History of Ancient Africa

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The history of Africa begins with the emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, and continues into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. The recorded history of early civilization arose in the Kingdom of Kush, and later in Ancient Egypt, the Sahel, the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa. During the Middle Ages, Islam spread west from Arabia to Egypt, crossing the Maghreb and the Sahel. Some notable pre-colonial states and societies in Africa include the Ajuran Empire, D’mt, Adal Sultanate, Warsangali Sultanate, Kingdom of Nri, Nok culture, Mali Empire, Songhai Empire, Benin Empire, Ashanti Empire, Ghana Empire, Mossi Kingdoms, Mutapa Empire, Kingdom of Mapungubwe, Kingdom of Sine, Kingdom of Sennar, Kingdom of Saloum, Kingdom of Baol, Kingdom of Cayor, Kingdom of Zimbabwe, Kingdom of Kongo, Empire of Kaabu, Ancient Carthage, Numidia, Mauretania, and the Aksumite Empire.

From the mid-7th century, the Arab slave trade saw Muslim Arabs enslave Africans following an armistice between the Rashidun Caliphate and the Kingdom of Makuria after the Second Battle of Dongola in 652 AD. They were transported, along with Asians and Europeans, across the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert.

From the late 15th century, Europeans joined the slave trade, with the Portuguese initially acquiring slaves through trade and later by force as part of the Atlantic slave trade. They transported enslaved West, Central, and Southern Africans overseas.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European colonization of Africa developed rapidly in the Scramble for Africa. It is widely believed that Africa had up to 10,000 different states and autonomous groups with distinct languages and customs before it was colonized. Following struggles for independence in many parts of the continent, as well as a weakened Europe after the Second World War, decolonization took place, culminating in the 1960 Year of Africa.

Africa’s history has been challenging for research in the field of African studies because of the scarcity of written sources in large parts of the continent, particularly with the destruction of many of the most important manuscripts from Timbuktu. Disciplines such as the recording of oral history, historical linguistics, archaeology and genetics have been crucial.

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