“Who the hell translated this? It’s completely wrong. They must have used Budge; I don’t know why they keep reprinting his books!” – Daniel Jackson, from the movie, “Stargate”
People: I am here to tell you once and for all, ditch the Budge translations that you have. Stop using them in your arguments and your writings. You are making your work and yourself into a laughing stock. I don’t care that you have meticulously collected all of his works over time or how much you spent for that gold embossed, leather bound volume of the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead It’s as of this writing, about 150 years out of date. If you do choose to ignore the advice and use him anyway, any of your “translations” are likely riddled with inaccuracies. They may be nice to look at on the shelf lining your office and to utilize their pubic domain illustrations, however, they are *really* problematic hieroglyphically.
And need I bring up that Budge was known to plagiarize his students? No. I didn’t think so.
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was born in 1857 and died in 1934. Commonly referred to in his title of Sir E. A. Wallis Budge. Budge was the curator of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum in London from 1894 to 1924. He was knighted in 1920. He began working for the British Museum in 1883, making archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Sudan. During these expeditions, he managed to accumulate many Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, Egyptian papyri, and manuscripts written in Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek, and Syriac languages. Budge was quite prolific and the author of many books such as “The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead”, “The Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary”, “Egyptian Vocabulary”, ” An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Reading Book for Beginners”, “The Gods of the Egyptians”, “The Egyptian Heaven and Hell”, “Egyptian Magic”, and on and on.
The late Dr. Barbara Mertz, (aka Elizabeth Peters) in her novels frequently mentions Budge. In the novels, the heroine’s husband repeatedly refers to Budge saying, “Budge is a poor archaeologist and an unscrupulous plunderer of Egypt.” Very true. By today’s standards, he was most certainly that.
If you read Budge, then you must examine what he is writing through his cultural lens of Protestant Christianity via the Church of England. Much of how Egyptology expeditions got funded in that day was by convincing the rich nobles and businessmen in the Empire that the study was a worthwhile endeavor. Aside from the prospect of discovering a rich cache of treasure, forwarding the idea that the ancient Egyptians had beliefs quite similar to those of Christians, of course, before the benefit of Christ having come. etc. was how those expeditions got the much needed dosh. We all know, however, that this notion of Egyptian religion being “just like Christianity”, is just downright incorrect. (Or we should know this, at least). Budge ignored much of the progress of the German schools of Egyptology and the various advances in translation even in his own day – probably out of sheer Victorian arrogance more than anything else. Today, translations by R.O. Faulkner and others are much better and are easily available in print and in eBook form.
The bottom line is this: There are those, like me, who will more than likely discount any book or paper if that author cites as a resource, books written by E.A. Wallis Budge. The only way around this is if that author would also cross-reference those sources written by Budge with newer, more accurate ones as well. Some readers will simply see the name ‘Budge” and pitch it over their shoulder, unread. Really, I can’t say that I blame them. That little jab at Sir Ernest that was made by the screenwriters of “Stargate” was for a reason. Using a translation by Budge would be the equivalent of relying on the diaries of Charles Darwin to explain current modern stem cell and DNA research. Historical, Egyptoligical and scientific research has long since moved on. To put it in perspective, most of Sir E.A. Wallis Budge’s books were written before Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922! A layperson or independent Egyptophile knows far more about ancient Egypt or ancient Kemet today than someone did in Budge’s day – even if they read all of his books. That is because back then, Egyptology was a very young science – and even today it can be a very underfunded science. With the recent events in Egypt, moving further may be even more difficult. We will have to see about that one.
If you are an author of anything Egyptian or Kemetic, you have the duty and the obligation to use good, current resource materials rather than cheap reprints in the public domain . Those public domain works, more often than not, do not take our greater understanding of Egypt and Egyptology into account since Budge’s day. To not fulfill this obligation and duty is not only a case of simple ignorance of better material, but rather it shows a flagrant disrespect for the time and intelligence of readers. We now have, via the Internet, wider availability of either free or inexpensive access to scores of current material that is historically sound. Why someone would choose not to avail themselves of these resources is inexplicable. Bear in mind, someone like me looks at newly published books on ancient Egypt with a very critical eye. If an author use a less than reputable resources, the review of the newly offered book will reflect this. In Kemetic circles, that can be death to any viability in the marketplace.
