6382, Western african intellectual achievements|
Posted by Sopdet, Thu Nov-14-02 05:57 PM
It is a little known fact that smallpox inoculation was used in Africa long before the procedure was discovered in Europe
Located in the Mandara Mountains of northern Cameroon, the strongholds range in size from small standalone structures, to complex, castle-sized fortresses with platforms, terraces and covered passageways. The curving walls on some of the larger strongholds are over six metres high and strong enough to serve as defensive barricades, although their exact function is still unknown. (For print-quality photos, see <http://www.fp.ucalgary.ca/unicomm/news/strongholds/camphotos.html>. A slideshow is at <http://www.mandaras.info/StrongholdsNCameroon/sld001.htm> and includes detailed commentary.)
Benin's 8th Wonder
The world's largest earthworks system, 10,000 miles long, covering over 2,500 square miles and consisting of more than 500 interconnected communal enclosures, is under investigation by archaeologist Dr. Patrick Darling, according to The Independent Newspaper (UK).
Second in length only to the Great Walls of China, these ramparts, 60ft high in parts, located in Southern Nigeria is thought to have been created over a 500 year period by the Edo people of West Africa before they were overrun by the Benin Empire in the 15th century. (More on this to come in future editions of GAP News)
From GAP News April 1994
Barry applied Western surgical techniques, nineteenth-century travelers in Africa reported instances of indigenous people successfully carrying out the procedure with their own medical practices. In 1879, for example, one British traveller, R.W. Felkin, witnessed cesarean section performed by Ugandans. The healer used banana wine to semi-intoxicate the woman and to cleanse his hands and her abdomen prior to surgery. He used a midline incision and applied cautery to minimize hemorrhaging. He massaged the uterus to make it contract but did not suture it; the abdominal wound was pinned with iron needles and dressed with a paste prepared from roots. The patient recovered well, and Felkin concluded that this technique was well-developed and had clearly been employed for a long time. Similar reports come from Rwanda, where botanical preparations were also used to anesthetize the patient and promote wound healing
Iron technology did not come to Africa from western Asia via Carthage
or Merowe as was long thought, concludes "Aux origines de la
métallurgie du fer en Afrique, Une ancienneté méconnue: Afrique de
l'Ouest et Afrique centrale". The theory that it was imported from
somewhere else, which - the book points out - nicely fitted colonial
prejudices, does not stand up in the face of new scientific
discoveries, including the probable existence of one or more centres
of iron-working in west and central Africa and the Great Lakes area.
But the facts speak for themselves. Tests on material excavated since
the 1980s show that iron was worked at least as long ago as 1500 BC
at Termit, in eastern Niger, while iron did not appear in Tunisia or
Nubia before the 6th century BC. At Egaro, west of Termit, material
has been dated earlier than 2500 BC, which makes African metalworking
contemporary with that of the Middle East.
In 1721, Cotton Mather, who learned about smallpox inoculations from a slave named Onesimus, urged doctors in the community to begin inoculating healthy s laves against the disease. Dr. Zabdiel Boylston was the first doctor to take action. After he administered the smallpox vaccine to 250 slaves and his own son, the death rate dropped from one in 12 to about one in 40
He'd seen it first hand in his African servant. The man showed Mather his smallpox scar and told him that you
... take the Juice of the Small Pox, and Cut the Skin and put in a drop: then by 'nd by a little Sick, then a few Small Pox; and no body dye of it; no body have Small Pox any more.
is an excerpt from a letter that Cotton Mather wrote in December 1716, wherein he accounts for where he got the knowledge of smallpox inoculation :
"I do assure you, that many months before I mett with any Intimations of treating ye Small-Pox, with ye Mehods of Inoculation, any where in Europe, I had from a Servant of my own, an Account of its being practiced in Africa. Enquiring of my Negro-man, Anesimus, who is a pretty intelligent Fellow, Whether he ever had ye Small-Pox; he answered, both Yes and No; and then told me, that he had undergone an operation, which had given him something of ye Small-Pox, and would forever preserve him from it; adding, That it was often used among ye Guramantese, & whoever had ye courage to use it, was forever free from ye fear of the Contagion. He described ye operation to me, and shew'd me in his Arm ye Scar, which it left upon him."
