100 things that you did not know about Africa
The human race is of African origin. The oldest known skeletal remains
of anatomically modern humans (or homo sapiens) were excavated at sites
in East Africa. Human remains were discovered at Omo in Ethiopia that
were dated at 195,000 years old, the oldest known in the world.
Skeletons of pre-humans have been found in Africa that date back
between 4 and 5 million years. The oldest known ancestral type of
humanity is thought to have been the australopithecus ramidus, who lived
at least 4.4 million years ago.
3. Africans were the
first to organise fishing expeditions 90,000 years ago. At Katanda, a
region in northeastern Zaïre (now Congo), was recovered a finely wrought
series of harpoon points, all elaborately polished and barbed. Also
uncovered was a tool, equally well crafted, believed to be a dagger. The
discoveries suggested the existence of an early aquatic or fishing
4. Africans were the first to engage in
mining 43,000 years ago. In 1964 a hematite mine was found in Swaziland
at Bomvu Ridge in the Ngwenya mountain range. Ultimately 300,000
artefacts were recovered including thousands of stone-made mining tools.
Adrian Boshier, one of the archaeologists on the site, dated the mine
to a staggering 43,200 years old.
5. Africans pioneered
basic arithmetic 25,000 years ago. The Ishango bone is a tool handle
with notches carved into it found in the Ishango region of Zaïre (now
called Congo) near Lake Edward. The bone tool was originally thought to
have been over 8,000 years old, but a more sensitive recent dating has
given dates of 25,000 years old. On the tool are 3 rows of notches. Row 1
shows three notches carved next to six, four carved next to eight, ten
carved next to two fives and finally a seven. The 3 and 6, 4 and 8, and
10 and 5, represent the process of doubling. Row 2 shows eleven notches
carved next to twenty-one notches, and nineteen notches carved next to
nine notches. This represents 10 + 1, 20 + 1, 20 - 1 and 10 - 1.
Finally, Row 3 shows eleven notches, thirteen notches, seventeen notches
and nineteen notches. 11, 13, 17 and 19 are the prime numbers between
10 and 20.
6. Africans cultivated crops 12,000 years
ago, the first known advances in agriculture. Professor Fred Wendorf
discovered that people in Egypt’s Western Desert cultivated crops of
barley, capers, chick-peas, dates, legumes, lentils and wheat. Their
ancient tools were also recovered. There were grindstones, milling
stones, cutting blades, hide scrapers, engraving burins, and mortars and
7. Africans mummified their dead 9,000 years
ago. A mummified infant was found under the Uan Muhuggiag rock shelter
in south western Libya. The infant was buried in the foetal position and
was mummified using a very sophisticated technique that must have taken
hundreds of years to evolve. The technique predates the earliest
mummies known in Ancient Egypt by at least 1,000 years. Carbon dating is
controversial but the mummy may date from 7438 (±220) BC.
Africans carved the world’s first colossal sculpture 7,000 or more
years ago. The Great Sphinx of Giza was fashioned with the head of a man
combined with the body of a lion. A key and important question raised
by this monument was: How old is it? In October 1991 Professor Robert
Schoch, a geologist from Boston University, demonstrated that the Sphinx
was sculpted between 5000 BC and 7000 BC, dates that he considered
9. On the 1 March 1979, the New York
Times carried an article on its front page also page sixteen that was
entitled Nubian Monarchy called Oldest. In this article we were assured
that: “Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy in human history,
preceding the rise of the earliest Egyptian kings by several
generations, has been discovered in artifacts from ancient Nubia” (i.e.
the territory of the northern Sudan and the southern portion of modern
10. The ancient Egyptians had the same type of
tropically adapted skeletal proportions as modern Black Africans. A 2003
paper appeared in American Journal of Physical Anthropology by Dr Sonia
Zakrzewski entitled Variation in Ancient Egyptian Stature and Body
Proportions where she states that: “The raw values in Table 6 suggest
that Egyptians had the ‘super-Negroid’ body plan described by Robins
(1983). The values for the brachial and crural indices show that the
distal segments of each limb are longer relative to the proximal
segments than in many ‘African’ populations.”
ancient Egyptians had Afro combs. One writer tells us that the Egyptians
“manufactured a very striking range of combs in ivory: the shape of
these is distinctly African and is like the combs used even today by
Africans and those of African descent.”
Funerary Complex in the ancient Egyptian city of Saqqara is the oldest
building that tourists regularly visit today. An outer wall, now mostly
in ruins, surrounded the whole structure. Through the entrance are a
series of columns, the first stone-built columns known to historians.
The North House also has ornamental columns built into the walls that
have papyrus-like capitals. Also inside the complex is the Ceremonial
Court, made of limestone blocks that have been quarried and then shaped.
In the centre of the complex is the Step Pyramid, the first of 90
13. The first Great Pyramid of Giza,
the most extraordinary building in history, was a staggering 481 feet
tall - the equivalent of a 40-storey building. It was made of 2.3
million blocks of limestone and granite, some weighing 100 tons.
The ancient Egyptian city of Kahun was the world’s first planned city.
Rectangular and walled, the city was divided into two parts. One part
housed the wealthier inhabitants – the scribes, officials and foremen.
The other part housed the ordinary people. The streets of the western
section in particular, were straight, laid out on a grid, and crossed
each other at right angles. A stone gutter, over half a metre wide, ran
down the centre of every street.
15. Egyptian mansions
were discovered in Kahun - each boasting 70 rooms, divided into four
sections or quarters. There was a master’s quarter, quarters for women
and servants, quarters for offices and finally, quarters for granaries,
each facing a central courtyard. The master’s quarters had an open court
with a stone water tank for bathing. Surrounding this was a colonnade.
The Labyrinth in the Egyptian city of Hawara with its massive layout,
multiple courtyards, chambers and halls, was the very largest building
in antiquity. Boasting three thousand rooms, 1,500 of them were above
ground and the other 1,500 were underground.
Toilets and sewerage systems existed in ancient Egypt. One of the
pharaohs built a city now known as Amarna. An American urban planner
noted that: “Great importance was attached to cleanliness in Amarna as
in other Egyptian cities. Toilets and sewers were in use to dispose
waste. Soap was made for washing the body. Perfumes and essences were
popular against body odour. A solution of natron was used to keep
insects from houses . . . Amarna may have been the first planned ‘garden
18. Sudan has more pyramids than any other
country on earth - even more than Egypt. There are at least 223 pyramids
in the Sudanese cities of Al Kurru, Nuri, Gebel Barkal and Meroë. They
are generally 20 to 30 metres high and steep sided.
The Sudanese city of Meroë is rich in surviving monuments. Becoming the
capital of the Kushite Empire between 590 BC until AD 350, there are 84
pyramids in this city alone, many built with their own miniature
temple. In addition, there are ruins of a bath house sharing affinities
with those of the Romans. Its central feature is a large pool approached
by a flight of steps with waterspouts decorated with lion heads.
Bling culture has a long and interesting history. Gold was used to
decorate ancient Sudanese temples. One writer reported that: “Recent
excavations at Meroe and Mussawwarat es-Sufra revealed temples with
walls and statues covered with gold leaf”.
around 300 BC, the Sudanese invented a writing script that had
twenty-three letters of which four were vowels and there was also a word
divider. Hundreds of ancient texts have survived that were in this
script. Some are on display in the British Museum.
In central Nigeria, West Africa’s oldest civilisation flourished between
1000 BC and 300 BC. Discovered in 1928, the ancient culture was called
the Nok Civilisation, named after the village in which the early
artefacts were discovered. Two modern scholars, declare that “[a]fter
calibration, the period of Nok art spans from 1000 BC until 300 BC”. The
site itself is much older going back as early as 4580 or 4290 BC.
West Africans built in stone by 1100 BC. In the Tichitt-Walata region
of Mauritania, archaeologists have found “large stone masonry villages”
that date back to 1100 BC. The villages consisted of roughly circular
compounds connected by “well-defined streets”.
24. By 250 BC, the foundations of West Africa’s oldest cities were established such as Old Djenné in Mali.
Kumbi Saleh, the capital of Ancient Ghana, flourished from 300 to 1240
AD. Located in modern day Mauritania, archaeological excavations have
revealed houses, almost habitable today, for want of renovation and
several storeys high. They had underground rooms, staircases and
connecting halls. Some had nine rooms. One part of the city alone is
estimated to have housed 30,000 people.
26. West Africa had walled
towns and cities in the pre-colonial period. Winwood Reade, an English
historian visited West Africa in the nineteenth century and commented
that: “There are . . . thousands of large walled cities resembling those
of Europe in the Middle Ages, or of ancient Greece.”
Lord Lugard, an English official, estimated in 1904 that there were 170
walled towns still in existence in the whole of just the Kano province
of northern Nigeria.
28. Cheques are not quite as new
an invention as we were led to believe. In the tenth century, an Arab
geographer, Ibn Haukal, visited a fringe region of Ancient Ghana.
Writing in 951 AD, he told of a cheque for 42,000 golden dinars written
to a merchant in the city of Audoghast by his partner in Sidjilmessa.
Ibn Haukal, writing in 951 AD, informs us that the King of Ghana was
“the richest king on the face of the earth” whose pre-eminence was due
to the quantity of gold nuggets that had been amassed by the himself and
by his predecessors.
30. The Nigerian city of Ile-Ife
was paved in 1000 AD on the orders of a female ruler with decorations
that originated in Ancient America. Naturally, no-one wants to explain
how this took place approximately 500 years before the time of
31. West Africa had bling culture
in 1067 AD. One source mentions that when the Emperor of Ghana gives
audience to his people: “he sits in a pavilion around which stand his
horses caparisoned in cloth of gold: behind him stand ten pages holding
shields and gold-mounted swords: and on his right hand are the sons of
the princes of his empire, splendidly clad and with gold plaited into
their hair . . . The gate of the chamber is guarded by dogs of an
excellent breed . . . they wear collars of gold and silver.”
Glass windows existed at that time. The residence of the Ghanaian
Emperor in 1116 AD was: “A well-built castle, thoroughly fortified,
decorated inside with sculptures and pictures, and having glass
33. The Grand Mosque in the Malian city of
Djenné, described as “the largest adobe [clay] building in the world”,
was first raised in 1204 AD. It was built on a square plan where each
side is 56 metres in length. It has three large towers on one side, each
with projecting wooden buttresses.
34. One of the
great achievements of the Yoruba was their urban culture. “By the year
A.D. 1300,” says a modern scholar, “the Yoruba people built numerous
walled cities surrounded by farms”. The cities were Owu, Oyo, Ijebu,
Ijesa, Ketu, Popo, Egba, Sabe, Dassa, Egbado, Igbomina, the sixteen
Ekiti principalities, Owo and Ondo.
35. Yoruba metal
art of the mediaeval period was of world class. One scholar wrote that
Yoruba art “would stand comparison with anything which Ancient Egypt,
Classical Greece and Rome, or Renaissance Europe had to offer.”
In the Malian city of Gao stands the Mausoleum of Askia the Great, a
weird sixteenth century edifice that resembles a step pyramid.
Thousands of mediaeval tumuli have been found across West Africa.
Nearly 7,000 were discovered in north-west Senegal alone spread over
nearly 1,500 sites. They were probably built between 1000 and 1300 AD.
Excavations at the Malian city of Gao carried out by Cambridge
University revealed glass windows. One of the finds was entitled:
“Fragments of alabaster window surrounds and a piece of pink window
glass, Gao 10th – 14th century.”
39. In 1999 the BBC
produced a television series entitled Millennium. The programme devoted
to the fourteenth century opens with the following disclosure: “In the
fourteenth century, the century of the scythe, natural disasters
threatened civilisations with extinction. The Black Death kills more
people in Europe, Asia and North Africa than any catastrophe has before.
Civilisations which avoid the plague thrive. In West Africa the Empire
of Mali becomes the richest in the world.”
sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus. An
Egyptian scholar, Ibn Fadl Al-Umari, published on this sometime around
1342. In the tenth chapter of his book, there is an account of two large
maritime voyages ordered by the predecessor of Mansa Musa, a king who
inherited the Malian throne in 1312. This mariner king is not named by
Al-Umari, but modern writers identify him as Mansa Abubakari II.
On a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 AD, a Malian ruler, Mansa Musa,
brought so much money with him that his visit resulted in the collapse
of gold prices in Egypt and Arabia. It took twelve years for the
economies of the region to normalise.
42. West African
gold mining took place on a vast scale. One modern writer said that: “It
is estimated that the total amount of gold mined in West Africa up to
1500 was 3,500 tons, worth more than $****30 billion in today’s market.”
The old Malian capital of Niani had a 14th century building called the
Hall of Audience. It was an surmounted by a dome, adorned with
arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were
plated with wood and framed in silver; those of a lower floor were
plated with wood, framed in gold.
44. Mali in the 14th
century was highly urbanised. Sergio Domian, an Italian art and
architecture scholar, wrote the following about this period: “Thus was
laid the foundation of an urban civilisation. At the height of its
power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta
was very densely populated”.
45. The Malian city of
Timbuktu had a 14th century population of 115,000 - 5 times larger than
mediaeval London. Mansa Musa, built the Djinguerebere Mosque in the
fourteenth century. There was the University Mosque in which 25,000
students studied and the Oratory of Sidi Yayia. There were over 150
Koran schools in which 20,000 children were instructed. London, by
contrast, had a total 14th century population of 20,000 people.
National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the Paris of the
mediaeval world, on account of its intellectual culture. According to
Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 university students studied there.
Many old West African families have private library collections that go
back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian cities of Chinguetti and Oudane
have a total of 3,450 hand written mediaeval books. There may be
another 6,000 books still surviving in the other city of Walata. Some
date back to the 8th century AD. There are 11,000 books in private
collections in Niger. Finally, in Timbuktu, Mali, there are about
700,000 surviving books.
48. A collection of one
thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West
African scholar of the 16th century. Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is
recorded as saying that he had the smallest library of any of his
friends - he had only 1600 volumes.
these old manuscripts, Michael Palin, in his TV series Sahara, said the
imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show
the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years . . .
Its convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more
than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu
the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about
the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for
150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came
up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.”
50. The Songhai Empire of 16th century West Africa had a government position called Minister for Etiquette and Protocol.
The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable
with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive
walling totalling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of
the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records
carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The
largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical
52. Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the
highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once
stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest
examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have
cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him . . .
Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible
53. Winwood Reade described his visit to
the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s
palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves
and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a
thoroughfare . . . But the part of the palace fronting the street was a
stone house, Moorish in its style . . . with a flat roof and a parapet,
and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti
masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street.
Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian
glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster
carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A
sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of
Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many
specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.”
the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to
Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the
Yoruba weavers as by any people . . . in durability, their cloths far
excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”
recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be
surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in
places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.
On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished.
Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and
adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta,
cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious
observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more
valuable than the Italian.”
57. On Kongolese metallurgy
of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no
doubting . . . the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the
ancient Kongo . . . The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead
vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both
pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical
(exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead
58. In Nigeria, the royal palace in the
city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad
Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a
very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902,
described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and
surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside . . .
in itself no mean citadel”.
59. A sixteenth century
traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and
commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits
and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.
60. One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.
Ngazargamu, the capital city of Kanem-Borno, became one of the largest
cities in the seventeenth century world. By 1658 AD, the metropolis,
according to an architectural scholar housed “about quarter of a million
people”. It had 660 streets. Many were wide and unbending, reflective
of town planning.
62. The Nigerian city of Surame
flourished in the sixteenth century. Even in ruin it was an impressive
sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. A modern scholar describes
it thus: “The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and
include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right
angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in
the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have
been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is
the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard
red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big
mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show
regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several
places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a
little north of the eastern gate . . . The main city walls here appear
to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide.”
The Nigerian city of Kano in 1851 produced an estimated 10 million
pairs of sandals and 5 million hides each year for export.
In 1246 AD Dunama II of Kanem-Borno exchanged embassies with
Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a
costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle
noted that the rare animal “created a sensation in Tunis”.
By the third century BC the city of Carthage on the coast of Tunisia
was opulent and impressive. It had a population of 700,000 and may even
have approached a million. Lining both sides of three streets were rows
of tall houses six storeys high.
