Although a couple of our commenters have been citing a lot of the accomplishments of black Africa, Dr. Michael H. Hart paints a very different picture in his book Understanding Human History. Hart’s book was published in 2007 so some of his claims may no longer be accepted as the archeological record has since become more complete and politically correct.
For starters, Hart claims that farming was not practiced in Africa until it was brought to Egypt by Southwest Asians in 6000 BC and from there it spread to Ethiopia, Sudan and then West Africa by 3000 BC. Central and Southern Africa however, were still living in the paleolithic until 1000 BC, according to Hart.
By 600 BC iron smelting occurred in Nigeria. Hart writes “It seems probable that knowledge of iron work had been introduced from the North or brought from the eastern Sudan.” Introduced or brought in by Caucasoids?
Hart notes that prior to 1500, sub-Saharan Africa could be divided into two wildly different sections. The exposed zone and the secluded zone. The exposed zone was all the parts that were in contact with Caucasoids, such as West Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, small remote parts of the Indian Ocean colonized by Arab traders, and parts of the Atlantic coast where Portuguese traders had set up shop. The rest of sub-Saharan Africa was the secluded zone. A terrifying region roughly twice the size of Europe.
While the exposed zone was not poor, and benefitted from written languages brought by Muslim slave traders, Hart feels the indigenous peoples still failed to make a single contribution to World civilization.
But it is the vast secluded zone that bears the brunt of Hart’s poison pen. Described as a primitive and backward region until as recently as the 19th century, Hart notes that there were:
-no wheeled vehicles, nor even the potter’s wheel
– no method of even joining together pieces of wood
-no beasts of burden or draft animals (though cattle was raised)
-not a single written language in the entire region, and thus no law codes, no philosophical works, no literature or even oral epic-poetry
-no coins or money
– no math beyond simple arithmetic,
-no cities beyond small towns, no temples, large monuments nor domes, arches, schools, hospitals, libraries nor paved roads. Hart credits the ruins of Great Zimbabwe as the most notable construction in the secluded zone, but feels it was nothing compared to the Machu Picchu in South America, or Cambodia’s Angkor Wat complex, or Mesoamerica’s large cities and religious buildings. Hart notes that the giant statues on the tiny isolated Polynesian Easter Island were more impressive than anything found in the entire, secluded zone of black Africa.
-Almost no maritime skills. Hart notes the stunning fact that took Indonesians from the other side of the Indian Ocean, coming from 3000 miles away, to inhabit Madagascar in 500 AD, because Africans still had not reached it, even though it was only 250 miles off the East African coast. Nor did they reach the Cape Verde Islands, just a few hundred miles off the West African coast.
Hart also claims the secluded zone was primitive when it came to political and ethical matters, noting the lack of democracy and civil liberties and the common use of slavery and occasional cannibalism.
Why was the secluded zone of black Africa so far behind virtually everyone else on Earth? In Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that black Africa was simply cut off from the rest of the World, and thus didn’t have access to advances in knowledge, however Hart rejects this explanation because Native Americans were even more geographically isolated than black Africans, yet their societies were so much more advanced.
Instead Hart favours the cold winters explanation. Races who left Africa tens of thousands of years ago, and got at least some exposure to the ice age, evolved higher intelligence to survive the cold, and once the ice age ended, this allowed them to create advanced culture and technologies.