One of the most well-known of ancient civilisations, not least
for its artistic output, Egypt is less frequently studied as an
African society. The focus
is on evidence from objects, especially tomb paintings.
This Phoenician city-state dominated the Mediterranean both militarily and economically until its shattering defeat at the hands of Rome. The resources explore whether it was as bad as the terrible reputation it left behind.
This was a magnificent city set high on the Zimbabwean plateau, which traded gold with the coast but disappeared remarkably quickly. Its origins were formerly politically controversial, and details about its purpose and history still remain mysterious.
The kingdom of Aksum
This forerunner of modern Ethiopia was world-famous in its day. The emphasis in this section is on the archaeological remains and object evidence.
The kingdom of Benin
A militarily aggressive, slave-trading, nation, under the control of the autocratic Oba, the kingdom of Benin also produced some of the most stunning works of art of any culture. There is particular focus on the object evidence, using examples from the Museum’s collection.
The kingdom of Kongo
The ruler of this central African kingdom adopted the religion, titles, dress, customs and language of the Portuguese when they came to trade for slaves, but his kingdom ended by being taken over by its European visitors. Kongo provides a fascinating study in early relationships between Africa and Europe.
The kingdom of Kush
Little known until recently, and often considered as Egypt’s poor relation, it is now emerging from the sands as every bit as impressive as its illustrious neighbour. There is a focus on the archaeological evidence, as well as comparison between Kush and Egypt.
The kingdom of Mali
One of the most extensive, and richest, of the great West African kingdoms, the kingdom of Mali’s gold sustained much of Europe’s economy. It is also a study of an Islamic society, and the rise and fall of an empire.
The Swahili Coast
This section concentrates on port cities which combined African and Islamic cultures and enterprise to become a vital part of the world trading systems linking east and west. The focus is on Kilwa and how it exploited its position to become a major trading centre.