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10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many

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by Yanique Dawkins

 10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 1Nok Culture (500 B.C. to 200 A.D.)

The Nok Culture spanned the end of the Neolithic (Stone Age) and start of the Iron Age in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the earliest African centers of iron-working and terracotta figure production, the Nok Culture remains an enigma. The Nok were an extremely advanced society, with one of the most complex judicial systems of the time, and the earliest producers of life-sized terracotta in the Sub-Sahara.



10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 2Kingdom of Ghana (ninth century to 13th century)

It was commonly known as the “land of gold” since the gold trade was largely responsible in developing Ghana into a powerful and centralized kingdom. The residents developed their own mining techniques and traded with other regions in Africa and Europe. Around 1054, the Almoravid rulers conquered the Kingdom of Ghana and converted the people to Islam.



10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 3Kingdom of Mali (13th century to 15th century)

The kingdom of Mali controlled the salt trade in North Africa as well as many caravan trade routes. Several great centers of Islamic learning were also established during the Kingdom of Mali. Among them were the legendary Timbuktu, Djenne and Gao. When Mansa Musa, the leader of Mali who had contributed to the extension of the empire, died, the smaller states it had conquered broke off, and the empire crumbled.


10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 4Kingdom of Songhay (1350 to 1600)

The exact origins of the Kingdom of Songhay are not clear to historians. The first of two great rulers in the Kingdom of Songhay was Sonni Ali. He came to power in 1464 and made the Songhay perhaps the most powerful state in western/central Africa at the time. Then his successor was Mohammed Askia, who came to power in 1493. He expanded the kingdom even further and set up an even more advanced and strongly centralized government. He developed a new system of laws, expanded the military and encouraged scholarship and learning.

10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 5Egyptian Empire (1570 B.C. – 1070 B.C.)

The New Kingdom was Egypt’s most prosperous time and marked the zenith of its power. It expanded far south into Nubia and held wide territories in the Near East. Egyptian armies fought Hittite armies for control of modern-day Syria. The 18th Dynasty contained some of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs including Ahmose I, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun.

10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 6The Kingdom of Kush (1650 B.C. to 1500 B.C.)

The Kingdom of Kush – which was also called Nubia, the land of gold — was located on the Nile River south of ancient Egypt. It was a state that existed (twice) in what is now the northern part of the Sudan. Nubia was also known as the Land of the Bow because of its expert archers. In 671 B.C., the Assyrians were able to run the Kushites out of Egypt and gain rule of it for themselves.

10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 7Numidia (202 B.C. – 46 B.C.)

Numidia, under the Roman Republic and Empire, a part of Africa north of the Sahara, the boundaries of which at times corresponded roughly to those of modern western Tunisia and eastern Algeria. Numidian horsemanship, animal breeding, and cavalry tactics eventually contributed to later developments in Roman cavalry. Numidian superiority was demonstrated by the cavalry leadership of Maharbal under Hannibal at Trasimene and Cannae and later by Masinissa at Zama under Scipio Africanus.

10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 8Zagwe Dynasty (900 to 1270)

Zagwe dynasty, also spelled Zague, was the line of 12th- and 13th-century Ethiopian kings who combined a nomadic military life with an impassioned desire to build monuments to their Christian religion. The Zagwe kings ruled much of what is now northern and central Ethiopia. Zagwe rule was, however, short-lived. At the end of the 13th century, Yekuno Amlak, a prince of the Amhara, incited so successful a rebellion in Shewa that the Zagwe king, Yitbarek, was driven out and murdered. A new Zagwe king stirred up a counter rebellion but was defeated.

10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 9Mossi Kingdom (11th century – 1896)

The Mossi Kingdom was a complex mix of independent West African kingdoms within the modern republics of Burkina Faso and Ghana including in the south Mamprusi, Dagomba, and Nanumba, and in the north Tenkodogo, Wagadugu (Ouagadougou),Yatenga and Fada-n-Gurma (Fada Ngourma). By the 1700s, the Mossi kingdoms had increased significantly in terms of economic and military power in the region. Foreign trade relations increased significantly throughout Africa with significant connections to the Fula kingdoms and the Mali Empire. They remained independent until France invaded in the late 19th century.


10 ancient African civilizations unknown to many 10Kingdom of Nri (1043 -1911)

Nri was an ancient Igbo city-state in Anambra State, Nigeria. The Kingdom of Nri was a center of learning, religion and commerce in pre-colonial West Africa. Historians have compared the significance of Nri, at its peak, to the religious cities of Rome or Mecca. In 1911, an invasion by British troops led to the weakening and decline of the state.



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