Geography Sahara DesertAfrica is the second largest continent onEarth. Africa has several distinctgeographical zones. The northernfringe, on the coast of the MediterraneanSea, is mountainous. South of themountain ranges is the largest desert onEarth, the Sahara.South of the Sahara, Africa is divided intoseveral regions. In the west, the Saharagradually gives way to grasslands in theinterior and tropical jungles on the coast. Savann Rain Forest a (AfricanIn the East, the Great Rift Valley is full of Plains)snow-topped mountains and deepcanyons, with a grassland region that is Congo Basinpopulated with animals. KalahariThe Congo Basin is full of dense Desertvegetation fed by the Congo River. Thesetropical rainforests eventually fade to hillsand plateaus, high flat land areas anddeserts to the south.
Climate Africa has four distinct climate zones: Desert, Rain Forest, Savanna, and the Mild Zones. The Mild Zones are the smallest regions (dark green, left), and stretch across the Northern coast and the southern tip of Africa, plus a region near the Drakensberg Mountains in the Southeast. Deserts form the second climate zone. The Sahara in the north and the Kalahari in the south are the tow largest deserts. Together they cover about 40% of Africa. The rain forest is the third climate zone. It stretches along the equator and is about 10% of the continent. Heavy rains and warm temperatures produce dense forests where little farming and travel are possible. The rainforest is also home to disease-carrying insects, including the tsetse fly, which produces sleeping sickness in humans and animals. The final climate zone is the Savannas, the grass plains with small trees and shrubs. The Savannas make up about 40% of the continent. They receive enough rainfall for farming and herding animals. Each of the zones is populated with people, who have adapted to the geographical and climate challenges in unique ways.
Kush By 2000 BCE, the area south of Egypt, called Nubia, had developed extensive trade. Nubians traded ivory, ebony, frankincense, and leopard skin Nubia was controlled by Egypt until around 1000 BCE In 750 BCE, the Kush conquered Egypt, but were overwhelmed by the Assyrians less than a hundred years later, in 663 BCE The Kush were still using bronze and stone, while the Assyrians used iron spears and swords After the Assyrians conquered Egypt, the Kushites returned to their land in Nubia
Kush Economics & Society Kush economics were based on farming and trade. They built a capital city in Meroe, which became a trading center. Meroe had a large supply of iron ore; the Kush were able to make the iron weapons they had seen on the Assyrians The Kush was a major trading empire, taking advantage of the Nile and land routes Kush trade went as far as Rome, India, and Arabia Traded: iron, ivory, ebony, Received: jewelry, silver, luxury goods Not much is known about Kush society. They left behind tombs full of luxury items, demonstrating that they were prosperous and had traded with distant countries. This suggests there was probably a large trader or merchant class in Kush society. The Kush flourished from about 250 BCE to approximately 150 CE, but declined because of the rise of a new power in the region. Kush Tombs
AxumSouth of the Kush was Ethiopia, where theAxum were located.Originally started as an Arab colony, Axumemerged as an independent state thatcombined African and Arabic cultures.Axum was prosperous because of it’s primelocation on the Red Sea, which allowedthem to trade between India, theMediterranean, and southern Africa.Like the Kush, they exported ivory, spices,and slaves. They imported textiles, metalgoods, wine and olive oil.
AxumAxum competed with the Kush for control of theivory trade. In the fourth century CE, KingEzana, the Axumite ruler, invaded Kush andconquered it.The most distinctive feature of the Axumites wastheir religion. Around 330 CE, the king converted toChristianity, which was brought to Axum by Syrians.The king made Christianity the official religion ofAxum.After King Ezana died, the Axum kingdom flourisheduntil the rise of Islam, which brought Arab forcesinto northern and eastern Africa.In 641, Arab forces took control of Egypt. By the700s, the entire coast of North Africa was underArab rule. The Muslim trading states livedpeacefully with Axum until the 12th century, whenthe Muslims started moving inland into Africa. Bythe 15th century Axum was in constant conflict with Kingthe Muslim states. Ezana
Kingdom of Ghana Ghana was the first great trading state of Western Africa Ghana emerged around 500 CE; Ghana was a series of villages and farmlands organized under strong rulers The kings of Ghana governed without laws, instead they used a well-trained army to enforce their wishes Kings based their wealth on the gold and iron trade
Ghana Economy & Trade The Ghana kingdom was rich in both iron and gold They had trained blacksmiths to turn the iron into weapons and tools The heartland of Ghana was one of the richest gold-producing areas of all of Africa, making it the center of an enormous trade empire Muslim merchants from North Africa brought textiles, metal goods, horses, and salt, which they exchanged for iron and gold. Ghana also exported ivory, ostrich feathers, hides, and slaves Many of the trade goods were carried by the Berbers, nomadic peoples whose camel caravans became known as “fleets across the desert”. Merchants from Ghana were very wealthy and paid a tax to the king, but nearly all trade was conducted through the Berbers, who brought the goods to Muslim traders. Ghana collapsed in the 1100s, weakened by wars and the competition from other trading societies.
