Encyclopedia of African history and culture



Encyclopedia of African history and culture

How to Use This encyclopedia.This encyclopedia is organized chronologically, dividing

  1. the African past into five major eras. This division serves
    to make it easier to study the vastness and complexity of
    African history and culture. It also allows students and
    general readers to go directly to the volume or volumes
    they wish to consult.
    Volume I, Ancient Africa, deals with Africa up to
    approximately 500 CE (roughly, in terms of classical
    European history, to the Fall of the Roman Empire and
    the dissolution of the Ancient World on the eve of the
    emergence of Islam). The volume also includes articles
    on the continent’s key geographical features and major
    language families. In addition you will find articles that
    deal with certain basic aspects of African life that, in
    essential ways, remain relatively constant throughout
    time. For example, rites of passage, funeral customs, the
    payment of bride-wealth, and rituals related to spirit
    possession are features common to many African soci-
    eties. Although these features can evolve in different cul-
    tures in radically different ways, their basic purpose
    remains constant. Accordingly, rather than try to cover
    the evolution of these cultural features in each volume,
    we offer a more general explanation in Volume I, with
    the understanding that the details of these cultural
    touchstones can vary widely from people to people and
    change over time.
    On the other hand there are entries related to key
    cultural and social dimensions whose changes are easier
    to observe over time. Such entries appear in each of the
    volumes and include architecture, art, clothing and dress,
    economics, family, music, religion, warfare, and the role
    of women.
    Volume II, African Kingdoms, focuses on what may be
    loosely termed “medieval Africa,” from the sixth century
    to the beginning of the 16th century. This is the period
    that witnessed the rise and spread of Islam and, to a less-
    er degree, Arab expansion throughout much of the north-
    ern and eastern regions of the continent. It also saw the
    flowering of some of Africa’s greatest indigenous king-
    doms and empires. Other Africans, such as the Maasai
    and Kikuyu living in and around present-day Kenya, did
    not live in powerful states during this time yet developed
    their own dynamic cultures.
    Volume III, From Conquest to Colonization, continues
    Africa’s story from roughly 1500 to 1850. During this era
    Africa became increasingly involved with the Atlantic
    world due to European maritime exploration and subse-
    quent interaction through trade and cultural exchanges.
    This period also included the rise of the transatlantic
    slave trade, which in turn created the African Diaspora,
    and the beginnings of European colonization. As a result,
    it marks a period when the dynamics shaping African
    culture and society began to shift.
    Volume IV, The Colonial Era, covers Africa during the
    years 1850–1960. This historical period begins with
    Europe’s conquest of the continent, leading to the era of
    colonial rule. Political control enabled Europe to extend
    its economic control as well, turning Africa into a vast
    supply depot of raw materials. Volume IV also covers the
    rise of nationalist movements and the great struggle
    Africans undertook to regain their independence.
    Volume V, Independent Africa, deals with the conti-
    nent since 1960, when Africans began regaining their
    independence and started to once again live in sovereign
    states. (This process, of course, took longer in the south-
    ern portion of the continent than in other parts.) In
    common with the rest of the world’s people, however,
    Africans have faced a host of new and challenging prob-
    lems, some of which are specific to Africa, while others
    are of a more global nature.
    In addition to the aforementioned cultural entries
    that appear in all five volumes, there are entries for each
    of the present-day countries of the continent as identified
    on the Political Map found at the front of each volume.
    Readers can thus learn about the key developments in a
    given country within a given time period or across the
    entire span of African history. There are also articles on
    individual ethnic groups of Africa in each of the volumes.
    Since there are more than a thousand identifiable groups,
    it has been necessary to limit coverage to the major or
    key groups within a given period. Thus, a group that
    might be historically important in one period may not be sufficiently important, or may not even have existed, in a
    period covered by one or more other volumes. Likewise,
    there are entries on the major cities of the continent for
    given time periods, including, in Volume V, all the pre-
    sent national capitals. Another key set of entries common
    to all volumes concerns historically important persons. In
    general, historians are more readily able to identify these
    individuals for recent periods than for earlier times. As a
    result the latter volumes contain more individual bio-
    graphical entries. An exception here is the case of
    Ancient Egypt, where historical records have enabled us
    to learn about the roles of prominent individuals.
    In preparing these volumes, every attempt has been
    made to make this encyclopedia as accessible and easy to
    use as possible. At the front of each volume, readers will
    find an introduction and a timeline specific to the histori-
    cal era covered in the volume. There are also three full-
    page maps, two of which appear in all five volumes (the
    current political map and a physical map), and one that is
    specific to the volume’s time period. In addition the front
    of each volume contains a volume-specific list of the pho-
    tographs, illustrations, and maps found therein. The List
    of Entries at the front of each volume is the same in all
    volumes and enables the reader to quickly get an
    overview of the entries within the individual volumes, as
    well as for the five-volume set. Entries are arranged
    alphabetically, letter-by-letter within each volume.
    Entry headwords use the most commonly found
    spelling or representation of that spelling, with other fre-
    quently used spellings in parentheses. The question of
    spelling, of course, is always a major issue when dealing
    with languages utilizing an alphabet or a script different
    than that used for English. Changes in orthography and
    the challenges of transliteration can produce several vari-
    ants of a word. Where there are important variants in
    spelling, this encyclopedia presents as many as possible,
    but only within the entries themselves. For easy access to
    variant and alternate spelling, readers should consult the
    index at the end of each volume, which lists and cross-
    references the alternate spellings that appear in the text.
    Each volume contains an index that has references to
    subjects in the specific volume, and the cumulative index
    at the end of Volume V provides easy access across the
    volumes. A cumulative glossary appears in each volume
    and provides additional assistance.
    The entries serve to provide the reader with basic
    rather than exhaustive information regarding the subject
    at hand. To help those who wish to read further, each
    entry is linked with other entries in that volume via cross-
    references indicated by SMALL CAPITALS. In addition the
    majority of entries are followed by a See also section,
    which provides cross-references to relevant entries in the
    other four volumes. The reader may find it useful to begin
    with one of the general articles—such as the ones dealing
    with archaeology, dance, oral traditions, or women—or to
    start with an entry on a specific country or an historically
    important state and follow the cross-references to discover
    more detailed information. Readers should be aware that
    cross-references, both those embedded in the text and
    those in the See also section, use only entry headword
    spellings and not variant spellings. For those readers who
    wish to research a topic beyond the material provided in
    individual and cross-referenced entries, there is also a
    Further reading section at the end of many entries.
    Bibliographical references listed here guide readers to
    more in-depth resources in a particular area.
    Finally, readers can consult the Suggested Readings
    in the back of each volume. These volume-specific bibli-
    ographies contain general studies—such as atlases, histo-
    ries of the continent, and broad works on culture, society,
    and people—as well as specialized studies that typically
    cover specific topics or regions. For the most part, these
    two bibliographic aids contain those recently published
    works that are most likely to be available in libraries,
    especially well-stocked city and college libraries. Readers
    should also be aware that a growing number of sources
    are available online in the form of e-books and other for-
    mats. The World Wide Web is also a good place to look
    for current events and developments that have occurred
    since the publication of this encyclopedia.

