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All about the continent of Africa, from prehistory to modern times, with maps, environment, history, art, architecture, food, clothing, and more.

Early African warfare – mercenaries and catapults

By | 2017-10-03T11:53:07+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Africa, War|

Nubian archers in the Middle Kingdom (from the Nubian museum in Aswan, Egypt) Early African soldiers, like the soldiers of Europe and West Asia and India, were generally men. These African soldiers also generally fought with the same weapons as in Asia and Europe - spears, leather shields, and bows and arrows. Nubian archers from Sudan were so good at killing people that Egyptian pharaohs hired [...]

Science in Islamic Africa

By | 2017-10-14T14:23:56+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Africa, Science|

The walls of Timbuktu, in Mali, West Africa In the 700s AD, the Islamic Empire conquered North Africa and began to trade a lot with East Africa. Islamic government did not allow women to work in science or medicine. But there were a lot of men in North Africa and East Africa, and in the area around Timbuktu, who worked as scientists and [...]

African map project – al Idrisi and Ptolemy’s maps

By | 2017-10-03T11:17:30+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Africa, Science|

Al-Idrisi's map of the world (1100s AD) Check out this copy of al-Idrisi's map of the world, created in the 1100s AD. Can you find the Black Sea? The Caspian Sea? The Mediterranean Sea? Where is China on this map? Where is Spain? A copy of Ptolemy's map of the world How is al-Idrisi's map different from Ptolemy's map of [...]

Ships and sailing in ancient Africa – early boats

By | 2017-10-03T10:35:56+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Africa, Economy, Science|

A person in a boat (Barramiya, Upper Egypt, ca. 4000 BC) African sailing has a long history. People were probably using boats before the first people left Africa. At Blombos Cave in South Africa, people were fishing about 70,000 BC, and by the time people got to Southeast Asia about 40,000 BC they certainly had [...]

Medieval African history – Timbuktu and Great Zimbabwe

By | 2017-10-29T16:49:31+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Africa, History|

Mansa Musa of Mali After the 400s AD, the Bantu expansion slowed down. They had already settled most of the good farmland in southern Africa. What was left was mainly desert or thick jungle. It was no good for farming or herding cattle. The Bantu left that land to the Khoikhoi and San people who already lived there. [...]

Islamic North Africa – caravans across the Sahara

By | 2017-10-29T16:53:32+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Africa, History|

Kairouan mosque (ca. 800 AD) The Eastern Roman reconquest of North Africa in the 530s AD ended the Vandal kingdom there. But trade declined until the Islamic invasions of North Africa in the 600s AD and the establishment of the Umayyad, and then the Fatimid dynasties. Fatimids Under Islamic rule, North Africa became part of a large trading network [...]

Roman North Africa – Carthage to Augustine

By | 2017-10-29T11:56:46+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Africa, History|

This is the amphitheater in ancient Carthage where Romans killed Christians during the Decian persecution. By the 300s BC, the North African port of Carthage was actively engaged in policing the whole Mediterranean. Carthage made treaties, for instance, with the Etruscans in Italy, to protect the Etruscans from piracy from the Greeks in southern Italy. And Carthage [...]

Medieval West Africa

By | 2017-10-29T17:46:35+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|Africa, History|

Copper sculpture from West Africa (Tada, Nigeria ca. 1300 AD). By 800 AD, the people of Djenne-Djeno had built a tall wall of mud-bricks around their town, to protect themselves from their enemies. They wore gold jewelry. On the other end of the Niger river, in the forests down near the Atlantic Ocean in modern Nigeria, the people of Igbo-Ukwu [...]

Medieval African food – what did people eat?

By | 2017-10-02T23:21:02+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|Africa, Food|

Olive orchard in Tunisia The foods people ate in Africa didn't just stay the same. Instead, they changed slowly over time. Around 800 BC, with the arrival of Greek and Phoenician invaders, the people of North Africa began to plant olive orchards and produce olive oil. They ate a lot of olives and olive oil, even though they also shipped a [...]

Iron Age African clothing

By | 2017-10-02T17:20:27+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|Africa, Clothing|

An Egyptian painting of Nubians (from modern Sudan), about 1300 BC By about 2500 BC, some people in Africa began to weave their cloth instead of pounding it, which makes more flexible, comfortable clothing. The Egyptians learned from their West Asian neighbors how to weave linen, and very quickly professional weavers were doing most of the weaving. Most people bought cloth already [...]