Aug 24, 2018

7 less-known ancient African civilisations


Edited: Aug 24, 2018


Many flourishing empires existed in Africa dating as far back as 700AD. These empires were established by indigenous Africans who lived centuries before those who came into contact with the Europeans through trade and later colonisation.

Ancient African civilizations, even though rejected by several western scholars have existed. The pre-advanced states are known for their captivating architecture, trade and governance systems. Empires like the Songhai, Mali, Ashanti, Ghana and Dahomey Empires are among the most mentioned Empires from Africa.

Here are seven less known Empires that existed in Ancient African Societies


1. Kanem-Bornu Empire


This empire was established soon after the collapse of the Assyrian Empire around 700 AD by the nomadic Tebu-speaking Kanembu who were forced down south in search of more fertile grounds. The empire existed between the modern day Libya, Chad, Niger and Nigeria and was known as one the longest lasting dynasties in African history existing from 700AD to about 1893.

The empire first existed as the Kanem Empire from 700- 1380 and later as the independent Bornu Empire from 1380-1893. The kingdom officially became the Kaname- Bornu empire in 1571 when king Idris Alum embarked on what is now known as one of the greatest political expansions. The kingdom replaced the Shongai empire as the leading power. The kingdom started to decline by the 17the century and saw a further decline by the 18th century as a result of political and administrative disorganisation and attacks by the Ouaddai Empire.


2. Luba Empire


The Luba empire also known as the Kingdom of Luba existed in modern-day Republic of Congo that existed between 1585 to 1889. The kingdom rose from the Nkongolo dynasty in the Upemba depression, a mashy bowl area in Congo. According to the Mdubye traditional state, the kingdom was established by King Nkongolo in 1585 and his nephew Kalala Ilunga, who conquered the cruel Nkongolo ruler and expanded the empire.

Kalala Ilunga is also said to have introduced advanced iron forging techniques to the Luba people. Luba kings were turned into deities after their death and their huts residences were turned into shrines. The Luba empire had close to 1 million people during its peak.

The empire has a successful governing system which was later adopted by the Lunda Empire. The government was a great balance between strong and flexible and one of the main reasons why the kingdom lasted. The kingdom was blessed with farmers, hunters, fishermen and was very rich trading its natural resources like oil and copper but the trade led to the decline of the kingdom in the 1880’s when Europen colonies raided the empire in search of slaves and ivory.


3. The Kingdom of Mapungubwe



Existing between modern-day Botswana and Zimbabwe, this kingdom was the first and largest kingdom established in southern Africa and existed between 1075 to 1220. The kingdom had a population of about 5000 people and thrived as a gold trading centre attracting traders from China and India.

The Kingdom is said to be the early development of the later Kingdom of Zimbabwe. It was also popular for its stone masonry and class-based social system. Today, the kingdom has been transformed into a park and tourist site. Their government has been described as a sacred kingship.


4. The Ajuran Empire



This Somalia empire dominated the Indian Ocean trade and ruled Northeast of Africa in the medieval period. The empire is noted for its extensive architecture. The empire was established in the 9th century and was a very strong and powerful empire trading with traders all over the world. The kingdom had its own currency and was an Islam state under the Sharia law. It was ruled mainly by the aristocrats but declined in the late 17th century due to poor governance.


5. The Sao Civilisation



This civilisation was established in the 6th century and existed in Middle Africa until the 16th century. They are known as the earliest people whose traces can be located in modern-day Cameroon.

The kingdom became an Islamic state before its decline. Due to its ancient existence, there are no written sources of the civilization, however, archaeologists have recovered various artefacts that link to the civilisation.


6. Wadai Empire



Also known as the Ouaddai Empire was a kingdom located to the east of Lake Chad in present-day Chad and in the Central African Republic, the Wadai empire existed under the shadows of the Kanem Bornu empire from 1635 till 1912. In 1804, the empire expanded through profits from trade under the reign of Muhammad Suban. The Empire is known for its fight against French domination until 1909 when the Empire declined.


7. Shilluk Kingdom


The ancient Nilotic inhabitants of this Kingdom were great warriors. The Shilluk kingdom was founded during the 15th century by King Nyikang, and its history is told through the folk tales of Sudan. The kingdom existed along the White Nile River in what is now modern South Sudan and was well known for its monopoly of economic resources and trade.

The health and wealth of the kings were closely linked to that of the kingdom, thus if a king was not well, the kingdom would decline in trade and standard. In the 19th century, the kingdom suffered as from the invasion of the Ottoman Empire and later the British in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The kingdom still exists today but its ruler is now a chief under within the Sundanese government.

Aug 24, 2018

A little nitpicky but you put "Shanghai" instead of Songhai. Shanghai would be a city in China :P

Aug 24, 2018

OOPS I didn't see that Thanks

Aug 26, 2018

The Kotoko are also a almost unknown group. They were a group of city states to the south of Lake Chad.





Aug 27, 2018

I had no idea about them. That goes to show how one big civilization can overshadow the smaller ones.

Aug 27, 2018

@Jabari It makes sense given the geographic region. The rich alluvial soil floodplain that the region must have had and the location on the rivers south of the Lake. They are actually decedents of the Sao which are shown in this thread but similarly little exists on them. However you can find some stuff.


"I rode down the river, which here flows with great beauty and majesty past the high walls of this capital Loggun; it comes direct from the south-west, with a rapid current. We enetred the town by the western gate, which leads to the principle street: it is as wide as Pall Mall and has large dwellings on each side, built with great uniformity, each having a courtyard in front, surrounded by a wall, and a handsome entrance. with a strong door hasped with iron: a number of the inhabitants were seated at their doors for the purpose of seeing us enter, with their slaves ranged behind them". -Dixon Denham 1824



One of the cities of the KotokoOne of the cities of the Kotoko
Logone-Birni 1892


Aug 27, 2018


Some pictures and a interesting thing I found.





Sultan of Logone-Birni



I also found something really cool. The Russian noble Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a cool character I just found was apparently of Kotoko origin. He was also the grandfather of Alexander Pushkin of all people. Now that is a story I did not expect to find.




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