Aba II
Aba Women’s Revolt IV
Abacha, Sani V
Abba Libanos II
Abbas, Ferhat IV
Abdallahi ibn
Muhammad IV
Abd Alla ibn Yasin II
Abd al-Mansur III
Abd al-Mumin II
Abd el-Krim,
Mohamed ben IV
Abdikassim Salad Hassan V
Abdullahi Burja II
Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed V
Abeokuta III, IV
Abidjan III, IV, V
Abiola, Mashood V
Abomey III
Aborigines’ Rights
Protection Society IV
Abu al-Hasan Ali II
Abu Bakr II
Abu Hamed I
Abuja V
Abuja Accords V
Abu Salih (I) II
Abu Salih (II) II
Abusir, pyramids of I
Abu Yaqub Yusuf II
Abydos I
Abyssinia I
acacia gum I
Accra II, III, IV, V
Achebe, Chinua IV, V
Acheulean Age I
Acheulean toolkit I
Achimota College IV
Acholi II, III
Action Front for Renewal
and Development V
Adal II, III
Adamawa III
Adansi III
Addis Ababa IV, V
Ade, King Sunny V
Aden, Gulf of II
Adowa, Battle of IV
Adulis I, II
Afar I, II, III
Afar Depression I
Jamal al-Din IV
Afonso I III
Africa I
African Democratic
Assembly IV
African diaspora IV
African National
Congress IV, V
African Party for the
Independence of
Guinea and
Cape Verde V
African studies V
African Union V
Afrikaans III, IV, V
Afrikaner Republics IV
Afrikaners IV, V
Afro-Asiatic languages I
afterlife I
Afro-Shirazi Party V
Agades III
Agaja III
Agaw I, II
Agbor I, II
age grades I
Age of Discovery II
Age of Metals I
age sets I
Aggrey, James E.
Kwegyir IV
agricultural revolution I
agriculture I, II, III,
Ahidjo, Ahmadou V
Ahmad Grañ III
Ahmadu Séku IV
Ahmose I I
Ahmosid /Thutmosid
lines I
Aideed, Mohamed F. V
Aidoo, Ama Ata V
Aïr Massif II, III
Akan I, II, III, IV
Akan gold weights I
Akhenaten I
Akhetaten I
Akil, Chief II
akofena II
Akosombo Dam V
Aksum I, II
Akure II
Akwamu III
Akyem II, III
alafin II
Alexander the Great I
Alexandria I, IV
Algeria I, II, III,
Algiers III, IV, V
Algiers, Battle of IV
Ali, Duse Muhammad IV
Ali, Sunni II
Allada II, III
Alliance for Patriotic
Reorientation and
Construction V
Alliance High School IV