So, please. Put down and put away the books by Budge; or at the very least, use a stack of them as doorstops.
13 responses to “Using Budge = BAD IDEA!”
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Reblogged this on Into The Mist / No Nevoeiro and commented:
Hello Sereia Verde
This article is very critical of Budge’s early written works, I suggest showing a little respect for you predecessors, considering Budge was someone who spent much time in the field during his day. Budge is certainly a reputable and trustworthy source, whether you agree, I could care less. Egyptology owes its respects too Budge, for providing students of Egyptian religion and culture very insightful and thought provoking material. I own four of Budges books, e.g., Osiris & the Egyptian Resurrection volume I & II, Papyrus of Ani, A life in Babylonia, which are profound works. Budge provides veracity in his works, that books written by Egyptologist today do not, especially on the subject of the Egyptians racial origin, which he covers in his book “Osiris & the Egyptian Resurrection”, Budge leaving it up to the read to decide whether the Egyptians were sub-Saharan African, or, if they were really Asiatic. I believe Budge’s works have remained in obscurity, for the simple fact that he is unmistakenly clear, that the Egyptians were of sub-Saharan origin. A fact many European racialist liked to ignore throughout the 19th and 20th century. However, Budge was not alone on pin pointing the correct origin of the Egyptians. Henri Frankfort, another important Egyptologist of the 20th century, also linked Egyptian origin to the Nilotic tribes of the southern Sudan, Such as the Dinka, Shilluk, and Masai. Imagine my surprise, when I discovered Stephanie Beswicks book “Sudan’s Blood Memory”, which also points out that Nilotic peoples of Sudan, e.g., Dinka, Nuer,Luo, etc, having a direct connection with Nubian and Egyptian civilization. Addressing that cross referencing you were talking about. With the arrival of unscientific scholars, the likes of Charles Gabriel Seligman, who also realized that sub-Saharan African’s shared a profound connection with ancient Egyptian civilization, devised a plan to turn Negroids into Caucasoids, solely based on wishful thinking and cephalic measurements alone, yet liars like Seligman were recognized for intentional dishonesty. E.A.Wallis Budge’s works are a treasure, and should be a mandatory read for a serious student of Egyptology. Today’s books written on Egypt, are the same tired old rhetoric about monolithic structures and Eurocentric mythologies. Budge, does what a cultural anthropologist or ethnologist does best, comparatively examines the religious concepts and customs of the ancient Egyptians with those indigenous sub-Saharan Africans, so much of Budge’s research is perfectly relevant. This is something that modern scholarship intentionally ignores because, it demolishes the Eurocentric fantasies of a Caucasoid Egypt, which recent genetic studies have also done. Albert Zink, being responsible for discovering that Ramses III’s Y-Chromosome Haplogroup was E1b1a. A sub-Saharan African Y-Chromosome lineage. In other words, E.A.Wallis Budge, has been vindicated!
I think the push of my post about Budge was mostly his interpretation of the language and the religion. As to the racial makeup of the Egyptians – I don’t think that there are many Egyptlogical writings now that even remotely dispute the origins of the Ancient Egyptians to the Sudan and other civilizations to the south.
However, lumping all African tribes into one group, is as much a disservice to them as it is to lump all Indigenous American Indians into one group. There is no disputing that there are similar markers, but the story does not and cannot end there. Egypt / Kemet was a cosmopolitan civilization – and when you have food and trade and etc. people congregate, and they intermingle. So while I agree with you on the racial findings of Budge and Frankfort – I absolutely stand by my assertions in terms of the language and religious belief systems. Budge got it completely wrong and thought nothing of running it all through the Judeo Chritian lens rather than letting the beliefs, customs and philosophy of Egypt stand on their own merit. The overlays of monotheism are absolutely unnecessary and completely unwelcome.
