The study of world history sometimes seems fixated on classical Greece and Rome, and some argue that Western mainstream history seems to forget much of African history, Indian history, and the great achievements in civilization that happened on continents outside Europe. Everywhere humans have lived, there have been world-changing events, massive empires, and powerful people that make up the history of the world as we know it today.
Africa is a huge continent with a remarkable history. The following six facts about African history are just a tiny sample of the significance Africa has played in shaping humanity. This is not meant to be a complete list, just a reminder of why African history should never be forgotten.
1. It was the origin of human species
Yep, anthropologists trace all of humanity back to early hominids from the African continent about 100,000 years ago. From there many of our ancestors migrated into other continents.
According to this dominant hypothesis, we are all originally African of origin, which is a very significant reminder of Africa’s unique role in humanity.
2. The king of the Mali empire was the wealthiest person of all time
The Mali Empire was a West African kingdom that amassed great territory and wealth due to the brilliant leader, Mansa Musa. This king gained enormous wealth thanks to gold, trade routes, and some benevolent leadership tactics.
Mansa Musa was recently ranked the #1 richest person in all of history. His wealth is estimated to have been the equivalent of 400 billion dollars today. The Mali Empire is a fascinating subject and you can read more about it here.
3. Timbuktu had one of the largest universities in the world
Timbuktu is a West African city that became a part of Mansa Musa’s Mali Empire in the 14th century. Timbuktu grew to become one of the most important cities as it was central in the region’s gold and salt trade, and a significant Islamic cultural and religious center.
The “University” of Timbuktu consisted of three mosques, Djinguereber, Sidi Yahya and Sankore and is estimated to have had around 25,000 students at the time, making it perhaps the largest university at the time.
4. Ancient Egypt shaped the entire world
It’s almost impossible to overstate the significance of ancient Egypt to our world. Though Mesopotamian civilization arguably predates Egyptian, Egypt’s size, it’s mysteries, and it’s contributions to society make it difficult to top for astonishing and ancient human accomplishments.
Ancient Egypt’s influence can be seen in religion, art, mathematics, architecture, medicine, government, fashion, and on and on as their ideas passed through Greece, Rome, and beyond.
5. Africa was home to many great kingdoms
The number of kingdoms in Africa’s history are too numerous for a complete list, but here are a just a few:
Egypt – 3100 B.C. – 330 B.C Population: 1 – 2 million
Carthage 814 B.C. – 146 B.C. Population: 700,000
Mali 1235 A.D. – 1600 A.D. Population: 20 million
Ghana 300 A.D. – 1200 A.D. Population: 30,000
Songhai 1430 A.D. – 1591 A.D. Population: 100,000+
Ethiopian 1137 A.D. – 1974 A.D. Population: 5 million
Aksum 100 A.D. – 940 A.D. Population: 20,000 (at the capital)
6. The birthplace of coffee
You can thank Africa for the discovery of the coffee plant and its effects, which is now the most popular drink in the world.
Legend has it that in 850 A.D., an Ethiopian goatherder named Kaldi discovered the effects of coffee when he noticed his goats acting energetic after eating the berries of the native coffee plant. Whether or not that’s true, Ethiopia nevertheless did begin exporting coffee outside of Africa in the Arabian peninsula and the rest is history!
Obviously, this is only a taste of Africa’s incredible history, but hopefully you learned something new and will go out and do your own research on Africa’s incredible history and people.