African Architecture in Antiquity answers questions
Upgrade /Log in
Options /Log out
Early Europe
Central Asia
Islamic Empire
Native Americans
S./Central America
American History

African Buildings in Antiquity

stone columns building
Hathor temple at Naqa (modern Sudan), ca. 10 AD

Trade continued to increase, Africa kept on getting richer, and more people built stone buildings in the first centuries AD. In East Africa, the queens of Kush (in modern Sudan) built stone temples and palaces.

El Djem
The amphitheater of El Djem,
in southern Tunisia (150 AD)

Being part of the Roman Empire made North Africa much richer than it had been before, and between 100 BC and 400 AD people built many stone buildings all over North Africa, from Egypt to Morocco. About 100 AD, they built the great amphitheater at El Djem (modern Tunisia), one of the largest amphitheaters in the Roman Empire. They built a great city at Lepcis Magna (modern Libya) with triumphal arches, a forum, and many stone houses with mosaic floors and marble decorating the walls.

stone theater seats and stage
Theater at Lepcis Magna (Libya), ca. 100 AD

Near the Atlantic coast in Morocco, Volubilis - the capital of Juba and Cleopatra Selene - grew bigger and gained a stone city wall, a sewage system, stone temples, an aqueduct and public baths, and a basilica, as well as many fine houses. It may have housed about 20,000 people.

cave-like rooms carved into a cliff
Early Egyptian monks' cells at Dayr Abu Hinnis
(thanks to Samuel Rubenson)

Further east in Egypt, people also built many new stone temples, houses, theaters and all sorts of buildings. By the 300s AD, newly Christian monks and nuns re-created India's rock-cut Buddhist monasteries in Egypt's desert on either side of the Nile River. In and around Carthage, Christian congregations adapted Roman basilicas into some of the earliest Christian churches.

Across the Sahara Desert in West Africa, people were still building mainly in mud-brick at Djenne-Djenno. Down the coast of East Africa it was the same story. Even though people were beginning to get richer by trading with India and with the Arabs, they still built mainly in mud-brick.

Learn by doing: build a model of an amphitheater
More about African Architecture - the Middle Ages

Bibliography and further reading about African Architecture:

African Architecture in the Middle Ages home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support! (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?