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HIST101: Ancient Civilizations of the World

Unit 10: African Civilizations   Four major areas of civilization emerged in early Africa: the grasslands south of the Sahara, western Africa, the northern desert regions, and eastern Africa.  Each area was unique, but the regions became more interconnected as a result of two major developments: the domestication of the camel and the arrival of Islam in Africa.  The camel facilitated trade over long distances, including the vast Sahara Desert, while Islam connected Africa more closely to cultures and trade systems in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

In this unit, we will examine the emergence of highly varied African kingdoms.  Some, such as Mwenemutapa, developed in isolation from much of the rest of Africa, while others, such as the Swahili kingdoms in east Africa, were heavily influenced by the Arab world.  We will pay close attention to commercial and agricultural advancements in Africa as well as to the rise and impact of Islam. 

Unit 10 Time Advisory
This unit will take you 7.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 10.1: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 10.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 10.3: 0.5 hours

☐    Subunit 10.4: 1 hour

☐    Unit 10 Assessment: 0.5 hours

Unit10 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Identify the cultural origins of early African civilizations. - Assess the importance of animal domestication, particularly of the camel, and its influence in the development of trade networks. - Assess the impact of Islamic expansion as an ideologically cohesive agent in Africa.

10.1 African Societies   - Reading: History World International: Dr. R. A. Guisepi’s “The Rise Of Civilization In The Middle East And Africa” Link: History World International: Dr. R. A. Guisepi’s “The Rise Of Civilization In The Middle East And Africa” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article in its entirety.  Pay
special attention to how civilization spread from the Middle East to
Africa.  

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displayed on the webpage above
  • Reading: Dr. Susan J. Herlin’s “Ancient African Civilizations to ca. 1500” Link: Dr. Susan J. Herlin’s “Ancient African Civilizations to ca. 1500” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the sections of the article entitled “African Geography,” “African Roots of Human Society and Culture,” “The Food Production Revolution in Africa,” and “West Africa in Antiquity.”  This will give you a good overview of the development of the earliest civilizations in Africa.
     
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10.1.1 The Iron Age   - Reading: Mesa Community College: Richard Effland’s “The Rest of the Story about Africa” Link: Mesa Community College: Richard Effland’s “The Rest of the Story about Africa” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this webpage in its entirety.  Please pay special attention to how iron transformed these early African cultures.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with academic permission.

10.1.2 The Kingdom of Ghana   - Reading: Michigan State University’s “Exploring Africa: Africa’s Kingdoms and Empires” Link: Michigan State University’s “Exploring Africa: Africa’s Kingdoms and Empires” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the section titled “The Kingdom of Ghana” in its entirety in order to get a sense of the emergence of the prominent kingdom of Ghana.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University: Professor Paul Brians’ excerpt of Leo Africanus: The Description of Africa: “Description of Timbuktu” Link: Fordham University: Professor Paul Brians’ excerpt of Leo Africanus: The Description of Africa: “Description of Timbuktu” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entirety of the introduction and the selection, paying special attention to Leo Africanus' detailed descriptions of trade networks in central Africa.
     
    Note on the text: This text describes the thriving city of Timbuktu in Ghana as a center of commercial and cultural exchange in western Africa.  Pope Leo X commissioned Leo Africanus (born El Hasan ben Muhammed el-Wazzan-ez-Zayyati) to write this study of Africa.  It served as the basis for European knowledge about the continent for several centuries.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Paul Brians, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this resource is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

10.1.3 Islamic Invasions and Expansion in Africa   - Reading: Michigan State University’s “Exploring Africa: Africa’s Kingdoms and Empires” Link: Michigan State University’s “Exploring Africa: Africa’s Kingdoms and Empires” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the section titled “The Coming of Islam to the Maghrib” in its entirety in order to get a sense of the early impact of the spread of Islam.
 
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10.2 States of the Savanna   10.2.1 Empire of Mali   - Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History:” Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas’ “The Empires of the Western Sudan: Mali Empire” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History:” Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas’ “The Empires of the Western Sudan: Mali Empire” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of this article to learn about the culture and society of the kingdom of Mali.
 
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10.2.2 The Hausa Kingdoms   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Hausa Kingdoms” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Hausa Kingdoms” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read “The Hausa Kingdoms,” about the origins and characteristics of the Hausa people. 

10.2.3 The Songhay Kingdom   - Reading: Michigan State University’s “Exploring Africa: Africa Kingdoms and Empires” Link: Michigan State University’s “Exploring Africa: Africa Kingdoms and Empires” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the section titled “The Kingdom of Songhay” in its entirety in order to get a sense of the emergence and importance of this early African culture.
 
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10.3 East Africa and Swahili Culture   - Reading: BBC World Service: “The Story of Africa: The Swahili” Link: BBC World Service: “The Story of Africa: The Swahili” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  This reading and web media covers subunits 10.3.1 and 10.3.2.  Please read this article in its entirety, and make sure to listen to the radio series “The Swahili Coast” presented by Hugh Quarshie (at the end of the article) in order to get a sense of the kingdoms that emerged in eastern Africa.
 
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10.3.1 East African Societies   Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 10.3.  Focus specifically on the reading.

10.3.2 Islam vs. Indigenous Religion   Note: This topic is covered by the reading and web media assigned beneath subunit 10.3.  Focus specifically on the radio program.

10.4 Western and Central Africa   10.4.1 Benin and the Forest Kingdoms   - Reading: University of Iowa: Professor James Giblin’s “Introduction: Diffusion and Other Problems in the History of African States” Link: University of Iowa: Professor James Giblin’s “Introduction: Diffusion and Other Problems in the History of African States” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of this article in order to get a sense of Benin and other city states that emerged in western Africa.
 
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10.4.2 Mwenemutapa   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Great Zimbabwe” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Great Zimbabwe” (PDF)
 
Instructions:  Please read this article in its entirety to learn about the early history of Zimbabwe. 

  • Assessment: Pearson Education’s World Civilizations: The Global Experience: “Chapter 13, Multiple Choice Quiz” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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