Afrikan contributions to civilisation

INTRODUCTION: WHY THIS TOPIC?

It is very important that we, as Afrikans, sit back and just look at how much we have contributed to civilisation Please take a moment and THINK about this. We as Afrikans have developed an apologetic attitude for the current state in Afrika and even more of us are unaware of the type of historical injustices that Afrika is carrying around. Many of us feel that ‘well if Afrikan politicians were less corrupt and corruptible, if Afrikans were more into intra-Afrikan trade, if Afrika has the common-sense to negotiate reasonable deals during ‘financing’ talks, if Afrikans could just stop killing each other in senseless wars, if Afrika just got themselves together…then Afrika would be fine’. Although there is some merit and truth in that whole argument, I fundamentally feel that it is only ½ of the truth and as far as I’m concerned a ½ truth is a lie, because it misinforms one’s understanding and forms a ½ true basis on which more inaccuracies can be built and constructed. We need to understand that after 600 odd years of slavery and colonialism during which time Afrika was raped of her material wealth, crops and above all PEOPLE, Afrikans could not work on their OWN civilisation because we were busy building the civilisation of others. Then it is no wonder Afrika is in the current state She is in. 600 years is a long time! To make matter’s worse people also tend to buy into Darwin’s theory of linear evolution which basically states that an organism evolves from less complex to more complex. When this argument is extended to civilisations, one concludes that the current state of all civilisations on the planet are at their MOST evolved and civilised state EVER. Given Afrika’s current state it’s no wonder people are like ‘Geeez if this is MODERN Afrika what was ANCIENT Afrika like…maaan these guys really were just dancing around engaging in cannibalistic acts…Afrika can’t possibly have contributed anything of worth to the world.’ Well, look at these examples and you will see just how WRONG that statement is. This is a very brief insight into our ability and achievements but it will be enough to help us all see that we Afrikans are pretty damn brilliant.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO ASTRONOMY

An astronomical observatory in Namoratunga in Kenya

Namoratunga in north-western Kenya has an alignment of 19 Basalt pillars that are non-randomly arranged and oriented towards certain stars and constellations. The same stars and constellations are used by modern Cushitic people to calculate an accurate calendar. These Cushites have a calendar which uses the rising of seven stars or constellations to calculate a 12-month, 354-day year. The stone orientation in Namoratunga is such that it allows for accurate observation of these stars/constellations. It is assumed that these ancient Africans astronomers made their observations with the NAKED eye since no telescopes had yet been invented.

Basalt pillar alignment at Namoratunga IIAs far as the accuracy of the stone alignments are concerned, they show 0 degree error all cases except for three stone alignments which were off by 1 degree. In no case were the alignments off by more than 1 degree. Therefore, as Lynch and Robbins conclude, ‘Namoratunga II alignments are non-random and [this] gives weight to the idea that the stones were used in calendric reckoning in 300 B.C’. (1)

The Dogon of Mali and the Sirius question

The Dogon of Mali in West African people have complex and detailed knowledge of the Sirius star system. Adams explains that:

These West Africans people have not only plotted the orbits of stars circling Sirius but have revealed the extraordinary nature of one of its companions- Sirius B- which they claim to be one of the densest of stars in our galaxy. What is most astonishing about their revelations is that Sirius B is invisible to the unaided eye.’ (2)

The Sirius B star is of deeply significant spiritual importance to the Dogon and they have thus gathered intricate and detailed knowledge of this star which is invisible to the naked eye. The Dogon say that the orbit of Sirius B around Sirius (the visible one) lasts 100 years. Although modern astronomers have not yet confirmed this, they have confirmed the duration of orbit of another star circling Sirius. The Dogon say that Sirius B is the smallest and densest star in the sky. The Dogon’s drawings of the orbit of Sirius B matches modern astronomical drawings.

The Dogon also have detailed observations about the moon stating that it rotates in a conical spiral around the earth and that it is dry and dead. They know that Saturn has permanent rings around it and that the earth is in the Milky Way and that the latter has a spiral structure. They also know the rotation pattern of Jupiter’s four largest moons.

The incredible observations made by the unaided African (Dogon) eye are so incredible that, as Adams reports, ‘Their (Dogon) extensive celestial knowledge, particularly that concerning this invisible star ( Sirius B), is a mystery that has sent shock waves around the scientific world.’ (3)

CONTRIBUTIONS TO SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Steel making among the Haya of Tanzania

The fact that ancient Africans were smelting iron is a fairly well known and accepted historical fact. However, what is relatively unknown is that ancient Africans were producing carbon steel 2000 years ago. Research done by Peter Schmidt and Donald Avery discovered that, ‘ 2,000 years ago Africans living on the western shore of Lake Victoria had produced carbon steel in pre-heated forced-draft furnaces, a method that was technologically more sophisticated that any developed in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.’ (4)

The Haya created furnaces that were made by digging a bowl shape into the ground that was then lined with earth of a termite mound. A haft that would rise above ground level was then made with either termite mud or slag gathered from a site at which iron had been successfully smelted. Eight blowpipes would be inserted to varying depths at the base of the furnace and air forced through them. Swamp grass would then be brunt in the bowl until the bottom of the furnace was filled with charred swap reeds. This technique allowed temperature in the furnace to exceed 1800°C. Charcoal and iron ore would hen be added to the top of the furnace. This process led to the formation of carbon steel.

This technology, invented by Africans 2,000 years ago was extremely advanced for its time. As Avery explains, ‘It’s a very unique and original process that uses a large number of sophisticated techniques. This is really semi-conductor technology- the growing of crystals- not iron-smelting technology.’ (5)

CONTRIBUTIONS TO MATHEMATICS

Africans had developed different mathematical theories and skills to varying degrees of complexity and usefulness. Here we will discuss the Ancient Egyptian system of mathematics, probably the most advanced system of mathematics in the world for their time. By 2,600B.C, they had mastered problems that deal with the equilibrium of the lever. By 1,500 B.C they had invented the scale which and in doing so participated in the fist rigorous scientific application on the theory of leverage.

Before we discuss the contribution of Ancient Egyptians in great detail, it is very important to know that a great deal of the stock (especially the 12th Dynasty which is largely considerd one of Egypt’s most remarkable Dynasty because of its achievements) were Black. As Diop states, Gaston Maspero (1846-1916), sums up the opinions of all ancient writers on the Egyptian race saying that: ‘By the almost unanimous testimony of ancient historians, they belonged to an African race [read Negro] which first settled in Ethiopia on the Middle Nile’.(6) Herodotus (484-425 BC?), a Greek traveller who visited Egypt says ‘The Egyptians are black skinned and have woolly hair…’.(7) It is only later in history, when Black Africans were being carted onto ships during slavery, that Africans began to be looked down upon. Those who enslaved Africans knew nothing of their ancient history and created their own ideas about the African. It is during this time that the African started to be called primitive, backward and nothing more than evolved monkeys. It is this misinformed and racist depiction of the African that led later historians and Egyptologists to raise questions as to whether the Ancient Egyptians were Black. They could not see how such as ‘primitive’ people were capable of accomplishing the wondrous feats accomplished by the Ancient Egyptians. (8) For more information on this topic click here

Therefore, this discussion will be based on the premise, overwhelmingly supported by archaeological and historical evidence, that the Ancient Egyptians were Black Africans. Please read a book titled Black Spark White Fire by Richard Poe for a more comprehensive and therefore convincing discussion on this subject.

The Ancient Egyptian system of mathematics

The Ancient Egyptians has a working value of pi (π) as 4X(8/9)2= 3.1604, the most accurate of ancient time. It varies by 0.0189012 to the modern value. The Egyptians were using this incredibly accurate value of π 2,000 years before Archimedes came up with his less accurate value of 3.14. (9)

The Papyrus of Mosow* show the following calculations of various volumes, areas and surfaces(10):

Surface for half a sphere: S= 2 x (8/9)2 x (2r)2 = 2 x 4 (8/9)2 r2 = 2 π r2 (remember π= (4 x (8/9)2

  • Surface of a rectangle S= Lxl
  • Surface of a circle: S= π d2/4 = π r2
  • Surface of a sphere S=4 π r2
  • Volume of truncated pyramid as V= h/3 (a2 +ab+ b2)
  • In terms of algebra, the Ancient Egyptians had a clear understating of mathematical series and their properties. Problem 79 of the Rhind Papyrus shows a problem which gives the sum of a geometric progression as S= a rn -1/ r-1. Problem 64: Working with a problem that applies the formula of an arithmetic progression: l= a + (n-1) d where l= last term a= first term, and d= common difference. (11)

    The Egyptians knew how to extract the square root from whole or fractional numbers and the term knbt was used to designate the square root. The so-called Pythagorean Theorem is an Egyptian mathematical concept. As Diop eloquently states, ‘Pythagoras was neither the inventor of irrational numbers…nor of the theorem that bears his name: he took all these elements from Egypt where he had been, as reported by his biographers (cf. Jamblichus), a pupil of the priest for twenty-two years.’ (12)

    In terms of trigonometry, the Rhind Papyrus shows working to find the slope of a pyramid (13):

    Where a is the angle of the slope, the height = 250 cubits and the base = 360 cubits

    sin a=250/360

    cos a=360/2= 180

    tan a= 250/180

    cot a= 180/250 = 1/2 + 1/5 + 1/50

    The scribe multiplies this result by seven to express it in palms (1 cubit = 7 palms).

    So cot a = 7x (1/2+ 1/5+1/50) = 5 palms 1/25

    These examples clearly illustrate that Ancient Egyptians Africans were engaging in serious mathematical work and research which led to the creation of mathematical theorems and rules on which subsequent mathematics was built. Where would the field of mathematics be today is these Africans, did not make the phenomenal contributions that they did? As Zaslavsky states:

    ‘Western culture owes a great debt to Egypt…The ancient Greeks have been regarded as the fathers of Western civilization. But many centuries before their time, the Egyptian priests has developed a complete curriculum for the training of their members…The extensive Egyptian libraries were available for visitors. No doubt a great deal of the learning of centuries was written down by the Greeks Thus they have been credited with discoveries that they merely transmitted form Egypt and the East.’ (14)

    For more information in Egyptian mathematics click here

    The Yoruba system of numbers

    This is a system for computation and is very unique because it involves addition, subtraction and multiplication to express one number. It especially relies on subtraction to a very high degree. (15) For example:

    45= (20X3)-10-5

    106=(20X6)-10-4

    525=(200X3)-(20X4)+5

    The computations are usually performed mentally. This system of computation clearly illustrates that Africans were capable of repeatedly performing complex mathematical problems in their mind. Indeed, this mathematical system is so complex that ‘one must be a mathematician to learn from this system.’ (16)

     

    Bibliography

    1. Lynch, B.M and L.H Robbins. Namoratunga: the first archeoastrnomical evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Van Sertima, Ivan (ed). Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. New York: Journal of Africa Civilization Ltd. Inc, 1983. p.55.
    2. Adams II, Hunter H. African Observers of the Universe: The Sirius question. Van Sertima, Ivan (ed). Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. New York: Journal of Africa Civilization Ltd. Inc, 1983. p. 27
    3. Adams, Van Sertima, Ivan (ed). Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. New York: Journal of Africa Civilization Ltd. Inc, 1983. p. 28[1]
    4. Shore, Debra. Steel making in Ancient Africa. Van Sertima, Ivan. Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. New York: Journal of Africa Civilization Ltd. Inc, 1983. p157.[1]
    5. Shore, Van Sertima, Ivan. Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. New York: Journal of Africa Civilization Ltd. Inc, 1983.pp 161-162
    6. Diop, Cheikh Anta. The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality? (Paris, Presence Africaine, 1974) p.2
    7. Diop, 1974. p.1
    8. See The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or reality by Cheikh Anta Diop for a convincing and exhaustive discussion of the issue of the Blackness of the Ancient Egyptians.
    9. Diop. 1981, p.243,

    * Please note that the Ancient Egyptian Papyri are named after the person who found them, or the country where they are housed. No mention is made of the people who actually wrote on the papyri!

    1. Diop. 1981. pp. 235, 236, 251, 266.
    2. Diop 1981. p 270
    3. Diop. 1981. p. 260
    4. Diop. 1981. p. 261
    5. Zaslavsky, Caludia. The Yoruba Number System. Sertima, Ivan Van.(ed) Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. New York: Journal of Africa Civilization Ltd. Inc, 1983.p 115
    6. Zaslavasky. 1983. p. 119
    7. Ibid.

    Previous comments on this post:

    Afro said…

    Wow! Brilliant, brilliant brilliant. Thank you!