Currently, I am still into the first volume of Budge’s “Osiris & The Egyptian Resurrection”. Budge’s interpretation of the Egyptian language and religion, appear to accurate, and I have noticed that several of his translated terminologies, such as, the masculine and feminine Maa Kheru/Maat Kheru, Sekhet Aaru, Sekhet Hetetep, Am-Tuat(Otherworld), Tet(Djed),Abtu(Abydos),Ausar(Osiris), Auset(Isis),Sutikh(Set),Heru(Horus),Anpu(Anibus),Tehuti(Thoth),Khut(Horizon),Tenk(Pygmy), etc. seem to be correct. Many of Budge’s translations or transliterations can still be found referenced in later Egyptological works, or, found through Wikipedia.
The other day something struck me though, his translation for the word Pygmy is (Tenk), which when you take out the vowel would be (TNK), yet their is another translation for pygmy (Deneg). I have been trying to find information on who exactly translated pygmy into Deneg, as opposed to Budge’s (Tenk), and why the latter is regarded as correct instead of the former. Regardless, Budge’s notions about pygmies and their role in ancient Egypt still remains accurate, and he references the papyri of Pepi II and King Assa of the old kingdom. Overall Budge’s information can not be that far from the mark.
Budge’s interpretation of Egyptian religion also appears accurate. Again, Budge’s book draws parallels between the customs and religious conceptions of sub-Saharan Africans and ancient Egyptians, and the comparisons are uncanny.
Egypt was cosmopolitan?
Rome and Greece were cosmopolitan, but the Egypt was hardly cosmopolitan, Egyptian culturally speaking sub-Saharan African, so Egypt would racially African. Everything from burial customs, libation, funeral murder rituals, cannibalism, human sacrifice, cultural artifacts, dance customs, textiles, religious customs etc. Egypt, was I no sense of the word middle eastern, and as late as 1906 Nuer,Dinka, and Luo peoples were still building pyramid mounds.
Reblogged this on Afro-Fusionist Sound Lab.
Thank you for this (I found it b/c you started following my own “blog”). I had the chance to read a small-press biography of EAWB a few years ago–it was short, but had some cute details such as his fondness for cats. I had a number of the Budge books back in the early 70s (when I was a teenager). They were available very cheaply then. The old editions, when one could find them, had those fabou accordion plates with trippy colors. I seem to recall checking out an original edition of the “Am Tuat” (Imj Dw3t) text from a large nearby metropolitan library and renewing the book as often as they would let me because it radiated such psychedelic late Victorian beauty.
The peculiar thing about the work of his that I did study was that so much of it was already out of date when he first published it. The character in the Amelia Peabody books is pretty obviously based on Flinders Petrie (who also appears occasionally in passing under his own name) and I’m sure Petrie’s opinions of Budge matched those stated by that character.
In the mid 70s a book called RAPE OF THE NILE came out which revealed some of EAWB’s more “shocking” exploits as an antiquities thief and smuggler. I seem to recall that the famous Papyrus of Ani found its way to London smuggled inside an umbrella stand.
I think so many ancient Egyptian reconstruction practitioners (or “Kemetics,” IF YOU MUST) lean on EAWB so heavily because most of the decent academic books, especially more recent ones, are only available if you either have access to a large university research library, or are independently wealthy–they’re bloody EXPENSIVE.
Thank you for your lovely commentary! I very much appreciate the details, too!
The term “Kemetics” is kind of a catchall for Pagans, Polytheists and even Afrocentrists or Pan African groups. They all have a different approach to reconstructionist beliefs. Unfortunately, however, there is a tendency to try to manipulate Budge’s data because they can almost get it to fit an agenda. Modern Egyptological books tend to not be so forgiving!
I have been extremely fortunate in that my son’s godmother is an Egyptologist and I have other friends in Egypgology who will send me facsimile copies of works that have a very limited printing so that I can read them. And you are absolutely right about the expense! I am absolutely rabid to get my hands on Dr. Gonzalo Sanchez’ translation of the Edwin Smith Papyrus that came out a few years ago. I have to save my money for a bit, however. $250 is a lot to shell out for a book….even if I did have the good fortune to hear his lecture and have dinner with Dr. Sanchez and his wife at an ARCE conference in Atlanta!
dr Gonzalo can go hang .. kikikik i will rely on Wallis …
Well, then you can forget the assertions made by one of the world’s top surgeons that the physicians of Ancient Kemet, had mastered the art of diagnosis long before the Greeks.
But you;re completely allowed your opinion, of course.