Objective 17: Africa
States and Societies in sub-Saharan Africa
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Zimbabwe
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AFRICA
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Is diverse geographically
with deserts, tropical rain
forests, savannahs,
steppes, mountains,
forests
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Is diverse socially,
politically, linguistically,
religiously
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Created its own complex
civilizations—both
independently and in
contact with the world
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Where does our information about Africa
and Africans come from?
“The West has been profoundly ignorant
about Africa”
“Africa is considered a cultural backwater”
“Lost Civilization”
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“I Can”
Be, be, 'fore we came to this country
We were kings and queens,
never porch monkeys
There was empires in Africa called Kush
Timbuktu, where every race came to get books
To learn from black teachers who taught Greeks and Romans Asian
Arabs and gave them gold when Gold was converted to money it all
changed
Money then became empowerment for Europeans
The Persian military invaded
They heard about the gold, the teachings and everything sacred
Africa was almost robbed naked
Slavery was money, so they began making slave ships
Egypt was the place that Alexander the Great went
He was so shocked at the mountains with black faces
Shot up they nose to impose what basically
Still goes on today, you see?
[Nas]
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Static vs. Dynamic
Victor vs. Victim
Past is Present
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Geography and Climate
“aprica” – Latin for sunny
Size – 3X USA
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huge plateau—few natural boundaries
states could easily expand, contract, interact
multiple centers of creativity
populations often isolated from each other
rivers not very navigable
few natural harbors
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Africa is large enough to
encompass large portions
of the rest of the world’s
land mass, though those
areas support more than
four times as many people.
From Africa by John Reader
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Two broad themes in African history:
1. movement of people and ideas
over great distances--regions and
zones of interaction.
2. isolation and self-containment of
individual communities.
A wide diversity of experience
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The Sahara Desert
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Buffer and barrier
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Important source of salt for
northern and sub-Saharan
Africa
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The camel revolutionized
trade across the desert;
helped connect sub-Saharan
Africa with Eurasia
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Oasis in the Sahara
Camels were introduced to Africa c. 600
BCE; became the main means of transport
across the Sahara by c. 300 CE
Harvesting salt in the Sahara
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Climate –parallel zones north and south
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the most tropical of continents (80%)
extensive deserts (5%)
savanna grasslands
irregular rainfall
soil generally poor-swidden (slash and burn)
agriculture common
heat reduces human productivity
destructive pests—in large areas animals can’t
be used (tse-tse fly).
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Early History
“Center of the Stone Age World”-homo sapiens
“Green Sahara” after 10,000 BCE – Farming and pastoralism
begin (maybe herding before agriculture?)
Early Kingdoms – Egypt, Kush, Nubia
Iron Age after 500 BCE – Meroe
“Camel Revolution” ca. 0 BCE
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Nubian pyramids
The Nubians adopted many aspects of Egyptian culture and customs. The pyramids of
Meroitic rulers in the northern cemetery of Meroe (shown here) are not as magnificent a
their Egyptian predecessors, but they served the same purpose of honoring the dead
king. Their core was constructed of bricks, which were then covered with stone blocks.
At the doors of the pyramids stood monumental gates to the interiors of the tombs.
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(Michael Yamashita)
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Nok Sculpture
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Bantu Migrations, 2000 BCE-1000 CE
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Significance of Bantu Migrations
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Bantu the parent language
to much of sub-Saharan
Africa
Wet-zone agriculture,
herding spreads
Iron metallurgy
Population increases
dramatically
Underlying cultural
unity—common kinship
practices and religious
ideas.
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The Bantu migrations and early
complex societies in Africa
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Like the Indo-European migrations, Bantu migrations
are measured linguistically
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“Bantu” language family originated in W. Africa;
basis of over 500 separate languages
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“ntu” = person
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Migrations 3000-1000 BCE
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Population Growth
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20
15
Millions
10
5
0
400 BCE
0
800 CE
1000 CE
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Swidden agriculture, pastoralism
-choice of crops limited
-low human-land balance
-few indigenous crops
-tools and animals not widely used
-pastoralism coexisted with agriculture-wealth
-limits on productivity
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Cultural Traits - Diversity
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Swidden Agriculture, Pastoralism
Family and Kinship
African Religion
Oral tradition – role of the griots
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Family and Kinship Groups
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Extended families, clans
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Descent – Patrilineal and Matrilineal
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Land held and worked communally
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Age-Grades - Peer groups
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Bridewealth – marriage contract
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Polygamy and the role of women
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Political organization
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Clans consisted of extended
families and lineages
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Ruled by village elders
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Social categories by age,
gender, occupation
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Approximately 15% of clans
matrilineal
The “griot” told stories and passed down
history
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Kin-Based Societies
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Stateless, segmentary societies (heterarchy)
No elaborate hierarchies, bureaucracies
Average population of village: 100
Ruled by elders
Network of villages resolve disputes (moots)
Higher government authorities rare
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African Religion
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Great diversity of religious belief
Common element: single, male creator god
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Diviners
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Animism- Lesser deities associated with natural
phenomena
Ancestor worship
Religious specialists, principally men
Oracle reading, spells, other rituals
Emphasis on ritual over theology
Morality, balance of nature important
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Container for Salt
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Africa in the World
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Zones of Contact—
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Northern Coast – Axum, Egypt
East Africa – Swahili city-states, Zimbabwe
Trans-Saharan – The Sahel –Gold/Salt Trade
Islam in Africa—
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“From the 8th to the 18th, the chief means of contact
with the Intercommunicating Zone”
Spread slowly, mostly a religion of the elites
Cultural, religious, commercial advantages
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Europe and Africa: Cultural Comparisons
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Wealth
Level of Technology
Influence of Islam—borrowing, isolation, conflict
“Fringe cultures” until late Medieval period
Feudalism – local control, ties of loyalty
Nomadic invasions
Common cultural values and institutions—family,
market patterns, agriculture
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Aksum [Axum] 4th-6th centuries CE
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In highlands of Northern
Ethiopia
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Traded from port on Red Sea
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4th-5th centuries adopted
Christianity
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Developed Ge’ez, the only
indigenous script of subSaharan Africa
Huge stone obelisk marking
King Ezana’s grave
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Aksum coin
140 obelisks
remain today
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Ge’ez
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Axum
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The Obelisk at Axum
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Ethiopian Christianity
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Isolation from other Christian areas until 16th
century
Independent development
Strong African influence
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Spirit world
amulets
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Orthodox Christianity in Ethiopia
Rock-hewn church in Lalibela, Ethiopia
13th century
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Eleven such solid rock churches were built in Lalibela, Ethiopia in
the early 13th century. At attempt to recreate Jerusalem?
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Kingdoms of
sub-Saharan
Africa, 8001500 C.E.
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Kingdom of Ghana
The “land of gold”
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5th – 6th centuries: developed
as a state
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Late 8th century: Muslim
traders arrived
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11th-13th centuries: highpoint
of kingdom
Modern stamp from Ghana,
“land of gold”
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Gold breast-plate
Ghana, 18th century
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Mali Empire
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Absorbed Kingdom of Ghana,
encompassing larger territory
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Expanded the gold trade,
especially with North Africa
and the Middle East
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Height of influence:
15th centuries
13th –
Trade caravan approaching Timbuktu
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Timbuktu
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The Mali Empire
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The “Lion Prince” Sundiata
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Reigned 1230-1255
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Built Mali empire
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Under Sundiata, West
Africa became the leading
supplier of gold to Europe
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Mansa Musa
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Mansa Musa
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Ruled Mali 1312-1337
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Well-known in Arabia and Europe
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A Muslim who made a famous
pilgrimage to Mecca 1324-25
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Returned to build Timbuktu into a
cultural and religious center
Part of a European map depicting
Mansa Musa holding a nugget of gold,
c. 1375
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Trading world of Indian Ocean
Basin, 600-1600 CE
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Trade networks along
the eastern coast of
Africa
“Swahili” =
peoples of the coast
“Land of Zanj”
Swahili written in Arabic
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An Arab traveler described the “land of
Zanj”
“The land of Zanj produces wild leopard skins. The people
wear them as clothes or export them to Muslim countries.
They are the largest leopard skins and the most beautiful
for making saddles. They also export tortoise shell for
making combs, for which ivory is likewise used… There
are many wild elephants in this land but no tame ones.
