Biggest cities in Sub Saharan Africa (500-1500)

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,023
Canary Islands-Spain
#61
All the cities so far seem along the coast, or near trade routes to the north as part of the trans-saharan trade. Other than the Great Zimbwe, were there any cities in the interior not associated with either than trade on the coast or the trans-saharan trade in the north? Benin seems to be one, possibly, and Mbanza Kongo, but those were still relatively close to the coast. I see there was the kingdom of Luba on your map, did it have a capital city, perhaps?

The map is wrong. Lumba kingdom was founded at 1585, Lunda at 1665.


I was as well interested in inner cities, developed by complex societies based on excedents and hyerarchies. Mostly failed, with one remarkable exception:


Khami
Khami Ruins National Monument - UNESCO World Heritage Centre



A city of 108 hectares, closely related to Great Zimbabwe and belonging to the Torwa Dynasty. Other sytes related:



These other cities are http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/kingdoms-southern-africa-thulamela: Dzata, Thulamela (2,000 people) and most important Mapungubwe (modern South Africa) Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape - UNESCO World Heritage Centre




Gokomore, inland, is an archeological syte and a settlemet of characteristics unknown to me, but seem to be both, very early and very little.

In short, East Africa city network developed first at coastal areas, probably due to settlement of Arab and Malai people at first, then and more consistently by Swahili people.

The only inland area of urban development, linked to growing social complexity, is that of around Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi.
 
Jan 2014
1,702
Portugal
#62
While reading history of the Swahili of East Africa and other regions of Africa, be careful with statements which attribute the founding of cities to Arabs. In most cases it is not true, the cities were built by the local Africans but legends link them to foreign Arabs; these statements are either a result of Africans claiming Muslim foreign ancestors to link their societies to the wider world, or outsiders not thinking Africans were capable of building cities and thus saying non-Africans did.

In the case of the Swahili, most modern scholars confirm the cities were indigenous creations, often in response to external opportunities to Indian Ocean and Red Sea trade. So yes, in many cases urbanism is linked to trade with outside "Arabs" (though some foreigners could have been actually Persians), but the local people were the originators, incorporating some religious, architectural and cultural elements into what they already had.

For example, see here for more info:
Swahili City States of the East African Coast - African Studies - Oxford Bibliographies
That's true. Most city I've research till now, besides being said "founded by arabs" show almost always proof of it's existence before, taking great leaps in terms of size after arab presence.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,023
Canary Islands-Spain
#63
Probably, but this is something like the Phoenician colonization.

Might a settlement existed previously, but it is when a trading people control it when it develop into cities with a complex structure, integrated into regional markets.

In the case of East Africa, the lack of important inland urban developments, aside of the Zimbabwe area, talk in favour of a decisive role of Arab, or Swahili furtherly, settlement.
 
Jan 2014
1,702
Portugal
#64
Probably, but this is something like the Phoenician colonization.

Might a settlement existed previously, but it is when a trading people control it when it develop into cities with a complex structure, integrated into regional markets.

In the case of East Africa, the lack of important inland urban developments, aside of the Zimbabwe area, talk in favour of a decisive role of Arab, or Swahili furtherly, settlement.
Nice paralel, taking in account my familiarization with Phoenician colonies in Mediterranean (and Atlantic, p. ex Lisbon and Algarve).

Back to the topic, https://www.researchgate.net/profil...ation-of-some-elite-sites-and-approximate.png this is a nice map for comparison porpuses next to the ones in Medieval Africa book.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,576
Benin City, Nigeria
#66
Of course my friend, I'm talking about the very first source talking about sub-Saharan urbanism. But if you read carefully, it is clear urbanism was closely related to Arab trading expansion in the area.

Urbanism grew in uncertain conditions in the Swahili area through the second part of the first millenium. The first city well atested was Zanzíbar, the Stone Town area. In this place, is curious that some sources talk about a Persian settlement, with a fire temple foundation. Of these cities, which were like 30-40 in late Middle Ages, some finally were founded in Mozambique area:



Lets read together this, p.6 https://books.google.es/books?id=iy...onepage&q=ibo mozambique trading post&f=false

Swahili trading post: Ilha de Moçambique, Ibo, Angoche, probably Inhambane.

Most important city: Sofala, founded by Arabs. Sofala is well described by al-Idrisi in 1150, however, he doesn't talk about a city, but about a country. Sections seven, eight and nine: https://sites.google.com/site/historyofeastafrica/al-idrisi

It is very interesting to see that Sofala country, and south of it the country of poor towns probably located in Imhanbane province, had links not only with Yemen, but with India and Sumatra.

The towns described in Sofala country, which seem to be roughly equivalent to Mozambique, are: Tohnet (probably around Cape Delgado), Djantama, Dandama, Sayuna, Zunuj (probably in Zambezi mouth), Bukha, Daghuta

And south, in the country of Quac Quac: Derou, Nebhena, Dargha. The later is populated by people of Wac-Wac island = New Guinea. This is talking about a continental settlement of the Malai colonists that suceed in their population of Madagascar.
I don't know who really founded Sofala (though I know it had Arab influence), but the town was nominally under the authority of (was tributary to) the Monomotapa state for a long time.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,576
Benin City, Nigeria
#67
All the cities so far seem along the coast, or near trade routes to the north as part of the trans-saharan trade. Other than the Great Zimbwe, were there any cities in the interior not associated with either than trade on the coast or the trans-saharan trade in the north? Benin seems to be one, possibly, and Mbanza Kongo, but those were still relatively close to the coast. I see there was the kingdom of Luba on your map, did it have a capital city, perhaps?
Neither Benin nor Mbanza Kongo came about because of coastal trade or trans-saharan trade.

Khami, the capital of the Butua state, was in the interior.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,023
Canary Islands-Spain
#68
I don't know who really founded Sofala (though I know it had Arab influence), but the town was nominally under the authority of (was tributary to) the Monomotapa state for a long time.
The Monomotapa had also a capital we haven't discussed:

Zvongombe pp.241-242 https://books.google.es/books?id=TV...eCMA-wQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=zvongombe&f=false

This suceed and its contemporary of other states in the area. The Mutapa, in particular, had a developed priesthoodThe Zimbabwe plateau seem to have developed into a state of things similar to Sumer or the Mayas.

I'm sure the Portuguese left some accounts of this capital, as well as original Sofala.
 
Apr 2017
699
Lemuria
#70
While reading history of the Swahili of East Africa and other regions of Africa, be careful with statements which attribute the founding of cities to Arabs. In most cases it is not true, the cities were built by the local Africans but legends link them to foreign Arabs; these statements are either a result of Africans claiming Muslim foreign ancestors to link their societies to the wider world, or outsiders not thinking Africans were capable of building cities and thus saying non-Africans did.

In the case of the Swahili, most modern scholars confirm the cities were indigenous creations, often in response to external opportunities to Indian Ocean and Red Sea trade. So yes, in many cases urbanism is linked to trade with outside "Arabs" (though some foreigners could have been actually Persians), but the local people were the originators, incorporating some religious, architectural and cultural elements into what they already had.

For example, see here for more info:
Swahili City States of the East African Coast - African Studies - Oxford Bibliographies
You need to understand that urbanization originated in the Middle East. Take Rome for example. At onset it was simply a collection of huts with a wooden palisade. Urbanization, agriculture etc spread from the Middle East to these places. Once the knowledge spread they then adapted local breakthroughs. They didn't develop out of a vacuum. It's also wrong to equate the Middle East with Arabs.

The beauty of African (uncontaminated) building organization is that it has very unique pattern to them that are not seen anywhere out of Africa. You know it's African instinctively by looking at it. You know Great Zimbabwe is African and you know Zanzibar isn't. It was not possible to understand them until a branch of mathematics that deals with fractal geometry was developed by a French mathematician called Mandelbrot. I'm serious when I say the patterns in Africa appear nowhere else on earth.
 
Last edited: