Africa is known as the ancestral ground of the human race. Generally speaking, most people trace back ancient civilizations to other areas of the world, including the Middle East, India and Mesoamerica. However, there are many ancient African cultures that contribute to the landscape of classical civilizations.

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Kush

The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient African civilization located near the confluence of the Blue Nile, the White Nile and the River Atbara. This is situated in present day Sudan and south of Egypt. At its height, this civilization had a population of 1.2 million people, and its rulers even served as Egyptian pharaohs after the decline of the ancient Egyptian Empire.

Aksum

Located in present day Ethiopia, the Kingdom of Aksum had a prominent presence on the coast of the Red Sea. This had important economic significance, because settlement here enabled widespread trade with ancient Arabic cultures that produced sea-faring ships. This represented one of the major blending of cultures and peoples of the Iron Age (approximately A.D. 100 to 960).

Ghana

The Kingdom of Ghana, not to be confused with the modern day republic of Ghana, was an ancient civilization in western Africa. This encompassed lands in modern day Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Senegal. This civilization emerged around A.D. 500 and was controlled by a series of despotic overlords who ruled their people through the presence of strong military force.

Mali

The Kingdom of Mali emerged shortly after the decline of the Kingdom of Ghana. This civilization held neighboring and overlapping lands in regions of modern day Mali. This civilization’s wealth came from its prosperous salt and gold trade, and its main trade center was the famed Timbuktu.

Ancient Africa was the home of more than nomadic wanderers and primitive tribes. The same continent that gave rise to the human species also produced some of its earliest and most prosperous ancient civilizations. The presence of these African cultures survived until the era of European colonization, and archaeological efforts are currently reviving scholarship on the ancient civilizations that laid the foundation for modern African culture.