Quick summary of African architectures

Jan 2019
53
Norway
#1
Quick summary of African architecture, with global comparative comments

In West Africa, we mostly see a lot of mud constructions, like those :


Contrary to earth based constructions in the rest of the world, the constructions of West Africa tend to lack proper stone foundations, timber framing, an actual roof and lime plastering. They also tend to have a very irregular look.

This 300 years old Serbian wattle and daub house above shows what those West African earth structures tend to lack. Timber framing, a proper roof and proper plastering, for example. The minaret in rammed earth shows a much more regular look, which is what makes it more aesthetically pleasing than things like the mosque of Djenne.

They also lacked in stone architecture. In a few places(Northern Nigeria, Southern Mauritania, Mali), they managed to develop dry stone architecture, mainly using dry sandstone to make either enclosures or terraces(if they were terrace farmers). In rare cases palaces were built in dry sandstone(Gao-Saney, Kumbi Saleh etc...).


Compared to architecture built using stone in other parts of the world, those buildings were quite primitive. Take for example Pueblo Bonito, built around the same time as Gao-Saney and Kumbi Saleh. It's larger, has a more complex layout, and much finer stonework (both in fitting and placement) :


Sometimes, grass is used, as we see with Fulani huts, but it's usually rare in West Africa, compared to mud.

In Central Africa and inland East Africa, we see a more extensive use of grass , bamboo and reed :


Compared to architecture built using mostly wood/bamboo in other parts of the world, those buildings are quite primitive. Take for example Chinese and Javanese architecture. They created wooden structures that could withstand earthquakes by applying bracketing principles that improved elasticity, as we can see here :


African wooden architecture also tends to lack load-bearing timber frames, sophisticated ceiling and roof, and good foundations. African grass architecture is even worse, almost on par with Neanderthal mammoth houses made some millenniums ago :


A rare instance of (dry) stone architecture in inland East Africa are the ruins of Thimlich Ohinga.

In Southern Africa, we mostly see grass architecture similar to Neanderthal architecture, of this kind :


There are also a few instances of dry stone architecture, usually in the form of walls, as we see in Sotho-Tswana and Shona(supposedly) architecture :


Those are interesting developments, but they are kind of primitive when you consider that they were made after the middle Age. When you compare it to Su Nuraxi(or other Nuraghes), built around 700 BC, that was also in dry stone, but had internal tholoi and vaults, towers with multiple floors, aisles, internal passages, wasn't just a big enclosure, and was made by people who had a limited access to resources, you realize that those are very late developments. Su Nuraxi bellow :


On the East African coast, we start to see much more advanced architecture than what we have seen so far, among the Swahilis, where we also find internal aqueducts and cisterns. This architecture seems to mostly take inspiration from Persian and South Asian architecture.


In North East Africa, we start to see much more impressive and less primitive architecture, on par with its contemporary in other parts of the world, and with much more floors.


Interestingly, in countries like Ethiopia, we see a gap between the Northern and the Southern part in terms of architecture, with most of the impressive architecture being concentrated in the more Semitic Northern part of the country, and the more primitive(on par with Neanderthal mammoth houses) architecture being in the more Omotic Southern part of the country :
 
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Likes: Edratman
Mar 2019
1,473
KL
#2
yeah, i think mali's mud architecture are just big sand castles, they dont use mud bricks which is normally accompanied with the use of dried grass and wood which makes it more sturdy. There are also nubian architecture

 
#4
I think the problem is that many of those kingdoms and states in the South, West and Center were temporary and quite short lived. Its therefore quite bizarre to compare them with the rest of the world, due to the circumstances being so different.

The kingdoms of the Sahel, influence after antiquity by the Islamic Empires, did build impressive cities like Timbuktu, but due to the nomadic and trade basis of the economy they were very decentralised and fluid and couldn't or wouldn't finance large building projects on permanent sites. Much of Africa was until very recently sparsely populated and the entire continent had third of Europe's people, but the second largest land area after Asia (see historical trends from pic.) Further down south the bantu migrations have kept population patterns mobile and stable states started emerge only in the late Middle Ages/Early modern era. See the Great Zimbawe for example. Also, almost all of these areas had no reliable contact, if non at all with the rest of the Old World. The Sahara is literally a sea on which you cant sail across and transport costs are extremely high. Also horses and camels are susceptible to tropical disease and can't be used as pack-animals to transport goods further inland.

The Ethiopian highlands are a notable exception: The cool mountain climate is good for farming and the high elevation catches the monsoon winds and brings in rain in a predictable pattern. Also in such climate, farming and cultural innovations can be brought from the Middle East with the Red Sea acting as the link to Europe and India (also China beyond). Unlike other Africans therefore Ethiopians had a stable civilization (the Ethiopian Empire lasted from the 12th century to 1975 and the preceding Axumite Kingdom from the first century to the late 9th). The pictures you posted are from the same modern country of "Ethiopia" but are outside the geographical and cultural scope of the Abyssinian and Axumite highland civilization.

