We know only those in contact with the Middle East: the kingdoms along the Nile one hand, heirs of Egyptian civilization which once extended into the current Sudan. And the Kingdom of Aksum other hand, who inherited both from Judaism, Christianity, and Sabean civilization: it forms the forerunner of the current Ethiopia.
Things change with the influence of Arab civilization to the north of Africa, about 750 … The chronicles of Arab travelers, Sahelian and European as well as the most recent archaeological excavations tell us about the appearance of proto-States south of the Sahara and to the tip of the continent.
Our multimedia animation shows the emergence of the first kingdoms and empires in sub-Saharan Africa, the development of trade and the arrival of European sailors, in this case the Portuguese.
The Arab influence
Familiar desert Arabs give strength to the trans-Saharan trade: it allows some Sahelian kingdoms to find new prosperity.
The first of which we have record is the kingdom of Ghana , on the borders of Senegal, Mali and Mauritania today. It takes its rise of rich southern gold mines explain the prosperity of all future kingdoms in the region. Ghana suffers from the Almoravids, warrior monks Muslims who have seized control of Morocco . Eager to seize the gold mines, they send an army of several thousand men ransack the country. Kumbi Saleh, capital of Ghana, was destroyed in 1076.
Trade also encourages the gradual spread of Islam into the Sahel, and Islamized kingdoms appear there. Especially be mentioned Kanem that thrives around Lake Chad after the year Mil.
At that time also intensifies trade Arabs on the eastern coast of Africa. It forms a range of city-states along the coast, in the present Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania.
The contribution of Islam and mixtures between Arabs and Bantu will lead to the birth of the people speaking Swahili (also written souhaéli ; probably the word derives from the Arabic sahel meaning coast or border).
Trade in Swahili concerns areas increasingly Southern: a beachhead in the current Mozambique allows you to enjoy the gold came from Zimbabwe tops, from the thirteenth century. A capital it develops near gold mines, probably the head of a vast state: it is known as the Great Zimbabwe . This is one of the few places to have left important archaeological remains which remain today.
Note in the margin of these kingdoms emerged a civilization in the ninth and tenth centuries in eastern Niger Delta, in Ibo country: it is marked by a remarkable art of copper and bronze, shaped by hammering hot.
In the thirteenth century, a new Islamized country benefits from gold mines in West Africa: the case of Mali . It extends in particular to the east along the Niger river that irrigates the desert.In the north, it secures access to salt located in the desert, the salt is a very valuable commodity in the region.
It thus forms an empire that dominates a wide variety of people, the first known sub-Saharan Africa. The raids carried out to counter any rebellion are associated with set systematic slavery slave trade across the Sahara is growing at the time.
The empire reached its peak in the early fourteenth century, during the reign of Mansa Musa : it is best known for the wealth he spends all along his pilgrimage to Mecca, which will even change the course gold throughout the Mediterranean basin.
The prosperity of the empire of Mali encourages the spread of Islam: the Hausa countries is adopted at that time. city-states of develop there, while the power of the Mali declines to become a small kingdom in the middle of the fifteenth century.
It is ultimately the people Songhai , who lives along the Niger between Mali and the Hausa cities, which pulls out of the game. For military conquests, they manage to reform an empire along the river in the late fifteenth century . It will continue to expand at the beginning of the next century, the price of an often very brutal regime.
It was at this time that Europeans began to sail along the coast of Africa, beginning with the Portuguese, who base their first countertops.
By the way, they discover the Kingdom of Kongo , at the mouth of the river of the same name. This mostly has the merit of showing that many kingdoms had existed in Africa long before the arrival of Arabs and Europeans.
In 1488, the Portuguese Bartolomeu Dias passes the Cape of Good Hope. The goal is to find a route to India: it is Vasco da Gama who reach 10 years later. At that time, the Pope gives to the Portuguese all the land on the eastern route to India, including Africa.
In the early sixteenth century, to recover the trade in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese took possession of all the Swahili cities, except Mogadishu where they fail. At that time, the city of Great Zimbabwe began to decline, and the Portuguese are mainly trade in gold with a new realm: the Mutapa they call “Monomotapa” .
The northeast of Africa is also experiencing some upheaval in the early sixteenth century the people of Islamized Funj ends the Christian kingdom of Alodia and Ethiopia remains the only bastion of Christianity in the region. The spread of the Arabic language continues south to the heart of Sudan, while North Africa is marked by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire …