There are many examples of great societies in Africa that have documented history and have had very advanced societies for their time. There are three societies in particular whose progressive communities have shattered these Aryan model claims of Roper. Great Zimbabwe, Ancient Ghana, and the nations of the Nile Valley have all shown that they have a proper history that is well documented before the arrival of Europeans, thus impeding on the Aryan model that had been used when first coming to Africa. It is important to understand theories of history to understand why Roper’s statement of Africa having little history before Europeans is wrong.
The Aryan model, states that Caucasians are the top of the hierarchy of humans and black people or Africans are the lowest. This model proved to the early Europeans that certain African groups could not have been black because they were advanced and civilized cultures. Vasant states that “The concept of race…was in the 19th and 20th centuries held to be the key not merely to the abilities of a person or group, but an index to the character and potentials of that particular physical type, for all generations past, present and future” (Vasant Kaiwar, “Racism and the Writing of History, Part I,” 1989.
Pg. 33). It is more plausible to refer to ancient theory, which states that essentially that Greeks recognized that their roots were in Africa. This model believes that Greece was settled about 1500 B. C. E. by the Egyptians and Phoenicians. The Greeks’ mathematics, governmental system, language, philosophy, writing and religion were all borrowed from African and Semitic sources. By this model this essay should prove that the Aryan model of thought will be invalid. Great Zimbabwe had a very rich history before any influence of Europeans.
There are two theories of the descendants of them, one being that they were part of the Karanga, a branch of the Shona-speaking people. Another is the may be descended from a community that lived less than a hundred miles away from Great Zimbabwe (Story of Africa, Great Zimbabwe). The Great Zimbabwe was prosperous iron-age society and had a wealth generated from cattle. This nation spread from the Limpopo River to the Zambezi. This was a massive area, spilling out into Botswana, Mozambique and northern South Africa.
The most famous stone building in southern Africa was made there that is still standing. “The Great Zimbabwe monument is built out of granite which is the parent rock of the region. The building method used was dry-stone walling, demanding a high level of masonry expertise. Some of the site is built round natural rock formations. The actual structure comprises a huge enclosing wall some 20 meters high” (Great Zimbabwe). Throughout this structure there is circular passageways with enclosures for royalty. Many objects are found throughout the structure, which include: battle axes, gold, and shrines.
The Great Zimbabwe was an agrarian society; this put all notions of the Aryan model down since it was thought that all Africans were hunter-gatherer societies. The Great Zimbabwe biggest wealth source was cattle and was the center of an international and national commercial system (Great Zimbabwe). This trade network encompassed most of Africa as well as western parts of India, and as far as China. Ancient Ghana is another example of a society with a documented history before the European era. They were a nation stacked with gold and literary and bookkeeping skills.
The Ancient Ghanaians are theorized to be descendants of a cluster of groups from modern Senegal who came together under a leader of semi-divine status. The Ancient Ghanaians had stuck with their traditional faith before some converting to Muslim and others believing a variation of both. Traditionally a virgin would be sacrificed to the Black snake, Bida. This was until a man who was engaged to the intended victim rescued her and Bida took vengeance on the region by causing a terrible drought (Story of Africa, Ancient Ghana).
The reason this is important is because up until the 12th century Ancient Ghana had an abundance of goats, sheep, and cows. After that only goats were common. This is an important part to understanding that Ancient Ghana does have its own history before Europeans because it is documented that this ritual sacrifice happened and that the ancient Ghanaians were a society that had grew from merely hunters and gathers to a trading agrarian society. The Ancient Ghanaians also made most of their wealth from gold. “Al-Hamdani, describes Ghana as having the richest gold mines on earth.
These were situated at Bambuk, on the upper Senegal River. The Soninke also sold slaves, salt and copper, in exchange for textiles, beads and finished goods” (Ancient Ghana, GhanaHomePage). The Ancient Ghanaians were mining for gold much before the European intervention and creating a small empire from this trade and most importantly creating a history of its own without European involvement. This leads into the final society and without a doubt has it’s own history without Europeans. This society is Ancient Egypt.
Egypt has a long standing history and such an advanced society that Europeans would not believe that they were descendants of Africa. Many Europeans believed that they were descendants of the lost city of Atlantis. Europeans complimented this theory by saying that Egyptian’s skin was light brown as opposed to the rest of Africa with very dark skin. This was accepted until hieroglyphics were found of ruler named Piye who was a very dark skinned African from Numbia. “On a relief in the temple at the Nubian capital of Napata, only Piye’s legs remain.
We are left with a single physical detail of the man—namely, that his skin was dark” (Robert Draper, “Black Pharaohs,” 2008. Pg. 1). Hieroglyphics are one of the earliest forms of writing in the world. They were used to record crop numbers, stories of the past, or the level of the Nile River. They were also used to inscribe prayer and record the feats and lineages of ruling families (The Story of Africa, The Nile Valley). This disproves Roper’s statement of Africa not having a history before Europeans were involved in Africa because hieroglyphics were recorded and to this day still remain.
Ancient Egypt had a very spiritual society made up of polytheistic gods. Many of the temples and pyramids were dedicated to these gods and some of them reaching up to 146. 5 meters in height. This was the tallest building for thousands of years, which made it hard for Europeans to believe that Africans could have built such magnificent structures that are now considered one of the wonders of the world. “The construction of such buildings showed the Egyptians had an outstanding grasp of the principles of astronomy, mathematics and geometry” (Story of Africa, The Nile Valley).
Modern Egyptologist are coming up with new theories that are challenging the notion that the pyramids were built by slaves rather than labourers. Zahir Hawass who is the director of the Pyramids believes that “fewer than 25 thousand labourers were involved and that far from being slaves they were peasants who were well cared for and proud to take part in a ‘national project’, out of love and respect for their Pharaoh and his divine authority” (Hawass, Nile Valley).
This is also a notion of how European intervention has tried to use Egypt’s advancements against them, believing that the rulers were slave drivers rather than kings ruling over a kingdom. In conclusion, it is clear that Hugh Trevor-Roper’s statement about Africa not having a history of its own before Europe arrived is false. There were countless societies and kingdoms in Africa that were advanced for his Aryan model of thinking. These societies were not hunter-gatherer societies but mostly agrarian. These kingdoms mined for gold and traded cattle.
Significant events were recorded in certain scribes or hieroglyphics thus telling their own history before the invasion of Europeans. The Great Zimbabwe, Ancient Ghana, and Ancient Egypt are all great examples, but only three, of kingdoms in Africa that made their own history without European intervention. Bibliography 1. Ancient Ghana. (n. d. ). Ghana HomePage, resource for News, Sports, Facts, Opinions, Business and Entertainment. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www. ghanaweb. com/GhanaHomePage/history/ancient_ghana. hp 2. BBC World Service | The Story of Africa. (n. d. ). BBC – Homepage. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from http://www. bbc. co. uk/worldservice/specials/1624_story_of_africa/index. shtml 3. Robert Draper, “Black Pharaohs,” National Geographic Magazine (February 2008) 4. Reynolds, J. T. , & Gilbert, E. (2004). Africa in world history. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Educational. 5. Vasant Kaiwar, “Racism and the Writing of History, Part I,” Comparative Studies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East 9, 2(1989): 32-56.