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Sub-Sahara Africa. Lsn 9. ID & SIG.

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id sig
  • Bantu iron metallurgy, Bantu migrations, chiefdoms, Gao, gold trade, Great Zimbabwe, Islam in Africa, kin-based society, Kilwa, Kingdom of Ghana, Kingdom of Kongo, Kingdom of Mali, Kingdom of Songhay, Mansa Musa, Swahili Coast, Timbuktu, trans-Sahara trade route
  • Among the most influential people of ancient Sub-Sahara Africa were those who spoke the Bantu languages
  • Bantu people showed an early readiness to migrate
    • Canoes enabled the Bantu to move easily
    • Agricultural surpluses enabled the Bantu to increase their population more rapidly than the hunting, gathering, and fishing people
  • After about 1000 B.C., Bantu began to produce iron tools which enabled them to clear land and expand their zone of agriculture
  • Iron weapons allowed them to defeat competitors

Iron spearheads and

hoes gave the Bantu

an advantage

political organization
Political Organization
  • By 1000 A.D, most of the migrations were complete
  • Instead of continued migrations, Africans developed increasingly complex forms of government that enabled them to organize their existing societies more efficiently
  • Initially the Bantu established “stateless societies” in which they governed themselves mostly through family and kinship groups
political organization7
Political Organization
  • Stateless societies worked well in small-scale communities but as they grew into large populations, resources became strained and conflicts became more frequent
  • Bantu communities began to organize themselves militarily and this development encouraged more formal structures of government
    • Chiefdoms overrode kinship networks and imposed their own authority
  • In general, between 1000 and 1500, clusters of smaller entities gradually formed into larger states
kingdom of the kongo toward centralization
Kingdom of the Kongo: Toward Centralization
  • One of the most active areas of political development was the basin of the Congo (or Zaire) River
    • One of the most prosperous of the Congolese states was the Kingdom of the Kongo
kingdom of the kongo toward centralization9
Kingdom of the Kongo: Toward Centralization
  • Perhaps the most tightly centralized of the early Bantu kingdoms
    • King and his officials who oversaw military, judicial, and financial affairs
    • Six provinces administered by governors
    • Each province had several districts administered by subordinate officials
    • Each district had villages ruled by chiefs
african empires kingdoms built on trade
African Empires: Kingdoms Built on Trade

West Africa

(Ghana, Mali, Songhay)

East Africa








characteristics of a civilization
Characteristics of a Civilization
  • Intensive agricultural techniques
  • Specialization of labor
  • Cities
  • A social hierarchy
  • Organized religion and education
  • Development of complex forms of economic exchange
  • Development of new technologies
  • Advanced development of the arts. (This can include writing.)
agriculture bananas
Agriculture: Bananas
  • The principal result of the Bantu migrations was to spread agriculture to almost all parts of Africa
  • Yams, sorghum, and millet were dietary staples
  • In the early centuries A.D., bananas brought from Asia by Malay seafarers, became well established in Africa
  • The introduction of bananas introduced a fresh migratory surge
    • Iron metallurgy and bananas were the keys to population growth
cities timbuktu
Cities: Timbuktu
  • Located on the southern edge of the Sahara; served as an important post on the trans-Sahara caravan route
    • Founded 1100 A.D. as a seasonal camp by nomads
  • Incorporated within the Mali Empire by Mansa Musa who built the Great Mosque of Djingareyber and a royal residence, the Madugu


