1-20 of 35 Results  for:

  • Northeastern Africa x
Clear all

Article

Addis Ababa  

Getahun Benti

Addis Ababa was founded as a military garrison in 1887 by the Amhara king and later Emperor Menilek II of Ethiopia. Its foundation was the result of a long historical process in which Christian Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) expanded southward, culminating in large-scale conquest and the creation of the largest empire in the region in the last decade of the 19th century. Located at the center of Menilek’s empire, Addis Ababa quickly grew into a vibrant political, economic, and administrative center. Its closeness to the resources of the conquered regions, the diplomatic recognition the country earned after the Battle of Adwa in 1896, and the city’s connection to the sea by railway in 1917 turned Addis Ababa into the largest city in the Horn of Africa. Addis Ababa brought people of different ethnic groups together, the Amhara as conquerors and the rest as subjects of that conquest. Having removed the Indigenous Oromo people, Menilek allotted their land to his fellow-Amhara followers, who created segregated settlements, which the Italians dismantled during their occupation, 1936–1941. The Italians conducted the first project of modern urban planning and erected new buildings, built new roads, created separate urban quarters, and changed the physical structure of the city. The city grew beyond its capacity, and subsequent postwar plans (1956, 1986, and 2014), which attempted to strictly control the city’s growth, were of little effect in this regard. Addis Ababa continued to be where all national activities and services—economic, social, administrative, health, educational—were concentrated, which led to inward migration. Several international organizations and agencies, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, opened their headquarters in Addis Ababa, which enhanced the city’s status. As a result of all these historical developments, Ethiopians have mixed feelings about Addis Ababa; some see it as a symbol of victory and power, others as a symbol of subjugation and deprivation, while yet others see it as a symbol of modernity and as a melting pot.

Article

African Music in the Global African Diaspora  

Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje

When researching music in the African diaspora, most scholars concentrate on the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade, which has been a trend since inquiries began during the mid twentieth century. Only since the late twentieth century have researchers started to consider musical repercussions from the involuntary and voluntary migration of Africans in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean. Using historical and musical secondary sources, the essay, African Music in the Global African Diaspora, devotes special attention to musicking during the enslavement of Black people in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and Atlantic Ocean worlds. In addition to a concise history of slavery and the enslaved, a description of instruments, musical traditions, performance practices, and meaning is presented for each diaspora. The degree that musical elements identified with Africa were retained and/or transformed, resulting in a fusion or blending of performance practices, is also explored. Because no single publication, heretofore, has focused on African music in the global African diaspora, the study fills a significant void in the literature and presents a more comprehensive view of the dispersion of African music inworld culture. The outcome provides a broader analysis and understanding of the power and impact of African music globally.

Article

Africans in World Wars I and II  

Joe Lunn

World Wars I and II were very probably the most destructive conflicts in African history. In terms of the human costs—the numbers of people mobilized, the scale of violence and destruction experienced--as well as their enduring political and social impact, no other previous conflicts are comparable, particularly over such short periods as four and ten years, respectively. All told, about 4,500,000 African soldiers and military laborers were mobilized during these wars and about 2,000,000 likely died. Mobilization on this scale among African peasant societies was only sustainable because they were linked to the industrial economies of a handful of West Central European nation states at the core of the global commercial infrastructure, which invariably subordinated African interests to European imperial imperatives. Militarily, these were expressed in two ways: by the use of African soldiers and supporting military laborers to conquer or defend colonies on the continent, or by the export of African combat troops and laborers overseas—in numbers far exceeding comparable decades during the 18th-century peak of the transatlantic slave trade—to Europe and Asia to augment Allied armies there. The destructive consequences of these wars were distributed unevenly across the continent. In some areas of Africa, human losses and physical devastation frequently approximated or surpassed the worst suffering experienced in Europe itself; yet, in other areas of the continent, Africans remained virtually untouched by these wars. These conflicts contributed to an ever-growing assertiveness of African human rights in the face of European claims to racial supremacy that led after 1945 to the restoration of African sovereignty throughout most of the continent. On a personal level, however, most Africans received very little for their wartime sacrifices. Far more often, surviving veterans returned to their homes with an enhanced knowledge of the wider world, perhaps a modicum of newly acquired personal prestige within their respective societies, but little else.

Article

Al-Shabaab  

Oscar Gakuo Mwangi

The Somalia-based Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujaheddin, commonly known as al-Shabaab, is a violent nonstate armed actor that has been designated a terrorist group. Its origins are a function of domestic and international factors that include the resurgence of political Islam in Somalia, the Afghan War of 1979 to 1989, state collapse and the prominent rise of the Union of Islamic Courts in the country. Consequently al-Shabaab adopted Islamism, in particular Salafi jihadism, as a political ideology to achieve its objective of creating an Islamic caliphate in the Horn of Africa. Since its formation in 2006, al-Shabaab’s organizational structure, its strategies and tactics of radicalization, recruitment, financing, and military warfare have been based on Islamist doctrines. Al-Shabaab’s effective use of Salafi jihadism to pursue its objectives has made it the greatest threat to peace and stability in Somalia. By establishing links with international groups that advocate a similar ideology, such as al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab has successfully managed to transform itself from a domestic to a transnational actor, thereby also constituting a threat to international security.

Article

Ancient Egypt and Southwest Asia  

Jana Mynářová

Relations between ancient Egypt and the neighboring regions of Southwest Asia, which began to form already in prehistoric and early historic times, underwent a significant development consisting of a series of booms and declines before reaching the Iron Age (c. 1150–586 bc). The geographic conditions stand out as a crucial element in this formation process, as these enabled the essential communication between the respective cultural and political entities. In these historical periods, the relations were realized on several bases, and the presence of Egyptians in the regions of the Levant, as well as “foreigners” in Egypt, is well attested both by means of archaeological and textual evidence.

Article

Arab Spring  

Ahmed Abushouk

The phrase “Arab Spring,” “Arab Awakening,” or “Arab Uprisings” refers to the series of prodemocracy protests and demonstrations that erupted in the Arab world. It began in Tunisia in 2010 and spread to other countries, most notably Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, in 2011. The demonstrators expressed their political and economic grievances and called for regime change: “The people want to bring down the regime.” Under the increasing pressure of the mass protests, Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (r. 1978–2011) fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011; Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak (r. 1981–2011) resigned on February 11, 2011; Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (r. 1969–2011) was deposed on August 23, 2011, and killed on October 20, 2011, in his hometown of Sirte after the National Transitional Council took control of the city; and Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh (r. 1990–2012) resigned in favor of his vice president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Hadi became president for a two-year transitional period on February 25, 2012, but Yemen remained deeply divided between government supporters and the Houthi rebels who killed Saleh on December 4, 2017, in Sanaa. This change of leadership did not improve the political and economic situation in the Arab Spring countries but rather led to a contentious struggle between remnants of the old regimes and prodemocracy supporters, which finally turned into devastating civil wars in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. The second wave of the Arab Spring took place in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon, confirming the persistent conditions that led to the outbreak of the first wave against tyranny and exploitation in the early 2010s. The two waves of the Arab Spring have drawn global attention. Tawakkol Karman was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her role in organizing peaceful protests in Yemen. Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda won the 2011 World Press Photo Award for his photograph of a Yemeni woman carrying an injured family member, taken during the civil uprising in Yemen.

Article

Education in Colonial Sudan, 1900–1957  

Iris Seri-Hersch

In the first half of the 20th century, Sudan, which included the territories of present-day Sudan and South Sudan, was ruled by a dual colonial government known as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899–1956). Britain was the senior partner in this administration, Egypt being itself politically and militarily subordinated to Britain between 1882 and 1956. During most of the colonial period, Sudan was ruled as two Sudans, as the British sought to separate the predominantly Islamic and Arabic-speaking North from the multireligious and multilingual South. Educational policy was no exception to this: until 1947, the British developed a government school system in the North while leaving educational matters in the hands of Christian missionaries in the South. In the North, the numerically dominant government school network coexisted with Egyptian schools, missionary schools, community schools, and Sudanese private schools. In the South, schools were established by the Anglican Church Missionary Society, the Roman Catholic Verona Fathers, and the American Presbyterian Mission. Whereas Arabic and English were the mediums of instruction in Northern schools, the linguistic situation was more complicated in the South, where local vernaculars, English and Romanized Arabic were used in missionary schools. The last colonial decade (1947–1957) witnessed a triple process of educational expansion, unification, and nationalization. Mounting Anglo-Egyptian rivalries over the control of Sudan and the polarization of Sudanese nationalists into “pro-British” independentists and “pro-Egyptian” unionists led the British authorities in Khartoum to boost government education while giving up the policy of separate rule between North and South. In practice, educational unification of the two Sudanese regions meant the alignment of Southern curricula on Northern programs and the introduction of Arabic into Southern schools, first as a subject matter, then as a medium of instruction. Missionary and other private schools were nationalized one year after Sudan gained independence from Britain and Egypt (1956).

