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HIST251: History of Africa to 1890

Unit 2: Peopling the Continent (c. 265,000 BCE­–1000 BCE)   *Human life began in Africa, and human evolution has much to do with the African environment. Because of its great ecological and climatic diversity, Africa forced human populations to adapt to many different environmental settings. As the second largest continent in the world, Africa was host to diverse groups of hunter-gatherers. Before the end of the Ice Age (approximately 10,500 BCE), many groups lived in the interior or coastal highlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Then, the effects of the Ice Age transformed the Sahara into a fertile valley that attracted bands of hunter-gatherers. Five thousand years later, however, the rapid drying of the Sahara drove many peoples eastward, where they made permanent or semi permanent settlements in the Nile River valley. Two key factors led to the onset of the Agricultural Age (the emergence of sedentary farming communities): the domestication of cattle and donkeys around 6000 BCE and the rapid drying of the continent around 4000 BCE, which forced peoples to settle in more tropical regions. The introduction of new ironworking techniques during the so-called Iron Age affected these new agricultural societies; by 500 CE, metalworking was commonplace in East and West Africa.

In this unit, you will look specifically at human interactions with the African environment over a very long period of time. You will study the impact of climatic change upon hunter-gatherers and agricultural communities. You will also consider how agricultural innovation, metalworking, and commerce transformed the nature of early African civilizations. Finally, you will see how these technologies spread around the African continent, helping Africans respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities.*

Unit 2 Time Advisory
☐    Subunit 2.1: 6 hours
☐    Subunit 2.2: 5 hours
☐    Subunit 2.3: 4 hours
☐    Subunit 2.4: 9 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Demonstrate the impact of the African environment on human history in Africa and explain how humans in turn changed that environment.

  • Summarize the major stages of human evolution in Africa.

  • Describe the impact of technologies and developments in food production on African societies.

  • Assess various theories on the movement of peoples and things around Africa, particularly in the case of the Bantu diffusion.

2.1 Human Origins   2.1.1 The African Environment and Human Origins   - Reading: The University of Iowa’s Art and Life in Africa Project: James Giblin’s “Issues in African History” Link: The University of Iowa’sArt and Life in Africa Project:James Giblin’s “Issues in African History” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the first 20 paragraphs of this article as an introduction to unit 2.  You may continue to read the rest as well, as it will form a good framework for much of the rest of the course, but this additional reading is not required.
 
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2.1.2 Evolution   - Reading: The BBC: “Mother of Man – 3.2 Million Years Ago” Link: The BBC: “Mother of man – 3.2 Million Years Ago” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article introduces human evolution in Africa and focuses on an important archaeological discovery in the search to understand human evolution. Read the entire article.
 
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2.1.3 Tools and Culture   - Reading: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” Link: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the map of Africa labeled “Lithic Technology.” Read all four sections of this activity: “Introduction to Lithics,” “Technology,” “Function,” and “Classification.”
 
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2.2 Lifestyles   2.2.1 Foraging   - Reading: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” Link: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the map of Africa labeled “Diet and Subsistence.”  Read all four sections of this activity: “Explore Agriculture,” “Explore Hunting and Gathering,” “Explore Pastoralism,” and “Explore Ethnographic Examples.”
 
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2.2.2 Harnessing the Power of Animals   - Reading: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” Link: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” (HTML and PDF)

 Instructions: Click on the map of Africa labeled “Diet and
Subsistence” and then again on “Explore Pastoralism.”  Read all
three sections, including the PDF on “Domesticated Animals.”  

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2.2.3 Becoming Farmers   - Reading: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” Link: Indiana University: “Prehistoric Puzzles” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the map of Africa labeled “Diet and Subsistence” and then on “Explore Agriculture.” Read all three sections including looking at the “Evidence for Agriculture.”
 

2.3 New Technologies   2.3.1 Iron   - Reading: africabib.org: Stanley B. Alpern’s “Did They or Didn’t They Invent It? Iron in Sub-Saharan Africa” Link: africabib.org: Stanley B. Alpern’s “Did They or Didn’t They Invent It? Iron in Sub-Saharan Africa” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please go to the hyperlink under the row entitled “Link.”  Stanley B. Alpern’s article addresses the various debates on the origins of metallurgy in sub-Saharan Africa. Download and read the entire article.
 
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2.3.2 Pottery   - Reading: Mathilda’s Anthropology Blog: “Early African ceramics” Link: Mathilda’s Anthropology Blog: “Early African ceramics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the linked blog entry.  The author discusses the origins and dating of ceramics in Africa vis-à-vis other ancient societies. The blog entry also contains several links for further reading, although these are not required for this assignment.
 
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2.4 Peopling Africa   2.4.1 Language/Linguistics as a Tool   - Reading: Koen Bostoen’s “Linguistics for the Use of African History and the Comparative Study of Bantu Pottery Vocabulary” Link: Koen Bostoen’s “Linguistics for the Use of African History and the Comparative Study of Bantu Pottery Vocabulary” (PDF)
 
Instructions: When you click the link above, you will be taken to an entry on Koen Bostoen’s article.  Please click the small round icon next to “Documents” to access and read the PDF version of this article.  In it, Bostoen discusses the ways in which scholars have used linguistic data—as opposed to traditional archival (that is, textual) sources—to reconstruct pieces of Africa’s variegated, and largely silenced, past.  Read the entire article, but focus on sections 1, 2, 3, and 6.
 
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  • Activity: Exploring Africa: “Language Activity” Link: Exploring Africa: “Language Activity” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Answer questions 1, 2, and 3 (located beneath the map of Africa). This activity will help better familiarize you with modern Africa’s linguistic diversity.
     
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2.4.2 Nilo-Saharan Peoples   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Nilo-Saharan Peoples”

Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “[Nilo-Saharan
Peoples](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/HIST251-Sub-subunit-2.4.2-Nilo-Saharan-Peoples-FINAL.pdf)”
(PDF)  
    
 Instructions: Please read the entire article.

2.4.3 The Spread of Humans—West Africa   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Spread of Humans—West Africa” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Spread of Humans—West Africa” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the linked article.

2.4.4 The Spread of Humans—The Bantu Diffusion   - Reading: UCSD: David K. Jordan’s “The Bantu Expansion” Link: UCSD: David K. Jordan’s “The Bantu Expansion” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of David K. Jordan’s article, which discusses the origins and expansion (or “migration”) of the Bantu language in Africa.
 
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