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Kingdoms of Africa. Early Civilizations. Civilizations flourished despite geographical barriers. Bantu migrations and contact contributed to diversity. West African kingdoms controlled the Saharan trade routes. The varied climate zones, and natural resources created diverse ways of life.

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Kingdoms of Africa

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early civilizations
Early Civilizations
  • Civilizations flourished despite geographical barriers.
  • Bantu migrations and contact contributed to diversity.
  • West African kingdoms controlled the Saharan trade routes.
  • The varied climate zones, and natural resources created diverse ways of life


Africa is one of the earth’s seven continents.

There are 52 countries on the continent of Africa..

Sahara is the great divide


Ways of life suited to the conditions of their environment.

Village bonds, religious beliefs gave people a sense of community.


African Society

  • Urban life
    • Fortified Villages
  • Village life
    • small villages
    • nuclear families and larger kinship communities
  • Role of Women
    • polygamy not uncommon
    • many societies had matrilinear lineage
    • subordinate to men
  • Culture
    • Painting and sculpture (cave paintings), music (ritual dances), architecture (stone buildings, pyramids), literature (story tellers)






Africa was the home of four great civilizations




1000BC- 150 AD



  • 800-1000
  • Controlled gold-salt trade routes across West Africa
  • Viewed King as semi-divine
  • High status held by women
  • Influenced by Muslims through King’s advisers and Muslim settlers
  • Did not convert to Islam

Ghana: West Africa between Niger and Gambia Rivers.

  • They were used to transport goods and develop trade.
  • Collected taxes from traders who passed through the kingdom.

Natural resources include salt and gold.

Made things from iron.

Warriors used iron tipped spears against their neighbors

Ghana became a rich and powerful nation.

Camels began to be used as a source of transport.

Ghana relied on trade


Islamic Mosque in Ghana


After 700 AD, the religion of Islam spread over northern Africa.

Muslim fought with the non-Islamic people this weakened them.

Local warriors broke away -this ended many of the trade networks.



  • 1000 BCE- 150 CE ( Sudan )
  • Became an Egyptian tributary
  • Kush became a major trading state
  • Built up wide trade network
  • Exported ivory, animal skins, gold, perfume, and slaves
  • Produced iron tools and weapons
  • Developed system of writing

Nubian Pyramids

Developed along the Nile River south of Egypt.

Shared many cultural traits with Egypt such as religion, architecture and art


For many centuries,the people and culture were a mystery to the world.

Ancient Greeks wrote about an advanced culture

Kingdom of Axum controlled the triangle trade linking Africa, India and the Mediteranean.

Axum was a Christian outpost

It strengthened their ties to the rest of the world, but then it become isolated

International trade resulted in a blend of cultures


Many resources like gold, ivory, copper, frankincense and ebony.

Nubia was also known as Kush and The Land of the Bow.

Nubian archers were feared by all.

Long line of powerful kings.

They were often at war with Egypt.

A frankincense tree. The resin was used to make good smelling incense.

200 AD. used “ships of the desert” revolutionized trade

early africa
Early Africa
  • Axum, Son of Saba
    • Conquered Kush in the 1st Millennium
  • Axum founded as a colony of the kingdom of Sheba
  • Axum continued to trade after Sheba declined
  • After 3000 BCE farming sread to the savannas
  • East Africa
    • Bantu Language group
  • Southern Africa
    • Khoisan Language group


  • 1200-1450
  • Expanded influence over gold-salt trade routes
  • Expanded to borders of Atlantic Ocean
  • Conquered Berber cities
  • Emphasized peace and order
  • Mansa Musa became a great Emperor (1312-1337)

Sundiata ruled area from 1230-1255 AD.

He led the people in conquering and expanding his kingdom

The greatest king of Mali was Mansa Musa (1312-1337).

He developed the gold and salt trade of Mali

Became very powerful and rich.

Mansu Musa: Lord of the Negroes of Guinea. (Photo courtesy of History of Africa)


Mansa Musa was a Muslim.

  • In 1324 Mansa Musa made a pilgrimage to Mecca,
  • This showed his power and wealth to the other people he visited
  • He built many beautiful mosques in western Africa.



When Mansa Musa died the great kingdom weakened.

Berbers came into the area to claim territory that was once part of the kingdom.

Although Mali fell the kingdom of Songha replaced them.

The Berbers still live in North Africa. This picture, taken in 1893, shows a Berber group.



  • 1450-1600
  • Largest Western African Empire
  • Held traditional religious beliefs. With later Muslim influence
  • Set up efficient government and bureaucracy

Sunni Ali saw Mali was weakening and led his soldiers to conquer the area.

He began the kingdom of Songhai.

He also set up a complex government to rule all the lands he had conquered.


Sunni Ali died in 1492 CE.

His son did not accept Islam as a religion.

Muhammad Ture, overthrew the new king and made himself king of Songhai.

Ture was Muslim and made Islam the religion of his kingdom.

In West Africa, women took the dominant role in the marketplace or official peacemakers.

Made decisions by a process known as consensus.



Remained a rich and strong under Ture’s rule.

Complex government centered in the city of Gao.

Morocco invaded Songhai to take its rich trade routes.

Moroccans had a new weapon, the gun.


States and Stateless Society

  • Zaire River to Cape of Good Hope
  • Zimbabwe ( sacred house )
    • Great Zimbawe
    • Bushman (San) - hunting and foraging


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