SUB-SAHARAN
AFRICA FROM
PRE-HISTORY
TO 1500 C.E.
PRE-HISTORIC AFRICA
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Regions in Africa
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Sub-Saharan Africa vs. Northern Africa (inc. Nile Valley)
• The Sahara is the greatest physical and cultural barrier
• North settled early by Berbers, Hamites (Caucasian groups)
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Sub-Saharan Africa has larger regions with many micro regions
• West Africa Forest, Sahel called Sudan, Central Africa, East Africa, South Africa
• Each region defined by physical geography and vegetation; many micro cultures
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North and East Africa saw first “African” civilizations
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The Sudan
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The Nile River: Pharaonic Egypt; Kush-Meroe (often called Nubia)
The Ethiopian Highlands: Axum (Aksum) or Ethiopia
North Africa: Carthaginian Empire, Roman and Greek civilizations
Sudanic region was sahel or plains stretching across Africa south of Sahara
9000 B.C.E. domestication of cattle; cultivation of sorghum, cotton
Became home to most Sub-Saharan civilizations
Small states based on tribes, clans developed
Religion: polytheism, shamanism, placation of spirits, divination
Climatic Change
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Prior to 5000 CE Sahara one large inland sea surrounded by plains
5000 B.C.E. development of Sahara Desert as desertification increased
Increasing desertification forced mass popular migration to water
Nile shifts to east; formation of large lakes in Central Africa that feed Nile
REGIONS IN AFRICA
AFRICAN CLIMATE ZONES
AFRICAN LANGUAGE FAMILIES
FIRST AFRICAN CIVILIZATIONS
• Egyptian History, c. 3100 BCE to 525 BCE
• Pre-history dominated by small city-states along Nile
• Old Kingdom
• Menes- Narmer united Upper/Lower Egypt
• Pyramid building era; pharaohs considered divine
• Middle Kingdom
• 2nd Illness saw Semitic invasion: Hyksos
• New Kingdom saw rise of empire
• 3rd Illness saw invasions by Kush, Assyrians, Sea Peoples
• Eventually ruled by Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines
• Kush in Upper Nile assimilates Egyptian culture
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Ethnically were Black Africans
Adopted many of Egyptian practices: religion, architecture
Ruled Egypt as 26th Dynasty
Famous for iron, gold trade
Remained independent until Muslim conquests
ANCIENT EGYPT
MAP OF ANCIENT KUSH
ANCIENT MAP OF AFRICA
NILE SOCIETIES
• Urban elites (2%) ruled over rural masses
• Social Classes
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Pharaoh (ruler and his immediate family)
Officials (Advisors, generals, soldiers, priests)
Merchants and artisans
Peasants
Slaves
• Patriarchal societies with a twist
• Women were occasionally rulers
• Women had rights, could own lands
• Were “less” than males but not oppressed
RELIGIONS OF THE NILE
• Polytheism
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Extremely complex pantheon of gods
Deification of nature
Extremely powerful, influential priesthood with great wealth
Conflict of good, evil
Humans judged for their actions
• Cult of Osiris
• Strong belief in afterlife, accountability for actions
• Mummification was but one aspect of this
• Regenerative cycle of Osiris/Ra-Re/Horus
• Ahkenaton and Monotheism
• Amenhotep believed there was only one God
• Ended polytheism, opposed by priests; was assassinated
• Nubian Beliefs
• Adopted many Egyptian beliefs
• Major focus on the sun and moon
WRITING
• Early Nile Writing
• Hieroglyphics (Pictographs)
• Merotic Writing in Nubia
• Ge’ez Writing in Axum
• Education
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Scribes had influence
Often attached to court or temples
Services rented out
Scribes could advance socially
• Sub-Saharan Writing
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Lacked alphabet, books
Lack due to termites, lack of durable medium
Developed oral traditional, tribal memories
West African griots
• Memorized history by mneumonic devices
• Kept all records for tribes, rulers
• Islam brought first alphabet to Sub-Saharan Africa
ECONOMICS OF NILE
• Economic Specialization and Trade
• Bronze Age arose around 17th century B.C.E.
• Iron Age begins around 1,000 B.C.
• Transportation
• Largely waterborne; little need for roads
• Out of Nile Valley, camels and horses were common
• Trade
• Egypt was largely self-sufficient, autarkic
• Net exporter of grains, foodstuffs, luxuries, paper, medicines
• Most trade was based on luxury products
• Papyrus, paper, medicines, herbs, finished products especially silver
• Imports tended to be wood, gold, finished products
• Kush-Meroe specialized in iron, gold workings
• Trade Routes
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Up Nile to Kush-Meroe
Across Sinai to Fertile Cresent
Down Red Sea to East Africa, Southern Arabia
Across Mediterranean to Greece, Phoenicia
Little contact with interior of Africa
THE NOK CULTURE
• Discovered 1928 in Northern Nigeria
• Was it a civilization or advanced culture?
• Flourished 900 BCE to 200 CE on Niger-Benue River
• Clearly first Sub-Saharan civilization/culture
• Precursor of Bantu, West African forest peoples
• Knowledge is based on archeology
• Iron makers and sculptors
• Animals and humans made from fired clay
• Figures of animals, peoples including leaders
• Seem to have been pastoralists, farmers
• Could smelt iron
• Have found iron tools, weapons; probably also used wood
• Seemed to have skipped copper, bronze ages
• Indigenous or borrowed from North Africa, Nile River?
GHANA: 1ST SUB-SAHARAN CIVILIZATION
• Camels
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Camels came to Egypt from Arabia, 7th century B.C.E.
Romans introduced them to North Africa, patrolled desert
After 500 C.E. camels replaced horses, donkeys as transport animals
Camels' arrival quickened pace of communication across the Sahara
Islamic merchants crossed the desert to trade in West Africa
Established relations with sub-Saharan West Africa by 8th century
• The kingdom of Ghana
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Kings maintained a large army of two hundred thousand warriors
A principal state of west Africa, not related to modern state of Ghana
Became the most important commercial site in west Africa
Controlled gold mines, exchanged it with nomads for salt
Provided gold, ivory, and slaves
Wanted horses, cloth, manufactured goods
• Koumbi-Saleh
• Capital city
• Thriving commercial center
ARRIVAL OF ISLAM IN AFRICA
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Islam in Africa
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North Africa
• Arab armies conquered region by early 8th Century; pushed up Nile
• Mass conversions of local inhabitants due to tax incentives
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West Africa
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Nomadic Berbers in North Africa
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Introduced by Trans-Saharan Trade route
Merchants were greatest contact with Islam
Local rulers, elites converted by 10th century
Gave elites control of trade, many benefits
Allowed people to observe traditional beliefs
Berbers and Arabs were bitter rivals
Arabs settled coastlands, cities
Berbers lived in deserts, mountains
Berbers became puritanical Muslim, Shia
Berber fanatics invaded Ghana, Morocco
Ghana weakened, fell 10th century CE
Elite religion vs. common practices
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Most people remained polytheists especially outside of cities, towns
Produced syncretic blend such as accommodation of African gender norms
After conversion by elites, old beliefs remained; part of inherited traditions
Religion introduced writing, literary traditions
KINGDOM OF MALI
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Mandike Peoples
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Sundiata
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After Ghana dissolved, political leadership shifted to Mali empire, a Mandika state
The lion prince Sundiata (reigned 1230-55) built the Mali empire
Ruling elites, families converted to Islam after his death
The Mali empire and trade
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Ghana was established by Mandika
After fall of Ghana, Mandika established many small states
Most people were not Muslims but merchants were
Controlled gold, salt; taxed almost all trade passing through west Africa
Enormous caravans linked Mali to north Africa
Besides Niani, many prosperous cities on caravan routes
Mansa Musa
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Sundiata's grand nephew, reigned from 1312 to 1337
Made his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324-1325
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Mansa Musa and Islam
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Gargantuan caravan of thousand soldiers and attendants
Gold devalued 25% in Cairo during his visit
Upon return to Mali, built mosques
Sent students to study with Islamic scholars in North Africa
Established Islamic schools in Mali
The decline of Mali
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Factions crippled the central government
Rise of province of Gao as rival to Mali
Military pressures from neighboring kingdoms, desert nomads
SONGHAI EMPIRE
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Origins
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Rise
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Sorko fishermen of Niger became merchants
Joined Gao state (part of Malian Empire)
Mali could never collect taxes from Gao
Sonni Ali the Great build cavalry, war fleet
Disputed Mali, conquer Timbuktu
Anti-Muslim: saw them as a threat
Zenith
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Askia Muhammad seized power after Sonni’s death
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Tradition and Trade
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Devout Muslim, promoted Islam; launched jihads
Visited Cairo, Mecca; promoted Songhai to Muslims
Declared Caliph of the Sudan
Built centralized state using Muslim jurists as advisors
Maintained tribal rituals of sacred drum, sacred fire, dress
Privileged caste craftsmen; slaves important in agriculture
Traded kola nuts, gold, slaves for horses, salt, luxuries, finished goods
Fall
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Civil war erupted in 16th century
Demographic Changes
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Drought, desertification hurt economy
Diseases spread
Moroccan Empire invades and destroys state in order to control gold trade
KANEM-BORNU
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Origins
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Situated north east of Lake Chad.
In 11th century, Sefawa dynasty was established
Shift in lifestyle
• From entirely nomadic to pastoralist way of life with agriculture
• State became more centralized with capital at Njimi; maintained large cavalry
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Islam and Trade
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Kanem converted to Islam under Hu or Hawwa (1067-71).
