Ancient Africa

Timeline Of Africa

This article is an excerp compiled from Part II of a three part documentry about African Empires AD / CE 1st - 15th centuries

Early written literature of Sub-Saharan West Africa was influenced by Islamic writings, in both form and content, as transmitted by North Africans.

After 1400

Court intrigue and succession disputes sapped the strength of the extended Mali Empire, and northern towns and provinces revolted, making way for the Empire of Songhai to emerge from the vassal state of Gao. One of the first peoples to become independent, the Songhai, began to spread along the Niger River. Much of Mali fell to the Songhai Empire in the western Sudan during the 15th century.


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.

CA 1400

Swahili cities flourish on east African coast of Indian Ocean; trading esp. in ivory, gold, iron, slaves. Indonesian immigrants reached Madagascar during the 1st millennium CE bringing new foodstuffs, notably bananas, which soon spread throughout the continent, and Arab settlers colonized the coast and established trading towns. By the 13th century a number of significant Zenj city-states had been established, including Mogadishu, Malindi, Lamu, Mombasa, Kilwa, Pate, and Sofala.

An urban Swahili culture developed through mutual assimilation of Bantu and Arabic speakers. The ruling classes were of *mixed Arab-African ancestry; the populace was Bantu, many of them slaves. These mercantile city-states were oriented toward the sea, and their political impact on inland peoples was virtually nonexistent until the 19th century.

14th To 15 Century

Great Zimbabwe, impressive stone construction of the Karanga--ancestors of the Shona peoples of southeastern Africa--is the center of Bantu peoples that controlled a large part of interior southeast Africa. The Karanga peoples formed the Mwene Mutapa Empire, which derived its wealth from large-scale gold mining. At its height in the 15th century, its sphere of influence stretched from the Zambezi River, to the Kalahari, to the Indian Ocean and the Limpopo River.

Emergence Of East African Literature

An early known example of East African literature, dated 1520 and written in Arabic, is an anonymous history of the city-state of Kilwa Kisiwani. Soon after, histories of East African city-states written in Swahili appeared, as well as "message" poems, usually written from a moral/religious viewpoint.

In 1728, the earliest known work of (imaginative) literature is written in original Swahili: the epic poem Utendi wa Tambuka (Story of Tambuka). Swahili epic verse writers borrowed from the romantic traditions surrounding the Prophet Muhammad, then freely elaborated to meet tastes of their listeners and readers.

Africa Caribbean Slave Trade