The Greatest Ancient Kingdoms in Africa

Africa is often considered by historians as the root of human civilization. Throughout the colorful history of Africa, there have been numerous kingdoms and empires that became economic and political powerhouses in the region. Here are some of the greatest ancient kingdoms in Africa.

Himalaya Mountains

  • The Songhai Kingdom

The Songhai Kingdom was among the most dominant empires in the ancient world. It ruled Western Africa for more than eight centuries thanks to its comprehensive bureaucratic system and trade policies that attracted merchants from different parts of the globe.

It reached its peak during the reign of King Muhammad Askia I who conquered new lands and built hundreds of Islamic schools within the area. Presently, the Songhai Kingdom is now covered by the countries of Mali, Nigeria, Mauritania, Niger, The Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea.

  • The Kingdom of Aksum

There is little known about the beginnings of The Kingdom of Aksum but it became a trading hub during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. In fact, the Aksumites were recognized as vital players in the commercial trading routes that connected the Far East and Ancient Europe.

It is also most famous for constructing stelae which are monuments that are made of stone wooden slabs. In addition to that, The Kingdom of Aksum also developed a written script called as the Ge’ez which later adopted by Africans as their own alphabet.

Oracle Bone Script

  • The Kingdom of Ghana

The Kingdom Ghana which is more commonly known as the Wagadou was an important stop in the trans-Saharan trade route. It linked the African societies in the Sahel to the different markets that were located in the Mediterranean seaboard.

During its zenith, the Kingdom of Ghana was home to at least 20,000 people regardless of its limited water supply. People living in the Kingdom of Ghana primarily specialized in the trade of kola nuts and gold.

Interesting Facts about Ancient Kingdoms in Africa

  • A kola nut which was a popular commodity in the Kingdom of Ghana is one of the secret ingredients of Coca-Cola.
  • The Kingdom of Aksum is one of the first civilizations in history to adopt Christianity as a religion. By adopting Christianity, the Aksumites later became a military and political alliance of the Byzantine Empire.
  • The Songhai Kingdom started to decline in the 1500s after an internal strife and the start of the civil war. The internal strife left The Songhai Kingdom open to an invasion by the Moroccans.
  • The Kingdom of Mali which was founded by Sundiata Keita in the 1230 C.E. is also one of the most powerful and wealthiest empires in West Africa. It had several loyal vassal states that included the former Empire of Ghana.
  • The Kingdom of Aksum built the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which still stands as of today. Legend has it that the church is the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
  • The most famous ruler of the Kingdom of Mali was Mansa Musa who is regarded as the wealthiest person in history.
  • The Kingdom of Zimbabwe had a population of more than 15,000 people during its peak.
  • The Kingdom of Mutapa is considered as one of the largest empires in Africa. Several estimates show that the empire covered at least six Southern African nations.

Who was the founder of the Songhai Kingdom?

The Songhai Kingdom was established by Sunni Ali.

What is the most popular stelae of the Kingdom of Aksum?

The most popular stelae of the Kingdom of Aksum is the Obelisk of Axum which stands approximately 78 feet and is found in modern-day Ethiopia.

What is the ruler of the Wagadou called?

The King of Wagadou is called as Ghana.

What is the city of Timbuktu known for?

Timbuktu which is one of its prominent cities in the Songhai Kingdom was one of the most important learning centers in the world.

In fact, skilled and academic workers from the Middle East and even Europe flew into West Africa to study and work.