cities timbuktu16
Cities: Timbuktu
  • Center for the expansion of Islam
    • Intellectual and spiritual capital
    • Home of Sankore, a Koranic university
  • In the 14th century Timbuktu became an important focal point of the gold-salt trade
    • With the influx of North African merchants came the settlement of Muslim scholars
cities gao
Cities: Gao
  • Mansa Musa expanded Mali’s influence into Gao which, like Timbuktu, was a terminus for trans-Saharan caravans
  • As Mali declined, Gao reasserted itself and eventually became the Songhay Empire
cities kilwa
Cities: Kilwa
  • On the east coast (Swahili Coast), Kilwa was one of the busiest city-states
  • Traded gold, slaves, and ivory obtained from the interior for cotton, silk, perfume and pearls from India and porcelain from China
cities great zimbabwe
Cities: Great Zimbabwe
  • zimbabwe means dwelling of a chief
  • About the early 13th Century, a huge stone complex known as Great Zimbabwe began to arise in what is now Tanzania
  • Walls 32 feet high and 16 feet thick
  • Stone towers, palaces, and public buildings
  • At its height during the late 15th Century, up to 18,000 people lived in the vicinity of Great Zimbabwe
cities great zimbabwe20
Cities: Great Zimbabwe
  • Kings residing at Great Zimbabwe controlled and taxed trade between the interior and coastal regions
    • Organized flow of gold, ivory, slaves, and local products from sources of supply to the coast
social hierarchy
Social Hierarchy

Sunni Ali

King of Songhay (1464-1493)

Painting by Leo Dillon

social hierarchy22
Kingdoms, empires, city states

Ruling elites

Military nobles

Administrative officials

Religious authorities

Wealthy merchants


Business entrepreneurs

Common people



Small states and kin-based societies

Aristocratic or ruling elite

Religious authorities

Beyond that principal considerations were kinship, sex and gender expectations, and age groupings

Social Hierarchy
social hierarchy kinship groups
Social Hierarchy: Kinship Groups
  • Extended families and clans served as the main foundation of social and economic organization
    • Villagers functioned in society first as members of a family or clan
  • Notion of private property ownership did not exist in sub-Sahara Africa
    • Communities claimed rights to land and used it in common
  • Villages consisted of several extended family groups
  • Male heads of families jointly governed the village
social hierarchy sex and gender relations
Social Hierarchy: Sex and Gender Relations
  • Sex largely determined work roles
    • Men usually did the heavy labor
    • Both sexes participated in planting and harvesting
    • Women tended to domestic chores and child rearing
  • Men largely monopolized public authority but women in sub-Sahara Africa generally had more opportunities than their counterparts elsewhere
    • Women enjoyed high honor as the sources of life
    • Women acted as merchants
    • Some women engaged in combat and formed all-female military units
    • Even the arrival of Islam did not drastically curtail opportunities for women
social hierarchy age grades
Social Hierarchy: Age Grades
  • Members of age grades performed tasks appropriate for their development and bonded with one another socially and politically
  • Age grades offered some integration to a society otherwise organized based on family and kinship
social hierarchy slavery
Social Hierarchy: Slavery
  • Most slaves were captives of war
    • Others were debtors, suspected witches, and criminals
  • Slaveholding allowed owners to advance their personal wealth in the absence of private land ownership
  • After the 9th Century, expanded trade stimulated interest in slave traffic
    • Slave raiding increased to meet the demand
    • The Islamic slave trade between 750 and 1500 created a foundation for the future Atlantic slave trade
economic exchange
Economic Exchange

Empire of Mali in the fourteenth century (dashed lines trace the main trans-Saharan routes of the period)

economic exchange camels
Economic Exchange: Camels
  • Camels came to north Africa from Arabia, by way of Egypt and the Sudan, around the 7th Century B.C.
  • A caravan took 70 to 90 days to cross the Sahara, so the camel’s ability to travel long distances without water made it very useful
  • After about 300 A.D., camels had replaced horses and donkeys as the preferred means of transportation across the Sahara
economic exchange gold
Economic Exchange: Gold
  • The Kingdom of Ghana became the most important commercial site in west Africa because it was the center for trade in gold
  • Ghana itself did not produce gold but the kings obtained gold from lands to the south and became wealthy by controlling and taxing the trade
  • Muslim merchants were especially eager to procure gold for customers in the Mediterranean basin and the Islamic world
  • Ghana also provided ivory and slaves
    • In exchange they received horses, cloth, small manufactured wares, and salt
economic exchange gold30
Economic Exchange: Gold
  • Mali benefited from trans-Sahara trade even more than did Ghana
  • From 13th until the late 15th Century Mali controlled and taxed almost all the trade passing through west Africa
  • The most prominent period was under the reign of Mansa Musa from 1312 to 1337
mansa musa
Mansa Musa
  • Expanded the kingdom of Mali by capturing the neighboring kingdom of Songhay and making its major city Timbuktu an important trade center
  • Made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324-1325 and dispensed so much gold in Cairo that the value of gold declined up to 25% on local markets

