Gay Robins gives an overview of color symbolism in ancient Egypt and the colorization of foreigners.

Gay Robins

Gay Robins, "Color Symbolism," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, 3 vols. ed. Donald B. Redford (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1:291, 293

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Gay Robins
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The term for "white" was hd. Like black, it was also a pigment from prehistoric times. White was associated with purity, so it was the color of the clothes worn by ritual specialists. The notion of purity may have underlain the use of white calcite for temple floors. The word hd also meant the metal "silver," and it could incorporate the notion of "light"; thus the sun was said to "whiten" the land at dawn.

. . . .The choice of the single red-brown color to represent the Egyptian man, rather than a more realistic range of shades, should also be considered within a wider symbolic scheme that included the representation of foreigners. The foreign men to the north and west of Egypt were depicted by yellow skin. . . .men to the south of Egypt were given black skin. Although undoubtedly some Egyptians' skin pigmentation differed little from that of Egypt's neighbors, in the Egyptian worldview foreigners had to be plainly distinguished. Thus Egyptian men had to be marked by a common skin color that contrasted with images of non-Egyptian men. . . .Within the scheme of Egyptian/non-Egyptian skin color, black was not desirable for ordinary humans, because it marked out figures as foreign, as enemies of Egypt, and ultimately as representatives of chaos; black thereby contrasted with its positive meaning elsewhere. This example helps demonstrate the importance of context for reading color symbolism.

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