West Africa(before the 16th century) Fifth Grade Social Studies
Before we learn about the history of this region, it helpsto understand the geography of the African continent . . .
How can the geography of Africa be described?• In the north, the Sahara Desert, an area of very little rainfall, stretches across about 1/3 of the continent. It is the world’s largest desert, and is, for the most part, harsh, bleak wasteland. Sahara Desert
• Below the Sahara is the savanna land. It is an area of tall grass, fertile soil, and long rainy seasons. Savanna
• South of the savanna, near the equator, are the rainforests. Here, the trees and grasses are so tall and thick that in many places the sun cannot penetrate. Rainforest
• To watch a video clip about the geography of Africa, click herehttp://player.discoveryeducation.com/index.cfm?guidAssetId=cd18a076-194d-4c04 8758-a5ee358dac11&blnFromSearch=1&productcode=HUB (Click for video segment) 3 min 37 sec
Where is West Africa?• West Africa is the region of western Africa that includes the countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte dIvoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.• It is on what is known as the “Bulge of Africa.”
Why study West Africa ?• Before the 16th century, highly complex societies existed there, but this has been ignored or skimmed over in many accounts of world history.• For too long, there has been a one-sided, distorted view of the historic contributions of Africa. In the United States, approximately one tenth of the population is made up of people of African descent. Shouldn’t everyone be able to look back proudly to their cultural heritage?
What happened between the 16th and 19th Centuries?• This is the time in which the Age of Exploration and the colonization of the New World (in North America) was taking place. There came a growing demand for cheap labor to work the plantations of the New World.• In exchange for guns and other European goods, West Africans sold slaves, usually either captured in war or accepted as tribute from conquered peoples.• The slave trade displaced millions of Africans from their native lands. Uprooted from their societies, the Africans brought with them their family values, beliefs, traditions, and religious practices.
What is a century anyway? A century is 100 years.Then why are the 1500’s called the 16th century?The 1st century was year 1 to year 100.The 2nd century was year 101 to year 200.The 3rd century was year 201 to year 300.Keep going until you get to the 16th century . . .Now do you see why?
We will learn about thefollowing 4 topics in our studyof Western African Life before the 16th century: • Family Structures • Growth of States and Towns • Economic Structures • Trade
Family Structures• Early African people lived in large family groups. Sometimes 2 or 3 generations might live together in a group of houses. To a youngster, all adult men were “fathers” and all adult women were “mothers,” while all the children were “sisters” and “brothers.”• They tended to count wealth not only in terms of goods and gold, but also in the number of people living together as a family.• Parents, children and grandparents formed clans with other families. Larger clans became tribes.
Family Structures• These clans and tribes were mainly groups of farmers who lived in villages scattered throughout the savannas. They worked in fields near their villages, growing enough food for their own needs and a little left over for trade with other villages.• Sometimes the tribe was nomadic and traveled with their animals to the best places to graze and drink. Other tribes settled villages, towns and sometimes cities. Between these towns, trade routes developed. Some routes were over land; others were traveled by river or sea.
Growth of States and Towns• Scattered among the villages were larger towns and cities, often located along important river and trade routes.• Some of the towns had populations numbering in the thousands.• These people had originally come from the villages, seeking the excitement of urban living and greater opportunities for earning a living.
Economic Structures• The towns and the cities depended on the villages for food. The people of the towns concentrated instead on crafts, such as weaving cloth, making jewelry, or producing household tools or weapons.• The biggest business was trade. Many of the larger cities became great marketplaces.• In addition to villagers and townspeople, there were small groups of fishermen and boatmen, who settled along the rivers, exchanging fish and transportation services for their food and clothes.• Along with these river people were other small groups who depended on hunting small game for their living.
Trade• The one-humped dromedary camel, the “ship of the desert,” having the ability to go long periods without food or water, were great for desert travel. These types of camels store fat in their hump, and water in their stomach. As the use of camels for transporting people and goods became common, caravan routes were established, developing into important channels of trade.
What did they trade?• They traded crops, such as salt, spices, rice, wheat, barley, millet, olives, yams, and sorghum. Sorghum is boiled and eaten like rice or made into flour for porridge or bread. Yams are native to Africa.• Goats, fish, cattle, and fowl were some of the livestock bought and sold.• People also traded copper, bronze, iron and gold. The metals were useful for making tools, coins, decorations, and weapons.
But by far the two most prosperous goods traded were gold and salt. Silk, Ceramics, Beads, Islam from Europe and Salt Asia Gold, Ivory, Wood, Slaves Coming into West Africa Coming from West Africa
Do the West Africans of today celebrate their cultural history? http://streaming.discoveryeducat ion.com/videos/images/playerne w/fb3e7fe9-7cdd-4aa2-b304- (Click for video segment) 2 min 50 sec