Timbuktu


Timbuktu was established as a civilisation in about 1100 of our Common Era (CE). This was when the African nomads called the Tuaregs set their homesteads up in the fruitful, green area that came to be known as Timbuktu. This region was chosen because of its rich, fertile nature and productive land. In addition, it was just out of range of the waters of the Niger River when they became flooded each year. Due to its prime location, Timbuktu came to be the common meeting place for traders from many other areas in Africa. Those crossing the Sahara with salt would encounter the near Timbuktu merchants with their gold from the Niger River area, allowing them to trade with one another and expand their client base.

Image of a Man in Timbuktu.
Man in Timbuktu.

Because Islam was spreading through Africa so prolifically at this time in the continent’s history, many of those people travelling across the deserts and plains brought their religion with them and into new, untouched areas. It was in this way that the society of Timbuktu became exposed to Islam, which was soon the dominant religion in the area. It was, in fact, such a major element of their society that those who did not wish to convert to Islam were pressured to change under force. Islam was entrenched in the Tuareg civilisation when Mansa Musa, the very successful emperor of Mali, travelled via Timbuktu on his return from a pilgrimage to Mecca. This emperor did not travel alone, but had with him some 60 000 people. Musa built a mosque and university in his own honour, which remained as a reminder of him and the religion he brought to the society in 1324.

The culture in Timbuktu has always been a very structured one, with specific roles for each member of its whole. As with most other African cultures, women and girls were responsible for the care and maintenance of the home, as well as the cooking. The Tuareg women would not enjoy the privilege of education; this was reserved for the men. Girls would often marry at 13 years of age, and their life before this was all in preparation for being a wife and mother.

During their youth, boys were given many responsibilities. These prepared them for adulthood and instilled a sense of duty and responsibility in them from an early age. Their duties included caring for the herds of cattle, sheep or goats. They also had to attend school and study the Muslim Koran.

Image of the Great Mud Mosque of Djenne, on the Niger River near Timbuktu.
Great Mud Mosque of Djenne, on the Niger River near Timbuktu.

Interestingly, the location of Timbuktu isolated the nation from many others, creating an air of mystique. Europeans longed to see this elusive land, especially during its era of success and abundance. However, many died in their vain attempts to find Timbuktu. The prominence and stability of Timbuktu began to crumble when easier trade links between north and south were discovered, and when the wars between Timbuktu and Morocco caused irreparable damage to the city. Still, this nation maintains its strict family structure and responsibilities as well as its beauty and sense of mysticism down to the modern day.
For more information, please view: http://www.timbuktufoundation.org/history.html

 

Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations


Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.