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Africa. Ashley J Erin A Kristy N Tiffany L Stephanie H Katie M. Pre-History Before the Rise of Complex Civilizations. Humans evolved over several million years from primates in Africa 40,000 years ago - Neanderthals had modern human bodies with ape-like faces

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Africa l.jpg

Ashley J

Erin A

Kristy N

Tiffany L

Stephanie H

Katie M

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Pre-HistoryBefore the Rise of Complex Civilizations

  • Humans evolved over several million years from primates in Africa

  • 40,000 years ago - Neanderthals had modern human bodies with ape-like faces

  • 10,000 years ago plant cultivation and domestication of animals led to permanent settlements

  • Stone Age – 1st appearance of stone tools 2 million years ago – appearance of metal tools 4000 years ago

  • 3 traits distinguish humans from apes: Bipedalism, very large brain, and language

  • Modern human & great ape DNA is 98% identical

  • Human tool making 1st recognizable cultural activity

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(Old Stone Age)

To 10,000 years ago

Evolution of humans

2 million years ago – 1st appearance of crude stone tools

1 – 1.5 million years ago – began setting fires

Homo habilis, Homo erectus


(New Stone Age)

10,000 – 4,000 years ago

Agricultural Revolution – began domesticating plants & animals

Began cooking foods

Ecological crisis from over-hunting

Homo sapiens


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The Rise of Complex Civilizations(3500 BCE – 1000 BCE)

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3100-2575 BCE Early Dynastic

2575-2134 BCE Old Kingdom Egypt

2134-2040 BCE First Intermediate Period

2040-1640 BCE Middle Kingdom Egypt

1640-1532 BCE Second Intermediate Period

1532-1070 BCE New Kingdom Egypt

Basic Chronology

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  • During the Old Kingdom, the principle was established that the king was a god come to earth, the reincarnation of the sun god Re

  • Egyptians believed that their kings were put on earth to maintain ma’at, the divinely authorized order of the universe

  • The pharaoh believed to be an indispensable link between the people and the gods

  • Massive resources were poured into the construction of royal tombs to ensure the king’s spirits wellbeing in the afterlife

  • In 2630, a third dynasty king, Djoser, ordered a triangular building built for his burial instead of the flat toped one normally used, this became the pyramid Egypt is known so well for

  • Required construction of pyramids considered a religious service that ensured Egypt’s prosperity

  • Worshiped many gods; some deities were depicted with animal heads while others were give human form

  • Egyptians believed in the reality of the afterlife and made extensive preparations for a safe passage and a comfortable existence once they arrive

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  • The Egyptian Book of the Dead presented the people with how to care for the dead and ensure their safe journey to the afterlife

  • The last and most important obstacle for the dead was believed to be the weighing of the deceased’s heart ( the source of a persons intellect, personality, and emotion) in the presence of underworld judges to see if the deceased had led a good life and deserved to reach the ultimate “blessed destination”

  • This obsession with the afterlife also created a concern about the physical condition about the body; thus the process of mummification

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Political Structure

  • Kingship; Egypt was ruled by pharaohs and queens.

  • Complex bureaucracy; an extensive administration at village level, then the districts, which divided the country & finally the central government, based in the city’s capitol

  • Bureaucrats, in the central administration, kept track of land, labor, products, people, & extracting taxes

  • Slavery existed on a limited scale & rarely impacted the economy

  • Queens & queen-mothers played a significant role in behind-the-scenes politics & royal courts

  • Migration from the Sahara to the Nile Valley resulted in rise of Old Kingdom Egypt in 2500 BCE

  • 2134 BCE underlying tension between the centralized power of the monarchy & forces created by the Egyptian bureaucracy broke down Egypt’s government

  • 2040 BCE when the early monarchs reduced the power of the old elite and created a new middle class of administrators, resulting in the rise of Middle Kingdom

  • 17th century BCE the Middle Kingdom slowly declined and fell into a period of political fragmentation and economic decline

  • 1532 under a native dynasty came the rise of a new civilization, the New Kingdom that lasted to 1020

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Impact of Technology & Demography

  • One of the first civilizations to develop high levels of centralization, urbanization, & technology

  • 1500 BCE metallurgy hit Egypt; once again making them a legitimate power with wealth & control

  • Weapons constructed mainly of stone

  • 1500 BCE horses arrived; horse drawn chariots became important weapon for war

  • The Nile River caused predictable, gradual floods that rejuvenated fields; agriculture was dependant on the river water for irrigation

  • The Nile River a main resource for travel and communication

  • Used math to survey the population & measure dimension of fields

  • Peasants did majority of farming; maintained channels, basins, & dikes for irrigations

  • Hieroglyphics – picture symbols standing for words & sounds

  • Methods of transportation included river barges, ships with oars & sails, & carts & sleds pulled by draft animals

  • Early tombs made of mud bricks; later evolved to pyramids

  • Learned about chemistry & human anatomy through mummification

  • Ancient Egypt’s population between 1 & 1.5 million

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Interaction with Other Societies

  • 1640 BCE The Hyksos took over Egypt

  • 1610 BCE The Kamose & the Ahmose ran the Hyksos out of Egypt; extended north into Syria and South into Nubia

  • 1460 BCE Queen Hatshepsut sent an expedition to Punt for goods such as live monkeys, ebony, ivory, & young myrrh trees

  • 1500 BCE Egypt became participant in a diplomatic and commercial system of trade with Asia

  • 1285 BCE major battle between Egypt & the Hittites over Syria; battle was a draw

  • 1250 BCE Egypt attacked by unknown invaders; resulted in loss of territory in Syria, Palestine, & Nubia

  • 1220 BCE Libyans attacked Egypt; they thwarted this attack

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Social & Gender Structure

  • The king & high-ranking officials at the top of the social hierarchy

  • Lower level officials, local leaders, priests, artisans, & well-to-do farmers in middle class

  • At the bottom were peasants, the vast majority of the population

  • The people at the top of the social stratification had more wealth, power, & status

  • Marriage was not religious or legal & could be absolved at any time by either party

  • Women were treated more respectfully & had more legal rights & social freedom than any other society

  • Women could own their own property, inherit from their parents, & maintain the right to their dowry in a divorce

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2300 – 500 BCE

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Social, Gender, & Political Structure

  • Social stratification based on wealth

  • Women of royal family played important role

  • Complex political organization

  • Matrilineal system – king succeeded by son of his sister

  • Ruled by many queens, either by themselves or with their husbands

  • More complex political entity was evolving from the chiefdoms of 3rd millennium BCE, named Kush

  • 284 BCE-115 CE Women queens played an important part in warfare, diplomacy, and the building of great temples

  • Kush & Meroë powerful kingdoms

  • 1200 BCE authority in Nubia collapsed

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Technology& Demography

  • Richly endowed with coveted natural resources – gold & semi-precious stones

  • Metallurgy, monumental building, writing

  • Meroë major center for iron smelting

  • Nile River vital to trade & transportation

  • Only continuously inhabited stretch of territory connecting sub-Saharan Africa with North Africa

  • 1750 BCE kings of Kush assembled & organized labor to build monumental walls & structures

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Interaction with Other Societies

  • Passageway for trade between tropical Africa & the Mediterranean

  • 701 BCE sent rulers into Palestine; Assyrians retaliated

  • 660 BCE Assyrians pushed Nubians out of Egypt

  • 4th century CE Meroe overrun by nomadic groups, causing its collapse

  • 4th century BCE interaction with sub-Saharan Africa resulted in abandonment of Egyptian hieroglyphics & adoption of Meroitic language

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Egypt & Nubia

  • 2300 BCE first enters historical record trading with Old Kingdom Egypt

  • Egypt adopted aggressive stance towards Nubia during Middle Kingdom

  • 1200 BCE Egypt’s authority in Nubia collapsed

  • 712-660 BCE Nubian kings ruled all of Egypt as the 25th Dynasty

  • 660 BCE Nubians forced out of Egypt

  • 1070 BCE Egyptians penetrated deeply into Nubia & destroyed Kush; led to 500 years of Egyptian domination in Nubia

