ChAPTER 13 -- Part 1: African Civilizations and the Spread
The map shown above depicts the trip more than 50 years later.
Mansa Musa is depicted at the bottom right with a golden scepter and crown, symbolizing his royal power, and an enormous gold Nugget, symbolizing his country's wealth.
None of the caravans that made the trek across the desert were as magnificent as the ones that came after.
West African gold was already well known in the world economy and Africa was already involved in contacts of vaious kinds with other areas of the world, even though Mansa Musa's caravan symbolized the wealthy potential of Africa.
Muslims in Cairo, Damascus, and Fez were fascinated by the kingdom of this great lord.
The kingdom of ghana was a state between the desert and the forests of west Africa.
Its rise was due to its access to gold and control of the caravan routes, as well as the creation of an empire that extended over much of the savannah.
The trade routes that linked it to the Mediterranean and the Middle east were the reason why the African kingdom of Malian became an extension of the islamic world.
Africa below the Sahara was never completely isolated from the centers of civilization in Egypt, west Asia, or the Mediterranean, but for long periods the contacts were difficult and intermittent.
The increasing impact of a growing inter national network on Africa will be examined in this chapter.
The arrival of Islam changed many aspects of life in some African societies and brought them through trade, politics, and cultural exchange into increasing contact.
African societies influenced by Islam often maintained their own traditions and other African societies remained little touched by Islam.
African civilizations built less clearly than other postclassical ones.
The Bantu migration and the formation of large states in the western Sudan were some of the earlier themes.
The setting of sub-Saharan Africa was varied and distinctive, but it retained a certain isolation or cultural autonomy, even as it was drawn into new contacts with the world network.
The spread of uni versal faiths like Islam and Christianity was an important aspect of African history in this period, but much of central and southern Africa still flourished unaffected by these outside influences.
Africa's lack of political unity was caused by differences in geography, language, religion, politics, and other aspects of life universalistic faiths penetrated.
The history of sub-Saharan Africa was not characterized by universal states or universal religions.
Universal religions, first Christianity and later Islam, found followers in Nubia and Africa and contributed to the creation of large states and empires.
Sometimes the stateless societies were larger than the neighboring states.
Stateless societies didn't have much concentration of author ity, and it affected a small part of the people's lives.
Government was rarely a full-time occupation and there was no political class in these societies.
The societies were often more equal.
There were other alternatives to government.
In the west African forest, secret societies of men and women were able to limit the authority of rulers.
There were secret societies that cut across the divisions of the family.
Members' loyalty to these groups is not limited to their family ties.
Village disputes were settled by secret societies.
They acted to maintain stability in the community, and they were an alternative to the authority of state institutions.
Many stateless societies thrived because of internal social pressures and the fact that dissidents could leave and start a new life in Africa.
It was difficult for stateless societies to resist external pres sures, organize large building projects, or create stable conditions for long-distance trade with other peoples.
The needs and goals contributed to the creation of states in Africa.
State-building was done under a variety of conditions.
West Africa experienced both the cultural influence of Islam and its own internal developments.
The formation of some power ful states, such as Songhay, depended more on military power than on ethnic or cultural unity.
Africa played a part in the development of western Europe.
There were differences in the way these societies developed because of the tech nologies and ideologies of Europeans and Africans.
The arrival of Europeans in the 15th century drew Africans into the world economy in ways that transformed African development in the following centuries.
Despite the diversity of African cultures, there are similarities in language, thought, and religion.
The spread of the Bantu-speaking peoples provided a linguistic base across much of Africa, so that even though specific languages differed, structure and vocabulary allowed some mutual understanding between neighboring Bantu speakers.
Much of Africa was characterized by animistic religion.
It was believed from the beginning that a soul or spirit existed in every object.
In a future state, this soul or spirit would be part of an immaterial soul.
The spirit was thought to be universal.
Europeans and Africans believed that witches were to blame for disasters and illnesses.
The power of evil and the elimination of witches were fought by specialists.
Many societies had a class of diviners or priests who helped protect the community.
African religion provided a guide to ethics and behavior, as well as a view of how the universe worked.
