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Before Civilization, Here are the Ancient Means of Transportation Employed by Africans

Locomotion has dependably been a piece of human presence beginning from the medieval time. Regardless of whether it was for relocation purposes, chasing, escape from predators or some other reasons, people discovered one way or the other to transport themselves to wherever they needed to go.

Going by foot is a standout amongst the most well-known methods for transportation everywhere throughout the world and it was the most utilized as a part of the medieval ages.

Later on, previously and at some point after Westerners presented bikes, autos and other current methods of transportation, Africans concocted astute intends to move around effectively and transport sustenance and different things to long separations. In this article, we investigate those methods for transportation.

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Dromedary camels were first domesticated by the Berbers in 300 CE. They were and still are very popular in the northern part of Africa and were used to convey goods and people from one end of the desert to the other. They were most appropriate for this use because they can survive perfectly under harsh heat and in dry regions.

Camels were grouped into caravans and were used to move very large items. As many as 1,000 to 10,000 camels could line up guided by humans and led to their destinations. Some of the caravans were connected by ropes from one camel to the other to prevent a break in the chain.



Donkeys were the oldest form of transportation in Sudan. Often called “beasts of burden”, donkeys transported not only heavy loads but humans from one place to another. They were and still are used in Savanah areas in Africa.

Horses, carts and chariots

Horses were used by one of the biggest ethnic groups in Africa; the Hausas. They traditionally used horses for transportation. It was not until later that horses were known to exist in the Northern part of Africa. Although horses do not generally live in desert areas, Namib desert horses were and are still used in the Namib Desert of Namibia for transportation of humans and goods.


Horses were introduced to ancient Egypt by people of mixed origins known as the Hyksos who settled in the eastern Nile Delta in 1650 BC. However, some findings show inscriptions from Egypt temple of Hatshepsut at Dier EL Bahr dating to the 15th century BC that horses were first brought into Egypt from the land of Punt, which is a region encompassing modern-day Eastern Sudan and Eritrea.

Kushite Pharaohs of Nubia were the first to domesticate Horses, a practice that was later adopted by the Egyptians. In much later years, chariots and carts were constructed and attached to horses for movement.

Rafts and boats

From one end of a water body to another, humans of the stone ages would wade through and sometimes sadly get devoured by crocodiles and other predators. Ancient Africans then studied the movement of wood planks as they floated on water bodies and realized how some animals move by hanging on to these wood planks. They devised this method and soon constructed rafts which were a combination of multiple planks. With time they fashioned boats and used them to transport their items.


According to researcher G. Reisiner, palanquins were used to carry Royals from one location to the other as it was believed they were too special to touch the ground. These palanquins were used in West Africa to carry chiefs and public officials like Governors in colonial eras.

Palanquins are still used in West Africa, especially in Ghana to transport Kings and chiefs from one place to another. It is believed that litters were developed from this technology. The sick and aged were also carried around with bed-like versions of palanquins.


Litters, like palanquins, are wheelless vehicles that are carried by humans. There are different types of litters around the world and records showed that ancient Egyptian pharaohs were carried in litters that were in the form of chairs.

In West Africa, they had a sling-type litter that was carried on the head. This was used even during colonization until cars were introduced.

German colonial lord carried by Togolese locals



Written by How Africa

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