66. The Ethiopian city
of Axum has a series of 7 giant obelisks that date from perhaps 300 BC
to 300 AD. They have details carved into them that represent windows and
doorways of several storeys. The largest obelisk, now fallen, is in
fact “the largest monolith ever made anywhere in the world”. It is 108
feet long, weighs a staggering 500 tons, and represents a
67. Ethiopia minted its own
coins over 1,500 years ago. One scholar wrote that: “Almost no other
contemporary state anywhere in the world could issue in gold, a
statement of sovereignty achieved only by Rome, Persia, and the Kushan
kingdom in northern India at the time.”
Ethiopian script of the 4th century AD influenced the writing script of
Armenia. A Russian historian noted that: “Soon after its creation, the
Ethiopic vocalised script began to influence the scripts of Armenia and
Georgia. D. A. Olderogge suggested that Mesrop Mashtotz used the
vocalised Ethiopic script when he invented the Armenian alphabet.”
“In the first half of the first millennium CE,” says a modern scholar,
Ethiopia “was ranked as one of the world’s greatest empires”. A Persian
cleric of the third century AD identified it as the third most important
state in the world after Persia and Rome.
has 11 underground mediaeval churches built by being carved out of the
ground. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD, Roha became the new
capital of the Ethiopians. Conceived as a New Jerusalem by its founder,
Emperor Lalibela (c.1150-1230), it contains 11 churches, all carved out
of the rock of the mountains by hammer and chisel. All of the temples
were carved to a depth of 11 metres or so below ground level. The
largest is the House of the Redeemer, a staggering 33.7 metres long,
23.7 metres wide and 11.5 metres deep.
71. Lalibela is
not the only place in Ethiopia to have such wonders. A cotemporary
archaeologist reports research that was conducted in the region in the
early 1970’s when: “startling numbers of churches built in caves or
partially or completely cut from the living rock were revealed not only
in Tigre and Lalibela but as far south as Addis Ababa. Soon at least
1,500 were known. At least as many more probably await revelation.”
In 1209 AD Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia sent an embassy to Cairo
bringing the sultan unusual gifts including an elephant, a hyena, a
zebra, and a giraffe.
73. In Southern Africa, there are
at least 600 stone built ruins in the regions of Zimbabwe, Mozambique
and South Africa. These ruins are called Mazimbabwe in Shona, the Bantu
language of the builders, and means great revered house and “signifies
74. The Great Zimbabwe was the largest of these
ruins. It consists of 12 clusters of buildings, spread over 3 square
miles. Its outer walls were made from 100,000 tons of granite bricks. In
the fourteenth century, the city housed 18,000 people, comparable in
size to that of London of the same period.
culture existed in this region. At the time of our last visit, the
Horniman Museum in London had exhibits of headrests with the caption:
“Headrests have been used in Africa since the time of the Egyptian
pharaohs. Remains of some headrests, once covered in gold foil, have
been found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and burial sites like
Mapungubwe dating to the twelfth century after Christ.”
Dr Albert Churchward, author of Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man,
pointed out that writing was found in one of the stone built ruins:
“Lt.-Col. E. L. de Cordes . . . who was in South Africa for three years,
informed the writer that in one of the ‘Ruins’ there is a
‘stone-chamber,’ with a vast quantity of Papyri, covered with old
Egyptian hieroglyphics. A Boer hunter discovered this, and a large
quantity was used to light a fire with, and yet still a larger quantity
remained there now.”
77. On bling culture, one
seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa,
that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in
various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich
silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of
satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes
with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a
gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon,
woven with gold roses on silk.”
78. Southern Africans
mined gold on an epic scale. One modern writer tells us that: “The
estimated amount of gold ore mined from the entire region by the
ancients was staggering, exceeding 43 million tons. The ore yielded
nearly 700 tons of pure gold which today would be valued at over
79. Apparently the Monomotapan
royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An
eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The
inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and
lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the
manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and
rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as
are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The
candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang
from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”
Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese
contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the
blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land
and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through
the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at
the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that
place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for
their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the
next village. In every place where they come there is the same
81. Many southern Africans have indigenous
and pre-colonial words for ‘gun’. Scholars have generally been
reluctant to investigate or explain this fact.
Evidence discovered in 1978 showed that East Africans were making steel
for more than 1,500 years: “Assistant Professor of Anthropology Peter
Schmidt and Professor of Engineering Donald H. Avery have found as long
as 2,000 years ago Africans living on the western shores of Lake
Victoria had produced carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces, a
method that was technologically more sophisticated than any developed
in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.”
of a 300 BC astronomical observatory was found at Namoratunga in Kenya.
Africans were mapping the movements of stars such as Triangulum,
Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion, etcetera, as well as the moon, in
order to create a lunar calendar of 354 days.
Autopsies and caesarean operations were routinely and effectively
carried out by surgeons in pre-colonial Uganda. The surgeons routinely
used antiseptics, anaesthetics and cautery iron. Commenting on a Ugandan
caesarean operation that appeared in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in
1884, one author wrote: “The whole conduct of the operation . . .
suggests a skilled long-practiced surgical team at work conducting a
well-tried and familiar operation with smooth efficiency.”
85. Sudan in the mediaeval period had churches, cathedrals, monasteries and castles. Their ruins still exist today.
The mediaeval Nubian Kingdoms kept archives. From the site of Qasr
Ibrim legal texts, documents and correspondence were discovered. An
archaeologist informs us that: “On the site are preserved thousands of
documents in Meroitic, Latin, Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, Arabic and
87. Glass windows existed in mediaeval Sudan.
Archaeologists found evidence of window glass at the Sudanese cities of
Old Dongola and Hambukol.
88. Bling culture existed in
the mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found an individual buried at the
Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the city of Old Dongola. He was clad in
an extremely elaborate garb consisting of costly textiles of various
fabrics including gold thread. At the city of Soba East, there were
individuals buried in fine clothing, including items with golden thread.
Style and fashion existed in mediaeval Sudan. A dignitary at Jebel Adda
in the late thirteenth century AD was interned with a long coat of red
and yellow patterned damask folded over his body. Underneath, he wore
plain cotton trousers of long and baggy cut. A pair of red leather
slippers with turned up toes lay at the foot of the coffin. The body was
wrapped in enormous pieces of gold brocaded striped silk.
Sudan in the ninth century AD had housing complexes with bath rooms and
piped water. An archaeologist wrote that Old Dongola, the capital of
Makuria, had: “a[n] . . . eighth to . . . ninth century housing complex.
The houses discovered here differ in their hitherto unencountered
spatial layout as well as their functional programme (water supply
installation, bathroom with heating system) and interiors decorated with
91. In 619 AD, the Nubians sent a gift of a giraffe to the Persians.
The East Coast, from Somalia to Mozambique, has ruins of well over 50
towns and cities. They flourished from the ninth to the sixteenth
93. Chinese records of the fifteenth century AD note that Mogadishu had houses of “four or five storeys high”.
Gedi, near the coast of Kenya, is one of the East African ghost towns.
Its ruins, dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, include
the city walls, the palace, private houses, the Great Mosque, seven
smaller mosques, and three pillar tombs.
95. The ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi had a water purifier made of limestone for recycling water.
The palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi contains evidence of piped water
controlled by taps. In addition it had bathrooms and indoor toilets.
A visitor in 1331 AD considered the Tanzanian city of Kilwa to be of
world class. He wrote that it was the “principal city on the coast the
greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very black complexion.”
Later on he says that: “Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and
well-constructed cities in the world. The whole of it is elegantly
98. Bling culture existed in early Tanzania. A
Portuguese chronicler of the sixteenth century wrote that: “[T]hey are
finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk and cotton, and the
women as well; also with much gold and silver chains and bracelets,
which they wear on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in
99. In 1961 a British archaeologist, found
the ruins of Husuni Kubwa, the royal palace of the Tanzanian city of
Kilwa. It had over a hundred rooms, including a reception hall,
galleries, courtyards, terraces and an octagonal swimming pool.
In 1414 the Kenyan city of Malindi sent ambassadors to China carrying a
gift that created a sensation at the Imperial Court. It was, of course,