Advanced civilization in Africa?

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Dec 2014
567
United States
Were there any advanced civilizations in Africa besides Egypt, and if so, which ones were they? By "advanced" i mean advanced on the same level as Rome, Egypt, or Greece-I understand that Africa had societies back then and does now, and contrary to racist stereotypes, it wasnt not all hunter gatherers and huts, but in what way were other civilizations besides Egypt advanced?
 

Scaeva

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Oct 2012
5,630
[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Aksum]Kingdom of Aksum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]


The Persian philosopher Mani named it as one of the four great powers of his era, along with Rome, Persia, and a state he calls Sileos. (thought to be China)
 
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civfanatic

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Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
Yes, there were advanced civilizations in Africa besides Egypt. Whether they were on the "same level" as Rome, Egypt, or Greece depends on what you are talking about specifically. In terms of sheer scale, you will not find many African polities that could match great Eurasian empires like Rome or Han China, because Africa has traditionally been a very underpopulated continent (and many parts of Africa remain quite underpopulated even today). This chronic underpopulation has historically retarded the development of a stable tax base to support powerful empires; since land was so abundant and labor so scarce, free villagers could simply migrate to new lands to avoid having to pay taxes to an oppressive warlord/king/emperor. This had several important consequences. One is that African states were often quite fragile and always at risk of disintegrating into smaller political units, the smallest of which was the mobile village itself. Another was that slavery became a major characteristic of several African states, because the most important resource to control was not land, but people.

Despite all of this, Sub-Saharan Africa still managed to produce some great civilizations. For example, pre-modern Nigeria (including the cultures of Benin, Ife, and Igbo-Ukwu) produced some of the most realistic and impressive metallic art in the world, which I think could compare to that of Greece or Rome:











If you find the Greco-Roman aesthetic to be the standard for impressive/beautiful art (which I do), then I think these Nigerian specimens should certainly count as very impressive and beautiful. Of course, artistic appreciation is subjective, so others might find more abstract art to be more impressive.

In addition, the city of Benin itself was quite impressive at its height. The central city was some 750-800 ha in extent and may have been home to some 100,000 people. European observers in the 16th and early 17th centuries always compared it favorably to leading European cities:

 
Dec 2014
567
United States
Yes, there were advanced civilizations in Africa besides Egypt. Whether they were on the "same level" as Rome, Egypt, or Greece depends on what you are talking about specifically. In terms of sheer scale, you will not find many African polities that could match great Eurasian empires like Rome or Han China, because Africa has traditionally been a very underpopulated continent (and many parts of Africa remain quite underpopulated even today). This chronic underpopulation has historically retarded the development of a stable tax base to support powerful empires; since land was so abundant and labor so scarce, free villagers could simply migrate to new lands to avoid having to pay taxes to an oppressive warlord/king/emperor. This had several important consequences. One is that African states were often quite fragile and always at risk of disintegrating into smaller political units, the smallest of which was the mobile village itself. Another was that slavery became a major characteristic of several African states, because the most important resource to control was not land, but people.

Despite all of this, Sub-Saharan Africa still managed to produce some great civilizations. For example, pre-modern Nigeria (including the cultures of Benin, Ife, and Igbo-Ukwu) produced some of the most realistic and impressive metallic art in the world, which I think could compare to that of Greece or Rome:











If you find the Greco-Roman aesthetic to be the standard for impressive/beautiful art (which I do), then I think these Nigerian specimens should certainly count as very impressive and beautiful. Of course, artistic appreciation is subjective, so others might find more abstract art to be more impressive.

In addition, the city of Benin itself was quite impressive at its height. The central city was some 750-800 ha in extent and may have been home to some 100,000 people. European observers in the 16th and early 17th centuries always compared it favorably to leading European cities:

In what way? Africa has over a billion people now-more than Europe. I dont think Europe had large populations in ancient times either.
 

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
In what way? Africa has over a billion people now-more than Europe. I dont think Europe had large populations in ancient times either.
Take a look at population density rather than raw numbers. The population density of Africa even today is less than half of Europe (including European parts of Russia), and in ancient and medieval times, the difference would be far greater. It is only in recent decades that Africa is beginning to end its historic underpopulation and catch up with Eurasian societies.

In comparison with other continents, Europe was quite densely populated since the Middle Ages. The Mediterranean world was densely-populated even before, since Classical antiquity.
 
Feb 2011
1,595
Were there any advanced civilizations in Africa besides Egypt, and if so, which ones were they? By "advanced" i mean advanced on the same level as Rome, Egypt, or Greece-I understand that Africa had societies back then and does now, and contrary to racist stereotypes, it wasnt not all hunter gatherers and huts, but in what way were other civilizations besides Egypt advanced?
Why is this racist? The only historic stone building in Subsaharan Africa I can think of right now is the Zimbabwe. Nice, but hardly impressive. Elsewhere in Eurasia more complex structures were erected by the Neolithic.

I think Afrocentrics demonstrate they have a huge psychological problem with the long-standing underdevelopment of Africa if they try to suppress facts by calling them racist.
 
Feb 2011
1,595
In what way? Africa has over a billion people now-more than Europe. I dont think Europe had large populations in ancient times either.
As late as 1950, entire Africa had a population of only 150 million, less than three times what Germany had at the time.
 
Dec 2014
567
United States
Take a look at population density rather than raw numbers. The population density of Africa even today is less than half of Europe (including European parts of Russia), and in ancient and medieval times, the difference would be far greater. It is only in recent decades that Africa is beginning to end its historic underpopulation and catch up with Eurasian societies.

In comparison with other continents, Europe was quite densely populated since the Middle Ages. The Mediterranean world was densely-populated even before, since Classical antiquity.
What makes you think population density rather than numbers causes more innovation? I would argue the opposite-the more people you have in an area, the more talent there is-I dont think the density has anything to do with it.
 

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
What makes you think population density rather than numbers causes more innovation? I would argue the opposite-the more people you have in an area, the more talent there is-I dont think the density has anything to do with it.
Population density has everything to do with development, as geographic regions with small population densities are much harder to effectively tax and control, thus limiting the resources available to a particular state. In Europe, populations were very dense and land was the limiting resource by the High Middle Ages; high populations demanded the most efficient use of land, and also guaranteed a stable tax base for European states. I suggest you read Africans: A History by John Iliffe for a basic overview of the relevant historical issues.

Also, like I said, it is only in recent times that Africa's gross population has surpassed that of Europe. In 1850, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa was about 50 million, while that of Europe was about 266 million.
 
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