The founding ancestors of the group shared an underlying belief in a creator deity whose power and action were expressed through spirits or lesser gods.
The first settlers were often viewed as the "owners" of the land or the local resources.
The fertility of the land, game, people, and herds could be ensured through them.
The land had a meaning beyond its economic usefulness for some groups.
Religion, economics, and history were all intertwined.
The clan around which many African societies were organized had an important role to play in dealing with the gods.
A direct link between dead ancestors and spirit world can be found.
The ancestors and gods were part of the same belief system.
The system was linked to places and people.
It showed resilience even in the face of monotheistic religions.
The economies of Africa are hard to describe in general terms.
North Africa is fully involved in the Mediterranean and Arab economic world.
There were different regions in Sub-Saharan Africa.
During the post classical period, skilled ironwork and settled agriculture had been established in many areas.
The basis for many lively markets and the many large cities that grew in both the structured states and the outlying areas were encouraged by Specialization.
African society was built on the bustle and gaiety of market life.
In many cases, professional merchants control trade.
The Islamic world and often through Arab traders, increased participation in international trade in this period.
The size and dynamics of their populations are one of the least known aspects of early African societies.
This is also true in much of the world.
Archeological evidence, travelers' reports, and educated guesses are used to estimate the population of early African societies, but our knowledge of how Africa fits into the general trends of the world population is very slight.
Africa may have had 30 to 60 million inhabitants by 1500.
The Arrival of islam in North Africa Africa north of the Sahara was part of the world of classical antiquity, where Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Vandals traded, settled, built, battled, and destroyed.
The Vandals and the Byzantines fought in north Africa in the 5th and 6th century BC, but Christianity took a firm hold in Mediterranean Africa.
The coastal cities were raided by the people of the Sahara.
As we have seen with Egypt, north Africa was connected to the rest of Africa in many ways.
The ties became even closer with the rise of Islam.
The armies of Arab and Berber crossed into Spain by 711.
The Muslim advance in the West was halted by their defeat in France by Charles Martel.
The populations of north Africa were receptive to the message of Islam.
Within the political unity provided by the Abbasid dynasty, conversion took place quickly.
North Africa was divided into several separate states and competing groups as a result of this unity breaking down.
The peoples of the desert formed states of their own at places such as Fez in Morocco and Sijilimasa, the old city of the trans-Saharan caravan trade, in opposition to the Arab rulers.
The Almoravids, a puritanical movement, grew among the desert Berbers of the western Sahara under pressure from the new Muslim invaders.
The penetration of Islam into sub-Saharan Africa was made possible by the north African and Spanish developments.
Islam offered many attractions in Africa.
All Muslims are equal in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Islamic tradition of unifying the powers of the state and religion in the person of the ruler appealed to some African kings.
The concept that all of the umma, or community of believers, were equal put the newly converted Berbers and later Africans on an equal footing with the Arabs, at least in law.
Practices differed considerably at local levels despite the egalitarian and utopian ideas within Islam.
Ethnic distinctions also divided the believers in Islamicized societies.
The fine for killing a man was twice as much as for killing a woman.
Sometimes utopian reform movements were caused by the disparity between law and practice.
The Almohadis are a group that is dedicated to purifying society by returning to the original teachings of Muhammad.
The Christian Kingdoms: Nubia and ethiopia Islam were not the first universalistic religion to take root in Africa, and the wave of Arab conquests across northern Africa had left behind it islands of Christianity.
The conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity happened in the 4th century.
Christian communities flourished in Egypt and Nubia, further up the Nile.
The Christians of Egypt, the Copts, developed a rich tradition in contact with Byzantium, which resulted in the translation of religious literature from Greek to Coptic, their own tongue, which was based on the language of ancient Egypt.
They split from the Byzantine connection on political issues.
When Egypt was conquered by Arab armies, the Copts were able to maintain their faith, even though Muslim rulers recognized them as followers of a revealed religion.
The Nile was spread into Nubia by the Coptic influence.