• Faith was not widely embraced until the 13th century.
• Muslim traders played a role in bringing Islam to Kanem
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Wealth of Kanem derived from ability of rulers to control trade
• Main exports were ostrich feathers, slaves and ivory; imported horses, luxuries
• Exports were crucial to their power, ability to dominate neighbors
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A Change
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Combination of overgrazing, dynastic uncertainties, attacks from neighbors
• Rulers of Kanem to move to Borno, state now referred to as Kanem-Borno
• New contacts with Hausa of Nigeria; capital becomes center of knowledge, trade
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Army modernized by trade with Muslim, Turks: acquired firearms
Decline was long, gradual and peaceful: fell in the 19th century
THE BANTU
• The Bantu peoples
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Originated in the region around modern Nigeria/Cameroon
Influenced by Nok iron making, herding, agriculture
Population pressure drove migrations, 2000 BCE – 700 BCE
Two major movements: to south and to east and then south
Languages split into about 500 distinct but related tongues
• Bantu agriculture and herding
• Early Bantu relied on agriculture – slash-burn, shifting
• Pastoralists, semi-nomadic due to agriculture, cattle
• Iron metallurgy
• Iron appeared during the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.E.
• Iron made agriculture more productive
• Expanded divisions of labor, specialization in Bantu societies
• Population Pressures
• Iron technologies produced population upsurge
• Large populations forced migration of Bantu
THE BANTU MIGRATION
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The Bantu Migration
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Population pressure led to migration, c. 2000 B.C.E.
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Movement to South, along Southeast and Southwest coasts
Languages differentiated into about 500 distinct but related tongues
Occupied most of sub-Saharan (except West) Africa by 1000 C.E.
Split into groups as they migrated: Eastern, Central, Southern
Bantu spread iron, herding technologies as they moved
Bananas
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Between 300/500 C.E., Malay seafarers reached Africa
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Bantu learned to cultivate bananas from Malagasy
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Settled in Madagascar, visited East African coast
Brought with them pigs, taro, and banana cultivation
Bananas became well-established in Africa by 500 C.E.
Bananas caused second population spurt, migration surge
Reached South Africa in 16th century CE
Population growth
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3.5 million people by 400 B.C.E.
11 million by the beginning of the millennium
17 million by 800 C.E.
22 million by 1000 C.E.
MAP OF THE BANTU MIGRATIONS
BANTU LANGUAGES
BANTU POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS
• Stateless societies
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Early Bantu societies did not depend on elaborate bureaucracy
Societies governed through family and kinship groups
Village council, consisted of male family heads
Chief of a village was from the most prominent family heads
A group of villages constituted a district
Villages chiefs negotiated intervillage affairs
• Chiefdoms
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Population growth strained resources, increased conflict
Some communities began to organize military forces, 1000 C.E.
Powerful chiefs overrode kinship networks and imposed authority
Some chiefs conquered their neighbors
• Kingdom of Kongo
• Villages formed small states along the Congo River, 1000 C.E.
• Small states formed several larger principalities, 1200 C.E.
• One of the principalities conquered neighbors, built kingdom of
Kongo
• Maintained a centralized government with a royal currency system
• Provided effective organization until the mid-17th century
SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS
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Diversity of African societies in Sub-Saharan Africa
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Kinship groups of stateless societies
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Extended families and clans as social and economic organizations
Communities claimed rights to land, no private property
Village council allocated land to clan members
Sex and gender relations
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Complex societies developed into kingdoms, empires, and city-states
Coexisted with small states and stateless societies
Lineages consisted of all members descended from a common ancestor
Men undertook heavy labor, herding,
Women were responsible for child rearing, domestic chores, farming
Men monopolized public authority but women could be leaders
Women enjoyed high honor as the source of life
Many societies were matrilineal; aristocratic women influenced public affairs
Women merchants commonly traded at markets
Sometimes women organized all-female military units
Islam did little to curtail women's opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa
Age grades
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Publicly recognized "age grades" or "age sets"
Assumed responsibilities and tasks appropriate to their age grades
Coming of age ceremonies and secret societies restricted by age, gender
SLAVERY
• Slavery in Africa
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Most slaves were captives of war, debtors, criminals
Kept for local use or sold in slave markets
Often used as domestic laborers especially agricultural workers
Generally not a social stigma attached
Slaves could receive freedom, become part of family, tribe
Children born to slaves were not slaves
• Slave trading
• Slave trade increased after the 11th century CE
• Primary markets
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Across Sahara to North Africa and Egypt and ultimately Arabia
Out of East Africa to Arabia and Middle East
In some years, 10 to 12 thousand slaves shipped out of Africa
Males preferred, could also act as carriers of trade goods
10 million slaves transported by Islamic trade between 750/1500
• Demand for slaves outstripped supply from eastern Europe
• Original slaves preferred in Muslim world were Caucasian Slavs
• Word “slave” comes from Slav
• Slave raids against smaller states, stateless societies
• Muslims could not be used as slaves (Quran) yet often ignored
EARLY AFRICAN RELIGION
• Creator god
• Recognized by almost all African peoples
• Created the earth and humankind, source of world order
• Lesser gods and spirits
• Often associated with natural features, forces in world
• Participated actively in the workings of the world
• Believed in ancestors' souls influencing material world
• Diviners
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Mediated between humanity and supernatural beings
Called shamans and inappropriately “witch doctors”
Interpreted the cause of the people's misfortune
Used medicine or rituals to eliminate problems
• African religion was not theological, but practical
• Religion to placate the gods, ask for assistance, cures, fertility
• Public celebrations inc. dancing, singing formed community
• Genders honored different deities, had separate ceremonies
EARLY EAST AFRICAN HISTORY
• Early visitors to east Africa
• Egyptians visited, traded with area
• Famous expedition of Hatshepshut to Punt
• Indian, Persian visited after 500 B.C.E.
• Greeks, Romans called area Azania
• Malays established colonies on Madagascar
• Kingdom of Axum (Aksum)
• Sabeans of Yemen created Axum
• Arose in highlands of Ethiopia
• Trading state across Bab el Mandeb straits
• Tribute empire on land; trade gold, frankincense, myrrh, food, ivory
• Built stone structures, issued own coins
• Eventually became Monophysite Christian
• King Ezana converted and court followed in early 4th century
• Developed Ge’ez language, writing in association with Christianity
• Maintained strong contacts with Egypt
• Traded with Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Indians, Arabs
• By 2nd century: Bantus populated much of East Africa
• By 7th century: Arab merchants begin to visit
• By 8th century: Muslim armies, merchants push up Nile
THE SWAHILI CITY-STATES
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Intermarriage of the Bantu and the Arab produced Swahili
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The Swahili city-states
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Chiefs gained power through taxing trade on ports
Developed into city-states ruled by kings, 11th-12th centuries
Controlled trade from interior: slaves, gold, ivory, spices
Exchanged goods for finished goods, cloths, dyes, luxuries
Craftsmen, artisans, clerks were Muslims
Slaves used for domestic, agriculture
Zanzibar clove plantations needed slaves
Kilwa
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An Arabic term, meaning "coasters"
Dominated east African coast from Mogadishu to Sofala
Swahili is a Bantu language mixed with Arabic
One of the busiest city-states
Multistory stone buildings, mosques, schools
Issued copper coins from the 13th century
By 15th century, exported ton of gold per year
Merchants from India, China, Arabia visited
Islam in East Africa
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Ruling elite and wealthy merchants converted to Islamic faith
Conversion promoted close cooperation with Muslim merchants
Conversion also opened door to political alliances with Muslim rulers
ZIMBABWE
• South Central Africa
• Wooded and grass savannahs
• Rich in minerals especially copper, gold
• Bantu herders, ironsmiths found it wonderful
• Zimbabwe
• A powerful kingdom of Central Africa arose in 13th century
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From 5th centuries C.E. built wooden residences known as zimbabwe
By the 9th century began to build stone zimbabwe
Magnificent stone complex known as Great Zimbabwe, the 12th century
18,000 people lived in Great Zimbabwe in the late 15th century
• Kings and wealth
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Organized flow of gold, ivory
Trade include slaves
Counted wealth in cattle, too
Traded with Swahili city-states
CHRISTIANITY IN AFRICA
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Early Christianity in North Africa
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Christianity reached Africa during 1st century C.E.
• St. Mark converted Egypt, spread up Nile
• Romans introduced faith to North Africa
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North Africa was home to many heresies
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Believed Christ had one nature, largely divine
Persecuted; declared heresy by Chalcedon
The Christian kingdoms of Nubia and Axum
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Region had no influence on sub-Saharan African
Monophysite Christianity along the Nile
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Arianism = Jesus was human
Monophysites = Jesus had one nature
Donatists = Apostate Christians could not return
Vandal German settlers were Arian Christians
Byzantine conquest returned north to Catholics
1st Christian kingdom, 4th century C.E.,
Nubians of Kush also became Christian
Both adopted Monophysite form of Christianity
Ethiopian and Nubian Christianity
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Had little contact with Christians of other lands
Shared basic Christian theology/rituals, developed own features
Isolated, attacked by Islam
MOVEMENT IN AFRICAN HISTORY
ECONOMIC REGIONS OF AFRICA
HISTORIC AFRICA IN REVIEW
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EARLY SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA