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Era 4.3 Regional Expectation AFRICA Prehistory to 1500


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Title: Era 4.3 Regional Expectation AFRICA Prehistory to 1500

Era 4.3Regional Expectation AFRICAPrehistory to
  • Day Two, Session 2B
  • Craig Benjamin

To Include
  • Part One Physical and Cultural Environment
  • Part Two Peopling of Africa and the Bantu
  • Part Three History of Northeast and Northwest
  • Part Four History of West and East Central
  • Part Five Kingdoms of Central and Southern

PART ONE The Physical and Cultural Environment
  • Diverse environment mountains, deserts, tropical
    jungle and grassy plains (savanna)
  • Savanna the most hospitable for human habitation,
    trade and agriculture
  • Northern savanna (Sudan) stretches across Africa
    continent just south of the Sahara dessert
  • Savanna also in East and Southern Africa

Mt Kenya
Savannah of East Africa the Serengeti Plain
Rain Forest
  • Along the equator is dense tropical rain forest
  • The jungle occupies 7 of Africa
  • Jungle soils are poor (erosion, leaching of
    nutrients, lack of humus)
  • Rain forest unhealthy disease-carrying
    mosquitoes (malaria and yellow fever) and tsetse
    flies (sleeping sickness)
West African Rain Forest
Early AgricultureSlash and Burn
  • Environment dictated patterns of foraging or
  • i.e. what crops would grow in particular areas,
    and how to manage the environment
  • Slash and burn agriculture more common,
    particularly in the rain forests
  • Farmers clear and fertilize land, farm it for a
    couple of years then move on and start the cycle
    somewhere else
  • Rain forest crops included root foods (yam and
  • Savanna crops cereals (sorghum and millet)

Cultural Patterns The Family
  • Society based on extended family and descent
  • Most societies patrilineal (descent traced
    through fathers to sons and daughters in kinship
  • When a woman marries she then becomes part of her
    husbands kinship group
  • But 15 of African societies are matrilineal
    (descent passed through the mothers side by
    mothers brother)
  • Here women live with their kin and have more
    access to kinship resources

Woman and child from Samboura Tribe, Kenya
  • Strict rules for marriage, particularly outside
    of the clan
  • Marriage accompanied by bridewealth (husband pays
    money, goods, services or cattle to wifes
  • Earns rights for the husband in his new family
  • If the wife is childless, her parents have to
    return to dowry
  • Africans accepted polygyny (man could have more
    than one wife) because of high rates of infant
    mortality and the desire to express status

Part of a traditional marriage ceremony in
modern-day Zaire
  • Family the foundation for society people trace
    their lineage to a common ancestor
  • Lineages and clans the basis for defense, work,
    land rights, bridewealth and religion
  • Also basis for political structures, up to the
    largest kingdoms
  • In small societies authority in the hands of
    senior lineages
  • Community value system based on family unity and
    communal harmony
  • Land held in trust by the entire community

African Chiefs Kenyan and Nigerian frhome.html
  • Larger societies evolved into chiefdoms and
    kingdoms with elaborate hierarchies,
    bureaucracies and long-distance trade
  • Kingdoms dominated by one lineage rulers
    (combining sacred and secular power) were

Women and Power
  • Women often officials and advisors, religious
    leaders, soldiers and sometimes supreme rulers
  • The kings wife (queen), and his mother and
    sisters often the powers behind the throne
  • In Abomey each wife represented the interest of
    one of the kingdoms lineages
  • Queen mother looked after the kings interests
    also a mediator who served as a unifying presence

Dahomey queen
Zairian market
  • Specific tasks determined by sex and age
  • Women ran the homestead, cultivated fields,
    prepared food and ran markets
  • Men built houses, roads and paths, cleared
    fields, tended livestock, hunted and conducted
    long-distance trade
  • Men were also usually responsible for technology
    (iron-working, blacksmithing etc) but in some
    communities women were the smelters

19th C Print South African Cattle Herders dajargoat
  • Religion (polytheistic) an integral part of day
    to day life
  • High creator god remote from everyday affairs
    people more directly engaged with lesser
  • E.g. gods of nature and ancestral spirits who
    could intercede between humans and the high god
  • Leaders had authority to approach ancestor
    spirits (thus legitimizing their leadership)
  • Disasters explained because gods were unhappy
    with humans
  • Rituals and sacrifices carried out to appease the
  • Women served as priestesses, healers, rain-makers
    and spirit-mediums

Gods of the Ashanti people
Priestess, Ghana
Art and Craft
  • Africans skilled artists sculpture in wood,
    ivory and soapstone
  • Statues also shaped in baked clay, and then cast
    in bronze also cire perdue
  • The sculpture of Benin (Nigeria) particularly
    renowned, but artistic traditions are rich and
    varied throughout Africa

Nigerian (Benin) Bronze Figurines of Spirit
PART TWO The Peopling of Africa Paleolithic
  • Early Africans were stone age hunter gatherers
  • Male hunters used bows and arrows with stone
    barbs and poisons
  • Women foraged wild plants (fruits, nuts, melons,
    roots and tubers)
  • Even after the arrival of agriculture, many
    groups continued foraging
  • Nile Valley and Lake Chad peoples fished the
    rivers and lakes
  • Parts of the Sahara were once savanna
  • C. 3000 BCE a prolonged dry spell led to
    desertification (a stimulus to agriculture?)
  • Domestication began independently in four regions
    highlands of Ethiopia central Sudan West
    African savanna West African forests
  • Farmers grew crops adapted to each environment
  • C. 3000 BCE farmers in the Ethiopian highlands
    cultivated grains, millets, sesame and mustard
  • Forest farmers grew banana and coffee in West
    Africa they grew oil palms, peas and yams
  • C. 1000 BCE wheat and barley imported in from SW
  • Sudanese grew sorghum, millet, rice, peas and
    nuts at least 4000 BCE
  • Farmers domesticated livestock from 8000 BCE
  • Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were introduced
    from SW Asia

Millet www.
Ruins of Meroe (Sudan) today
  • Iron technology reached sub-Saharan Africa from
    Egypt in the 7th C BCE and spread across the
    Sahara with the Berbers
  • Important early ironworking center at Meroe in
    Kush (huge iron slag heaps)
  • Meroes ironworks tools and weapons well known by
    the 4th Century BCE, the key to Kushs success
  • At Nok (Nigeria) evidence of ironworking from
    1000-500 BCE
  • Nok produced steel with a carbon content equal to
    the iron of Egypt and Rome

Ironworking and Society
  • Ironworking done in the dry months then exchanged
    for food and animals
  • Ironworkers had wealth and high status (magical
  • Ironworking increased agricultural productivity
    by replacing stone tools with metal ones
    (clearing of thicker jungle, more efficient
    hunting and warfare)
  • Ironworking contributed to population growth,
    craft specialization, trade, and more
    sophisticated social and economic structures
  • Ironworking also a factor in the migration of the

Iron Mask from Meroe 4th Century
BCE witcombe.sbc.e
The Bantu Dispersion
  • Languages and cultures of many African societies
    strikingly similar all descended from a common
    society (or Bantu people)
  • The original Bantu homeland near the present
    Cameroon/ Nigerian border reasons for their
    migration unclear
  • Perhaps environmental change (climate drying up)?
  • Or did iron tools gave the Bantu the ability to
    clear thicker vegetation in the forests (but they
    didnt use iron until after the migrations had

Bantu peoples in Capetown today
Original home of the Bantu
Lake Victoria, Zambia
Victoria Falls, Zambezi River
  • Bantu had common lifestyles (scattered homesteads
    and villages, farmed root crops, foraged and
  • C. 500 BCE one stream of Bantu moved south and
    settled in rainforests of Angola and Namibia,
    growing root crops and palm trees
  • Another stream settled around Lake Victorian in
    East Africa, growing cereals and herding animals
  • Bantu adopted slash and burn agriculture (had to
    keep moving)
  • So Bantu kept migrating southwards, along the
    Congo River to Zambia, and crossing the Zambezi
    and Limpopo Rivers by the 4th Century CE

Bantu Dispersion Map
  • Adopted ironworking and new food crops,
    particularly the banana (brought to Africa by
    Malaysian and Polynesian sailors thousands of
    years earlier)
  • Bananas grew abundantly, required little labor or
    jungle clearing, and did not attract mosquitoes
  • Some Bantu remained foragers
  • Much intermingling between the migrants and the
    resident cultures
PART THREE Northeast and Northwest Africa -
  • Ethiopia home to some of Africas oldest and most
    enduring cultures a source to trade goods for
    thousands of years before the first kingdoms
  • Ancient Egyptians traded for herbs, spices, gold
    and animals from the 5th Dynasty on
  • Arabian traders from Saba established a trading
    settlement on the Eritrean coast c. 800 BCE
  • Sabaeans traded ivory and farmed
  • Their language (Geez) became the elite language

  • By 1 CE Aksum was dominating Red Sea trade ties
    with Ptolemaic Egypt and Rome, and Sri Lanka and
    India (using the monsoonal trade winds)
  • Aksum provided Ptolemies with war elephants to
    use against Babylon also exported exotic goods
    and slaves in exchange for cloth, glass and wine
  • By the 4th Century CE Aksum at its zenith - the
    dominant trading power of the Red Sea, issuing
    its own coins
4th century monumental stelae, Aksum
  • Aksums King Ezana (320-350) converted to
    Christianity at about the same time as
  • Eventually the head of the Ethiopian church was
    chosen by Coptic church leaders in Egypt
  • Greek became the court language, but Geez the
    language of the church centuries later Syrian
    monks converted much of the rural population

Coptic Christian Church in Aksum
The Zagwe and Solomids
  • 615 Aksum gave refuge to
  • followers of Muhammad -
  • the beginning of Islamic
  • expansion into East Africa
  • By 8th Century Islamic groups had replaced Aksum
    as a major trading force rulers migrated to the
    interior and converted Cushitic peoples
  • A new nobility (the Zagwe) stressed continuity
    with Aksum
  • Emperor Lalibela constructed 11 cathedrals hewn
    into the rock
  • Zagwe replaced by the Solomids in 1270, who
    campaigned against Muslims on the coast
  • Solomids gained control over the slave and ivory

Rock Cathedral of Lalibela
One of the 11 rock cathedrals of Lalibela fahrrad
The Ethiopian Empire
  • All land owned by the emperor, who granting fiefs
    (gults) to loyal nobles
  • No fixed capital - a mobile court moved around
    the empire
  • Greatest ruler was Zara Yakob (1424-1468) his
    subjects had to avert their eyes on penalty of
  • Granted church estates and appointed Bishops, so
    the church supported his expansion
  • His successors could not hold the empire
    together, and Ethiopia declined in the 16th C

Zara Yakob
  • Western Sudan benefited from long-distance
    trans-Saharan trade routes from the Mediterranean
  • Berbers mixed with older traders on the Niger
  • They monopolized trade in gold and salt, leading
    to the emergence of wealthy West African kingdoms
  • Agriculture practiced along the Niger from the
    9th Century no conflict between communities
  • Between 600 and 300 BCE walls suggest conflict
    with Berbers
  • Important early center for trade, fishing and
    agriculture in the Niger Delta was Jenne-jeno
    (from c. 250 BCE)

Crossing the Sahara
  • Sahara crossed by several trade routes
    (established by Carthage and Rome from 1000 BCE)
  • One route (suitable for horse and ox-drawn
    chariots) stretched south from Libya and Tunisia
    another connected Morocco with Mauritania
  • Trade declined with the collapse of Rome, then
    revived by the Byzantines and Arabs
  • The camel (introduced c. 100 BCE) became the main
    beast of burden, carrying loads of up to 300
    pounds without water
  • But slow (20 30 miles a day) - took two months
    to cross the Sahara
  • The earliest kingdom in the Sudan emerged in the
    4th Century CE, named after its legendary
    war-chief Ghana
  • By 800 CE Ghana a powerful kingdom, based on
    agriculture and trade with the Mediterranean
  • King monopolized gold trade (had a nugget big
    enough to tether his horse to)!
  • Salt also valuable for diets and preserving
  • The Sahara had large salt deposits (Taghaza)
  • Salt quarried in 200lb slabs carried by camels to
    trading centers like Timbuktu