The Scar on the African's Arm", Hippocrates (magazine), March/ April 1989 issue
. Lynch and Robbins (1983) analyse evidence from Namoratunga, a megalithic site in northwestern Kenya, that suggests that a prehistoric calendar based on detailed astronomical knowledge was in use in eastern Africa (c.300 B.C.). ------------------------------------------------------- <http://tycho.as.utexas.edu/~wheel/africa/bibliography.htm> James Cornell. "The First Stargazers: An Introduction to the Origins of Astronomy," New York: Scribner, 1981 Chapter " Light on the Dark Continent " presents archaeoastronomical information on Africa. Mentions Namoratunga... Doyle, Laurance R., and Thomas J. Wilcox. "Statistical Analysis of Namoratunga: An Archaeoastronomical Site in Sub-Saharan Africa?" Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa. 1986, pp. 125-128. Article about the argument over the Namoratunga II site. Its legitimacy as an archaeoastronomical site. Lynch, B.M., and Robbins, L.H. "Namoratunga: The First Archaeoastronomical Evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa," Science. May 1978: 766-768. Article about the Namoratunga II site and evidence that shows its archaeoastronomical implications. Paul, G. "The Astronomical Dating of a Northeast African Stone Configuration," The Observatory, 1980: 206-209. Article on the calculations of the precessions of the seven stars relevant to the Namoratunga II site. -------------------------------------------- <http://tycho.as.utexas.edu/~wheel/africa/comparison.htm>
Ivan Van Sertima, in 300 BC, Africans in Namoratunga, Kenya built an astronomical observatory that enabled them to create the most accurate prehistoric calendar ever discovered. Most African languages have complex concepts of time and tense, expressing a strong sense of the relationship between the present, the distant past, the recent past and the future
African south of the Sahara lived largely in nomadic, hunter-gatherer groups up until 200 BC. As a result, African populations were very sparse. There are several speculations as to why sub-Saharan Africans remained in hunting-gathering groups, but they are all guess-work. Perhaps the most reasonable explanations involve the abundance of resources and the protection that their isolation gave them from invasion and migration pressures.
Still, early sub-Saharan Africans developed metallurgy at a very early stage, possibly even before other peoples. Around 1400 BC, East Africans began producing steel in carbon furnaces (steel was invented in the west in the eighteenth century
1999 "Africa's storied past. Once a "People Without History," Africans explore a vibrant precolonial landscape"", Archaeology . 52 (4)(1999): 54-60, 83
or too long, many scholars dismissed Africa as a cultural backwater unworthy of serious study. But 50 years of archaeology have shown that the continent has pottery thousands of years older than that of the Near East and Europe, true steel two and a half millennia before its nineteenth-century European "invention," and urban civilizations without despots and wars. These are more than just African insights; they are fundamental revelations about how humans have interacted with each other and their environment and how societies have changed in the past.
