Ancient African Culture

The continent of Africa is incredibly large and early archeological findings show that it is the location for the beginnings of human development, often called the “cradle of humanity.”

The oldest human remains were discovered in Ethiopia and date to around 200,000 years old.

The geography of Africa includes some of the richest and most varied landscapes and environments of any continent, and throughout history, this has produced a wide selection of cultures and civilizations.

Sample of the Egyptian

Many of the Western European historians of the past didn’t place a priority on Africa, mainly because there wasn’t much evidence of most of the civilizations. However, as they continued to research they found that this continent had more hidden than they previously thought.

Many of the ancient tribes that have been discovered had very complex and sophisticated cultures and methods of government.

BaKongo masks from the Kongo Central region


When you look on a map, the mere size of Africa is astounding. In the north you have the Sahara Desert, West Africa brings the savanna, and Central Africa has the rainforests. Each environment encouraged a different type of culture.

So much of what archeologists have learned about Africa has been due to stories passed down from one generation to another by African “griots” (storytellers) and ancient cave paintings.

Each culture developed their own unique style based on where they lived. Those that were close to rivers had the benefit of rich landscapes and trade, others might have been located in areas that had resources that were valuable such as salt or gold. The interaction of each culture with others helped in their development.


Africa has had the benefit of great empires, tribal chiefs, nomadic tribes, royal courts, fantastic art using local gems and gold, stone palaces, and kings. We see many different types of cultures and archeologists are on a continual hunt to learn more about those that are the most notable:

  • Ancient Egypt
  • Kingdom of Ghana
  • Mali Empire
  • Songhai Empire
  • Kush
  • Kingdom of Aksum
  • Central African Kingdoms
  • Ancient Carthage

Each of the kingdoms and tribes contributed to the development of the culture within their areas. Ancient Africa has had many groups including:

  • The Bambuti of the Central Rainforest area
  • The Nok of Nigeria
  • The Bantu of Central and South Africa
  • The Berbers of North Africa

Little is Known:

Each of the African Kingdoms had a rise and fall. So much was dependent upon their location, resources, type of government, and the social structure.  Except for the Egyptians, many of the African cultures didn’t have any form of written records.

Archeologists continue to try to piece together the accounts of each culture from stories, art, and cave drawings. Just as many other civilizations, much of the development was also based on the success of a kingdom.

Kente cloth patterns

Warring tribes often tried to take over their neighbor’s countries and strength depended upon the types of weapons needed for defense and the number of people willing to fight.

Some of the tales and stories found have included the rise and fall of the Mali, Ghana, and Benin kingdoms, the rocky ruins of the Great Zimbabwe that still remain a mystery, and the invasions of the nomads called the Bedouins.

  • It’s thought that the name “Africa” is derived from the ancient Romans who named one of the provinces after the Afri tribe.
  • The continent of Africa is 11.7 million square miles and is the second largest continent on earth.
  • Africa’s varied temperatures are due to being so close to the equator.
  • Africa is the only continent that extends from the southern temperate zone to the northern temperature zone.
  • Millions of years ago Africa was part of the great continent of Pangaea that connected all of the continents together.

Ancient Africa Culture


What is the name of the nomads that roam Africa?


What is the most well-known civilization in Africa?


Name three of the eight most notable kingdoms or empires of Africa?

Ancient Egypt, Kingdom of Ghana, Mali Empire, Songhai Empire, Kush, Kingdom of Aksum,

Central African Kingdoms, Ancient Carthage

When it comes to human history, what is the continent of Africa known for?

beginning of human development