Class Notes - Bantu Migration

AP World History
POD #1 – Out of Africa
Bantu Migration
Class Discussion
Bulliet et. al. – pp. 217-223
What is the geographic make up of
northern (Saharan) Africa?
 The Sahara as we know it today dates to about 2500
 The scarcity of water restricted travel to a few difficult
routes by 300 B.C.E.
 Sprawling sand dunes, sandy plains and exposed rock
are the main features of the desert
 Rugged mountains and highlands separate the
northern and southern portions
 The earliest inhabitants hunted elephants, giraffes,
rhinos, and crocodiles before the area dried out and
the animals left the region
 These hunters were gradually joined by cattle breeders
who could survive in the sparse grazing lands that
What is the geographic make up of
southern (Sub-Saharan) Africa?
 Located between the Sahara Desert, Atlantic Ocean,
Indian Ocean and Red Sea
 Except for the Nile River the major river systems
(Senegal, Niger, Zaire and Zambezi) were littered with
rapids reducing their function for trade, transportation
and travel
 In the 4000 mile journey from the Sahara south to the
Cape of Good hope travelers would encounter the
semi-arid steppes of the Sahel, a tropical savanna
covered by long grasses and scattered forests through
a tropical rain forest before re-encountering more
steppes, deserts and temperate highlands
 Moving east to west across the continent (a distance
roughly equivalent to that of the Silk Road) a traveler
would face the challenges of equatorial (tropical)
rainforests, mountains and deep rift valleys
What theories exist to explain the
establishment of Trans-Saharan Trade
 Mediterranean Charioteers drove across
the desert establishing societies in the
few remaining grassy areas in the central
Saharan highlands
 Camel domestication and herding
allowed for people to move away from
the Saharan highlands and roam the
deep desert
How and Why did the camel become such
an important element of the Trans-Sahara
Trade Routes?
 With the development of the saddle the camel became
a highly effective beast of burden across the desert as
well as an important military weapon
 Southern Arabian Saddle – good for riding, allowed for
loads to be tied to the wooden arches, inefficient for
military applications because the rider knelt on a
cushion behind the camel’s hump making it difficult to
use weapons
 Northern Arabian Saddle – an improvement in saddle
technology as the support arches still useful for
carrying loads but were placed around the camel’s
hump placing the rider on the top of the hump providing
greater stability and height in battle
 Southern Sahara Saddle – designed only for personal
and military use as there was no place to tie bundles
What did the southern merchants have to
offer in trade?
 Southern traders provided salt to the
peoples of the sub-Saharan region
 Equatorial traders provided forest
products (nuts and palm oil) to trading
centers bordering the southern edge of
the desert
 Sahel (coastal) traders provided
agricultural products
What did the northern merchants
have to offer in trade?
 Roman colonists living in the Sahara
region along the Mediterranean coast
provided Italy with agricultural products
(wheat and olives)
How do anthropologist distinguish
between “great traditions” and “small
 Great Traditions – typically include a written language,
common legal and belief systems, ethical codes, and
other intellectual attitudes (loom large in written
 Small Traditions – comprised of the diversity of local
customs and beliefs
 “By the year 1 C.E. sub-Saharan Africa had become a
distinct cultural region, though not shaped by imperial
conquest or characterized by a shared elite culture, a
“great tradition.” The cultural unity of sub-Saharan
Africa rested on similar characteristics shared to
varying degrees by many popular cultures, or “small
traditions.” (Bulliet, p. 215)
What cultural uniformities can be found in
Africa by 1 C.E.?
 Agriculture – technique of cultivation by
hoe or digging stick
 Music – important role (especially drums)
in social rituals, also important were
dancing and wearing masks
 Kings were ritually isolated from the
 Fixed social categories
What theories are offered to explain the
migration of people throughout Africa?
 As the north began to dry with the retreat of the
Ice Aged glaciers around 5000 B.C.E migration
to the south, east and west became more
prevalent - This climate change and the
movement east set the stage for the
establishment of the Old Kingdom of Egypt
around the Nile River
 Migrants with superior skills began to assert
dominance over weaker pre-existing
populations (recent research is beginning to
refute this theory)
What role did Iron play in the
development of Africa?
 Iron smelting began in the northern subSaharan region in the early first millennium
 This technology spread south from there
 While the Hittites of Anatolia (Turkey) are
credited with this discovery there is growing
belief that the African’s discovered this for
themselves while firing pottery
 Due to the location of the Proto-Bantu they are
presumed to have played a significant role in
the southward spread of iron
What characteristics distinguish the
 Bantu = people – comprised of over 300
language groups
 Lived in permanent settlements on the edge of
the rainforest
 Cultivated the land (yams, grains, harvested
palm nuts to press for oil)
 Domesticated animals (goats, dogs)
 Fished using canoes, nets, lines and hooks
What characteristics distinguish the
 The advance of the Bantu way of life
established an economic foundation for new
societies capable of sustaining a much larger
 500 B.C.E to 1000 C.E. saw a great influx of
Bantu traditions to the south, east and west
 A new Pan-African culture was developing
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