Africa has a rich geographical location surrounded by valleys, rivers, grasslands and mountains. The earliest recorded civilizations in world history are from Africa. The rich land is habitat of different plant and animal species which are easily available resources of early civilization. The Hominids species or the fossils of the origin of modern humans are recorded to have originated from Eastern Africa.
Africa has encountered several changes in its civilizations. The earliest civilizations began along the Nile River, belong to the Pharaonic period and are divided into periods of archaic period, old kingdom, first intermediate period, middle kingdom, second intermediate period, new kingdom, and period of decline. Further significant periods in early civilization of Africa are discussed in this paper.
Rise of the Mali Empire of the Mande (or Mandinka) peoples in West Africa. The Mali Empire was strategically located near gold mines and the agriculturally rich interior floodplain of the Niger River. This region had been under the domination of the Ghana Empire until the middle of the 11th century. As Ghana declined, several short-lived kingdoms fought for influence over the western Sudan region.
The small state of Kangaba, led by Sundjata Keita, or Sundiata Keita, defeated the nearby kingdom of Susu at the Battle of Kirina in 1235. The Susu had been led by king Sumanguru Kante.
The clans of the heartland unified under the vigorous Sundjata, now king of the vast region that was to become the Mali Empire, beginning a period of expansion. The rulers of Mali nominally converted to Islam, though this did not preclude belief and practice of traditional Mande religions.
Zimbabwe (meaning "stone house" or building), has been a significant trading region from the 135h-14th century. Great Zimbabwe was a fortification surrounded by huge, elliptical stone walls made without any mortar called Imba Buru (great enclosure).
The most significant of the Mali kings was Mansa Musa (1312-1337) who expanded Mali influence over the large Niger city-states of Timbuctu, Gao, and Djenné. Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim who built magnificent mosques all throughout the Mali sphere of influence.
It was under Mansa Musa that Timbuctu became one of the major cultural centers not only of Africa but of the entire world. Under Mansa Musa's patronage, vast libraries were built and madrasas (Islamic universities) were endowed; Timbuctu became a meeting-place of the finest poets, scholars, and artists of Africa and the Middle East. Even after the power of Mali declined, Timbuctu remained the major Islamic center of sub-Saharan Africa.
1400 and Beyond
The Songhai Empire rose to particularly lofty heights in the late 1400s during the magnificent rule of Sunni Ali. During the reign of Sunni Ali most of what was formerly the Ghanaian and Mali Empires were incorporated into the Songhai Empire.
Sunni Ali marched on Timbuktu and captured it along with its great University of Sankore, which had thousands of students from many parts of the world. Much to his credit Sunni Ali developed new methods of farming and created for Songhai a professional navy.
Complex, advanced lake states, located between Lakes Victoria and Edward, were established, including kingdoms ruled by the Bachwezi, Luo, Bunyoro, Ankole, Buganda, and Karagwe--but little is known of their early history.
Engaruka, a town of 6,000 stone houses in Tanzania, played a key role in the emergence of Central African empires. Bunyoro was the most powerful state until the second half of the 18th century, with an elaborate centralized bureaucracy: most district and subdistrict chiefs were appointed by the kabaka ("king").
Farther to the south, in Rwanda, a cattle-raising pastoral aristocracy founded by the Bachwezi (called Bututsi, or Bahima, in this area) ruled over settled Bantu peoples from the 16th century onward.
Ampim, Manu. GREAT ZIMBABWE: A History Almost Forgotten. AFRICANA STUDIES, 2004. Retreived 24 Semptember 2007.
Guisepi, R. A. Africa, The Spread Of Civilization In Africa. International World History, 2001.
Hooker, Richard. “Civilizations in Africa”. World Civilization. Washington State University, 1999.
Honore, Juanda. “A Brief History of the Songhai Empire”. Global African Presence. Runoko Rashidi, 1998.
“Mali Ancient Crossroads of Africa”. 2002. Virginia Department of Education Prince William County Schools. Retreived 24 Semptember 2007. http://mali.pwnet.org/history/
Mutere, Malaika. “Introduction to African History and Cultural Life.” History and Cultural Profiles. The Kennedy Center: African Odyssey Interactive. Retreived 24 Semptember 2007. http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/aoi/history/
Niane, D. T. Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali translated by G. D. Pickett (Harlow, England: Longman Drumbeat, 1965, 1982). West Chester University of Pennsylvania, 2003. pp 96