Human Origins
  • It is a common view of many scientists that origin of human life can be traced back to the continent of Africa.

  • Homo sapiens, a scientific term for human beings, then spread to Europe and Asia, and eventually the Americas.

  • Human life most likely started in central East Africa around 200,000 years ago.

  • The earliest homo sapiens are believed to have lived in what is now Ethiopia.

Human Origins



Africa is the second largest continent in the world

It is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and it is also surrounded by the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea seperates Africa from Europe


  • Tropical climate in the rainforests

  • The three largest rivers in Africa are the Nile River, the Congo River, and the Niger River

The two major deserts in Africa are:

  • The Sahara Desert, which is the largest desert in the world

  • The Kalahari Desert

Africa also has a smooth coastline with few natural harbors, and this hinders trade

Ancient Civilizations




  • The Nile had predictable flooding.

  • In July the Nile floods.

  • in October the Nile River recedes

  • The Nile leaves behind a rich deposit of fertile black mud called silt.

  • The Nile River flows north.

  • The river area in the south is called Upper Egypt

  • To the north, near the Mediterranean Sea, is Lower Egypt

  • Around 3000 B.C. a king named Narmer united Upper and Lower Egypt.

  • Narmer created his capital, Memphis, near the spot where Upper and Lower Egypt met.

  • In Egypt, the kings were considered gods. The Egyptian god-kings were known as pharaohs.

  • The Egyptians' government was a theocracy, which is a government where rule is base on religious authority.


  • A period of time lasting from 2660 to 2180 B.C. is known as the Old Kingdom.

  • The resting place for the kings of the Old Kingdom was an extraordinary structure called a pyramid.

  • The Egyptians were polytheistic, and the most important gods were Re, the sun god, and Osiris, god of the dead.

  • They also believed in after-life, and they believed that they would be judged for their deeds when they died.

  • Egyptians’ bodies were preserved by mummification.

  • Mummification involves embalming and drying the corpse to prevent the body from decaying.
  • The social class structure was not very rigid: lower and middle-class Egyptians could gain higher status through marriage or success in their jobs.


  • The Egyptians had a flexible writing system called hieroglyphics.

  • They invented a writing surface called papyrus.

  • An Egyptian accomplishment was their calendar

  • The Egyptians developed a calendar to keep track of the time between floods.

  • Egyptians were also advanced in the field of medicine.

  • Egyptian doctors also used surgery to treat some conditions.

  • The power of the pharaohs declined at about 2180 B.C., marking the end of the Old Kingdom.

Location of Nubia
Location of Nubia

  • Nubia was a hotspot of the Neolithic Revolution

  • New technologies from the Neolithic Revolution helped the progression of culture in Nubia

  • By 2300 BC, Nubia was ruled by a group of small kingdoms. There was no central Nubian kingdom at the time

  • Nubia was critical in the development of Northeastern-African economy, trading gold and ivory with Egypt.

  • Egyptians were fascinated by the black skin and negroid features of the Nubians.

  • Egyptian interests in Nubia resulted in occupation of many parts of Nubia
  • By 1070 BC, a new kingdom of Kush was established, and was sustained its decline around the year 450 AD
  • The Kush kingdom is famous for its architecture

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The extent of the Askum Empire
The extent of the Askum Empire

  • Located in Northeastern Africa, The Asksum Empire was established around 100 A.D.

  • Aksum was the first empire to convert to Christianity, previously practicing polytheism

  • Regional tradition states that located in Aksum is the Ark of the Covenent

  • The Aksum Kingdom was also known as "Ethiopia," a name still used today

  • The Aksum Empire fell around the year 960

The Aksum Flag
The Aksum Flag


  • By 200 A.D., trade across the Sahara was infrequent because of all the harsh desert conditions

  • Traders began to use the camel, and the camel could travel more than ten days without water.

  • These new trade routes crossed through the region farmed by the Soninke People.
  • The Soninke people called their rulers “Ghanas,” which became the name of the empire


  • The gold-salt trade was a major part of the Ghana Empire.

  • Gold came from a forest region between the Senegal and Niger rivers

  • There was Islamic influence in Ghana, which spread throughout the Ghana Empire through trade.

  • The Ghana Empire was eventually conquered by the Muslim Almoravids of North Africa.

  • in 1240 it was completely taken over by the Mali Empire.

  • Also, major trade routes shifted eastward because miners found new gold deposits farther east.

  • This allowed the people of Mali to become very wealthy, and it also made it possible for them to gain power in 1235.

  • Sundiata was Mali’s first great leader who took power from getting rid of the despised leader before him.

  • Sundiata became Mali’s Musa, or ruler.

  • Sundiata also established the capital Niani

  • After Sundiata died in 1255, Mansa Musa rose to power.


  • Mansa Musa was emperor from 1312 to 1332.

  • A great military leader, and he kept Mali well protected and enhanced the gold-salt trade


  • Mansa Musa went on a hajj to Mecca in 1324. When he came back in 1325, he conducted the building of many mosques in the trading cities of Timbuktu and Gao.

  • Timbuktu ended up becoming one of the most popular trading cities of Mali

  • Ibn Battuta, a famous traveler and historian, went to Mali in 1352. Mali’s justice system and lack of crime impressed him tremendously.

  • In the 1400s the Mali Empire declined because successors of Mansa Musa did not govern well.


  • Songhai was located in East Africa from around the year 1340 to 1592

  • One of the largest African empires in history, Songhai was named for its prominent ethnic group, the Songhai

  • A civil war in the 1590s, in addition to European aggression, marked the end of the Songhai Empire

A Brief Overview of Songhai:

Culture in Africa


  • Animism is the belief in which there are spirits in animals, plants, and other natural forces.

