Martin Gardiner Bernal, professor emeritus of government and Near Eastern studies at Cornell and author of the widely read and debated “Black Athena” books on classical civilization, died June 9 in Cambridge, England. He was 76.
Bernal taught at Cornell from 1972 until his retirement in 2001. He began as an associate professor in the Department of Government and was named a full professor in 1988.
Bernal argued that Egypt, not Greece, was the root of ancient culture in his three-volume work “Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization.” Considered controversial by many, Bernal’s first volume, “The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985” (1987) was followed by further research in “Black Athena 2: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence” (1991) and “Black Athena 3: The Linguistic Evidence” (2006), and a volume in response to his critics, “Black Athena Writes Back” (2001).