Africans: The History of a Continent (African Studies) by John Iliffe

By John Iliffe

This heritage of Africa from the origins of mankind to the South African basic election of 1994 refocuses African historical past at the peopling of an environmentally opposed continent. The social, fiscal and political associations of the African continent have been designed to make sure survival and maximize numbers, yet within the context of scientific growth and different twentieth-century recommendations those associations have bred the main swift inhabitants progress the realm has ever visible. The historical past of the continent is therefore a unmarried tale binding dwelling Africans to the earliest human ancestors.

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It was confined to administrative notation and royal display for 500 years before it was separated from oral communication to record complete sentences. Two scripts were invented almost simultaneously. Hieroglyphic script, the ‘words of the god’ with inherent magical power, was used for formal documents and inscriptions; it employed a simplified picture of an object to represent both the word for that object and other words with the same consonant sequence, a procedure especially suited to an Afroasiatic language.

As the pyramids rose, so peasant tombs disappeared almost entirely from cemeteries, suggesting impoverishment by central power. Pharaohs were semidivine, could alone communicate directly with the gods, were responsible for the regular operation P1: RNK 0521864381 c03 CUNY780B-African 20 978 0 521 68297 8 May 15, 2007 15:37 africans: the history of a continent of the natural order, and had been preceded on their throne by gods in unbroken succession since the creation. Although modern research is revealing dynastic Egypt as a more fluid society than official ideologies suggested, with a lively secular politics and extensive social and intellectual change, nevertheless Egyptian minds were confined by the uniqueness of their environment.

In place of the old polytheism, Amun came to be seen as the supreme divinity of whom other gods were manifestations. Both kings and commoners sought Amun’s intervention in a new mode of personal piety that exemplified the slowly increasing importance of the individual during the long course of Egyptian history. These developments supplemented previous patterns of popular religion. Parents at all periods had named most children after major gods. Symbols and figures of divinities originally confined to tombs of the great had gradually appeared in those of their inferiors.

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