The Christian descendants of ancient Kush were left as independent Christian kingdoms until the 13th century after Muslim attempts to penetrate Nubia were met with stiff resistance.
The most important African Christian outpost was the kingdom of Ethiopia.
The Christian kingdom turned inward after the Muslim conquest of Egypt and the Red Sea coast.
Its people lived in fortified towns and supported themselves with agriculture on terraced hillsides.
King Lalibela sponsored a remarkable building project in which 11 great churches were sculpted from the rock in the town that bore his name.
The biblical marriage of Solomon and Sheba led to the emergence of an Ethiopia Christian state in the 13th and 14th centuries.
It was cut out of the bedrock to be dedicated to St. George.
Although it is surrounded by walls and can only be reached through an underground tunnel, it is still used for worship today.
The history of the region is shaped by the struggle between the Christian state in the Ethiopia highlands and the Muslim peoples in the Red Sea coast.
In 1542, a Portuguese expedition arrived at Massawa on the Red Sea to turn the tide in favor of its Christian allies after one of the Muslim states threatened the Ethiopia kingdom.
Ethiopia remained isolated, Christian, and fiercely independent after Portuguese attempts to bring Christianity into the Roman Catholic church failed.
Merchants and travelers trod the dusty and ancient caravan kingdoms of Mali and Songhay to get to the savanna.
Africa had three important "coasts" of contact: the Atlantic, the Indian and the Hausa states, and the savanna on the southern rim of the Sahara.
The introduction of camels from Asia to the Sahara between the 1st and 5th centuries c.e.
improved the possibilities of trade, but they could not live in the humid forest zones because of disease.
The sahel, the extensive grassland belt at the southern edge of the Sahara, became a point of exchange between the forests to the south and north Africa--an active border area where ideas, trade, and people from the Sahara and beyond arrived in increasing numbers.
Several African states developed between the trading cities, which gave them an advantage in the trade.
Their location on the open plains of the dry sahel meant that they were prone to attack and periodic droughts.
The salt and gold that was exchanged within the borders of the country was taxed.
By the 10th century, its rulers had converted to Islam and it was at the top of its power.
When William the Conqueror invaded England, Muslim accounts said he could muster 5000 troops, but the king of Ghana could field many times that.
The armies of Almoravid invaded from north Africa.
The power of the kingdom declined.
By the beginning of the 13th century, new states rose in the savanna to take over the leadership of the country.
Takrur is on the west of the Senegal River and Gao is on the east of the Niger River.
It is useful to review some of the elements that the states had in common before we deal with the most important kingdoms.
The Sudanic states had a council of elders of a particular family or group of lineages as their leaders.
These formed small partnerships to carry were conquest states, which drew on the taxes, tribute, and military support of the subordinate areas.
Empires are defined by the control of subordinate societies and the legal or informal control of their sovereignty.
Islam became something of a royal cult after the 10th cen States tury because it was used to reinforce indigenous ideas of kingship.
The Islamicized ruling families used their traditional powers to fortify their rule, even though most of the population never converted.
There were several savanna states in the Sudan.
The king was supported by Equator.
Agriculture was the economic basis of society in the 4th-11th centuries.
Small partnerships and groups were formed to carry out trade.
The New Faith and New Commerce empire died in 1260.
He was beloved of God because he was the last of the great conquerors and he was great among kings.
After a difficult childhood, Sundiata emerged from a period of inter family and regional fighting to create a unified state.
He is believed to have created the basic rules and relationships of Malinke society and the outline of the government of the empire of Malian.
He became the mansa.
It was said that he was the originator of social arrangements.
The 16 clans of free people were entitled to bear arms and carry the bow and quiver of arrows as a symbol of their status, five of them were devoted to religious duties, and four of them were specialists such as blacksmiths and griots.
The clan arrangements were traditional among the peoples of the savanna and had existed in the past.
He stationed garrisons to maintain loyalty and security despite the fact that he created political institutions of rule that allowed for great regional and ethnic differences.
The cultures in his travel records were related to the security of travelers and their goods.
After Sundiata died, his successors expanded the borders of the country until they controlled most of the valley.
A large number of traders were hosted in the sumptuous court.
