Afrîca and its history
A continent viewed from within



Mother and child
This wooden statuette (68
cm high) of a mother and
her child is the work of a sculptor of Mali's Dogon

people. The Dogon, who number some 250,000, live
on and around the rugged

Bandiagara cliffs south of Timbuktu. Most of their
sculpture is inspired by their complex religious
system, a major feature of

which is the ancestor-cult.

Private Collection Photo © Gallimard
La Photothèque, Paris

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Domino Rutayebesibwa

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Ptwtû Hoä-Qui. P*"* .

The General History of Africa by Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow Director-General of Unesco THE face of Africa has long been concealed from themselves are profoundly aware of the need to re¬ the world by myths and prejudices of all kinds. alas. earmarked for labour in mines and plantations. faithfully transmitted from generation to than a caricature of the civilizations whose values they were supposed. thinking. customs and ideas between the societies established on The first (1965-1969) consisted of work on documentation and planning: the collection of oral and unpublished written sources in the field. On the contrary. The General History brings into focus both Africa's of his oppressors an imaginary racial abstraction. Maurice Delafosse and Arturo Labrlola. whenever necessary and possible. the process of decolonization and the accession to independence of the new African States. between a historical data through which it is possible to comprehend the development of the different African peoples in their specific social and cultural contexts. From the moment when the notions of "whites" and because its authors have avoided the pitfalls of dogmatism in tackling such fundamental questions as the "blacks" were adopted to serve as generic descriptions of the masters and the dominated peoples respectively. The General History of Africa throws a new and original light on the continent's past. the Sources of the History of Africa based on an inventory of the archives of European countries. bred contempt and members are Africans. This amounted to a The specialists from many countries who have participated in this work decided to begin by defining Its theoretical and methodological basis. Africans had to struggle against a dual enslavement. notably with the Americas and the Caribbean islands. In exercising their right to take the initiative where their own history is concerned. historical contours of an ensemble of peoples and societies united by links stretching back for centuries. imagining and acting. and those of the peoples living south of the Sahara. in spite of major studies produced in the early decades of this century by such pioneers as Leo Frobenius. which appeared with the slave trade and colonization. . falsely infused with the notion of inferiority. of Nubia. upon whose publication Unesco is now embarking. Unesco is thus serving the entire international community by helping to make known and by restoring to its proper perspective Africa's contribution to human progress. colonization and all its Identifiable by the pigmentation of his skin. one commodity among others. two-thirds of whose effect on the objective study of the African past is the existence of racial stereotypes. since time immemorial. linear conception of history. development and affirmation of peoples. They have scrupulously re-examined the unjustified simplifications refusal to see Africans as the creators of original cultures which blossomed and perpetuated themselves for centuries in distinctive ways of their own which historians can only grasp by adopting new methods. as elsewhere. was undertaken by Unesco in three stages. non-African scholars. to embody? The situation has changed radically. form. the to discuss questions of methodology and to trace the broad outlines of the project. the African continent was virtually never considered as a historical entity. categorized as negro. establish on firm foundations the historical nature of their societies. economic and psychological. the African came to symbolize in the minds consequences. The third phase is that of the drafting and publication of the work. During the second stage (1969-1971) international meetings of experts held in Paris (1969) and Addis Abeba (1970) confirmed the interdisciplinary character of the method chosen. the relations between Africa south of the Sahara and the Arab world. In Africa. originating from a restrictive. Another phenomenon which has had a deleterious under the intellectual responsibility of a 39-member International Scientific Committee. the preparation of a Guide to each side of the desert. this was no more where the African heritage has left its imprint on ways of feeling. stress was laid on everything which might give credence to the idea of a division. which was historical unity and it's relations with the other continents. each ignorant of the other. The Sahara was often presented as an impenetrable expanse which completely prevented any mixing of ethnic and arduous by the diversity of sources and the dispersion of documents. They have made every effort to bring into focus the Furthermore. I am convinced that the whole sense and thrust of the future draws its force from an intensely felt consciousness of history. and where the descendants of Africans have actively contributed to the fashioning of national identities. meetings of experts Today it is generally recognized that the civilizations of the African -continent. maintained that such societies could not be studied scientifically because sources and written documents were lacking. many Herein lies the importance of the eight-volume General History of Africa. incomprehension. considered as a totality. slave trade. wedded to preconceptions rooted in their own background. especially since the African countries have achieved independence and now generation through education. which was responsible for one of the cruellest deportations in the history of mankind and emptied the continent of part of its lifeblood. made even more complex "white Africa" and a "black Africa". Impassable frontiers were traced between the civilizations of ancient Egypt. to varying degrees. African societies were regarded as societies without a history. any exchange of goods. and became so deeply rooted that they actually perverted the conceptual basis of historiography. need it be said that all too often. this consciousness is one of the essential conditions of the actively participate in the life of the international community and the mutual exchanges which it exists to promote. As for the image of themselves which the colonizers gave to the Africans. the Africans independence. Work on this immense task. and. beliefs. through the variety of their languages and cultures. This spurious process of identification reduced the history of the African peoples to the status of an ethno-history in which any appreciation of their cultures was bound to be distorted. have revised accepted positions so as to present the facts in their true light. groups and peoples.

it acted not as an absolute barrier but as a filter limiting the southward penetration of Mediterranean influences. The great rivers of Africa too. the Senegal.700 metres wide. At the Victoria Falls (right). particularly in their lower reaches. . played a role in the compartmentalization of the continent. the Sahara. sending into the air a wall of spray that at times is visible up to 40 miles away. Switzerland With its shifting sand dunes (above) and rocky wastes. the world's largest desert. although important as communication routes over their navigable stretches. one of the scenic wonders of the world. The cataracts of the Nile. Lausanne. forms a climatic hiatus between the Mediterranean and the tropical worlds.Photo Maximiiien Bruggmann © La Spirale. the Orange and the Limpopo. formed virtually impassable barriers. the falls and rapids of the Zambezi. the Zambezi plunges 100 metres over a sheer precipice 1. Inhabited by nomads and traversed by caravan routes.

Africa and its history A continent viewed from within by Joseph Ki-Zerbo AFRICA has a history. . faked. barbarism. ex¬ plorers. by "force of circumstance" I. now in preparation under the auspices of Unesco. and the knowledge of scholars on the subject was summed up in the cryptic phrase : Ibl sunt leones here be lions. But is not ig¬ norance of one's own past. He is the author of many articles and books on Africa in¬ cluding Le Monde Africain (The African World) and Histoire de l'Afrique Noire (The History of Black Africa). And just as the first step in a rational diagnosis of and the therapy evolution is of the the v reconstruction disease. as well as all the possibilities for the future. and scholars of all kinds give out its ¡mage as one of nothing but poverty. but which like them were annexed as the property of the colonizing countries. is really the story of an awakening. the history of Africa is not a narcissistic mirror nor a subtle excuse for avoiding the tasks and burdens of today. ir¬ responsibility and chaos. and and Secretary-General Council for of the Malagasy Higher A recently appointed member of the he also serves on Executive Board of Unesco. the scientific objects of the whole enterprise would be compromised. He is editor of Volume I (Methodology and African Prehistory) of The General History of Africa. and incidentally of the "native tribes" which owned the mines. If it were an alienating device of that kind. The time has long gone by when maps had great empty spaces representing the African continent as marginal and subor¬ dinate. The history of Africa needs rewriting. in the same way the first task in r JOSEPH KI-ZERBO. governors. distorted. the Governing Board of Unesco's International Institute for Educational Planning. turies of oppression. missionaries. are the result of countless forces transmit¬ ted by history. even more alienating? All the evils that afflict Africa today. as a justification of both the present and the future. The history of Africa. Crushed by cen¬ Africa has seen generations of travellers. But then came the discovery of the mines and their profits. For Africans. for up till now it has often been masked. in other words of a large part of oneself.e. mutilated. slave-traders. like the history of mankind as a whole. is pro¬ fessor of African history at the University of Ouagadougou African Studies. through ig¬ norance or self-interest. of Upper Volta. And this image has been projected and extrapolated in¬ definitely in time.

And history evolution. are at least unevenly distributed in time and most rich. These include diluted and therefore readily itinerant articles made of iron. writings. a severe logical structures linked to the evolution of climate. and thek Y Sahels at once permeable from within. political because changes. not the yet archival been or narrative. but like à fleeting. On the quantitative plane. ago. penetration. foodstuffs. In short. the proof that isolation was one of chaeology are often the official more eloquent than The marvellous is the memory of nations. proaches can do is conceal a deliberate ig¬ norance. and These are backed anthropology. large masses groove of the Rift Valley. hydraulic and eco¬ world. the one which is fullest of the fortunes of the Mediterranean part of sap of in authenticity. and in the north. These ecological forces have weigh¬ ed heavily on every aspect of Africa's spaced African The most obscure centuries in things blood and colour. the less said the better. with a chroniclers. with beyond the crushing ly continent if ever there was one. The mountains is blocked by the vast marshes best these subjective and irrational ap¬ chaeology tradition takes its place as a real living museum. the destiny. for them. The silent witnesses revealed by ar¬ trario. Some people say that before we can talk of a real history of Africa we should wait to find the same kinds of evidence as in Europe. stretching from the very centre of Africa and across the reigns and generations is a highly con¬ of written have still by material. Neither nature nor man. transmitter of the social and cultural crea¬ tions stored up by peoples said to have no written records. as in others. not to mention the Americas. and not in the harpoons bones. of to unpublished manuscripts concerning demographic history of black Africa which are being name only two factors. Strong winds and sea currents guard the coast from Cape Blanc to Cape Verde. dealing with it too much in terms proper to other parts of the population living in a nature generous with its fruits and minerals. and geomorphological. They have also enhanced the value of all the natural loopholes which were from the start to act as corridors in the exploration centuries preceding and following the birth of Christ (here North Africa is an heel: mixed-up temporal sequences cause exception). and extrapolations bas¬ ed on recent periods have to be accepted Ethiopian ridge as far as Iraq. in the tropics as at the poles. can only have Sahara demonstrates the link between the one looks at the facts of the physical helped to deprive Africa of the stability and human dynamism necessary for all on pre-lslamic peoples (Sao) of the Chad geography of the continent. Yet oral tradition is by far the most intimate of historical sources. fishing and weaving. the techniques of naviga¬ tion. by the kinship shown in statuettes of baked clay wearing It is to the south. Thus a study of the demographic drain from time immemorial and especially from the fifteenth to the typology of the pottery and objects of bone twentieth century after the traffic was and metal found in the Nigero-Chadian history of Africa can already be seen when organized on a large scale. Armenia. In fact. so-called rowheads or tips. Of course.and whose titles suggest some promising new AFRICA AND ITS HISTORY veins. desert of deserts. shown incomplete inventories with very great and reserve. together with the to steer a middle course between treating Africa as too exceptional a case on the one hand. Ubangi and Zaire must have acted as a corridor in an eastwest direction. ceptional and magnetic dynast polarizes Algeria and Europe. geography nor landscape its history. The living ties of the modern past are revived. but cruel with its technology involved. objects endemic and epidemic diseases. This spoken history is a while in the middle of the continent three deserts add internal barriers to isolation It must be admitted that as far as Africa is concerned the question of sources is a difficult one. and on the other. that Africa thrusts her solid mass. There are three main sources for our historical knowledge of Africa: writ¬ ten documents. the Sahara. And it is austral indispensable that we should go back to loneliness and apathy.any overall analysis of the African conti¬ nent must be a historical one. or with a memory paratively rapid that belongs to someone else. These open areas. but also in the libraries of Sudanese scholars and leading citizens in towns throughout the Bend of the Niger. The very vastness of the African continent. in back through the dark twists of the the centre. broken-up reflection on the surface of a ruffled stream. flesh and Tradition clothes it Africa from that of the rest of the conti¬ nent. One begun thousands of is the great millennia meridian example ficulties and ambiguities. even turn its back on the rest of the Old World. conserver and of Bahr el Ghazal. ceramics. to which it is joined only by the fragile um¬ bilical cord of the isthmus of Suez. it from reaching the threshold which of has graphic styles. Sometimes an ex¬ first kingdoms of black Africa developed in these more accessible regions. archaeology and oral tradi¬ very frail thread by which to trace our way from without: in the south. Unless one chooses to live in a state of un¬ and in contact with neighbouring regions of Africa with different and complementary China. and different . amid the waters. As for the worst. political and economic spheres. Those who are its custo¬ dians are old men. to a certain extent open towards the exterior. The archives of Iran. equatorial forest with all its dangers which man had to overcome before he could tion. in themselves great obstacles to blems in objective terms. in epic the weakness of the chronological sequence is the Achilles' clear and precise illumination that comes from written accounts. with their com¬ a con¬ live without memory. if not very rare. for example. the slave trade. up by linguistics enable us to Whenever one of them dies a fibre of Ariadne's thread is broken. bound in by coastal ranges through which these fundamental conditions of the evolu¬ tionary process in order to pose the pro¬ cross-belts. In this connexion. seems to standing creativeness. the problems of the historian are the same everywhere. in the shapes and of jars in and ar¬ rivers force their way by means of heroic defiles. with their production techniques and styles. Africa. as is of the troversial question. must hold many scraps of African history awaiting resources. the Kalahari. may otherwise be crude and underground. And thus we come to the formidable the key factors in Africa's slowness in pur¬ suit of certain kinds of progress. It is not by chance that the exploited. one cannot aginative researcher. But even when such evidence exists. bracelets. and in throwing knives. the difficulties specific to the tion has by nature something objective and irrefutable about it. Unesco has established the Ahmed Baba Centre at Timbuktu to pro¬ mote the collection of such material. 8 . Moreover. a fragment of the landscape literally disappears make it his refuge. a lone¬ out¬ the Basin and cultural areas extending as far as the Nile and the Libyan desert. a huge continen¬ which elaborate and refine on the interpretation of tal filter. a wild sea and rocky wastes of shifting sand dunes which joins with the data which unyielding. form of such congenital myths as racial and the inferiority. the "green desert" of the labyrinth of time. The language of archaeological excava¬ epigraphic documents. The curve of the valleys of the Sangha. Iraq. these found not only in libraries in Morocco. history are "those which lack the gives blood to the skeleton of the past. India and . in the designs of the bodies of figurines. its interpretation is strewn with dif¬ the image of the past to reach us not clear and stable as in a mirror. the exploits of his predecessors and suc¬ cessors around his own person. prevented made of glass. we have served African history well. others are literally eclipsed. some perspicacious and im¬ consciousness and alienation. The average length of of Africa. The only sizeable passage bet¬ ween the Sahara and the Abyssinian tribalism Besides the first two sources of African history written documents and ar¬ historical passivity of the Africans. the mountain fringe of the Atlas to separate the Written sources. technological plane. discoveries of archaeology have already question of methodology. afford. the same array of written or demographic concentration almost always been one of the precondi¬ tions of major qualitative changes in the social. have been kind to Africa.

ceased to be spoken sometime between 900 and a literary name is and liturgical in language. an Egyptian hieroglyphic taxt dating from the time of Darius the Great (550-486 BC) which reads: "The Pasha. The yare rich for they have three cushions and a table on either side of them. 5¡- A«) Measurement ' 5 Oberi Okaime r\ V *MAs? î À Lying 1 A. beside him are six papyrus stems. the great doctor Udjahorresne. jdeclares: His majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt. who is seen ho/ding a rope that binds a captive. words and some elements of the grammar are known. Ge'ez is a Semitic From left to right. the official language of Ethiopia. Meroitic was written from right to left Extinct as a spoken language. it continues as on which they have turned their backs on each other and are separated by a cushion. 1 6th century portrait on wood of Saint Ge'ez. It consists of highly conventionalized 3 P Z5> 200 T pictographs and is used chiefly by a secret society and for magical purposes. ordered me to return to Egypt whilst his majesty remainad in Elam. the sound "ka" as represented First saven vatsas of the Koran reproduced In in nine indigenous West African languages. The fourth couple are separated by a river (note the . Although 1 200 AD. in an alphabet derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics and in a cursive form. Unlike other Semitic langua¬ ges it is written from left to right. but successive simplifications have reduced it to 70 signs. Q R Z us The origin of the Nsibidi writing of the Ekoi people of southern Nigeria is not known. the prophet. that they have been able to exchange messages. George his inscribed canoes tied up at each bank). iTr s / Mende I W Mending '//jSheep O Wolof 0^ An event Child ¡2 (j " Kpelle /S Sere % o~ 1 \\\ Bassa Bamun writing (above left) was invented in 1895 by Sultan Njoya of Foumban (Cameroon). the first monarch of the first dynasty triumphing over his enemies. but they quickly acquired a phonetic value regardless of their original pictorial meaning." patron divinity of the royal house of Upper Egypt. The meaning of the pictograph is thus that the king of Upper Egypt triumphed over his enemies and took 6. a Nsibidi writer portrays the joys and problems of four married couples. Attempts are now being made to unravel the mystery of the Meroitic language with the aid of a computer.000 signs. Surviving only in inscriptions.000 prisoners. Above. the Egyptians invented a system of hieroglyphic writing that employs characters in the form of pictures. Darius. . love each Kingdom of Meroe (see article page 55) from about BC to the 4th century AD. The second couple have quarrelled. son of Atermitis. Although a few Meroitic language of the same group as Amharic. the to be devised to prevent misreadings. Many ideograms (pictorial representations) were however retained and a complicated system had of Egyptian hieroglyphics show "Palette of Narmer" (above) the beginnings of the depicts king Narmer transition from the pictorial representation of an event to symbolic use of signs. the Count. the hieroglyphic sign for the figure 1. The first syllabary consisted of over 1 . The famous (about 3100 BC). at that time he was the Great King of all the other countries and Sovereign of Egypt. Above right. This husband and other with joy wife (out¬ other dearly and embrace each stretched arms).The written word à Early examples Towards the end of the 4th millenium BC. The third couple belong to the Egbo tribe whose emblem is a feather. the Royal Chancellor. however. the sole companion. The crosses show.000. Each sign represents a particular concept or association The Meroitic language was spoken in the ancient of ideas. M N <K C /T o oO P A . Maghrtbitn style calligraphy. The signs could be read as pictures or as symbols for oictures. Above. Ge'ez it remains largely undeciphered. Above. The falcon (see detail above right) symbolizes the god Horus. 'he who lives among them'. CO rOi Alphabet Computer 6 0) c Hieroglyphic Cursive transcription Ss 4 L & S3 . may he live for ever.

dyatigui) far from Wooden mask (above) of the Ivory Coast's Baulé people represents a male divinity. Even the content of the message is often hermetic or esoteric. Tradition does not stand up well to translation. The hermeticism of this half-speech shows at once the inestimable value of oral tradition. but wrapped up in fable. while the zigzag line around the face evokes rain. an oral account taken out of its context is like a fish out of water: it dies. That is why the message is not articulated openly and directly. speech is a weighty matter an ambiguous force which can make and unmake. of being". which can be the bearer of evil. the source of life. and its limits: it is almost impossi¬ ble to transfer all its richness from one language to another. and this adaptation relates mainly to the presenta¬ tion. because it is always being taken over by fresh witnesses charged with transmit¬ ting it.^ Furthermore. The plaited beard is both a symbol of the life-force and an emblem of power. that oral tradition adapts itself to the expectations of new audiences. with Its royal insignia of vulture and uraeus (the sacred asp). proverbs that are hard to understand for the ordinary man but clear for those who possess the antennae of wisdom. When uprooted it loses its vigour "the and authenticity. 10 . There is also a resonance between the striations of the Baulé headdress and the flowing bands of Tutankhamen's headgear. for language is home And many errors ascribed to tradition itself are due to in¬ competent or unscrupulous interpreters. though it does not always leave the content intact. The number of different versions transmitted by rival groups for example. For the African. In black Africa artistic skills have always been lavished on the simplest household objects as well as on those used in ritual or religious ceremonies. The beard resembles that on the golden mask which covered the mummified face of the boy-pharaoh Tutankhamen (above right). by the various griots-clients of each noble protector (horon. Perhaps such points of resemblance explain why the faces have an identical expression of absolute sovereignty (see also central colour pages and photo p. Taken in isolation. The disc-shaped headdress and ornamental scarifications on forehead and temples represent rays of light projected by the gods. especially when that other is structurally and sociologically very remote. 26). symbols of life and death. hint. It loses its significance and life. Door-lock carved in the form of a woman by a sculptor of the Samo people of Upper Volta. allusion. Yet it is through that life. oral tradition resembles African masks wrested from the communion of the faithful and exhibited to the curiosity of the uninitiated.

subjects object of veneration. The ethnological outlook. and the diffusion of both material and spiritual culture. Thus the whole of Africa was presented in ¡mages which Africans themselves might regard as strange just as if. At any rate. as in the case of the Bambara and Fula griots. in the van of human primitive advance. and their importance in com¬ municating the message is all the greater people's knowledge of the languages con¬ cerned. much still remains to be done in this com¬ Lastly. were transformed if not by into sub- oral tradition usually has its structure rein¬ forced and supported by court music. savage whether backward. strong on nakedness. This rigid. in this case the Africans. with and explicitly conclusions discriminatory implicitly political. speech just a series of monosyllables. The ethnologist was thus delegated to be the "Minister of Euro¬ pean Curiosity" vis-à-vis "the natives". when languages were supposed to be without grammar. Its main presup¬ with position was often linear evolution. the backwards. an Arab? Other people. linguistics. Some of the instruments used are so old that they laborious analysis of the facts of language. The primitive natives who concerned. Ethnological discourse has by the force of circumstance been a discourse premises. the in¬ strument becomes the artist's voice. the authenticity of the right to the heart of its own subject. Amazonia and Africa. a Papuan. formal and institutionalized scientifically languages gradually disappeared under the influence of colonialism. who belonged to op¬ posing camps.words. Europe. a black. Europe was personified by the housing conditions. are sacred. in the living experience of the speakers of a given community. restricted to an elementary The same remark applies a fortiori to an¬ thropology and ethnology. and for this reason objects of interest to the scientist or of greed to the trader. between the two. Hence the importance of diachronic linguistic analysis and glotto-chronology to the the historian meaning who and wishes to understand of Africa's dynamics evolution. a "scientific" exercise which was necessarily ambiguous. lubricious Ethnological and at best and pater¬ reports essays usually sought to justify the status quo and contributed to the "development of underdevelopment". should discard from the outset the disparaging ethnocentric attitude which characterized the African linguistics accor¬ ding to which the languages of the IndoEuropean family are at the summit of evolu¬ tion. at the beginn¬ ing of this century. and paths of migration. with. that one can extrapolate would repay an archaeological Investiga¬ tion in themselves. nalistic. though it us¬ ed to be thought that they were interesting in that they revealed a state near to the original state of language. are always different. These instruments. which has already done African history good service. barous. sacrificed to a comparative and synthetic one which aims at being typological and genetic. In effect they are part of the artist. to a greater or bar¬ lesser degree. and vocabulary inventory. of the object ethnology plex is to field and define what needs the doing first evidence is reinforced. table manners being a handicap. It is only through minute and proletariats of peripheral centres in a world system of production which has its pole of attraction in the northern hemisphere. "tribes" and of at the rear the Oceania. accounts agree. When auxiliary science but an independent or technical level of certain rural com¬ discipline which nevertheless leads history munities. lived by hunting and gathering. as mode of of which unites with it and measures it out in didactic and artistic sections. The descriptive approach must not be cannibalism. True. and he does not need to utter a word. That is why those who had been cast in the role of objects. pioneer of civilization. and the languages of the blacks are at the very bottom of the ladder. ficult by a an operation often made dif¬ lack of historical depth in discourse history. is on the contrary only a further guarantee for critical history. the vehicles of spoken history. was often sadistic. It asked the question: what on earth was it like to be an Indian. very by an or implacable "other" dialectic. are CONTINUED PAGE 70 In linguistics African history has not an marked out by the diffusion of related 11 . misery and folklore. decid¬ ed to initiate of an their independent own. Linguistic studies show that the routes All that is necessary is to admit that while because music is directly intelligible.

thus governed. Yet at first glance. in mythical time. So much so. of course. out with the milestones of pro¬ And it is true that myth. in the guise of immemorial customs. and direct present acting as ancestors agents in matters occurring centuries after their death. a vast ocean without shores and without landmarks. but written in Arabic characters). the imaginary representation dominate of the past. if not more so. A former president of the National Assembly of Niger. specializes in research on the kingdoms of the Niger Valley. Similarly. and Traditional African eternity time in includes direc¬ incorporates both tions. does of often the African conceptions development of the lives of nations. on which he has published several works. Just as everywhere else all over the world. and as influential as they were during their lifetime.Africa's dialogue MAN is an historical man is animal. history. It is not a river flowing in one direction from a known source to a known outlet. almost drown¬ ed. that the choice and significance of real events sometimes had to obey a mythical model predetermining even the most prosaic actions of ruler or people. In this situation. time is not duration as it affects the fate of the individual. Myth. not only through the influence of bygone facts and direct intervention events. from past to present and from present to future. emperor of Mali (early 14th century). drawing his inspiration largely from the oral tradition. When Kanku Musa. and African no exception. 12 . From this context of emerge two striking historical characteristics African thought: its timelessness and its essentially social aspect. at many royal courts officials responsible for the interpretation M. the Mossi ruler answered that he would have to consult his ancestors before taking such a decision. one gets the impression that the Africans were submerged. a great highway marked gress. while the other peoples of the world advanced down the avenue of History. BOUBOU HAMA. sent an am¬ bassador to the king of Yatenga asking him to be converted to Islam. he created his own history and his own idea of it. as it also justified. he is the initiator of a drive for the collec¬ tion and preservation of ancient manuscripts in Arabic and Ajami (texts in African languages. and even after reading many ethnological studies. It is the rhythm of the collective breathing of the social group. In these circumstances causality operates in a forward direction. of Niger. In their own way they remain contemporary. Bygone generations are not lost to the present. This shows the with the past in direct connexion through special religion. which but through can operate a in any direction.

