Ancient Africa

Africa is a huge continent and has contained many different cultures and civilizations.

Archeologists believe that the earliest of human development happened in parts of Africa and there are cave paintings in Africa that are thousands of years old. Unlike some continents, Africa has a variety of people, countries, and even geography.

Ancient Africa has been home to Egypt, the Mali Empire, the Kingdom of Ghana, Kush, the Kingdom of Aksum, Ancient Carthage, the Songhai Empire, and Central African Kingdoms.  Each has experienced a rise and fall, and have contributed to the cultures that we are used to today.

So Many Different Geographies

The African continent is huge and at 12 million square miles, it has a lot of different types of landscapes and geographies. Each one has helped to shape the unique history and culture of the people and civilizations that live there.

The Nile River has been the most important role in developing Ancient Egypt, the Sahara Desert offered opportunities for nomads and to create trade routes; lakes, rivers, streams, and even waterfalls rank as some of the largest in the world, and the continent even has rain forests.

Northern Africa is known for the Sahara, while West Africa has the savannah, and the rainforests in Central Africa are essential to the health of the world.

People and Cultures

With such a large continent, it makes sense that there would be many different types of people and cultures. Throughout its early history there were groups such as the central rainforest Bambuti, Nigeria’s Nok, North Africa’s Berbers, and South and Central Africa’s Bantu.

As people migrated from other regions, the continent saw the North African Arabs, and the South African Dutch Boers. Many of these civilizations had high levels of government and art.

Since Africa was an important trade route with prized salt and gold, they interacted with other cultures and became well acquainted with many around the world.

There were many clans and groups that often warred with each other and it was common practice for the winner of the attack to make slaves of the losing tribes.

Magic and Religion

Each tribe within the individual areas has their own set of beliefs and much of this has been wrapped around a tradition of magic.

They believe in mysterious forces, including those of nature and have established religious leaders that the Westerners call “witchdoctors”. These priests can help people get over illnesses with the use of herbs of remedies, cast spells, and provide charms.

Some of the artists involved in ironwork were also thought to use magic as the making of iron was kept secret. Some of the tribes believe in a single god whereas others believe in more than one god as well as nature spirits.

In a few religions there were beliefs that the ancestors that have died were still with them. Dancing, singing, drumming and the playing of instruments are all important in their religious and magical ceremonies.

Most Fascinating Information about Ancient Africa:

  • Africans believe that their religion has an effect on everything that they do, including their work, food, and even their lives and those of their families.
  • Ancient Africans held a belief that there are both bad and good spirits. The bad spirits make them sick or cause them to do things that are wrong, while the good spirits act to protect them.
  • Some areas of Africa depend on the rains for survival. Ancient Africans living in dry areas that had droughts would turn to special priests as “rain-makers.” Since they thought the drought was caused by bad spirits, the rain-maker would drive the bad spirits away and call to the good spirits to bring them rain.
  • Throughout the centuries, the storms that spin off of the tip of Northern Africa have been those that become tropical storms and then hurricanes that hit North America.
  • The Mali Empire peoples had a religion that is called “nyama.” This is a belief in a magical force that is contained in nature. They believed every natural object, including the sun and moon, all have powers.
  • Some of the most prized diamonds in the world have come from the diamond mines of Africa.
  • Ancient Africans became aware of the incredible amount of rich minerals and resources that were in their continent and developed their civilizations based on trade for the high demand products.