Most historians of early African civilization primarily focus just on ancient Kemet (now Egypt). However, the continent was home to several other powerful empires. These empires had control over trade routes, built sprawling cities, and crafted multiple magnificent architectural monuments that still stand today. They not only represent landmarks of your African ancestors, but also had practical uses which fostered the culture, values, activities, and beliefs of the ancestors who once lived in these kingdoms. Meet the kingdoms that laid the foundation for who you are today:
First let’s start with the Kingdom of Kush...
For over a thousand years, the Kingdom of Kush stood as a dominant regional power of African people. The kingdom was an ancient Nubian empire and home to the beautiful city of Meroë, 200 km north of Khartoum, Sudan. It reached its peak during the 2nd millennium B.C. it ruled over a territory along the Nile river (modern-day Sudan). It was an economic center running a lucrative trade market in gold, iron, ivory and incense. It served as a military rival to Kemet and also a trading partner. The religion of the Kushites involved worshiping of Kemetic gods; they also mummified the dead and developed their own pyramid types.
Meet the great land of Punt…
Punt stands as an African civilization shrouded in mystery. Anciently, it appeared as "the land of God." The land of Punt was rich in gold, myrrh, exotic animals, and ebony. Although little is known about Punt, scholars believe it was located somewhere southeast of Kemet, perhaps modern day Somalia. It is believed this ancient civilization existed from the 26th the 15th century BCE. Kemites regularly sent huge caravans to the land of Punt for trade missions of which the most famous was Queen Harshepsut's trade venture in the 15th century BCE.
Now, on to the Empire of Carthage...
Carthage flourished over 500 years as a commercial hub in the northern Africa. It was originally a Phoenician settlement, but over time grew hostile to both Greece and Rome. The city-state of Carthage slowly grew into a sprawling seafaring empire. It became prosperous through the trade of gold, copper and silver by relying on exchanges with black Africans in the Sahara and further south. Carthage today is a beautiful hub with a series of remaining ruins especially in the city of Tunis.
Have you heard of The kingdom of Aksum (Axum)?
Surprisingly, little is known about Aksum, but it was a gold and ivory trading juggernaut. Now modern-day Ethiopia, the kingdom had one of the first scripts to emerge in Africa, the script was referred to as Ge’ez. When you talk about the best architectural designs, you should think of Aksum. It developed a very distinctive architectural style. This style involved the unique building of massive stone obelisks. Some of these obelisks stood over 100 feet height (tall). Aksum was among the first empires in the entire world to adopt Christianity. This led to alliances with the Byzantines. Despite the decline pf Aksum empire, its legacy in religion still exist in the form of the so called Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Another great African empire is the Mali empire...
This empire owned the cities of Timbuktu and Djenné. These cities were known for their adobe mosques and the Islamic schools. You have heard of Timbuktu, right? Among other things, it was known for a massive library which hosted over 700,000 manuscripts. The Mali empire was prominent in wealth and luxury. For instance, tales point out that the ruler, Mansa Musa, during a stopover to Kemet dished out so much gold that plummeted markets in Kemet for several years. A black man, he is known as arguably the richest man in history with more wealth than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined.
Here is the largest empire of all… The Songhai Empire
The Songhai empire is larger than few states in African history. It was larger than western Europe. The Songhai empire was among the most powerful states in the world. The empire was made up of provinces ruled by different governors. It enjoyed vigorous trade policies and a very sophisticated bureaucratic system. It collapsed after a period of civil war and internal conflict.
Lastly... is the great Zimbabwe
This one has the most impressive monuments in sub-Saharan Africa. The monument is made of stacked boulders, towers of stone and defensive walls made up of cut granite blocks. In this empire, you will find the citadel rock. It has been associated with myths and legends of the ancient Zimbabwe. There was a time that it was seen as a residence to the Queen of Sheba mentioned in the Bible. It was rich in precious metals and cattle. Although there is just little known about the history of Zimbabwe, there are remains of artifacts suggesting an expansive trade network such as European textiles, Arabian glass, and the Chinese pottery. This empire was described as a well-connected mercantile center. Despite being home for an estimated 20,000 people, the fortress city at the great empire of Zimbabwe was sometime in the 15th century mysteriously abandoned.
It is amazing to see and read about the accomplishments of African people, black people who built empires, kingdoms, and great civilization with their own culture, religion, language, and identity. These are our people, our ancestors, our heritage.
These seven empires now stand as evidence of the prominence of ancient civilizations in Africa before colonialism and the aggressive slave trade. Africa was rich in trade, precious metals, and culture. Black Africans had and have distinctive skills supported by a land of beauty and wealth. Remember that.
Evan Andrews, January 2017. History Stories. 7 influential African empires. https://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-influential-african-empires
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