Africa's History and Culture

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The Importance of Studying African History

The premise that African history is not essential and therefore does not require study is unfounded. The African continent, in essence, is rich in history which in turn provides a deep understanding of the history of the world. Africa has thousands of years of history just like the European continents and other parts of the world. The continent has unparalleled eco-diversity, a continent full of innovativeness, and numerous languages. There were innumerable rulers, kingdoms, systems of commerce, art, culture and scientific advances. Besides the human fossils trace the origin of man to Africa, The above mentioned show that Africa is a beautiful continent rich with culture and history against the views of many that it is a dark place ridden with suffering and poverty.

Human Fossils and Origin

The oldest ever known human being who had the resemblance of the modern human-like body features is the African Homo Erectus. They were found to have elongated legs but with shorter arms. Typically, these features are adaptations to ground life with the capability to walk and run long distances. The most pronounced complete remains of the Homo erectus individual are those of the popularly known as the "Turkana boy" found in Kenya, a country in Africa. The remains are said to be 1.6 million years. Research shows that the Turkana boy grew up at a rate of growth same as that of a gigantic ape. The evidence of the remains indicates that the species took care of both the weak and old individuals.

Further, there have been discoveries of human fossils in Africa by scientists. The most recent development was that conducted by a researcher from the University of Washington and a team of scientists from other parts of the globe in South Africa. The new human species dubbed as Homo Naledi was discovered in the year 2013 in many caves found in the northwest of Johannesburg (Tosh 2015). The discovery is inclusive of the remains of a child and two adults, and this expands the fossil record initially reported from another chamber of the rising star cave. These fossils were found to be of a primitive human ancestor with small brains. The researchers believe that the remains are between the age of 236000 and 335,000 years. All these discoveries make African history worthy of study.

African Contribution to Modern Astrology

Whereas the introduction of astrology has been widely credited to the Babylonians, a good number of historians argue that their astrological knowledge stems from the Egyptian priests. The astronomers of Egyptian origin monitored with high precision and recorded the stars movement to the extent that they would fathom their effect on the changes in the environment and seasons. These astronomers were majorly comprised of temple priests since it was believed that the skill of understanding the cosmos was divine. All the activities and rituals of the temple had their timing based on the action of the planet. It is evident that the Egyptians had a considerable contribution to the modern astrology via decans. The small constellations which make up of thirty-six groups form decans. In addition, the calendar of 365 days broken into a period of twelve months of thirty days was formulated by the Egyptians. The astrological signs as interpreted by the Egyptians gave birth to the four yearly seasons.

Africa's Contribution to Modern Medicine

In the medical field, the African continent has had an immense contribution. The ancient physicians of the Egyptian origin were dentistry masters. They had the skill on how to craft successful dental bridges. History has it in records that dental bridges were discovered in the remains of Egyptian skulls and some of the teeth are displayed in some museums having the bridges intact.

Moreover, the Egyptians had learned how to make painkillers many years ago, and this laid the groundwork for narcotic painkillers of the present day. According to Tosh (2015) researchers such as Edwin Smith acknowledge the fact Egyptians knew that natural herbs, for example, lotus and water lily, mandrake, poppy, and cannabis had narcotics. Long before the Europeans and other continents discovered the use of painkillers, the Egyptians had used them for several years. Besides, the ancient Egyptians were not only the pioneers to natural treatments but also had profound understanding and knowledge of surgical processes such as amputations and offering amputated individuals with prosthetic limbs. One astounding evidence is that of a man whose toe was amputated, and later the physicians fixed a wooden prosthetic in a bid to enhance the man's balance. Also, the snakes of the digestive system which were later called worms could be cured using pomegranates. Medical studies of the present times agree with the use of pomegranates to treat infections. They say that the high content of tannin paralyzes the worms. There are numerous discoveries used in medicine of ancient Egypt including aloe vela, celery for rheumatism, and benefits of mint which have been adopted by present medical practitioners.

Africa's Rich Cultural Beliefs, Customs and Practices

In Africa, the spirit world and human existence are inextricably bound together. The moon, stars, and the sun show the existence of God among societies. The rituals conducted by sacred people among the members of the community enable the rains to come in season. For instance, some communities believe that rain is a gift from God. Mountains too are regarded as sacred places of worship and the dwelling of God. In this regard, many people pray while facing the mountains with the conviction that blessings come from the mountains.

Furthermore, several communities believe that ancestors are still active and have a role to play in society. These ancestors are known to bring unity among families. The ancestors give directions regarding how the community is run and the living are required to adhere to these directions to avoid curses. Consequently, many communities name the newly born children after family members who had died. If ancestors are angered, sacrifices are made by anointed community elders to appease the ancestral spirits. However, individuals who die with questionable characters are not named after children since it is believed that the children named after such people will take up the same character traits, thus bring bad omen into the family.

Many artifacts form fascinating cultural aspects of the people found on the African continent. Different societies craft objects manually using available materials (Hopkins 2014). For instance, in communities use wood and soapstone to make sculptures having both human and animal images. On the other hand, other communities are experienced in making colorful sisal baskets, figurines, beaded jewelry, and musical instruments.

Ancient Trade

The merchants from Africa were the first people to start trading with Arabia and China ahead of the European countries. For instance, the Indian Ocean trade began at around 800 A.D with a few settlements. With the intensification of business with the African continent and Asia, many towns and cities such as Mombasa and Kilwa grew along the coastline. Inland kingdoms for example great Zimbabwe traded with the city-states for valuables including iron, gold, and ivory. These materials were sold to Southeast Asia, China, and India. On the other hand, the African cities received porcelain objects, cotton, and silk. They had to buy them expensively since they were found nowhere in the African continent. With the racial interactions, intermarriages began, and this brought forth other distinct ethnic groups with entirely different languages. The most common known language is the Kiswahili language in East Africa.

Long before the European goods would come to Africa, the African products had reached Europe. The goods from West Africa had made their way to Europe through North African trade and West Africa (Hopkins 2014). The Muslim traders from the north of Africa bought products and sold them to the southern parts of Europe. Sophisticated networks of business had been in place by the seventh century. The trade across the Sahara which later came to be named the Trans-Saharan trade led to an exchange of goods among them books swords, and horses from the north and gold, salt, slaves and ivory from the south. Whereas many African communities practiced barter trade, the West African countries used gold dust as a form of money.


Conclusively, Africa has a rich history which can never be assumed. Many of the things seen today started in Africa. Thus, not studying the African history is neglecting the knowledge of truth on the origin of such details. For instance, beyond a reasonable doubt, Africa has immensely contributed to modern medical practices, contains a rich history of the human evolution, initiated trade not only among the African societies but also outside Africa long before Europe, and other Western countries would start and more. Furthermore, Africa is rich in traditional cultures which are not only worth learning but have also seen the people from the western countries come to tour and see how the African live, their dance, and customs. Ignoring African history is ignoring the world history.


Hopkins, T. (2014). An Economic History of West Africa. Routledge.

Tosh, J. (2015). The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of History. Routledge.

November 24, 2023

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