MaliMali was established by Sundiata Keita, whodefeated the Ghanians and captured their capitol in1240 CE.He united the people of Mali under a stronggovernment. Mali’s greatest trading center wasTimbuktu. Mali built it’s wealth and power on thegold and salt trade. Sundiata KeitaMost of Mali’s citizens were farmers, living in villageswith local rulers, who sent tax revenues to the MaliKings.Mansa Musa ruled Mali from 1312 to 1337. Hedoubled the size of the kingdom and built a strongcentral government. He divided Mali into provincesruled by appointed governors.Mansa Musa embarked on a pilgrimage toMakkah, accompanied by a huge caravan. He gaveaway lavish gold gifts, causing the value of gold todrop.Musa also imported scholars and books into hiskingdom. He also built the Sankore mosque inTimbuktu. Sankore Mosque
SonghaiThe Songhai establishedthemselves on the Niger Riverin western Africa. Like theNile, the river floodedregularly, providing a rich soilfor farming and herding.In 1009 CE a ruler namedKossi converted to Islam andestablished the Dia Dynasty. The Sunni dynasty began in 1464, established by Sunni Ali. Ali expanded the SonghaiThe Songhai states benefited empire. Ali was a great military commanderfrom Muslim trading routes who led his army on conquests. Ali conqueredthat linked them to Timbuktu and Jenne, two major trading cities.Arabia, Northern Africa, andWest Africa. Gao became the The Songhai reached their height under thechief trade center of the rule of Muhammad Ture, a militarySonghai kingdom. commander who overthrew the son of Sunni Ali and seized power in 1493.
Songhai Under Muhammad Ture, the Songhai expanded even further. The new empire was over a thousand miles long and centered on the Niger River. Muhammad Ture divided the empire into provinces and used the navy and army to maintain peace and security. Songhai prospered from salt and gold trading. After Ture’s death, the Songhai slowly declined. At the end of the 16th century, the Sultan of Morocco invaded and occupied a large section of the Songhai empire. Under the Sultan’s rule, Songhai became a dangerous, insecure place, with increasing poverty, violence, and distress.
Societies in East AfricaSouth of Axum, along the shores of the Indian Oceanand inland from the mountains of Ethiopia, through thelake district of central Africa, lived a mixture ofpeoples.In the first millenium BCE, farming peoples who spokedialects of the Bantu family of languages began tomove from the region of the Niger River into EastAfrica and the Congo River Basin (phase I, right). Twomigrations followed (phase II and III, right), movingtheir descendants into most of Eastern Africa.Bantu society was based on subsistence farming, orgrowing just enough crops for personal use. Theprimary crops were grains, yams, melons, and beans.The farmers used iron and stone tools. Bantu societyalso herded animals and traded among theircommunities.
Indian Ocean Trade & Ports On the Eastern fringe of Africa, the Bantu-speaking peoples began to participate in the regional trade. The spread of Islam during the 7th and 8th centuries increased the importance of Eastern Africa trading network formed along the Eastern coast, Arabian Peninsula, and Persian Gulf (see red lines, left). A string of trading ports formed along the Eastern coast, including Mogadishu, Mombasa, and Kilwa. Merchants in these cities grew wealthy from the lucrative trade. Kilwa was a magnificent city; two monumental buildings from this period were the Great Mosque of Kilwa and the Husuni Kubwa palace, built on a clifftop. Kilwa began to decline and the Portugese sacked it in 1505, destroying most of its buildings.
Swahili The mix of African and Arabian culture on the East Coast of Africa eventually became known as Swahili. Intermarriage was common among ruling groups. Muslim religion and architectural style became a large part of African culture The major language of the area was name Swahili (meaning “people of the coast”). This language combined Bantu with Arabic words and phrases. It is now the national language of Kenya and Tanzania
Southern Africa Societies Most of the people in Southern Africa lived in stateless societies, meaning they lived in independent villages organized by clans and led by a local ruler or clan leader. In the grasslands of the Zambezi River a mixed economy of farming, cattle herding, and trade developed over a period of many centuries. Villages often had walls to keep the domestic animals safe from wild animals. In the 1300s, some of these villages started to consolidate into states. One of the first southern states was Zimbabwe, which became the wealthiest and most powerful state in the region. Zimbabwe traded gold with the Swahili trading communities. Great Zimbabwe was the capitol city, which housed over 10,000 residents at its height. Great Zimbabwe had a Great Enclosure that dominated the city, historians are still not sure what it was used for!