The Hamitic Hypothesis was a nineteenth century anthropological idea that claimed that people originated in Asia after which migrated to different areas of the world. The idea was used to clarify the invention of so-called “white races” in Africa within the late 1800s. The Hamitic Hypothesis was not merely a curiosity of anthropological science. It was an concept that modified lives: from these European colonists who relied upon it to justify their presence in Africa, to the scientists who used it to clarify away the accomplishments of African civilizations because of “white” affect. Ultimately, the Hamitic Hypothesis anchored a world idea of human origins and migration that, when mixed with the Aryan race idea, formed anthropology, colonial coverage, and even the attitudes of Africans themselves for 100 years.
Michael Robinson is a historian of science and exploration on the University of Hartford. He is the creator of “The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture.” His new guide The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent” comes out with Oxford University Press in December.
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