It may be a golden ball kept in a tobal or wardrum. 13 . or the king. wooden figure (48 cm high) of a female ancestor of the Songo people of Angola. one has to go as far as the Among those who worked in iron it was a mythical forge which sometimes grew red- general conception of the world in order to understand the Africans' vision of time and its real meaning for them. so that they could have more efficient transmitted by the patriarch. as the latter is not perceived as such by each individual. the first living creature created by Amma (God). wisdom and strength. Among the is a Songhay of iron own person both mythical time (he was the Zarma. When a man lies down at night on his mat or his bed.* The cosmology of many African peoples includes a god of creation. for those who receive nothing are the poor in the parallel world of the dead. together with parts of the body of a lion or elephant or panther. strong advances were they or mean weak. amasses power. The ¡deal is to succeed in merging into one's double so as to form a single en¬ tity. It is in the course of these peregrina¬ tions that the double encounters the forces of good and evil. "We wish to sacrifice a lamb in thy honour. experienced in this way by a group. saying. invoked through secondary deities or mythical ancestors which mediate between man and the invisible world. Africans have ex¬ life. King Shilluk was the mortal repository of the tribe. Indeed. which thus acquires superhuman of this is the Gikuyu legend about the first making of iron. Mogai on behalf of their wives.with time of dreams had considerable influence on by Boubou Hama and Joseph Ki-Zerbo perienced by other dimensions of the in¬ dividual. a mythical ancestor. ceases to be an obstacle. In this kind of suspended time. both benevolent spirits horted one another not to neglect offerings made in the name of their ancestors. that and his the personality purpose is of historical time. to sleep. The transfer of such objects constituted the legal transmission of power. regarded as the source of the group's vitality. When the Songhays say óf cosmogonies time attribute which to some mythical made in someone that his bya (double) is heavy or light. This wooden statuette (13 cm high) of the Dogon people (Mali) probably represents Dyongu Seru. the pre¬ sent may even act on what is regarded as the past but in fact remains contemporary. and to repeat the work and actions he performed consciously during his daily can help the ancestors of yesteryear. told them how to smelt iron. generous sacrifices are made. like the regalia (tibo) immortal power. and might almost be described as ministers of the future. History. in which time. it is replaced by the historical group memory. and this power is usually symbolized and given con¬ crete form by some object which is gratulated them on their wisdom and. like space. In a more fundamental way still. social time. zimaa) can But the women were so cruel that their animals ran away and became wild. Only the greatest in¬ itiate or master (korté-konynii. The mosu sense is only one aspect of another time ex striking example is that of the Sonianké. the object rod incarnation of the founding hero) and pointed at one end. but we do not want to do it with a wooden knife lest we run the same risk as our wives." Mogai con¬ Social time. for he combined in his of the and Mossi king. Right up to our own times. retrace the path the man himself followed during the day. that is the mo' ment his double chooses to set out and political action. the chief of weapons. to frequent the places he The blood of sacrifices offered up today was in. The statuette is a reminder of the forbidden acts committed by Ogo. time in the ordinary hot at night to express its anger. men interceded with The attain this state. Among the Sorko in the old empire of Gao it was an idol in the shape of a big fish with a ring in its mouth. Or it may be kept in a box or chest. An example amulets is to protect and strengthen the double. We then see that in traditional thought. hiding his face after violating a series of taboos. Ancestor figures are depicted in African statuary in poses which correspond to their role or refer to an event in popular mythology. Mogai (God) had divided up the animals between men and women. This mythical and collective conception of time made it an attribute of sovereignty. and have to live on the charity of those in whose name and the sorcerers who eat up doubles or cerkos as they are called in the Songhay and Zarma languages. Opposite page. to his successor. some It is in his double that a man's personality resides.

notably the Sorko. Sometimes even more positive efforts have been time. more elliptically. in or out. cele¬ brating a diploma or promotion. or. The rôle of the delegate was not to stifle the impatience of the younger group. made to try to calculate historical as mythical approach lies origins This may be linked with space. an ideal which consisted in sometimes secret groups. are still organized into five gene¬ rations. in which time is an enclosed space. And this conception is undoubtedly a dynamic one. as does not do away with its is attested by many pro¬ cessor. Proof of this is the striking differen¬ ces one sees even today between the time- past it is also an exhortation for the future. honouring magical counterparts or "doubles" known as holes and nature spirits whose favours they sought. This would make him a stubborn trace history back to the eighteenth cen¬ tury. The chains are produced from the mouths of the celebrants in the course of magical ceremonies. Ethical value is regarded as a sine qua non of the benefi¬ cent exercise of power.. there is an attempt to rationalize social development. for history is the developing life of a group. chain representing the dynastic line back to example. he disgorges the bears witness to this idea in many tales which depict despotic chiefs who are finally for modern activities such as building. arguing that the African only sees the world as a often linked to factors not connected with the individual. But it is not just a matter of crude material force. The people then saw them as oc¬ It must also be recognized at the that a of cult centres of decision depriving the na¬ tion of control over its own history. to increase the number of their children and wives and villages. But that does not mean.. dynamism. or condemned to do the same things over and over again. who have chains of gold. a beautiful girl with light-coloured hair who is supposed to emerge from the river's depths at nightfall and sit on the rocks to await her lover. that "he has drunk much water". Popular wisdom the time came. Myth then be the motive force of a history which was immobile. punished. calendar days. In the known periodicity. Every history starts In the same type of society. historical process was static In pre-state of systems moral the authority of Some people have thought that such a view of the and sterile. makes it possible to stereotyped reproduction of what has gone before. the followers of traditional African religions usually count themselves. It is the mark of a cer¬ while history is often a justification of the tain stage in economic and social develop¬ ment. and thus seeming to set before succeeding generations stereotyped exploits of public affairs or of chastising those who and brothers in the bush. each reigning for nine years. time re¬ mains something pragmatic and social. That is the main feature of African animism. and it is swallowed from the other end by his chosen suc¬ but time past. come only But with the the decisive spread of step will measured by special instruments. In this sense one may say that which well illustrates the strength of the African conception of mythical and social time. The Sorko. conducted them was vested in special. This vision of the world in which ethical values and requirements form an integral part of the ordering of the universe itself may appear mythical. in the origins of time. The female patron of the Sorko is Haraké. in so far as it conforms to a- when a period of short duration is referred to as a step. the organiza¬ tion into age-groups is of prime importance for establishing the people's history. tion of history itself lends it a historical between unknown. The for representing an ancestor and the whole Moosou (near Abidjan). These groups often constituted parallel ancestors. the one that would immediate¬ ly succeed it. but to channel their reckless energy so that it was not harmful to the communi¬ ty as a whole and did not impair the months. ended by clandestinely usurping official power. in references to a breath. Man dynamic. 14 . time is So it had to be controlled. every nation's history. But at the same time it played a disciple of the past. who devoured a whole hippopotamus at each meal and Power in Black Africa is often expressed by a word that means force or strength. This structure. right. and when a Sonianké patriarch dies. The conception of time as one sees jective influence on people's behaviour. The ideal of both the individual and the group is to defend themselves course. we for the African. much to the amazement of the onlookers. silver or copper. the Songhay empire. especially when these are recurrent. When he arrives she leads him beneath the Niger waters to a fabulous world of glittering cities where her marriage is consummated to the sound of tom-toms and stringed instruments.. such as the lo of repetition their of the doings and would the Senufo or the poro of Upper Guinea. a market where the forces that in¬ habit the world contend or conclude Time and the river Striking aerial photo of the Niger. But can African time be regarded as a historical time? Some people have said it cannot. the a Akan It has that.of Sonni Ali. though it greatly influences time present. it in African societies is certainly not inhe¬ rent in or consubstantial with some essen¬ especially on that of many African political leaders. It can also be linked to biology. flourished on the middle reaches of the Niger. shows jutting sandbanks narrowing the river's bargains. which It is a question of the vital energy contains various polyvalent forces swallowed ponds of water at a single gulp. Of course. even Sonni the Great. thus literally drawing the moral of history. the soil and the river. Africans are vividly aware of time past. in this context. They sometimes Even beneath the crust of tales and legends and the dross of myths. in the absence of the idea of a six weeks and nine generation. of a time. was dimension. climatic or social phenomena. The social nature of the African concep¬ specific rôle in the life of the societies savannah of the Sudan. overall the conception where African time is area man always carry on the struggle against the depletion and for the increase of his vital energy. may say From this point of view. But as we shall see. To indicate that a and were therefore fairly stable. It succeeded in unifying much of the western Sudan and became the centre of a brilliant civilization. Even in rural communities which knew no major technical innovation age by rainy seasons. is-money of African city-dwellers and time as it is understood by their contemporaries placing the perfect archetype capable guaranteeing conduct far back in the past. is not a prisoner marking the conflict would not degenerate into that (Fanti. month evolved a complex of seven a year with of week view or according to the belief of Islam. the generations conflict not man is old. and relations between the generations so structured that More developed systems of computation have been sometimes shown been attempted. though the existence of a literate class is no k guarantee that the whole people will r something black world. neutral and indifferent. have a rich mythology featuring such ancestral figures as the gluttonous giant Faran-Maka. one says how many rainy sea¬ sons he has lived through. He dies as soon as he has passed the chain over to whoever is to continue the line a concrete will and testament verbs. the air. The trading cities became Muslim but the great mass of the Songhay and the peoples of the empire lived outside the towns and remained attached to their ancestral beliefs. tially African nature. But it is off as religious history. historical thought cannot be confined to this one approach. In the 16th century a great State. African powers which could be appealed to outside the established system. The essential ele¬ ment in historical time is the idea of a deve¬ lopment starting from origins which are to be sought and examined. either in the traditional violent confrontation and sudden change. and the references then are to cosmic. But it exerted an ob¬ chain for the last time. In the of the can writing. who practised animism and invoked the spirits of against any diminution. The generation engaged in action sent one of its members as a delegate to the next Ashanti. each link ranging from physical integrity through younger group's ability to take over public responsibility when Alladians of chance to moral integrity. The Songhay and other peoples which constituted the empire were traders and farmers but also included fishing peoples of the Niger. justifying all his actions by saying "That was how our ancestors did it".) system. to improve their health and strength and the size of their fields and flocks. which was regularly re-aligned on mathematical and physical time made up of homogeneous units added together and the sun by methods that are not yet fully understood.

/ / if \ \ A .

once so close to his history that he seemed to be creating then it himself. Then accultu¬ ration changes the sense of individual and collective time into the mental schémas operative in the countries which influence Africans economically and culturally. But at least it makes it possible to establish certain points of reference around which that history shaped itself. But the greatest upheaval in time comes with the introduction of the world of profit. wives. and the amassing of money. African man. in microsocieties. daughters and sisters of kings is matched only by their prominence in African mythology. lower course of the Congo river and whose religion centres on veneration of their ancestors. whose values and ¡deals the black prophets were to make use of to change the course of events in their own countries. Boubou Hama and Joseph Ki-Zerbo E U S < m © 2 £ = S 2 The importance of women in African history as mothers. is confronted both with the risk of a colossal alienation and with the chance of being a co-author of world progress. The sculptor has succeeded in creating an expressive image by a combination of realism and stylization. The introduction of monotheistic religions rooted in another history has ser¬ ved to provide the mental image of the col¬ lective past with another. Note how the size of the head is emphasized in relation to that of the rest of the body. parallel set of models which can often be glimpsed in the background in various stories. For exam¬ ple.^ become aware of possessing a common history. Photo shows a wooden statue (57 cm high) of the mother-ancestor of the Kongo people who live around the. The Africans then see that it is money that makes History. 16 . the dynasties are often linked arbitrarily to the sources of Islam.

Many religious. the whole problem is whether we can place the same trust in the oral as in the written when it comes to evidence of things past. In short: the bond between man and the spoken word. the value of the chain of transmission he is part of. of whom it can be said: "they are the living memory of Africa. is the ac¬ tual value of the man who is giving the evidence. In societies that have opted for oral rather than written records. a work for which he received the 1974 Grand Prix of Black African Literature. Les Religions Africaines Traditionelles (Traditional African Religions) and L'Etrange Destin de Wangrin (Wangrin's Strange Destiny). Written or oral. combined to preserve thé faithfulness of oral transmission. study of African literature and ethnology and. he specializes in the the guardians of the collective memory hand down from one generation to the next stories and legends. In African traditions at least the ones I know. "What is oral tradi-r would be virtually impossible to overemphasize the importance of the oral tradition in Africa where. POWER OF THE SPOKEN WORD is symbolized by this ceremonial carved axe of the Lele people of Zaïre. it has been said. If a true African traditionalist were asked. His many books include L'Empire Peul du Macina (The Peut Empire of Macina). with a sacred character forces of associated deposited with in it. from master to disciple. In my view. and the price attached to the truth in a given society. Now it is in oral societies that the function of the memory is most highly developed and. This heritage is not yet lost. grand vector "aetheric" forces. Any authentic history of Africa must take the oral tradition as its raw material and approach it with the same objective rigour as other forms of historical evidence. What is involved. which pertain to the whole savannah zone south of the Sahara the spoken word had. then. 17 . furthermore. origin agent and in the occult Superlative magic. in particular. it is by word of mouth that AMADOU HAMPATE BA. but lies in the memory of the last generation of its great repositories. that is not the right way to put the problem. Founder and former director of the Mali Institute of Human Sciences. man is bound to the word he utters. Mal/an writer and diplomat. of the peoples of the Niger Bend. Where writing does not exist. therefore. society's moral values and religion as well as detailed accounts of actual events of yesterday or today. down through the ages. beyond its fundamental its divine moral value. it was not to be treated lightly." For some scholars. magical or social factors. the trustworthiness of the in¬ dividual and collective memory. The very cohesion of society depends on the value of and respect for the spoken word. behind the evidence itself.Tongues that span the centuries The faithful guardians of Africa's oral tradition by Amadou Hampâté Bâ WHEN we speak of African tradition or history we mean oral tradition. was a member of the Executive Board of Unesco from 1962 to 1970. It . evidence is in the end only human evidence and it is worth what the man is worth. He is committed by it. whenever an old man dies a whole library disappears with him. and no attempt at penetrating the history and spirit of the African peoples is valid unless it relies on that heritage of knowledge of every kind patiently transmitted from mouth to ear. the bond between man and the word is strongest. He Is his word and his word bears witness to what he is.

recreation. Then. the laws according to penetrate its secret. Man. is I " proclaims the cantor. The lock takes the form of an altar to the ancestors. That is why it weighs heavy. and then twenty-one years were spent in deeper and deeper study of it. It is at once religion. sum total of existing forces and possible knowledge. Maa later passed all that he had learned natural science. creator of all things. The oral tradition is able to put itself within men's reach. unveil itself in accor¬ dance with their aptitudes.tion?" he would probably be nonplussed. Maa Ngala wished to be known. Linked with the everyday behaviour of man and community. entertainment. Man. And so this new being. African oral tradition is not limited to stories and legends or even to mythological and historical tales. It is the instru¬ ment of creation: "That which Maa Ngala says. Oral tradition is the great school of life. history. On the edge of the sacred wood. it may baffle the Cartesian mind accustomed to dividing everything up into clear-cut categories. pre-eminent receptacle of the qualified guardian and transmitter. So he created Fan. or rather a particular presence in the world a world conceived of as a whole in which all things are linked together and interact. the gift of Mind and the Word. the first of the circumcised group would chant to a rhythmic beat: Maa Ngala! Maa Ngala! Who is Maa Ngala? Where is Maa Ngala? The Komo cantor would respond: Maa Ngala is infinite Force None can place him in time. That Being was a living Emptiness. knowledge. blowing a spark of his own fiery breath into the mixture. the central panel symbolize the flow of water and of speech. sprung from the remotest ancestors. He is Dombali (Unknowable) Dambali (Uncreated. "But alas! None of those first twenty creatures proved fit to become the interlocutor (Kuma-nyon) that Maa Ngala had craved. The two door-posts are decorated with turtles. Based on initiation and experience. He installed him as guardian of his Universe and charged him with watching over the maintenance of universal Harmony. what science does it teach. Infinite Time was the abode of that One Being. after the initiation. It involves a particular vision of the world.it gave birth to twen¬ ty marvellous beings that made up the whole of the universe. In oral tradition. A wondrous Egg with nine divisions. The One Being gave himself the name Maa Ngala. Maa Ngala taught Maa. Nor yet in space. through his name and through the divine spark introduced into him. 18 . and therefore we can say it has served to create a particular type of man. It is at once divine in the downward direction and sacred as it rises up¬ wards. and then. African tradition conceives of speech as a gift of God. is a fundamental force emanating from the Supreme Being himself Maa Ngala." wandering minstrel/poet is far from being its one and only Synthesis of all that exists. oral tradition engages man in his total being. speak to them according to their understanding. where Komo lives. The story of Genesis used to be taught during the sixty-threeday retreat imposed on the circumcised in their twenty-first year.. Maa. African culture is not. and who are its transmitters? Contrary to what some may think. "So he took a bit of each of those twenty existing creatures and mixed them. which all the elements of the cosmos were formed and continue to exist. Brooding potentially over contingent existences. Let us look at the traditions of the savannah to the south of the Sahara (what was formerly called the Bafour and constituted the savannah zones of former French West Africa). since any point of detail can always take us all the way back to primordial Unity. He might perhaps reply. the singing priest of the god Komo. all aspects of which are covered and affected by it. in fact. supreme Force and confluence of all existing forces. The rows of figures represent men and women from all over the world. the recital of the primordial genesis would begin: There was nothing except a Being. what knowledge does it transmit. he created a new Being. something abstract that can be isolated from life. "When this primordial Egg came to hatch. It may seem chaos to those who do not received as his legacy a part of the divine creative power. Kuma. his interlocutor. then. The Bambara tradition of the Komo (one of the great initiation schools of the Mande group of peoples of Mali) teaches that the Word. contained What does the term oral tradition cover. to sculpt the African soul. after a lengthy silence: "It is total knowledge".Infinite). The myth of the creation of the universe and of man which the Komo Master of Initiates (who is always a smith) teaches circum¬ cised youths reveals that when Maa Ngala felt a yearning for an interlocutor he created the First Man: Maa. spiritual and material are not dissociated. and say no more. Initiated by his creator. being Maa. apprenticeship in a craft. and the man whom the French call a "griot" a something of Maa Ngala himself. In Dogon lore a turtle replaces the patriarch of each family during his absence. to whom he gave a part of his own name: Maa. then? What realities does it convey. A wealth of cosmological meaning was carved into this granary door by 'a sculptor of the Dogon people of Mali. while chevrons at each side of the And Into It he introduced the nine fundamental States of existence.

the Word. Before setting to work he must touch each piece of the loom. while four cross-pieces symbolize the four collateral points. and man's behaviour both as regards himself and as regards the world around him (the mineral. Violation of the sacred laws was supposed to cause an upset in the balance of forces which would take expression in disturbances of different kinds. generally aimed at restoring the troubled balance." Good magic. speech. That is why speech. movements which generate forces. Speech may create peace. vegetable. therefore. because movement needs rhythm. magic. at the centre of these eight dimensions of space. that is because its harmony creates movements. manipulation of forces. Within this vast cosmic unity everything is connected. This is where the force of speech is decisive. animals and objects so as to put forces back into order. those forces then acting on spirits which themselves are powers for action. on to his descendants. of which it is an echo. Man had been set up as guardian by his Creator. not only creative power but a double function of saving and destroying. a thing neutral in itself which may prove helpful or harmful according to the direction it is given. the four vertical struts symbolize the elements (earth. placed in the middle. One ill-advised word may start a war just as one blazing twig may touch off a great conflagration. The movement of his feet to and fro on the pedal recalls the original rhythm of the creative word. The weaver weaves it. deriving its creative and operative power from the sacred. It is like fire. the magic of initiates and "master knowers". That is why most traditional oral societies consider lying as moral leprosy. as we have seen. In ritual songs and incantatory formulas. as it may destroy it. It is use of them that makes them good or bad. Photo shows a weaver of the Dogon people (Mali). uttering words or litanies which correspond to the forces of life embodied in them. or turns. re¬ establishing the harmony of which. They are activated and aroused by speech just as a man gets up. He cuts himself off from Y 19 . that is. aims at purifying men. The word "magic" is always taken in a bad sense in Europe whereas in Africa it simply means management of forces. air and fire) and the four cardinal compass-points. The visible universe is thought of and felt as the sign. while their gestures retrace the mystery of the creation. Speech must reproduce the to-and-fro that is the essence of rhythm. is in direct relation with the maintenance or the rupture of harmony in man and the world about him. speech above all. and that was the beginning of the great chain of initiatory oral transmission of which the order of Komo (unlike the orders of Nama. Therefore magic action. Kore. craftsmen accompany their work with ritual chanting. everything is bound solidly together. animal world and human society) is subject to a very precise ritual regulation. confers on Kuma. is the great active agent in African It must be borne in mind that in a general way all African tradi¬ tions postulate a religious vision of the world. It is said: "Neither magic nor fortune is bad in itself. which is itself based on the secret of numbers. The weavers know the secrets of their looms : of the eight main pieces of wood that constitute the frame. In the image of Maa Ngala's speech. water. goes an African saying that expresses the close relationship between traditions of craftsmanship and the power of the word. which may vary in form with the various ethnic groups and regions. In traditional Africa the man who breaks his word w kills his civil. In African tradition. consisting of forces in perpetual motion. According to tradition. religious and occult person. then. represents the first man."The smith forges the Word. But for spoken words to produce their full effect they must be chanted rhythmically. speech is the materialization of cadence. at the sound of his name. Maa. human speech sets latent forces into motion. Tradition. The leatherworker curries it smooth". The weaver. And if it is considered as having the power to act on spirits. the concretization or the outer shell of an invisible. and so on in Mali) claims to be a continuator. living universe.

the fisherman. they are called Domas or somas. which were called tubabu-dugus or towns of the whites meaning the colonizers. as they say. A Dogon Master qf the Knife from the Pignari country (Bandiagara district) whom I knew in my youth was once led to lie in order to save the life of a hunted woman whom he had hidden in his house. words which have this same sense of "knower". Keeper of the secrets of cosmic genesis and the sciences of life. the Nama. African tradition does not cut life in¬ to slices and the knower is rarely a specialist. gandos. one and the same old man will be learned not only in plant science (the good or bad properties of every plant) but in earth sciences (the agricultural or medicinal properties of the different kinds of soil). he is a well-regulated man. The cantor of the Komo Dibi at Koulikoro. But let us make no mistake. violation of which would lay them Given this way of looking at things. says the adage. the prin¬ cipal active agency of human life and of spirits. the Nya. the traditionalists were brushed aside if not actually pursued by the colonial. The tongue that falsifies the word Taints the blood of him that lies. power. to the best of my knowledge in all the traditions of the African savannah. Now we can better understand the magico-religious and social context of respect for the word in societies with an oral . Round about him things fall into line and disturbances subside. are bound to respect the truth. For example. More than all other men the traditionalist-cfomas. for as Master Initiates they are the great holders of the Word. the Nyawarole. reflection of cosmic unity. and so on. the "knowers". the importance traditional African education attaches to self-control can be better 20 . says the adage." In Fulani. will pro¬ bably have vanished. ac¬ cording to region. psychology. is often also the archivist of past events transmitted by tradition or of con¬ temporary events. basic rules required by the gods. "I have it from my father". If the traditionalist or knower is so because. passed down Its religious attachment to all that has been out in phrases like "I have it from my comes Master". What is involved is a science of life in which knowledge can always be turned to practical use. astronomy.) or may possess complete knowledge of the tradition in all its aspects. They. More than all others. Inwardly in good patrimony of a people will go down into oblivion with them and a order. the shepherd's. After that incident he voluntarily resigned his office. When a man thinks one thing and says another he cuts himself off from himself. "You cannot dress a person's hair when he is away". One must be accurate with it. silatiquls. "Who spoils his word spoils himself". great and of the forces that inhabit him. since he must never lie. the hunter. the Do. usually gifted with a prodigious memory. creating discord in and around him. and doubtless elsewhere too. As a rule he is a generalist.himself and from society. they are called. They may be Master Initiates (and Masters of Initiates) in one particular traditional branch (initiations of the smith. evidence and their If we do not make haste to gather their the whole cultural and spiritual would make his tenure valid. all the last old men who have inherited the various branches of the tradition. especially when it comes to transmitting words inherited from ancestors or elders. He breaks the sacred unity. the Komo. which needless to say under interdict and make it impossible for them to continue to fulfil their function. It is better both for himself and for his family that he should die rather than go on living. The great repositories of this oral heritage are the persons who are called "traditionalists". quit the large towns. to begin with. "Neither in a planted field nor in a fallow does one sow". the domas are bound by this obligation. sought to uproot local tradition in order to implant its own ideas for. master rootless younger generation be abandoned to its own devices. Therefore necessarily a history on intended the to be essentially African of must depend irreplaceable testimony qualified Africans. "makers of knowledge. or tchioriknes. and water sciences. the weaver. and so on. In ten or fifteen years all the last great domas. "I sucked it at my mother's breast". the living memory of Africa. Here blood symbolizes the inner vital force whose harmony is disturbed by the lie. the traditionalist. the weaver's. or donikebas. give the best evidence as to Africa.tradition. the Diarra Wara. Generally speaking. cosmogony. arid there are also great initiation schools in the savannah in Mali. deeming that he no longer fulfilled the ritual conditions which Yet in the countries of the African savannah that made up the Bafour. Who are these masters? In Bambara. sang in one of his ritual poems: Speech is divinely accurate. small. there still exist knowers who continue to transmit the sacred deposit to those who consent to listen and learn and show themselves worthy of receiving instruc¬ tion by their patience and their discretion. for instance. For that reason initiation usually took refuge in the bush and This ritual prohibition exists. the Kore. respected in Africa it is teaching. For them lying is not merely a moral blemish but a ritual ban. Thus there are domas who know the blacksmith's science. he respects himself. in Mali. The thing traditional Africa holds dearest is its ancestral heritage. etc.

in the ¡mage of the primordial Maa who con¬ tained within him. In the language of the Bambara the word Fan. who know how to teach by amusing and by putting themselves within their au¬ dience's tainers." He will pay* 21 . It is capped by two birds." By contrast. Iron staff of office for a priest. provided the ancestors with an opportunity to transmit to the young. submissive and orderly. was produced at Ife (Nigeria). to whom the mysteries of the forge were revealed by his creator. like the smelting furnace and other work-places. the discipline of truth does not exist. "The dieli'. no African from a traditionalist background would dream of questioning the veracity of what a traditionalist-t/oma says. even grossly. who owes it to so-and so. Of a respected knower or a man who is master of himself people will say: "He's a Maa!" (or in Fulani a Naddo): that is. bottom left. and as we shall see later tradition recognizes their right to travesty or embellish the facts. one above the other. a complete man. who with minstrels. the first man. of the story-tellers dieli and and public enter¬ The are usually woloso castes. Left.As the "Master of Fire" and possessor of the secret of transmutations. Before speaking. ones born in the house) or house-captives were servants or servant families attached for generations to one household. the group's cultural values. Maa Ngala. For these. so long as they con¬ trive to divert or interest their public. often through play. Far left. wolosos (literally. reach. finely carved pair of bellows from Gabon surmounted by a representation of a human head. is the same as that denoting the Egg from which the universe emerged at the moment of creation. meaning forge. the smith's skills go back to Maa. people say. We must not confuse the traditionalist-cfomas. understood. To speak sparingly is the mark of a good education and the sign of nobility. the doma out of deference addresses the souls of former men and asks them to come to his aid and save him from a slip of the tongue or a lapse of memory that would make him leave something put. Tradition allowed them complete freedom of gesture and speech as well as considerable material rights over their masters' possessions. A traditionalist-cfoma who is not a smith by birth but knows sciences relating to the forge will say before talking of it: "I owe k that to so-and-so. to contain the forces that are in him. the smith plays a major role in African oral culture. According to the tradition of the Bambara people of Mali. especially when it is a matter of passing on knowledge in¬ herited from the chain of ancestors. all the forces of the cosmos. etc. Very early the young boy learns to master the expression of his emotions or his suffering. "is allowed to have two tongues. a young apprentice of the Dogon people (Mali) keeps the smithy fire alive by working the bellows. for this "Primordial Egg" was the first sacred forge. The forge.

discretion and control of one's speech. without being gulled by them. though it gives him a certain inclination in that direction. as I indicated earlier. That is why oral tradition taken as a whole is something more than the transmission of stories or of certain kinds of knowledge.t homage to the ancestor of the smiths. the grand Master of the Knife in the Komo initiation is always a smith. the maxim adds. he will Tradition confers a special social status on die/is. Speech is then inoperative. In fact the gestures of each craft reproduce in a symbolism proper to each one the mystery of the primal creation. but we take it as it is. The traditional artisanal crafts are great vectors of the oral tradi¬ tion. are the province of the dieli. useful as it may be. Nor does it make him learned in traditional matters. merely answer: "So-and so taught it to me like that!" always holiest things without its mattering. Such dielis seldom belong to a household. and they en¬ joy a very great freedom of speech. Generally speaking the dieli caste is the one farthest struments or tools of a craft give material form to the sacred words. that all this is a matter of general In sacred or occult character. virtues and wisdom. he knows what kind of vegetation covers the earth where it contains a particular metal and he can detect a lode of gold merely by examining plants and pebbles. like any member of any social if his aptitudes category. so a dieli. Who are they? They can be divided into three categories: the musicians. occasionally. Indeed. Transmitted through the chain. For there are things that are not to be explained but are experienc¬ ed and lived. 22 . who is both extractor and smelter of metal The secret of the die/is' power and influence over the horons (nobles) resides in their knowledge of genealogy and family history. This notion of respect for the chain or respect for transmission means that the non-acculturated African will generally tend to report a story in the very form in which he heard it. only conversation or storytelling. great historians. of the dieli who. who is not allowed to go back on his word or change a decision overnight. a knower far from it. A dieli will even shoulder responsibility for a fault he has not committed in order to remedy a situation or save face for the nobles. is not always lived. be called traditionalists. historians or poets (or men who are all three in one). especially when it concerns knowledge associated with an initiation. and often history as well. human activities often had a they circulate in the body of society. whereas the inherited knowledge of the oral tradition is embodied in the entire being. What is learned at the Western school. It generates and forms a particular type of man. The dielis took part in all the battles in history at the side of their Word. with the tip of his elbow on the ground and his forearm raised. particularly those activities that consist in acting on matter and transforming it. They may act uninhibitedly. be attached to a family. permit and gone through the corresponding initiations (with the exception. they can if need to live the initiation that corresponds to them and accept its rules. since everything is regard¬ ed as alive. and soon. The leather-worker curries it smooth. and they never abuse the rights they have been granted by custom. Always there is reference to the chain in which the doma troubadour or minstrel who may wander about the country or may himself is but one link. which is cured or falls ill ac¬ cording to whether they temper or exacerbate conflicts with their words and songs. an additional guarantee of authenticity is provided by permanent control by the peers or who keep a jealous guard on the without being held to account. Far from it. specializing in family history and often endowed with prodigious memories. of the Komo initiation. which is forbidden him). and. The whole difference between modern education and oral not the only persons with such knowledge. his mastery of the secrets of fire and iron make him the only person entitled to perform circum¬ cision. can if he become has a shepherds'. Authorized to have "two tongues in their mouth". and their very gestures are con¬ sidered a language. is linked with experience and in¬ fabrications mouth". gives him praise by repeating the name of his The smith must have knowledge covering a vast sector of life. from the original transmission on. It has often been wrongly supposed that the die/is were the only possible traditionalists. the The opportunity to become knowers any more than to anyone is not closed to them. else. who wants to get close to African religious facts condemns himself to remaining on the outer edge of the subject unless he consents groups. This would be impossible for a noble. "That's what the dieli says! It isn't the true truth. masters. The smelting smith. That is why the researcher. traditionalist (the traditional knower in the true sense of the term) can be at the same time a great genealogist and historian. traditionalist-cfo/ra If the occult esoteric sciences are the apanage of the Master of the Knife and the cantor of the gods. though. admittedly. as we have seen. a force that makes it ambassadors and courtiers. It is said: The smith forges the Word. which. tradition lies there. operative and sacramental. even impudently. tradition accepts the authenticity of what they transmit and pick up their slightest error. They can sometimes tell brazen lies tachment to a chain of transmission. tales which enliven popular recreation. Traditional education. dieli. but with this reservation. they have the right to be shameless. the weavers' civilization. have quite naturally become as it were the archivists of African society and. If there is nb regular transmission there'is no magic. naming his source. and they sometimes joke about the gravest. For the African. be unsay what they have already said without being held to strict account. The weaver weaves it. Some dielis have been real specialists in this. that theirs is a purely historical branch of tradition and that tradi¬ tion has many branches. the dielis are the natural agents in these exchanges. I should say at once. crouching in token of as well as lyric poetry. And indeed like blood traditional African society. whose courage they inspired by recalling their high pedigree and the high exploits of their forefathers. Traditional craftsmen accompany their work with ritual chants or sacramental rhythmic words. knowledge Every artisanal function was linked with an esoteric transmitted from generation to generation and characteristics only and that dielis are not all necessarily impudent or shameless. a sort of allegiance. aided by the prodigious memory illiterate persons have. But let us keep in mind that they are womb of the Earth (mineralogy) and the secrets of plants and the bush. Unlike the borons (nobles). The historian dielis can. has "a torn Since African society is fundamentally based on dialogue bet¬ ween individuals and discussion between communities or ethnic tegrated into life. Their Bambara name. which presupposes at the very least a knowledge of the language. but travel throughout the country in quest of more and more extensive historical information. Even today one greets him and lineage. If contradicted. One can say that there is the smiths' civilization. and the genealogists. The in¬ The fact of being born a dieli does not necessarily make a man a historian. European or African. Among them there are men who are call¬ originating in an initial revelation. Since he is reputed to be an occultist. Just as a doma- however. They are under no compulsion either to be discreet or to hold the Beyond the traditionalist-cfomas' personal integrity and their at¬ truth in absolute respect. who are usually also storytellers and great travellers. removed from matters connected with initiation those requiring silence." This maxim shows well elders who surround them. the evocation of his family name has great power. means blood. music on the other hand. To all the skills of the founder he unites a perfect knowledge of the Sons of the It is easy to see how the genealogist dielis. though. the In all branches of traditional knowledge the chain of transmis¬ sion is of supreme importance. morality. enough how. was bound up with the power of the ed dieli-faamas These are in no way inferior to noblemen when it comes to courage. The craft or the traditional function can be said to sculpt man's being. it is supposed to con¬ vey. the apprentice's contact with the craft obliges him to live the word with every gesture he makes. is the one who \s furthest advanced in knowledge.

The dieli who is also a t/oma-traditionalist constitutes an ab¬
solutely reliable source of information, for his being an initiate con¬

fers a high moral value on him and makes him subject to the pro¬ hibition against lying. He becomes another man. He is the "dieli-

king" whom people consult for his wisdom and his knowledge and
who, albeit able to entertain, never abuses his customary rights.
Generally speaking, one does not become a cfoma-traditionalist

by staying in one's village. The man who travels discovers and lives
other initiations, notes the differences or similarities, broadens the

scope of his understanding. meetings, hears historical

Wherever he goes he takes part in and lingers where he finds a


transmitter of tradition who is skilled in initiation or in genealogy;

in this way he comes into contact with the history and traditions of
the countries he passes through.
One can say that the man who has become a cfoma-traditionalist has been a seeker and a questioner all his life and will never cease
to be one.

The African of the savannah used to travel a great deal.
result was exchange and circulation of knowledge.


That is why

the collective historical memory in Africa is seldom limited to one
territory. Rather it is linked with family lines or ethnic groups that

have migrated across the continent.

Many caravans used to plough their way across the country, us¬

ing a network of special routes traditionally protected by gods and
kings, routes where one was safe from pillage or attack. To do

otherwise would have meant exposing oneself either to a raid or to the risk of violating, unawares, som'e local taboo and paying the
consequences dearly. Upon arrival in a strange country travellers

would go and "entrust their heads" to some man of standing who
would thereby become their guarantor, for "to touch a guest is to touch the host himself."

The great genealogist is necessarily always a

great traveller.

Thus Molom Gaolo, the greatest genealogist I have been privileged
to know, possessed the genealogy of all the Fulani of Senegal.

When his great age no longer allowed him to go abroad he sent his
son Mamadou Molom to carry on his survey of the Fulani families

that had migrated through the Sudan (Mali) with El Hadj Omar.
When I knew Molom Gaolo, he had succeeeded in compiling and
retaining the history of about forty generations.

He had the habit of going to every baptism and every funeral in the leading families so as to record the circumstances of deaths and births, which he would add to the list already filed in his

astonishing rnemory. Fulani:

So he was able to declaim to any important

"You are the son of So-and-so. . . Each of them died at such

and such a place of such a cause and was buried in such and such

a spot", and so on.

Or else:

"So-and-so was baptized on a certain
Of course all

day at a certain hour by the Marabout So-and-so..."

this information was and still is orally transmitted and recorded by
the genealogist's memory alone. People have no idea of what the

memory of an "illiterate" can store up.

A story once heard is

graven as if on a matrix and can then be produced intact, from the
first word to the last, whenever the memory calls on it.

Molom Gaolo died at the age of 105, around 1968 I believe.


son Mamadou Gaolo, now 50, lives in Mali where he is carrying on

his father's work by the same purely oral means, being himself illiterate. Everyone is something of a genealogist in Africa, and capable of

going far back in his own family tree.
had no "identity card." who did not know at

If not, it would be as if he

In Mali in olden times there was no one least ten or twelve generations of his

Photo Naud © A.A.A. Photo, Paris

But today the great problem of traditional Africa is in fact the break in transmission. Fleeing the large towns, initiation has taken

A griot, or musician-entertainer, chants one of his
stories to the accompaniment of the kora, a traditional instrument of the Malinke people of West Africa. The griots are among the transmitters of the oral tradition which is the very fibre of African

refuge in the bush where, because of the attraction of the large
towns and because of the new needs, the old men find fewer

docile ears to which they can transmit their teaching. For the oral tradition and all that bears on it, therefore, we stand

history. Above all else they are popular performers
who take liberties with words which are strictly forbidden for the other custodians of the oral
tradition, known as domas, who embody the

today in the presence of the last generation of great depositories.
That is why the work of collecting must be intensified over the next ten or fifteen years, after which the last great living monuments of

African culture will have vanished, and with them the irreplaceable
treasures of a special kind of education, at once material,

solemnity of the spoken word.

psychological and spiritual, based on a feeling for the unity of life the sources of which are lost in the night of time.
Amadou Hampâté Ba


The Hamitic
myth exploded
Modern findings have refuted
a once-prevalent theory

on the peopling of the African continent
by Dmitri A. Olderogge

that the



Africa had

According to these writers, the spread of
cultural achievements was due mainly to

by that of the Habashat and the Mehri. The
last to come were the Arabs, in the seventh
century. All these peoples brought with








migrations. Africa


original of



own, nor any evolution that was particular¬



races the

them to Africa many elements of civiliza¬









Pygmies and the San possessing virtually
no elements of culture. Then, from south¬

tion that were quite unknown before their

cultural achievement was thought to have
been brought to them from elsewhere, by




in migratory

In linguistics, the Hamitic theory began
to emerge parallel with the theories of the




coming from Asia.



Such convictions are reflected in the works
of many nineteenth-century European

waves; they spread all over the Sudanese
savannah and penetrated into the

cultural-historic shool. The founder of this
theory, C. Meinhof, held that the ancestors of the present-day San were the original in¬ habitants of Africa, that they spoke

scholars. These views provided is known linguists with as the a

equatorial forest,

bringing with them the

beginnings of agriculture, the cultivation of
bananas and root tubers, the use of

basis for what theory,


languages with the click consonants and,


to which

the develop¬

wooden implements and bows and arrows,
and the building of round and square huts.
They were followed, so the theory main¬



that they belonged to a par¬
type. The Negritos, con¬

ment of civilization in Africa was influenced
by the Hamitic peoples who came from



sidered to be the original inhabitants of the tropical and Sudanese region, spoke

Asia. This theory reflects the influence of


by waves




the ideas of Hegel, who divided the peoples







from Asia, but in this case from regions fur¬
ther north than those where the Negritic







to the

monosyllabic roots. Subsequently Hamitic peoples came into the Sudan from Arabia by way of North Africa. These newcomers spoke inflected languages; they engaged in cattle-breeding and, from the cultural point of view, were on a much higher level than















historical peoples, who had taken no part
in the spiritual development of the world.
According to Hegel, there was no real








digenous peoples of Africa the use of the







the Negritos. Some of the Hamite invaders,
however, traversed the savannahs of East
Africa and cross-bred with the indigenous population to produce peoples speaking



in Africa



sorghum and other cereals, the rearing of

destinies of the northern fringes of the con¬

small-horned cattle, and so on. The cross¬

tinent could be said to be linked to those of
Europe. As a Phoenician colony, Carthage was an appendage of Asia and there was




resulted in the




the Bantu languages.

Bantu peoples.

nothing of the African spirit in Egypt.
The next arrivals were successive waves

In short, this pattern can be reduced to a
film in four sequences. At the outset, there were, the click languages and these were
followed by the highly rudimentary

It was in Asia, said Hegel, that the light of the spirit dawned and the history of the
world began. This was considered to be

of fair-skinned Hamites, coming into Africa

through the Suez isthmus and across the
Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. They were said to

isolating languages spoken by the Negritic


Asia as







ancestors Bari, Galla




peoples of the Sudan. The mixture of these
languages with the Hamitic languages pro¬ duced the Bantu group of languages of the superior agglutinative type. Finally, the

of. mankind





from which emerged all the peoples who invaded Europe and Africa. Hegel's ideas

peoples and also of the Khoi-Khoi.












Africa, large-horned cattle, spears, multiple
uses of skins and hides, shields, and so on.







almost all the scientific research done on Africa in the nineteenth century. The

querors introduced the inflected languages which were eminently more developed.

These fair-skinned Hamites,

it was main¬



historical school of thought

tained, came originally from the steppes of
western Asia. The next migratory wave brought the




which by



repudiated the theory of a uniform, overall
development of mankind and advanced a

and was



many linguists



diametrically opposed theory,


the existence of different cycles of civiliza¬ tion, differentiated by intrinsic elements

Semitic peoples,

who provided the basis

western Europe and beyond. In the period between the two World

for the development of the culture of an¬ cient Egypt. They brought with them the
cultivation of cereals, the use of the plough
and various objects of bronze. They were

derived from a mainly material culture.

Wars, however, all these theories collaps¬









of Australopithecus raised the first





by the arrival of the

doubts. Other discoveries followed and arew

egyptologist and specialist in

the history and

Hyksos and the Hebrews and, in Ethiopia,

still constantly being made, not only in theP

social and cultural anthropology of Africa.

corresponding member of the USSR Academy

of Sciences, he is the author of several books
and studies including Western Sudan, Peoples

This black Hermes, from the mid-2nd century AD, was found
in the Antonine baths at Carthage, Tunisia.
Photo W. Hugentobler © Musée D'Ethnographie, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

of Africa and The Hamitic Question in African











of all the stages in the develop¬ found that the Neolithic era at the latitudes ment of man. the theory about plements. This A ustralopithecus. These Mediterranean Near East. We may expect that some chronological tabulations may subsequently be made Neanderthal man and Homo Sapiens suc¬ discovery completely alters the relationship between African development. Kenya and Ethiopia. The remains world and especially the the peopling of the Old World is completely discredited. the ceeded one another.1 from a wall painting in the tomb of Ipi at Thebes. that the chaeological remains.000 years old. in Tanzania. Africa must be discoveries proved that it would be totally discovered in the moun¬ recognized as the centre from which men and techniques were disseminated in one wrong to deny that Africa had an en¬ tainous regions of Tassili N'Ajjer and also at Tadrart-Acacus in the borderland between dogenous cultural development. All these discoveries combined to show.southern part of Africa. Ex¬ amination of the traces of hearths and the remnants of ceramics discovered. including those of such pharaohs as Ramses III. more particularly. specimens of of the Sahara and the Sahel dates back much further than was thought. Instead. chronology (based on the form and treat¬ ment of objects and their position in the various geological strata) has now been without any possibility of error. Khefren. towards the east. Pithecanthropus. the provide striking im¬ Algeria and Libya are quite conclusive. the rock paintings and petroglyphs in the Atlas mountains. For instance. waves of immigrants are of the pattern of the cultural evolution of the African peoples has been completely transformed. shows eras we find evidence of a reversal of this trend with migratory currents flowing back evidence with plications. From these findings we may II M I * Over 3. Photo © Louvre Museum. The picture of research done on the organic remains found in Lower Nubia in camps going back to the Neolithic age. In later respect. From the results ob¬ tained it has been possible to draw the con¬ cording to which Africa was populated by consecutive untenable. quence. Thus. relative than the Neolithic age in the countries of the Maghreb and is contemporary with that of southern Europe and Cyrenaica. Dmitri A. Olderogge in 6000 BC. In this of the key periods in the development of mankind (the lower Palaeolithic). Egypt. most far-reaching that the people were already using pottery to the continent of Africa. Zoser and Thutmosis III. each with their im¬ more precise. Paris 26 . in southern Africa and in the Sahara. development of man in all his racial variety took place in Africa. Figures with similarly negroid features frequently appear in ancient Egyptian effigies of persons of every rank. In fact. However. in unbroken chronological se¬ clusion that people already gathered and prepared grain from wild cereals in the thir¬ teenth millennium before our era. it has been Africa is the only continent where there is evidence. from the most distant eras right through to the Neolithic age. any theories ac¬ Of particular significance are the results supplemented by absolute chronology bas¬ ed on such scientific methods as carbon-14 and potassium-argon dating. but also in North There is no longer the faintest shadow of doubt about the great age since of ar¬ conclude that the Neolithic age in Tassili N'Ajjer and the Ennedi is apparently older Africa and. this portrait of a girl holding a duck and a papyrus stem is a detail .