Facsimile of a map drawn in Spain and dated to 1375, showing Mansa Musa, the king of Mali, holding a gold nugget.

religion and education
Religion and Education

Great Mosque at Kilwa

native religion
Native Religion
  • Many African recognized a creator god as the single divine force responsible for setting the world in motion and providing it with order
  • Beneath him were many lesser gods associated with the sun, wind, rain, trees, rivers, and other natural features
    • Unlike the supreme creator god, these lesser gods actively participated in the workings of the world
  • Diviners were religious specialists who had the power to mediate between humanity and supernatural beings
religion christianity
Religion: Christianity
  • Around the middle of the 4th Century, Christianity established a foothold in the Kingdom of Axum, in the highlands of modern Ethiopia
    • Missionaries later established monasteries
    • From the 12th through the 16th Century, Christianity was especially strong in Ethiopia
    • As Islam spread, Ethiopian Christians became isolated from other Christian lands and therefore retained much of the original theology and rituals
    • Not until the 16th Century did visiting Portuguese mariners expose Ethiopian Christians to Christians from other lands

Church of St. George

at Lalibela, Ethiopia

influence of trade on religion
Influence of Trade on Religion
  • Contact with Muslim merchants encouraged sub-Sahara west Africans and coastal east Africans to adopt Islam
  • It served as a cultural foundation for business relationships
    • Yet African ruling elites and merchants did not convert for purely mercenary reasons; they took their new faith seriously
muslim influence in west africa
Muslim Influence in West Africa
  • Muslim traders came on land routes which allowed Islam to spread wherever they traveled
  • Rulers like Mansa Musa supported Islamic scholars which spread the religion through religious schools and education

Mosque at Djenne

muslim influence of the swahili coast
Muslim Influence of the Swahili Coast
  • Islam arrived on the African coast in many waves, at different times, rather than in one great sweep
    • Because Muslim traders came via ship, penetrations were very localized compared to in west Africa
  • The Great Mosque at Kilwa built in the 12th Century is the oldest remaining mosque on the east African coast

Great Mosque at Kilwa


West African gold merchants using weights and measures

  • Textile and pottery production
  • Metalsmithing
  • Leatherworking
  • Mining
  • Architecture
  • Trading
  • Religious scholars
new technologies
New Technologies

Gold bearing quartz vein at Essakan in modern Burkina Faso in west Africa

mining and iron
Mining and Iron
  • The Kingdoms of Mali, Ghana, and Songhay all used superior iron metallurgy to gain advantages over their neighbors in terms of weapons and tools
  • Bambuk and Takkeda were mined for gold and copper
mud construction
Mud Construction
  • Mansa Musa commissioned Abu-Ishaq Ibrahim-es-Saheli to construct his royal palace and the Djingareyber Mosque at Timbuktu
  • Es-Saheli introduced the use of burnt brick and mud as a building material to the region
  • Each year before the torrential summer rains, residents replastered the mosque’s walls and roof with mud
art and writing
Art and Writing

Manuscript from Timbuktu

books timbuktu
Books: Timbuktu
  • As a center of learning and religious scholarship, Timbuktu became a vast hub for books
  • Books were written, stored, copied, imported, and distributed there
  • Currently some 18,000 manuscripts, many from ancient libraries, are housed in the Ahmed Baba Centre, named after the famous 15th century Timbuktu scholar, Ahmed Baba
art lost wax process
Art: Lost-wax Process
  • Create a wax sculpture of the desired object
  • Encase it in soft clay to create a clay mold
  • Bake the clay, causing the wax to melt
  • Pour hot molten metal into the mold
  • When the metal cools, break the clay mold to reveal the object

Gold weights from Ghana made

using the lost-wax process

next lesson
Next Lesson
  • First paragraphs due