THE EARLIEST KINGDOMS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

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1 THE EARLIEST KINGDOMS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

2 Mapungubwe Read the following story of Mapungubwe: Arab traders were looking for gold. Chinese traders wanted ivory. Both ivory and gold were available on the plateau of Zimbabwe. The Shonas were living there. The trading that occurred and developed here continued for more than 1000 years. The centre of trade activities in Southern Africa was the isolated hill of Mapungubwe. It was also called the place of the great jackal. It was situated in the Northern Province which is now better known as Mpumalanga. This settlement was probably formed as the first black state in South Africa. A prosperous town had developed in the Limpopo valley by about 1000 A.D. Its inhabitants gradually started gaining control over the surrounding areas, especially with regard to gold. The rulers settled on the flat-topped mountain, while their subjects lived on the plain below the mountain. This mountain dwelling then became known as Mapungubwe. The stronghold soon became a prosperous trading centre that reached its peak in the 12 th century, when it controlled the trade in gold with the East. With the rise of Great Zimbabwe in the 14 th and 15 th centuries, the rulers of Mapungubwe began losing control over this trade. Where is the Limpopo valley located?

3 Changes in societies in the Limpopo Valley between 900AD and 1300AD How were African societies organised long ago? Societies change over time. We live differently to how our great-grandparents lived when they were children. About 1000 years ago, societies in southern Africa were organised in a hierarchical way. This means that some people were more important and had more power than others. What was important to them? Their resources were important. The resources that they had were mostly cattle and land. Why were these resources important? They needed to feed themselves and their families. People who owned cattle and land could control and dominate others. The more you owned (had) the more you could control others. Who controlled the resources? Men usually owned the cattle and land. This meant that they were like the boss. The men could tell the women what to do. The men could control the women. A man was the head of his household. He could make all the decisions.

4 How was the daily existence (life) affected by change in power and behaviour? 1. Economy The economy started to change. Now the people did not just farm and own cattle. They started trading with cattle, ivory, gold and other goods. 2. Power Men who had more land and cattle could trade more which resulted in more wealth. This also gave them more power. Because certain men had more power, they could make important decisions on behalf of the people. 3. Population The population grew and grew. Women had more children. As the population grew they needed more space to live, so they spread out over a bigger area. They were also organised into bigger groups. These farming communities became more complex. This means that the groups became more organised. These groups would also fight over resources like land and cattle. Why do you think this happened? 4. Social Groups Groups became bigger and became more organised so that they could protect the women, children and resources. They also chose their own powerful chiefs and leaders to form armies. The men in the groups creatively improved and made more weapons that they could use for protection. The people believed that the king was blessed with power that God gave him. They believed that this power is passed on to the king s family. Thus, when a king died, the eldest son became the new king. 5. Control Kings and chiefs controlled all economic activities. The economic activities were mining, farming and trading. The king would decide where people could farm. A tax system was introduced and people had to pay taxes to the king. Tax is a compulsory contribution that people have to pay to the government for money they have earned. What does the government do with this money they receive?

5 K2 and Schroda Why did people move to Mapungubwe Hill? Before Mapungubwe was established, there were other sites (pieces of land studied by archaeologists) in the Limpopo River Valley where African farming communities settled. They were called K2 and Schroda. The settlement of Mapungubwe began only about 800 years ago. In 900 AD, the farmers decided to settle at Schroda and K2. There were large herds of elephants living in this area. This led to the farmers starting a trade with ivory (elephant tusks). They would normally exchange the ivory for glass beads from the East. Because of increased import and export activities, the societies changed the way it was organised before. The inhabitants even started making ivory jewellery. Obviously this was a chance for the females to show their creativity. When these two settlements became too big (over-populated), many farmers moved to Mapungubwe Hill. There they made small huts using mud and thatch. How did the people (farmers) live? How did the inhabitants survive? What did they learn there? The farming community where structured in such a way that everybody had a specific job to do: Farmers: They herded cattle and farmed with grains for sustainable living and used animal skin for clothing and trading. What is sustainable living? Craftsmen & women: They made pottery vases/pots and beads. Hunters: They hunted elephants for their ivory to trade. Traders: They were responsible for trading with merchants from Arabia, India and Indonesia Interesting fact: People on the east coast of Africa traded with countries across the Indian Ocean. They travelled in ships called dhows.

6 What did they trade? Ivory Rhino horn Iron Gold Leopard skin What did they receive in turn for their trade? Glass beads Cotton Silk cloth Ceramics Representation of the very sophisticated trading centre of Mapungubwe

7 Mapungubwe: The first state in Southern Africa The King and his Holy Leadership The chief was also called a king. He lived at the top of Mapungubwe Hill with his family and a few other important people. This was then the first time in southern African history that the leaders lived apart from the other subjects (people). There was a stone wall built at the top of the hill and these walls formed part of the king s palace. The king was a sacred leader and in charge of important ceremonies and rituals. What type of rituals did they have? They had rain-making rituals and this was deemed to be so sacred (holy) that it was done in secret. The king would invite rain-makers who had special relationships with the ancient spirits to come to this ritual. The town of Mapungubwe Hill was at the bottom of the hill and most people lived there. Interesting information: (i) The people believed Mapungubwe Hill was a holy place. (ii) It was a place of the spirits of the ancestors. (iii) People would not look directly at the hill because it was sacred. (iv) The people had to walk backwards up the hill, cupping their eyes whilst looking over their left shoulder. (v) Ordinary town people was not allowed to go up the hill. (vi) There were two stairways up the hill. (vii) Soldiers who guarded the top of the stairways were called the eyes of the king. (viii) Archaeologists found 3 bodies buried in a seated position. The bodies were decorated with a variety of gold and copper items, exotic glass bead and other objects. This was how royalty was buried. (ix) There was an special graveyard at the top of the hill for royal burial.

