This is an online event.
Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
How two giraffes got to China from Africa nearly 80 years before Columbus first came to the Americas is just one of many delightful examples of Africa’s long-standing connections to the world: ones we don’t often hear about or learn about in world prehistory classes. With the longest record of human history on the globe, this lecture highlights stories of African cultures in contact long before the Europeans arrived: Human occupation in the middle of the Sahara Desert; 5,000 year-old megalithic monuments in East Africa built by the first pastoralists in the region; precolonial kingdoms and states in southern Africa that traded gold and ivory with the Middle East, India, and China (yes, Black Panther’s Wakanda is not that far off). In this talk, I hope to share stories of these discoveries and perhaps shift your view of the history of sub-Saharan Africa. Over the course of the lecture, I’ll also explain some of the science behind the scenes: from utilizing satellite imagery to “predict” where archaeological sites are located to chemically analyzing glass to source objects traded from around the world.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Africa is an enormous and diverse continent comprised of nearly 60 countries, over a billion people, more than 800 ethnic groups, and almost 2,000 languages. The prehistoric cradle of humankind, Africa is today home to a diverse array of cultures, environments, languages, and economies. However, media in the West often makes broad generalizations across this immense diversity, or focuses on areas of conflict, famine, or environmental devastation. The effects of these misconceptions—and of inequality—will sharpen as Africa takes a greater role in the world stage: by 2050, it is estimated that 1/4th of the world’s population will be African. These real-world consequences underscore the urgency of a deeper understanding of African societies and their socioeconomic innovations across millennia, and this lecture covers three different case studies in particular.
To learn more about African prehistory and history, from evolution to the post-colonial era, I highly recommend John Reader’s Africa: A Biography of a Continent (1999, Vintage Books). Although it looks lengthy, it reads quickly and is engaging throughout, whether you are familiar or just becoming acquainted with Africa.
To learn more about the specific stories discussed in the lecture, check out: