History of Africa; Early Civilization to the 19th Century

Around 3300 BC, history records in Northern Africa the birth of literacy in the Pharaonic civilization of Ancient Egypt. One of the world’s foremost and longest- lasting civilizations, the Egyptian state continued, with varying footings of influence over other areas, until 343 BC. Egyptian influence reached deep into present-day Libya and Nubia.

An independent centre of civilization with trading links to Phoenicia was established by Phoenicians from Tyre on the north-west African shoreline at Carthage.European exploration of Africa began with the Ancient Greeks and Romans. And in 332 BC, Alexander the Great was welcomed as a liberator in Persian- occupied Egypt. He constituted Alexandria in Egypt, which would get the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty after his death.Following the domination of North Africa’s Mediterranean shoreline by the Roman Empire, the area was integrated economically and culturally into the Roman system. Roman settlement came in present Tunisia and fro along the coast. The first Roman emperor native to North Africa was Septimius Severus, born in Leptis Magna in modern- day Libya, his mother was an Italian Roman and his father was Punic.The Ezana Stone records King Ezana’s conversion to Christianity and his subjugation of different neighboring clans, including Meroë.

Christianity spread across these areas at an early date, from Judaea via Egypt and beyond the borders of the Roman world into Nubia; by AD 340 at the ultimate, it had wax the state religion of the Aksumite Empire. Syro-Greek missionaries, who arrived by way of the Red Sea, were responsible for this theological development. In the early 7th century, the new formed Arabian Islamic Caliphate expanded into Egypt, and either into North Africa. In a short while, the parochail Berber upper class had been integrated into Muslim Arab tribes. When the Umayyad capital Damascus fell in the 8th century, the Islamic centre of the Mediterranean shifted from Syria to Qayrawan in North Africa. Islamic North Africa began to diversify, and serve as grounds for mystics, scholars, magistrates, and philosophers. During the succeeding- mentioned period, Islam spread to sub-Saharan Africa, generally through trade routes and migration.In West Africa, Dhar Tichitt and Oualata in present- day Mauritania figure prominently among the early municipal centers, dated to 2,000 BC. About 500 stone buildings junk the region in the former savannah of the Sahara. Its habitants worked at sea as fishers and grew millet. It has been discovered by Augustin Holl that the Soninke of the Mandé people were likely responsible for constructing such settlements.

Around 300 BC, the region grew more juiceless and the settlement began to decline, most likely migratii to Koumbi Saleh. Architectural proof and the comparison of earthenware styles suggest that Dhar Tichitt was related to the ensuing Ghana Empire. Djenné-Djenno (in today’s Mali) was settled around 300 BC, and the city grew to house a sizable Iron Age population, as demonstrated by crowded cemeteries. Living structures were made of sun- dried mud. By 250 BC Djenné-Djenno had turn a large, thriving trade center.Farther south, in central Nigeria, around 1,500 BC, the Nok culture developed on the Jos Plateau. It was a considerably centralized community. The Nok people produced photo-realistic representations in terracotta, including human heads and human figures, elephants, and other species. By 500 BC, and perhaps before, they were smelting iron. By 200 AD, the Nok culture had dematerialized and vanished under unknown circumstances around 500 AD having lasted perhabs 20 centuries. Drawing conclusions from the stylistic correspondences with the Nok terracottas, the bronze figurines of the Yoruba Kingdom of Ife and those of the Bini Kingdom of Benin are suggested to be continuation of the traditions of the earli Nok culture.

Ninth to Eighteenth centuries

The intricate 9th-century bronzes from Igbo-Ukwu, in Nigeria displayed a rank of handy accomplishment that was notably more advanced than European clasp casting of the same period.

Pre-colonial Africa possibly constituted of as many as 10,000 different states and polities characterized by numerous political societies and rule. These included small family groups of hunter-gatherers including the San people of southern Africa; larger, more structured groups such as the family clan groupings of the Bantu-speaking people of central, southern, and eastern Africa; heavily structured clan groups in the Horn of Africa; the large Sahelian kingdoms; and autonomous municipal-states and Kingdoms resemblant as those of the Akan, Edo, Yoruba, and Igbo people in West Africa; and the Swahili coastal trading metropolises of Southeast Africa.

By the ninth century AD, a string of dynastic states, including the pioneer Hausa states, stretched across the sub-Saharan savannah from the western regions to central Sudan. The most strong of these sovereignties were Ghana, Gao, and the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Ghana declined in the eleventh century, but was succeeded by the Mali Empire which consolidated much of western Sudan in the thirteenth century. Kanem accepted Islam in the eleventh century. In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent kingdoms grew with little influence from the Muslim north.

The Kingdom of Nri was established around the ninth century and was one of the first. It’s also one of the oldest kingdoms in present- day Nigeria and was ruled by the Eze Nri. The Nri Kingdom is noted for its elaborate bronzes, found at the towi of Igbo-Ukwu. The bronzes have been dated from as far back as the ninth century.The Kingdom of Ife, historically the first of these Yoruba kingdoms, established government under a priestly oba (‘ king’ or’ autocrat’ in the Yoruba language), called the Ooni of Ife. Ife was noted as a major religious and cultural centre in West Africa, and for its unique living tradition of bronze sculpture. The Ife model of government was adopted at the Oyo Empire, where its obas or kings, called the Alaafins of Oyo, once controlled a large number of other Yoruba and non-Yoruba city-states and kingdoms; the Fon Kingdom of Dahomey was one of the non-Yoruba territory under Oyo control. Ruins of Great Zimbabwe ( flourished eleventh to fifteenth centuries) The Almoravids were a Berber dynasty from the Sahara that spread over a wide area of northwestern Africa and the Iberian peninsula during the eleventh century.

The Banu Hilal and Banu Ma’qil were a collection of Arab Bedouin lineages from the Arabian Peninsula who migrated westwards via Egypt between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Their migration caused the fusion of the Arabs and Berbers, where the locals were Arabized, and Arab culture absorbed elements of the geographic culture, under the unifying infrastructure of Islam.

Following the defeat of Mali, an aboriginal leader named Sonni Ali (1464 – 1492) formed the Songhai Empire in the region of middle Niger and the western Sudan and took control of the trans-Saharan trade. Sonni Ali seized Timbuktu in 1468 and Jenne in 1473, assembling his administration on trade earnings and the cooperation of Muslim merchants. His successor Askia Mohammad I (1493 – 1528) made Islam the official religion, constructed mosques, and brought to Gao Muslim scholars, including al-Maghili (d. 1504), the originator of an important tradition of Sudanic African Muslim scholarship. By the eleventh century, some Hausa states like Kano, jigawa, Katsina, and Gobir had developed into walled municipalities engaging in trade, servicing caravans, and the manufacture of goods. Until the fifteenth century, these small sovereignties were on the skirt of the major Sudanic conglomerates of the time, paying homage to Songhai to the west and Kanem-Borno to the east.

By Alexander Asiedu Ofori

A passionate writer, content creator and a Pan-African

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