Chapter 13 discusses the Bantu migrations and early agricultural societies in sub-Saharan Africa. It mentions that Egyptian and Nubian societies, similar to southwest Asian societies, were influenced by long-distance trade, diffusion of technological innovations, cultural traditions, and migrations of Semitic and Indo-European peoples. The Bantu-speaking peoples were among the most influential in ancient sub-Saharan Africa. They originated from the eastern part of modern Nigeria and southern Cameroon and settled along rivers and open areas of forests. They cultivated crops such as yarns, oil palms, millet, and sorghum and traded with forest-dwelling peoples for forest products.
The Bantu migrations and the establishment of early agricultural societies played significant roles in the development of sub-Saharan Africa during ancient times. The Bantu-speaking peoples, originally inhabited eastern Nigeria and southern Cameroon, were part of the larger Niger-Congo language family. They settled along riverbanks and in forested areas, cultivating crops like yams, oil palms, millet, and sorghum. They also engaged in trade with forest-dwelling peoples, exchanging pottery and stone axes for forest products.
The Bantu displayed a readiness to migrate and gradually expanded southward and eastward, absorbing local populations into their agricultural societies. Over time, their languages differentiated into hundreds of related tongues, making Bantu languages the most prominent in sub-Saharan Africa today. Population pressures and the availability of canoes for travel facilitated these migrations. As Bantu settlements grew, small groups would move to new territories, encroaching on the lands of forest peoples and likely causing conflicts. However, they also learned from and intermarried with the forest peoples, incorporating them into Bantu society.
The spread of iron metallurgy among the Bantu around the first millennium BCE further accelerated their migrations and population growth. Iron tools and weapons allowed for more effective agriculture and protection against adversaries. Alongside the Bantu migrations, other smaller migrations occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, including southern Kushite herders in east Africa and Sudanese cultivators and the Nile region. Various peoples speaking Niger-Congo languages also spread agriculture throughout the region, introducing new crops and domesticated animals.
The Bantu migrations and the establishment of agricultural societies profoundly impacted sub-Saharan Africa, leading to the spread of Bantu languages, the development of distinct cultural communities, and the expansion of agriculture across the continent.
The Readings also provide an overview of early agricultural societies in Africa, focusing on Egypt and Nubia. It emphasizes the importance of agriculture in shaping these societies and their interactions with other regions. In Africa, agriculture emerged in a changing climatic context after the last ice age, with the Sahara Desert being a grassy steppe land with lakes, rivers, and streams. People lived by hunting, collecting wild grains, and relying on fish and aquatic resources. Over time, agricultural practices developed in eastern and western Sudan, with the cultivation of sorghum and yams and the domestication of cattle, sheep, and goats.
The Nile River played a crucial role in the development of agriculture and civilization in Egypt and Nubia. It provided fertile soil through annual floods and supported a productive agricultural economy. Egypt, with its broad floodplains, took better advantage of the Nile’s floods compared to Nubia. This led to Egypt becoming a more prosperous agricultural region capable of supporting a larger population. The Nile also connected the Mediterranean basin and sub-Saharan Africa, facilitating the exchange of crops, animals, and cultural influences.
The political organization in Egypt and Nubia developed in response to the need for managing public affairs in densely populated areas. Both regions saw the rise of small kingdoms ruled by divine or semi-divine kings, with rituals and religious beliefs reflecting their agricultural societies. Egyptians developed a centralized state ruled by pharaohs, considered gods living in human form, and absolute rulers of the land. The kingdom of Kush emerged as a powerful state in Upper Nubia and occasionally threatened southern Egypt.
The passage also mentions the turmoil and change experienced by Egypt, including the Hyksos invasion and the New Kingdom’s efforts to extend Egyptian authority through imperialism. Eventually, Egypt’s influence in Nubia declined, leading to the rise of the Kingdom of Kush, which invaded and ruled Egypt for almost a century. The readings highlight the significance of agriculture, climatic changes, the Nile River, and political organization in shaping early African societies, particularly in Egypt and Nubia. It demonstrates the interconnections between these societies and their engagement with neighboring regions.