African Societies Before The Slave Trade And Colonization
African Societies before the Slave Trade and Colonization were characterised by Iron Age Kingdoms forming centralised States as well as groups of Nomads that had not formed Centralised bureaucracies.
We ended Part 2 of the Entire History Of Africa Anthology, with the emergence of African people in the Iron Age following the development of Agriculture which ushered in a different system of Social, Political and Economic relations from that which had dominated Stone Age Africa.
These developments created a variety of settled Kingdoms and Nomadic peoples across the expanse of the entire African Continent.
Desertification Of The Sahara
As we have established in Part 1 on the Pre-History Of Africa, significant populations of Homo Sapiens arose in the East African Rift Valley Region, and for about 3000 years, the Sahara region was the home of Nomadic Stone Age Hunter Gatherer Black peoples who lived off the land in the once fertile region.
Rock Art found in this region bears testament to a once fertile Sahara roamed by Nomadic Stone Age Africans.
The desertification of the Sahara forced the African nomads settled in the Region to migrate to other Regions in the Continent, resulting in a variety of Kingdoms and Nomadic peoples that subsequently spread throughout North, West, East and Southern Africa some of which we previously touched on in the Pre-Colonial Kingdoms of Africa entry.
The African Kingdoms and Nomads Of North, West, East and Southern Africa
The Kingdoms Africa
Following the Desertification of the Sahara, migration into North Africa would reach its apex with the development of the Nile Valley and Ethiopian Civilizations.
The Egyptian-Nubian and Ethiopian Civilizations are amongst the oldest known to us, and Egypt’s influence on modern Civilization, particularly on the Greeks is well documented and accepted by the Greeks themselves.
Ethiopia’s significance from the earliest days of Christianity is also well known, and its home to some of the world’s most Ancient and elaborate Churches.
The City of Axum is even tied up with the legend of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba with arguments being made that its Church houses the famed Lost Ark Of The Covenant claim which is only possible if the great antiquity of Ethiopian Civilization is acknowledged.
The wealth and power of these Empires rose to great heights as Trade and commerce in commodities like Gold in the region flourished.
To date, Mali’s Mansa Musa is still regarded as the richest man to have ever lived, and the Sculptures of Benin are also considered amongst the world’s greatest artistic treasures.
The prominence of this region in Trade is also evident in the fact that it would become one of the main areas of European interest with the rise of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Colonization of Africa that followed.
In East Africa, the coastal region’s City of Kilwa in modern day Tanzania thrived on international Sea Trade along the Indian Ocean by linking the African interior with Arabia and the East.
The economy was so advanced that Kilwa even minted its own Coins but the arrival of Arab Slave Traders and the Portuguese would in time spell the end of this jewel of East Africa.
Southern Africa also contributed to the splendour of Africa in this period with notable Kingdoms such as Mapungukukwe, Great Zimbabwe’s Monomotapa and Shaka’s Zulu Empire bearing witness to Africa’s rise and significance in international trade and military strength.
The Nomads Of Africa
Nomadic Tribes such as the Dinka and San continued to exist alongside the more settled Iron Age Kingdoms of Africa.
In addition, peoples such as the Masai who adopted animal Husbandry in favour of crop farming continued to live a semi-nomadic existence.
These communities were somewhat isolated from the turbulence of the Iron Age Post-Agriculture African Kingdoms, and their way of life has remained largely intact since the late Stone Age.
The Iron Age, Agriculture and climatic changes in the Sahara desert resulted in the spread of Black peoples across the entire African Continent.
Settlements in North, West, East and Southern Africa led to the rise of strong African Political entities that established trading links with the rest of the world.
Simultaneously, pockets of African communities remained isolated from these positive Iron Age developments which in the end would lead to the Colonization of Africa as its potential would be realised by the external forces that had come to establish trading ties with the Iron Age Kingdoms of Africa.
Africa does indeed have a proud legacy which has been distorted by the twin forces of Slavery and Colonialism.
The sad story of Africa’s demise has been captured in Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and Chancellor Williams’ The Destruction of African Civilization best sellers which provide immeasurable insight into what Africa lost and what Africa could have been.
In Africa Before The Europeans, we are given a glimpse of the potential of Pre-Colonial Africa.
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