The Zanj do not use them for war or anything else, but
only hunt and kill them for their ivory. It is from this
country that come tusks weighing fifty pounds or more.
They usually go to Oman and from there are sent to China
and India….”
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Swahili in Arabic
Great Mosque at Kilwa
By the late thirteenth century, Kilwa had become the most powerful East African coastal
city and a great commercial empire comparable to Venice and Genoa. Built between the
thirteenth and fifteenth centuries to serve the Muslim commercial aristocracy of Kilwa,
this Great Mosque attests to the wealth and power of the East African city-states. (Marc
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& Evelyn Bernheim/Woodfin
Associates)
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The Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe
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13th century: prospered due to
trade of gold and other
commodities with Swahili
merchants on the coast
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Built the largest structures in
pre-modern sub-Sahara Africa
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Walled enclosure at
Great Zimbabwe
18,000 people lived around
the enclosure.
Economy based on cattle
and gold.
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Another important African trade
commodity: slaves
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Slavery was important within Africa
with no tradition of private land
ownership
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African slaves were in high demand in
Arabia, as well
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Between 750-1500 CE:
10 million
slaves were transported to the Middle
East
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Africa and slavery
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The Atlantic slave trade was not the beginning of the
inter-regional slave trade in Africa
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BUT the slave-trading networks established in the postclassical era became the foundation of the slave trade
with Europe and the Americas in later centuries
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Slavery
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An old tradition
Most slaves captives of war
Used principally in agriculture, households
Slave possession a status symbol
Not chattel slavery—slaves had rights and
status
Three types of slavery—
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African-African
African-Arab/Muslim
African-European
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The following slides are for background and
tutoring purposes and you’ll see duplicates of
information already covered, but you might find
them helpful.
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Kingdom of Kongo
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Basin of the Congo (Zaire) river
Conglomeration of several village alliances
Participated actively in trade networks
Most centralized rule of the early Bantu kingdoms
Royal currency: cowries
Ruled 14th-17th century until undermined by
Portugese slave traders
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Islamic Kingdoms and Empires
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Islam spreads to West Africa
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Trans-Saharan caravans
Coastal east Africa through maritime trade
Profound influence after 8th century
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Trans-saharan Trade and Islamic States in
West Africa
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Desiccation of Sahara begins c. 5000 BCE
Introduction of Arabian camels revolutionizes
trade
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70-90 days to cross Sahara
Arabs establish trading communities
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Gao
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Islam in West Africa
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Kings of Ghana convert 10th c.
Positive impact on trade, relations with north
Africa
Synthesized Islam with local traditions
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Nearby Takrur aggressive missionaries
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The Swahili City-States
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Great wealth, 11th-12th centuries CE
Development of city-states
Architecture moved from wood/mud to coral,
stone
Chinese silk, porcelain imported
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Kilwa
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City-state on east African coast
Fishing, limited trade, 800-1000 CE
Turn to agriculture, increased trade in pottery and
stoneware
Major trading center by 14th century
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Exporting over a ton of gold per year by 15th century
CE
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Great Zimbabwe
At its peak, in about 1400, Great Zimbabwe occupied 193 acres and may have had
18,000 inhabitants. Between 1250 and 1450, local African craftsmen built stone
structures for Great Zimbabwe's rulers, priests, and wealthy citizens. The largest
structure, a walled enclosure the size and shape of a large football stadium, served as
the king's court. Its drystone walls were up to 17 feet thick and 32 feet high. Inside the
walls were many buildings, including a large conical stone tower. The stone ruins of
Great Zimbabwe are one of the most famous historical sites in sub-Saharan Africa.
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(Courtesy of the Department
Information,
Rhodesia)
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Zimbabwe
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“dwelling of the chief”
Stone complex called “Great Zimbabwe” built
early 13th century CE, capital
Population 18,000 in late 15th century
Managed trade between internal and coastal
regions
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Slave Trading
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Increased trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean trade
stimulates slave trade, 9th c. CE
Africa replaces eastern Europe as principal source
of slaves
Creates internal African slave trade
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More powerful states attack smaller kinship-based
groups
10,000-20,000 slaves per year
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Arabian Swahili Slave Trade
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