  • Many Animists make offerings to their dead relatives, and they hope that the spirits of their ancestors will bring them good fortune.

  • Animists also go to Shamans (medicine men) and witch doctors because Animists believe that they have a special understanding of the spirit world.

A Shaman Animist

The Nok People
  • Located around Nigeria from 500 BC to 200 AD, the Nok were a fascinating and advanced people.

  • The Nok are commonly known for their advanced sculptures, called terracotta:

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  • The terracota were commonly based upon people. The Nok used iron to sculpt them.

  • The Nok terracota were discovered in 1928 by the British while tin mining in Nigeria.

  • The small groups of people that spread their language and culture while moving south throughout Africa are referred to as the Bantu-speaking peoples.

  • Historians believe that they were related to the Nok peoples.

  • From about 3000 B.C. - A.D. 1100, there were many Bantu migrations, during which the Bantu-speaking peoples spread their skill of iron-working.


The causes of the Bantu migrations were:

  • Once they developed agriculture they were able to produce more food than they obtained before with hunting and gathering. This led to an increase in population of West Africa.

  • Since there was a larger population, more food was required, and more food requires more land.

  • Since the northern Africa was too populated, the Bantu migrated to the south.

The effects of the Bantu migration were:

  • When the Bantu speakers went into hunter-gatherers’ lands, territorial wars broke out.

  • The Bantu people easily won because they had iron-tipped spears, opposed to only stone weapons.

  • The Bantu people influenced the cultures around them by showing the other cultures new farming techniques, and they brought iron technology with them as well.

The Atlantic Slave Trade


  • When the Europeans colonized the Americas they used a Native Americans "encomienda" system for cheap labor.

  • In the Americas the Europeans brought diseases such as smallpox and the measles with them.

  • When too many Natives were dying, there was a large demand for more workers for plantations in the Americas.

There were many advantages that the Europeans saw in the Africans. These advantages were:

  • There was a very low chance that the Africans would run away and escape from the plantations, as Africans did not know the area.

  • Many Africans built up immunity towards European diseases because many of the Africans were already exposed to them

  • Many Africans already had experience in farming

Slavery Throughout the World

  • The transatlantic slave trade was beneficial to nations all over the world.

  • Portugal was the first to legalize slavery, doing so in 1444. By 1552 Black Africans made up 10% of Portugal’s population. This has had significant impact on Portugal’s diverse population.

  • Slavery was legal and commonly practiced in England and all 13 of its American colonies, influencing American history

African Slaves in India
African Slaves in India


  • The number of Africans in Portugal has had significant impact on Portugal’s diverse population.

  • African slaves freed from the Americas settled in the American colony of Liberia, soon declaring independence as a nation.

  • European slave-traders in Rwanda diversified the community into Hutus and Tutsis, setting the stage for segregation and genocide into the 20th century.

  • African slaves were faced with European diseases like smallpox, which they could sometimes not fend off.

Scramble for Africa: Imperialism in Africa

Great Britain

The British were interested in Africa because they really wanted to protect their route to India.

  • In 1869 the French finished the Suez Canal in Egypt, quick route to India.
  • In 1882 the British took complete control of Egypt to hold onto Indian intrests
  • Great Britain also took over South Africa in 1877. The British did this because Cape Town was a crucial stop on the way to India.

  • Great Britain also annexed other areas of Africa like areas around the Niger River.


  • In 1830, France set an expedition to attack pirates in Algiers.

  • France quickly became involved in imperialism in North Africa.

  • By the 1880s, France had gained control of all of Algeria, and in 1882 took over Tunisia to prevent it from falling to Italy

  • In addition, France took over West Africa, the Congo, and Madagascar.

The extent of French Imperialism
The extent of French Imperialism


  • Otto von Bismark of Germany pursued an imperial policy, which was quite different from his traditional political motives.

  • In 1884, Germany declared empires in Southwest Africa (Namibia), Togoland the Cameroons, and East Africa (Tanazia).

  • None of these German imperialist areas were of great worth or strategically important

  • Bismark merely used these colonies to protect Germany's location in Europe

  • Colonies were used chiefly to improve diplomatic relations in Europe.

The German Empire
The German Empire


  • In 1871 Henry Stanley found David Livingstone in Africa after Livingstone went missing.

  • Stanley then traveled Africa himself and traced the course of the Congo.


  • King Leopold II from Belgium was very interested in conquering the Congo and he hired Stanley to help him.

  • From 1979 to 1882, Stanley and he signed treaties with local chiefs.

  • Leopold had companies in the Congo that would seriously abuse the Africans.

  • These companies brutally exploited the African by forcing them to collect sap from rubber plants.

  • At least 10 million Congolese died from the terrible abuse brought upon them during Leopold’s rule.

Berlin Conference


The Berlin Conference was a meeting in Berlin, Germany in 1884.

The meeting was held to partition Africa

The key players at this conference were:

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The rules that were created at the Berlin Conference were:

  • Whatever there was left of the slave trade would be destroyed

  • The Congo and Niger rivers were international waterways

  • Christianity should be brought upon all of the Africans

  • Traders and missionaries have access to the interior parts of Africa

In order to claim a territory, a country must:

  1. Make a public announcement of claim

  2. Effectively occupy the territory

  3. Extend control of the territory from the coast to the interior

  4. Negotiate a treaty with the local peoples of the territory, which would constitute a claim to sovereignty.