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Asmara, Eritrea  

David P. Johnson

Asmara is located in a highland region of Eritrea that was settled roughly 700 years ago. It is believed to have been the site of four small, feuding villages, which, under pressure from the villages’ women inhabitants, finally made peace and united around 1515. The name Asmara comes from Arbate Asmara, which in the Tigrinya language means “the four villages of those [women] who brought harmony.” Sixteenth-century Italian sources describe Asmara as a caravan trading center.

Shortly afterward Asmara was sacked by Islamic warriors and went into decline. Few historical records even mention Asmara again until the late nineteenth century, when the Italians began their colonial conquest of the region. After occupying Aseb in 1882 and Massawa in 1885, the Italians pushed into the highlands, where they encountered resistance. However, in exchange for weapons Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II signed a treaty in 1889 acquiescing to Italian control ...


Bamako, Mali  

Elizabeth Heath

The administrative, economic, and cultural center of Mali, Bamako lies on the left bank of the Niger River in the southwestern part of the country. Little is known about Bamako before the eleventh century, when it achieved prominence as a center of Islamic scholarship in the Mali empire. After the fall of Mali in the sixteenth century, the Bambara occupied the town, which became a fishing and trading center. In 1806 Scottish explorer Mungo Park estimated Bamako’s population to be less than 6,000. By 1880 the town had fallen under the domination of the Mandinka warrior Samory Touré, whose kingdom covered an expanse of territory to the south.

In 1883 French Lieutenant Colonel Gustave Borgnis Desbordes occupied Bamako and used it as a base for military campaigns against Touré Bamako took on new importance under the French who valued the town s position on the navigable ...


Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso  

Susanne Freidberg

The city of Bobo-Dioulasso is located in one of the greener areas of Burkina Faso, and has long benefited from the fertility of the surrounding countryside. According to the legends of the Bobo people, their ancestors migrated from present-day Mali sometime between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries c.e.. and became the first inhabitants of what Bobo folk songs call “the plateau of abundance” in the southern Volta region. Over the following centuries, long-distance traders settled among the Bobo peasants on this plateau and established a community known as Sya on the banks of the Houet River. Located at the crossroads of trans-Saharan and east-west trade routes, Sya was a lively market town by the time European colonization began in the late nineteenth century. French troops, facing fierce resistance from Sya’s Zara warriors, conquered the town in 1895 They renamed it Bobo Dioulasso in Dioula house of the ...


Day, John, Jr.  

Linda M. Carter

missionary and founding father of the state of Liberia, was born in Hicksford, Greensville County, Virginia, the elder son of John Day Sr., an affluent furniture maker, farmer, and landowner, and Mourning Stewart Day. The Days were free African Americans, and Day's father, as early as the 1789 election, was accorded voting status.

In an era when formal education for African Americans was rare, Day reaped the benefits of being the offspring of two prominent families. His father arranged for him to board in Edward Whitehorne's home, and Day, along with the Whitehorne children, attended Jonathan Bailey's school. While residing with the family, Day received some level of religious instruction from Whitehorne. In 1807 Day's father, who had been residing in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, purchased a plantation in Sussex County, Virginia, near the Whitehorne residence, and Day then attended William Northcross's school.

At the age of nineteen ...


Edward, Lake  

Lake Edward, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, has an area of about 2,150 square kilometers (about 830 square miles) and lies 912 meters (2,990 feet) above sea level. It is connected on the northeast with Lake George (or Lake Dweru) in Uganda, by means of the Kazinga Channel. Lake Edward is fed by the Rutshuru River, a headstream of the White Nile. The lake has only one outlet, the Semliki River, which links it with Lake Albert to the north. High escarpments run along the western shore of the lake and mountains rise on the northwestern shore. The water is brackish with mineral salts. Many fish and crocodiles live in the lake, and waterfowl abound on its shores. The Anglo-American explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley discovered the lake in 1889. The lake was formerly called Albert Edward Nyanza.

See alsoGeomorphology, African ...


Egypt, Ancient Kingdom of  

The origins of ancient Egyptian civilization, which many regard as one of the fountainheads of Western culture, cannot be established with certainty. Archaeological evidence suggests that early dwellers in the Nile Valley were influenced both by the cultures of the Middle East and by surrounding African cultures. Describing the development of Egyptian civilization, like attempts to identify its intellectual foundations, is largely a process of conjecture based on archaeological discoveries of enduring ruins, tombs, and monuments, many of which contain invaluable specimens of the ancient culture. Inscriptions in hieroglyphs, for instance, have provided priceless data.

The framework for the study of the Dynastic Period of Egyptian history, between the First Dynasty and the Ptolemaic period, relies on the Aegyptiaca of Manetho, a Ptolemaic priest of the third century b.c.e who organized the country s rulers into thirty dynasties roughly corresponding to families General agreement exists on the division of ...


Ghana, Early Kingdom of  

Ancient Ghana was important in the ninth century c.e.. when it controlled the Wangara area (between the upper Niger and Senegal rivers), which produced great quantities of gold for trade across the Sahara. Slaves were also traded with the gold, in return for salt from Teghaza in the desert and cloth from North Africa.