Article

Egyptian‐Sudanese Trade in the Ottoman Period to 1882  

Terence Walz

Egypt’s trade in the Ottoman period with the Sudanic kingdoms to its south waxed and waned according to political conditions at either end of its trade routes. During the 16th and 17th centuries, powerful kingdoms developed in the area of Sinnar (near modern-day Khartoum) and to the west in the area of Darfur. The trade route connecting western Sudan to Egypt, known as the Forty Days Road, was ancient, probably dating to the Pharaonic period, but it experienced a remarkable revival in the 17th century when the Keira sultans of Darfur consolidated their rule in western Sudan and engaged in trade with Egypt in order to obtain luxury goods. In the following two centuries, trade between Egypt, Sinnar, and Darfur flourished, the pattern being that Egyptian, Syrian, and European-made goods were exchanged primarily for Sudanic exports of slaves, ivory, ostrich feathers, and livestock. Sudanese merchants, known as jallaba, came to Egypt and Egyptians settled in the Sudan as a result of these developments. Asyut was the town in Upper Egypt chiefly benefiting from the revival of the caravan trade, but the primary trade destination was Cairo, whence most merchants went. In 1820, the Egyptians invaded the Sudan and trade between the two countries fell under a different set of rules and regulations. Initially monopolized by the government, items in the trade began to be sold by individual traders, and after 1839, when the Muhammad Ali, ruler of Egypt, was forced to withdraw from lands his army had conquered in Arabia and the Levant, European free enterprise soon became a major economic force in the Nile Valley. For a brief period, between 1845 and 1860, Egyptian middlemen, working closely with jallaba, profited richly from the Sudan trade, the city of Asyut prospered, but eventually they fell victim to European economic domination.

Article

Encounters Between Ethiopia and Europe, 1400–1660  

Matteo Salvadore

By the early 1400s, diplomatic representatives and pilgrims from the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia had traveled to the Italian peninsula for political and religious reasons. In doing so, they inaugurated an era of Ethiopian–European relations that unfolded for more than 200 years: Ethiopians reached multiple locales across Latin Europe to forge political alliances, acquire technology, and pursue religious knowledge. They drew the attention of European observers, especially those with an interest in the overseas. Secular and religious personalities, but also average merchants, began their quests for the Ethiopian highlands, lured by the tales of their visitors who were believed with growing certainty to be subjects of the mythical Prester John, the imaginary Christian sovereign believed to rule the Indies. Their journeys enabled cultural exchanges, technological transfer, and the forging of one of the first Euro-African political alliances, that between the kingdoms of Ethiopia and Portugal. In the 15th century, Ethiopian pilgrims flocked to Rome, and diplomatic representatives found hospitality in the Venetian Republic and at the Aragonese and papal courts. Concurrently with Ethiopian arrivals in Europe, European adventurers and representatives began reaching Ethiopia, eventually leading to the establishing of Portuguese–Ethiopian relations. The exchanges climaxed with a Portuguese military intervention to support the Ethiopian monarchy against the sultanate of Adal in 1541. In the decades following the conflict, Jesuit missionaries began operating in the country: after a difficult inception in the 1620s, the fathers experienced ephemeral successes, followed by a dramatic expulsion that ended early modern Ethiopian–European relations.

Article

Ethiopia in the Nineteenth Century  

Teshale Tibebu

The history of Ethiopia during the 19th century involved three fundamental processes: (1) the Zämänä Mäsafənt (Era of Princes) and its coming to an end under Kassa Häylu, later Emperor Tewodros II; (2) the repeated attempts by Egypt and Italy to colonize Ethiopia, culminating in the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896; and (3) Mənilək’s territorial expansion and conquest of what is now southern Ethiopia during the last quarter of the 19th century in campaigns known as agär maqnat. These three distinct, yet related, processes laid the foundations for the making of modern Ethiopia. The end of the Zämänä Mäsafənt was a key factor in centralizing state power in the hands of the emperors of Ethiopia. It enabled consolidating the power of the regional lords under the emperor, which in turn played a critical role in confronting Egypt and Italy’s colonial intrusions in the late 19th century. Mənilək’s territorial conquests in the south further strengthened the state, garnering vast human and material resources that played a critical role in the Ethiopian victory at the Battle of Adwa. All three processes worked in tandem: the end of the Zämänä Mäsafənt created a strong centralized state; such a state succeeded in nipping in the bud the colonial invasions of Egypt and Italy; and the successes of the agär maqnat campaigns added to the overall strength of the country. It also laid the ground for the problems of the 20th century, chief among them being the “national question.”

Article

Haile Selassie  

Eshete Tibebe

Emperor Haile Selassie I is a household name in Africa and across the globe. His name evokes a variety of feelings in people. To the radical elite of the 1970s he was seen as despot; for the older generation of the same period, he was a redeemer who restored the nation’s independence. For people of African descent Haile Selassie echoes an iconic significance of pride and black identity. The Emperor was a complex personality, preventing anyone from viewing him from a singular optic. No single conceptual category can encapsulate Haile Selassie; not facile Western constructs such as absolutist, reformer, or modernizer or autocrat. All constructs touch aspects of his many-ness, and none wholly reflect the complexity and multiplicity of his character and actions. His life and political career were shaped by various domestic and external circumstances. Changing local and global dynamics molded his thoughts, actions, persona, and policies. The Emperor presided for the most part of his reign over a nation whose state structure was, by and large, weak: hence the sense of incumbency he felt to guide the process of the nation’s progress under the care of a father figure. Managing the unity of a multiethnic and multireligious nation with a complex history was a political experiment entailing huge responsibilities and challenges. His story is not easy to tell since it is shrouded in paradoxes and ironies. In understanding the Emperor and his leadership style, it is vital to put him in the context of the many-layered history of the nation and the changing political dynamics of Africa. Haile Selassie led a nation rapidly encountering social and political changes in the 20th century while at the same time championing pan-Africanism. Thus, there is a great need to present a full picture and a nuanced contribution to understanding this influential Emperor.

Article

The History of Agriculture in Ethiopia  

James C. McCann

Ethiopia’s highlands and their lowland peripheries offer a distinctive and, in many ways, ideal setting for human habitation and the evolution of agricultural ecologies. The ranges in climate variability by season and over time framed a sophisticated set of crops, agricultural practices, and local political ecologies. Chief among these was the development and use of the single-tine ox-plow (i.e., the ard or scratch plow) that integrated endemic annual crops with secondary crop introductions and, in some areas, cultivated or intercropped with perennial crops such as ensete and coffee. Animal husbandry to sustain animal traction and pastoral livelihoods in regional ecologies was essential, over time, to regional economies and their political ecologies. Agricultural patterns existed at the heart of cultural diversities and periods of political conflict and accommodations. In some areas of the south (Sidamo), southeast (Harar highlands), and southwest (Jimma), coffee cultivation complemented annual grain cropping. Yet the plow in its current form as a dominant tool appears in rock painting dating as far back as 500 ad. That technology was both efficient and persistent. While Ethiopia’s plow agriculture dominated the region’s political ecology over more than two millennia, in the late 20th century Ethiopia’s agrarian economy began an inexorable set of changes. New crops (such as maize), urbanization, and global migration of peoples and commodities (oil seeds, fibers, and grains) brought new seeds, inputs, and pressures to adapt to change, particularly for smallholder farmers and new enterprises. Heavy investments in dams and irrigated agriculture also foretell new agricultural landscapes of riverain areas that will need to coexist with the classic highland smallholder farms. The story of maize in Ethiopia’s agricultural history is emblematic of the struggle between pressures for change and the inertia of tradition felt by farmers. Their agrarian adaptation to new methods, new materials, and a new climate will play itself out in existing geographies and natural contours.

Article

The History of Sudanese Nationalism  

Yoshiko Kurita

Ever since its conquest by the armies of Muḥammad ‘Alī Pasha in 1820, Sudan (the Republic of Sudan today) has been subjugated to colonial rule by foreign powers—first by the Ottoman-Egyptian regime from 1821 to 1885, then by the British (nominally the Anglo-Egyptian “Condominium”) from 1899 to 1955. Consequently, modern Sudanese history came to be characterized by the emergence of a series of anticolonial popular struggles, such as the Mahdist movement (1881–1898), the 1924 Revolution, and other political movements in the 1940s and 1950s. In spite of apparent differences in style, method, and ideological background, these were essentially based on the energy of the masses aspiring for liberation from colonial rule. The development of the national liberation movement in Sudan was a complicated process, since the modern Sudanese state itself was an artificial colonial state, and it was never self-evident what the “Sudanese nation” was. Building solidarity among peoples of different cultural and religious backgrounds within Sudan (such as the mainly Arab Muslim population in the north and peoples of different backgrounds in the south and the Nuba Mountains) turned out to be crucial to the anticolonial struggle. Because of the colonial situation which prevailed in the Nile Valley after the 1880s (Egypt itself was occupied by the British in 1882), the idea of a regional (if apparently contradictory) coordination of “Sudanese nationalism” and the cause of the “unity of the Nile Valley” coexisted. Finally, since colonialism inevitably had its socioeconomic dimensions, a conflict of interests between the privileged local elites (tribal and religious leaders) and the general masses emerged, leading to a struggle over who would represent the “Sudanese nation.” The independence of the country in 1956 did not put an end to the question of Sudanese nationalism, since the colonial nature of the modern Sudanese state remained unchanged, and the popular struggle against oppressive state apparatus and social injustice continued even after independence. Various elements of civil society, including trade unions, students, and women, called for a democratic transformation of the Sudanese state. Peoples of the politically and economically “marginalized” areas in Sudan (such as the South and the Nuba Mountains) rose up in protest against underdevelopment, leading eventually to the emergence of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SLPM) in the 1980s, which advocated the vision of “New Sudan”—a type of “Sudanese nationalism,” so to speak, based on the aspirations of marginalized areas. Although, with the independence of the South in 2011 (a development which was not originally anticipated by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] itself) the modern Sudanese state (as it used to be known) ceased to exist, this does not mean that the heritage of various anticolonial struggles in Sudan has been meaningless. Rather, it constitutes a common property, so to speak, for the peoples in the region (though now divided between different states), and serves as a source of historical lessons and political inspiration for future generations.

Article

Italian Colonial Architecture and City Planning in North and East Africa  

Mia Fuller

Italian colonial architecture began with styles directly transplanted from Italy to Eritrea—Italy’s first African colonial territory—in the 1890s. By the late 1920s, when Italy also held Libya and Italian Somalia, it had already created a substantial set of buildings (cathedrals and banks, for instance) in any number of unmodified Italian styles ranging from the classical to the neo-medieval and neo-Renaissance. Moorish (or “Oriental”) effects were also abundant, in another transplant from Europe, where they were extremely popular. Following the rise of design innovations after World War I, though, at the end of the 1920s, Italian Modernist architects—particularly the theoretically inclined Rationalists—began to protest. In conjunction with the fascist regime’s heavy investment in farming settlements, prestigious city centers, and new housing, architecture proliferated further, increasingly incorporating Rationalist design, which was the most thoughtfully syncretistic, aiming as it did to reflect particular sites while remaining Modernist. After Ethiopia was occupied in 1936, designers’ emphasis gravitated from the particulars of design theory to the wider canvas of city planning, which was driven by new ideas of racial segregation for colonial prestige and control.