I think you picked a very intresting topic, but I'd like to see some more effort on the first post.

Eurasia.png population.png Great-Zimbabwe-construction-artist-reconstruction-1200.jpg Zim.jpg
 

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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,453
Portugal
#7
No, the omotic lowlands are. Reread OP. Btw, if you want to split hairs lalibela was built by the Zagwes who werent Solomonic.
Ok, thanks for the answer. I just asked because I saw a picture of Lalibela in the OP (don't need to read it again the picture is still there, unless I am mistaken) and didn't understood the part that I quoted from you.
 
Feb 2018
61
ohio
#9
Quick summary of African architecture, with global comparative comments

In West Africa, we mostly see a lot of mud constructions, like those :


Contrary to earth based constructions in the rest of the world, the constructions of West Africa tend to lack proper stone foundations, timber framing, an actual roof and lime plastering. They also tend to have a very irregular look.

This 300 years old Serbian wattle and daub house above shows what those West African earth structures tend to lack. Timber framing, a proper roof and proper plastering, for example. The minaret in rammed earth shows a much more regular look, which is what makes it more aesthetically pleasing than things like the mosque of Djenne.

They also lacked in stone architecture. In a few places(Northern Nigeria, Southern Mauritania, Mali), they managed to develop dry stone architecture, mainly using dry sandstone to make either enclosures or terraces(if they were terrace farmers). In rare cases palaces were built in dry sandstone(Gao-Saney, Kumbi Saleh etc...).


Compared to architecture built using stone in other parts of the world, those buildings were quite primitive. Take for example Pueblo Bonito, built around the same time as Gao-Saney and Kumbi Saleh. It's larger, has a more complex layout, and much finer stonework (both in fitting and placement) :


Sometimes, grass is used, as we see with Fulani huts, but it's usually rare in West Africa, compared to mud.

In Central Africa and inland East Africa, we see a more extensive use of grass , bamboo and reed :


Compared to architecture built using mostly wood/bamboo in other parts of the world, those buildings are quite primitive. Take for example Chinese and Javanese architecture. They created wooden structures that could withstand earthquakes by applying bracketing principles that improved elasticity, as we can see here :


African wooden architecture also tends to lack load-bearing timber frames, sophisticated ceiling and roof, and good foundations. African grass architecture is even worse, almost on par with Neanderthal mammoth houses made some millenniums ago :


A rare instance of (dry) stone architecture in inland East Africa are the ruins of Thimlich Ohinga.

In Southern Africa, we mostly see grass architecture similar to Neanderthal architecture, of this kind :


There are also a few instances of dry stone architecture, usually in the form of walls, as we see in Sotho-Tswana and Shona(supposedly) architecture :


Those are interesting developments, but they are kind of primitive when you consider that they were made after the middle Age. When you compare it to Su Nuraxi(or other Nuraghes), built around 700 BC, that was also in dry stone, but had internal tholoi and vaults, towers with multiple floors, aisles, internal passages, wasn't just a big enclosure, and was made by people who had a limited access to resources, you realize that those are very late developments. Su Nuraxi bellow :


On the East African coast, we start to see much more advanced architecture than what we have seen so far, among the Swahilis, where we also find internal aqueducts and cisterns. This architecture seems to mostly take inspiration from Persian and South Asian architecture.


In North East Africa, we start to see much more impressive and less primitive architecture, on par with its contemporary in other parts of the world, and with much more floors.


Interestingly, in countries like Ethiopia, we see a gap between the Northern and the Southern part in terms of architecture, with most of the impressive architecture being concentrated in the more Semitic Northern part of the country, and the more primitive(on par with Neanderthal mammoth houses) architecture being in the more Omotic Southern part of the country :
I can tell you've done no actual research and just posted what ever conformed to your pre conceived notions thats all you do you've been proven wrong many times before yet you only prove your ignorance you've claimed africans didn't practice agriculture nor had calendars when it comes to goa Saney what you've posted wasn't even a completed archeological find as kumbi saleh how exactly are multiple seven story buildings more primitive? 09-3-maison-kumbi-salehF.jpg Cram-Cram.jpg kumbisaleh-foundationSketch.jpg 1552357946607.jpg fca0f5a7a613ce83feeb77b447e681fb.jpg fea35ca5332a95339510e68a4443b96f.jpg DbmAHYSX0AEVl5g.jpg tagant-ghana-3.jpg 63b1e85682cfc42767b98cd2657bc1db.jpg vX5OTLl.jpg
 
Feb 2018
61
ohio
#10
I can tell you've done no actual research and just posted what ever conformed to your pre conceived notions thats all you do you've been proven wrong many times before yet you only prove your ignorance you've claimed africans didn't practice agriculture nor had calendars when it comes to goa Saney what you've posted wasn't even a completed archeological find as kumbi saleh how exactly are multiple seven story buildings more primitive? View attachment 18929 View attachment 18930 View attachment 18931 View attachment 18932 View attachment 18933 View attachment 18934 View attachment 18935 View attachment 18936 View attachment 18939 View attachment 18940
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