An Atlas of African Affairs

By Andrew Boyd; Patrick Van Rensburg | Go to book overview

E. 'Pre-European' History

On the upper Niger between 5,000 and 4,000 B.C., Mande Negroes developed one of the earliest systems of agriculture. Meanwhile Mesopotamian agriculture spread to Egypt, where a famous civilization burgeoned after 3,000 B.C. States modelled on Egypt's later took shape in Nubia and Ethiopia; and the area southward, peopled only by Bushmanoid hunters, was colonized by Cushites from Ethiopia, whose trading ports on the Indian ocean became known as Azania (Zenj).

During the 1,000 years before Christ, Phoenicians and Greeks colonized the north coast; Phoenician Carthage rose and fell; Egypt of the Pharaohs fell; and Rome conquered North Africa. More important for Africa as a whole, Indonesian traders brought to Azania food plants that spread across to the Guinea coast, and there made possible a great increase in population. This largely accounts for the dense peopling of, e.g., southern Nigeria (A, 20). It also helped to set off, about 2,000 years ago, the Bantu expansion from Nigeria and Cameroons throughout southern Africa.

Early in the Christian era, Indonesians from Azania settled in empty Madagascar (35). Moslem Arabs conquered North Africa around A.D. 700, and soon afterwards took over the east coast trade with India (30). Inland, the Bantu, and the Nilotic Negroes who later moved south round the lakes, overran the southern Cushites, who, about A.D. 600, had fortified Zimbabwe in the goldmining region which supplied India for a thousand years. By the 14th century the Bantu had reached modern Natal.

In the west, around A.D. 300, the Soninke created Ghana, a state which at its peak stretched from near Timbuktu to Senegal, thriving on exports of gold and slaves to Morocco. This first Ghana -- in no way to be confused with its modern namesake (19) -- fell in 1076 to the Berber Almoravids. Their Moslem empire, with that of the succeeding Almohad dynasty, linked Senegal with Spain for 200 years (2), and firmly established Islam south of the Sahara. Thereafter, although some strong states arose and endured near the coast (such as Kongo (24) and Edo Benin), the historic struggle was waged, mostly by Moslem peoples, in the open Sudan country (B), the chief prizes being the termini of Sahara trade at Timbuktu, Gao, Kano and Lake Chad (1). In the 13th century, Bornu, the Kanuri state, extended its power westward from Chad to the Niger. In the 14th Timbuktu and Gao fell to Mali, the Malinke state founded 300 years earlier near the capital of modern Mali (15). In the 15th, the Songhai

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