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Sub-Saharan Africa to 1600 CE. Geography and Foundations Early Civs: Nubia, Nok, Aksum Expanding Zones of Exchange and Encounter: Kingdoms: Ghana, Mali, Songhai Other Peoples of West Africa: Hausa, Yoruba Benin East African City-States.

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Sub-Saharan Africa to 1600 CE

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sub saharan africa to 1600 ce

Sub-Saharan Africa to 1600 CE

Geography and Foundations

Early Civs: Nubia, Nok, Aksum

Expanding Zones of Exchange and Encounter:

Kingdoms: Ghana, Mali, Songhai

Other Peoples of West Africa: Hausa, Yoruba Benin

East African City-States

“Africa has been the first habitat of man but the last to become truly livable.” - Ali A. Mazrui, African scholar.
  • 1/5 land surface on earth
  • 2nd largest continent
  • Range of environments:
    • Savanna – grassy plains with acacia trees
    • Desert
      • Sahara
      • Kalahari
    • Sahel - border of Sahara desert
    • Rainforests along Equator
    • Mediterranean climate
      • Northern coast
      • Southern tip
  • Sahara – North Africa
    • Earth’s largest desert (size of U.S.)
  • Kalahari - south
  • land at southern edge of Sahara Desert
  • “coastline” in Arabic, named by north Africans
  • desertification - desert takes over more of Sahel
barriers to development
Barriers to Development
  • Deserts
  • Few good natural harbors
  • Interior = high plateau
  • Rivers – rapids from plateau to oceans (barrier to easy travel)
tsetse fly
Tsetse Fly
  • Carries a disease deadly to livestock and can cause fatal sleeping sickness in humans.
  • Prevented Africans from using cattle, donkeys and horses to farm near the rain forests.
  • Prevented invaders, Europeans, from colonizing fly-infested areas.
human origins in africa
Human Origins in Africa
  • Mary and Louis Leakey, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania - Homo Habilis, “tool man”
  • Donald Johansen and “Lucy”
commonalities of african tribal societies
Commonalities of African tribal societies -
  • Extended family and clan networks
  • Animism - belief in spirits present in animals, plants and other natural forces
  • Oral history
    • West Africa - griots (storytellers)
early african civilizations
Early African Civilizations
  • Nubia / Kush
  • Nok
  • Axum
  • A kingdom to the South of Egypt
present day sudan
(Present-day Sudan).
  • Mostly conquered by Egypt.
  • Kush, a part of Nubia, was conquered by Egypt. Kush people adopted Egyptian culture. When Egypt destroyed by foreign invaders, its culture still flourished in Kush.

Nubian pyramids

- built after Egyptian pyramids

- more of a status symbol and a tombstone; buried outside of the pyramid

Steep because they used a shaduf, which limits how far away you can lift the blocks?

nok 500 bce to 200 ce
Nok, 500 BCE to 200 CE
  • Djenne-Deno = oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa (discovered in 1977)
  • settlements
  • iron
  • terra cotta sculptures
aksum 900 bce to 600 ce
Aksum, 900 BCE to 600 CE
  • South of Kush on a plateau near the Red Sea (present-day Eritrea and Ethiopia).
  • Legend traces origins to a son King Solomon and Queen of Sheba, and includes 20th-Century ruler Haile Selassie.
  • First mentioned in a Greek guidebook written around 100 CE
aksum controlled trade
Aksum controlled trade
  • Hub for caravan route
  • Coastline and ports on Red Sea
  • Adulis: chief seaport
king ezana
King Ezana
  • Ruler during height of Aksum
  • conquered Arabian peninsula (today’s Yemen)
  • attacked Nubian capital of Meroe and burned it to the ground
  • converted to Christianity and established it as Aksum’s official religion
  • “I will rule the people with righteousness and justice and will not oppress them, and they may preserve this Throne which I have set up for the Lord of Heaven.”

