Africa is considered as the birthplace of human civilization, with the east African region of Nubia being regarded as the location of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were born. Ancient Egypt is the most famous African empire that dominates the religious, scientific and anthropological spheres of study as it spearheaded writing, agricultural, societal, political and military systems. It left an indelible mark on the world with its construction techniques, advanced irrigation and farming systems, its system of mathematics and medicine and its popular Pharaohs. Other kingdoms came into existence after the Egyptian era, and below are 10 of the most significant ones:
The Axum Empire [also known as Aksum Empire] was located in modern day northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, and rose to prominence and prestige around 100 BC. The empire was an important marketplace for ivory, which it exported throughout the ancient world. It also traded in exotic animal skin and gold with other countries in the ancient world, which resulted in abundant wealth and power. It built a centralized state that tightly controlled its people. The empire’s geographical location enabled it to benefit from trade and moving goods as it took advantage of the trading system that linked the Roman Empire with India. Their Adulis port by the red sea became the main port for export, and by the third century, Axum had succeeded Meroë, the capital of Kush, in becoming the supplier of African goods to the Roman Empire.
It is also the first African empire to manufacture its own coins. This came as a result of the development of its own currency in the third century. It adopted Christianity as a religion in the third century after King Ezana converted to Christianity and declared it as the empire’s official faith, making it the first African state to do so and one of the few Christian states in the world. The official language that was established was called Geez, and a writing script was developed for it. At its height, Axum controlled northern Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Sudan, southern Egypt, Djibouti, Western Yemen, and southern Saudi Arabia, totaling 1.25 million square kilometers, and was the meeting place of various cultures including Egyptian, Sudanic, and Arabic, Indian, Jewish, Buddhist and Nubian peoples.
It is alleged that the empire is the resting place of King Solomon’s Ark of the Covenant and home of the Queen of Sheba. It is thought that the decline of the empire occurred around the 7th century due to the spread of Islam across northeastern Africa and the subsequent exclusion of the empire from regional trade as well as isolation from the rest of the Christian world.
Also known as Abyssinia, the kingdom of Ethiopia is thought to be very ancient along with the kingdom of Kush. The kingdom came again into existence after the emigration of the elite Axumite due to the kingdom’s decline. The kingdom expanded southwards to the Shoan Plateau, resulting in the rise of the Zagew Dynasty in 1150 AD who ultimately overthrew the old Axumite elites. Economic revival was experienced during the Zagwe rule as it renewed trade with the Muslim world.It exported gold, ivory, and frankincense. Slaves were also traded with Arabia and India. In 1270 AD, the Zagwe Dynasty was overthrown by the Solomonid who are said to be descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The group came about with a fusion of Geez and Cushitic speaking people, birthing the Amhara people, who remain culturally dominant in modern day Ethiopia. The Solomonid continued to rule Ethiopia with until 1974, when the last emperor, Haile Selassie, was deposed in 1974 by a pro-Soviet Marxist-Leninist military junta, the “Derg,” led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, signifying an end to the empire.