Impact of Geography• Africa includes a wide variety of landforms and a number of different climate zones that have influenced its history and culture.
Impact of Geography• Landforms of Africa:– In the north, mountains run along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile River empties into the Mediterranean, and the Sahara is the largest desert in the world.– The so-called hump of Africa extends to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Here the Sahara gradually gives way to grasslands, while the coastal regions are mostly tropical jungles.
Impact of Geography– Eastern Africa has a unique terrain of mountains, upland plateaus, and lakes. The Great Rift Valley contains mountains overlooking deep canyons. Wildlife is abundant in this region.– In the south, the mighty Congo River waters the Congo Basin, an area of lush vegetation. These tropical jungles gradually fade into the plateaus and deserts, such as the Kalahari, that dominate the south.
Impact of Geography• Africa has four distinct climate zones:– Mild climate of the north: 10%– Sahara and Kalahari Deserts: 40%– Rain forest: 10%– Savannas: 40%
Emerging Civilizations and Religions• Kush and Axum arose as strong early civilizations. Later, Islam would influence Africa.• The Agricultural Revolution gave rise to the African civilizations of Egypt, Kush, and Axum.• By 2000 B.C., Egyptian traders were traveling to Nubia to acquire ivory, ebony, and leopard skins.• Around 1000 B.C., Nubia became the state of Kush.
• The Kushite capital of Meroë was a major trading center. It was located where a land route across the desert met the Nile River.• Kush had an abundance of resources, such as iron ore.• Kush was an urban society and eventually declined because of the rise of Axum.• Axum, located in what is now Ethiopia, conquered Kush in the fourth century A.D.• King ‘Ezānā of Axum converted to Christianity, which became the official state religion.• Islam, which began on the Arabian Peninsula, soon spread to northern and eastern Africa in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D.
The Kingdom of Ghana• Trade in gold helped create a strong economy in Ghana, bringing wealth to its merchants and its kings.• Ghana became the first great trading state in West Africa around A.D. 500.• Ghana contained an abundant supply of gold and iron ore.• The Berbers brought goods such as salt, textiles, and metal goods from the Mediterranean Sea region in exchange for Ghanaian gold, iron, ivory, and slaves.
The Kingdom of Ghana• Camel caravans were crucial in the trade across the Sahara.• Ghanaian kings grew wealthy from taxing the trade between the regions. Islamic merchants also became wealthy during this exchange of goods.
The Kingdom of Mali• Powerful leadership helped Mali thrive.• After the fall of Ghana, Sundiata Keita established the Kingdom of Mali in the middle of the thirteenth century.• Sundiata united the people of Mali and defeated the Ghanaians in 1240.• The empire of Mali extended from the Atlantic Ocean to Timbuktu. Local administrative leaders collected taxes for the king.
• Mansa Mūsā came to power in 1312. He doubled the size of the kingdom and created a strong, centralized government.• Mansa Mūsā made a pilgrimage to Makkah in which he demonstrated his wealth and power. He was joined by thousands of soldiers and servants, and gave gold to the peoples along the way.• Mansa Mūsā’s pilgrimage inspired him to make Timbuktu an intellectual center of Islamic learning and culture.• The Mali kingdom began to decline with civil war and the rise of the Songhai Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Songhai• Situated along the Niger River, the Songhai became powerful traders.• In 1464, Sunni Ali united the rural and urban people along the Niger River. He established the Kingdom of Songhai.• The Songhai grew wealthy from controlling trade on the river. They captured Timbuktu and Djenné, gaining more wealth from the salt and gold trade.• The height of the Songhai Kingdom came under Muhammad Ture, a military leader and devout Muslim.
• Muhammad Ture continued the expansionist policies of his predecessor. His large military was able to maintain peace and security throughout the empire.• The Songhai Empire ended when the sultan of Morocco’s forces occupied the country near the end of the sixteenth century.
Societies in East Africa• The migration of the Bantu and Indian Ocean trade changed East Africa.• The Bantu communities were based on subsistence farming. They also spread across Africa their knowledge of iron-smelting and high-yield crops such as yams and bananas.• The Bantu settled in trading communities along the coast of the Indian Ocean.
• Great Zimbabwe was a prosperous city on the coast.• Muslims began to settle with the Bantu people on the coast. They formed commercial port cities such as Mogadishu, Mombasa, and Kilwa.• Ibn Battuta, an Arab traveler who went through most of the Muslim countries and China, remarked that Kilwa was one of the most beautiful cities in the world.• Eventually, the cultures of the Bantu and Muslim traders mixed and formed a new culture known as
Societies in South Africa• In southern Africa, independent villages organized into states, the most powerful of which was Zimbabwe.• In southern Africa, most of the people lived in stateless societies, which were groups of independent villages organized by clans and led by a local ruler.• Zimbabwe was the wealthiest and most powerful state in the region, trading gold to the Swahili communities on the east coast of Africa.• The capital of the kingdom was Great Zimbabwe. The city was surrounded by The Great Enclosure that illustrated the kingdom’s power and influence. Eventually, it was abandoned.
Aspects of African Society• African society was strongly influenced by values and customs, such as the importance of the family, common ancestors, and community education.• African kings were generally closer to the people than in other societies. The king often spoke with commoners about complaints or other issues.• For most Africans, life consisted of a village and their sense of identity to an extended family or clan, consisting of parents, children, grandparents, and other family dependents.
• Families lived in larger communities known as lineage groups. Elders maintained the power in the group.• While women were generally subordinate to men in Africa, many societies were matrilineal rather than patrilineal societies.• In typical African villages, a child’s education was a shared responsibility by parents and village elders.• Africans utilized slave labor, like many other ancient societies.• Slaves included people captured in war, debtors, and criminals, and became an important commodity to be traded.
Religious beliefs• Most African societies held similar, traditional beliefs; the spread of Islam challenged these African beliefs.• Although African religious beliefs varied from place to place, most shared the idea of a single creator god.• In Nigeria, the Yoruba people believe that their chief god sent his son down from heaven in a canoe to create the first humans. Many slaves transported to America practiced this religion.
• The Ashanti people of Ghana believed in a supreme joined by a group of lesser gods. Because the lesser gods could not be trusted, humans needed to appease them to avoid their wrath.• Africans communicated with the gods via diviners.
• There were rituals dedicated to founding ancestors. Ancestors were seen as closer to the gods, and were needed for positive influence over everyday life.• The influence of Islam followed the Arab traders, and Islam gained in popularity because of its acceptance by the wealthy and upper class.• Islam often ran in contrast to traditional African religion. Over time, a unique form of Africanized Islam appeared.
African Culture• Africa’s rich culture of paintings, carvings, sculpture, music, and dance often served a religious purpose.• Early African art was influenced by religion.• Rock paintings, wood carvings, and terra cotta figurines are all thought to have religious significance.• At Ife, the capital of the Yoruba people, metalworkers fashioned handsome bronze and iron statues.• African dance and music often served a religious purpose.• Griots transmitted African history by song or storytelling.