aksum architecture
Aksum Architecture
  • Stone to create palaces and public buildings.
  • Carved stones to fit together, w/o mortar (same as Egyptians)
  • Stele - large stone pillar
ge ez
  • Written language of Aksum
  • brought by early Arab inhabitants
  • the only ancient sub-SaharanAfrican kingdom to have written language
aksum coins
Aksum coins
  • The only ancient sub-Saharan African kingdom to have minted coins.
  • Bronze, silver, gold.
  • Inscribed with “May the country be satisfied.”
decline of aksum
Decline of Aksum
  • Islamic invaders by 710 CE
  • Spiritually and economically isolated
  • Aksum removed capital to mountains of northern Ethiopia, but depletion of forests and soil, plus isolation, led to its decline.
bantu migrations
Bantu Migrations
  • Bantu = “the people”
  • From West Africa across sub-Saharan Africa
  • Possibly related to Nok
  • Reasons for migrations:
    • settled agriculture led to surplus and increase in population
    • desertification of Sahara
  • Spread out, brought language, customs, tools
  • 1/3 of today’s Afr languages are in Bantu family
the banana
The banana
  • During period of Bantu Migrations
  • Brought to Madagascar by sailors

from SE Asia

  • Caloric and nutritious
  • Became a staple food
  • Increased birth rate and infant survival rate

The banana is mentioned for the first time in history in buddhist texts 600 years BCE. Alexander the Great discovers the taste of the banana in the Indian valleys in 327 BCE . The existence of an organized banana plantation could be found in China back in the year 200 CE. In 650 CE, Islamic conquerors brought the banana back to Palestine. The Arabic merchants finally spread the bananas all over Africa. Only in 1502 the Portuguese start the first banana plantation in the Caribbean and in central America.

west african kingdoms 800 to 1600 expanding zones of exchange and encounter
West African Kingdoms, 800 to 1600;Expanding Zones of Exchange and Encounter
  • Sahel region
  • (sometimes called Sahalan kingdoms)
  • Control of trade
  • 1. Ghana
  • 2. Mali
  • 3. Songhai
ghana origins in saharan trade routes
Ghana origins in Saharan Trade Routes
  • Trade across Sahara, but slow and infrequent
  • Berber nomads introduced use of camel
    • steady travel
    • ten days w/o water (twice as long as most pack animals)
  • Trade routes crossed region of the Soninke people, who called their ruler ghana (war chief).
  • Muslim traders used the word ghana to refer to the region
ghana trade
Ghana trade
  • Gold
    • came from forest region south of savanna between the Niger and Senegal rivers
    • Up to 1350 CE, 2/3 of world’s gold came from there
  • Salt
    • lacking in West Africa’s savanna and forest
    • abundant in Sahara desert
    • brought by Arab and Berber traders
  • Taxes collected by Ghana king’s officials at city trading centers
spread of islam decline of ghana
Spread of Islam, Decline of Ghana
  • Spread to Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa by trade
  • Ghana’s rulers converted to Islam
  • Many of Ghana’s peoples remained animistic
  • 1076, Muslim Almoravids of North Africa spread conquest to Ghana (eventually withdrew, but had permanently disrupted Ghana’s gold-salt trade)
rise of mali
Rise of Mali
  • Mande-speaking people, south of Ghana
  • Wealth built on gold trade
  • Formerly under control of Ghana, but as Ghana’s power weakened, Mali emerged.
  • Plus, new gold deposits found further east.
  • Mali’s first great leader
  • “The world knew no other leader but Sundiata.”
  • Mansa = emperor
  • Sundiata became mansa and conquered Ghana and other trading centers.
  • Mali = “where the king lives”
mansa musa
Mansa Musa
  • Leader after time of Sundiata
  • Muslim
  • Military leader, put down rebellions
  • Empire expanded to twice size of Ghana
  • Divided empire into provinces, ruled by governors
  • Built university at Timbuktu

