The Diversity Of Early African Architecture/Ruins Thread


Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Benin City, Nigeria
Yes, I've read that article before, and some other critical analyses of the idea (such as in Pekka Masonen's book The Negroland Revisited), however I was not referring to the myth of some sort of general achitectural style transfer, which is indeed a myth (yet was somehow accepted in certain older books despite the fact that there is nothing in the actual sources which describes something like this happening) but to one particular building that he is said to have built. That's what I meant when I referred to him as basically the one exception.

Yes, I'm interested in African history. This is just that when I study something I apply a certain methodology that consists of being careful about everything and be skeptic about everything. This is just how I study, but I'm interested in African history, I'm not an alt-right member that tries to promote eurocentrism.
Fine, if that's your preferred approach. But an even better practice would be to do as much research as is possible about a topic before just making guesses about certain things in the name of upholding a skeptical approach.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Benin City, Nigeria
Something to point out for other readers of the thread, although not especially relevant to what you asked about is that while this article you cited here is a useful article overall in debunking a particular myth, the article itself promotes a few misconceptions, one of which concerns certain domed buildings in the capital of Ghana. On p. 113 of that article, the author cites a book chapter by Nehemia Levtzion ("The Early States of the Western Sudan. . .") from 1971 which talks about "conical huts" at one point. But that is a mistranslation based on French translations of Al-Bakri's book that had had certain words and phrases inaccurately translated.

Levtzion included the same mistranslation in his book Ancient Ghana and Mali. I mentioned this to another member of the forum in a conversation we had by PM and I'll just quote the relevant part here:

About #1 on the list above, the book by Levtzion on Ghana and Mali, I did say that I strongly recommend it, but with a significant caveat. . .

. . .The only other major issue I have with the book is that it takes some liberties with its interpretation of Ghana's capital, describing a part of the city near the king's palace as having "conical huts" in a translation given in the second chapter of the book. Unfortunately, this is a notion which has been perpetuated in some other academic sources, some of which cite Levtzion's book. This idea of the city as having "conical huts" near the palace is an incorrect translation. In Levtzion and Hopkins' book of translations of early Arabic sources, which was published not long after Levtzion's book on Ghana and Mali, Hopkins correctly translates the passage by Al-Bakri as mentioning "domed buildings", not "conical huts" near the king's palace. There is obviously a big difference in connotation between those two phrases.
That was part of the message I sent to another forum member. The part of the message that I've left out now and replaced with ellipses above is about the Ghana-Almoravid interaction and how the book by Levtzion perpetuates the idea of a conquest that had already been entrenched in the western academic literature well before Levtzion's book was published. So that part is not relevant and I left it out.

J.F.P. Hopkins, who translated from the original Arabic (rather than relying on certain French translations of lesser accuracy, as Levtzion did for his book on Ghana and Mali) of al-Bakri's text, and who worked with Levtzion on a book of translations of Arabic sources, translated the words in question more accurately as domed buildings.

Something else that I mentioned to the other member of historum that I had that conversation with, in the same message:

Another thing I should mention is that before his death in 2003, Levtzion was working on an updated, significantly revised version of his book on Ghana and Mali, which was intended to take into account the research that had been carried out on the Mande peoples, and on the Ghana and Mali empires after 1980. After his death, this project was picked up by four other scholars who have also made very significant contributions to understanding the early history of the Mande peoples. The project is mentioned in these two books: sudan: ancient Ghana and Mali&f=false sudan: ancient Ghana and Mali&f=false

This is the work to look for in few years time:

Nehemia Levtzion, David Conrad, Paulo de Moraes Farias, Roderick J. McInosh, Susan McIntosh - Emerging polities of the Western Sudan: Ancient Ghana and Mali

A publication date has not been given unfortunately, but I'd expect this revised version should be coming out sometime within the next few years since it was mentioned in that book about Levtzion's contributions that I provided a link to immediately above, which came out in 2014.
If that new edition of the book comes out as planned, I hope that the new contributors can correct that mistake from the existing editions, plus address some other things that were stated in the earlier editions of the book.
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May 2015
Some architecture from the ancient kingdom of Mauretania (modern Morocco and western Algeria):

Sanctuary complex of Lixus (late 3rd/2nd century BC)

Same complex but transformed into a palace (1st century BC/AD)

Mausoleum of king Juba II and his wife Cleopatra Selena, daugther of the famous Cleopatra VII of Egypt.
Jul 2013
Thanks for the pics, Swagganaut. Especially your earlier ones of Sennar. I've never seen that Mosque of Sennar pic, and as Sennar is probably my favorite kingdom to learn about, it is much, much appreciated.
Mar 2017
1. "Weaver prepares his equipment” photographer Marcel Monnier, Bondoukou, Ivory Coast, 1892.

