The Ancient Scribe

Examining ancient culture's status in the modern era

Africa Before Slavery: A Deeper Look Into African History

Posted By on May 13, 2010

African history doesn’t revolve around slavery only, though the duration of slavery in Africa seems to occupy almost 120,000 years of the history of the land! Currently, different views about the pre-slavery times era have emerged to combat the views raised by historians to justify the aspects of Transatlantic Slave Trade. Historians like Hugh Trevor-Roper openly claim that Africa has no history of its own.

However, according to archeological accounts, they support the fact (to some extent, anyway) that human life forms probably began in Africa. In fact, the early hominids of Africa were found due to the discovery of the remains of Sahelanthropus tchadensis. These date back to at least 6 -7 million years. Current research and scientific accounts reflect the fact that Africans are probably the ancestors of all humans. West Africa featured a rich cultural history before the arrival of the era of slave trade. The ancient African history reflected an array of kingdoms and political organizations, including separate language forms.

The most powerful kingdoms of the pre-enslavement era of Africa were the Songhai Empire, Mali, Benin and Kongo kingdoms. The monarchs of these kingdoms maintained complex political organizations, as they had to govern thousands of subjects. In the other regions, the political systems were weaker. In Africa, learning, art and technology flourished, and back then, the Africans were skilled in medicine, astronomy and mathematics. They made luxury items of ivory, gold, bronze and terracotta for trading and local use as well.

For centuries, the West Africans had trade relations with the Europeans through the merchants of North Africa. Traders like the Portuguese, French, Dutch, British and Scandinavians sailed down the West African coast looking for gold, spices, ivory, and specifically, pepper. Among the great civilizations of Africa Egypt was the first one. Egyptian rule lasted for almost 1000 years and they made significant achievements in mathematics, medicine, science, technology and art. In fact, we still use many of their products even today (at least, I do). When the city of Rome was built, the Egyptian civilization was almost 2000 years old already!

The Ghana kingdom in western part of Africa was a vast empire spreading across a huge area. They traded in salt, gold and copper between the 9th and the 13th centuries. The Benin Empire was established by Yoruba people between the 11th and 12th centuries. The people of this civilization made items of brass, copper, wood, bronze and ivory. Studies show that the people of Benin Empire were highly skilled in the production of gum and carving of ivory.

The Mali kingdom emerged between 13th to 15th century, quickly spreading to West and North-East Africa. The kingdom followed an organized trading system. They traded in gold dust and agricultural products. The Mali kingdom was at its peak in the 14th century. From 1450-1550, the Songhay kingdom became prosperous and powerful. Timbuktu was among the important places with many libraries and universities. Slavery did exist even before the Europeans came to Africa.


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