Spanish mapmaker’s view of Mansa Musa

islamic influence
Islamic Influence
  • Mansa Musa went on a hajj to Mecca, 1324-5
    • (with an entourage of 50,000)
  • Upon return, ordered building new mosques at trading cities of Timbuktu and Gao
  • Timbuktu as cultural center
  • Ibn Battuta, Islamic native of Tangier, traveled world, visited Mali in 1353
  • Trading city
  • Had a mosque (pictured)
  • Had a university
decline of mali
Decline of Mali
  • No ruler as strong as Mansa Musa.
  • Internal division on who should rule.
  • Discovery of new gold further east shifted trade routes that way.
sunni ali 1464 1490s
Sunni Ali, 1464-1490s
  • Built Songhai empire by military conquest
  • Professional army with fleet of war canoes and mobile cavalry
  • 1468, captured Timbuktu (trade center of Mali’s empire)
  • 1473, captured Djenne after 11-year siege and married its queen
  • Son ruled after his death.
askia muhammed 1490s
AskiaMuhammed, 1490s
  • Leader of Muslim revolt
  • Angry; felt Sunni Ali’s son’s practice of Islam was unfaithful
  • Replaced leader.
  • Ruled for 35 years, 1493-1528.
  • Excellent adminstrator - taxes, officials, etc.
  • Timbuktu and Jenne - reputations as centers of learning medicine
    • discovery that mosquitoes carry malaria
decline of songhai 1591
Decline of Songhai, 1591
  • Moroccan fighting force with gunpowder and cannons crossed Sahara and invaded Songhai.
  • Songhai had only swords and spears.
other peoples of west africa
Other Peoples of West Africa
  • 1. Hausa
  • 2. Yoruba
  • 3. Benin
1 hausa
1. Hausa
  • Common language (Hausa)
  • City-states: Kano, Katsina, Zazzau
  • at first ruled by Songhai, but gained independence
  • Local rulers built walled cities to rule farming villages outside city walls.
  • Constant fighting amongst rulers.
2 yoruba
2. Yoruba
  • Common language (Yoruba)
  • Localized Yoruba kingdoms formed out of smaller communities
  • Two prominent kingdoms: Ife and Oro
  • Yoruba rulers had great spiritual and political authority
  • Cities with walls
  • Wood and ivory carvings
3 kingdom of benin 1300s 1500s
3. Kingdom of Benin, 1300s-1500s
  • (buh-NIHN)
  • Near delta of Niger river
  • King (oba) Ewuare brought Benin to prominence; powerful army
  • Walled cities (Benin City)
  • Art/sculpture of royal family
  • 1480: Portuguese traders
  • pepper, leopard skins, ivory, slaves
  • Beginnings of European interference in Africa, including taking slaves and land.
east african city states
East African City-States
  • Mogadishu, Malindi, Mombasa, Kilwa
  • Each had own ruler, made own laws, had small army, controlled land outside its walls.
  • Traded with Indian, Chinese and Muslim merchants
  • Ivory, iron and gold for cotton, glass beads and porcelain
  • Swahili culture: mixture of Islamic, traditional
swahili language
Swahili language
  • Arabic words mixed with Bantu
great zimbabwe 1000 1450 ce
Great Zimbabwe, 1000-1450 CE
  • Southeast Africa
  • Shona people
  • Environment for farming and cattle raising
  • Located along a trade route; gained control by 1000 CE
  • Zimbabwe = Shona for “stone enclosure”
  • More than 60 acres
  • Population more than 10,000
Great Enclosure - a massive curving wall up to 36 ft high and 15 ft thick.
  • No internal climbing mechanism, so archaeologists theorize the walls were not for defense but for impressing visitors
end of swahili trade dominance
End of Swahili trade dominance
  • In late 1400s, Portuguese traders appeared in East Africa.
  • Swahili refused trading rights to Portuguese
  • Portuguese attacked and destroyed city-states.
  • Portuguese and Arabs took over East African trade.
themes and patterns
Themes and Patterns
  • Change: Bantu migrations, arrival of Muslims, Portuguese
  • Continuity: animism, lineage, Bantu languages
  • Interactions Econ and Pol: kingdoms based on trade, adoption of Christian and Muslim practices
  • Tech: carvings, architecture
  • Env: barriers to development in deserts, plateau, influence of Saharan trade routes, Sahel; migrations
  • Social: population growth, cities
  • Cult/intell: influence of Christianity and Islam, oral traditions, ancestor worship
  • Political org: powerful rulers, taxation and tribute
selected sources
Selected Sources
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, Timeline of Art History