From the trade, the country grew wealthy.
The pilgrimage to Mecca by Mansa Kankan Musa brought attention to the Muslim world, as was described in the beginning of this chapter.
There were other consequences to Mansa Musa's trip.
Ishak al-Sahili came from Muslim Spain and was brought back from Mecca.
A distinctive form of Sudanic architecture was developed after the architect directed the building of several important mosques.
This can be seen in the mosque.
The cities of the western Sudan began to resemble those of north Africa, but with a distinctive local architectural style.
Craft specialists and a foreign merchant community were included in the towns.
The commercial success of states such as Songhay was due to the power of the state.
Merchants and scholars were attracted to the power and protection of Malian.
The traders used their position as a broker.
The port city is located on the great bend of the river.
By the 14th century, Timbuktu was said to have a population of 50,000, just off the flood plain, and it had a library and university.
It was said that the book trade in Timbuktu was the most lucrative in the world.
This was a hard life.
The savanna's soils were sandy and shallow.
Timbuktu Plows were rarely used.
The people of the hoe looked to the sky in the spring for the first rains to start planting.
The basis of daily life in the village was provided by rice in the river valleys, millet, sorghums, some wheat, fruits, and vegetables.
Most farms were much smaller than 10 acres.
The snake, man's enemy, is not long-lived, yet the serpent shared stories of a family or people, but in many west African that lives hidden will die old.
Djata was strong enough to face his enemies.
The stateliness of the lion and the strength of the buffalo made him a master of oral traditions.
Although today's griots are professional musicians and voice carries authority, his eyes were live coals, his arm was iron, and historically they held important places at the courts of he was the husband of power.
The epic of Sundiata, the great ruler of Moussa Tounkara, the king of Mema, has been passed down for hundreds of years.
excerpts from a version collected among the Malinke people of follow Sundiata in the great adventure came forward of their own free will.
The iron squadron formed by the cavalry of Mema was created by the African scholar D. T. Niane.
Sundiata, dressed in the Muslim style of Mema, left the town at the head of his army.
The life of Sundiata is coming to the great moments.
The exile will come to an end.
Manding Bory is the brother of Sundiata.
Griots was at his side and he knew the history of kings and kingdoms.
The best counsellors of kings are the horsemen of Mema.
Every king has a bristling iron squadron.
The king of Mema advised the troop to have a singer to perpetuate his memory, for Djata did not have enough troops to confront griot who rescues the memories of kings from oblivion.
Half the men of the king, Soumaba, and seers who probe the future know it, if you go to Wagadou.
They have Cisse.
The king of knowledge of the future came out in person to meet Sundiata and his troops, whereas we griots are depositories of Wagadou.
He blessed the weapons after giving Sundiata half of his cavalry.
Writing lacks enough fibers to tie up a man, so they don't feel the past anymore.
The warmth of the human voice is what numbers mean.
Everyone thinks it is worth it.
Learning should be a secret, but I will clear myself with my cavalry.
They would head south.
It is concealed in Soumaoro's kingdom.
Tabon, an iron-gated town in the midst of the mountains, was promised by Sundiata that he would pass it before returning to his homeland.
The preparation for a major companion became king in the following excerpt.
Singbin Mara Cisse and Mandjan the Sossos, who are also known as Berete, took control of Mali after a forced march and battle fought by Sundiata against the forces of Soumaoro.
The celebra Alexander, the king of gold and silver, was one of the heroes who preferred the presence of aspects of Muslim and animist religion.
He wanted to outdo his prototype both in the high value placed on the cavalry and in the wealth of his treasury.
A man with two wives and several unmarried sons could work more land than a man with one wife and a smaller family.
Polygamy, the practice of having multiple wives, was common in the region.
The farmers of the Sudanic states were able to use irrigation in places such as Timbuktu because of the difficulties of the soil and the limitations of technology.
The common people of the savanna states used the bow and hoe.
A successor state from within the old empire was beginning to emerge as the power of Malian waned.
Songhay was formed as an independent kingdom in the 7th century as a result of a Berber dynasty.
