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Chapter 8

Early Civilizations in Africa

The Continent of Africa

1. Africa covers twenty percent of the earth's land surface. There are five climatic zones to the continent. In the north along the Mediterranean are fertile lands rimmed by mountains. Though unpredictable, there is sufficient rainfall for agriculture in these areas. Similar fertile lands are found on the southwestern Cape of Good Hope. South of the northern mountains is the great Sahara Desert stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, covering 3.5 million square miles. Bracketing this and other deserts of Africa is the sahel, a dry, treeless semi-arid grass-covered plain. The Sahara gives way to savannahs and then to tropical rain forests along the coast in the area of the Niger River. These forests extend into the interior of central Africa until met by the mountains, upland plateaus, and lakes of eastern Africa. In the East African Rift Valley of modern Kenya, hominids made their appearance. Further to the south are the dense jungles of equatorial Africa watered by the Congo (Zaire) River. These lands give way to the hills, plateaus, savannahs, and deserts of the south.
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2. While evidence suggests that agriculture was pursued in the lower Nile valley around 5000 B.C.E., there may have been even earlier activity in the area of Nubia at the confluence of the White and Blue Nile. Here farmers may have cultivated sorghum and millet on the upper Nile as early as the eleventh millennium B.C.E. By at least 3000 B.C.E. farming had spread throughout the savannas and between 1500 and 1000 B.C.E. settled agriculture had reached south into the Rift Valley. From the Nile valley, agriculture also moved west to the central and western Sudan. By the first century B.C.E. settled agriculture was in West Africa from where it spread to the forests. 3. By the third millennium B.C.E. the upper and lower Nile trade of Nubia included ivory, ebony, frankincense, gold, oils, cotton, and slaves. Meroe was strategically located at the intersection of the northern African trade routes and the Nile. It was here that iron working was perhaps developed (either introduced indigenously or brought by the Phoenicians to Egypt). From the Nile, iron smelting spread west and was present in West Africa by 250 B.C.E. and sub-Saharan Africa by 600 C.E. Some evidence, however, suggests iron smelting took place as early as 500 B.C.E. in the regions of the Niger River. 4. One of the most important areas of West Africa was Ghana with its capital at Saleh, a city of 15,000-20,000 by the twelfth century. Emerging in the fifth century C.E. north of the Senegal and Niger Rivers, it was located near one of the richest gold producing areas in Africa. The gold was procured from neighboring people and transported to Marrakech and Morocco where it was distributed to the northern world. Ghana also exported to the Mediterranean ivory, ostrich feathers, hides, leather goods, and ultimately slaves. In 992 Ghana captured the Berber town of Awdaghast which controlled the southern portion of the major trans-Saharan trade routes. By the thirteenth century, Ghana was destroyed and in its place grew several states including Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, and the Hausa. Mali extended from the Atlantic coast to the Niger River. Timbuktu was not only a main trading center for the gold that was used to build the power of Mali but also by the fifteenth century it had developed into a center of scholarship and learning. Songhai, at the eastern end of the Niger, was under Mali's control until 1375. By the late fifteenth century Songhai dominated the entire upper Niger and had captured Timbuktu. Under Songhai trans-Saharan trade reached its height focusing on gold, slaves, and ivory. At the end of the sixteenth century Songhai collapsed. The fourth significant state was Kanem-Bornu near Lake Chad. Kanem from 1100 to 1500 controlled the trade routes north to the Mediterranean and east to the Nile. In the fifteenth century power shifted to Bornu. Question: 1.How did geography shape the development of ancient Africa?

The Continent of Africa

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Ancient Africa

The Land 5,000 miles long Sahara is the great divide The Emergence of Civilization Kush

Agriculture may have first appeared in Nubia rather than the lower Nile valley Perhaps here the first true African kingdom Nubia became an Egyptian tributary Disintegration of the Egyptian New Kingdom (end of second millennium B.C.E.) resulted in the independent state of Kush
Kush became a major trading state

Axum, Son of Saba

Conquered Kush in first millennium C.E. Axum founded as a colony of the kingdom of Saba (Sheba) in first millennium B.C.E.
Saba a trading state, goods from South Asia to the Mediterranean

