Saturday, January 31, 2015

20 Things You May Not Know About Africa But Really Should

The World’s First Planned City Was in Egypt

An Egyptian city called Kahun was the world’s first planned city. Plans for the city divided it into two sections. While wealthier residents lived on one side of the city, the other part housed “ordinary people” who did not have as much wealth. The city also featured a system of stone gutters that ran through the center of every street.

Drainage system

Ancient Egyptians Mastered Sewage and Drainage Systems

When most people think of ancient cities of any kind, they automatically eliminate the luxuries we are used to today. While ancient Egypt certainly didn’t have complex sewage systems that people are accustomed to now, this ancient civilization had already developed an efficient sewage and drainage system that served as evidence of the value they placed on cleanliness. An American urban planner noted the “great importance” that ancient Egyptians placed on cleanliness, especially in a city known as Amarna. “Toilets and sewers were in use to dispose waste,” the planner noted. “Soap was made for washing the body. Perfumer and essences were popular against body odor. A solution of natron was used to keep insects from houses…. Amarna may have been the first planned ‘garden city.’” According to historians, ancient Egyptians were “pretty adept with drainage construction” by 2500 B.C.

African People Were Making Steel for More than 1,500 Years

Evidence was discovered in 1978 that suggests East Africans had already mastered making steel. Assistant professor of anthropology Peter Schmidt and professor of engineering Donald H. Avery found that Africans had produced carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces as long as 2,000 years ago. The method was “technologically more sophisticated than any developed in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.”

Africans Were the First to Organize Fishing Expeditions

It is believed that African people were the first to organize fishing expeditions at least 90,000 years ago. A variety of harpoon points have been discovered in Katanda, Congo, which academics believe points to the existence of an early fishing-based culture.

The Oldest Table of Prime Numbers Was Discovered in Africa

In 1960, Jean de Heinzelin de Braucourt discovered the Ishango Bone in Lake Edward. The small lake borders Congo and Uganda and is believed to be the oldest table of prime numbers to ever be discovered.

Ethiopia Was Recognized as One of the World’s Greatest Empires

One modern scholar wrote of the city of Ethiopia and claimed that, “In the first half of the first millennium C.E., [Ethiopia] was ranked as one of the world’s greatest empires.” A Persian cleric of the third century also noted that Ethiopia was the third most important state in the world behind Persia and Rome.

Egyptians Didn’t Just Build Beautiful Pyramids, They Built Mansions as Well

Many people don’t think of lavish mansions when they imagine ancient Egypt, but it is believed that these master craftsmen were building mansions long before anyone else. Egyptian mansions were discovered in Kahun. These large homes had more than 70 rooms and a variety of different quarters for masters, women, servants and more.
 building in stone

West Africans Were Some of the First People to Build in Stone

In the Tichitt-Walata region of Mauritania, archaeologists have discovered “large stone masonry villages” that date back to at least 1100 B.C. These villages consisted of somewhat circular compounds that were connected through a series of “well-defined” streets.

Old Checks Have Been Found in Ancient Ghana

That’s right. Checks actually aren’t as new of an invention as many people would want to believe. There is evidence to suggest that the people of ancient Ghana may have used checks. An Arab geographer, Ibn Haukal, was visiting a region of ancient Ghana in 951. Haukal wrote an account of an old check he discovered for more than 40,000 golden dinars that was written to a merchant in the city of Audoghast.

Some African Civilizations Used Glass Windows

There is evidence that some African civilizations were already using glass windows. One academic wrote of a residence belonging to a Ghanaian Emperor in 1116 and described the home as a “well-built castle, thoroughly fortified, decorated inside with sculptures and pictures, and having glass windows.” Other excavations at the Malian City of Gao also revealed evidence of glass windows.

Gold Mining Took Place on a Massive Scale All Across Africa

West Africans were mining for gold all throughout history, and one modern writer said that early African people actually managed to mine up to 3,500 tons of gold. According to one modern writer, this is worth a staggering “$30 billion in today’s market.” South Africans also saw great achievements in gold mining. Another modern writer noted that, “The estimated amount of gold ore mined from the entire region by the ancients was staggering, exceeding 43 million tons. The ore yielded nearly 700 tons of pure gold, which today would be valued at over $7.5 billion.”

Mali in the 14th Century Was a Very Urbanized Civilization

Italian art and architecture scholar Sergio Domian noted the incredible work that has been discovered in Mali, explaining that Mali had “laid the foundation” for an urban civilization.” “At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated,” Domian wrote.

West African Scholars of the 16th Century Were Known to Have Thousands of Books

West African scholars had incredible numbers of books in the 16th century. In fact, they often had so many books that a library of a little over 1,000 books was considered child’s play. West African scholar Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is recorded as saying he had the smallest library of all his friends and colleagues with “only 1600 volumes.”

Benin Art of the Middle Ages Was of Exceptional Quality

An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde said most pieces of Benin art were “equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique … Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”

The People of Ancient African Civilizations Had Frequently Built Impressive Walled Cities

Long before the age of technology and the development of mechanics that helped many civilizations create their walled cities, the people of Nigeria had already erected an impressive walled city. The Nigerian City of Eredo was built around the ninth century and was surrounded by a 100-mile-long, 70-foot-high wall. The wall encompassed 400 square miles in its interior. Scholars have pointed to multiple examples of ancient walled cities that were discovered throughout Africa.

The Capital City of Kanem-Bornu Was One of the Largest Cities in the 17th Century World

The capital city of Kanem-Bornu, Ngazargamu, was one of the largest cities of its time. According to an architectural scholar, the city housed a “quarter of a million people” and had a system of roughly 660 streets. Academics also believe the wide, unbending streets throughout the city are evidence of careful planning that took place in order to create the large city.
At its most stable period, it was said that any woman wearing gold could safely walk the streets unaccompanied, according to This was at a time when few women ventured out alone in London or in Paris for fear of attack.

The City of Carthage Was Opulent and Impressive

By the third century B.C., the city of Carthage grew to be an impressive collection of lavish homes and had a staggering population. The city off the coast of Tunisia is believed to have housed at least 700,000 people and contained streets lined with towering homes that were, on average, six stories high.

Africans Were Already Studying the Stars and Creating a Lunar Calendar

Ruins of a 300 B.C. astronomical observatory in Kenya serve as a reminder of just how advanced ancient Egyptians were when it came to studying the stars and other heavenly bodies. It is believed that Africans were already mapping movements of stars such as Triangulum, Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion and the moon. They were believed to be creating a lunar calendar of 354 days.

Ancient Africans Were Highly Advanced in the Field of Medicine

According to the Edinburgh Medical Journal in 1884, surgeons in ancient Africa were routinely completing effective autopsies and Caesarean operations. The surgeons already had a strong understanding of antiseptics and anesthetics and had a variety of natural remedies for illnesses and other medical conditions.

Ancient Egyptians Had Water Purifiers

A ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi revealed evidence of early water purifiers. The mosque held what appeared to be a water purifier made of limestone that the ancient Egyptians used for recycling water.

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