Ethiopia. which afford vivid of the New Stone Age Rock paintings that present but tantalizing glimpses of a society and its natural environment many thousands of years before climatic changes made the region largely a dazzling pageant of African prehistory uninhabitable. Orange Free State. on the east by the Red Sea. Ngwane. in in Nubia.\ Photo Maximilien Bruggmann © La Spirale. helped to preserve them and turn The two most important areas are the Sahara and southern Africa. of in finds cliffs occur. one reason is that at the period in question they were nothing of the kind. in Tibesti the Transvaal. of thousands of carvings and ranges. on the south by the tropical forest and on the west dian Ocean and the Atlantic which includes years. the Vaal River area and river basins and forest are far lowlands less rich of in the this Examples are found to the south of Oran and in the Tassili N'Ajjer area in Algeria. Switzerland Horses and (possibly) antelopes disport themselves in this prehistoric painting on stone at Jabbaren. Malawi. Lausanne. in the Fezzan (Libya) . hundreds of sites or have Lesotho. Botswana. plus the dryness of the air. As to why it should have occurred I 27 . the in the Tichit highlands of Dhar (Mauritania) became so. the hundreds paintings. When they equatorial respect. this in itself. discovered at hundreds of sites in the Sahara since the last century. for instance. depressions. As to why there should have been this flowering in the deserts and steppes. zone In the areas where the largest number located uplands. On the next eight pages we present a selection of Old masters masterpieces incised or painted on living rock by African artists in prehistoric times. Most of our illustrations are details from the mysterious frescoes. Tassili N'Ajjer (Algeria). by Joseph Ki-Zerbo AFRICAN mainly uplands mountain prehistoric in the high art is found and The by the Atlantic. The other main area is in the tapering part of southern Africa bounded by the In¬ them into natural museums. with particularly significant finds in the of the and continent. In the zone and at Mocamedes (Angola). plateaus been found. on sites are edges mainly of the the (Chad) . in Air and Ténéré (Niger) . In the Sahara. in southern Morocco. containing tens perhaps Namibia and the Republic of South Africa. objects have been found that had lain undisturbed for thousands of l bounded on the north by the Atlas Moun¬ tains.

This technique foreshadows straint than it is today and both provided and imposed the general framework of ex¬ istence. The colours were applied with the fingers. grassy use crude ladders whilst not realistic. our first approach be associated with religious purposes. At Oued Djerat there is a Horse period painting 9 metres long on a steeply sloping ceiling. a rhinoceros is carved on a rock with a that rough surface and angular ridges reproduce the animal's typological reference point. perhaps milk. is naturalistic on the vegetation. Similarly in the Leeufontein area. It is hardly more than a egg. are deeply carved with a heavy. Although some authors consider that its origins go back to the Mesolithic.5 metres high. The natural rock is used very appositely. Delicate effects are achieved by hollowing technological adjuncts. With only this minimal equipment. carvings are earlier than paintings. At l-n-ltinen. the together. Making these carvings must sometimes have called for distinct athletic ability. stout horns. Modern scholars have named the most folding. on the other hand. and other colours. for peoples without our denote an initiatory or instructional aim. as though flourished during a period of humid The pulling horse (Equus cabal/us) sometimes a chariot. the casein in which is an ex¬ cellent binder. The elephant at Bardai (Chad) is delineated with a single light line. Four major series are thus named after the Bubalus. The ingredients were ground to a fine powder with a pestle and mortar. or from smoke and burnt fat. This or necessitated even scaf¬ in about 1500 BC. The groove is either V-shaped. most easily defensible and within reach of water and game. where both exist. Incised between them is and brown. This period is also characterized by elephants and on certain walls suggest that the artists first carved and then painted. and at some of the Tassili sites. it is common towards the beginning of the Christian era. It has become customary to call the major periods of rock art by the name of an animal which thus provides a oblong block whose shape it exactly fits (West Transvaal). The creator of bones. It appears around 4000 BC. there is an signature these Sometimes corrections are made without k erasing the original lines: giving oxen withf 28 . white obtained from kaolin. pair of with a magnificent lyre- shaped horns. for instance. with feathers. damp sand possibly being used as an abrasive. It was this last pro¬ cess that was responsible for the outlines of hands still to be seen on rock faces and which are a on kind of authenticating masterpieces. kind of enormous buffalo which. The camel brings up the rear of naturalistic Bubalus style. carvings with broadly incised outlines are thought to reason is that these were the best habitats. Some of the oldest works of African rock art show the tropical animals that rhinoceroses. The ox is either Bos ibericus (or brachyceros) with short. the Horse and the Camel. The "flying gallop" gait. makes its appearance it was wished to avoid the lower levels climate when the Sahara was a region of lakes and rivers bordered by luxuriant within the people's of reach. lifelike line. but it brings out the essentials. the elephant 4. the Ox. and then made up with a liquid. for instance. This sketch. latex or zinc oxide. There by means a of a are also yellows. and in granite and quartzite as well. The horns of this specimen (1) engraved in the rock at this historical caravan. If we are to fit prehistoric art finds into an intelligible time-scale. By now we are well into the period of history when the hip¬ popotamus disappears from rock pain¬ Traces of workshops have been found. Carving was done in Oued Mathendous (Libya) measure 72 cm from tip to tip. dates from the Rock paintings should not be considered in isolation from carvings. or with brushes made of the rhinoceros at Ganoa (Tibesti). or Bos africanus. rich in game and fish. no doubt denoting the end of peren¬ nial water. animal droppings. specimens of which been found near the carvings. the softer sandstone rocks. It is depicted from the beginning of rock art (around 7000 BC) to about 4000 BC.OLD MASTERS OF THE NEW STONE AGE on the edges of the upland valleys. an animal found in its natural state only in Africa. ancient style of this art after the Bubalus antiquus (a type of buffalo with massive Fezzan it is highly stylized. Outline carvings beginning of the Quaternary. mixed -> sharpened stone with Neolithic have hammerstone. The notches were made either with a stone axe or a piece of very hard wood. trte figure is sometimes produced by carv¬ ing it entirely in intaglio. or shaped like a U and taken down to a depth of about a centimetre. ar¬ tistic work sometimes called for feats of athletic prowess. animal hairs fixed to sticks with tendons. For instance. honey or cooked bone-marrow. was more of a con¬ and highly polishing some internal surfaces to represent the shades of animals' coats or their loads. The bubalus (Bubalus antiquus) was a precisely carapace. The paintings are either western track from Morocco to the Sudan. (2) The giraffe. They were also sprayed on by squirting the liquid from the mouth. Indeed. and so is explains the brightness of the tints after all these thousands of years. struck Sahara in Neolithic times. whereas on the eastern "road" from the monochrome or polychrome. African the bas-reliefs of Pharaonic Egypt. with straw or chew¬ ed wood spatulas. such as Tissoukai. is so frequently depicted that specialists believe that it must have proliferated in the ochres. like a cameo. The elephants at In Galjeien (Mathendous) and In Habeter II. whilst delicately grooved carvings possibly must be geological and ecological since the environment. At Oued Djerat. or else white of precision of the technique is brilliant. and black ground calcined extracted from charcoal. Introduced into The relatively extensive range of colours is based on certain basic tones such as red Egypt by the Persian conquest about 500 BC. horns. Here again. a giraffe is carved on an rock art dates essentially from the Neolithic. In general. and the beginn¬ ings of a rhinoceros 8 metres long. violets. now long extinct) although other animals such as elephants and rhinoceroses (see next double page) are also found depicted in the semi- tings. valleys and wooded mountain slopes. In central and southern Africa. paintings begin more than 4 metres from the ground. greens. obtained from iron oxide an ostrich. dripping. according to the palaeontologists. little flat grind¬ stones have been dug up along with tiny grinders to reduce the rock to powder and also little pans of paint.

Lausanne. antelopes and mouflons (wild sheep) are thought to belong to a later stage than the Bubalus style. prehistoric man had learned to dominate and control livestock in a Sahara of villages and encampments. a3»jfc£ 29 . also at Enneri Blaka. (3) Graceful portrait of a horse.) Photos Maximilien Bruggmann Switzerland ' La Spirale. (4) By the time this tranquil pastoral scene at Sefar (Algeria) was painted.this masterwork at Enneri Blaka (Niger) made sure that the markings of each animal's coat. (Note the dwelling at right of painting. were subtly different from those of the rest. realistically rendered by intricate patterns of tiny dots hammered into the rock. The mouflon with powerful horns (5) at Ti N'Zoumaitak (Algeria) is surrounded by curious forms including a jellyfish-like creature (right) and a strange animal with a human nose (left). Paintings of horses.

trees are found. with its our continent. guenons ostriches. Lhote has found hip¬ enormous to 3 metres across. since it superimposes an interpreta¬ tion of a single observer from another and the Sahara of the prehistoric paintings must have been a great expanse of did not escape. African prehistoric art must be inter¬ preted by reference to indigenous values parkland with Mediterranean vegetation. each image shows a real knowledge of the animal and a flair for precise observation. In the Horse and cultural pattern. Photos Maximilian Bruggmann © La Spirale. space and culture fails to provide an Sudanic Sahel biotope. Two puzzling images that have so far defied all attempts at explanation are the two-headed cow (Sefar) in photo 5 and the even more intriguing representation of a cow with two hindquarters and no head (Oued Mathendous) in photo 6. and so answer to a problem that we are entitled to look elsewhere for the solution. all sides radiocarbon dated to about 3100 BC. Lausanne. varied fauna. 3 and 4) bring out three distinctive techniques of representing the same animal. sweeping curves convey the intensity of movement in this silhouette of a woman with a bowl (Sefar. Photo 3 shows a painted rhino at Oumet el Ham (Mauritania). traces of which have survived to this day. With photo 7. Traps are civilization with quite different symbols and codes. some representations of "This kind of art is a sign language. It is a set of graphic symbols and to read it one needs some of which are identifiable. a bridge between reality and idea. "Josephine sold by her sister". "and to read it we need a key". this kind of art is a sign language. Shelters in areas that are now desert are peopled with a teeming. reminders of the perennial duel between man and beast. the main drawback is our ignorance day Noah's Ark or a petrified zoo. which confirms the historical accuracy of (for in¬ stance) the group of hippopotamuses Mellen. such as palm-trees. Even large animals like the elephant and suchlike. This environment gradually gave way to a nearly everywhere associated with the symbols of hunters in a very original and it is only when the local environment of time. it constitutes a a key. In (2) the essential outlines of the rhino's body are traced with a thick. extinct up buffalo. no doubt indicating oases. distorts them from the tities of vegetation daily is another indicator outset. writes Prof. showing silhouetted dancers from a prehistoric site at the Tsisbab Ravine (South Africa) it draws attention to the seeming kinship between specimens of Saharan rock art and that of southern Africa whose artists also worked within a figurative tradition. "Man pulling teeth". felines like the cheetah and the aardwolf. More than any other in Rhodesian style is full of drawings of trees art be regarded as the illustrated edition of the first African history book? fact. That is why it is important not to make over-hasty inter¬ pretations by omitting the descriptive stage in which the sign language itself is sub¬ jected to formal analysis. four horns. Tassili N'Ajjer. Photos on these pages illustrate some of the conundrums facing specialists as they try to interpret these beautiful but baffling images and explain the interplay of styles. Algerian Sahara). Portraits of a rhinoceros (2. techniques and influences which may connect them. In southern Africa the northern or The term "petroglyph" has been coined To what extent can African prehistoric for rock pictures. (8) One of the most celebrated frescoes in southern Africa (also at the Tsisbab Ravine) depicts a socalled "White Lady" accompanied by figures painted yellow. This profusion of hunting scenes from Providing African rock paintings with captions such as "Justices of the Peace". Photo 1. i. It is thought that the white colouring may indicate ritual make-up. In the present state of knowledge it is impossible to say whether influences were transmitted between the two regions or whether these artistic traditions evolved independently. tremendous shaggy wild animals like the horns documentary film about the physical en¬ vironment of the first societies to live on of the society that produced it. as witness the great hun¬ ting scenes at Upper Mertoutek. brown or black. like some latter- In the first place.>Switzerland 30 .e. "Martians" this animal is an ecological indicator since it required perennial water in order to exist. forth. In spite of differences in technique. Such paintings. men with three arms. There are carvings of fish. Now depicted at Assadjen Ouan owls and there are hunting scenes. The elephant which eats enormous quan¬ the Nile to the Atlantic is vivid illustration of the existence of a whole hunting civiliza¬ tion. a set of graphic symbols". heavy stroke that contrasts sharply with the fine incision delineating the animal shown in photo 4 (at Oued Djerat. and baboons so (at on. Algeria). H. which existed over almost the whole of Africa for tens of thousands Chariot period. popotamus bones at a site at Adrar Bous. seem to be later than engravings. When it comes to explaining it pro¬ perly. "The White Lady". in which the pigment is applied to the rough rock with great artistry. Joseph Ki-Zerbo.. Tin On Tazarift).

sheer profusion of artifacts depicted on water-hole. are still rocks or found loose over enormous areas of Africa. especially those that are now obscure. Sun motifs form part of the animals same religious background. and they will only ever be explain. to feeding them and then to domesticating them. seemingly to greet them. Again. as for instance one starting at the intersection of a woman's thighs and which furniture and also family scenes can be seen. Even boats are depicted. by with depicted setting off food-gathering. There are also sheep and goats. The home is often depicted schematical¬ ly by hemispheres representing huts. Women in their Some pictures nevertheless. Some scholars consider that the helix symbolizes the continuity of life. to the tant people. The lifelike saluki at Sefar was obviously the friend of desert women. As often happens in early civilizations. The vast fresco at the Iheren shelter. calves are carefully tethered in a row to a rope.which are reminiscent of the harvest of the high points of prehistoric painting. situation seems to have been reversed. more we find that the dressed men than when were the the decoratively until the magnificently helixes associated leash. it seems as though it stands for a front of the huts with their children. passing their heads Cave. whilst at Tissoukai moufflon are be¬ ing hunted with hounds.of years until very late in the historical desert. rivers of ending at the navel of a bowman out hun¬ ting. Buxom women are seen sitting in one at Tin Tazarift shaped rather like the papyrus boats of the lakes and Chad and Nubia. in man then as now. digging-sticks over their shoulders. and men . one who is in a dangerous situation. including As for the umbilical link to be seen between two people.. with upraised hands) to her son. with many animals. whilst a huge herd moves for¬ ward in stately fashion. a rain-making animal is shown being led across the coun¬ try on a rope held by a procession of expec¬ . in southern Africa (Botswana). African prehistoric art has also much to tell us about the clothing of the people of These pictures also show the gradual transition from trapping animals or taking them into captivity. waterskins Some hanging lower from their flanks. scenes reliefs. magical flux going from the mother (who is praying. ridden by women in rich attire. as with the Bubalus at Oued Djerat. There are paintings at l-n-ltinen showing men bending down using angled tools. There is a man armed with a bow holding an animal on a two-headed oxen or the oxen with two her¬ maphrodite bodies and but a single head to be seen at Oued carved Djerat nor of the those days. Ox period. gives an interesting idea of the . We do not know the meaning of the period. with At sickles Battle of Pharaonic San girls basare their The shows finely caparisoned oxen. whilst men are busy milking the cows. with feathers in their hair have stopped. population density in those areas.k ed by reference to a genuinely African Y finery lounge outside their homes.

on the other hand. can refer to "the distinct African influence" in a Sahara rock picture. it had been supposed that they were lying down. (Saharan Neolithic. The bow must have revolutionized life in the Sahara in Neolithic times. it is accepted that the art of eastern Spain (which would have had to be the connecting link for any in¬ fluence there was) has nothing in common with the art of southern Oran. which was for a long time (until the drying-up of the influence must be rejected. at Tin Tazarift) are no doubt simply tionalized oxen". Lastly. The portrait of the sprinting woman (4). Artists depicted the horns of oxen with particular care and often used a convention whereby the animal's head was shown in profile and the horns frontally. carefully. the influence of the so-called Guiñean prehistoric art came from the Atlas. further south. from the Nile Valley) that this type of art radiated out to (Mauritania). The so-called "round head" period is at¬ tributed to "negroids" whom some con¬ sider to have interbred with peoples from the Middle East and who supposedly con¬ stitute the Sudanic Neolithic tradition. At some prehistoric Sahara sites small sculptured figures of hares. period onwards that that Egyptian as a civilization result of Palaeolithic and hence earlier than African achieved splendour prehistoric art. Moreover. the Tassili and the Fezzan. and continent came from the was its there art even focal talk of a in state of the Sudan.000. the Sahara of Europe in fact. There was thus a strong tempta¬ tion to argue that the inspiration of artists cerned. but what is even more certain is that the prehistoric civilization of the Sahara is earlier in time. Quite apart from the fact that there is a difference of 15. regard to a scene at Tin entitled "conven¬ ram of Amon. (3) Polished granite miniature from Oued Amezar. is earlier than European which everything is now attributed to it. The dynamic. Algeria. Hugot and the Swiss photographer Maximilian Bruggmann. is fron. Now there is no truth in this at all.000 years. People have also wondered whether it tradition. it is claim¬ ed. remains highly to it the interior of the continent. though no doubt it was limited. Like so manv rock paintings. This does not. that of the so-called "Abyssinian of Jabbaren" (1) with his wispy beard (Tassili. willowy movements of a sprinter and two archers are captured in studies from Jabbaren (5). This is what happened with Tazarift.g. this reconstruction tends to equate concepts as dess Hathor. The magnificent ram with a sphere at Bou Alem is much earlier than the Using skilful stylization and turning to their advantage the rough texture of the rock. the Tassili and the Fezzan from the Nile Valley. The whole edifice of this reasoning. but Saharan type boats. cultural and religious context. however. But above all. Of course Egypt had a tremendous in¬ fluence on the interior of Africa. is goes about 40. is believed to depict a ruminant lying down. which but simply involves defining rock it Sahara) a rather unpleasant swampy area. the focal points were originally in the Sahara. Algeria) has survived the passage of time with astonishing freshness owing to the resistance of the pigment. in East Africa and in the Eurafrican with point Middle East. artists of the Neolithic Sahara could achieve subtle and expressive effects when portraying the human form. white or half-caste according to different authors. The Ox period was supposedly the work of the ancestors of the Fulani. in what is now the modern on the African north. Hampaté Ba realized that in fact they had been led into the water as part of the lotori ceremony to celebrate the ox's aquatic origin. The tendency to explain all the features of African culture by the theory of outside that no obstacle except distance separated the peoples of the Ahaggar. Because their legs seem¬ ed to be reduced to stumps. Now it is ob¬ vious that the art of the Egyptian Nile flourished much later than that of Saharan precarious population People and Sudanic Africa. which only appears in Egypt under the XVIIIth Dynasty. mean denying any outside in¬ fluence.-J. 32 . Sefar (6) and Tafilalet (4) in Algeria. one of several prehistoric rock art sites discovered in the Sahara in the last few years by the French ethnologist H. years between the development of the two schools of art. The real flowering of Middle East. rams and other animals have been unearthed.OLD MASTERS OF THE NEW STONE AGE . can be seen as far away as in the buildings of the Tichit cliffs was not from the east (i. and its focal points are nothing if not African. The superb previously Egyptian-type boats depicted in the Sahara (e. Some authors hold that the Bubalus period of rock art is to be attributed to illdefined "Mediterranean" people. (2) Curious study of a "unicorn ox". It was only from the so-called "historic" Franco-Cantabrian back art. here published for the first time. must and be said. The Saharan represen¬ tations of oxen with discs between horns are much earlier than those of the cow god¬ gives great from weight outside movements Africa.e. It is also true A. But where art and technology are con¬ Neolithic). a sort of Hamitic theory in prehistory is itself much more indebted to the centres of the south-east than to the the field of African prehistoric art (see arti¬ cle page 24).

33 .

and it deserves to be reintroduced in¬ to their lives. To this aspects of the life of early African from his physical environment to his lof¬ Photo © André Held. with a colossal sex organ who peers over a pile of votive stones thrown there to propitiate it. the handprints were obtained by spraying white pigment from the mouth at the hands pressed against the rock. and the image is sometimes a sign as eloquent as writing. The "white ladies" in African rock pain¬ tings. Right. Hunters could survive in the Sahara during the Neolithic age (from about 5000 to 1000 BC) for what is today a virtually uninhabited desert was then a fertile region with a Mediterranean climate and abundant plant and animal life. part-fowl. National Museum of Nigeria. just as they are to be seen today. if only in the unchanging placenames. Lausanne. ethnic group. of course. ambiguous. without Capsians defining and any Sudanic of these perhaps because there is a horrible animal figure. part-owl. kinds of hunters or African girls coming out of in¬ itiation ceremonies. Terracotta example on page at left is from Owo (Nigeria) and was probably made in the 15th century terms for obvious reasons. People refer to blacks. field of aesthetics proper. even before Pharaonic times. Brussels. climatology. whites. a barrier overcome only by these two depictions of the human head. Probably of magical significance. to facilitate com¬ which denotes the death of a previous per¬ sonality status. commercial and cultural currents linked Egypt not only to the rest of North Africa (above all with the expansion of -Islam) but also with scholars and experts from wealthy coun¬ frescoes Knossos. thus rebutting the idea sometimes advanced that Egyptian history forms part of the history of the Mediterranean world rather than that legacy without price. it is the source of inspiration for modern African art. Fulani. thirty centuries and thousands of kilometres. enigmatic and repeated in masks and in dancers' regalia. Africans are cut off from this art-form by distance. tries. A valley running into the Oued Photo © Arpag Mekhitarian. no doubt represent priests. Ever since remote antiquity. in the Tassili N' Ajjer area of southern Algeria. painted with white kaolin damage that threaten for it is a black Africa south of the Sahara. strong ethnic. It lives on. 1350 BC). Prehistoric art offers many pointers to man. peoples Africans. The hunter's curious pair of "antennae" may be feathers or some other kind of headdress. where it was painted in prehistoric times. where Neolithic artists created masterpieces of a beauty rarely equalled elsewhere. at least through the medium "processions of prospectors from the Per¬ sian Gulf"). African prehistoric art is not dead. Cairo Museum needs to such as be supplemented from sources palaeontology. Issoukai-n-Afella is chaeology and oral tradition. Joseph Ki-Zerbo 34 . Central colour pages A striking affinity. seems to exist between and culture. a major site of prehistoric African rock painting. like the one in South Africa whose face Breuil only of is the white (reminding at the Abbé and AD. Switzerland Salute from prehistoric man. spanning almost different as race. The evidence is. In the of Africa. Lausanne. or "place of the she-ass" and there is indeed a fine carving of an ass there. pink sandstone head of the Egyptian god Amon shown with the features of Tutankhamen (c. It needs to be jealous¬ ly protected from the various it daily. A profusion of painted scenes cover the cliffsides of the Tassili massif. ar¬ Djerat is called Tin Tehed. Lagos day its characteristic range of colours is tiest feelings. still visible on rock at Jabbaren in the Algerian Sahara. life-style reputedly haunted by spirits (junun). and the acquisition of a new parative study. of school syllabuses. Photo Maximilien Bruggmann © La Spirale.Colour page right This red ochre figure of an archer seems to flit like a shadow across the rock at Tin Tazarift. A complete register should be compiled.

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the "apes of Africa. its and particularly Africa into the Kenyapithecus (Kenyapithecus wickeri). National Museum.- the orangutang of Indonesia. Shown here. the expanded nostrils and lips of the curly. dances and other social functions. the may be seen at their most origins. (man of Elmenteita in Kenya. and were unable to make the final step in evolu¬ tion to rise to the stature and status of Adam. Furthermore. and finally the Homo sapiens type ment was one of the most powerful factors affecting Man's development from the time of his origins. Paris Photo © André Held. The physical characteristics of African that populations crucial were of elaborated prehistory. Thereafter came the Zinjanthropes and development of animal life. are more closely outstanding in the images and masks mankind. offers no trace of ear¬ ly stone age implements. Mask top left was used in ritual ceremonies of the N'Domo secret the human dynasty. appeared twelve discouraging climatic conditions of the nor¬ million years ago. all representing a new leap upward in the progression towards the geographical and ecological environment. Switzerland. technology and. Thus Europe. the biped explorer of the period in Africa produced three successive varieties of progressively sophisticated Surmounting it is a kind of crest savannahs of eastern and central Africa. Ramapithecus of Asia is but one of to thern zones. of Kidish in Ethiopia) of whom many authors have noted the frequently negroid features in the upper Aurignacian period. Indeed. the abundance of sweat- every scientist recognizes that it is in Africa that all the links are found in the chain con¬ glands. two remarkable specimens of the discoveries so far made point to Africa as one of the great centres. including those varieties which appear never to have developed hair. social development must be taken into considera¬ tion. Australopithecus (Australopithecus Gunz Glacial Stage). decorated with cowrie shells. Below. Africa is where the CONTINUED PAGE 42 39 . all stem from tropical conditions. May 1977. or rather the supposed cousins.W. Whether polycentrist or monocentrist. crisp or frizzy necting us with the most ancient hominids many Africans. beyond the stage of manlike creatures. According to certainty matter. consisting of four carved heads (two mouldings of whose brain case revealed a development of the frontal and parietal palaeolithic tools. the variety bearing the prestigious name of Homo habilis. hidden gorilla and chimpanzee. whereas the same helmet mask attributed to the Tétela people of south-central Zaire. during period Thus the glabrous skin. There follow the ArchanPhoto © Musée de l'Homme. Nigeria (Pithecanthropes and and Atlan- thropes). finally. in order to survey the influences that led to man's emergence one must first consider the Igbo Ukwu (Nigeria) dates from the 9th century AD. Paris thropes Photo José Oster © Musée de l'Homme. and prehominians. africanus or prometheus) is ¡ncontestably the first hominid. related to man than is any of the three to which were invested with sacred meanings and used during religiousmystical ceremonies. Lagos. of man are still to be found. escaped mask-carver's art (see also Unesco southern Courier. profusely decorated bronze snail shell from advanced level of intellectual faculties. is not yet entirely exhumed." And there is good reason why! Asia in its lower latitudes. if human only because the the history history of of W. Thereafter. The capacity to adapt to the environ¬ status of man. pages 16-19). its brown coppery or black colour. Standing on it ¡s a spotted animal which may be a leopard. considered by some to be the initiator of because of the remarkable extension hemisphere.The cradle of mankind by Joseph Ki-Zerbo Colour page left The skills of African wood-carvers ALTHOUGH absolute there cannot in the be any ancestors. Howells. if not the principal centre of man's development. Paleanthropes or Neander- thalians. Its face and comblike horns are spread India from Africa.000 years of the Kageran (a period also known as the society of the Bambara people of Mali. During that period the of them very small) set back to back so that the mask looks in four tropical latitudes had the advantage of a climate that favoured the lobes of the brain indicative of an already temperate directions at once. covered by ice its varieties which probably But sheets during the roughly 200. Right.

Abbé Roche. Hugot. Dakar. A. Henri J. I. Institut de de Bayle des Hermens.N. Maximilien Marcel Bruggmann. Marcel Bovis. J. Paléontologie Humaine.AFRICAN PREHISTORY AND TIME SCALE ASSOCIATED INDUSTRIES (with places where objects shown were wm r 8.000 years !! > W I il ! Mo« M LU-1' H* $ L k ^ j Photos © (from left to right and top to bot torn I: Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle. F. R. . Oster. Paris. Paris. Hugot. Marcel Bovis.. Denise Ferembach. Henri J. Musée de l'Homme. Bovis. Paris.

Niger. Algeria) V) LU Q_ <t C/J o S o m Aterian (Far left.THE EVOLUTION OF MAN found) HOMINIDS (with places where remains were found) FAMOUS SITES Neolithic (Left to right. center and right. Niger. the Maghreb) Afalou (Algeria) Capsian (Centre and right. Algeria) Dar-es-Soltane (Morocco) Mousterian (Tunisia) Djebel IrhounV (Morocco) - continued page 44 41 . Senegal) Atar Man (Mauritania) ro-Maurusian (Far left. Central Africa.

did not imply the restricted role in production class. corporate unwritten customs. began three thousand years earlier in CONTINUED FROM PAGE 39 mit of Egyptian civilization and the glorious achievements of so many African Egypt. barley. Africa is a conti¬ nent where men wandered about in every created was the second factor that enabled In spite of the instances State of sanguinary in black the African hominians to feel distinct from the rest of nature and later to dominate it. cases. This both freed and in¬ creased the size of the brainpan.from raising of domestic animals. was provoked. by the need to adapt to the geographical environment of the high and Germanic). they assisted progress needs of the basic communities appears to have been modest in Africa. as if drawn on by the immense horizons of that vast land. The inextricable overlappings which an African ethnic map presents today is a nearly always took the form of a limited monarchy within bodies and a framework of It was because he was a faber (artisan) that man became sapiens (intelligent). sesame. As late as the nineteenth century.. the adoption of an erect posture. in which the motor-sensory centres developed. But on the other hand. of property man to the state of and melon and figs. Their use encouraged the settling and stabilizing of men. they were State generally did not undertake any ma¬ jor projects. "The condition of captive. and it tended to pull back the first African clans to those dark origins whence man painfully struggled to maturity selection exploitation doubtless generosity of Kanku Musa the Magnificent. the latter doubtless ductive forces and socio-economic rela¬ ploited like an instrument or an animal. did it exist in Africa? In almost all the societies south of the Sahara. The African slave often enjoyed property rights. production surplus to the for greater efficiency and for adapting to in¬ creasingly complex ends which is the mark of intelligence and places man above the purely which instinctive is marked level. or more precisely In addition. the Nile valley profited by captives. and the banana. In through Ethiopia. reaching which groups. becoming less unwieldy. Nilotics and so on) was to continue during the historical period into the nine¬ teenth century. gave rise to numerous innovations which were cumulative in effect. Bantu. From the beginning prehistoric man repellent effect of the giant desert. was occupied. The technological conditions they were private individuals. giving of (Kenya). it can be said that prehistory continued in a number of war. slavery played only a and farther south the yam. the efficiency facilitated of by implements the fact and that weapons. Africans of thousand of years ago. ivory and salt. Moreover. As far as can be judg¬ ed. by diluting the justice. onions. the higher authority. prehistoric African men progressed to a more con¬ the general trend southward seems to have been a as if under the communities to function with a very real measure of autonomy. scious stage of creation." In places where slavery takes on a that characterizes a social proved forms. On the one hand. lentils and peas. Then. for example. nor the fact pastoral pottery. although common in Africa. Sorghum. allowed the basic (pebble culture of Olduvai man). Slaves. certain varieties of rice. Moreover. such as emmer (wheat). But even in such the counterpart services (security. the pottery of Elmenteita kingdoms and empires. were ambiguous. other varieties of African regions until around the year 1000. decisive step man's development and contrary to European experience (ancient which involved an adjustment of the pelvic girdle. that weighty reality remains. plements. takes on the form of waves of invention which led up to the period of historical antiquity. where the private owner¬ ship of land developed from its common ownership. as a deliberate choice. captivity did not reduce a chattel. not develop in Obscured perhaps by the dazzling sum 42 . save where by continual exchanges because their successive and waves gradually ensured that convergent the conti¬ there was a commodities State monopoly of precious such as gold. and so a former developed the cultivation of coffee. the initial migratory impetuses seem to States such as the Empire of Mali. Numerous plants domesticated during only the palaeo-negritic no different groups) from were of substantially prehistory. This explains the lavish threshold concentration centres of agricultural ex¬ human multitudes must achieve to surpass themselves in invention in order to survive. This ebb-tide to the south and east (Sudanese. were nearly always prisoners of Mesopotamian discoveries. sometimes in im¬ save for the use of metal im¬ Even in our own century. This progress. such as the flax of Fayum. their decentralization. to ensure national integration. Even when prestigious and efficient of numerous tasks. since writing was generally little used and tech¬ niques of travel were still not very well movement. prompted by successes (or failures) in the original environment. erted a marked and widespread influence Emperor of Mali. the sway of the capitals was always mitigated by distance. In any event. when its last waves died away on the coasts of the southern sea. Two principal and customary festivals. without which there can be no progress towards civilization.. became widespread. which was such a The mastery of food production in the Neolithic must have given rise to a sharp in¬ crease in population which in turn set So it is that in primitive communities. from the Neolithic onward. was no more the owner of the land than African plateaux: it was always necessary to stand erect to see over them to stalk prey or flee from hostile beasts. As for production based on slavery. at the time of his sump¬ tuous pilgrimage in 1324 (see article page as early as the sixth or fifth millennium: the Nile valley and the Niger Bend. which probably dates from 5000 BC suggests the that knowledge and of pottery body and African texture to the societies. the captive might become a village chief. If the beginning of history is dated from marginal role. the migrations. in accordance with the code of honour governing those obliged to live nobly. minimized that a good proportion of the taxes and levies was redistributed at the and plants for textiles. the characteristic dispersion of certain prehistoric workshops private ownership. pro¬ reached Sahara Egypt from the deserving to be dwelt on here. techniques and the invention of barley The cultivation of wheat. in Ghana or and borrowings between techniques. according to certain prehistorians. describ¬ ed with admiration by Ibn Battuta in the have come from the Bantu in the east and fourteenth century. whilst from Asia were introduced sugar cane. in the changes in the developed. the pro¬ pure and simple. through the opaque crust of the unfeeling universe. He was not ex¬ rice. the oil palm and possibly a certain variety of cot¬ ton were domesticated. However. The radius both of forays and of permanent migrations increased with the munities. thousands of years. In African village com¬ grassest of the savannahs of the East with stone artefacts of similar style attests to this. Moreover. and development Melanin and frizzy hair. The latter country also tions of numerous African groups (and not Ashanti. tect from heat. the State. as did the population prevented that over human of an enormous space. The final results of these migrations. autocracy. Distance also rendered very real the constant threat that materials used and in the finish of tools and weapons can be seen that constant striving subject peoples would evade any attempt at autocracy by running away. made constant progress in the technique of tool-making.western Europe till between 3000 and 2000 BC. millet. true Neolithic. veritable most constitutions. which did The hunting techniques of the pygmies are the same as those of prehistoric. Moreover. in uplands of eastern Africa. markets) provided by the chieftain¬ cy must not be overlooked. following the mastery of agricultural and nent. in Africa there is no sign of migrations into motion. fonio. if not mastered. institutions With his hands freed from having to sup¬ port his body man was able to relieve the muscles and bones of the jaw and cranium jigsaw puzzle that would discourage a often inherited from an earlier organization computer and is a result of this complex movement of peoples over a period of or social stratification. it was strictly forbidden even to allude to the servile origin of anyone. 60). as part of African diet to this day. Dispersion over a wide geographic range increases the ascendancy of the environ¬ ment. and through the exchanges they involved. spread over immense territories. the use of iron objects. those prehistory still persist. Africa authority direction. they Ashanti. adopted After having learnt to hew stone crudely by breaking it into parts of haphazard sizes north-éast and to have radiated west and north.

This exploitation of Africa lasted several thousand years and had three peak periods. which was capitalism. including wild animals. themselves long immersed in the network but of gra¬ in intercontinental as a pole and a central source for the inven¬ tion and dissemination of techniques. Africa presents a remarkably continuous indigenous mode of production how then can similar to other "primitive" communities 1. before giving way in the middle of the without any adequate counterpart. following the the Nile Valley and the decline of Egypt. The more productive forces increase. the characteristic evolution of prehistoric African societies be described? The first but with fundamental differences. dependence took the form of territorial occupation and coloniza¬ tion. parti¬ cular its avoidance of private or State thing to note is that.000 years) would represent just under three minutes. but also because of the tapping of African resources and services impetus and external pressure from the matrix of destructurized primitive collecti¬ vism. Uterine kinship appears to have come from at the the depths time when of African West. at least before later influences like Islam or the palaces. 200.000. in the Niger Valley. which the prevented any moves from within towards more progressive attempt to domesticate the continent Recent discoveries in East Africa of primitive stone tools have pushed back the estimated emergence of Homo habilis to societies within a system that might be called the structures. characteristic elements were missing.000 the social structures involved form found in Africa. 500.000 Western civilization gradually introduced wherever barriers to trade were overcome the patrilineal system. relations ownership.000. One cannot even say that there were African variations of these systems as their prehistory. the more antagonisms sharpen the edge of ing the centuries when external rapacity ' was not too pronounced (from Antiquity to the sixteenth century). historical time (about 5. and once the cause and the consequence of a dwindling population within a continental space that was virtually unlimited. In Africa. Finally.000 Given these conditions. the productive forces have stagnated. and also had and. In the sixteenth century the sinister era In any case. and was for a very long time Joseph Ki-Zerbo 43 . quickly followed that exalted role. in black Africa. Then there was a gradual and sporadic transition toward State forms. the creation. African mode of under-production. Africa supplied the Roman Empire with an enormous dominant colonial capitalism.500. Finally. economic.000 years ago. permanent settlement during the Neolithic exalted the domestic functions of women. as in the Nile Valley so important in defining the prominent role of women in the community. not only extricating themselves by internal because of the conflict of internal factors mentioned above. In short. The liberation struggles which today are still raging in certain territories of Africa are both the indicator and the negation of the Homohabilis 2. and restructuring themselves on the basis of private property and the growth of the State. in.500. Parallel to these phenomena. 2. one fact in Africa compels recognition: since the structure of society has not changed for at least five hundred years. In addition to food. for example. If the period of prehistory is taken as being equivalent to twenty-four hours.HISTORICAL TIME massive 50. But that was not the only archaic social Zanzibar in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. nor Europe and the rise of the industrial revolu¬ tion could not be conceived of without the the refinement of personal relations. The simultaneous and complementary though localized not to the exclusion of sporadic growths which usually failed to phenomena of capital accumulation in flourish. apart from a few exceptions. First. the self-creation of Man which began thousands of millen¬ around 2. This social structure.500.000 stituted home-bred structural handicaps. quantity of imports. Ashanti source of conflicts between social groups. never matrilineal family system which originally became widespread and too often concer¬ ned luxury products usually destined for But it should be noted that. even dur¬ creative energy to these domains. one must take into account the socio-economic structures such as the commercial traffic which. the Americas and especially Africa. The vicious circle of low-level techniques and production was at stem from an already dominant mode of production. in Antiquity. since it played a remarkable role in the inheritance both of material wealth Thus. either wholly or in part. there was neither slavery nor feudalism as they are understood in the and of the rights to royal succession. It is as if the Africans devoted the essence of their ©I enforced contributions of Asia. of an equivalent transfer of capital and techniques. as air). in the nineteenth century. the whole of The Africa of clans and villages which was still in existence. to the point where they became the central element in a social entity. but also as nia ago still continues.000 form.000 of the slave trade began. the transition other Roman provinces in North Africa were exploited to become the granary of was from a dominant community to a Rome. in the 1. and thereaf¬ ter to a socialist type of development. twentieth century to an independent capi¬ talist State. was little given to private possession of land (a common asset as widespread and as precious. as a result. in a capitalist mode of produc¬ tion. slaves and gladiators. political spiritual conse¬ population and quences. different and ignorant of the acquisition of land as a character. Alternatively. Africa served during this period. This stagnation does not exclude the extraordinary blossoming of art. first dominant. and in spite of an increase in popula¬ tion. many internal con¬ tradictions in the African system itself con¬ interested motives and the will to power. social development blossomed as a conse¬ quence of an increase in private ownership. Natural obstacles impeded long-range were in reality the result of external economic influences. to a lesser degree. But a subordinate and peripheral status rather underlying dually pre-State relations. The colonial State was in fact created to administer capitalist commercial agencies. then monopolistic.000 and as in qualitatively Dahomey. so strongly characterized African societies. free. as in Ghana.

Christian Zuber.500. Yves Coppens. National Museum of Kenya.000 to 2. Musée de l'Homme. Oster. Hugot. Coppens. 44 © Unesco Courier Musée de l'Homme. J. Algeria) 1.000 years Pebble tools (Ain Hanech and Aoulef.000 years Hand axes (Tachenghit and Tihodaine. Algeria) 2 to 3 million Quartz flakes years (Orno.G. Coppens. Ethiopia) 3 to 4 million years Photos © (from left to right and top to bottom): Marcel Bovis. National Museum of Kenya. Paris. J. Cambridge University Press. Chart prepared with the collaboration of Y. E. Marcel Bovis. Yves Sutton. M.500. Leakey. Michèle Bertoncini. Henri J.000 to 1. Oster.500. Hugot.AFRICAN PREHISTORY AND THE EVOLUTION OF MAN continued from page 41 200.D. Paris . J. Henri J. Maurice Taieb.

Kenya) Australopithecus Africanus (Taung. Botswana) Australopithecus Afarensis (Hadar. Ethiopia) Olduvai (Tanzania) Homo habilis (Lake Turkana. Ethiopia) .Homo erectus (Lake Turkana. Kenya) Olorgesailie (Kenya) Australopithecus boisei (Orno.

Left. - 1 ~ ' *ß* * r? » i *-ir » » *~ »^ _. Photo © British Museum. 16th century bronze bust of a queen mother of ancient Benin. yet as early as the first half of the 16th century artists of the ancient kingdom of Benin were producing exquisite bronzes using the IP sophisticated "lost wax" technique. for example. & -*> > . Whereas iron working. Rock paintings in the prehistoric tradition were still being made in the 19th century. prehistoric grindstone and pestle for crushing gathered grain. Right. hospitable region. Is now known to have been practised In some parts of Africa in the first century BC. Below. its presence ^* in the wastes of the Sahara are a reminder that thousands of years ago this was a fertile. In others iron objects only began to be used around 1000 AD. London Photo Maximilian Bruggmann © La Spirale.Africa's overlapping time spans The chronology of technical development on the immense African continent has differed widely from region to region. a smith in Cameroon tends a traditional smelting kiln. Switzerland : -- - - ' . Lausanne.

underestimated.Cultivated by the ancient Egyptians of the Nile Delta region. and many other materials. Inventors and technologists of pharaonic Egypt by Rashid el-Nadoury with the collaboration of Jean Vercoutter PHARAONIC civilization was remar¬ valley. serpentines and soapstones. but also in the manufacture of sails. carve lopment. it bequeathed a legacy whose importance should not be which the Gebel-el-Arak Knife is one exam¬ ple among hundreds. (3500 to 3000 BC) and were subsequently technique of the Neolithic period carried on through the pre-dynastic period and the specialist in prehistoric and protohistoric com¬ preserved when the historical period was in full flower. but also in wood. It inherited from Neolithic times techniques which were transmitted RASHID EL-NADOURY. is director of the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology (Cairo) and a specialist in the ancient history and archaeology of the Nile valley. glass. the papyrus reed was an important and versatile raw material. munities of the Nile valley and north Africa. builders imitated the appearance of the papyrus bundles and palm-tree trunks and branches used In primitive buildings. When construction in stone began. too. 47 . granite. Here. even the hardest varieties. the ancient Egyptians' con¬ tribution can be traced in stone. cloth. he is the author of many published works including an Ancient History of the Maghreb. schists. in¬ of kable for the continuity of its deve¬ especially struments those of at Thebes. working with basalt. the and enriched in the pre-dynastic period . breccia. porphyry as readily as with the softer calcareous alabasters. is professor of ancient history and vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Alexandria. rope and sandals. A This craftsmanship is also found in the carving of stone vases. as in these columns of the temple of Isis at Philae (above)) These plant motifs were also found in many objects in everyday use. To succeeding civiliza¬ incomparable quality. mats. the Egyptians. the heirs to the Neolithic period in the Nile stone-carver used every kind of stone. Its fibres were used not only to produce an early form of paper. such as this princely mirror handle in the shape of a papyrus umbel embellished with gold and turquoise (left). As early as 3500 BC. used the flint deposits to there. Bundles of papyrus stems formed the supports of mud and wattle dwellings or protected the corners of mud-brick buildings. tions of Africa in particular. JEAN VERCOUTTER. of Egypt. The Egyptian In the crafts. Old Kingdom and continued to the end of ancient Egyptian history. diorite. of France.

. Starting about 700 BC. The cultivation of flax rapidly led to great ability in hand-spinning and linen making. Transparent glass made its appearance in early architecture until classical ar¬ byssus. carved in the form of a human hand holding a shell. wood or stone to make inscriptions. 1300 BC). The finest cloth of all. When tied together in bundles. No plant tested in the pre-dynastic period. above all. ropes and hawsers. Photo © Louvre Museum. It measured a "short cubit". was known in the fifth dynasty (c. were set in later passed to the Mediterranean world. Its fibres were used for boat mak¬ ing and for caulking. the technique into Rome. Photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. demonstrated their aptitude in the art of glass making in a relatively short time. baskets. The women spun the linen. Taken from Grandes Villes de l'Egypte Antique. Glass. who developed dustry. papyrus stems served as pillars always opaque. spread throughout the Mediterranean area. techniques to world civilization. woven fabrics con¬ particularly ap¬ 1600). They were copied by the Phoenicians. adopted its manufac¬ sculptures. a measure based on the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. The latter was known from the start of the Neolithic period and its beginning coincid¬ ed with the emergence of civilization in the Nile valley. This can be which is the basis of glass making. papyrus was used to make "papyrus". It was then used not only for beads The hawsers which served to moor the pontoon bridge that Xerxes tried to lay but also for vases in the form of fishes. Aurelius levied ported a tax on Egyptian The glassware im¬ The dexterity of the cutters of hard early time with glazing. New York. as such. andria but. Meroitic empire stones passed to the sculptors. glass vases. But. 2500 BC) and began to spread from the time of the New Kingdom (c. at least the distribution of glass-making glass. Even the Alexandria then became the main centre shapes of the vases of the ancient Minoan period betray their Egyptian origins. above all. for the wicks of oil lamps. export¬ ing its products as far as China. from the Chefren turing techniques and spread them to the Cairo to the large black basalt sarcophagi of the Apis bulls. They were usually polychromatic and across the Hellespont were made in Egypt out of papyrus fibres. Egyptian polychromatic chitects took them as a model for their sim¬ ple or clustered columns whose capitals especially renowned. commodity preciated abroad. Paris seen in the great Egyptian diorite hard stone of no evidence to suggest that they spread it abroad. although it is not certain that they were deliberately made by the craftsman. From Egypt. for mats. in a if not in that Egypt was of one of the ways in which the Egyptian legacy was handed down. from which the word "paper" is derived. The The carvers of Cretan vases must surely have itself. were shaped like closed or open flowers. The skill then passed to the sculptors of the Ptolemaic period and later found expression in the statuary of the Roman empire. their manufacture into an in¬ organized sales abroad which brought the king huge revenues because of the superior In the later period. do¬ played a more significant role in Egypt than papyrus. doubtless following the pattern set by the earlier Pharaohs. Papyrus was made by placing crosswise 48 . The standard rule of Egyptian craftsmen was made of wood and had a bevelled edge. was woven in the temples and was under Tutankhamen (c. The "royal cubit" had a length of 525 mm. ing so with great skill since they frequently handled two spindles simultaneously. The presence of glass beads seems to be at¬ One of the most important industries was that of the production of papyrus in¬ vented by the ancient Egyptians. For the stituted a Pharaohs. in the form called alabaster. The Ptolemies super¬ vised the weaving shops and controlled the quality of the manufacture. stone-carving techniques quality of the goods produced by Egyptian weavers. Paris Painter's palette of hard glazed paste. Here we have a graphic example moulded in coloured glass. if not the invention. standardized at 450 mm. there is later imported some glassware from Alex- The common unit of measure in Egypt was the cubit. period who thoroughly steeped in Egyptian culture like the Syro-Palestinian Corridor. and their cen¬ tral administration. by Geneviève See. still contains traces of red paint of the type used by Egyptian craftsmen to indicate alignments and levels during construction of a building or for making a preliminary layout of wall decorations. Editions Serg. hieroglyphic signs. techniques of the Pharaonic glass makers were handed down to craftsmen invented of the blown least milieu Hellenistic Egypt contributed. It is certain that the Egyptians upper Nile valley. While it is true that Mesopotamia and the civilizations of the Indus were likewise familiar at a very for the manufacture of glassware. learned at their skills.

after pressing and drying.224 pieces of wood which had been practical. cabins. It was scrolls of this kind that constituted Egyptian books. It was supple and light. has been rebuilt. Switzerland successive layers of fine strips taken from from twenty-five to fifty-seven metres each day. The other one is still waiting to be taken out of its tomb. Photo © Henri Stierlin.One of the largest and best preserved temples in Egypt. When found it consisted of 1. The most remarkable fact is that it k Provincial notaries. and has a capacity of about forty tons. disassembled. and is flat bottomed and narrow. The volumen of classical antiquity is a direct heir of this scroll. Even at this comparatively late date the papyrus motif still predominates at the base and on the capitals of the columns lining the great courtyard. 3000 BC) until the end of the Pharaonic period was later One of these boats has been removed from the pit and restored. where the river is the only con was built without any nails: the pieces of f 49 . The side planks are between thirteen The Egyptian expertise in wood working quired each month. The papyrus used in Egypt from the time of the first dynasty (c. unquestionably. made expert the stem of the plant which. but In the pits. and rudders. Every large estate and royal palace and Twenty sheets of papyrus joined all the temples maintained registers. the temple of Edfu (right) was built on the west bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt during the period of the Ptolemaic dynasty. which was dedicated to Horus. venient thoroughfare. began in 237 BC. the Byzantines. adopted by the Greeks. 5. complete with rediscovered. tories and libraries. which of indicates that papyrus must and covered with huge limestone slabs hundreds of kilometres were discovered along the southern side of Several scrolls could be joined together and reach a length of thirty or forty metres. have existed at that time whereas only a few hundred metres have been the Great Pyramid. formed a large sheet. were discovered the very boats used by the Pharaoh Cheops. now in a special museum. boatmen of the Egyptians from the earliest times. . The boat measures 43. and fourteen centimetres thick. partially oars. during the Ptolemaic dynasty. the Romans. The necessities of daily life in the Nile valley. papyrus was certainly the most the Arabs. two great pits dug into the rock together while they were still moist formed a scroll three to six metres in length. ten metres of papyrus were re¬ legacies bequeathed to civilization by Pharaonic Egypt.4 metres long. and it burnt very easily. Over a long A large part of Greek and Latin literature has come down to us on papyrus. Of all the writing materials employed in antiquity.9 metres period it stood up poorly to humidity. Papyrus was. Cheops' is brilliantly manifested in their ship¬ boat has no keel. Construction of the temple. They were held in the left hand and unrolled as the reading proceed¬ ed. wide. the Copts. Its sole drawback was its fragility. the Aramaeans and Cheops' boat. one of the major partially disassembled and stacked in thir¬ teen successive layers in the pit. inven¬ In 1952. It has been estimated that to maintain the inventory of a small Egyp¬ tian temple. used from six to thirteen scrolls or building.

