I’m not disputing the Egyptians weren’t white. But unless you can provide me with evidence that they were “pitched black”, then I’m gonna seriously question this post.
For example, this mummy portrait, although being highly Romanised, does not show a black man. It dates from AD100.
Or, you knnow, we have Nefertiti’s bust. She dates from the Amarna period, Dynasty 18, around the same time as Tutankhamun.
I’m not calling bullshit, I’m just calling this into question.
Also, Ancient Egypt was a mixed society, or did you never learn about The Libyan or Hyksos invasions?
In my grade ten History class we learned that in the North the people were significantly lighter colour than in the south. Making my believe those in the North were probably much more “Arab” looking while the south, since it was closer to Nubia looked like what we consider, “African”.
Also King Tut would’ve had lighter dark skin as did the women in Egypt because they wouldn’t have been working outside in the sun, unlike peasants.
I don’t normally get involved in stuff like this but *cracks knuckles* lets do some research.
The gradient effect seems most likely and this can be proven by looking at the countries surrounding Egypt. I’ve focused mainly on the reign of Ramses II because he liked war and as such there is evidence and information of both north and south within one lifetime.
Point 1 The South
Tomb and temple paintings are, in my opinion, the one of the most reliable things we have. These are some of the ones from Beit el Wali, a temple Ramses II had built. It shows one of his battles against the Nubians, to the south.
First look, looks like the Nubians and egyptians are depicted of different colour skins but if you notice there are Nubians who are depicted in a different style but in both colours.
This of course could be due to lack of different paint colours and the need to highlight individual figures
But then why are more of the figures in the above painting honey coloured when there is no reason to have them stand out from each other. instead look at the clothes. Typically Numidians are depicted with animal skins and the egyptians with the shendyt (linen kilt). There is one woman there who has been painted in the darker tone but with the shendyt this assumes she is Egyptian. So we have at least some evidence that there were dark skinned Egyptian citizens and some lighter skinned Nubian citzens
So at this point, the evidence definitely points to a mixed race country that is darker in the south where the borders are changed through war.
Point 2 The North
The Hittite empire to the north/east often had contact and conflicts with the Egyptians.
The painting below shows Ramses II storming the Hittite fortress of Dapur.
(The Shades on the lower image can be disputed as the original fresco has lost all traces of the original paint)
However these figures from a later date (created during the reign of Ramses III) show the 5 countries Egypt had most contact/conflict with.
They have been identified as, two different Nubians (possibly different tribes), a Philistine, an Amorite, a Syrian and lastly a Hittite.
The Hittite’s (as well as the Amorite and Syrian) skin is shown as pale and as such would probably influence the skin tone to the north east of the Egyptian empire supporting the gradient effect suggested earlier.
As a side note the Philistine’s skin is coloured much the same as the Egyptians would colour them selves and their country was between the Hittites and Egyptian empires.
Point 3 Political relations and invasion
The practice of political marriage, invasion and other relations means also that there may have been Egyptian Royals that did not fit the ‘honey colour’ because they or (in the marriage case) their mothers did not come from Egypt originally but rather from one of the surrounding countries royal families.
Most likely they would have been depicted as honey coloured on the frescos because, like in the first point, Egyptians were portrayed with certain things like the Shendyt and the ruler of Egypt would have most likely been depicted with the height of Egyptian beauty on the wall due to status.
However there is the question of Royal family inbreeding (which I will not go indepth) to say that sisters and half sisters as well as cousins would often rise to the throne through marriage. This does not completely disregard the idea of odd skinned royals due to the presence of a Harem system in the palace.
TL;DR The Egyptian empire was mixed races, probably darker in the south and paler in the north and would have changed dark/light ratio over the years due to border disputes. The royal family would be an outlier on the data of the country due to marriages/breeding/invasion from surrounding countries.
Side note: Whenever I say light/ pale I am not talking about Scandinavian/European white but Turkish and Mediterranean skin tone.
I’m not sure about the Roman mummy portrait, though, since it’s, yeah, well, Roman and found in the Faiyum region - a region highly influenced by first Greek/Macedonian and later Roman people and culture from about 332 BCE and onwards. I mean, yes it sort of helps supporting the point that Egypt was a highly mixed society (a point on which I totally agree!!!), but I still don’t think it’s that relevant, when speaking about ancient Egypt and pharaohs, since it’s arguable how “Egyptian” the Faiyum region really was at the time around 100 AD …
But apart from that, I too believe that the ancient Egyptians were highly mixed and that the population of Upper Egypt would probably have differed a bit from that of Lower Egypt due to shifting borders and so on! :-)