Ex oriente nigri: “Captain of the Blacks” and the Fabrication of the Minoan Culture

  • Uroš Matić Department of Archaeology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
Minoan culture, racism, “Captain of the Blacks”, Egypt, colonialism, post-colonial perspective


The fabrication of the Minoan culture is the specifically modern phenomenon, closely linked to the imperial and colonial conquest and appropriation of Ancient Greece. The Greek war of independence created an arena in which Europe could take part in the fight for its cradle. In the postcolonial key, the paper situates the fresco “Captain of the Blacks” into the context of the fabrication of the Minoan culture and the colonial narratives inscribed into it. In the beginning of the 20th century, this colonial past of the notion, known today as the Minoan culture, played a major role in the definition of the European past, present and future. The Minoan culture, as a colonial discursive formation in archaeology, has remained in the framework of the culture-historical paradigm, but beyond it as well. The paper argues that the reconstruction of the fresco “Captain of the Blacks” in the works of Arthur Evans is the consequence of the colonial racism, putting the emphasis on the colour of the skin as a racial/ ethnic category. The interpretation that the dark-skinned figures are of the African origin has rarely been questioned, but rather perpetuated as a given.


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