And there were times when the surgeon simply advised that nature should be allowed to take its own course. Bakhtan. bronchitis. enemas. whether on the Mediterranean in the direction of Palestine. With these modifications. and applied mathematics has left a valuable legacy. ribs. haemorrhoids. and sundry fractures af¬ fecting the nose. dislocations. ensur. Documents show in detail the titles of Egyptian physicians and their different fields of specialization. This made the ship The Egyptian doctor treated his patient using suppositories. In addition. syrups. these were raised high above the waterline. By its methodical approach. and even inhalants whose use The Mediterranean or the Red Sea. ween 2600 and 2400 BC. Egyptian physicians were famous for their ability to diagnose and treat hundreds of diseases and to perform many kinds of operations. stomach laryngitis. and tian surgery. difficult to manage in the waves of the It was. detail from a bas-relief at the Temple contributions of the ancient Egyptians to the history of man. Bilharzia and for use at sea the height of the prow and the poop were greatly reduced. coryza. bet¬ techniques bow. collar-bone. In Cheops' boat. Beginning with the fifth dynasty. the Smith Papyrus bears testimony to the skill of the surgeons of ancient Egypt. for example. The Pharaonic contribution to science of urine. The boats of Sahure show that Pharaohs. Examination of mummies has revealed traces of surgery. or on the Red Sea towards the distant country of Punt. They could. a copy of an original which was composed under the Old Kingdom. thanks to the Smith Papyrus. We have quite a good knowledge of Egyp¬ ship with a torsion-cable passing over the bridge and tying the stern firmly to the unfortunately. as we know from Herodotus. in Cambyses doctors. undoubtedly. Several of the treatments indicated in the Smith Papyrus are still used today. medicinal elude translation. in Africa as well as in Asia and to classical antiquity. Of the cases studied by the Smith Papyrus. Among the ailments identified and com¬ ¡^ wood are held together solely by the use of tenon and mortise joints. ointments. constipation. the names of which. himself. it is known that foreign sovereigns. from which the bearded harvester (top photo) clearly suffered. Egyptian niques at a very early period in their history. Egyp¬ tian surgeons knew how to stitch up wounds and to set a fracture using wooden or pasteboard splints. jaw. This papyrus is virtually a treatise on bone surgery and ex The Greek writers Herodotus and Strabo concur in the view that geometry was in- 50 . and Crete. brought like the or Asian prince of Bactria. humerus. physicians later followed Medical knowledge can be considered as one of the most important early scientific As long ago as 2500 BC. Syria. ing the rigidity of the entire structure and reducing the danger of its breaking in the middle. in fact. skill which it would be fair to assume was handed on gradually. massages. reduce and set fractures using strips of linen soaked in resin or asphalt (photo above left) and understood the nature and causes of hernia. the Egyptians taught to the Greeks. the Egyptians knew how to adapt their ships for ocean-going voyages. retention and in¬ continence ophthalmia. Moreover. angina skin gastric cancer. oils. This cable also acted as à keel. disorders. by the doctors who were always attached to Egyptian expedi¬ tions to foreign lands. perforations of the skull or sternum.ternal pathology. medicines enjoyed great prestige in antiqui¬ ty. the Egyptian ship was capable routes of plying the up furthest by the petently described and treated by Egyptian doctors were swelling. or the skull frac¬ tured by a blow from an axe or sword and successfully reset. purges. such as the jaw dating from the Old Kingdom which has two holes bored to drain an abscess. diabetes. the majority concerned superficial lacerations of the skull or face. There is also evidence of dental work such as fillings done with a mineral cement. Egyptian naval engineers lent great solidity to the whole structure by equipping the Egyptian pharmacopoeia contained a large variety of medicinal herbs. Cyprus pectoris. of the ancient In of Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt is thought by scholars to represent surgical instruments used sometime during the Ptolemaic dynasty (323-30 BC). and maritime opened probably even before. fact the civilizations Near East and the classical world recognized the ability and reputation of the ancient Egyp¬ tians in medicine and pharmacology. kind of bridge and one mummy had a of gold wire joining two shaky teeth. Others con¬ cerned lesions of the bones or joints such as contusions of the cervical or spina! vertebrae. Above right. the knowledge they acquired from mummification that enabled the Egyptians to develop surgical tech¬ poultices. Hip¬ Egyptian that pocrates "had access to the library of the Imhotep temple at Memphis" and that his other Greek example. po¬ tions. Forty-eight cases are ex¬ amined systematically. skull and vertebrae.

the task was first and foremost to provide the scribe with a formula that would enable him to find rapidly the area of a field. The houses of the notables were was empirical. the volume located on the northern edge of the city while the humbler dwellings formed the workmen's quarter to the west. scribes. artisans and workmen. The house marked "Acropolis" on the plan was probably used by Sesostris himself. The scribe to the the smaller (two to nine rooms) dwellings (see [2] detail to right of plan). documents and archives that have survived bear witness to the skills of ancient Egyptian architects and town-planners. Unlike the average town house it has windows on all sides and a roof terrace accessible by means of an interior staircase. Despite their size they had seventy or more rooms and antechambers the notables' houses were built In the same style as of grain in a silo or the number of bricks re¬ quired for a never building project. which is much more precise 51 . built during the reign of Sesostris II (1897-1878 BC) in the present-day region of al-Fayyum. was found in an 18th dynasty (1567-1320) tomb and represents a country house. the Egyptians knew painting from an 18th dynasty tomb of an elegant Theban town house.vented by the Egyptians. reveals the existence Egyptian geometry. The principal rooms have a higher ceiling than the others and receive light and ventilation from small windows placed just below ceiling height. (1) Plan of the remains of the city of Kahun. Nonetheless. plans. of five types of houses designed for the different social categories notables. the or volume a of a pyramid truncated pyramid. In ancient treatises. An additional refinement is the air space between the ceiling and the upper floor. (3) This "soul house".1605 to TZ . yet archaeological excavations. a pottery model placed in a tomb as a symbolic dwelling for the applied abstract reasoning soul. The ground floor seems to house the domestic services whilst on the roof terraces are to be seen the customary grain storage silos. They proceeded one-ninth by and reducing squaring the the diameter by result which was equivalent to assigning a value of CONTINUED PAGE 54 3. perfectly well how to calculate the area of a triangle cylinder. like mathematics. and probably greatest that of a was hemisphere. or of a a circle. The need to Few traces remain of the ordinary houses of the ancient Egyptians. office-workers. calculate the area of the land eroded or ad¬ ded each year by the flooding of the Nile apparently led them to its discovery. Their success the calculation of the area of a circle. Photo (4) Cross-sectional solution of a particular problem but just provided the practical means in the shape of figures.

5th dynasty (2494-2345 BC). the sun god. carved in sycamore. the greatest of all the pharaohs whose victories raised Egyptian prestige and prosperity to its highest peak. Paris Photo 5 Jacques Marthelot © Editions Serg. Paris. changed his name to Akhenaton and worshipped only Aton. or Chephren. Photo (1): Enigmatic Khafre. Cairo Museum Photo 3 Unesco . Taken from Naissance de l'Urbanisme dans la Vallée du Nil. fourth king of the 4th dynasty. reigned 1379-1362 BC. soldier and athlete. he abandoned the old gods of Egypt. four pharaohs and a high priest look out across the centuries with undiminished vitality. by Geneviève Sée. statesman. Paris. Photo (2) : Phlegmatic Sesostris III. Cairo Museum Photo 2 © Cairo MuseunvTaken from Naissance de l'Urbanisme dans la Vallée du Nil.The face of ancient Egypt Carved out of wood and stone. ruled 1878-1843 BC. Photo (4) : Hieratic Kaaper. late 26th century BC. by Geneviève Sée. Some experts believe that the head of the great sphinx bears his features. Photo (3) : Heretic Amenophis IV. builder of the second of the three great pyramids of Giza. Photos 1 and 4 Jacques Marthelot © Editions Serg. Editions Serg. Photo (5) : Charismatic Thutmosis III. high priest from Saqqarah. 12th dynasty king. Taken from Grandes Villes de l'Egypte Antique. by Geneviève Sée. When his statue was unearthed the workmen saw in his features such a striking resemblance to a local village notable that they immediately nicknamed him Sheik el-Beled. reformer and conqueror of Nubia. Perhaps the first monotheist in recorded history. 1504-1450 BC.

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there is every indication that Egyptian ar¬ Cairo. This was at first attached to the wall but to very early times. they had sufficient skill to build a dam of hewn stone in a wadi near side with this civil calendar. By 2550 BC. on either side. During the second the local environment. such as the rela¬ tionship between royalty and natural forces. The arched body of the sky goddess Nut forms the vault of the sky. great Nubian fortresses provide a very The ramp a extended predecessor over of the several Greek have been achieved only by astronomical observation. This was a vital development in the history of Egyptian architecture. near ancient Memphis. . And finally. on which sail the ships of day and night. The lotus papyrus palm and fluted columns of ancient Egypt were into three seasons of four months. Side by fields allied to architecture. the imbed¬ ded columns and the ceiling joists were were able to predict the moon's phases stone copies of the bundles of plants and beams used in earlier construction. Europeans have been struck by the accuracy of the alignment of structures chitecture was amongst the first to use towards 1740 BC. who was probably the vizier of adopted cultures. This contribution is however far from in¬ significant. lunar calendar and funerary architecture. our ignorance of the Meroitic language. passes the winged disc of the sun which is swallowed each night by the goddess Nut to be reborn each morning. Somewhat later. kilometres. papyrus and dynasty. Comparative studies prove the existence of common cultural elements between black Africa and Egypt. It was used for the flooring of tombs belonging to the first later became free-standing. they seem to have suc¬ hewn stone in coursed work. to facilitate built at the time of the Pharaohs. In developing this architectural skill the ancient Egyptian was much influenced by dynasty than the value 3 given to cient peoples.bricks and various kinds of stone went back chitecture was the creation of the column. He cut the capitals of the columns into the shape of lotus flowers. during ly the pyramids. Cultural ties linking Egypt with the and ceilings decorated with African interior existed during the earliest stages of prehistory as well as in historical times. the god of light and air and supporter of the sky. and dating probably from the 30th dynasty (380-343 BC). their engineers cut navigable channels in the rocks of the First with adequate accuracy. was the architect who built the ensemble containing the step The technical knowledge acquired by the Egyptians in construction and irrigation as the result of digging canals and building the most accurate known in antiquity. The blocks were small and looked very much like a limestone imitation of the sun-dried brick used earlier in dikes or dams manifested itself in other the basis of the Julian reform (47 BC) and of the Gregorian reform of 1582. and en¬ sured that the rapids of the Second The ancient ment. Their tradition of using mud- Amenhotep IV at Tell el-Amarna with its pavements paintings. at Abydos. Ever since the Napoleonic expedition to Cataract at Aswan. The out¬ buildings of Ramses in Thebes and the the same period. Nuri. the four façades of which ture continued to use sun-dried bricks even in the building of royal palaces. transportation and positioning of the huge blocks of stone used in their architectural projects. five were added at the end of the year. Gebel Barkal and Meroe. By all evidence. over which they face the four cardinal points. riving at the idea of a column. and of the extent of the Meroitic empire. for if tions made on the basis of observations. 2580 BC). 365-day calendar year. particular¬ Until the Roman conquest. good idea of the versatility of this material. Egyptian civilization the under the Pharaohs permeated neighbouring African cultures. Imhotep. This is the step pyramid at Saqqarah. which forms a part of the other plants. is at the origin of our own calendar year inasmuch as it served as pyramid where hewn stone was used for the first time. They first used heavy CONTINUED FROM PAGE 51 granite during the beginning of the third millennium before our era. Such accuracy could slid their boats on the fluid mud of the Nile. in ar¬ 71 by other an¬ dynasty they used limestone in construc¬ ting the walls of tombs. as can be seen from the Palace of mathematical knowledge to the extraction. the Egyptians also used a religious. west and south of the Meroitic empire. Similarly. Within the larger circle. Between their extended arms. The Egyptian calendar year was divided was the construction of the first complete building in stone. in the architecture of other having thirty days. Bordering this inner circle are the banners of the forty nomas or provinces of Egypt. ceeded in erecting a barrage on the Nile itself at Semna. he was in¬ spired by his observation of wild plants The Egyptian contribution to astronomy must be deduced from practical applica¬ A new phase began during the third such as reeds and papyrus. each huge funerary complex of King Zoser. The King Zoser (c. Within the inner circle can be seen the prostrate body of Shu. They bear witness to the significance of Egyptian influence in Africa. Thus. Another contribution in the field of ar Cataract never hindered navigation. in Nubia. The Great Pyramids deviate from true North by less than one degree. stand the goddesses of East and West. prevents us from judging the impact it had on the cultures of ancient Africa as a whole to the east. and this was another architec¬ tural innovation. It could be used with the utmost refine¬ Egyptians applied their Diolkos of the Isthmus of Corinth. they built a ramp parallel to the Second Cataract. Rashid El-Nadoury with the collaboration of Jean Vercoutter The ancient Egyptians developed the carving of hard stone to a fine art as witness the detailed perfection of this mythological scene incised on the lid of a priest's sarcophagus found at Saqqarah. Egypt. to these 360 days. Unfortunately. This is clear from archaeological fin¬ dings in the former territory of the land of Kush: royal pyramids were built in El- Kurru. civil architec¬ navigation to the south. For example.

clothing and their attitudes the sovereigns of the twenty-fifth dynasty copy the masters of Middle Egypt and the Pharaohs of Egypt who preceded them and whose successors. at the head of an ex¬ excavation of the Kurru necropolis near Napata below the Fourth Cataract revealed the tombs of a succession of princes. quite inadequate for fixing the history of this sector after the brilliant but relatively short phase of Egyptian domination under the New Empire (1580 to three centuries. the capital of the empire of Kush was transferred further south to Meroe. he launched a policy of monument building which was expand¬ ed under his successors. and then the glorious Taharqa (690 to 664 BC). and their most detailed texts of ancient Egypt. ascended the throne. But a prosperous agricultural. The inscriptions are Egyptian. first Shabataka (700 to 690 BC). He built his sanctuaries at the foot of the holy mountain of Gebel Barkal. of Aspalta (593-568 BC). general king in his palace and the phases of his campaign against the Libyan princes who were Delta. A popular Ethiopian headdress is a kind of close cap fitting include Dans les Pas des Pharaons (In the Steps of the Pharaohs) and Recherches de la 25* tightly to the neck with a sidepiece protec¬ ting the temple. a thick knotted head-band sur les Monuments Thébains Dynasty (Research on Theban Monuments of the 25th Dynasty). brother of Above. mining and trading centre. Psamtik II. On front. With the illustrious monarch Peye. nearly between Africa and the Mediterranean world seems to be broken and almost total silence Taharqa had accepted the challenge of war with the Assyrians. the first attested Meroe sovereign. Peye. and Paris. is a professor at the Sorbonne and director of studies at the With its favourable climate and geological conditions Meroe became the pure classical tradition. over three metres high. In the Nile. its symbol is the double Uraeus. of France. we We shall do well to pause over this fiftyyear period during which Egypt and the enter the mainstream of history. the 1085 BC). the two snakes which rise above protect the forehead him.The Empire of Kush An original civilization which flourished for a thousand years in ancient Nubia by Jean Leclant THOUGH today the region is ex¬ politics of the Middle East drew the tremely isolated behind a barrier of deserts and the difficult hurdles of the Second. Shabaka seems to have preserved good relations with Assyria. These were the royal ancestors of the tremely strong army. Assarhaddon failed in his attempt to invade Egypt and it was his successor Assurbanipal who. in about 590 BC. Egyptian records. holds It in place leaving two streamers w hanging behind the shoulders. recalling JEAN LECLANT. granite statue. if not descendants. heavy chins and thick lips. In their of the Pharaoh style. They also wear ornaments Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. His publications characteristic of the Sudan. they claim to be. "Ethiopian" dynasty of Egypt. He brought the entire Nile valley as far as the Delta under the empire of Kush. But to begin with. combined The as a great African presents Kushite kingdom itself as a twin monarchy. captured and sacked line which effected the union of Egypt and the Sudan. back and sides are 159 lines of hieroglyphs describing the deliberations of After the sack of Napata by the Egyptian pharaoh. Shabaka. Towards 713 BC. The international The style of their monuments is typically Pharaonic. The extremely patchy archaeological Taharqa's name is found on numerous prospection of this still little-known zone is monuments throughout the whole length of the valley. known as the twenty-fifth or Thebes in 663 BC. One of the inscriptions which he caused to be carved at Napata is now preserved in the Cairo Museum and is one of the longest and Sudan power. The Kushites withdrew southward and their dynasty in Egypt came to an end. But from the end of the large in the Bible where the terror caused ninth century BC we get a re-awakening: by the black warriors of the land of Kush is evident. link For a kind of sandstone table formation which dominates the large fertile basin of Napata. the faces portrayed on reliefs and statues show marked cheekbones. Dongola and the adjacent basins of the Middle Nile were formerly the centre of rich and powerful political structures. the Kush of the Peye. Third and Fourth Cataracts of Kushites towards Asia where Assyrian pressure was beginning to make itself felt. Earrings and Y 55 . the two sons of the first half of the second millennium the so-called Kerma culture marked a rich and prosperous kingdom. egyptologist. His name looms blankets Nubia. near the sixth cataract. In the Sudan and Egypt. An he specializes in Nubian studies archaeology.

son-in-law and successor and King Teriteqas. the upper Nile and Chad. which reliefs are among the most representative examples of Meroitic art. We know very little of the last centuries of Meroe. cultivation being "Candaces" came first (the word Candace of Amanishakheto. tian era is one of the peaks of Meroitic Kush. almost certainly in the two queens. Petronius. caravan routes between the Red Sea. . Enormous irrigation basins (hafirs) One of the two queens had dealings with Augustus in a famous episode. and the graphic system are completely dif¬ ferent from the Egyptian. the kingdom of Whatever the case may be. Throughout perfectly possible in this zone of summer rainfall. It is on an edifice in her name at Naga that Meroe: the frontal approach to the temple of Amon became a pylon whose decoration Roman Egypt. the signs seem to be derived in part from the demotic tier between the Roman and Meroitic em¬ pires was fixed at Hierasykaminos (Mahar¬ raqa). sack of Aswan by the Meroites (which was devastated by Petronius' expedition. becom¬ writing used in Egypt at that period for ad¬ ministrative and private documents. with the traditional eastern approach of pylon and chapel. Amanitere great (12 BC and and to his wife. their history is much more difficult to determine. For a millennium a State survived. Egypt under the assaults of Assyrians. Later. The names of Akinidad and of the Queen Amanishakheto are inscribed in Temple T To begin with the capital remained at Thereafter a preponderant place falls to at Kawa. language. mounted a punitive expedition and captured Napata in 23 BC. Their husbands remain forgotten and we do not even know the name of Cataract. disputably those recurring most frequently on the Kushite monuments. Natekamani. Agriculture was practised as well as livestock raising. their names classical authors). was In 21 or 20 at BC a Egyptian but differ in their values. Amanirenas and Amani- sixth century BC. The indigenous component in written and read in the opposite way to the where Augustus was staying at the time. At Meroe the these steppes were much more extensive than in the basins around Napata. as a number of buildings attest. the exaction of a tribute from the Meroites was renounced and the fron¬ animal of Amon. the former prince Akinidad. at the foot of the sacred mountain. A permanent garrison was established by we find inscriptions engraved in Meroitic combines Egyptian influences and purely hieroglyphs which are among the most an¬ cient known. it was transferred much further south to Meroe near the Sixth shakheto. these were dug out adjacent to the principal monuments speak of the power of a dynas¬ ty at its apogee. whose nature is still not known. A possible explanation for the transfer of the capital may have been climatic and Amanishakheto's. the prefect of great centre of the steppe-country south of to full power of a typically local matriarchy. Her fine tomb is still to be seen in the Northern Napata. Commerce must have been brisk. After the retreat of the Kushites from writing often abbreviated. 12) Queen is the transcription according to of the the Meroitic of title the AD were also are in¬ Kdke tradition builders. They are peace negotiated Samos. this "may attest a deliberate desire to be different. discovered buried under the threshold of one of the palaces of Meroe). The throne was also oc¬ cupied for some years by a king. hemmed in by deserts.r. They the probably when the statue of Augustus was captured. son of Queen Amanirenas Cemetery of Meroe. held off the treaty Meroites. The pyramid. one of the the major cities of the empire. the Meroitic This period around the start of the Chris¬ ing ever more African. The royal couple also put sites. is one of the most imposing in the old city. portant which of Nevertheless it is im¬ two queens or economic considerations. the ram being the sacred Egyptian ones. while the most famous building is the Naga lion temple whose the Romans at Primis (Qasr Ibrim). the name of its own choice from the ancient native name for the territory. the pendants of necklaces are adorned with rams' heads. and a palace discovered in the last few years at Oüad ben Naga close by the river has been attributed to the queen. With these hieroglyphs there goes a cursive form of The Roman garrison appears to have been withdrawn. the head of which has been With Queen Shanakdakhete (around 170 to 160 BC) we appear to get the accession devoted particular attention to Naga. as Meroe was an ideal entrepot for the rare occasions when Meroe appears on the stage of universal history. These hieroglyphs are borrowed from Meroitic features. Following the in hand the restoration of Napata. Gebel Barkal. and in particular of the temple of Amon. civilization.

It is almost certainly to this last group. The glory of Kush is quite surely reflected in certain legends of Central and West Africa. Although at the time they were built the capital of the empire of Kush had been transferred to Meroe. But above all. there flourished a strongly original civilization which. peoples cast bronze by the "lost certain wax" method. dynasty comes from the temple of Gebel Barkal. Missing from the statue are the tall feathers. near Napata. with which the headdress was originally adorned.the culture becomes more and more impor¬ tant. as in the Kushite kingdom. who until then had beaten back the raids of the nomad tribes. The control of the caravan routes bet¬ ween the Nile valley. 57 . a number of rulers were still taken to Napata for burial. Jean Leclant Carved from black granite and nearly four metres in height. first at Napata and then at Meroe. that the overthrow of the Meroitic empire should be ascribed. The Sao and the Bushongothey have legends of the bring¬ ing of knowledge by men from the east. the attributes of the warrior god Onuris. Axumites to the south. Under the uraeus. the emblem of royal power in the form of the sacred asp worn on the headdress of ancient Egyptian sovereigns.' The royal pyramids become progressively smaller and poorer. The Meroites. this group of pyramids. Whatever the importance of this penetration of Meroitic influences through the rest of Africa. Knowledge of techniques spread. thenceforward became a tempting prey for their neighbours. it would seem to be thanks to Meroe that the work¬ ing of iron spread over the African continent. Taharqa Is depicted wearing the typical Ethiopian skull-cap. this powerful portrait of king Taharqa (690-664 BC) of the 25th. while the rarity of Egyptian or Mediterra¬ nean objects indicates a cutting-off of out¬ side influences. forms part of a royal necropolis at Gebel Barkal. fourteen. metres in height. mentioned for the first time by Eratosthenes in 200 BC. remained profoundly African. the role of Kush should never be underestimated: for over a thou¬ sand years. Built during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. and of vital importance. the Red Sea and the Nilo-Chadian savannah the economic cornerstone of this empire was probably not easy to maintain. near Napata. or "Ethiopian". nomadic Blemmyes to the east and Nubas to the west. beneath an Egyptian- style veneer fairly constantly maintained.

the lion temple at Naga. who ruled the Kushite Empire by Ahmed M. in Meroe the king was chosen among his royal brethren. He is the author of several publish¬ ed works on the history of Africa and the Arab countries. of the Sudan. about 310 BC). Indeed one can lineage say that basically the same royal continued to rule uninterruptedly following of Meroe A powerful line of Queens the same traditions. four¬ teen were the brothers of preceding kings. There were. to the south of Meroe.. in their accounts of the "Aethio- pians". Diodorus affirms that "the priests previously select the best of can¬ didates and from those that are summoned the people take as a king the one whom the god chooses as he is carried round in pro¬ cession. of course. clothing and ornaments are typically Meroitic. express their surprise about this usage. high officials and clan chiefs.THE most outstanding feature of poli¬ tical power in Nubia and central Sudan from the eighth century BC to the fourth century AD seems to have The matriarchs been its remarkable stability and continuity.. They insist on the oracular choice of the new king. Although their attitudes and gestures and the style of the Khartoum. IVAN HRBEK. to Diodorus of Sicily in the first century BC. with the collaboration of Ivan Hrbek and Jean Vercoutter from Herodotus in the fifth century BC. is a pro¬ relief show Egyptian influence. is head of the department of history at the University of Amanitere. The this or that king usurped the throne. Unlike many ancient kingdoms. so different from that of other ancient kingdoms. Any claimant of doubtful ability or unpopular with the electors might well be passed over. The temple dates from the late 1st century BC or before Nastasen (d. is famous for its crown was to pass to the brothers of a king before descending to the next generation. Paris 58 ." An shows analysis that of the all the relevant of king texts was office hereditary in the royal lineage. the rather a symbolic character designed for the public which was persuaded that god Meroitic warrior god with the head of a lion and the body of a himself had elected the new ruler. Straightaway they address and honour him as if he were a god since the kingdom was entrusted to him by the will of the divinity. Some helping of these traits are significant in us to sketch the character and nature of the political and social structure of the empire of Kush. Further it is plain that in theory the serpent (photo right). of Czechoslovakia. depicted (above right) on the towers flanking the entrance to the temple. The initiative in choosing a new sovereign came from the army leaders. He is the author of several books and articles on ancient Sudan. from among twenty-seven kings ruling inscriptions and reliefs which are among the finest examples of Meroitic art. as the inhabitants of the Kush em¬ pire were then generally called. The oracular confirmation was merely a formal ratification of a previous choice and had Dedicated to Apedemak. In contrast to the Pharaonic or any other ancient Oriental system where the succession nor¬ mally followed Napata and the father-son pattern. Photos © Almasy. Ali Hakem One of the peculiar features of the political system was the choice of a new sovereign by election. fessorat the Oriental Institute of Charles Univer¬ sity (Prague). strikes down the enemies of the kingdom. importance of the role of the There are also some signs that the right candaces (queens) in the Meroitic monarchical system is apparent from the fact that the sculptor has given equal importance to both figures and from the imperious gesture with which AHMED ALI HAKEM. but in such cases he tried to justify and legalize his action. like her royal husband. exceptions when early 1st century AD during the reign of king Natekamani and his queen Amanitere. Classical authors. the coun¬ try escaped the upheavals associated with violent dynastic changes.

perhaps. The exact role played by royal ladies in sovereign. The queen-mother's important role at Maleqereabar. was to an end after Natekamani. adopted the wife. and Amanishekhete. and in Many of them became famous. in the beginning. designated by the title Mistress of Kush. Nawidemak the temple priesthood of Amon at Napata and elsewhere. Another title qere meaning fluence. but beginning with Amanirenas in the first century BC from many inscriptions. As a matter of fact only four queens are known to have used this title. At some stage the queens would outgrow their sons or husbands and pyramid chapels the queen appears behind the deceased king participating as the prin centuries. She was entrusted with bringing up the royal children. Most probably. all by definition being candaces. Amanitere and Sherkaror in the first half of the first cen¬ tury AD. from Taharqa to Nastasen there is no evidence of a of a queen having the full This kingship system had some advan¬ to the coronation of Taharqa (690-664 BC) and Anlamani (623-593 BC) in such a way burial reigning no monarch and queen during tages over a rigid system of strict direct this period reigning is known. the earlier periods is not quite clear but Nswbit). She also exer¬ cised an influence through a complicated system of adoption. whether a minor or an unpopular personality. This was the close association of the first wife of the king and. All this may have con¬ only to the walls the of king the manifested by her special role in the cor¬ tributed to the continuity and stability en¬ joyed by Napata and Meroe for such long himself. various checks and controls inherent in this system. It is noteworthy that in the royal tombs tions turies. since the wife who survived her husband often became the reigning candace. Kandake or queens regnant. grew in complexity over the cen¬ " the election and coronation ceremonies of her son is mentioned in inscriptions relating of Nuri. During the Kushite rule over Egypt the office of the chief priestess Graeco-Roman This suggests some degree of co-regency known to have been ruled by a line of Candaces. whereas onation ceremony and her adoption of the wife of her sbn. the prominence given to the queen-mother. mother. succession since it eliminated the danger of an unsuitable successor. The role of the queen- cipal person in the offerings presented to him. From Shanakdekhete onwards we have mother in the choice of a new king is seen a series of reigning queens.to the throne might depend even more on claims through the maternal line than on royal paternity. second on same royal family. The iconography confirms the enhanced status of queen-mothers. even adopting the royal title Son there seems to be another development. whereby the queen- The earliest attested Shanakdekhete. royal ladies not used until the Meroitic script appeared. their eldest son on many of the important monuments. namely All this points to the internal develop¬ ment of a local institution which was not a copy of a foreign practice such as that of the Ptolemies in Egypt (cf. times Meroe was there are many indications that they oc¬ cupied prominent positions and important offices in the realm. and consequently of this office. 59 . of her son. Cleopatra). However. neb Tawy) or Son of Re end King (sa Re. the rule on ensured of the scenes on temple walls they occupy promi¬ nent positions. In religious She was thus in a position to exercise great power and influence which were queen-mother rightful descent and the insistence. In¬ deed we can observe how these institu¬ continued coupled to hold prominent positions with considerable power among Amanirenas. ruler. reigning queen was early in the second cen¬ tury BC. Even after the loss of Egypt. The injection of new blood into the royal family was The as to leave no doubt about her decisive in¬ fluence and specific status. the title and the office did not mean more than assured by the system of adoption. this system did not last for more This Ktke title or is derived from the Meroitic than three generations and seems to come (Dewat Neter) to the god Amon in Thebes was held by the daughter of the king and gave her great economic and political in¬ Kdke meaning queen-mother. and she was allowed a full royal burial. Lord of the Two Lands (sa Re. Some of these power themselves traits have close parallels among kingdoms and chiefdoms in various parts of Africa. of Re. In the later period these queens either mothers political or wives started and proclaim to assume take a favourable moment to assume all power to themselves.

in 1353. It is the revolt against Sumaguru. who had actively sought out Sun¬ diata in exile. on the left bank of the River Niger. my father) for addressing the king. They are mostly tion. Al-Omari's town of Nyeni can certainly be identified as Niani. the shoemakers. clans. Each province or kingdom retained a ally was proclaimed king or governor large degree of autonomy. But the harsh rule of Sumaguru con¬ of the Sudan). and with the aid of this royal symbol Sundiata rose to his feet. History relates that Nare Fa Maghan. The stone foundations under the of banco or beaten earth. Sundiata "divided young victor of Kirina the codification of the customs and prohibitions which still This is how they proceed: they build in clay to a height of two-thirds of a cubit. Yet it is probable that if Ibn Battuta. or Mori Kanda surrounds the town on all four sides. now in preparation under the auspices of Unesco. in 1376. because most of the Arabic writers who provide the sources of the history of Mali were translated at a period when little was known about the toponymy and geography with which to hoist himself to his feet. then leave it to dry. within the craft clans tributed tradition took place at which Sundiata was solemnly proclaimed Emperor. in which the individuality of taught by the griots forms a corpus centred on the character of Sun¬ and clans of West Africa. to him so by great oral is the part in at¬ the practise the same trade four as his father. whence the for¬ mula "M'Fa Mansa" (king. but the bar bent i-nder his weight. as well of a number of studies on Man¬ dingo oral traditions. He wrote: "The town of Nyeni is the same in length and in breadth. These included the griots. resolved to succour his country. As the tradition says. He is editor of Volume IV . A member of his entourage cried out: "Give him his father's sceptre to lean on". The Mansa was the supreme judge. is up the world". confirmation of Al-Omari's ac¬ Time of the Great Empires of the 11th to the 16th Century). like arcades.. This child was named Sundiata. A branch of the Nile (Niger) Sundiata defeated Sumaguru thus laying the foundations of the great Empire of guardians of the Faith. The floors of the que de l'Ouest au Temps des Grands Empires du 11« au 16« Siècle (History of West Africa in the their territory was declared the property of the empire. (Africa from the 12th to the 16th Century) of The General History of Africa. The between Bowako and Kangaba. This Constitution was very important in itself. Men practising special trades were divided into four clans (G'hara Nani). a little village on the borders of Guinea and Mali. he fixed the Director-General of the L. Senghor Founda¬ rights and duties of each clan. the suc¬ cession was to be fratrilinear. The Assembly decreed that the Emperor must always be chosen from the line of Sogolon Conde. "The houses are built in layers of clay. and they were distributed houses are of earth mixed with sand". like the walls of the gardens at Damascus. "Emperor of all the peoples". the patriarch. The ceilings are DJIBRIL TAMSIR NIANE. when he overran Manding. not surrounded by a wall. But above all. Then they repeat the pro¬ cess until all is finished. were proclaimed the "five king has a group of palaces surrounded by a circular wall. King of Kings. A special measure dealt with the defeated Soso: made of beams and reeds. Mali. among the various craft castes or clans. being about one settled at Mema where a delegation from the Mandingo clans called on him to lead sixteen clans who bore quivers.S. and the houses stand separately for the most part. and the official several wives. Each history of Manding or Mali. only the ding or Mali applied to all countries with a large Mandingo population. Excavation of the tumuli at Niani is now providing count. and that in accordance with ancient tradition. It accumulation fragments and whole examples of fine pot- 60 . Because of his infirmity. clan (in memory of the happy mar¬ towns. Many things have each region was recognized. Sundiata called for an iron bar Conde. She gave birth to a sickly title of the Emperor was Be Bara Mansa. It seems that in the days of the Ghana Empire every man exercised the trade of his the great conqueror in their have writings. choose that the princes must always the Sultans of Cairo and Damascus. He is the author of Histoire de l'Afri¬ in the shape of a cupola or of the hump of a camel. the tinued and Sundiata went into exile. Tradition has it that. and Ibn Khaldun. Manding tradition attributes to the Lolu". But the main outlines of the Constitution and the administrative structures are to a large ex¬ so that professions became hereditary. and certain clans of smiths. Sundiata codified the system of craft clans diata. king of the neighbouring their first wife from among Soso people. Some of them fled to the Futa-Djallon mountains. In fact. Al-Omari. Dakar. of Senegal. or Fuga that the Gbara or Great Assembly especially castes. gone on classical historians would tent the work of Sundiata. They have not all been identified riage of Sundiata's parents Nare Fa (Arabjc manuscripts are difficult to read Maghan and Sogolon Conde). At Kirina. Al-Omari The Malinke (Mandingo) and the allies were divided into sixteen clans of free men or nobles (Tonta-Djon Tanni Moro). has left us a list of twelve provinces and fourteen by Sumaguru. The name Man¬ king of the Mandingo one of (1210-1230). but henceforward the son had to regarding Sundiata as a mythical or legen¬ dary ancestor. called chiefs of Mema and Wagadu bore the title of king. had not mentioned been ascribed to this African "Alexander" which belong to a much later date. and had far-reaching effects. the "father of all his subjects". his life was spared Sundiata. That is to say. adviser and secretary to the child who did not walk until after the age of ten. According to tradition it was at Kurukan choice. founder of the Empire of Mali. The five marabout allies. whom was had (Farm) of his territory.Sundiata and Mansa Musa Architects of Mali's golden empire by Djibril Tamsir Niane THE Manding historical tradition as govern clans relations their between relations the with Mandingo the other reproduced the age-old pattern of the Em¬ pire of Ghana.. the first the of Sundiata's and the berid long and the same distance wide. the rebels led by among them Toure Berete.

which in Malinke means "suffering".J öf^j I >*V *> <? vy -. when his eldest tainty that it was on the banks of the Sankarani that Sundiata set up his capital. dants of was on the edge of the Guinea-Ivory forest. When he settled saltpans of Teghaza in the Sahara to the Ivory-Guinea forest in the south. the descen¬ the Conqueror met to sacrifice dominated by a rocky peak. did much to make the rest of the mines were then being actively exploited. tery. the Maghreb. Mali reached its height. Oral tradition calls it Niani ma bori.^ * (O á0& S O l 1 > "V . as the town was originally named. large rural (Bouré) by the Manding Road or Manding Sila. he levied trading left special town contributions every pro.l a southern port. Sundiata changed its name to Niani. Niani was surrounded by a semi-circle of hills crossed by passes and about 1270. In the sixteenth cen¬ tury Mahmoud Kati said Mali had 400 indicated troubles were over. Mansa Musa is the best known of the deep and the pirogues take care to avoid it. west to east. Gambia. The ruler Is holding a large nugget symbolizing Mali's fabulous wealth in gold. In about 1307 Kanku Musa. Western Mali at its height the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1325 and his visit to Cairo. On either side of the river the Keita set up sacred places. Mali ("ciutat de Melli") is prominently shown along with this portrait of its Mansa (Emperor) wearing a European- style crown. for after it Egypt. Niani at¬ century. Mansa Musa. It is difficult to estimate the size of the Empire's population.-. some ten kilometres upstream from Niani where which for more than a century was the political centre of the western Sudan. Portugal and the merchant cities of Italy took an increasing interest in Mali. and it is certain that the Empire was well valley populated. Y 61 . In front of him is a Tuareg chief on a camel. Under him. In accordance with tradition from vince. who was very proud of his power.-"V. stone altars where from time to time. Mani. Emperors of Mali. served by two world think of his Empire as an El Dorado.1337. Niani and its many towns must tracted both the black merchants and the Arab/Berbers. This part of the river is very seized power and reigned from 1250 to the Sankarani. ' *w\*i J ' Photo © Bibliothèque Nationale. where the copper The pilgrimage had important conse¬ there. Bambadinka or Guinea-Bissau) to the Air in the Es-Souk region. Hitherto it had been just a small the Sudan from town made famous by the resistance of its king against Sumaguru. The old principle of succession passing from brother to brother was not observed after Sundiata's death. from the Atlantic (Tekrur. Musa I he reigned from about 1307 to . the exile of Sundiata name (the flight of sorrow). Paris The international renown of the Mali Empire. Niani spread swiftly over the plain and at the foot of the mountains. and to the Niger valley by the Tekrur and Casamance every He and population. traces of the ground plan of a mosque and of a wall round the palace all these now make it possible for us to say with cer¬ Sarakolle Road or Sarakoule Sila. where' he gave away so much gold he caused a depreciation on the market. between especially Djénné in the Niger ports on the Sankarani. and. on a huge plain by there is a place called Sundiata:dum (Sun¬ diata's shelf). Mansa Musa made elaborate prepara¬ towns. a northern port and tions for his pilgrimage. The new that the conqueror's quences for the subsequent history of the Western Sudan. In its heyday in the fourteenth Niani with a vast retinue. a nephew of Sundiata. which covered much of West Africa between the 13th and 15th centuries. son. The Sankarani was deep and navigable all the year round. is reflected In the famous "Catalan Atlas" (1375) produced by Abraham Cresques for King Charles V of France. There are several legends cencerning the have had at least a hundred thousand in¬ habitants. on great occasions. traders sold cotton and copper Roughly covered speaking. death of Sundiata. Mansa Yerelinkon (or Oulin or Ouali) Beautifully situated. largely because of his Malinke goods. a source of gold and palm oil where fowls and sheep and oxen. It is almost certain that he was drowned in the Sankarani. and linked to Man'ding and had a Timbuktu. As Mansa . came to the throne.

of which only a few re¬ mains of the foundations and a part of the mirhab survive. He was received in Cairo with the honours due to a great sultan. important thing is that he established sound economic and cultural relations with the Mamelukes. Paris ^Although the figures given by the Arab writers are probably exaggerated. He is one of the few kings of whom we possess a description. rooftop view of the mosque. .Djénné. one of the minarets. But his finest work was certainly . wrote Maqrisi. It was built in 1905 of banco (beaten earth) strengthened with wood. Photos © Monique Maneval. the contemporary Arab historian. instructed in the Malekite rite. built the great al-Touedjin. In Timbuktu he built another great mosque or Djinguereber. Impressed palaces returned Ishaq he no saw doubt in by the majestic Musa Cairo. and created a great impression by his bearing and Ara¬ bian Nights lavishness. four-cornered shelter affords much-needed shade. still boasts a number of fine buildings. who mosque at Gao. "a pleasant face and good figure. Tradition says that he bought land and houses in Cairo and Mecca to accom¬ But the modate pilgrims from the Sudan. ther 62 . is one of the jewels of "Sudanese style" architecture. with the equally famous mosque at Timbuktu. At the beginning of the sixteenth century. Particularly outstanding Is the Imposing mosque which. a Mansa home with famous architect. they give some idea of the resources and Mali could muster: 60. and surrounded by ten thousand of his subjects. Mahmoud Kati relates how accor¬ ding to tradition the Emperor was still in his palace when the head of his caravan arriv¬ ed in Timbuktu. the material used centuries before in the prestigious monuments erected by the Mali Empire's great ruler Mansa Musa. Far right. He appeared amidst his companions magnificently dressed and mounted. Right. described by the 14th-century Arab historian Es Saadi as "one of the greatest markets in the Muslim world". and a royal palace or Madugu. "He was a young man with a brown skin". Below.000 porters 500 servants decked in gold and each carrying a golden staff. surmounted by ostrich eggs. He brought gifts and presents that amazed the eye with their beauty and splendour".

Situated on the flood lands of the Niger. Tuareg and Bambara. It is still a busy trading centre today. Schwaz. Djénne was a leading city of the historic Mali Empire and later the capital of the Songhay Empire (see photo caption page 14). Austria . Photo © Gert Chesi. flock to buy and sell at Djénnó's bustling market. right. Bozo. many from distant villages. Every - Monday hundreds of colourfully dressed Peul. in the shadow of the great mosque.

in a vassal of What was'the fate of this expedition and how far Musa is to be believed are in¬ teresting questions.e. the Since the time of Sundiata. for he had bought many books in Cairo and the holy stretch to the south. were not indifferent to the problems of was converted 1300. and others fill¬ ed with enough gold. Mali. towns.. Djénné on the Niger ques bristling with bits of timber. and Timbuktu on the Niger bend began to expand. the the successive away destructions of the Surrounding Sea. The sultan was delighted and gave Toued¬ As a builder. was in the fourteenth century the of clay. Paris.". Buildings made of earth in need such constant repair and latitudes as that of of taxes as the import of this unworked copper. After his famous pilgrimage.Map Philippe Gentil Studio. No doubt the Emperor's architect had to characteristic strengthened buildings with of beaten The wood. Yet if you compare it with the black populations which surround it and and embassies between the rulers. developing fast. lighter. Timbuktu and in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen¬ Gao. the Emperor himself took charge of operations.thirds of its weight in gold. Mansa Musa exaggerated the navigation. probably under pressure from the many Sarakolle . "for he would not allow that it was with the mosques at Djénné. and did all he could to achieve this purpose. and set off. to answer the questions of courtiers and men of learning. i. agriculture had been.. But undoubtedly Niani. 1977 i famous audience chamber at Niani. he produced a wonderful edifice. it must not be forgotten that the economy of the Sudan was also based on many other kinds of wealth. ed Tiggida is a (the mine modern of red Azelik) "where is mosques at Djénné and Timbuktu were the prototypes of what is called the Suda¬ there copper which use the most common material in that part brought in bars to Niani. It is got from this mine and from no As a patron and friend of literature. including Gambia. he said. Mansa Musa left an endur¬ ing mark on all the cities of the Sudan. © Editions Armand Colin. and multitude. He not without some exag¬ he had "the exclusive said right to gold. beaten earth. with their earth jin twelve thousand mitqals of gold dust as testimony to his satisfaction".. Cotton. geration. After the failure of 200 ships filled with men. the poet-architect's great achievement was finally reduced to a heap capital. But at least this anec¬ dote shows that the Mandingo conquerors who reached the coast. and Touedjin "built a square and room surmounted covered it by a cupola. In the absence of stone. In Cairo Mansa Musa had been very great meeting point for the merchants. empire in detail. on very numerous".". Islam became strongly established in the ships. Paris. as is the case heathen Negroes where we sell one mitqal of it for two. It was also in Cairo that Musa revealed that his predecessor on the throne had died at sea. Musa having with plaster in was well aware of the existence of large populations and powerful kingdoms in the south. and that he gathered it in like a tribute". We send it to the lands of the Negro-Arab literature which was to bear its finest fruit in the cities of Djénné and Tim¬ buktu turies. impossible to get to the other side of the of With Niani. ready. He also revealed that he had a town call¬ decorated it with arabesques dazzling places. in- size of his empire: "The inhabitants are Marinids of Fez and the merchant cities of 64 . Musa set up Koranic schools. Further north where the rainfall is other. Perhaps one day the archaeologists will discover beneath it the stone founda¬ tions of the building that so delighted Man¬ sa Musa. colours. and especially of the large popula¬ tion of the Western Sudan. The king of Djénné. fitted out a thousand wearing plaster. While gold played an important part in the development of trade across the Sahara. There is nothing in nese style. restoration Musa helped lay the foundations of the Niani. It was under the Mali Empire that urban hence the characteristic Sudanese mos¬ development really began in the Sudan. In the North. He was never to return. it is like a little white spot on the coat of a black cow". water and provisions to last for years. Walata was the great crossroads for the caravan routes. and there were exchanges of gifts " which he lavished all the resources of his art.. The Emperor wanted a strong building covered with plaster. the years of rain.. the banco or beaten earth is strengthened with wood. buildings last better. and he described his and Malinke traders.. "a vast the Maghreb began to take a lively interest in Mali. all my empire which is such a large source of the Sudan.

twists of iron and. and strictly forbade traders from the north to enter the goldproducing regions. convey a stark message: "The hide of the doe who does not follow her mother always ends up on a drum". Gao and Timbuktu attracted more and more Arab/ Berbers. Left. It alludes to the unity that comes from sharing the same spiritual sustenance. Sudan's control of the Sahara saltpans gave them still more 1599 the last sovereigns struggled in vain to restore Mali to its former glory. is even more explicitly related to the figurine. semi-desert regions of Timbuktu. The two drums. cowries were the most Mediterranean trade. the Emperors before and the development of cities. especially Gambia and But. The city itself. Small lumps of rock salt were also used. and rice and cotton. for there was a severe lack of salt in the interior of Africa. were well aware of the importance of gold in their transactions since they controlled the sources of gold in the African hinterland. The moral : "Where there's no throne there can't be a King" and "The King is mortal but Adjabia is eternal". The inner delta of the Niger. for medieval Europe. is a royal emblem meaning "The King sees everything". Mali was Casamance. its merchants rivalling the Portuguese become the specialities of certain clans. In the fifteenth cen¬ tury the merchant cities of Italy and the kings of Portugal would vie for access to the fabulous Sudan. This great commercial activity fostered common currencies. above. The of Emperors Ghana of Mali. then the second most important caravan crossroads after Walata. rice. while the Malinke copper. Ivory Coast 65 . In other words if you really want to help others then be ready to use your muscles. and there and the Sarakolle (the Diula) set up was a heavy duty on goods exported to the markets and fairs all along the border of the forest.. millet and honey to the power. and after them Mali flourished until the sixteenth cen¬ tury. in the region of Djénné. produced large quantities of above all a great exporter of gold. the apanage of the Em¬ the Mansas of Mali. above all. Between 1550 and with the Arab/Berbers. kola nuts. and Niani. AlOmari and Ibn Battuta both speak of the growing of rice. grew in importance daily. Akan "Adjabia" (Throne of State) weight symbolizing the King. belt. The customs levied on imports and exports were strictly organized. millet and fonio. like them. Djibril Tamsir Niane presses. Photos © Niangoran-Bouah. and weaving and dyeing had soon The Emperors of Ghana. Backward-looking bird. "We are united because we have eaten the same food". Several monetary systems were in use within the Empire: cotton strips. had regalian rights over gold Djénné.traduced century. On seats of this kind the Akan make sacrifices to the shades of their ancestors. University of Abidjan. As a result the Mandingo spread far north. left. "True solidarity is a matter of arms and legs" is the saying associated with this "Atatafé" (solidarity) weight. Weekly fairs were the oc¬ before the discovery of America. but the years of greatness were past. Ibn Battuta observed how closely Wisdom good as gold and bold as brass These tiny ornamental figures are examples of the brass or gold weights once used in parts of West Africa for weighing gold dust. gold from the Sudan supplied almost all the Arab casion for the exchange of goods by barter. from the coasts of Gambia to the gold-producing regions of Ashanti. Another proverb. of the Akan group of peoples who live in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. was the rice reserve of the Em¬ pire.Salt was a great source of revenue for the merchants and all the Sudanic Empires would try to control the salt trade. becom¬ ing a sort of depot for the export of oil. Each one illustrates a popular saying or proverb. the State and the Nation. The western and Atlantic regions. by the Arabs was grown in before the the tenth the governor of Walata inspected the and wide. The moral: sometimes it's a good idea to see what's going on behind your back. Sudan-Sahel caravans.

These huts were towns. He is a specialist in African history and ethnology and is the author of a number of works including Arab ty of cowrie shells. nucleus Bantu-speaking community included individuals who were also rich but did not wield traditional power and influence. The ****** *. pottery However. this colourful fez is typical of Swahili culture. the East African islands and coast which was related to the development of maritime trade. and the more advanced culture of the towns of green 66 . imported which were used as of the yellow Sources for the History of sub-Saharan Africa and Records of Early Arab Authors on Bantu Peoples. grouped to form villages and a small island off the eastern coast.The property of the last Sultan of Kilwa. is direc¬ tor of research at the Ethnographic Institute of people. Finds have included a large quanti¬ the USSR Academy of Sciences. money. They were at the same trading. provides a picture of fairly developed trading. there existed a distinct and isolated rich élite which en¬ joyed the influence stemming from tradi¬ tional functions. Their wealth derived from peoples was joined by people from the wares were assembled and ships from closer parts of the hinterland and emigrants from the countries of the northern shore of overseas put in. Kilwa was a flourishing trade centre from the 12th to the 15th century. Matveiev IN the history of the islands and coast of East Africa the period from the twelfth to the fifteenth century stands out as the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Kisiwani. Persians and Indians. Social disparity was a fact too.^. of the USSR. The common Swahili people lived in huts which they made from sticks and clay and thatched with palm leaves or grass. since in addition to the main body of ordinary. drawing on African influences for its bead embroidery and on Arab sources for the fez design. Alongside this élite the munity either a ethnically of or socially. Archaeological work carried out at Kilwa VICTOR V. off the coast of present-day Tanzania. Around the twelfth century the Swahili people did not form a homogeneous com¬ These towns probably consisted for the most part of huts. free that of the formation of what may best be termed the Swahili ethnic community. Arab sources tell us of sgraffito type with a also with dark cream shading and glazing. MATVEIEV. The important point was that the towns were trading centres where local Ethnically. but they also had stone buildings and were the dwelling places of the wealthy and noble members of Swahili members of the community. The commoners formed the ma¬ jority and the main body of the Swahili time centres of Islam on the coast. A maritime city-state built on the island of Kilwa Kisiwani. society. comprising Arabs.éï9>^âi\â\r^9W^m shaping of Swahili civilization by Victor V.

Use was simply made of undressed stone of more or less uniform development of Swahili society. Elsewhere flat roofs continued to be the rule. Where commercial activity was the most intense a new type of medium of ceremonies. In the first half of the fifteenth century this activity continued at Kilwa and was accompanied by further im¬ ported to Egypt. The main export item here was gold. building in This initial period which had methods. The only edifice from Swahili which and be that period to have survived to this day is the Great Mosque of Kilwa but is civilization. When Hussein Ben Ali. for in¬ to by Ibn mosque within the bounds of Makutani is a Battuta). and An the out¬ number of adherents increased. The Portuguese were impressed by the turies) as in excavations at Kilwa and other coastal towns. fought the Shanga people. We know of the huge quantity of cloth ar¬ riving at Mombasa and Kilwa for onward power with the old aristocracy. Island. the Great pearls. which was placed in mortar. Kilwa Coins are found in the major trading cen¬ tres such as Kilwa on Kisiwani. an Arab. and their in¬ in Gedi. who visited East Africa.glassware. The penetration of Islam seems to have begun at the end of the seventh or eighth century. at a later date. The goldin the Islam grew and went deeper. not only on assimilated some elements of the Muslim naline and quartz beads and steatite vases from Madagascar have also been found. with its very high intrinsic value. privileges of the various sections of Swahili In the early thirteenth ruled Island century Kilwa the it its exchange was introduced in the form of society. Mogadishu exported "maqdashi" (i. This East African Islam should evidently not be put on a par with that of the Arab countries. The adoption and spread of Islam under carving. reckoned it was begin in the early fourteenth century and rebuilt a number of times and now a coincided with the advent at Kilwa of a new completely new building. the Chinese did not take a direct part in trading with Africa until the early fif¬ teenth century. leopard skins. what was impor¬ tant at the beginning was simply to be con¬ sidered as being Muslim. Swahili society chains and bangles of gold and silver on I 67 . In the reign of Sultan Sulaiman ibn Muhammed al-Malik al-Adil (1412-1442). also led to Swahili being put into a written form based on Arabic script. But his affairs. cor¬ medium of exhange. particularly with regard to trade. It may also be supposed that coins had a greater ex¬ change value than cowries. In the legal system (but probably not the entire system). the the coast and the inland gold-bearing regions near Lake Nyasa. light in Work various of this parts kind of has come to coast. The start of this extension process should probably be streets of the districts of Kilwa comprising mud-wall houses were narrow and covered heart of the continent and on the territory of what is now Zambia were probably the first with which trade links were establish¬ ed. Even cupolas were built in this way. par¬ Kenya. it seems that those elements were then on¬ ly to be found at Kilwa. which were exchanged for gold and ivory. of Chinese origin found in the course of ex¬ cavations. In the mid-thirteenth century Kilwa Mogadishu. They are found in all excavations and. to mid-twelfth century Kilwa started to import Chinese Sung porcelain together with a observe a number and to of fix Muslim the religious and by china. other details in wood richly adorned with dated back to no later than the last decades of the twelfth century. Zanzibar and its own Kilwa. The rise of this new influential group and its dispatch to Sofala in the fifteenth century. In the thirteenth century Islam houses of two or three floors made their appearance. According to Portuguese sources. spread to the coast itself. expressed the desire to pur¬ remained chase Kilwa Kisiwani. by the wealth of the inhabitants and by the elegance of their rich gold-adorned silk and cotton clothes. He describes Mogadishu as a major trading centre and familiarized achievements it of with other the peoples. The con¬ tacts that are a natural part of trading tuta. at its height. the local African reports the presence of Muslims on Kanbalu Island speaking an African language. from which the gold was brought to Kilwa. who were most probably the inhabitants of the island of Sanje ya Kati. rights small amount of celadon. In the course of the fourteenth century Mogadishu) cloth. As related in the Chronicle of Kilwa. A characteristic detail of building at that time was the custom of adorning vaults and cupolas with glazed vessels of Chinese and Persian porcelain set into the body of the construction. as indicated. with the need to keep accounts. A consequence of the development and spread of Islam among the Swahili was not only the construction of mosques but also the development of building in stone. There were undoubtedly links between religion coexisted with traditional cults. Thus maqdashi cloth was ex¬ A consequence of the development of many stone houses were built in Kilwa and it became a large town. The mor¬ tar was poured into casings and completed period is clear. while other cloth was im¬ trade was the appearance of an influential group in Swahili society competing for ported from Egypt and from Jerusalem. it seems. In the fourteenth century the main medium of exchange. Hussein Ben AN had the cloth made and took possession of Kilwa. This construction activity undoubtedly denotes the growing wealth of the town. religion. This victory probably consisted simply laying underlay ment of the subsequent trade can rapid the develop¬ Swahili to troduction is a likely indication of the large scale of business done. This is borne out by the fact that the main article of trade at Kilwa was gold. The minting and that came under centres have been Kilwa sway. Monolithic columns were replaced by columns of stone and type of house mortar. The women wore i religion and law. in the northern part of the coast. The basic the same but count in the Chronicle of Kilwa of the pur¬ chase of Kilwa Island. In this trade it was cowrie shells more towns. The demands of trade and the coast but also in the interior of the con¬ tinent. That is the period to which the spread of Islam on the East African islands is usually attributed. The buildings in the town had wooden doors and. Kwa Juani beginnings date back to the twelfth century islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Kisiwani and the Mafia. probably.e. Its "Shirazi" seems dynasty Mafia at and coins of copper and seem to silver. The likely cause of the strug¬ gle was rivalry to control local trade. and its full develop¬ ment must have coincided with the four¬ shells. The house with a The main export items were ivory and gold. chief replied that he would sell the island for a length of cloth sufficient to encircle it. ticularly Bagamoyo and Zanzibar. In the course of time the influence of Mosque of Kilwa was reconstructed in its present form. At that time the abundance of gold and its rôle in commerce as an article of trade obviously precluded its use as a blocks on red clay. Mogadishu's trade links were distinct from those of the other towns farther south. vast Persians quantity and of Indians. dynasty associated with the name of Abu-'lMawahib. and the new monument of that period at Kilwa. In all probability. semicylindrical vaults. and building methods developed further. Our main source in Arabic for that period is Ibn Bat¬ Trade underlay the social and cultural well as in commerce. of pointed cupolas. The same purpose seems to have been served by beads and. coral ultimately prevailed. In addition to these were slaves (the slave raids being referred horn. cultural in par¬ size. This is attested by finds of cowrie over with protruding palm leaves forming the roofs of the houses. Judging by the reference in Ibn Battuta's work to the cadis of than any other article which provided a Mogadishu and Kilwa. bearing regions near the Zambezi ward indication of this kind of change is the rise in the number of mosques. rhinoceros ambergris. and it is a very fine example of East African Swahili architecture. trading centre of Kilwa underwent a period of growth and prosperity in architecture as In the fourteenth century the volume of trade was. In the Engaruka area of present-day teenth and fifteenth centuries. This was provided by Islam which had become known through contacts with the Arabs and Persians. The part played by cloth in the early endeavour to consolidate its position called for a new ideology. for instance. the goods stone columns and various ornaments. In the tenth century Al Masudi provement in building methods. A small quantity of glass. New con¬ struction elements included spherical and relates that it was customary for each mer¬ chant who arrived to choose from among the citizens a confidential agent to manage ticular Despite the Arabs. from the ac¬ with rubble. excavation of a trading settlement yielded the same type of cowrie shells and beads (of the fifteenth and sixteenth cen¬ the conditions of intense commercial activity was accompanied by much borrowing from Arabic. shells and. stance.

For not only was Kilwa an important trading centre. 68 . a fallen portion of a vault in the House of the Mosque showing inset bowls. Ming blue and white porcelain. During the reign of Sultan Sulaiman ibn Muhammed al-Malik al Adil (1412-1442) the Great Mosque was reconstructed in its present form (aerial photo above) and with its cupolas.The Great Mosque of Kilwa "Faith and righteousness are their foremost qualities". columns and vaults (right) it remains a fine example of East African Swahili architecture. declared the Arab historian Ibn Battuta in a description of the people of Kilwa written in 1331. Kilwa imported large quantities of Persian and Chinese pottery. A curious practice among builders of the time was to inset porcelain bowls as a ceiling decoration. later. including Sung porcelain and celadon and. it was also a centre of Islamic Influence. Construction of the Great Mosque of Kilwa was begun in the 12th century and as the city's prosperity grew the Mosque was rebuilt several times. Above.

East African Swahili towns. as we now know. the Portuguese ships were an invincible capitals of small States ruled over by the local Muslim dynasties. Photo. was large fleet of light craft. Iraq and China. whole did not endeavour to develop its pro¬ ductive forces beyond the level which pro Victor V. Indeed. lies within the massive walls of the Great Enclosure which was erected in the 13th and 14th centuries. were often administrative centres and the It is possible that all these factors did ac¬ tually sap the Swahili civilization. like Kilwa. The conical tower. par¬ ticularly Kilwa. was not tied in with development of the productive forces of the region. Their constant presence in the region under the command of Ruy Lorenso Ravasco. This was also true of hunt¬ ing and the mining of such commodities as gold and iron. Various circumstances are considered to have contributed to the decline of the recovered. Matveiev The imposing ruins of Great Zimbabwe. But above all they were trading centres. and it also seems that decreased rainfall the before the advent of trading on a substan¬ The furniture consisted of carpets and mats. was the disruption of maritime trade by the Portuguese. Photo Picou © A. silver and gold. the defeat of Zanzibar's said to have underlain its weakness.A. right. former capital of two great southern African states the Monomatapa Empire (12th to late 15th century) and the Changamire Empire (late 15th to early 19th century) are situated near Fort Victoria in present-day Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. it seems clear that the East African Swahili civilization At the same time. and sometimes stools and luxurious beds inlaid with ivory. There was the Zimba invasion. The construction of Zimbabwe's hilltop stronghold. From the occupations of the population with the inevitable consequence of a rapid depletion of wealth and of the civilization's vital force. trade alone was an in¬ sufficient basis and stimulant for a civiliza¬ tion.A. however. and the consequent upsetting hindered the of water balance further This is also evident from the fact that few iron tools or other metal instruments have development of the coastal towns. Being well fitted out. This. 9 metres in height.their arms and legs. laden with goods. mother-of-pearl. It was trade that prompted the growth and progress of a civilization. medieval it can be seen that the Swahili people as a Swahili civilization perished. and earrings set with precious stones. The chief intended not for local consumption but for sale and export. But it can also be threatened to bring trade to a standstill. tial scale. The loss of former trade routes and the disruption of commercial relations force. The wealth of Zimbabwe was based on the region's gold and copper mines and the recent discovery in the ruins of a coin bearing the effigy of Sultan Al-Hasan Bin Sulaiman (1320-1333) of Kilwa seems to confirm that Zimbabwe was regularly visited by Arab traders from the east coast. for it . cause. bably obtained in traditional Swahili society Swahili civilization. equipped with artillery and built for the very purpose of naval warfare. The rich made everyday come to light in excavations. the seizure of twenty vessels was the fruit of commercial development. and the Great Enclosure on the plain below must have required an effort comparable to that involved in the building of the Egyptian pyramids. Paris 69 . as well as from Egypt and Syria. were all blows from which East African and maritime beneath trade them never what the future held in store for the East African towns. and the plundering and destruction of the coastal towns. Almost all the goods got or produced by the Swahili were use of imported pottery from Iran.

But of a causality applied according to par¬ fying curiosity. in which the Africa by distance. through Shaba. becomes a pronouncement. and the early written sources. so that there is no need 70 . Sudan on the one hand and the forest of Guinea on the East other. between the Nile certain mar¬ riage. anthropology. African history must be seen at last from within. and the number of those with potential claims living reality which can be set out in a vivid synthesis. in which calendars are not abstract or univer¬ instruments can be developed with which to apprehend their particular evolution. pastoral and agricultural life. the low despite level of cultural anthropology the obstacles itiatory text of the Fula shepherds which societies the idea of anteriority is even techniques. time measured goods. for exam¬ ple. Of course. for a variety of reasons: firstly. transcontinental trade across (uncles. in which the rhythm of work and of days is from base to summit. and so on. indispensable tural and ceramic styles and to draw from them a chronological series extending over of self-examination do not consist in ar¬ tificially abolishing Africa's historical con¬ nexions with the other continents of the Old and New Worlds. trade networks. the council called of Homo sapiens their "being-in-the- together through and for discussion con¬ stitutes the brain of the body politic. for even the despotism of certain of our enterprise should go far beyond these purely individual aims. which took place on a technology to suggest that royal gongs and twin bells spread from West Africa to ar¬ large scale in both space and time. there has been a certain degree enabled prehistorians to unravel some of the enigmas of the Tassili frescoes in more significant than elsewhere. ex¬ cept for a few decades in modern times. the em¬ phasis should be on common factors as a source in itself. There cannot be an in¬ dependent collective personality without sources. Similarly. but deal in natural phenomena such as moon and sun. the policy and practice course. chronology requires the use of disciplinarity even more necessary. and conception ions have to be analysed in terms of mutual exchanges and multilateral influences. and time is not money.m. the real intention sometimes bloody links. Por¬ tuguese. Lower Zaire. dances and participation dishes. This conception of time is historical in several respects. brothers. in Burundi. interdisciplinarity. and oral tradition. Moreover. and all this supported by stratigraphie soundings.). This is so important that it can almost be regarded Thus. secondly. and the movement of men and beasts. is not to be seen as a vast human tide attracted by emptiness wake.m. structures: eight millennia. rain and drought. In this region it has been possible to establish a diachronic typology of pic¬ to external factors and influences. The history of Africa obvious¬ ly includes the Mediterranean sector in a unity consecrated by age-long and generations varies. On the other hand. amakama is the time to milk (7 a. more or less visible according to area. new metronome enough for human activity. valley and including among other things the dispersion of the Lwos. the habitat. Every hour is defined by concrete acts. many passages of which Will remain impenetrable enigmas as long as the historical horizon of the continent of Africa has not been lit up. Arab. And was it not a in¬ Even since and prehistory. the establishment of key events is a task of the first importance. between Nile valley Algeria ? The expansion of the Bantus. The Africans' idea of time is based on the principle of causality. kuasase is when the sun spreads out (9 a. has filled out considerably a picture when the sun spreads out over the hills (10 a. a list of dated eclipses. But. arts and crafts. sons) is always high. by the absence of those technical means which add to the weight of centralization. research if we want to push forward to a new frontier in African historiography. It world" is different. which make the two parts of Africa on either side of the Sahara the two leaves of one door. and through between of the and Bantu. other this cattle-raising in terms of inter-regional techniques exchanges and ideas. The fact that age is taken into account in the context of a very open competition again lends significance to chronoiogy. archaeology. The application of are let out (8 a. between Primogeniture is not usually a matter of the the the Sudan diaspora and Central Africa. oral tradition. the average length of reigns and nent seen as a whole. Shaba and Zambia. in methodological approach makes inter¬ general. can which something will be heard of Africa's contribution mankind. this history can only be the history of the peoples of the African conti¬ to the development of religious philosophical problem of nations and pre-nations. it has never been shaped according to the frontiers fixed by colonization. in which logic is steeped in and diverted by myth. including the Finally. For the history of Africa is necessary to the understanding dynasts has always been tempered in of world history. the respect of other people. and leaving emptiness in its chaeological evidence would of course pro¬ Another imperative requirement is that vide invaluable confirmation of this. the two sides of one coin. Of an awareness of self and of the right to be different. a highly stimulating intellec¬ tual exercise for someone eager to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. and the When eclipses are linked to the reigns of various dynasties. and so on. Africa. it is very important that the whole course of the historical pro¬ cess should be reintegrated into the con¬ text of African time. kumusase is political sociology to the oral tradition con¬ cerning the Kingdom of Ségou. Jn is resulting from long common origins and age¬ of in men. It has to be a history of peoples. east exclusive right to royal succession. The occasionally help with chronology.).m. as attested by the concordant sources of linguistics. tech¬ niques of modernization. economic stage reached is elementary. Four main principles must govern must be a history of peoples because. religion thought. reason that the territorial bases of the To begin with. while linguistic Atlantic coasts. not still measured by the yardstick Our history of Africa must avoid being too narrative. in and organization and of power. maturuka is when the herds African peoples differ everywhere from the frontiers inherited from colonial partition.it public special alone are based such rights as in of historical solidarity the on a continental and the scale. and by the permanence of village democracies. for the good sal.). the nature of the relationship between a sovereign and his successor is not always clear. so that at every level. and so on.CONTINUED FROM PAGE 11 A continent viewed from within the "being" of Africans is the same that for it to be measured numerically. Once this is done. natural stereotyped datum of exploits. arguments converge with those of Migration. But these connex¬ to the task of defining the original outline of African evolution. Joseph Ki-Zerbo ticular norms. and confirmed by carbon datings and the study of flora and fauna. several sources. which would otherwise be nothing but a bare genealogical tree decked with a few country. because upon. But the main concern will be civilizations. British and Afrikaaner.m. why this return to African sources? While for an outsider this quest for the past could be merely a way of satis¬ mainland and neighbouring islands such as Madagascar. So in the continental context. agrarian and metallurgical techniques. institutions.). for otherwise it would be in danger of according too much importance The Ennedi provides an excellent exam¬ ple of the coming together of all available of alien values. In gérontocratie African words of both material and spiritual com¬ modities.

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