In Volume I, Ancient Africa, readers will find everything
from information about the earth’s earliest hominids to
the history and culture of the Egyptians and Nubians to
the events that led to the establishment of Roman Africa.
These, of course, are the subject areas for which we have
the most historical information. As a consequence
Volume I is somewhat skewed in the direction of these
subjects. Some of this information, especially dealing
with human origins, has a “late-breaking” quality to it,
due to the extensive ongoing research and important new
archaeological findings that occur almost every year.
Information about ancient Egypt, on the other hand, is
more constant, although here, too, ongoing research con-
tinues to provide important new results.
Readers also will find entries about a wealth of other
peoples, places, and events. Particularly important are the
beginnings of some of the world’s earliest agricultural and
pastoral societies, for the transformation from hunting-
and-gathering to planned food production is essentially
the point at which history begins. Nevertheless, even to
this day some Africans continue to live in hunting-and-
gathering societies. For this reason, readers will find arti-
cles on such peoples as the San and Mbuti and their way
of life. Splendid and sophisticated cities such as Memphis,
in ancient Egypt; Napata and Meroë, in the kingdom of
Kush; Carthage, in what is today Tunisia; and Jenne-Jeno,
on the inland Niger River delta, point to the early impor-
tance of urban life and culture in African history.
This volume provides the principal coverage of geog-
raphy for the encyclopedia as a whole, with entries on
the major rivers, lakes, and other important geographical
features of the continent. Languages also receive extend-
ed coverage in Volume I, with articles on each of the
major language families as well as on important language
sub-families and some individual languages. As with the
geographical entries, this basic information is relevant for
the subsequent periods in African history but does not
necessarily need to be repeated in the other four vol-
umes. However, if a certain language has particular rele-
vance to a later historical era, that language may be listed
in volumes other than this one, as well.
Religion and spirituality constitute prominent
aspects of a people’s culture and hence receive extended
coverage in this volume. Some of the religion-related arti-
cles, such as those regarding life in ancient Egypt, are
specific to the time period of this volume. Other religion
entries, however, such as those on ancestor worship and
funeral customs, are written in what is sometimes called
the “anthropological present,” which underscores both
the timelessness and the continuity of the subject.
Because we are using this historical writing technique,
certain religious and spiritual subjects are covered here
but not in later volumes, where they may be equally rele-
vant. There are further entries on many other topics,
such as animals, that were important to ancient African
life and remain significant far beyond the early era of
African history. Thus some of these articles serve not
only to introduce ancient Africa but also to point to some
of the traditions that continue to characterize Africa
since that time.
When it comes to the study of ancient African histo-
ry, it is important to realize several points. First, tradi-
tional historical and archaeological methods have
provided extensive information on the major African civ-
ilizations of the ancient world, including Egypt, Kush,
Aksum, and Carthage. These civilizations also left writ-
ten records and documents, and we can use these to sup-
plement the ample archaeological evidence to piece
together some semblance of their histories. In contrast,
archaeology has always been more difficult to pursue in
sub-Saharan Africa. Part of the reason is environmental,
since the humid tropical climates are more destructive of
material remains than are arid and semi-arid climates.
Moreover, archaeologists tend to focuse more on monu-
mental sites than on those of an everyday nature, and
sub-Saharan Africa has far fewer monumental sites than
the northern and northeastern portions of the continent.
Beyond this there is the whole question of the availability
of written sources. The vast majority of sub-Saharan soci-
eties did not utilize writing until much later in their his-
tory. Instead they relied almost exclusively on oral
history for maintaining links with their own cultural tra