14th Century mosque, Timbuktu
  • Ghana also traded slaves (servants, laborers,
    porters, traders and soldiers)
  • Household slaves mainly women slave women
    forced to marry because the man did not have to
    pay bridewealth
  • Slaves captured in raids on weaker communities
    then transported in caravans and exchanged for
    horses and salt
  • Greatest demand came from North African
    Mediterranean states slaves sold in Libya traded
    on to the eastern Mediterranean
  • 8th - early 20th Century
  • 4 million slaves taken 1200
  • miles across the Sahara desert
  • many died en route

Slave Trade
Ghana at its Peak
  • Ghana in 1067 had an army of 200,000 warriors
    (wearing chain mail)
  • Divine king appointed all officials and was the
    supreme judge surrounded by retainers carrying
    gold swords, horses with gold blankets, and dogs
    with gold collars!
  • After 1076 Ghana weakened by attacks from the
    Berbers, and lost its dominance of gold trade

Modern Ghanian (and baby) panning for gold
Mining for gold in Mali today
  • Ghanaian rule eventually replaced by the Malinke
    clan in 1235
  • Malinke created a vast empire known as Mali,
    which regained control of the desert gold mines
    and trade
  • When gold replaced silver as the man currency of
    Europe in 1252, Mali became Europes leading
    supplier, exporting several tons of gold annually

Ancient gold coins from Mali www.thebritishmuseum.
Mansa Musa
  • Mali at its peak under Mansa Musa (1307-1337)
    renowned throughout Africa, Asia and Europe
    because of Mali trade with the Mediterranean and
    Middle East
  • State well organized, multicultural, administered
    by governors and ministries
  • Islam a unifying element amongst the elite
    (commoners remained loyal to local gods)
  • After Musas death tributary states demanded
    independence, including the Songhai

Mansa Musa in Egypt 14th Century
Musa was a devout Muslim who undertook a
pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 He spent so much gold
in Egypt en route that the value of gold in the
country plummeted!
The Songhai
  • 1464-1528 Songhai the largest of all the Sudanese
  • Under Kings Sunni Ali (1464-1492) and Askia
    Muhammad (1493-1528) they captured most of Mali,
    including the great cities of Timbuktu and
  • Empire administered by a bureaucracy
    professional army included horsemen in chain-mail
    armor and a navy of Niger River canoes
  • Songhai a center for Islamic scholarship (mosque
    at Timbuktu famous throughout the Islamic world)
  • Askia Muhammad also made a pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Songhai eventually invaded by Moroccans, who used
    firearms to overcome the spears, bows and arrows
    of the Songhai army

West African Forest Kingdoms
  • In the West African forests small communities
    practiced basic agriculture some grew into
    substantial kingdoms
  • Yoruba city-state (11th C. CE)
  • Edo kingdom in Benin (15th C.) - trade and
  • 14th C. kingdom of Oyo - wealth based on tolls
    collected from traders, plus large slave-labor
  • All the forest states renowned for their art,
    particularly sculpture in bronze, copper, brass
    and terracotta

Fishermen in Benin today
PART FOUR City-States of East Africa
  • East African (Swahili) Coast part of an extensive
    trading network that linked Africa with the Near
    East, India and East Asia
  • But coastal trade did not have impact on the
    interior until the 19th Century
  • Cultural development of East African coast linked
    to the arrival of Bantu (100 BCE - 300 CE)
  • Language was a Bantu derivation - Swahili from
    the Arabic sawahil coast
  • Swahili grew crops and fished
  • Eventually their traders linked up with merchants
    from the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf

Saadani National Park, Swahili Coast, Tanzania
East African Trade
  • Periplus (c. 100 CE) names several trading towns
    on the Swahili coast trading with Arabia
  • Rhapta exported ivory, rhinoceros horn and
    tortoise shell imported iron tools and weapons,
    cloth, glass and grain
  • Indian Ocean trade thrived between 300 and
  • 1000, stimulated by the arrival of Muslim
  • Arab dhows made Indian Ocean trade feasible
    they were fast and could carry up to 200 tons of
  • Sailors used the monsoon winds sailed southwest
    between November and March, and northeast between
    April and October each crossing took about a
Swahili Civilization
Modern swahili women
  • Swahili civilization flourished 1000 1500
    hundreds of city-states emerged along the
    1800-mile coast from Mogadishu in the north to
    Sofala in the south
  • Largest had deep harbors and linked with internal
    trade routes, becoming regional centers that
    thrived for centuries
  • Each too commercially competitive to merge into a
    single empire - operated independently and
    relatively peacefully until the Portuguese
    arrived in the 16th Century
  • Government headed by kings or sultans, with the
    throne passing to one of the head queens brothers

