The African continent has always inspired rest of the world with its unique culture and roots in human origin. It is believed that the word Africa is derived from ethnonyms ‘Afer’ and ‘Afri’, while some believe that it came from Afrigii and Afridi, supposed to be derived from ‘Afira’ meaning ‘to be dusty’ in Arabic. The present day English version comes from a term in Latin—Africanus. It was in ancient Africa that the hominid subfamily and the genus Homo were found with only one surviving– Homo sapiens. Archaeological research and genetical evidence also supports the theory that evolution of modern human species occurred in Africa. The Hominid family of species to which we belong, the Australopithecines, separated from the ancestors of modern chimpanzees between four and six million years ago.
The Neolithic rock carving point to the fact that there indeed existed a hunting and gathering culture in dry grasslands of the Sahara desert in North Africa. Archaeological findings show that primitive tribes lived along the Nile long before the dynastic history of the pharaohs began. Interestingly, it is noted that in Africa organized agriculture had stared by 6000 B.C.
The Bantu are believed to be the original inhabitants of Nigeria, living around the Benue-cross river. They are known to have cultivated skills like iron work and cultivation of forest crops. It is stated that the Bantu language speakers had colonized many areas across the southern continent. It is believed that the skills of iron-work essentially used as a tool-kit were acquired from the Middle East. The art was further refined by workers of the Nok culture, popular for their terra-cota busts. Archeological evidence points that around second millenium BC, owing to the extreme drying weather conditions in Sahara, the Bantus migrated to the rainforests in Central Africa.
West Africa was the chief trade route and many a great empires saw rise in this region such as the Mali empire, Kanem Bornu empire, Fulani empire, the Dahomey Oyo, Ashanti and Songhay empires. A commercially viable culture took roots in West of Africa early on, along the southern parts of the Sahara desert. The West African ports had frequent camel caravans from North Africa. Historians state that from 8th century AD, Sahelian cities like Timbuktu emerged after commercial trade between North and West Africa was established.
It is around 1000 AD that the Bantu speaking people had spread out to the present day Zimbabwe and South Africa, The first key empire from the southern hemisphere was the Great Zimbabwe that controlled trading routes from South of Africa, all the way to Zambezi. The trading took place with the Arab Swahili traders and included copper, stones, animal hides, ivory and metal articles. It was in between 14th and 15th century that the city of great Zimbabwe finally collapsed.
The Swahili are believed to be descendants of Persian colonist. The Rovuma River in Mozambique could trace them to as far north as in Somalia and by the Rovuma River in Mozambique. The Swahilis established a powerful cultural identity by the 1100s. They traded across a series of coastal trading towns, the key one being Kilwa. One region that saw considerable state formation due to its high population and agricultural surplus was the Great Lakes region where states such as Rwanda, Burundi, and Buganda became strongly centralized.
Starting from 1567 to about 1085 BC, Ancient Egypt had reached its peak in wealth, power and territorial conquest. The period is known as New Empire. Ancient Egypt was known indigenously as Kemet, meaning land of the blacks and Ta-Meri. The Great Egyptian Pyramids and the Pharaoh Khufu are one of the acclaimed wonders in ancient times. The Egyptians reached Crete around 2000 BC and were invaded by Indo-Europeans and Hyksos Semites. They are known to have defeated the invaders around 1570 BC. They later expanded into the Aegean, Sudan, Libya, and most of the Levant, as far as the Euphrates.
Portuguese invasion < slavery
In the 15th century, Prince Henry, son of King John I decided to conquer African territory. He succeeded in establishing Portuguese sovereignty over a huge area of coastlands. It began in 1434 and lasted till around 1730. The African history of slavery remains a debatable question in African history. Facts state that that perhaps a lack of central political party resulted in small political units locally to benefit by raiding neighbouring parts for slavery. The history of Africa has many instances of slavery that was rooted in its history. It is known that in West African regions known as the Slave Coast, Gold Coast, and Côte d’Ivoire were sold for slavery as a consequence of tribal culture. It is known that powerful Kings like Bight of Biafra and Benin sold their captives as slaves internally.
These are just some glimpses into the vast history of Africa and its endless charms. Every insight leads you closer to learning a bit more the most primitive form of developed human life found on earth.