The capital of the popula dynasty was established under the rule of a Berber, but the majority of the rulers became Muslims.
As new sources of gold from the west African forests began, Songhay was able to reestablish its imperial status under Sunni Ali in the 1370s.
A foreign merchant community and several mosques made Gao a large city.
The empire of Songhay was forged under the leadership of Sunni Ali.
Sunni Ali was a great leader.
The borders of Timbuktu and Jenne were expanded by his cavalry.
He developed a system of provincial administration to mobilize recruits for the army and rule the far- flung conquests.
He met any chal enge to his authority even when it came from the Muslim scholars of Timbuktu.
The fusion of pagan and Islamic populations continued.
Songhay ruled the region until the end of the 16th century.
The political and cultural tradition of western Sudan was not affected by the demise of the Songhay imperial structure.
The ruler of Kano took control of the city in the late 14th century and turned it into a center of Muslim learning.
In the Hausa cities of the region, an urbanized royal court in a fortified capital ruled over the majority of the population in animistic villages.
Many of the social, political, and religious forms of the great empires of the grassland were reproduced by the later Islamicized African states.
There were different forms of Muslim penetration beyond the Sudan.
Most of the major trading cities had merchants, and religious communities developed in each of them.
Merchants and groups of pastoralists established outposts in the area of Guinea as networks of trade and contact were established throughout the region.
Muslim people, herders, warriors, and religious leaders became important minorities in African societies that were composed of elite families, occupational groups, free people, and slaves.
By the 18th century Muslim minorities were scattered throughout west Africa, even in areas where no Islamic state had arisen, because families of specialists in Muslim law spread widely through the region.
We can use these descriptions to understand the nature of the Sudanic states.
Many aspects of life in the savanna continued to be organized by the village communities, clans, and various ethnic groups.
The various groups and communities were owed an overarching structure by the development of unified states.
The large states represented the aims and power of a particular group and often of a dominant family.
The movement and fusion of populations were a constant feature in the Sudan, and many states pointed to the immigrant origins of the ruling families.
The interests of many groups were served by the universalistic faith of Islam.
The merchants who lived in the cities and whose caravans brought goods to and from the savanna relied on common religion and law.
Traditional ideas of kingship were reinforced by the idea of a ruler who united civil and religious authority.
In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, the formation of states made the societies more patriarchal.
Islam was fused with the traditions and beliefs of the Sudanic states.
The traditional basis of their rule was based on the ability to intercede with local spirits, and although Sunni Ali was a nominally Muslim, they did not ignore it.
In the early stages of Islam in the Sudan, pagan practices and beliefs were accommodated.
Many of the populations of Songhay and Malian never converted to Islam, and those who did did retain many of the old beliefs.
In the position of women, we can see this fusion of traditions.
African visitors to the Sudan were shocked by the easy familiarity between men and women and the patrilineal nature of islamic freedom enjoyed by women.
Slavery and the slave trade between black Africa and the rest of the Islamic world had a major impact on women and children.
Slavery and dependent labor existed in Africa before Islam.
Slavery in central Africa was a marginal aspect of the Sudanic states.
Africans had been enslaved by others before, but with the Muslim conquests of north Africa and commercial penetration to the south, slavery became a more widespread phenomenon, and a slave trade in Africans developed on a new scale.
Muslims viewed slavery as a stage in the process of conversion, but in reality, conversion did not guarantee freedom.
Slaves were used as domestic servants and laborers in the Islamic world, but they were also used as soldiers and administrators who were dependent on their masters.
The emphasis was on enslaving women and children, because slaves were also used as eunuchs and concubines.
Slave trade routes from the African interior to the east African coast were developed as a result of the trade caravans from the sahel across the Sahara.
The children of slave mothers were integrated into Muslim society.
The custom meant a constant demand for more slaves to replace those freed.
There are differing estimates of the volume of the trans-Saharan slave trade.
One scholar puts the total at over five million, with another two million sent to the Muslim ports on the Indian Ocean coast.
The trade extended over 700 years and affected a large area.
It was another way in which Islamic civilization changed Africa.