Africa – Slavery


Slavery was common in prehistoric Africa and, in fact, well into the 20th century. As far back as 3500 years ago, Egypt was conquering other states and villages in their quest for more slaves. However, it was the global trend

For many years, slavery in Africa was perpetuated as a lot of the tradesmen and merchants viewed slaves as produce or property. There were, of course, those who held very different opinions of their slaves and made an effort to make them part of their own family. In some other cultures, slaves were even enabled to achieve positions of power in the military or in administration. When slaves belonged to an African owner, they were seldom of the same ethnic group, although both being black.

A person was usually made a slave as punishment for a crime committed, in repayment of an outstanding debt, or as a result of being a prisoner of war. Therefore, they were seldom acquired under ‘innocent’ terms, creating a preconceived idea of all slaves being criminals. Once bought, they would be used to perform menial tasks around the property, in the case of men, and work as domestic workers inside the home (cooking, spinning and dying cotton, washing, and cleaning) in the case of women. They may also have been purchased as wives and concubines for the slave owner, or as a means of improving his status within the community. Women made up the majority of early African slaves. Men’s roles would include being porters, weaving, farming, construction and metalwork.

Image of Slave Irons.
Slave Irons.

The Arabs invaded many parts of West, East and Central Africa between the seventh and 20th centuries, they bought slaves and sent them to North Africa and to some countries in Asia. The Europeans, who arrived in about the 15th century, sent slaves to America, Europe and the Caribbean until the 1800’s of our Common Era (CE). This not only implied the dissipation of many of the African families and, therefore, cultures (as slaves lost their kinship and identity), but also meant that slavery became a major commercial enterprise, being the backbone of many African civilisations’ economy. Even amongst the civilisations, slaves became the yardstick to determine how much land that society was able to own. So, the more slaves they owned, the more land was due to them.

The Muslim Arabs were the first to trade in African slaves, exporting them and selling them as a commodity to an enormous extent. The link between this profitable trade and their strict faith became strengthened, and slavery eventually became an integral part of the religion. During the seventh and eighth centuries CE, these Arabs moved west from North Africa, claiming Berbers as their slaves and introducing these ones to Islam. As these slaves were sold to other regions, the Muslim faith spread, not only through Africa, but also into other countries (e.g. India, Iran and so on). The Arabs also moved around, trading in and invading parts of Africa and thus spread Islam over the continent.

Image of Slave Ship
Slave Ship

It was when Europe took a stance for human rights that slavery in Africa, and the rest of the world, began its decline. This happened during the 1700’s, when industrial development overtook agricultural progression. The United States did away with slavery in 1807 and the United Kingdom had followed by 1833. Brazil was the last country outside of Africa to follow suit in 1888. Africa was, unfortunately, too dependent on the slave trade and, despite being legislated against during the 20th century, continued to trade in human beings as a product illegally for many decades thereafter.

For more information, please view: History Of Slavery

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.