Monday, March 24, 2008


10,000 BC

I was invited to go to the movies, and I saw this film. I don’t know if it was great, but I liked it because to me it was African history told in a very nice historical fiction format that seemed like fiction.

From what I could tell the movie seemed to start in the Uganda/Kenya/Tanzania region in the mountains. I was unsure why the people there seemed to be Asiatic, or, to use the old anthropological broad classifications for race, Mongoloid. Many of the actors in this Mongoloid tribe were Caucasoid in real life (the main characters). But they did a good job in making a lot of the tribe look Mongoloid. They were good at keeping everything pre-Iron and pre-Bronze; this was the Stone Age (maybe middle Stone Age). I did think I saw a metallic spear at one point in the movie belonging to a member of a Negroid tribe as the main character followed the Nile downstream. But then I didn’t see it again, so I thought I made a mistake. When the main character reached the end of the Nile, he made it to Egypt and they had a great mix of peoples there along with the rulers (10,000 BC is pre-unification so Egypt is in two kingdoms).

The film makers decided to show that the pyramids were built by slaves and mammoths (those pre-historic elephants). The building of the pyramids is a great mystery (I’ve even heard someone suggest that men (back then) were much taller, larger, and stronger which supposedly answers the question of how those structures could have been built).

The Sahara at this time became less dry and cooler and this incited people to push northward (as the main characters were doing for different reasons) and the North African peoples began to move and mingle southwards as the raiders were doing in the movie. (There was a 2nd “wet” phase for the dry Sahara we know today; it was green and full of life say around 5500 BC – 2500 BC). And I believe the filmmakers chose this date of 10,000 BC because this is when the last of Neanderthals had died off in the geological record and you only have hominids that are directly ancestral to man (evolutionarily). It’s also the end of an ice age.

So with a nicer Sahara, not only were African mingling but there were people moving in from different neighboring lands. People start burying their dead. The movie even showed some of the famous rock art from this time (rock art goes even further back as well).

So it’s interesting to watch some of this in the movie. There was a guy from a Negroid tribe in Eastern Africa. He seemed to understand everyone’s language as they traveled downstream to Egypt. I was surprised when they arrived in Egypt and he understood the Emperor’s language. Perhaps the Emperor (or his spokesperson) was speaking a language (a Berber language) that this guy understood. He was sharp. The other surprise was that pyramids were even built in 10,000 BC. I think that’s a mistake, but I could be wrong. If it is I’m sure the filmmakers knew it and did it on purpose to make the story better. I don’t think the Egyptian civilization was developed that far at 10,000 BC.

When I saw all the slaves used in building the pyramids in the movie, it reminded me that someone was telling me how she thought I thought that slavery and discrimination were equated. I don’t think they’re equated but it’s important to understand that they can be related. Racism (which this continent has seen its fair share) doesn’t need to be based in just pure racial dislike or disgust. It can have political or economical motivations and still be racism. Racism just means that some active power is used in discriminating based on race (borrowing from the philosopher who feels you cannot be racist if your people don’t have power). Prejudice doesn’t seem to require power. So, for instance, Hitler (I believe) never grew up with some deep seated dislike of Jewish people. He chose them as the perfect method/mode/scapegoat for his people to gather and rally around. They were an easy target for whom he had no care. But his motives were not racial. Yet it was a racist act. Moreover, it fueled racism. Similarly, this happened with the Jewish slaves in Egypt.

I was also told that because Africans were complicit in the slave trade themselves this might suggest that racism was not present. (Remember that before European influence there was slavery, but it probably is not appropriate to use the term slave trade until this was explosively propagated by Europeans; and much of slavery before this say 15th century, was indentured servitude) Before you sold your own family or tribe, you were trying to sell of competing or rival tribes. In other words, the slave trade fueled tribalism. Sometimes tribalism confuses Americans because we don’t realize it’s the similar to racism. It’s not exactly the same because it’s not based on skin color or there are necessarily linguistic differences (at most a different language, at the least a different dialect). But it’s socially functionally the same. The idea of race like you have in the States is like the idea of tribe but people are the same color here. Anyway, it’s just interesting that the slave trade not only caused racial tension between Europeans and Africans but fed racism/tribalism between tribes. The tribes in this movie worked together against the dynastic power of Egypt.

There Shall Be Blood

Day-Lewis is excellent.

1 comment:

Jane said...

i would like to see 1000 B.C. as well. on the radio they said it made the list of 10 best movies that were the most historically incorrect