Introduction: Geography and Bantu Migration

[ Welcome] [ Assignments ]
I. [ Introduction ] [ Zones ]
II. [ African Art ] [ African Rituals ]
[ Women ] [ Afro Beat ]
III. Diaspora [ Slave Trade ]
IV. [ Scramble ]
V. [ South Africa ]
VI. [ Decolonization ]

[ Kingdoms of Gold ] [ Swahili States ]
Link below is an African geography quiz
site to help you with Africa maps < >

"The vast size and sharp physical variations, from high mountains to swamplands, tropical forest,
and deserts, have...made long distance communication and movement difficult..."
(Craig, et. al. 174).

See below for 4 helpful maps as you work on your map assignment.
None of the maps identifies mountains or highlands clearly, but each is helpful in delineating the
zones ( see [ Zones ]) especially the sahel. Note how the tropical rainforest seems to
bisect (or bifurcate) the continent on a horizontal axis.

I like the first one for its clarity!

Geography conditioned and continues to influence African flora, fauna, and human life; Africa is a continent three times the size of the continental United States. The purple/lavender coloration represents mountains or high plateaus; the green represents savanna/steppe/grasslands; the pink represents desert, notably the Sahara in the North and the Kalahari in the Southwest; the Namib is the coastal secton of the Kalahari. The very pale green blob identifies the tropical rainforest. The sahel lies between the Sahara Desert and the savanna grasslands. The continent is a high plateau; hence the rivers crash down into the sea, making Africa relatively impenetrable despite its long coastline: the mountains, deserts, tropical rainforest, and rushing rivers all, comprised, to a certain extent, barriers and protected Africa from invasion and conquest until the late 19th century. Tropical diseases (malaria, sleeping sickness)--deadly to Europeans--made Africa "the white man's graveyard."

(Craig, et al. 175)
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Africa, which comprises approximately 20% of the earth's land surface, contains six climatic zones:
the fertile Mediterranean "zone" includes fertile soil and adequate winter rainfall,
lying on the northern and southern extremities of the continent;.
the Sahara Desert occupies 3.5 million square miles in a broad horizontal band across the northern
third of the continent, stretching from the Atlantic coast in the West to the Red Sea coast on the East.
Though smaller, the Kalahari/Namib isolates the rich lands of the Cape of Good Hope.
In the North, the Sahara blends into the Sahel which segues into the grasslands,
known in Africa as the savanna. South of the savanna lie the tropical rainforests
of West and Central Africa, which give way to the lakes and plateaus or highlands of East Africa,
with its Great Rift Valley
(Duiker and Spielvogel 231).
Thus, "the interior of Africa is divided into a series of horizontal belts of land and climate"
(Esler 277).
Jared Diamond presents some interesting theories about this horizontal axis in Guns, Germs, and Steel.
Climate played and plays a major role in what crops can be grown, what livestock can be raised, and where people can live comfortably in Africa. As noted, hot, dry deserts dominate the North (Sahara) and South (Kalahari/Namib) yet both of these are bordered by Mediterranean "zones" conducive to agriculture, herding, and human habitation. In the North, this area is known as the Maghreb. The blue area on this map (left) indicates tropical rain forest, home of the anopheles mosquito (malaria) and tsetse fly (sleeping sickness,) which, for centuries, inhibited migrations of humans and their animals from North to South.

(Barraclough 44)

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This map (right) indicates how human settlements emerged in areas that could support either foraging (hunting-gathering,) herding, or agriculture. Egypt, the "gift of the Nile," produced Africa's first sedentary society, benefiting from the diffusion of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent (Diamond). Early West African farmers independently domesticated sorghum (a grain) and yams (a root) by 1000 CE.

(Duiker and Spielvogel 7.1)

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"Stone Age" farmers, living in present-day Nigeria and Cameroon, began their epic migration South in the first millennium BCE, taking with them their Bantu language and spreading it across most of Sub-Sahara Africa. With iron weapons and implements/tools, they drove the Pygmies/Twa people into the rainforest and the hunting-gathering/foraging Khoisan out of their ancestral lands and into the Kalahari (Diamond). More on these indigenous peoples on the [ Zones ] page.

(Craig, et al. 181)

Not studied until recent interest in cultural diffusion, the Bantu migrations mark a major demographic revolution in both the history of man and the history of Africa: from their origins in West Afric (Cameroons,) the Bantu-speakers "made themselves masters of [an] immense area--Africa south of the Sahara" (Esler 222). An era of extreme dryness dessicated the savanna and the sahel, driving stone age farmers to search for land and water. By the time the migration began, the Bantu speakers practiced both farming and herding, had stone and iron weapons and tools, lived in "wattle and daub" huts in extended family villages.

(Spielvogel 259)

Beginning about 500 BCE and lasting 1500 years, one stream of migrants moved East into the Great Rift Valley, perhaps becoming the ancestors of the Maasai. Another stream went South through the rainforest (driving the Pygmy/Twa and Khoisan into hiding,) emerging on to the southern savanna to resume a lifestyle similar to the one they left behind. An artist's rendering of a Bantu village (left)

(TCI 3.1a)

Visit the interactive map below to follow the Bantu Migrations--visit the sites below!!
< >
Strongly urge you visit < >
This is a bit tricky--I'll show you how to get there: go to "Human Migrations"
advance cursor to 21:00 and watch/listen for further info on Bantu migration (stop at Mary Leakey)
Sites below are optional
< >follow the link to Bantu Migrations
Ms. Pojer has put together an excellent ppt on traditional Africa < Traditional Africa PowerPoint >

Suffice it to say, Africa is huge--it is a continent, not a country--indeed it contains more than fifty! To grasp the size of Africa, have a look at the graphic to your right.

image source < >

Follow link below [ Zones ] for more detail and information

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Background: Craig 192.

kente cloth line--

Craig, Albert, et. al. The Heritage of World Civilizations, 5th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co., 1999.
Support materials < >

Esler, Anthony. The Human Venture. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1996.

Duiker, William, and Jackson Spielvogel. Map Acetates and Commentary to Accompany World History. Minneapolis: West Publishing Co., 1994.

Spielvogel, Jackson. World History: The Human Odyssey. Cincinnati: West Educational Publishing, 1998.

Teachers' Curriculum Institute. Empires and Kingdoms of Sub-Saharan Africa.Palo Alto: Teachers Curriculum Institute, 1993.

The Times Atlas of World History. Ed. by Geoffrey Barraclough. Maplewood, NJ: Hammond, Inc., 1978.