The well-known Catalan atlas of 1375 is credited to Abraham Cresques, a fourteenth century Jewish cartographer from the island of Majorca. The atlas was divided into six large panels. Panel three, the source of the atlas excerpt above, shows principal points along the trans-Saharan trade routes in west and north Africa, as well as camel caravans and some of the major trade goods exchanged—gold, copper, iron, horses, salt, textiles, leather goods, ivory, and captive peoples.
Bantu (“the people”) is a cultural-linguistic cluster of peoples originating around present-day Cameroon and Nigeria in West Africa. The prefix “ba” means “people,” while the stem “ntu” refers to “life force,” hence, “the people.” These African peoples migrated into much of central, southern, and eastern Africa over an approximate 2,000-year period.
The state of Aksum was located in the Ethiopian highlands, where local society developed in the northern end of the central highlands, before gradually moving south. Aksumite society engaged in pastoralism, harvested cereals, coffee and cotton, exploited its iron industry through its major port of Adulis on the Red Sea.
Neferkare or Shabaka, a ruler of the twenty-fifth dynasty, ordered an ancient religious text copied onto stone because the original was worm-eaten. The text belongs to the Old Kingdom (ca. 2649–2150 BCE), but its precise date is unknown. Named after this ruler, the Shabaka inscription shows how the beginnings of Kemetic/ancient Egyptian history had both divine and human origins, and how he, the ruler, was a bridge between both worlds.
Ptahhotep (ptāħ ħwtp) was a sage, city administrator, royal official and oldest son of Djedkare Isesi, the fifth dynasty ruler (r. 2414-2375 BCE) under which the “Instructions of Ptahhotep” were recorded. The instructions of Ptahhotep are one of several “wisdom” texts found in ancient Egypt.
Aksum was one of few states in the ancient world to issue their own independent coinage—in gold, silver, and copper. At the height of its power in the fourth and fifth century CE, the civilization and empire of Aksum extended its trade and influence to Egypt, the Mediterranean and across the Red Sea into Arabia.
The main industrial craft in Meroë was iron smelting and the making of iron tools, weapons, and implements. Iron provided its farmers and hunters with superior tools and weapons. The development and use of iron was thus partly responsible for the very success, growth and wealth of Meroë.
Scientists suggest at least three waves of human movement and periods of wetness between 130,000 and 10,000 BCE. During these periods, Africa’s Sahara region was a patchwork of forests, grasslands, and lakes.