Two of my friends gave me the idea to do African History this year, because our history should not begin with the fact that African-Americans were slaves in the 1600’s. I’m really excited about it, because I studied African History in high school, but it looks like in the last 30+ years, there has been a lot more research about African History, as well as a lot of myth busting, and so I’ll be learning as I present it.
Many years ago, a woman named Mary Lefkowitz came out with a book entitled “Not Out Of Africa: How “Afrocentrism” Became An Excuse To Teach Myth As History” and I became concerned that we not make things up to puff ourselves up, especially given the fact that African history is fascinating without having to do this. So, I will not be talking about who stole what from where, and suggesting that we originated everything good in the world. But we ARE the birthplace of homo sapiens, and that is unrefuted. Egypt was TECHNICALLY in Africa, and it birthed amazing advances in technology and civilization, but I will NOT be talking about Egypt because I figure everybody has heard about the pyramids, the mathematics, the kings and queens, etc. and the fact is, ancient Egyptians were not dark skinned peoples, and were quite blunt about not being considered as such. But there is more to African history than Egypt, and I want to talk about the amazing things that sub-Saharan Africans did.
Today, I want to start with a map that shows the various civilizations that I will be talking about and where they were. I apologize for not being able to overlay a modern map on this one, but I think it’s clear that there were MANY civilizations in Africa other than Egypt that we should know about and be proud of.
Long before Egypt, sub-Saharan Africa was the cradle of human civilization. The oldest evidence of human existence in the Stone Age is at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, where fossils of human ancestors dating back 1.7 million years ago were found. Interestingly enough, another human ancestor dating 2 million years ago was found on the same site, along with tools from the same age. Homo sapiens from 17,000 years ago were also found in this site. The oldest counting implements have also been found in Africa. The Lebombo Bone is an ancient mathematical artifact discovered in the Lebombo mountains located between South Africa and Swaziland. It is roughly 35,000 years old, and is conjectured to have been used for tracking lunar and/or menstrual cycles, due to the 29 marks on it. A later tally stick, the Ishango bone, was discovered in Ishango, which was centered near the headwaters of the Nile River at Lake Edward (now on the border between modern-day Uganda and Congo). The artifact was first estimated to have originated between 9,000 BC and 6,500 BC. However, the dating of the site where it was discovered was re-evaluated, and it is now believed to be more than 20,000 years old.
African rock art was an indication that humans had time for leisure. Images painted with vegetable dye adorn caves in the Sahara, Tanzania and South Africa. Such art gives us a unique glimpse into the life of these people, showing them not only at work – hunting and fishing – but also at play, dancing and socialising. Rock art developed in 40,000-10,000BC, and has been found in Europe and America, but is most prevelant in Africa.
Tomorrow, I’ll begin writing about the Civilizations South of Egypt. Nubia, Kush and Axum.