The history of modern-day living beings began in Africa, and it was there that the first humans were born. It’s no wonder, therefore, that Africa was previously home to a number of powerful ancient civilizations.
Some of these civilizations have existed for millennia, while others have just lately thrived. These civilizations were known for erecting massive monuments that were considered wonders of the ancient world.
Many of these buildings are still standing today. For the most part, the success of Africa’s ancient civilizations was based on commerce and knowledge exchange.
All of the continent’s old civilizations eventually came to an end, but not before leaving an indelible mark on the people they previously dominated. The following are eight of Africa’s most illustrious ancient civilizations.
The most well-known of Africa’s ancient cultures is probably Egypt. It all started about 3400 BCE. Originally, Egypt was divided into two kingdoms. Upper Egypt, which was situated around the Nile River in what is now central and southern Egypt, was one of them.
Lower Egypt, situated mostly in the Nile Delta area of modern-day northern Egypt, was the other kingdom.
King Menes of Upper Egypt invaded Lower Egypt in 3100 BCE, uniting the two kingdoms. The Egyptians constructed the pyramids for which the ancient civilization is best known during the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 – 2181 BCE), notably the Great Pyramid, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
2. The Kush Kingdom
Meroe pyramids in Sudan’s Sahara desert are historically significant. The Kingdom of Kush had Meroe as its capital.
Between c. 1069 BCE and 350 CE, the Kingdom of Kush thrived. It ruled a broad stretch of land in what is now northern Sudan along the Nile River.
The kingdom was a thriving commercial hub, with profitable ivory, incense, iron, and gold trades. To the north, it was both a trade partner and a competitor of ancient Egypt.
In actuality, the Kushites invaded Egypt in the 8th century BCE, creating the 25th Egyptian Dynasty, which would dominate Egypt for almost a century. Over 200 pyramids have been discovered in the region surrounding the ancient Kushite city of Meroe, more than in all of Egypt.
3. Make a punt
There is no definite agreement about the location of ancient Punt. Regardless, most academics think it was located in East Africa, likely around the Red Sea coast and/or in present-day Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Around the year 2500 BCE, the kingdom was founded.
The majority of what we know of Punt comes from Egyptian records, which claim that the kingdom was wealthy in ebony, gold, myrrh, and exotic creatures like apes and leopards.
Punt’s main commercial partner was Egypt. Punt had a significant cultural and theological impact on ancient Egypt as well. In reality, the ancient Egyptians considered Punt to be their homeland, referring to it as “the Land of the Gods.”
Around the 8th or 9th century BCE, Carthage arose as a city-state in what is now Tunisia. Phoenician immigrants arrived in the region from ancient Lebanon and founded the city.
Carthage eventually expanded into a vast sea-faring empire that included coastal North Africa, the southern Iberian Peninsula, and all or parts of the Mediterranean islands of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily.
Carthage itself had a population of about half a million people at its peak. The Carthaginian Empire clashed with another ancient great power, the Roman Empire, in the mid-3rd century BCE, resulting in the Punic Wars. In 146 BCE, the conflicts came to a conclusion.
From the 4th century BCE until the 10th century CE, the Kingdom of Aksum thrived in what is now Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The kingdom is supposed to be the resting place of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant and the house of the Queen of Sheba. By the 2nd and 3rd century CE, Aksum had grown into a commercial behemoth, serving as a critical link between ancient Europe and the Far East. Gold and ivory were the most valuable goods.
Aksum was one of the first empires to convert to Christianity. The empire fell into decay by the 7th or 8th century CE, while its ecclesiastical heritage lives on in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
6. Mali Empire
The Mali Empire started in the thirteenth century and lasted until the sixteenth century. Its prosperity was partly due to the massive gold reserves found inside its domain, which spanned a broad expanse of West Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the present-day Mali-Niger border.
In fact, it was once claimed that the Mali Empire generated two-thirds of the world’s gold supply. Mansa Musa, the empire’s greatest emperor, lived in the early 14th century and was so wealthy that his riches are incomprehensible even by today’s standards. The city of Timbuktu, situated in modern-day Mali, became a famous center of learning in the Islamic world during the reign of the Mali Empire.
7. Songhai Empire
In the 15th century, the Songhai Empire arose. It included portions of the Mali Empire’s former lands. In reality, the Songhai Empire displaced the Mali Empire as the region’s dominant force.
The Songhai Empire was once larger than all of Western Europe. Its prosperity was due to aggressive trade policies and a complex bureaucratic administrative apparatus.
The Songhai Empire, like the Mali Empire, formerly ruled Timbuktu and established several Islamic schools there. Gao, the Songhai capital, originally had a population of 100,000 people.
Zimbabwe is the name of a historic city in Zimbabwe, which is now a nation. In reality, the historic city of Zimbabwe is the name of the nation.
The metropolis, known as Great Zimbabwe, was made up of massive stone walls and other stone constructions. In the indigenous Shona language, the term “Zimbabwe” means “stone dwellings.
” The city goes back to the 10th century, but it was the heart of a massive empire that ruled over most of what is now Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique during the 13th and 15th centuries.
The empire’s economy was built on cattle ranching, grain cultivation, and gold trading along the Indian Ocean’s coast. Great Zimbabwe was abandoned in the 15th century for unclear reasons. It had a population of 20,000 people at its peak.