In 1897, "several hundred bronze plaques ... of really superb casting" and "magnificently carved tasks" were found in Benin. Europeans as usual speculated they were of European influence.17 A palace in Ife a hundred miles away yielded vast quantities of brasswork and terra cotta. The works of Benin and Ife are now accepted as entirely African and most are thought to have been made between the 13th and 18th centuries.18 11 Poe, p421,Richard Poe, Black Spark White Fire
<http://www.millersv.edu/~deidam/m301/yor1.htm> A Number System for Mathematicians Only "One must be a mathematician to learn this complex system" - Cladia Zaslavsky in Africa Counts The Republic of Nigeria is the most populous country of Africa, with 1/3 the population of the USA in 1/10 of its area. It is the historical site of several highly advanced civilzations, including the Nok (500 BC - 200 AD) and Benin (15th-17th c.). 21% of the people are Yorubas, most living in western Nigeria and preserving their old traditions. They were always a trading people, originally with the Islamic peoples from northern Africa who brought knowledge from the great Islamic University at Timbuktu in Mali (today 45% of Nigerians are Islamic). And they had a unit of currency long before the Europeans, the cowrie shell (sometimes, "cowry" - a spiral-shelled snail). The Yoruba number system is extraordinarily complex,... The Yorubas could handle fractions and powers: 1/2 idaja 1/4 idamerin 4^2 erin lona meji 4^4 erin lona merin As a consequence of the complexity of the Yorubas' number system, they became very efficient at mental calculation, a skill useful for going to the market and for bargaining. -------------------------------------------- <http://www.emporia.edu/scimath/catalog/mul0006.htm> Title: Africa Counts Author: Zaslavsky, Claudia Series: None Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books (LAWRENCE) Media Type: Printed Material, Guide (PRT/GUI) (PG) Copyright: 1990 Subject: Mathematics (MAT) Grade Level: Sixth Grade through Adult Notes: Description: Described here for the first time is the contribution of African peoples to the science of mathematics. Using numbers and patterns as organizing principles, the author describes the numeration systems - some highly comples - the mystical attributes of numbers, geometry in art and architecture and mathematical games, all of which reveal a highly developed understanding of math. She uses photos, graphs, diagrams, personal ancedotes and quotations from African literature and oral tradition to document this important contribution to a hitehrto little-known aspect of African culture. ----------------------------------------- <http://ernie.bgsu.edu/~vrickey/mini/bib-katz.html>
The North African traveler and historian, Leo Africanus, wrote of Timbuktu in the early sixteenth century: "Here are a great store of doctors, judges, priests and other learned men, that are bountifully maintained at the king's cost and charges." - From page 275 of _Africa Counts_ by Claudia Zaslavsky. -------------------------------------
Peter Schmidt, an anthropologist (professor of Anthropology), and Donald Avery, a metallurgist (Professor of Engineering)
_HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY - A STRUCTURAL Approach in an African Culture_ 1978 by Peter Schmidt. Page 243, chapter IRON-WORKING EVIDENCE: "The significance of a complex technological procedure such as preheating in the Early Iron Age is considerable. This process was not perfected in Europe until the mid-nineteenth (19th) century". Iron Technology in East Africa: Symbolism, Science, and Archaeology. Indiana University Press, 1997. Available at 19.95 in paperback. The Culture and Technology of African Iron Production. Univ. Presses of Florida, 1996.
Peter R. Schmidt assisted by D. H. Avery More Evidence for an Advanced Prehistoric Iron Technology in Africa Journal of Field Archaeology 10 (1983) 421--434 Excavation in 1977 at the KM2 site near Kemondo Bay west of Lake Victoria in Kagera Region, Tanzania, provided abundant evidence of an ancient technology, dating to the first six centuries A.C., that shared many similarities to the living iron-smelting technology. Excavations during 1978--1979 at the KM3 site, also located near Kemondo Bay, yielded physical evidence for the antiquity of the preheated process and provided definitive proof for a technology similar to the process in historical times. These discoveries affirm that one of the most advanced technologies in the ancient world developed in Africa independent of European influence. ------------------------------------------------- <http://tc.unl.edu/tcforum/nott.3.html> The Origins of Smelting More than 1500 years ago, Africans in the vicinity of Lake Victoria "produced carbon steel in preheated forced-draft furnaces, a method that was technologically more sophisticated than any developed in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century" (Shore, 1991). Peter Schmidt, an anthropologist, and Donald Avery, a metallurgist, both from Brown University, investigated the steel making techniques of the modern Haya tribe from Tanzania who recieved their knowledge of iron smelting through oral traditions passed down over many centuries. Schmidt stated that "We have found a technological process in the African Iron Age which is exceedingly complex... To be able to say that a technologically superior culture developed in Africa more than 1500 years ago overturns popular and scholarly ideas that technological sophistication developed in Europe but not Africa" (Shore, 1991).