    1:26 AM

    Afro said…
    oh, forgot to say that i am looking forward to part 2 etc..
    1:28 AM
    sokari said…
    Thank you for this. I look forward to reading more. However, it would be even more helpful if you could include some links eg Namoratunga “Cushities” and so on.
    7:18 PM
    rasx() said…
    I am exceedingly pleased to see Africans IN AFRICA respecting their ancestors because we are a stiff necked people…Many Africans, in Africa, did not learn about Martin Luther King until years after his death. Many Africans, in Africa, kneel before the European son of a barrel maker and allow him place little white cookies into their mouths.I am exceedingly pleased that you eat of the wisdom of your ancestors. Continue to walk and talk in the cool of the day with them…
    10:52 PM
    J.R. Woodward said…
    Wow, amazing pictures and a wonderfully informative blog. Thanks for taking the time to make such meaningful posts!JR Woodward
    10:21 PM
    mshairi said…
    Hi AfrikanEye.International Women’s Day is on Thursday March 8. I am writing to ask if you would like to write a short post about a woman you would like to celebrate or honour on this day – this could your mother, sister, a famous artist, politician, activist, friend, etc. The post should just be a few lines – no more than 5 or 6 and will then be included in the African Women’s roundups on Global Voices Online that week.
    11:44 PM
    Waveintheocean said…
    This is fascinating. I had never heard of Namoratunga before. Thank you for the knowledge you are transmitting through your blog. One of Afrika’s (to use your spelling of the word) greatest problems is low self-esteem due to the distortion or destruction of knowledge that would make Afrikans proud of themselves and able to propel themselves forward. In some of your other posts I notice some comments that reflect an ignorance that many people have about Afrikans’ intelligence and ability. The knowledge you pass on will help counter such ignorance.
    7:05 AM
    africanmessiah said…
    Great job african eye……..great job…..show the pride of being an African………one more topic to pound my friend is “Religion” i have been thinking about this for years………..we africans had our own religions before the colonialists/missionaries/the arabs e.t.c came to africa…….and now our religions are known as “paganism”……..go for it african eye!!…..in general, it’s nice to bring awareness to the world that even though africa is considered third world but without it in some aspects, there would not be the so called “First world”!! 8:15 PM
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    ~ by Afrikan Eye on March 8, 2007.

    8 Responses to “Afrikan contributions to civilisation”

    1. Greetings from Mali. Many thanks for this post. I have added you to to my blogroll.

      Sociolingo’s Africa Blog
      http://www.sociolingo.wordpress.com

      Sociolingo’s Mali Blog
      http://www.sociolingomali.wordpress.com

    2. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
      Idetrorce

    3. excellent submission indeed you have walked through the corridors of history and found our anchor ,Afrikans are indeed a historical people who can not be absorbed by europeanism or amerikanism ,you have demonstrated how Afrikan have contributed to the tree of human civilisation, i will invite you for Panafrikan conference as iam the president , of the graduate alumni of panafrikan missionaries

    4. As Marcus Garvey told us:

      “Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.”

    5. advanced steel making was in various parts of east africa including nubia in ancient times and other parts of africa. in fact african civilizations in the middle ages and ancint times were the most advanced in the world.nubia is the best example. it was the most advanced overall.

    6. when you think about as well there more african civilizations in early modern times and the middle ages than ancient times.

      reason,there was not as many folks in ancient times in the world and some other reasons.europeans in fact could not defeat the african even 600 years ago. africans were still too strong.

      europeans only conqured most of africa in the late 1800’s because they had the machine guns and africans had the early forms of the gun at that time ,so when europeans fought the africans,many parts of africa fell to the invaders,but africans did put up a really good fight and europeans lost many times. in fact italy lost the war period in the 1800’s. in what we call modern ethiopa in east africa on the horn of africa.

      yes africans had guns since the 1600’s and they learned how to make them as well. not all africans had guns and not all africans learn to make guns, but there were civilizations in early africa that did used them and make them.

    7. What is the size of the Dogon cubit?

    8. AFRICANS HAVE TO WAKE UP AND LOOK INWARD TO DO A DEEP SOUL SEARCHING
      -SPIRITUAL PSYCHOANALYSIS ABOUT THERE ROOT;AND STOP ALL THESE ARROGANT NONSENSICAL WRITE UP BY WHITES,WHOM HAVE ABROGATED INTELLECTUAL RIGHTS TO THEMSELVES.

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