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Based on notes taken in Mrs Tran's class


  • 2nd largest continent in the world covering about 1/5 of earth's land surface
  • physically, Africa's surface is like "an upside down plate"
  • narrow coastlines so few ports, harbors inlets; navigation is difficult
  • diverse climates and geography
    • conditions range from severe droughts to over 400 inches of rain/year
    • large, vast deserts like Sahara (size of USA) and Kalahari
    • dense rain forests (about 5 percent of continent)
    • temperate climates on northern and southern coasts (good for farming)
    • most people live on the savannas (grassy plains, 40 percent of continent) topsoil is very thin on savannas, but farming possible
    • also mountains and long stretches of swamps
Major Kingdoms of Africa
  1. Aksum Kingdom (300-700 CE)
    1. geography: SW of Red Sea (modern day Eritrea and Ethiopia, ancient land of Kush), possibly started by Arabs who crossed Red Sea
    2. economic: Aksum's location was good for trade (close to Red Sea and Nile), hub for caravans, near Egyps, Arabia, Persia, etc.
    3. political: a divine kingship, Ezana of Aksum (325-360 CE) most famous
    4. social: patriarchal
    5. cultural: society was a blend of Arabs and Kushites (the people in area before Aksumites)
      - language called Ge'ez, had a written language
      - produced its own coinage
    6. religious: belief in one god called Mahrem but were also animists (spirits in nature), also honored ancestors
      - Christianity introduced to Aksumites in 450's CE, lasting tradition of African Christianity with: Coptic Church of Egypt and Ethiopian Orthodox Church (both churches focus on the divine nature of Christ as opposed to his human side
    *Aksum Kingdom will fall to Islamic Invaders from Arabia

  2. Hunting and gathering societies of Africa (Efay, Masai, Kung!)
    1. N&C africa, forest
    2. trade, hunt&gather, eco not well-developed
    3. male chiefs, families make own decisions, stateless society
    4. patriarchal, but inherit land thru mom's side of family
    5. elders communicate w/ dead ppl women gather, men hunt
    6. no official, diff rituals, animistic

  3. Ghana
    1. geography - 100g sq miles, west africa; on Niger river
    2. economic - salt mines/gold mines, trade (w/ Morocco, Spain; salt, cloth, metalware, swords, tax on enter/exit kingdom so prospered), had currency, taxes
    3. political - ruled by ghana (the king), taxes
    4. social - adopted lots Islamic over time
    5. cultural - adopted lots Islamic over time, 1st to use camels to cross deserts
    6. religious - gradually became more islamic

  4. Mali (1230s-1350s CE)
    1. in West Africa, W of Niger River, grad took over all what was Ghana
    2. trans-saharan trade - salt & gold, agriculture - surplus crops for tax
    3. ruled by kings. Mansa Musa (standardized trade), Sundiata Seta (took over Ghana)
    4. lots of worship, known for Mosques, Muslim art & culture, patriarchial
    5. Islamic lifestyle, Spanish architecture
    6. Islamic

  5. Benin (1400s-1600s)
    1. near Niger River, West Africa
    2. Artisans, lots of trade esp brass & bronze, trade w/ portugese
    3. 1 king - Oba, economic political & spiritual leader
    4. patriarchial, female circumcision
    5. brass & bronze sculpture, Royal family important, spiritual art
    6. king spiritual leader, eventually Islamic

  6. Great Zimbabwe (1000s-1400s)
    1. well-watered plateau, well suited for farming, cattle, between Zambeizi & Limpopo
    2. close to trade routes, capitol Sofala, trading capitols
    3. chiefs demanded payment from smaller chiefs
    4. patriarchial
    5. people of Karnaga fortified area, no written language
    6. no formal religion, belief in divine force (Mwari)