Axum continued the trade after Saba declined

Ancient Ethiopia and Nubia

1. The origins of agriculture in Egypt may have been in the area called Nubia at the confluence of the White and Blue Nile. It would appear that crops such as sorghum and millet were being cultivated as early as the eleventh millennium B.C.E. By the third millennium B.C.E. the upper and lower Nile trade of Nubia included such goods as ivory, ebony, frankincense, gold, oils, cotton, and slaves.
2. Neolithic groups were migrating east from the Sahara Desert by at least 2200 B.C.E. and around 1500 B.C.E. these dark skinned people had created their own kingdom of Kush. 3. About 750 B.C.E. the Kushites took advantage of Egyptian decay and conquered Thebes, the capital of Lower Egypt. The Kushites, however, soon withdrew back to their homeland as the Assyrians burst into Egypt in 670 B.C.E. Their rule centered on the important trading center of Meroe from which the Kushites served as the conduit for goods from Central and East Africa as well as the Red Sea to Rome and its tributaries. The zenith of Kush was from 250 B.C.E to 200 C.E. 4. Axum was located in the northern highlands of Ethiopia. It was colonized about 500 B.C.E. by the kingdom of Saba (Sheba) across the Red Sea on the southern tip of the Arab Peninsula (Yemen). When Saba declined, Axum became independent. Its prosperity was based upon trade moving between India and the Mediterranean. Key was the Red Sea port of Adulis. Among the items exported were ivory, frankincense, myrrh, and slaves while imports included textile, metal goods, wine, and olive oil. In about 330 C.E. Kush was eliminated as a rival when it was conquered. 5. The zenith of Axum was from about 200 to 400 C.E. In the sixth and seventh centuries the kingdom was Christianized and the church became Monophysite in doctrine (the single, unitary nature of Jesus). Christianity became the tool for unifying the various chieftains of Axum into the kingdom of Ethiopia. By the tenth century the Axumite Kingdom had disappeared, replaced by Christian Ethiopia. In relative seclusion due to mountainous and almost inaccessible highlands, a stable monarchy and distinctive Christian culture were created. Questions: 1. How was Kush an important link to the Mediterranean civilizations? 2. What was the role of geography and location in the rise of Axum and its successor Ethiopia?
2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning is a trademark used herein under license.

Ancient Ethiopia and Nubia

Followed Egyptian Christianity (Coptic) From 8000 to 4000 B.C.E. a warm, humid climate that created lakes, ponds, grasslands, and game Desiccation begins in 6th and 5th millennium B.C.E. After 3000 B.C.E. and farming spread to the savannas Agriculture, c. 7000 B.C.E. Trade Ironworking by the people along the Niger River in the middle of the first millennium B.C.E., Nok culture Bantu language group
Introduced cultivation of crops and ironworking

The Sahara and Its Environs


East Africa

Rhapta a commercial metropolis


Trade across the Indian Ocean

Southern Africa

Khoisan language group

Trans-Saharan Trade Routes

1. One of the keys to the trans-Saharan trade was Carthage, established about 813 B.C.E. in North Africa by Phoenicia. Carthage did not directly carry out the African trade but used the nomadic Berbers as intermediaries. Utilizing camels that were domesticated sometime at the beginning of the Christian era, the traders could move about 500 pounds for each animal and travel around twenty-five miles a day. Merchants usually walked and guided the animals. Travel, which could last three months, was predominantly at night since the desert day temperatures reached well over a hundred degrees while the low at night would be in the twenties. One caravan in the fourteenth century reportedly contained 12,000 camels. After about the fifth century the Berbers adapted the saddle for the camel thereby giving them powerful political and military advantage, especially in controlling the trade routes.
2. Ancient trade routes included trans-Saharan links between North Africa and the Nile River. There was also an ancient route connecting the Nile and Niger Rivers. Since at least 130 B.C.E West Africa shipped north and east gold, precious stones, cola nuts, slaves, and wild animals. In turn, horses, cattle, millet, leather, cloth, and weapons came from the north. 3. One of the most important areas of West Africa was Ghana with its capital at Saleh, a city of 15,000-20,000 by the twelfth century. Emerging in the fifth century C.E. north of the Senegal and Niger Rivers, it was located near one of the richest gold producing areas in Africa. The gold was procured from neighboring people and transported to Marrakech and Morocco where it was distributed to the northern world. Ghana also exported to the Mediterranean ivory, ostrich feathers, hides, leather goods, and ultimately slaves. In 992 Ghana captured the Berber town of Awdaghast which gave it control of the southern portion of the major trans-Saharan trade routes. By the thirteenth century, Ghana was destroyed and in its place grew several states including Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, and the Hausa. Mali extended from the Atlantic coast to the Niger River. Timbuktu was not only one of the main trading centers from which gold was traded to build the power of wealth of Mali but also by the fifteenth century had developed into a great center of scholarship and learning. Songhai, at the eastern end of the Niger, was under Mali's control until 1375. By the late fifteenth century Songhai dominated the entire upper Niger and had captured Timbuktu. Under Songhai the trans-Saharan trade reached its height focusing on gold and other commodities of West Africa such as slaves and ivory. At the end of the sixteenth century Songhai collapsed. The fourth significant state was Kanem-Bornu near Lake Chad. Kanem from 1100 to 1500 controlled the trade routes north to the Mediterranean and east to the Nile. In the fifteenth century power shifted to Bornu. Question: 1. What was the relationship between the growth of empire and trade?
2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning is a trademark used herein under license.

Trans-Saharan Trade Routes

The Coming of Islam African Religious Beliefs before Islam

Single creator god


Sometimes accompanied by a pantheon of gods Sasa (first stage of life on earth) and zamani (eternal existence)

Ancestral souls Rituals Challenged by Islam but not always replaced Egypt
Arab forces in Egypt in 641 Arabs welcome due to high taxes and Coptic Christians often persecuted by the Byzantines

The Arabs of North Africa

Arabs seize Carthage in 690 Al Maghrib


Berbers

The Emergence of States in Africa

1. In the tenth century the Muslim Umayyads of Spain gained control of Morocco but lost it to the Almoravids in the middle of the eleventh century. They soon conquered western Algeria and southern Spain. The Almoravids were succeeded in 1140 by the Almohads (Muslim Berbers) from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
2. In 909 a claimant of descendentcy from Fatimah (Muhammad's daughter) seized Algeria and Tunisia. By the second half of the tenth century Egypt had fallen to the Fatimids who built a new capital at Cairo. Before the empire crumbled in the eleventh century, they controlled southern Syria, the Hijaz, and Yemen.
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3. Ghana built its power in the fifth century on the gold trade coming from the Senegal and Niger Rivers. It also had substantial agricultural land that supported a population of about 200,000. By the thirteenth century Ghana's empire was destroyed. Nearby Songhai did not get involved in the gold trade until the fourteenth century. Its orientation was toward the forest trade of the lower Niger and the trans-Saharan trade to eastern Algeria. Developing between the eighth and ninth centuries, Kanem's formation was as a nomadic federation of black tribes that eventually formed a single people, the Kanuri. These people took over the sedentary societies of Kanem east of Lake Chad and later Bornu, west of the lake. By the thirteenth century Kanem-Bornu controlled the southern terminus of the trans-Saharan trade route to the Mediterranean. To the south was Benin on the southern Niger. Existing at least by the twelfth century, its villages were directed by a powerful king in the fifteenth century. 4. Zimbabwe, south of the Zambezi River, was located in a rocky, savanna-woodland watershed far enough inland never to be influenced by Islam. It was founded by eleventh century Bantu speakers called the Shona and flourished until the sixteenth century. The area consisted of at least 150 settlements that were apparently involved in the trade of East Africa. Among its products was gold found to the west and north and traded to Sofala on the coast. 5. Ethiopia, centered at Axum, had commercial ties to Rome, Byzantium, as well as to the east across the Indian Ocean. It also exercised significant military and political power in eastern Africa but in the eighth century the Muslims cut off Axum's commercial contacts with the Byzantine Empire. Soon, Ethiopia lost its control of the Red Sea trade routes. 6. Kongo, located near the mouth of the Kongo River, was formed in the fourteenth century by a Bantu prince. Ultimately, six states were brought under the Mani Kongo ("lord of the Kongo"). By the 1400s, Kongo was a bureaucratic monarchy. Question: 1.How did the African states differ in their organization?

The Emergence of States in Africa

The Kingdom of Ethiopia: A Christian Island in a Muslim Sea


Christian Ethiopia Shift in trade routes and overexploited agriculture


Axum became an isolated agricultural society
Source of ivory, resins, and slaves

Attacked by Muslim state of Adal in early 14th century

East Africa: The Land of Zanj


Trade with the Indian Ocean and as far away as China Mixed African-Arab culture Swahili
Expansion of Islam has impact on political system Introduction of Arabic for a writing system

The States of West Africa

Ghana
Farming Gold and trade Divine right monarchy assisted by hereditary aristocracy Did not convert to Islam

Mali
Ruinous wars by the twelfth century in Ghana
New states of Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, and Hausa states

Greatest state was Mali


Gold trade Mansa Musa (1312-1337)

States and Stateless Societies in Southern Africa

Zaire River to the Cape of Good Hope


Great Zimbabwe Trade

Zimbabwe (sacred house)

The San (Bushman) people


Hunting and foraging

African Society Urban life

Fortified villages
Government Craftsmen Clans lived in own compounds

Relationship between the king and merchant class

Village Life

Most people lived in small villages Nuclear families and larger kinship communities Village was usually composed of a single lineage group
Usually subordinate to men Polygamy not uncommon Many societies had matrilinear lineage

Role of women

Slavery

Practiced in Africa since ancient times, probably originating in prisoners of war Common in ancient Egypt Berbers raided agricultural villages and the slaves were sold throughout the Mediterranean Could gain freedom Living conditions often decent

African Culture Painting and Sculpture

Rock paintings, wood carving, Nok pottery, metalwork


Rituals Pyramid Stone pillars Stone buildings Professional storytellers Women

Music and Dance

Architecture

Literature

Example of Middle Eastern Islamic ironwork on window


2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning is a trademark used herein under license.