Article

Mahdist Omdurman  

Robert S. Kramer

It is tempting to seek an auspicious beginning for the Sudanese city of Omdurman, given its eventual significance, but there is none to be found. From its humble origins as a watering place for local pastoralists on the west bank of the Nile, and a mere hamlet and waystation for travelers by the early 19th century, it grew rapidly in the 1880s into a crowded market center, an administrative capital, and even a holy city: all due to the tumultuous events of the Sudanese Mahdist movement (or Mahdiyyah) of 1881–1898. And while it was not the intention of Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi to found anything—he considered Omdurman just another “spot” (buq‘a) among the many he had camped at—the policies of his successor and the devotion of his followers enlarged and ennobled the place, transforming it into the dominant urban center of the Nilotic Sudan. As a holy city, Omdurman can hardly be compared to such places as Jerusalem, Rome, or Mecca, with their centuries or even millennia of existence; and although it resembles Shaykh ‘Uthman dan Fodio’s city of Sokoto in northern Nigeria as the capital of an expansionist jihadist state, it also differs from it in some important ways. Ultimately, whether one considers its messianic or economic importance, its military or administrative functions, its planned or spontaneous origins, Omdurman is remarkable for becoming, in just over a decade’s time, one of the most important cities across Sudanic Africa. Moreover, the experience of the Sudanese people in so tribally and ethnically diverse an urban environment, under such concentrated and extreme conditions, both impelled by the policies of the state and inspired by fervent Mahdist belief, helped to accelerate ongoing social changes, which ultimately led to the formation of a more coherent national identity.

Article

Medieval/Christian Nubia  

Alexandros Tsakos

“Christian Nubia” is a term that describes the cultures that developed south of Egypt roughly between the 5th and 15th centuries ce. Although it is often also called “medieval Nubia,” its major characteristic is Christianity, practiced by Nubian-speaking peoples living in at least three kingdoms, namely, Nobadia, Makuria, and Alwa. Very little is known about Alwa, both because of limited archaeological research in the region and due to the focus of written sources on Nobadia and Makuria, which were closer to Egypt. What is known about the Christian Nubian kingdoms suggests that they were heavily influenced by their northern neighbor. In the first centuries of the medieval era, Nubia received the Christian faith and church organization of Byzantine Egypt, and its church was subsequently subordinated to the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria. After the Arab conquest of Egypt, the relations between the Caliphate and Makuria were defined by an agreement called the Baqt, which was signed after a failed siege of the Makuritan capital in 651–652. The Fatimid period of Egypt coincided with the apogee of Christian Nubian civilization, while the arrival of the Ayyubids in the 12th century broke with a long-standing tradition of relatively peaceful coexistence. Interventions from the north increased under the Mamluks, particularly due to internal strife and dynastic conflicts in Nubia itself. After two tumultuous centuries, Muslim rulers took over the throne of Old Dongola, the capital of Makuria. Bedouins then pushed the centers of Christian authority to the peripheries of Makuria and to centers in northern Nubia, such as Qasr Ibrim and Gebel Adda, where the last Christian Nubian king is attested in an inscription in Old Nubian dating from 1483. Soba, the capital of Alwa and perhaps the largest city of Nubia, was also in ruins by the early 16th century, as witnessed by European travelers to the region.

Article

“Medieval” Ethiopia  

Alessandro Bausi and Jacopo Gnisci

Ethiopia is located in the northern Horn of Africa. As a choronym or place name in modern scholarship, Ethiopia has been used to designate several past and present entities with different cultural, ethnic, and territorial configurations. Here, the term is used to refer to a predominantly Christian state in the northern Horn of Africa that was ruled by a Christian sovereign. Terms such as medieval and Middle Ages have been used and continue to appear in historical writing about Ethiopia’s past, but it is important to bear in mind that such terms were used by early modern historiography to establish a time frame for studying European history. Their relevance to non-European contexts is questionable, but they may have value as a means to help situate the study of Ethiopia within the broader field of global history. There are no universally accepted criteria or terms for the periodization of Ethiopian history. However, most works focusing on the centuries between c. 500 and 1500 ce, dates that do not neatly align with major turning points in Ethiopian history, have adopted periodizations that are based on episodes of dynastic succession.

Article

Meroe and Aksum  

Alemseged Beldados

Within the tropics of Africa, the oldest identified cities and states are located along the Middle Nile in Nubia. One of the best documented of these cities and states is Meroe. It is situated about 124 miles (200 km) northeast of Khartoum. The city of Meroe was mentioned by Herodotus as far back as the 5th century bce. According to Herodotus, Meroe was the major city of the Ethiopians/formerly also known as abyssinia. In the 21st century, the site of Meroe is the largest archaeological site in Sudan. As an archaeological site, the structures cover an area of about half a mile (0.8 km). The Meroitic state was in power for almost 600 years (between 250 bce and 350 ce). Within this period, fifty-seven kings and queens were recorded to have ruled the empire. Women had political influence as leaders during the height of Meroitic power. The Aksumite civilization flourished during the first half of the 1st century ce in the valley of west-central Tigray between the Beta Giyorgis and Mai Qoho plateaus. It lasted until the 7th century ce. Most of the data about the cultivation of crops during the Aksumite period have been acquired from archaeological studies of soil samples from various contexts of excavations. Animal remains have also been well studied. Observations of the remaining structures and buildings that are still erect have enabled an understanding of the raw materials used in Aksumite architecture. In almost all cases, the raw materials used were stones with additions of wooden parts. The presence of long-standing contact between Meroe and Aksum can be reconstructed through archaeological and architectural material culture remains recovered on both sides.

Article

Middle Kingdom  

Wolfram Grajetzki

The Middle Kingdom covers roughly the first half of the second millennium bce. It is the Middle Bronze Age. In the Eleventh Dynasty, around 2000 bce, Egypt was again united after a period of disunity. In the following early Twelfth Dynasty, Egypt was a decentralized country with many local governors in charge of the provinces. At the royal court, seven kings with the names Amenemhat and Senusret as well as the ruling queen Sobeknofru ruled the country for about two hundred years, which attests to great political stability. The kings conquered Lower Nubia, raided South Palestine, and started to replace many local, mud-brick built temples with those built in stone. Kings were buried in pyramids. Itj-tawy was founded as the new capital. Within the dynasty, further towns were built as part of an inner colonization. Part of this colonization was also the cultivation of the Fayum, a river oasis that was before not suitable for agriculture on a larger scale. Within the dynasty, there is also a visible trend of centralization that reached its peak under king Senusret III, who reduced the power of the local governors. An institution called the great enclosure organized corvée work. In the Thirteenth Dynasty, over about 150 years there were many kings who each ruled for a short time, which attests to a politically unstable period, while the administration went on without a major break. However, at the end of the period, the unity of the country felt apart. People from the Levant took over part of the Eastern Delta, while in the south, Egypt lost control of the Nubian provinces and struggled with attacks from the powerful Nubian empire of Kerma. In terms of art and culture, the Middle Kingdom was seen by the Ancient Egyptians as their classical period. The language of the period became the classical Egyptian language. Works of literature were still read hundred years later, and the art production of this time was the model for many later periods.

Article

Origins of Writing in Northeastern Africa  

John Coleman Darnell

The Egyptian hieroglyphic script is one of the longest attested continuous uses of a writing system in world history. Between the late fourth century CE and the early nineteenth century, knowledge of the hieroglyphic script was lost, and the complexities of its mixed system of phonetic and ideographic signs delayed decipherment until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and the work of Jean-François Champollion and other pioneers. Egyptian hieroglyphic writing originated between 3300 and 3100 bce, on the basis of evidence attested in funerary and petroglyphic contexts; the early date of phonetic hieroglyphic writing in Upper Egypt confirms the independent development of the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian writing systems. Rather than emerging abruptly and fully formed during the reign of a Dynasty 0 ruler c. 3250 bce, hieroglyphs appear to have a millennium-long “proto-history.” Decorated ceramics, small inscribed objects, and a large corpus of Upper Egyptian and Nubian rock art indicate that visual communication prior to true writing in Upper Egypt could express key early political and religious concepts, developing a form of “iconographic syntax.” Careful examination of predynastic iconography thus provides the conceptual missing link in the origins of writing in Northeastern Africa. The marginal environments of ancient Egypt—the Western Desert and Sinai Peninsula—also preserve evidence for the development of the world’s first alphabetic script, a writing system that emerged c. 1800 bce from contact between ancient Egyptian scribes and Semitic speakers who participated in Egyptian expeditions, with signs deriving from Egyptian scripts. During the 2nd century bce, the Meroitic script, with signs also originating in both cursive and hieroglyphic Egyptian scripts, developed in the ancient Nubian kingdom of Meroe and remained in use for as many as 700 years.