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North central and northwest africa

All of north Africa had changes of regimes during this century. When the Baghdad Caliphate was destroyed by the Mongols, the Hafsid Dynasty took the title of calph in Africa in A.D. 1259 and assumed control of Tunisia and some of Morocco. In the latter area the Almohades were in collapse because of their losses in Spain to the Christians, and they were displaced by the Marinid Sultan of Fez in 1269. Both Fez and Marraqesh were great Moroccon cities, exceeded in population by very few European cities of that time.

Algeria was taken over by still another dynasty, the Zujanids. All of these north African states contributed to trans-Saharan trade and the crossing of the great desert by these medieval Arab merchants was a tremendous undertaking. Caravans could cover 200 miles in a week but were subject to black-veiled Taureg pirates and if wells and oases failed, men and beasts alike could perish. (Ref. 175 , 137 , 83 )

The area was not devoid of intellectual activity. Hasan published tables of sines for each degree and Nasir ud Din wrote a treatise on trigonometry. In addition the whole science of botany was revised by these Arab-Berbers.

Subsaharan africa

In western Africa in the great bend of the Niger River, several states vied for supremacy. At the beginning of the century, Sumanguru, greatest of the rulers of Soso, next to the Mossi states, plundered the old capital of Ghana, Kumbi, and in 1224 conquered and annexed Manding. This situation was reversed 11 years later, however, when the Mandingos defeated the ruler of Soso and re-established independence, in a decisive battle of Kirina. This cleared the way for the creation of Mali as a successor state to Ghana and it became the second great empire of the western Sudan, extending from the Lower Gambia and Senegal rivers to the Niger-Benue junction. In contrast to the Ghana homeland, which was in a semi-arid sahil, the Mali center was in a fertile agricultural land a little to the south and they even had better access to gold. Sundiata was the warrior hero of these conquering Malinke Mandingos. Exactly where the recently excavated city of Jennejeno fits into this new empire is not clear, but it is known that this ancient city was already starting to decline in this century. The Tellem territory near the Bandigara cliff at the bend of the Niger apparently was never governed politically by the Mali and evidently offered refuge.

In Ife, Nigeria, superb sculptured heads reached a peak production in this and the next century. It was the holy city of the Yoruba tribe and home of its priest-king, the Oni. Some of the sculptures are believed to represent former Onis. (Ref. 45 , 175 , 119 , 83 )

In the region of the southern Congo was the Lunda-Luba Empire. The trading states on the east coast were in a golden age with the Indian Ocean becoming a vast Muslim lake. From Somalia in the north to Mozambique in the south, dozens of coastal states flourished with between 30 and 40 medieval city-states, many on islands adjacent to the coast. Kilwa, on the coast of southern Tanzania, was the greatest medieval east African city, with caravans arriving there with ivory from around Lake Malawi and dhows coming up the coast from the south with gold, much of which came from Zimbabwe. From Kilwa great oceangoing ships took off for Arabia, India and China on the monsoon winds. (Ref. 175 ) Although the ruling dynasties of those eastern states were Muslim, the populations were mixed Arabs, Persians, and indigenous Bantu. This resulted, in time, in the distinctive east African Swahili Culture. The political control extended only a few miles inland and the interior peoples, themselves, brought the wealth of east and central Africa to the shores of the Indian Ocean. Slaves with tusks on their heads plodded for hundreds of miles to the coast and then were sold with the ivory. (Ref. 68 )

Slightly inland and going from north to south, we should mention the rise of the Bantu kingdoms, especially Bunyoro, the largest at that time, in the area of present day Uganda. (Ref. 175 ) Farther south, in the Great Lakes area the cattle herding Cwezi kings held sway. (Please see also the summary after the section on AFRICA, in the 15th century chapter). Continuing south, the leading state of central Africa was governed by Mwana Mtapa and covered a 700 mile stretch of the Zambesi Valley.

Mtapa was also the heir to an even older Shona Dynasty which had built the fortress of Zimbabwe, the ruins of which still stand today. The Shonas formed loose federations to control gold mining regions and trade routes to the coast. There is some evidence, however, of a burning of the original Great Zimbabwe dwellings in this century. (Ref. 35 , 8 )

Forward to Africa: A.D. 1301 to 1400

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Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, A comprehensive outline of world history. OpenStax CNX. Nov 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10595/1.3
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