repeatedly, and eventually we ban accounts for that too.
Statues (and sculpture generally) still have power and not always in a good way.
I wish Hacker News had a way to flag this post funny.
(Parent is a Stargate reference)
Statues in general.
First guess, face hit during civil unrest.
Roman coins defaced: https://www.coinsweekly.com/en/Defacing-the-past-damnation-a...
Teotihuacan icons demolished and destroyed by fire: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/sep/24/teotihu...
Your comment is popular because you are fighting a "easy-to-hate" minority that is only relevant because you made it so.
You make fun of a kind of HN commenter that you find typical. But if your comment is the most popular (#1 now), and assuming that people are upvoting you because they agree that it is indeed typicial, it means that this type of commenter is not typical at all. It is an outlier, properly undervoted by the real typical commenter.
So your comment being upvoted disproves itself. Quite a paradox (or just irony?).
So maybe the flaw is to over generalize the gist of the thread early in its history.
I don't know if this is true in this case, but I've seen it happen in the past. In some ways what you'd really like is a feature to go "back in time" in the comment thread and see how it developed, otherwise it can be difficult to appreciate coming in later.
Maybe other voters have already noticed the paradox, and taken appropriate action!
I'm reminded of this quote:
"To witness is to ignore as little as possible. Because a
judgment so often impairs the ability to notice what
doesn’t conform with it, the witness chooses for the time
being to keep judgment at a distance."
Don't do this
The internet is different of course, but if you're painting people with a broad brush based upon internet interactions, there are bigger problems than "smart" professionals saying dumb things.
Or, to be honest, computer-related.
As the theory goes, in order to make the statues seem like high art, it was necessary to make the culture seem more like the ancient Greeks and Romans. Removing their noses made it so the viewer could more easily read the statues as "like us," rather than the "primitive" countries of black people that Europe was busy exploiting.
Look the statue in the article with an intact nose, and also the statues of the seated pharoahs at Abu Simbel. To my eyes, they just look a lot like egyptian people today, stylized for artistic purposes.
Looking at the sources for that wiki article, this appears to be one of the largest and most recent DNA studies on ancient Egyptian remains: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15694.
Edit: To stay on topic, my textbook in a two semester art history survey ("Janson's") said that the defacement of Egyptian statues was due to religious iconoclasm without further specifics. I'm going to accept this as the mainstream academic consensus in the early 21st century. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this matches the general thesis of the parent article.
I think this says the exact opposite of what you want it to say. The fact that they survived, may be that they were sufficiently non-"black" looking to leave them alone. Phenotypes come in ranges especially for black people, so a "black" nose is anything from the nose of a random Scandinavian to that of a Sudanese persons.
Anyways, the theory would be easily tested by finding examples of statues with the supposedly unacceptable noses that survive today, and see if they can be correlated with the ones Europeans took.
The other thing that doesn't make sense about the theory is that if the Europeans actually respected the Ancient Egyptian culture enough to want the statues, why would they deliberately damage the presumably very valuable artifacts?
It would would be like someone buying a Van Gogh painting only to destroy it.
Whether or not the noses were intentionally destroyed or not it is most parsimonious to believe that the indigenous people of Egypt were African people. Thinking they werent would be like looking at the population of The United States today and believing the Native Americans were white (and if we didn’t have photographic evidence of the natives we can be sure that would have been suggested, and if anyone suggested otherwise they would have been met with “what a crackpot theory!”).
In either case, the Europeans revered ancient Egypt for sure. But this is only because of their mention in the Bible and their interaction with the Ancient Greeks. But when Western Europeans got there, the people who lived in Egypt looked more like them than Africans. But this is only because of the displacement of the indigenous population serval centuries earlier.
Of course, Egypt is part of the African continent. But I suspect that what you mean by African here is a set of physical phenotypical features that we sometimes pin on that term today.
There no evidence to suggest that was the only phenotype in ancient Egypt. If anything, artifacts seem to suggest that the population was multiethnic, comprised of a variety of phenotypes. That shouldn't be surprising - it was the central metropolis and power of the ancient western world, like NYC or London today, so it attracted people from everywhere.
> But this is only because of the displacement of the indigenous population serval centuries earlier.
As referenced in another comment, recent genetic analysis of ancient egyptian remains have disproved this, and demonstrated that they weren't so different from other modern middle eastern populations, and were also related to sub-saharan populations.
I wonder why?
A few things that this theory falls utterly short on:
- Reliefs that were never exported or even found by colonists are often defaced.
- Pharaonic texts specifically reference the practice of defacement and treat it as an act distinct from general vandalism or theft.
- Works show other systematic damage unrelated to racial issues (from the article, statues receiving offerings had their right hands removed, and those providing them had their left hands removed).
- Single reliefs show noses removed on some figures but not others, even when the preserved noses look substantially non-European (e.g. the article's last photo).
- Defacements aren't random, or tied to ethnicity; instead, politically inconvenient rulers like Hatshepsut are overwhelmingly erased while others (even close family members) are not.
- Where text accompanies figures, the names of the defaced figures are also defaced. Which requires knowledge of Ancient Egyptian, a motive to target specific historical figures, and a concern with matters unrelated to appearance.
- Weathering on in situ works commonly suggests noses were removed much closer to their creation than to the 1800s. (This is less clear for works brought to Europe, but that opens the question of simple fragility.)
All of that is above and beyond questions of evidence for the practice, or historical context that Egyptian statues with black features were actually convenient for some racist theories like Samuel Weston's. There's basically no racist practice colonists wouldn't have been willing to engage in, certainly. But advancing specific claims that are inconsistent with huge amounts of evidence is rightly considered a fringe belief.
If you can do that, you can’t put anything past that person/culture.
That said, I don't really buy into the theory being presented here. I would need to see some documentary evidence supporting it first, such as a common cultural association at the time of "broad noses" with "Africans" or an attempt to portray ancient Egypt as a Caucasian society. People knew where Egypt was. The pyramids, temples and other signs of civilization were still there. Knocking the noses off of the statues wouldn't hide anything.
Also, I never said anything about white people. I was talking specifically about the Western Europeans who put people in Zoos.
I think your comment perfectly illustrates the lengths people will go to and the ways in which they will contort their minds in order to uphold an strange idea that is dear to their hearts, however...
Ironic that I was pointing out that you're doing exactly this.
>Putting people in Zoos is a good thing? It dehumanizes Europeans to say that it is sick to put people in Zoos?
Are you even going to attempt to argue in good faith?
>Also, I never said anything about white people.
Of course you didn't! Then your racism would be overt. But your anti European narrative is an increasingly common one that has infested academia and is creeping into industry.
Edit: it looks like you've been using HN primarily for ideological and political battle. We ban accounts that do that, so please stop doing that too.
The Africans they encountered had virtually no technology and no government, and looked like different creatures. It wasn't something that required rationalization. There's far less malice in this than you'd like to see.
As far as I am aware, there is no credible evidence that Egyptians strongly represented south African phenotypes or had the same shade of skin. It is a modern internet meme. Lay off the propaganda.
If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.
These are your words. These are your thoughts.
He said those words. Word by word. Word. By Word.
The known world to you consists of various tribes of humans who all share rather similar physical phenotypes (white skin, soft, slightly curly to straight hair, similar facial features), with reasonably similar technology (metalworking, beasts of burden, farming, government of some sort, written language, the wheel) and suddenly you discover a group of beings with none of these things - no written language, no cultivated land, no domesticated animals, no wheel, no metalworking, and on top of all this, they look totally different from anyone you've ever seen.
It did not take evilness or malice of any kind on the part of medieval Europeans to reason that these beings, if they were human, were less human than they were. Morality is cultural and relative, you cannot demonize historic cultures through your enlightened lense.
So no, these are more than just "my words," this is a rational sentiment for a medieval European in the historic context. Globalization is a modern phenomenon. Why do you think there was incentive to put these people in zoos?
The problem with this is that it is 100% incorrect. After 1492 (and to a lesser extent before then), Western Europeans were fully aware of African Civilization, particularly those in West Africa.. They traded with them. They wrote correspondences to them, see: "Letters to the King of Portugal" . Africans obviously farmed, starting between the years 8000 and 6000 BCE , the metalworking of West Africans is and was well known . During the Iron Age "A profitable trade had developed by which West Africans exported gold, cotton cloth, metal ornaments, and leather goods north across the trans-Saharan trade routes, in exchange for copper, horses, salt, textiles, and beads. Later, ivory, slaves, and kola nuts were also traded" . They had governments obviously (see reference ). They had the wheel "Nubians from after about 400 BCE used wheels for spinning pottery and as water wheels. It is thought that Nubian waterwheels may have been ox-driven" . Heck, even the largest university of the middle ages (12th century) was located in Mali, in West Africa, and it wasn't even something that was unknown to Europeans  & . I could go on and on.
So all of what you are saying is based totally off of what _you_ think and not any facts, or even what Europeans that encountered Africans thought. What you are saying is entirely based off of your lack of knowledge of African and apparently even European history.
The inferiority idea developed later, specifically in America as a rationalization of the slave trade. It was literally something that was made up to justify what they were doing.
--edited for clarity
Egyptians back then could literally hear commands from statues as representations of the gods. Maybe breaking off the noses muted the voices (not sure why noses and not mouths). Warring factions might have wanted to mute opposing gods and install their own.
EDIT: I didn’t see your colon, I thought it was a period which made it sound like you were making the claim yourself, and I was eager to get resources other than his theory, only to hear his theory again lol.