8 Symbols of royal power and political leadership 1. Golden Rhinoceros (i) It was the symbol of leadership. (ii) Horn: symbolises the role of the leader to protect the people. 2. Golden Scepter (i) Symbol of authority. (ii) Was always carried by the king. 3. Golden Beads (i) Only the king and his family wore golden beads. (ii) This was also a symbol of power, leadership and importance. Conclusion: What did the people learn in this community? They learnt how to live together in a hierarchical system. This means that some people were more important and had more power than others. They had to learn acceptable social behaviour and how to interact on a social and business level. The people became more educated in trading and made profit. (Profit is when you make extra money when selling something.) This also encouraged political development and interactions with other parts of the world. Reflection How many of you knew about the history of Great Zimbabwe? Why do you think you did not know about it, while you knew about Rome and Greece? What does this tell us about African history and how much we know of it?

9 Globalisation: Trade across Africa and across the Indian Ocean Arabs and Africans After 700 AD there were Arabs who followed the new religion of Islam. They decided to settle at small coastal towns of eastern Africa. The men married local African women and had children. Because of these marriages, the women converted to Islam and practiced the Muslim religion with their husbands. African and Arab languages were then mixed together to form a new language called Swahili. Swahili means people who live along the coast. African and Arabian culture and customs where mixed to form a new way of life. Trade Farmers from Mapungubwe traded with Swahili merchants. The Swahili merchants wanted gold, ivory, rhinoceros horn and tortoise shells. Once they got these from the farmers they took it back to the coast where they lived. Arab merchants sailed from the East in dhows to come and trade with the Swahili merchants at the coast. The Arabs brought lots of things from the Indian Ocean such as beads, cloth, carpets and glassware. How did farmers find their way to the coast? Farmers who wanted to trade with the Swahili people walked to the coast and back with all the goods they took and received from trading. They were very clever and used the stars at night to guide and help them find the way. Because so many merchants walked the same direction, footpaths and routes were established. The farmers were good trackers and could keep away from wild and dangerous animals. Interesting fact: They often hid the gold in porcupine quills to disguise the gold and to avoid being attacked by thieves.

10 Great Zimbabwe Archaeologists are not sure why Mapungubwe was eventually abandoned. A short while after it was abandoned, (between 1280 and 1450) another state developed. This state was called Great Zimbabwe and was made up of about 50 towns. Interesting fact: Zimbabwe, as we know it today, was named after Great Zimbabwe and is ruled in a similar fashion (way). There are many similarities between Mapungubwe state and Great Zimbabwe. They were both complex kingdoms with a king, advisors and family, who had more power than the normal people. Big stone walls were built as enclosures. The purpose of the walls was to keep the important people safe. The top of the hill The king lived on the top of the hill. He and his royal family were separated from the ordinary people who lived at the bottom of the hill. The leaders were believed to be like crocodiles because they were never scared of their enemies and could communicate with their ancestors. Archaeologists also found eight bird statues made out of soapstone at Great Zimbabwe. The people believed that birds carried messages to and from the ancestors. The slopes and valley Larger huts were built on the slopes of the hill were the middle-class people lived. They were slightly richer than the rest of the people who built smaller huts in the valley at the bottom of the hill. The little huts were built close together. Why do you think they were built like this? Trade The people in Great Zimbabwe also traded with the Arab traders on the Swahili coast. Gold mines proved to be very good for Great Zimbabwe and they took the gold they could mine and traded this with the Arabs. In turn for the gold, the Zimbabwean traders also received cloth, pottery and glass. Great Zimbabwe (like Mapungubwe) traded gold, iron and ivory.

11 European explorer: Marco Polo At the same time that Mapungubwe was a powerful, successful kingdom, things were also happening in other parts of the world. Marco Polo was born in 1254 (died 1324). He was born to a wealthy (rich) family in Italy. Europe was a very isolated state and knew little about the rest of the world. Marco Polo took a leap and travelled to Asia between 1271 and1295. Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to travel the Silk Road. He travelled to China with his father and uncle using this route. Chinese silk cloth was the most traded item on this road. Why was it called the Silk Road? Marco Polo worked for the Emperor of China for 17 years. When he decided to go home he sailed back instead of walking over land. He brought spices, jewels, porcelain, coal, ivory and silk back to Europe. Apart from all the goods he also brought back many stories and ideas that helped to enhance trade between these two countries. Marco Polo s famous book, called Travels of Marco Polo also inspired Christopher Columbus 100 years later to visit the Far East.

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