In the eleventh century the kingdom of Ghana was described by the Islamic historian al Bakri c 1000 Raised in Muslim Spain al Bakri wrote historico geographical surveys of West African kingdoms and empires in Arabic albeit from a distance He never traveled south of the Sahara but instead contented himself with the reports of trans Saharan traders and explorers Nonetheless Ghana was at the apex of its power during the years al Bakri performed most of his investigations and it was he who claimed that it was so rich in gold that dogs ...


Great Zimbabwe  

At its height Great Zimbabwe dominated much of the present-day country of Zimbabwe. By the end of the fifteenth century the city had declined and had been all but abandoned. Today the stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe, located in south central Zimbabwe, make up a national monument.


Koumbi Saleh, Mauritania  

Ari Nave

Koumbi Saleh was the last capital of ancient Ghana (also known as Wagadu), a powerful and wealthy West African kingdom dominated by the Soninké people. The city’s archaeological remains lie 320 kilometers (200 miles) north of Bamako, Mali. Eleventh-century scholar Abu Ubaydalla al-Bakri wrote that the city consisted of two distinct towns: a Muslim town and a royal compound. Archaeologists have confirmed the existence of the much larger and denser Muslim town, covering 2.5 square kilometers (one square mile). Its wealthy Muslim traders prayed in the dozen mosques. A large main street twelve meters (forty feet) wide ran the length of this settlement. A distinct, Soninké-dominated royal compound, less well built, probably existed ten kilometers (six miles) from the main town. Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 people probably lived at Koumbi Saleh at its peak, when the town prospered from the sale of gold and slaves to trans-Saharan traders.

Sources ...



Ali Osman Mohammad Salih

What was Nubia? This has always been a controversial question. The controversy stems from the difficulties determining the origin of the name Nubia, when Nubia first appeared in history, and its geographical limits. There is general agreement among most scholars that the name derives from nob, the Nubian word for gold, and is linked to the importance of gold to the Nubians.

However, recent research suggests other possibilities. The modern Nubian word kiji means “fertile land, dark gray mud, silt, or black land” the sound of this word is near to the Egyptian name Kish or Kush, referring to the land south of Egypt. It is believed that the name Kush also meant “the land of dark silt” or “the black land.” This was the Egyptian name for Nubia. But what did the Kushites call their land?

We know from modern and recent analogies that peoples do not always adopt ...


Premodern Africans in China  

Don J. Wyatt

The precise date for the appearance of the first Africans in China is likely to forever remain elusive but, whereas entry overland remains plausible, the footing is probably surer in electing to credit that occasion to the Indian Ocean slave trade. According to historian Gwyn Campbell (2008), this seaward trade in Africans as slaves stretched back some four millennia. Yet, before the seventh century of the Common Era, enslavement of Africans was an enterprise in which only the littoral countries of the western portion of the Indian Ocean had tended to engage, owing to their proximity to the lands along the East African coastline, which collectively served as the principal source of supply. Gradually, however, often through the process of transshipment and under a succession of Persian, Arab, and European enslavers, Africans were increasingly ferried to locales farther east and eventually on to China.

The earliest designation that ...


Thebes, Egypt  

Robert Fay

The ancient city of Thebes was situated on both sides of the Nile in upper Egypt. It comprised a residential town on the eastern bank, whose ruins extend into present-day Luxor and Karnak, and a more famous western side, which contained the pharaonic cemetery and the Valley of the Kings. It is in this location that the graves of the New Kingdom pharaohs lie (also called the Theban necropolis and the “city of the dead”).

The history of the city of Thebes can be traced back approximately 4,500 years, to the twenty-fifth century b.c.e. The city began as an obscure village called Waset, named after Wast, the village’s local goddess. During a period of political instability in Egypt referred to as the first intermediate period (2134–2040b.c.e however powerful Theban nomarchs governors emerged and the city grew in importance with them Eventually these nomarchs ...


Turkana, Lake  

Robert Fay

Commonly called the Jade Sea because of its color, Lake Turkana is located in the volcanic rock desert of northwestern Kenya; its northern tip lies in Ethiopia. The shallow, narrow lake is about 250 kilometers (160 miles) long and covers an area of 7,100 square kilometers (2,700 square miles). It is fed by the Omo River, from the north, but has no outlet. Lake Turkana is most famous as the site where Richard Leakey unearthed fossils that transformed scientific understanding of human evolution. But the lake is also home to the pastoral Turkana people who keep cattle camels goats and sheep The Turkana practice transhumance moving their herds away from the lake during the dry season to areas of better pastures and returning to the lake during the rainy season Lake Turkana also provides refuge for the largest crocodile population in the world Poachers ignore these crocodiles ...


Valley of the Kings  

Robert Fay

During the Old and Middle Kingdoms of ancient Egypt (2575–1640b.c.e.), the pharaohs commissioned pyramid tombs and temples in anticipation of their journeys to the afterlife. They filled these tombs with the goods considered necessary for the next life, including jewels, precious metals, food, tools, furniture, and even royal servants and pets. These riches lured grave robbers, who stripped most of the known tombs virtually bare. Beginning with Amenhotep I (1525–1504b.c.e. ), however, the pharaohs located their burial complexes on the west bank of the Nile, across the river from Thebes in a valley hidden by cliffs and a narrow entrance Amenhotep I had his temple and tomb built into the side of the limestone cliffs in the valley with deep corridors stretching as far as 100 meters 325 feet below the earth Traditionally work on a pharaoh s tomb began the day ...