Swahili Art and Architecture
  • Swahili artists and architects borrowed from the
    Middle East tradition - created beautiful cities
    with palaces, mansions, mosques, elaborate
    walkways and public fountains
  • Palace at Kilwa, built on the edge of a cliff
    above the ocean, contained 100 rooms and an
    octagonal bathing pool in one of its many
Ruins of the Great Palace at Kilwa
Gold, Slaves and the Chinese
  • West Asia the worlds major commercial center
    Swahili cities joined in the trade networks of
    three continents
  • Three cities Kilwa, Pate and Mogadishu minted
    copper and silver coins to facilitate trade
  • Kilwa (with access to the gold mines of Zimbabwe)
    a major gold-exporter until gold began to arrive
    in Europe from the Americas
  • Swahili traders exported ivory and slaves
    (domestic servants in India, or laborers in Iraq)
  • Trading expeditions arrived from China - a fleet
    under Admiral Zheng He in the 1400s
  • He brought Chinese porcelain, silk and lacquer
    ware, and exchanged them for ivory, incense and
    exotic animals
  • Took back African envoys who stayed at the
    Chinese court for years

The Voyages of Admiral Zheng He
PART FIVE Kingdoms of Central and Southern
  • By the 3rd century CE most of central and
    southern Africa also colonized by migrating Bantu
  • Lived as farmers in homesteads and villages,
    tending cereal crops and animal herds
  • From 1000 CE some of these grew into states with
    ruling elites who became wealthy through
    accumulating cattle
  • Cattle were used as bridewealth and as a means of
    building broader political networks by exchange
    they also financed regional trade that extended
    to the Swahili networks

Zulu Cattle, South Africa
States and Stone
  • New states built walls, homes, palaces and
    religious centers from stone archaeologists have
    discovered 150 centers
  • The rulers of Mapungubwe lived in stone palaces
    on the hilltops, commoners in the valleys below
  • Elites maintained their wealth by controlling
    cattle herds and trade in metals, gold and ivory,
    which fed into East African trade

The cliff-top site of the ruins of Mapungubwe
Great Zimbabwe (1290-1450)
  • Successor was Great Zimbabwe (houses of stone)
    on a fertile plateau north of the Limpopo River
  • Powerful and wealthy, built a huge complex 60
    acres (pop 18,000)
  • Great Enclosure (royal palace) had walls 12 feet
    thick and 20 feet high built without mortar
  • Kings key advisors all women (wives and sisters)
    who practiced ritual medicine to protect his well
  • Elites kept vast cattle herds and controlled the
    gold trade (gold mined by women and children)
  • Great Zimbabwe collapsed suddenly in 1450,
    perhaps because of environmental degradation

Great Zimbabwe
Walls of the Great Enclosure
Mutapa and Kongo
Boatman on the Congo River
  • A successor to Great Zimbabwe was the kingdom of
    Mutapa south of the Zambezi River
  • By 1500 the king controlled a vast part of the
    Zimbabwe Plateau
  • Another important state was that of the Kongo (at
    the mouth of the Congo River in west central
  • When Portuguese arrived in the late 15th Century
    Kongo was a sophisticated state, led by a king
    with a professional army and provincial

  • By 1500 Africa home for a diverse range of
    states, but most Africans still lived as hunters
    and farmers
  • Powerful states emerged all over Africa Egypt,
    Kush, Aksum, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Benin, Great
  • African states unique and home grown, but
    influenced by trade contacts with Europe, the
    Indian Ocean, Asia and the Muslim world
  • Many Africans remained faithful to their ancient
    religions, but others adopted Christianity and
    Islam, which altered African culture