Iron Age Architecture in Africa
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Iron Age Architecture

low stone walls in several rooms
Palace at Meroe, ca. 900 BC
(thanks to Royal Ontario Museum)

During the Iron Age, more parts of Africa started to trade with other parts of the world, and got rich enough to build in stone. In Meroe (modern Sudan), the kings and queens built themselves a big palace by around 900 BC. By 700 BC, people were building solid pyramids in Meroe, but they were smaller and much later than the ones in Egypt.

ruined pyramids
Pyramids at Meroe (modern Sudan) ca. 700 BC
square stone tower in ruins
Tower at Yeha (Ethiopia), ca. 700 BC

Further south in Ethiopia, people were also beginning to build in stone, with a temple-tower dating the same time as the Meroe pyramids. The Ethiopians built their tower in the same style as the Arabs they were trading with.

greek doric temple
Temple of Zeus at Cyrene (modern Libya), ca. 475 BC

Wealth began to spread along the North African coast, too, as the people there started to trade with the Greeks and the Phoenicians. By the 800s BC, the Garamantes in Libya were building hill forts and living in mud-brick houses with stone foundations and floors paved with crushed potsherds. The city of Cyrene got started about 630 BC, and soon had stone houses, paved streets, and Greek-style temples.

Carthage houses
Carthaginian houses ca. 150 BC (modern Tunisia)
front of very fragmentary monument
Reconstruction of Numidian
monument to Massinissa (?)
(modern Algeria, 130 BC)

Still further west, Phoenician colonists from West Asia founded the city of Carthage around 800 BC. They, too, began to build stone temples and houses with water drains and pebble floors. Soon Carthage was a big city with paved streets and a system of stone walls and docks at their seaport. West of Carthage, in what is now Algeria, the Numidians also began to build in stone about 300 BC, with a strong stone wall around Cirta and probably large public buildings. There was a Carthaginian city at Volubilis in Morocco by the 200s BC, with a temple to Baal and a mudbrick city wall.

On the other side of the Sahara Desert, in West Africa, the Soninke people were also beginning to build forts out of stone at Tichit by 500 BC. The Nok people, further south, weren't building in stone yet (even though they were smelting iron), but around 500 BC they began to move from stick houses to mud-brick houses. By 250 BC, Djenne-djenno (in modern Mali) had a 13 foot high mud-brick wall all the way around it, and almost 30,000 people living inside the walls.

Learn by doing: build a sand castle with a wall around it
More on African Architecture in antiquity

Bibliography and further reading about the architecture of ancient Carthage:

More African Architecture in antiquity
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 21 September, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT