I. Background 12 million square miles

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I. Background
12 million square miles

3x size of U.S.

only 10% is rain forest

much is savannah, open grassland,

by 1500, Africa had 30-60 million

north africa long a part of med world

became Muslim in 8th century

christians in egypt and Ethiopia

Ethiopia grew out of kingdom of Axum

rock churches of King Lalaibela, d 1221

human origins in east Africa?

300,000 year ago homo sapiens

lot of interaction with other cultures

never completely isolated from Med, but contacts were for long times intermittent

9,000-3,000 bce climactic change led to sahara desert

desert and oases

savanna, semi-arid grassland

rain forest

by 5000 bce agcriculture

black eyed peas and cow peas

sorghum and millet as grain, rice and yams

later other crops filled in

agriculture seems to have reached area from Middle East

livestock also came from outside africa

cattle, sheep, and horses all from other places

camel in 1st century ce

iron also came from west Asia (no bronze age in Africa)

iron, blacksmith, represented power

this dispersion of things accompanied by a people movement

the Bantu, from eastern Nigeria (Bantu means the people), spread out over continent

not certain why or how
very vast continent, very diverse societies

hard to find such a thing as African civ (Sound familiar??)

not surprising a lack of political unity

or religious unity for that matter

had both states and "stateless" societies

fragmentation and a "frontier" open to new settlement, a common feature of African society

Sahara and sub-Sahara

can divide up into: Northeast

West Africa

East Africa

South Africa


oral tradition

some common linguistics

thought and religious characteristics

animistic religion common

power of natural forces personified as spirits appeased by rituals and dancing

concept of good and evil common, but evil usually attributed to witchcraft

also an idea of a central creator, with lesser deities


clan basis allowed ancestors to act as intermediaries to gods, ancestor veneration

most ruled by kings

lack of developed writing systems in much of early sub-saharan societies before say 700 (plus little archeology remains)

II. Early African civilization in NE

A. Axum (AKS oom), 50-650

christian kingdom in Ethiopia around 1st century ce

powerful sate along Red Sea

region dominated by highlands, nice temps, good rain for agriculture

immigrants from Arabia theorized

there was a pre-Axum kingdom

writing system, Ge'ez (ghee ehz), the language can be read

early crops included coffee, tef (millet), okra and eggplant

after fall of pre-Axum, many local chiefdoms

around 50, several chiefdoms united under the nagashi, sometimes called the negus, an individual who led several clans who became king

rapid expansion resulted

the empire was always predominately agricultural

trade via Eritrea and city port of Adulis became key

various elite-type exports ivory, gold, obsidian, jewels, exotica

city of Axum the capital, divine king absolute power, as son of Mahrem the god of war

no city walls

nice army made fortifications unnecessary

did have a central royal district

burial in stela (very intricate) parks

max population of 20,000!

in 350 converted to Christianity; process began in 330, Ezana, the king, public baptism; quick conversions of elite, slow conversion of commoners
middle class and commoners
flowering christianity

monophysite form (single nature)

decline began around 650 as trade routes shifted

environmental problems of erosion and overuse of land and deforestation

conquered eventually
B. Nubia (Kush and Meroƫ [MAYR oh eh])

around 800 bce to 400 ce dominated by local states

nubia is uper Nile (Sudan)

key transport route down Nile into Africa via 6 cataracts

narrow strip of cultivation only

sometimes controlled by ancient egytian pharaohs

Kerma, c 1800-1600 bce

named from the key city (walled)


deffufas (duh FOO fuhz) massize brick towers

little known

some indication of human sacrfice

recontrolled by Egypt after 1600
Kush, 800 bce - 400 bce

after 1100 egyptian control replaced by a power vacuum

both Kush and Meroe heavy egytian heritage in government (divine kings traced to Egyptian ancestors with egytian burial practices) and religion

eventually a single king emerged

key town Napata (nah PAH tah)

trade center

place of king's temple

egyptian style divine king, great power, opulaent tombs

elite class and commoner class of workers

monumental buildings of brick and temples

did briefly conquer eypyt

did copy old egyptian texts which survive to this day

Meroe, 400-400, 100 miles south

supplanted Kush as key city of Nubia, though kings still crowned at Napata

still can't read writing

not sure why the move, maybe river changes maybe better military position

big change was huge increase in trade volume (gold, ivory and slaves to Egypt)

now joined the iron age

evidence of a middle class in cemetaries

rapid population growth

developed tha saqia (SAH kee uh), ox-powered water wheel after 100 ad, which allowed for greater increase in population

state evetually disintegrated for reasons unknown

B. Golden Ghana

ome of the first staes that we actually have recodss

westewrn porton of Mali

unclear early origins

in 8th century Takur, Ghana, Gao, Kanem arose as states as intermediaries in cross Saharan gold trade
first major state was Ghana in present day Mali

trading state

camels allowed caravan trade across Sahara

heavy caravan trade led to creation of states in sahel

Soninke people of Western Sudan


began rise in 3rd century ce
began to convert to Islam in 10th century and reached peak

gold north salt and cloth back,

gold and salt taxes provided revenues
by 800s huge number of people

capital was Kumbi Saleh maybe 20,000

attacked by Almoravids in 1076 and destrioyed

C. Bantu

in interior, slash and burn agriculture
D. Jenne (ZHEHN eh), 200-700? in West Africa

city in Mali Republic at edge of savanna

rice and sheep diet

perhaps 10,000 at peak

no real signs of long-trade only local

III. Islam also penetrated sub-Saharan africa

arabs reached west and central africa n 700s

could use camel

came to get the cola nut (a mild stimualnt) from west africa for Mulsim use

also came to get gold

islam also spread rapidly (merhcants were always the frst to convert

Mali and Songhay in West really a result of military power

these sudanic states often led by a council of elders from a specific lineage

conquest states

rulers were sacred

islam used by a ruling family

life in the savanna

Islam fused with existing society and pagan intercession with spirits

women in many places remained matrilineal and unclothed
slave trade developed in this period
city states along east coast
15th century arrival of europeans

A. Gao (Kawkaw) on the Niger River to the East of where Ghana was

B. Takrur on the Senegal River to the West
D. Mali

between Senegal and Niger Rivers, Malinke people, who broke from Ghana in 13th century

centered on city of Niani (nee AHN ee) in territory of old ghana empire

ruler muslim

Islam used to reinforce power of king

agricultural and gold

a true military empire
Sundiata (Sunjata), key king who began expansion

also the subject of oral historical epics

Keita clan, set up a unified state

divided society into 16 clans of freemen to bear arms, 5 clans for religion, 4 clans of artisans and merchants

garrisons in regions to make secure

died c 1260

the mansa, emperor, supreme judge and leader, and lawgiver
very wealthy trade empire continued
Mansa Kankan Musa (1312-1337?) Muslim who made the Hajj in 1324

his wealth created a sensation

began to build stone mosques on return
these cities very cosmopolitan trade centers

by 14th century Timbuktu may have numbered 50,000

but still overwhelmingly village

most farms small, multiple wives common

Muslim kingdom disappeared in 1488

C. Songhai (SOHNG HY)

benefitted from break up of Mali empire in 1300s

to east of Mali

middle reaches of Niger River

began to form in 7th century under a Berber dynasty

by 1010 capital of Gao on Niger

rulers Muslim

Sunni Ali (1464-1492) dynamic leader

ruthless military leader

used cavalry

following rulers took title of askia, the great,

at its height in early 16th century, the largest state in africa

dominant power until 1591 when Moroccan army victorious

E. Swahili coast in East

coast and interior much different societies

coastal zone fo tenmiles or so nice climate and trade

very thin coastal veneer

also under Islamic influence

trading cities

arab shipping on east coast of africa

nice seasonal wind patterns

thus much inter-trade

elite on coast became very wealthy traders (ivory, gold, incense, amber, iron, slaves)

mixture of Bantu and Swahili cultures

Swahili a Bantu language with Arabic words mixed in

for example, Kilwa, visited by Ibn Battuta, who thought it very beautiful and wealth, gold trade, one of the three largest communities in 16th century
mosque in Mogadishu built in 1238
Easte Africa interior

village life

small scale herding or agriculture
another confederation in east, zimbabwe, the exception, 1150-1600

stone house, sites by 9th century

Great Zimbabwe very impressive center of kingdom, 11-15th century

consisted of several massive circular buildings of stone

huge size wall of 800 feet, 15 feet deep and 31 feet high

maybe 12,000 people

othe smaller settlements known

no documents survive

controlled gold

little know of gov or society

Mwene Mutapa, king, very large in 15th century golds
Southwest Africa (mostly angola)

mch changed today from earlier environment

"lords of the land" leaders of kinship groups
A. kingdom of Luba, allegedly founded by Kongolo, 1000-1100

B. Kongo around 1200-1600 on southern coast of angola

best known because of portuguese accounts

kingship passed from father to male (chosen by electors)

not absolute power as overseen by a council

each province had own governor

capital was Banza where court held and where king's fortress located

trade controlled by king

the cowrie, nzimbu (NZIHM boo), official currency

F. Interior

own civs developed

small village communities practicing ag

in central Nigeria, near Nok, 500 bce to 200 ce, mysterious (not much evidence left)
Yoruba speaking peoples of Nigeria at city of Ile-Ife, circa 1200, great terra cotta craftsmen

obscure Yoruba origins

small city states each about 100 miles diameter

divine regional kings

large royal court, but not absolute rule

the state of Oyo in 14th century, the king, the alafin, controlled provinces through princes, council advised ruler

Edo peoples east of Yoruba similar

in 14th century large city state of Benin under Ewuare the great 1440-1473

the oba, or ruler, lived in large palace

bronze figure making

Central Africa

again savannah kingdoms,

Kongo on Congo River, began in 13th century, flourished in 15th

men cleared the forests, built houses, and trade, women cultivated

capital of Mbanza Kongo, maybe 60,000

hereditary kingship

confederation of small states under control of manikongo, king

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