ART, AGRICULTURE AND URBANIZATION

ART, AGRICULTURE AND URBANIZATION

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Africa 5000 -500 BC

THE EARLIEST EVIDENCE of artistic activity in Africa can be seen in rock engravings and rock paintings, which are located mainly in the Sahara and in South and East Africa – those parts of the continent where suitable rock faces are located.Scenes illustrated on rock faces frequently depict animals both wild and, in later times, domesticated. It is difficult to date these works of art, but by 5000 BC they were widespread, and some may be much earlier – examples in Namibia are dated to as early as 25,000 BC. Apart from pottery remains dating from as long ago as 3000 BC, there is no evidence of visual culture preserved in West and Central Africa before 500 BC. Rock art is all we have from southern Africa for this period.

AGRICULTURAL LIFE IN THE SAHARA

Rock paintings and rock engravings from North and East Africa that date from 5000 BC to 500 BC are significant in that they show the development of herding at about the same time as archaeological excavations in the eastern Sahara reveal that cereal crops were being cultivated at several sites in what is now desert, but then had plentiful rainfall – for example, Nabta Playa. Large numbers of grindstones provide good evidence for the use of cereals. It is not certain at what point farmers were able to grow domesticated cereal crops to replace the collecting of wild grains, but by 5000 BC it seems that this important advance had been made. The earliest pottery known in Africa is from a site at Khartoum, where it can be dated to about 5000 BC. Potshards decorated with a distinctive wavy line pattern are found here and at many other sites in the Sahara. In addition, there have also been finds of a distinctive type of bone harpoon (freshwater fishing was then a mainstay of life in what is now desert) and other items which suggest that a similar level of cultural development extended from the Sudanese Nile Valley across much of the Sahara.

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