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In the splendor of the ancient African Civilizations – Part 1

“The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history […] They have never really launched themselves into the future,[…]” Those were the words, among other profoundly patronizing ones, the former French president Sarkozy pronounced during a speech he gave at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal on July 26th, 2007 in front of students, professors, and political figures. A speech that unfortunately and wrongly reflects what many Westerners, including those of African descent, think of Africa, convinced that the African history started with slavery, or if there was any form of civilization before that, there were just unorganized settlements, or if they’re generous, kingdoms.

If that’s your case, well think again, because what you’re about to read might shock you: Africa was home to many civilizations which, on top of that, were at the origin of several scientific and academic advances, just to mention that. Please read it again. Believe it or not, despite the multiple trials from those who benefited–and still do–from that image of a “historyless” Africa, Africa has a glorious history. The Ancient Egypt many attempted to this day to separate from Africa is an example among numerous others. Apparently, even though it hasn’t been officially proven yet by an actual historian, once upon a time, a significant part of the Middle East was considered African.

It’s in the perspective to debunk those lies used to discredit Africa from any contribution to the current world that I’m writing this series of article about the dozen, or so, of ancient African civilizations. To educate my African brothers and sisters, those who despite being non-African, are curious about African history, and others just passing by. (By the way, welcome to my blog if you’re in the latter group, I hope you are enjoying your trip here, because it is one, and don’t hesitate to read my other articles, share and leave a comment below) OK BACK TO Y’ALL THE TRIBE! Let’s start, shall we?

The Kingdom of Kush

The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient African civilization located in Northern Africa, in the region of modern-day Sudan. Founded by the Egyptians’ southern neighbors, the Nubian (Egyptian for ‘gold’), it existed in the form of three kingdoms that have succeeded each other at three different times in history, under the name of Kerma, the Second Kingdom of Kush and Meroe. The Kushite empire flourished between circa 1069 BC and 350 AD.

During that time, the Nubian maintained great ties with Egypt, with whom they would, at times, be great allies sharing multiple cultural aspects with each other, and at others, the worst enemies fighting wars between each other. It’s with less surprise that you now know that the Kingdom of Kush once conquered Egypt and established a dynasty of their own, its kings forming the pharaohs of Egypt’s 25th dynasty. The Kushite cultures were quite sophisticated and cosmopolitan, with the region serving as a major trading centre for goods from the African interior, Arabian desert & Mediterranean basin.

The attempt by the Roman empire to conquer the Kingdom of Kush, after their conquest of Egypt, during the 1st century BC triggered a steady decline of the Kushite kingdom’s power. Five centuries later, at the end of the 4th century AD, raids by nomads for the south and the east severely weakened the power of the Kushite. It’s the emerging Kingdom of Aksum located in modern-day Ethiopia that will put an end to their long-lasting kingdom, after capturing and burning to the ground Meroe, the empire’s capital.

The Kingdom of Aksum

The Kingdom of Aksum is another ancient African civilization, known for being a major trading hub that used to serve the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire and Ancient India, thanks to an easy access to the Upper Nile and the Red Sea, as well as its strong navy. The Aksumite empire’s territory was at its beginning, circa 100 AD, located in northern part of modern Ethiopia and Eritrea, and later extended to the majority of modern Ethiopia, the western part of Yemen, southern Arabia, and a part of modern Sudan. In the 4th century, the Aksumite conquered the Kingdom of Kush, I just mentioned earlier.

Its capital, of the same name as the kingdom, which used to be a busy metropolis, cultural and economic center, is now a small city in Northern Ethiopia standing as a major religious centre of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, where the Ark of the Covenant rests at one of the Church’s most important churches, called Aksum Maryam Seyon. The Kingdom of Aksum also had its own alphabet, named Ge’ez, still used as a liturgical alphabet by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, a fact that makes me think of the Roman Empire and Catholic Church. Another interesting fact about this awesome empire is that it became Africa’s first Christian empire, when its king Ezana, converted to Christianity around the year 325.

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My trip to Ethiopia just happened to coincide with one of the biggest holy festivals in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar 😁 Today, people come from across the country to Axum to celebrate the Ark of the Covenant which is said to be located here. It was incredible to witness! We also visited an antiques shop which housed archaeological artifacts from ancient Axum. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the whole of Africa it was a treasure trove documenting the rich culture through the ages. The lovely owner even gifted each of us geologists a small metal Axumite cross necklace as he was thrilled we were visiting from England. He told us that Queen Elizabeth had visited his shop back during the reign of Haile Selassie 🇪🇹🤩 #tigray #tigrinya #ethiopia #axum #aksum #ventureout #wondermore #adventureladies

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As mentioned earlier, the Aksumite empire had multiple trade partners, with whom they would trade valuable goods, such as ivory, gold, emeralds, silk and spices, leading it as one of the most successful and prosper economies in the world at that time. It even minted its own currency, being the first one to put on its coins the image of a cross, certainly as a sign of respect to the new religion the empire adopted. However, this once prosper kingdom collapsed at the end of the first millennia, around the year 940 AD, due to climate changes according to some historians.

Interesting facts

  • More than 200 pyramids were erected during the Kushite empire, bearing witness to the multiple cultural ties it had with its northern neighbor. Called the Meroe Pyramids, they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s fortunately possible for you to visit them. They are situated at a little less than 4 hours drive from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, near the Kabushiya Station.

  • Aksum is home to stunning archaeological sites, such as the obelisks erected over the tomb of its former emperors. They also are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are safe to visit. You can easily reach Aksum by plane from Addis Abeba, Ethiopia’s capital. I once read somewhere on the Internet that if you arrive and leave the country with Ethiopian Airlines, the airline, that serves many destinations worldwide, gives you great deals to visit the interior of the country by plane.

Conclusion

We already are at the end of the first part of this awesome series about the ancient African civilizations. Although I had to do a little more research than in my other articles, I am very pleased to write about these, partly because I learn so much, as I write, one of the main reasons why I like writing articles about African wealth. I mean, I don’t know for you, folks, but I can’t believe we never really get to learn about any of those civilizations in our history classes.

Having done all my schooling in Canada, I personally had one history class during my first year of college on the western civilization, in which I was briefly taught about the Chinese civilization, but never about any African civilization, even though I know they highly contributed to how the Western world is nowadays. I believe we should not only be taught about Western, Chinese or Indian history in elementary and high schools, not only when you choose to take specific history classes about Africa, once at the university. It’s even a bigger problem in Africa, where the majority of the curricula is still based on the one inherited from the colonization, leading to students knowing more about foreign civilizations than theirs.

At the end of the day, it is the job of African descent people to self-educate themselves about the richness of their history, the same way Westerners do for theirs. I believe that’s what I’m working on through this blog, a mission that I really take to heart, because I am convinced that my continent is the sh*t and I will never cease to repeat it. I hope you liked and enjoyed reading this article, let me know your thoughts about it, shoot your questions, I’ll be pleased to read you. Hope to see you again, have a good one 🙂 ! Much love <3


Steve Rutikara

2 Comments

    • Merci achi! C’est très important de rester instruit sur l’histoire riche de nos ancêtres et ceux qui nous ressemblent, car elle est tout aussi importante que celle qu’on apprend en Occident. Stay tuned for more informative articles.

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