  • Children of high-ranking Nubian natives held as Egyptian hostages

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The Classical Period

(1000 BCE – 600 CE)

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Sub-Saharan Africa

300 BCE – 1100 CE

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  • Encompasses dramatically different environments: semiarid steppes, tropical savannah, tropical rainforest, & temperate highlands

  • 1 CE became distinct cultural region; not shaped by “great traditions” (written language, common legal & belief systems)

  • Over 2,000 languages spoken, corresponding to social & belief systems

  • External conquerors unable to penetrate regions natural barriers and impose a uniform culture

  • Common ritual isolation of kings

  • Societies organized themselves into social categories: age groupings, fixed king divisions, distinct gender roles & relations, & occupational groupings

  • Cultivation by hoe & digging stick was a common agriculture technique

  • Migration away from Sahara resulted in settling of the Nile Valley & emergence of Old Kingdom Egypt

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  • By 2 steppes, tropical savannah, tropical rainforest, & temperate highlandsnd millennium BCE agriculture common north of equator; later spread southward displacing a hunter-gathering way of life

  • 1st millennium BCE copper first mined in the Sahara

  • 8th – 9th centuries BCE gold first mined in Zimbabwe

  • Early 1st millennium BCE iron smelting began in northern sub-Saharan Africa

  • Many languages south of the equator belong to the branch of Niger-Congo family known as Bantu

  • Original Bantu speakers fished, farmed, possessed domesticated animals, lived in permanent villages, & made pottery & cloth

  • 500 BCE – 1000 CE massive transfer of Bantu traditions & practices southward, eastward, & westward

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Post Classical Era steppes, tropical savannah, tropical rainforest, & temperate highlands

(600 – 1450 CE)

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Ghana steppes, tropical savannah, tropical rainforest, & temperate highlands6th – 13th Centuries CE

  • Earliest known sub-Saharan beneficiary of the new exchange system

  • Established by the Soninke people

  • Paganism religion; worshipped idols

  • King meted out justice, controlled trade, & collected taxes on salt & copper

  • Large army of bowmen and cavalry made Ghana dominant power in region

  • 1076 CE fell prey to new state formed by Muslim desert nomads; resulted in conversion to Islam of majority of the population

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Saharan Africa steppes, tropical savannah, tropical rainforest, & temperate highlands

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  • 2500 BCE Sahara reaches current state of dryness steppes, tropical savannah, tropical rainforest, & temperate highlands

  • 300 BCE scarcity of water restricting travel

  • 1100 CE trans-Saharan caravan routes transporting significant amounts of gold, slaves, & tropical goods northward

  • Cliffs & caves of highlands preserve rock paintings & engravings; unable to be dated

  • Artwork clearly indicates horse herders succeeded cattle herders

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  • Camel not native to Africa; domestication spread by Saharan trading

  • Peoples in central & southern Sahara used riding & are depicted as fighting with sword & spear on camelback

  • Camel herding established in the south

  • People of north Sahara developed camel harnesses for plows & carts

  • Southern traders concentrated on supplying salt to the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa

  • Sahel played important role in trade

  • Main North trade of Roman North Africa was supplying Italy with agricultural products (usually wheat & olives)

  • 7th century CE trade focus shifted from Mediterranean to the Middle East

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Overall Themes trading

Trade: The trade of gold, and precious natural resources such as myrrh tied all the civilizations of Africa together, and also connected them to the other ancient civilizations of the world like Asia and The Mediterranean.

Religion: The Civilizations in Africa from Egypt and Nubia to Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa all had major and devout beliefs in the afterlife and worship of many gods. These beliefs brought many similarities to their culture and the way the people lived.

Impact of Geography on Civilization: Africa had a very diverse geography - From the arid desserts to the tropical rainforests and the temperate highlands. The people all adapted to their environment and used it to their advantage whether it is for travel or communication.