Some writers have concluded on the basis of available records that in the fifteenth century, the level of culture among the masses of black people in West Africa was higher than that of Northern Europe during the same period. - From page 276 of 275 of _Africa Counts_ by Claudia Zaslavsky. -----------------------------------------------------------------
GERZE is a *very* incompletely known script of Senegal. Only about 10 signs are recorded
"The discovery of this boat is an important landmark in the history of Nigeria in particular and Africa in general" says Eluyemi.
Besides proving that the Nigerian society was at par(if not earlier) than that of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Minoa and Phoenicia, the discovery also provides the first concrete evidence that Africans possessed the ability to reason and have been exploring technology to modify their environment to suit their needs.
But more importantly "the canoe has shown that people in the Niger area had a history of advanced technology and that they had mastered the three major items of Paleolithic culture which were the fashioning, standardization and utilization of tools according to certain set traditions," explains Eluyemi.
But beyond that, the discovery has also revealed that, Nigerians were not static people. "It gives concrete evidence of transportation by seas as well as providing evidence of some form of long distance commercial activities indicative of existing political and economic structures."
One great benefit of the discovery is that it has helped archaeologists draw a relationship between what was happening in Nigeria and else where in the world during that period. Indications are that while Nigerians were making canoes in Dufuna village in 6000 BC, the people of Catol Huyuk in Turkey were making pottery, textiles etc, like the people of Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) were forming urban communities and the Chinese were making painted pottery in the Yang Shao region. But particularly of interest to archaeologists is the prove that some form of advanced civilization existed in the Lake Chad Basin around 6000 BC."
Documentation has showed that based on the minimal available technology during this period, the making of the Dufuna canoe must have been a ponderous task which called for mastery, specialization and ingenuity. A lot of work, man hours and skill must also have been put into the production since no iron tools were in existence at the time. The tools used were probably Post Pleistocene ungrounded core axe - like and pick - axe bifacial tools of microlithic appearance. It can be assumed that the canoe must have been made near a river to eliminate the difficulty of transporting it over long distances.
Bigger than pyramids
Dr Darling has walked its length.
Dr Patrick Darling fears that the site might not last much longer
"In terms of sheer size it's the largest single monument in Africa - larger than any of the Egyptian pyramids," he says.
The ditch is 160 km (100 miles) long, and in places 20 metres (70 feet) deep.
"Built long before the mechanical era, it was all hand-built, requiring a large labour force and a well co-ordinated labour force working to a master plan," Dr Darling explains.
We make our way through thick tropical vegetation down to the bottom of the Eredo - its smooth walls tower above on either side of us, glowing green with moss.
It is cool and dark, with patches of sunlight filtering through the trees above.
Dr Darling has compiled an immense amount of data on the Eredo, but even he does not know why it was built.
Perhaps to keep elephants out, or as protection against foreign invaders - or perhaps to mark the territorial extent of the Ijebu-Ode kingdom at a time when the rival city states of the Yoruba people were frequently at war with each other.
That's more than the largest earth work in northern europe caleld ofra's dyke
Stone heads recall Africa's forgotten past
By: Matthew Bunce
GOHITAFLA, Ivory Coast (ReuterBroadcasted on BICNews 10 February s) - When Bernadette Vouinan tripped over a rock with eyes and a nose in 1982, she unearthed one of the first of more than 1,000 ancient stone head sculptures to emerge from Ivory Coast's pre-historic soil.
The origin of the heavy granite and laterite stones of up to three feet high and 2,000 years old remains a mystery. But some villagers have no doubts, even challenging theories on East Africa's Rift Valley as the cradle of mankind.
``We believe they were created and placed in the earth here by God,'' said one farmer in the remote Marahoue valley in central Ivory Coast where many of the heads have been found. Such lore attributes flattened rocks found there to the creator's footprints as he stepped back to heaven.
Farmers are often less star-struck, selling any heads they find to tourists for a pittance.
Ivorian anthropologists staging an exhibition in the commercial capital Abidjan this month hope to dispel myths and spur a wider interest in promoting Africa's forgotten past.
``It means we have had art for a long time,'' said leading anthropologist Georges Niangoran-Bouah, chief researcher on Marahoue. ``And where there is art there is civilization.''
The problem is that West Africa's tropical climate means clues to history often rot, leaving only rich oral tradition.
GOD'S TEST-BED FOR HUMANS
``We Africans say man was not made in a day. And the most important part of man is the head,'' Niangoran-Bouah told Reuters.
Folklore says the myriad facial designs -- many Marahoue heads have no mouth, nose or eyes -- are but one sign of God's use of Marahoue as a human test-bed. Later carvings with busts and full figures show man's head at one third rather than one seventh of his height.
``African artists think God must have made a mistake,'' said Niangoran-Bouah, holding a giant-nosed head nicknamed Charles de Gaulle, one of his garden collection of 200 stones.
The faces, once used in mask rituals, are said to have been buried by God to protect women and children from seeing them.
But some village wives have more pressing domestic concerns.
``They are very good. They withstand the heat,'' said one cook who was using three around a fire to support her pots at Diacohou.
BEFORE OUR ANCESTORS
The heads have yet to be accurately dated but similar stones in Senegal date back as far as 2,000 years.
``No one knows what role the heads played in ancient times,'' Niangoran-Bouah said.
``They are not the work of men known to us or our ancestors,'' said Ta-bi-Tra, a hunter at Gohitafla, now inhabited by Ivorian President Henri Konan Bedie's ruling Baoule tribe. Baoule warriors arrived there under Queen Abla Pokou in the 17th century, displacing Gouro tribes who in turn had pushed out the Wan culture in the 15th century.
``The Wan consider them to be ancestral objects,'' said Niangoran-Bouah, citing the stories of nearby Wan descendants, including a theory that the heads betrayed them to the enemy.
The heads are also seen as grave charms for Wan warriors, homes for dead mens' souls or guardian spirits and talismans.
``We make offerings for a safe voyage, to find a good partner or fight off evil sorcerers, eaters of souls, jealous people and poisoners,'' said one soothsayer. ``We trust them.''
Animal sacrifices in cult rituals ensured successful childbirth and stone heads still play a part in ritual exorcisms and purification of adulterers. One man described being inhabited by a spirit from stones surrounding his house. ``I have 13 children, they all come from the stones.''
Prehistoric stone heads have been found around the world, from Africa to Europe and America. Marahoue's are thought to be among the largest and oldest along Africa's Atlantic coast.
Ivorian standing stones are larger than average and found deeper in the ground than similar African examples, suggesting a greater age of up to 7,000 years, Niangoran-Bouah said.
Such African megaliths weighing between half a ton and 15 tons are found in a northwestern strip on the Mediterranean and pockets in a wide west-east sub-Saharan band between Senegal and Kenya. Villagers showed Reuters a 19-foot rock said to be one of the largest African megaliths.
In Mali, to the north, anthropologists have been baffled by the Dogon culture's ability to predict cycles of an invisible satellite of the star Sirius, which appears every 60 years. The Dogon, whose God Amma is said to have thrown a ball of clay into space to create Earth, is just one example of deep civilization in Africa often brushed over by colonists.
``This civilization before the pre-colonial period honorsour country,'' Niangoran-Bouah said. ``During colonial times the stones were probably kept hidden in the forest. The whites did not see them.''
That, for better or worse, is no longer the case.
© Copyright 1998, Reuters News Service