2. “Sudanic loom” photographer Marcel Monnier, Ivory Coast, 1892

3. “The weaver prepares his thread” Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, 1930-60.

4. “Dyers” photographer Chéron (Georges, Gustave, René) (1882 – ?), Kaya, Burkina Faso.

5. “Weavers” photographer Verger (Pierre) (1902-1906), Bamako, Mali.


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Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Benin City, Nigeria
Prince Hahansu's fetish house at Coomassie, the Ashanti War 1873

Principal gate or Mgenda of the Royal palace at Coomassie, Ashanti War 1873
I would just like to point out some errors in the descriptions. I realize that you are not responsible for these labels or descriptions, but other readers on the thread might get the wrong idea that they are accurate if I do not say anything. I mean no offense, and I find your posts in this thread interesting, but I just want to clear up any possible confusion.

1. There was no "Prince Hahansu" in Asante ("Coomassie" or Kumasi, was the capital of Asante). In fact, "Hahansu" was a Dahomean prince. He was from Dahomey and lived in the capital of Dahomey. Therefore, this depiction of a house of idols of his could not be a depiction of somewhere in Asante to begin with, from the simple fact that he was not an Asante citizen, but in fact a Dahomean prince that lived in Dahomey's capital.

"Burton does not mention meeting any vidaho during his 1863-1864 visit, though Maurice Glele claims that Prince Ahanhanzo had been named Glele's vidaho even before the 1858 death of his grandfather, Gezo. By 1871, however, Ahanhanzo was in place and actively playing the role of king-to-be: Skertchly met and much admired the young prince, noting that "A more generous, hospitable, intelligent young fellow I never met. . .and I felt more at home with Hahansu than I had done since leaving England." As vidaho, Ahanhanzo enjoyed a central place in court politics and ceremony. However, within fewer than five years of Skertchly's visit he had died under mysterious circumstances. . ." - Edna Bay, Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey, p. 274

And there is also the plain fact that the idols depicted there are much more reminiscent of vodun than they are of the material culture of Akan religious practices.

2. There was nothing like a "mgenda" as a "principal gate" of the palace that existed at Kumasi. I don't think "mgenda" is necessarily a made up word, but it sounds much more like a Fon (Dahomean) word than a Twi (Akan) word.

Then there is the other problem that the building style depicted does not match any Asante depictions or descriptions, and instead seems to be similar to certain depictions of some mid-19th century Dahomean buildings found in Frederick Forbes' 1851 account of Dahomey.

3. The images seem most likely to have been drawn from imagination by someone who was not directly there (Kumasi), or they are an amalgam of other drawings made by different people who actually had been to Dahomey, not Asante. I tried looking for the source of the images and all that I was able to trace them to were British newspapers and general purpose British encyclopedias from the 19th century, which were not actually written or drawn by people who had been to either Dahomey or Asante.

However, one source that I came across actually claims that the images were supposedly made by J. A. Skertchly. But it is clear that Skertchly did not claim to have visited Kumasi or anywhere else in Asante, and certainly not at the time that these images were created. In fact, in the preface to his book on Dahomey he makes it clear that when he was on the Gold Coast, he never went to Asante.

Yet the writer (in Harper's Bazaar) in the source linked above, for some reason proceeds to label them as being of "Coomassie" (Kumasi, Asante) anyway and insists on Skertchly as a source despite the impossibility of him being a source on Asante.

Either the creator of the images assumed that the two places (Dahomey and Asante) would have looked the same (which is far from the case) or that person believed that the two places were somehow connected. I think the author's confusion and their citation of Skertchly may have arisen from the fact that the Dahomeans had actually named one of the regiments in their army the "Ashanti regiment". Skertchly mentions in his book (pages 370-373) on Dahomey that a regiment in the Dahomean army had that name, but these were still Dahomeans, not Asante soldiers. The person who read Skertchly's account and saw where Skertchly mentions "Ashanti soldiers" could have confused those as being actual Asante soldiers (rather than Dahomean soldiers who belonged to a Dahomean regiment named after Asante) and gained the mistaken impression that Skertchly visited Asante. But when one actually reads Skertchly's book in context it is hard to see how any confusion could arise about the fact that Skertchly was still in Dahomey and was describing Dahomean soldiers.

So the original source seems to be missing and the images seem to be from imagination (perhaps also based on written descriptions of mid-19th century Dahomey) or a result of a mixture of aspects of different images of Dahomey along with the creator's imagination.

4. Also, if you read the comment on this page, at the bottom, you can see that someone else has also identified one of the images as being (an attempt at) a depiction of a place in Dahomey, and not actually of somewhere in Kumasi.
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