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9: African History to 1500

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    • 9.1: Chronology
    • 9.2: Introduction
      Africa is the second-largest continent in the world. Today, it has over 50 independent countries. You can also find just about every imaginable environment, from savannahs, rainforests, and deserts, to glaciers and snow-capped mountains in Africa. Its over 1,000 languages (or about one-third of the world’s languages) demonstrate the continent’s diversity.1 Africa is home to more than a billion people, who are living, working, and raising their families.
    • 9.3: Aksum and Ethiopia
      From the 4th through 6th Centuries, Aksum was located in what are today Ethiopia, Eritrea, and parts of Sudan. At its high point, Aksum extended its influence beyond Africa into parts of the southern Arabian Peninsula. If you are familiar with accounts of the Queen of Sheba, you know pieces of the story that Ethiopians use to explain the origins of the Ethiopian Solomonic Dynasty and their possession of the Ark of the Covenant. The capital of the kingdom was the city of Aksum and its most import
    • 9.4: The Western Sudanic States
      Straddling regions with different climates, the people of the Western Sudan developed productive agriculture, trade networks, and an urban culture. The architecture states stands out for its use of mud (adobe) to construct monumental buildings, such as the Great Mosque in Djenne (Figure 9.4.1, and Aksia the Great’s tomb in Gao (Figure 9.4.2). From roughly 800 to 1600 CE, the people of this region organized and supported—sometimes under duress—the large states that dominated the Western Sudan. 
    • 9.5: The Spread of Agriculture and Great Zimbabwe
      During European colonization 150 years ago, anthropologists grouped Africans into “tribes” based on presumed physical, cultural, and linguistic similarities. As a result of this study, they found that people in most of Sub-Saharan Africa spoke languages that used the root –ntu to refer to person, with the prefix ba- added in the plural. Combining the root and the plural prefix, 19th Century colonial anthropologists referred to people in these communities as Bantu and later traced Bantu languages
    • 9.6: The Swahili City-States (East Africa)
      The wealth of the Swahili coast attracted Persian and Arab immigrants. With African, Arabian, and southeast Asian influences, Swahili culture became a blended culture. Eventually, Portuguese merchants would also become attracted to this part of the world.
    • 9.7: Conclusion
      Africa was not isolated. Instead, oceans and deserts were “highways” in these periods. Aksum, the Western Sudanic states, Great Zimbabwe, and the Swahili coast were all commercially linked to Europe, the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, and even China. Although there were local differences, the ruling classes in each of the states collected tribute from outlying areas and participated in long-distance trade. The wealth of these states supported labor specia

    Thumbnail: The Aksum Obelisk) in Aksum (Tigray Region, Ethiopia). Image used wtih permission (CC BY 2.5 Generic; Ondřej Žváček via Wikipedia).

    This page titled 9: African History to 1500 is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Charlotte Miller (University System of Georgia via GALILEO Open Learning Materials) .

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